These are the best cities to visit in Washington State. We list things to do, places to eat, and where to stay.
Best Cities To Visit In Washington State
We will admit that we have mostly explored the east coast of the US. That’s why visiting family in Washington State was so special to us. We were obviously happy to see and spend time with our loved ones, but it was also a great opportunity to see new places. While we spent time in Seattle, it made us curious: What are the other best cities to visit in Washington State?
Fortunately, we were able to answer that question with the help of some fellow travel bloggers. Below, in alphabetical order, you’ll find some really epic places to visit. You’ll get to know why each city is worth visiting, dining recommendations, and where to stay during your visit.
Karee of Our Woven Journey
Bellingham is such a great city to visit, yet slides under the radar for many people visiting Washington. This city of 80,000 people has the eclectic vibes of a college town thanks to Western Washington University, yet the quaintness that comes from being settled over 100 years ago.
Nestled on Bellingham Bay, spending time on the water is a favorite pastime for residents and visitors alike. There are several nearby lakes that are especially popular in the summertime.
There are also over 60 scenic hiking trails in the Bellingham area. They range from family-friendly beginner trails to more advanced climbing and biking trails. Whatcom Falls Trails is a wonderful place to visit that has over five miles of trails to explore, or you can walk just far enough to see the falls and walk back.
Mt. Baker is a very popular place for skiing in the winter and is an easy one-hour drive from Bellingham. For those who aren’t into skiing, but still want to see the mountain, Mt. Baker Highway is the perfect day trip to take from Bellingham.
If you’re in Seattle and want to explore other parts of the state, Bellingham is only two hours north with plenty to see along the way, including the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival if you’re there in the spring. Be sure to spend time perusing the shops, restaurants, and bookstores in the old downtown Fairhaven District and plan to take a sunset stroll on the boardwalk nearby.
The Chrysalis Inn is one of the finest hotels in Bellingham and overlooks the boardwalk on the Bay. This is a wonderful place to spend a night or a romantic weekend while exploring one of the best cities in Washington State.
Lindsey of Have Clothes, Will Travel
Vampires and werewolves are what come to mind for many folks when thinking of the city of Forks, thanks to it being featured in the popular Twilight saga. Twilight fans won’t be disappointed either. Forks has embraced its Twilight fame with the Forks Visitor Center setting up Twilight displays and Bella’s truck, as well as a Twilight Museum featuring costumes and props from the movies.
While Forks is an amazing destination for Twihards, Forks is also a great city to add to any Washington state road trip, because it makes a good base for exploring Olympic National Park!
The Hoh Rainforest is only a 45-minute drive from Forks. It is the largest temperate rainforest in the US and home to breathtaking (and easy to walk!) trails, such as the Hall of Mosses Trail.
Rialto and La Push beaches are only a 20-minute drive from the city center. These unspoiled beaches are great for simply relaxing or hiking to sights, such as Hole-in-the-Wall on Rialto Beach.
Another sight worth visiting near Forks is the “Tree of Life” on Kalaloch Beach. This famous tree is a Sitka spruce that sits perched in a way that seems to defy nature and logic with its exposed roots and precarious position. It makes for a great photo!
Be sure to stop at “In Place” for a hearty breakfast and good coffee to start your day. It is also conveniently located across the road from The Forks Motel. Don’t let the “motel” portion of the name fool you, though. The Forks Motel is a very clean, nice, and affordable place to stay – it even has a pool.
Lina of Bucket List Places
Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands is a truly hidden gem for those that haven’t been there. Serving as the largest town for the surrounding islands, this seaside village is filled with delicious restaurants, fun bars and even karaoke! This is a popular stop for those sailing in the San Juan Islands to refuel and restock up on groceries as the island’s main grocery store is just walking distance from the dock.
For those not visiting Friday Harbor on their own boat, the other way to get there is by ferry. It comes from the surrounding islands as well as from Anacortes. There are many delicious dining options in Friday Harbor. My personal favorite is Mike’s Cafe and Wine Bar serving up delicious vegetarian meals and a large selection of local and international wines. For some fun activities, rent a car and explore San Juan Island and pay a visit to Lime Kiln State Park for a chance to see orcas from shore.
To extend your visit, stay at the Tucker House Inn. This charming bed and breakfast is only a few minutes walk to the town center and offers free bicycle and kayak hires. They also serve a delicious 3-course breakfast every morning.
Katy of A Rambling Unicorn
Issaquah is a charming city with a cute downtown area and easy access to outdoor adventures. With such a close proximity to Seattle, it’s a great destination for those wishing to explore the Emerald City. There are so many fun things to do in Issaquah, however, that you may never leave the city limits.
Issaquah’s thriving downtown features historic buildings that date from the city’s beginnings as a lumber and mining town. The Issaquah Depot Museum and Gilman Town Hall are two good examples of must-see historic structures. The Village Theatre is located in another iconic building. It puts on excellent live stage performances for audiences of all ages.
For those who prefer the great outdoors, Issaquah has got you covered. Nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Issaquah offers a variety of outdoor activities such as paragliding and the Cougar Mountain Zoo. The area is also crisscrossed with a network of trails that are popular with both hikers and runners. Known unofficially as the Issaquah Alps, the foothills offer not only some of the best hikes in Issaquah but also the entire region.
After spending a day in the woods, head back downtown for a steak at Jak’s Grill or fresh seafood at Fins Bistro. Or, for a more nostalgic dining experience, grab a burger and a rootbeer float at the Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-In. SpringHill Suites offers comfortable rooms in Issaquah and makes a great base of operations from which to explore the region.
Michelle of The Wandering Queen
One of the cutest towns in the state of Washington is the Bavarian town of Leavenworth. This stunning picturesque town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state, and for a good reason. There are so many shops, restaurants, nearby hikes, wineries, and bakeries.
The town is all styled to resemble a Bavarian village, but it was not always like that. It used to be a logging and sawmill town, but once the railroad was rerouted, it nearly caused the city to go into bankruptcy. The city finally had an idea in the 1960s to turn it into the cute Bavarian city everybody knows and loves today.
One of the best restaurants to visit is the Rhein Haus. The patio is pretty stellar, and the Bratz are so delicious! They also have a good selection of beers. Leavenworth is known for its delicious beer and Bratz. If you are looking for a great place to stay, you need to check out the PostHotel, as the pool is absolutely stunning. It is probably one of the most wonderful swimming pools in Washington state, and there is also a jacuzzi.
If you love to hike, then you need to check out one of the best hikes in the state of Washington; Colchuck Lake. The hike is challenging and brutal but so worth it. You are met with some pretty fantastic mountain views with a bright turquoise blue/green lake. Leavenworth really is one of the best places to visit in Washington.
Fun Fact: Leavenworth is also one of the best places to celebrate Oktoberfest in the US.
Nina of Washington Is For Adventure
On the most southern peninsula of Washington lies a small city boasting the title “The Longest Beach in the World.” While many argue it should actually be “The Longest Continuous Peninsula Beach in the World” we aren’t here to pick apart the name and just enjoy our time, right?!
Appropriately named Long Beach, this 28-mile long beach town offers up a lot for visitors looking to have some fun. As one would imagine, strolling along the beach is one of the top things to do in Long Beach, WA and there are plenty of trails leading you to the other tops sites as well!
Directly in town is the boardwalk which is a well maintained wooden walkway that will take you along the upper part of the beach for around a mile. Intersecting this boardwalk is the Discovery Trail which spans the majority of the beach and leads you right to North Head Lighthouse in Cape Disappointment State Park.
Despite its name, this famous state park is anything but disappointing. You’ll have over eight miles of trails to discover and numerous beaches. Waikiki Beach is gorgeous and is where people love to take a dip in the freezing water or boogie board on a wave. If you want to stay dry, you should still visit as you can get great views of the Cape Disappointment lighthouse.
If you want to stay near the beach, stay at Anchorage Cottages. The beach is just a short 15 minutes walk away through the dunes. Cape Disappointment State Park is also only 5 miles away.
Long Beach also has tons of wildlife tours like whale watching; the Pacific Grey Whale is the most commonly spotted. For more wildlife and an area you can almost have to yourself, head to the tip of the peninsula to Leadbetter State Park. This is a serene place where trails lead you to the bay for birdwatching and beachcombing.
Ashlee of The Happiness Function
Mount Vernon is home to the famous Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Washington State. Every spring, thousands of visitors flock to the area to relish in the sight of colorful tulip fields comparable to what one hopes to see in the Netherlands. Visitors can walk through the fields and take photos of the beautiful tulip farms. This is one yearly event in Washington visitors don’t want to miss!
If not visiting during the spring, Mount Vernon boasts many other amazing things to do. This quaint town has a neat river trail along with fun local shops and restaurants. If you like pizza, Pacioni’s Pizzaria has a relaxed local vibe. They also have gluten-free options!
Sitting in a valley with views of the Northern Cascades, there are many hiking trails outside of the city. It is a great place with plenty of nature in the area. Mount Vernon is also only 20 minutes from Bay View State Park next to Padilla Bay. There visitors can catch views of the San Juan Islands.
Just outside of Mount Vernon, there are miles of farms, orchards, and wineries such as Pasek Cellars or the Tulip Valley Winery. Stay at a local Airbnb cottage, VRBO, or one of the many chain hotels in Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon is one of the best cities to visit in Washington State!
Candice of CS Ginger
Ocean Shores in Washington is a beautiful beach town with lots of different family-friendly activities and a charming downtown area. The best thing to do in Ocean Shores is explore the beach. The beaches are known for their stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, especially at sunset.
One of the unique things about Ocean Shores is that you can drive on the beach. Remember to drive in the hard-packed wet sand. Avoid the dry and soft sand. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds at the beach, consider the Taurus Blvd or Ocean Lake Way beach access roads. Another great place to access the beach if you’re looking for some privacy is the Ocean City Beach Access area. It is just outside of town but is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. Plus, if it is too cold you can watch the sunset from inside your car.
A great way to explore the beach is by electric bike. Electric Beach Bike Rentals is a great shop renting out both electric and pedal bikes. They also rent bike trailers for kids and pets if you’re bringing some family members along. The e-bikes are really easy to use and a great way to explore the 10 miles of open beaches.
The Pacific Paradise Family Fun Center is a great place to visit after a day of exploring. There are miniature golf, laser tag, arcade games, and bumper boats. Whether you’re looking for a date night or an evening of family fun, this is a great place to visit.
The Galway Bay Irish Pub is one of the most unique places to eat in Ocean Shores. You will feel like you’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean and found yourself sitting in an Irish pub. The restaurant has a family dining area, a fully stocked bar, and a sports room.
One of the best places to stay in Ocean Shores is the Ocean Shores Inn and Suites. It is just a short walk from the beach. The suite rooms have full kitchens and the property has both an indoor and outdoor pool.
Corinne of Roving Vails
Olympia, the capital city of Washington, still feels like it has a small town feel to it. The downtown area is very walkable, and you can window shop in many of the boutiques or look at the boats in the harbor.
Some of the things to do in this cute little city is to visit the capitol building either on a free tour or even on your own. The grounds are well-maintained gardens with beautiful trees as well. The most popular garden is the Sunken Garden, with changing floral exhibits all year round.
Of course, Olympia is well known for its spectacular fresh produce, seafood, and coffee. So first, head over to Olympia Coffee Roasting. Try the Cold Brew Nitro Float along with one of their quiches or freshly baked goods. It will keep you going, that’s for sure!
Then get ready to visit the Saturday Farmer’s Market and load up on some tasty treats and fresh apples or blueberries. No matter the weather, the market is under a roof, so even though you are technically outdoors, you’ll stay nice and dry.
For restaurants, you have a couple of great options. Our favorite seafood place is right on one of the boat harbors, The Olympia Oyster House, which is conveniently located next to our favorite hotel the Red Lion Inn and Suites. You won’t leave either disappointed.
If you are looking for something a little more ethnic, you can’t go wrong with the Mediterranean Breeze. It sports the best Doner Kebab in the US. You can have it as a plate or our favorite way to eat it is as Iskender Kebab, over pita bread and with some great sauces.
Jessica of Uprooted Traveler
Port Angeles, Washington is a small harbor town, located on the northern side of the Olympic peninsula. It is across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Canada. Port Angeles is perhaps known best for being the springboard to the sprawling Olympic National Park, a gateway to towering mountains, craggy sea stacks, hot springs, and lush rainforests.
Just a short drive from town, you can drive up on top of a mountain ridge to the famous Hurricane Ridge. There you’re provided panoramic visas of the snow capped Olympic Mountains, with views straight out of the Sound of Music. For something a bit more off-the-beaten path, dive deeper into Washington’s coastline at Salt Creek Recreation Site, featuring those quintessential Pacific-Northwest sea stacks reaching out of the ocean below, topped with evergreens.
Even though visitors tend to focus on Port Angeles’ outdoors side, the town itself is certainly worth exploring as well. While this small town is still firmly rooted in its industrial fishing roots, there’s still plenty of restaurants and stores here that are hidden gems. For example, Barhop Brewing & Artisan Pizza brews up some really unique craft beer. Spruce, a charmingly eclectic dive bar, dishes out upscale comfort food, with a Pacific Northwest twist.
For a unique place to stay in Port Angeles, check out the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, tucked away in what looks like an enchanted forest. During your stay, you’ll not only get to sleep under towering spruce and cedar trees, but you also get to enjoy three natural hot springs to relax and soak in the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula.
JJ of The Minivan Bucket List
Poulsbo, aka “Little Norway”, is a small town located on the West side of the Puget Sound in between Tacoma and Port Angeles. The town sits right on the water of Liberty Bay. It is reminiscent of Norwegian fjords thanks to views of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains behind it.
Poulsbo was settled in the 1880s by Norwegian immigrants. It still maintains its Scandinavian heritage front and center with its architecture, murals, restaurants, and maritime museum. The town features several picturesque parks and a bay-front boardwalk. However, the main draw of the town is Front Street, with its many gift shops, antique shops, and bakeries with traditional Scandinavian pastries.
Make sure to get some seafood at JJ’s Fish House and a Viking Cup pastry or some famous Norwegian bread from Sluys Poulsbo Bakery. There are also several marinas in town. You could learn to row at the Kitsap Rowing Association or rent a kayak or paddleboard from Olympic Outdoor Center.
Poulsbo makes for a great day trip from Seattle via ferry ride. Or, you can experience it as a stopover on your way to Olympic National Park or Port Angeles. But if you want to experience a little taste of Scandinavia at a slower pace, then stay the night at the Poulsbo Inn. It has views of the Olympic Mountains and is only a 15 minute walk from downtown Poulsbo.
Without question, one of the best cities to visit in Washington State is Seattle. As the largest city in the state, it offers many attractions and things to do. Visit the iconic Space Needle, ride the Ferris wheel, or get some coffee at the first Starbucks.
If you’re visiting Seattle with kids, you’ll especially love all of the family friendly attractions. The Woodland Park Zoo has over 300 species of animals and has received multiple awards for their efforts in conservation and animal education. The Pacific Science Center is perfect for curious minds; everything at the center is interactive and the exhibits are some of the best we’ve ever seen. And if the kiddos love comic books (or you do), visit Golden Age Comics inside Pike Place Market. It’s the country’s oldest comic book store!
There are also some pretty unique place to eat in Seattle. Our favorite restaurant is The Pine Box, which was once a mortuary. With cathedral ceilings, over 30 beers on tap, and great pizza, what’s not to love? If you’re craving something sweet, stop into one of Hot Cakes’ locations and order a Dark Decadence Molten Cake. You’ll thank us later!
To stay, we recommend the Renaissance Seattle Hotel. It offers free breakfast, has private parking, and it’s close to many attractions.
Nathan of All About Glamping
Snoqualmie, Washington is a mountain town in every sense of the word. It is also a popular tourist stop due to the quaint shops, cafes, remarkable train museum, and popular brewery in town. It is considered one of the most desired areas to live in Washington State.
Snoqualmie is home to the massive Snoqualmie Falls which is 1 mile outside of town. The falls purge water over 268 feet down through a canyon. It is one of the most photographed falls in the country and gets one and half million visitors a year. The Salish Lodge is a 4-star hotel that is situated at the top of the falls. It is owned by the Snoqualmie and Muckleshoot Indian Tribes and has a premium spa to relax after a day of hiking. Another option for immersing in nature instead of a hotel is glamping near Snoqualmie.
When exploring the town, make sure to visit the Snoqualmie Falls Brewery for a pint of delicious beer and a burger. If Italian is what you are in the mood for, then Copperstone Family Spaghetti is a perfect choice. For lovers of trains, you can enjoy the Northwest Railway Museum. Besides historic trains, you can check out a historic depot, exhibit hall, and library. Kids will love climbing on the trains.
There are numerous hikes and trails in the area. My favorite is Rattlesnake Ledge Trail. Or try your luck climbing Mount Si. Whether visiting for the day or going for a weekend getaway, I’m sure you will love Snoqualmie as much as I do.
Pro Tip: While you’re out on the trails, make sure to have these hiking essentials!
Francesca of Homeroom Travel
Vancouver, Washington is one of the best cities to visit in Washington State. The town was originally a Native American settlement. Lewis and Clark later explored the area as part of their expedition. This led to the Hudson Bay Colony establishing a fort and the city of Vancouver. Eventually, Vancouver became one of the last stops on the Oregon Trail.
The coolest thing to do in Vancouver is to visit Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. This is the location of the former fort and it brings you back in time through historical exhibits and demonstrations.
The Vancouver Waterfront is also another popular area. Here are a ton of wine tasting rooms from wineries around the Columbia Valley. It makes for a great afternoon to relax and enjoy the views of the river. Other fun things to do in Vancouver include the Clark County Historical Museum, Lake Vancouver, and the Pearson Air Museum.
When looking for food, the downtown area has a ton of great restaurants. Make sure not to miss The Smokin Oak Barbecue and Thai Orchid Restaurant. On the weekends, make sure to head to the Vancouver Farmers Market for more food options.
The Hilton Vancouver is a great hotel option to stay in. Vancouver is also located just across the river from Portland, so Downtown Portland has a ton of awesome hotel options are well.
Nathan of Discover The PNW
Walla Walla, Washington is one of those cute small towns you see in the movies. It has a historic downtown area with lots of shops, unique cafes, and delicious restaurants. It also just happens to be one of the premier wine regions in the USA. So there are numerous tasting rooms in town as well. And by numerous, I mean over 40 tasting rooms.
Plus, either with a tour or if you have a car, you can head out to some magnificent wineries in the surrounding area. I suggest Tesla Wine Tours, it is such a unique experience exploring the wineries in a Model X Tesla. One of my favorite tasting rooms is Dunham Cellars in the Airport District. It is immaculately decorated for every season.
Three of my favorite restaurants in town are Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, Hattaway’s On Alder, and AK’s Mercado. As you explore the town you will also notice the historic colonial houses and neighborhood which make the perfect setting for photos. If you are looking for a hotel in town, Marcus Whitman Hotel is a prime choice.
For something outside of town, check out The Barn BnB for unique accommodations and delicious breakfasts. So, if you are looking for the iconic small-town USA town vibe with amazing wine thrown in, put this on your list. You won’t be disappointed.
James of Wanderus Living
One of the most overlooked areas to visit in Washington is Wenatchee. There is so much to do in the area and it is located right on the Columbia river. Wenatchee is known as the Apple Capital of the World, as there are numerous orchards and packing plants in the area. Depending on where you are in the town, you might even get to smell the freshly sliced apples.
There are plenty of outdoor activities to take part in such as the Ohme Gardens, Pybus Market, Riverfront Park and Wenatchee Confluence State Park. Wenatchee Confluence state park has one of the nicest campgrounds we have ever stayed at, and highly recommend to either tent or RV camp there.
The best hotel in the area has got to be the Hilton Garden Inn due to its prime location. It is located right in-between the Pybus market and Riverfront Park. The hotel is also located right in the downtown area with all the wineries, breweries and cafes within walking distance.
Wenatchee is a great place to visit year-round. There are ski resorts, hiking trails, off-roading, boating on the river and more! Some of the most beautiful and famous hiking trails in Washington are only 45 minutes away near Leavenworth. If you are looking for a day on the Columbia river, consider renting a boat or jet ski from the numerous options in town.
Katie and Ben of Two Wandering Soles
If you want a taste of the Wild West, look no further than Winthrop, Washington. This quirky little town in northern Washington is reminiscent of the Old West, complete with themed facades, a sweets shop, a General Store Emporium and even the state’s oldest legal saloon.
Winthrop makes a fun stop on your road trip through the Methow Valley, and is one of the top things to do in Washington state.
While you’re visiting Winthrop, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained. Here are some of our top recommendations for things to do:
- Wander around main street, pop into the shops, and take photos in front of the facades
- Grab a beer by the river at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery
- Learn the history of the area at the Shafer Museum
- Visit the Winthrop Farmer’s Market on a Sunday
- Have breakfast at Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon, the oldest saloon in Washington
Tip: If you’re visiting in the wintertime, Winthrop is a great base for experiencing the cross-country ski trails in the Methow Valley!
To get the full experience, you’ll want to find a place to stay that’s near the town center, which is very walkable. This way you’ll have the opportunity to experience the town before it’s taken over by crowds of daytime tourists. We’d recommend checking out River’s Edge Resort, a top-rated resort in the center of town sticking to the Old Western theme with a log cabin feel.
Final Thoughts On The Best Cities To Visit In Washington State
Isn’t Washington State gorgeous? We can’t wait to go back and explore more of its natural beauty, history, and food! And a big thank you to everyone that contributed to this list of the best cities to visit in Washington State.
Are there any more cities that you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments below! 🙂
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