Named after the first president and the only state to be named after a president, the 42nd state of Washington resides in the pacific-northwest region of the country. Known for its diverse climate and terrain, Washington enjoys much popularity as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who love the mountains.

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With the Cascade Mountains cutting the state from north to south, western Washington experiences mostly mild temperatures with damp winters and dry summers; its dense coniferous forests are part of the only temperate rainforest climate region in the country. Across the mountains there is an expanse of arid, semi-desert giving way to farmland further inland while many of the highest peaks of the mountain range are active volcanoes covered in glacial ice.

Mount Rainier, the highest peak in Washington State, is home to the Mount Rainier National Park. Open year round, the park welcomes more than two million visitors annually, with the summer months and long weekends being busiest. The fifth oldest national park in America, it contains campsites and inns, incredible alpine scenery, old-growth forests and flower meadows. Special events calendars are available at any of the visitors’ centers, providing information on lodging, backpacking and summit climbing to picnicking and ranger-led hiking itineraries.

Closer to the water lies the well-known port city of Seattle. The state’s largest city, it offers all of the amenities one could hope for in a major urban center, with accommodation options ranging from budget to five-star hotels. One of the more popular seaside attractions is Pier 59, where the Seattle Aquarium and Discovery Center is located amidst a shoreline park of lamps and benches and picnic areas. An observation platform with coin operated telescopes provides a great view of the Olympic Mountains on a clear day.

Another Seattle treasure is the Space Needle. Try an indoor adventure and ride the elevator to the Observation Deck 520 feet above the city to enjoy a breathtaking, panoramic view. SkyCity is a revolving restaurant within the Needle that offers a slow, 360-degree dining experience where local salmon and fresh picked fruit is on the menu.

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Where to Go

Top Cities

  • Seattle: Known for its iconic Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and vibrant tech industry. Must-see attractions include the Museum of Pop Culture, the Seattle Art Museum, and the waterfront.
  • Olympia: The state capital, featuring the Washington State Capitol Building, the Hands On Children’s Museum, and access to the scenic Puget Sound.
  • Spokane: Offers attractions like Riverfront Park, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, and proximity to outdoor activities in nearby Coeur d’Alene.
  • Tacoma: Home to the Museum of Glass, Point Defiance Park, and a revitalized waterfront.

National Parks

  • Mount Rainier National Park: Features the iconic Mount Rainier, numerous hiking trails, wildflower meadows, and opportunities for climbing and camping.
  • Olympic National Park: Encompasses diverse ecosystems including lush rainforests, alpine peaks, and rugged coastline. Popular spots include Hurricane Ridge, Hoh Rain Forest, and Rialto Beach.
  • North Cascades National Park: Known for its stunning mountain scenery, pristine lakes, and challenging hiking trails. Highlights include Diablo Lake and the North Cascades Highway.

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When to Go

  • Summer (June to September): This is the most popular time to visit Washington State, especially for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and exploring national parks. The weather is generally warm and dry, with average temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the mid-80s °F (18-30°C). This season offers the best conditions for visiting the coastal areas, mountains, and enjoying the numerous festivals and events.

  • Spring (March to May): Spring is a great time to visit for those who prefer mild weather and fewer crowds. The state’s flowers and trees begin to bloom, creating beautiful landscapes. Temperatures during this time range from the mid-40s to the mid-60s °F (7-18°C). However, be prepared for occasional rain, especially in western Washington.

  • Fall (September to November): Fall offers crisp air, colorful foliage, and a quieter travel experience. It’s an excellent time for wine tasting in regions like Walla Walla and Yakima Valley. Temperatures range from the mid-40s to the mid-60s °F (7-18°C) early in the season, but can drop significantly later on. Rain becomes more frequent as fall progresses.

  • Winter (December to February): Winter is ideal for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports in the Cascade and Olympic mountains. Western Washington, including Seattle, experiences mild, wet winters with temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to mid-40s °F (1-9°C). Eastern Washington, in contrast, has colder, drier winters, with temperatures often below freezing and occasional snowfall.

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Things to Do

Outdoor Activities

Washington State is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Activities include hiking, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, and fishing. The state’s varied landscapes provide ample opportunities for adventure:

  • Hiking: Trails range from easy walks like those at Rattlesnake Ledge to challenging backcountry routes in the North Cascades.
  • Water Sports: The Puget Sound and numerous lakes and rivers offer kayaking, sailing, and paddleboarding.
  • Winter Sports: The Cascades and Olympic Mountains have several ski resorts, including Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain.

Wine and Food

Washington State is the second-largest wine producer in the United States, with over 1,000 wineries. The wine regions of Walla Walla, Yakima Valley, and Columbia Valley are renowned for their quality wines. In addition to wine, Washington is known for its fresh seafood, particularly Pacific salmon, Dungeness crab, and oysters. The state’s culinary scene also features farm-to-table dining, craft breweries, and innovative cuisine.

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Need to Know

  • Best Time to Visit: Summer (June to September) is ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the national parks. Spring and fall offer milder weather and fewer crowds.
  • Transportation: Seattle has a well-developed public transportation system, including buses, light rail, and ferries. Renting a car is recommended for exploring rural areas and national parks.
  • Weather Preparedness: Western Washington can be rainy, so pack waterproof clothing and layers. Eastern Washington tends to be drier but can experience temperature extremes.

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