How to talk about my favorite things in Washington State? There is NO WAY I can list all the wonderful things about my home state of Washington. No doubt someone reading this blog will think I have left something out. And so I encourage everyone to comment at the end of this blog with additional FAVORITE things about Washington State.
I was born in Washington 60 years ago and I know a lot of great places in the Pacific Northwest corner of the USA. As we travel the world I often reminisce about Washington, comparing other places around the world to her. I’m looking forward to getting back there, and once again enjoying my favorite things in Washington State.
If you have never visited the Pacific Northwest corner of the USA you are missing out on something pretty special. It is certainly one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. I feel quite qualified to say that, having visited 110 countries myself. Nicknamed the Evergreen State, it has both a very green side (west of the Cascade Mountains) and a gold side (east of the mountains) and I love them equally. Raised on the west side but going to college and spending a great deal of time on the east side, I have learned to appreciate and admire the beauty and diversity of this spectacular little piece of paradise – Washington State.
Seattle – Washington’s largest city is cosmopolitan, delicious, cultural and ethnically diverse. It is the number one place to visit in Washington.
Spokane – One of my favorite cities in Washington and the largest city on the east side of the state, Spokane has grown from a sleepy agricultural town to a wonderfully diverse and interesting city.
Bellingham – Tucked in the Northwest corner of Washington State very near the Canadian border, Bellingham offers a waterfront location with wonderful history. Home to Western Washington University, the student life brings a mix of culture and dining to this medium size city.
Tacoma – the second largest city in the state, Tacoma has long battled a poor reputation. But today’s Tacoma is a far cry from that of yesteryear. A cleaned up downtown and port area, multiple first class museums and a great selection of parks and restaurants makes T-town one of my favorites.
Gig Harbor – I lived in Gig Harbor for 25 years and watched it grow. And despite the traffic I still love this maritime village that has the single most beautiful view in the entire state.
Sequim – Much like Gig Harbor but without the traffic, Sequim’s location overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in the shadow of the Olympic mountains makes its temperate climate perfect. Throw in the amazing lavender farms and bike trails there is a lot to love about this town.
Walla Walla – when I was growing up Walla Walla was just the town with the funny stuttering name. Today it is one of the premier wine regions in the world and has a wonderfully restored downtown.
Pullman – home to my alma mater Washington State University, Pullman is an upcoming destination even if you don’t say GO COUGS. Today’s Pullman has parks and trails and a much larger selection of dining and hotels than it did forty years ago when I was in school. And I love the weather.
Lena Lake – One of our favorite hikes in the Olympics, the hike to both Lower Lena and Upper Lena can be done by most hikers with minimal experience.
Skokomish River Lower South Fork – This is always a great hike and mostly flat…easy to reach and makes a great day hike.
Mount Rainier – If you can catch Mount Rainier on a sunny day any hike will be enjoyable. A wide variety of hike options can be found in the Mount Rainier National Park. This summer I did the Summerland Trail for the first time. I loved it.
Crystal Mountain – hike up and ride the gondola down, or ride the gondola up and hike down…either way you will enjoy panoramic views of Rainier and on a good day, you can see four other volcanoes beyond.
Olympic Discovery Trail – I love this cycling trail and rode on it twice this past summer. The trail runs from Port Townsend all the way to the Pacific Ocean. However from Port Angeles west it is mostly on roads. Since we like to stay on trails, we usually start in Blyn and ride to Port Angeles and back, about 50 miles round trip.
Centennial Trail – Spokane has several cycling trails and one of our favorites is the Centennial Trail that winds its way from Spokane into Idaho and Coeur d’Alene.
Chehalis Western – I’ve spent hours and hours training for long rides on the Chehalis Western, located near Olympia. You can start and stop many places on this trail but if you ride the entire trail round trip it’s 90 miles.
Interurban/Burke Gilman – So many options with this very popular cycling and walking trail. We rode the Burke Gilman this year from Gas Works Park in Seattle to Woodinville (forty miles round trip). If you really want a long and amazing ride start the Interurban in Pacific (near Auburn) and connect in Seattle with the Burke Gilman to Woodinville. This round trip is about 90 miles.
Puget Sound – Western Washington’s beauty can be attributed to water, both that which falls from the sky and that which surrounds it as the Puget Sound. With several cities and towns perched on the Sound, access to it is plentiful, and it is certainly one of my favorite things in Washington State.
Lake Chelan – Washington’s favorite lake is found right in the middle of the state, the 55 mile long, 1500 feet deep natural lake of Chelan. Both a summer and winter playground, Washingtonians from the westside flock to Chelan in the summer.
Columbia River – Roll on Columbia still rings true, and visiting this amazing river that flows both south and west through the state offers a variety of recreational activities and history lessons along the way.
Pacific Ocean – spending time enjoying the crashing waves of Washington’s Pacific Coast is a must when visiting the state. My favorite places to access the Pacific Ocean are Neah Bay or Ozette in the far northwest part of the state or Kalaloch or Long Beach further south.
Green Lake – walking or cycling the 2.8 mile loop around Green Lake is one of my favorite things to do in Seattle. Greenlake is a wonderful little gem of a natural setting right in the heart of north Seattle…treasured by locals.
San Juan Islands – To really see how glorious the Puget Sound is, taking a ferry to one or more of the San Juan Islands and enjoying a few days island hopping is sublime.
Gig Harbor Gondola – if you visit tiny and scenic Gig Harbor on the Kitsap Peninsula don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a gondola ride in the harbor in an authentic Italian gondola.
Snoqualmie Falls – Just about 40 min drive east of Seattle you will find the amazing Snoqualmie Falls….higher than Niagara. Depending on the time year Snoqualmie falls can be a slender and beautiful falls or a thunderous monster of a waterfall. Worth the drive and also if you are fit the hike to the bottom is breathtaking.
Tillicum Village – Visitors and locals should experience Tillicum Village at least once in their lifetime. The getting there is half the fun, but the food and authentic Native American entertainment is incredible.
Pike Place Market – known for the throwing fish, there is a lot more to enjoy a Seattle’s Pike Place Market, even if you don’t buy a thing it is a not-to-be-missed Seattle institution.
Geoduck Hunting – I went Geoducking for the first time this year on the Key Peninsula just west of Gig Harbor. If you have an opportunity, I highly recommend it. So much fun.
Oysters – take the Olympic Peninsula loop drive and stop for oyster at Hama Hama Oyster Company. Or if you can’t drive the loop, pick up fresh oyster or order oyster on the half shell…usually available in a month with an R. Some of the world’s finest oysters come from Washington State.
Dungeness Crab – If you grew up thinking Maryland Crab was crab you are in for a real shock when you eat Washington’s own world famous Dungeness Crab. Rich, buttery and delicious, Dungeness crab is best without any accoutrements…just eat it like nature intended.
Boehm’s Chocolates – still hand made daily in Issaquah Washington you can have a taste of old European Swiss Chocolate just like the old country. Boehm’s has locations in Issaquah, Poulsbo and Yakima.
Cafe Campagne – my favorite Seattle restaurant I go back to again and again with French food as good as any bistro in Paris.
Luna – just discovered this Spokane gem this summer and I will certainly be back. Possibly the best meal I had all summer.
Brix 25 – in my hometown of Gig Harbor, this little gem is always spot on. Try the Beef Bourgignon. You won’t be disappointed.
Tony’s Fillipis Pizza – growing up in Bremerton this was the place to get pizza, and still today Tony’s Fillipis Pizza is my favorite pizza anywhere in the world.
The Valley Cafe – tucked into an old drug store in Ellensburg Washington, I stop to eat here anytime I am in this Central Washington Rodeo town. And you should too.
The Pink Door – my second favorite Seattle restaurant (and just down the alley from my first) I try to visit in the summer and get a table on their deck. I have never had a bad meal at this iconic Seattle restaurant.
Black Cypress – Pullman isn’t known for fine dining, and yet, the Black Cypress is an absolute find, and a must dine when in the tiny college town of Pullman.
Wineries and Breweries
Washington has become an award wining wine producing state over the past several decades as well as one of the launching places for many now famous microbrews. Washingtonians are well-known to be entrepreneurial and creative (think Bill Boeing, Bill Gates, Howard Schultz, Jeff Bezos) and this local trait shows in the wide variety of first rate wines and beers. Here is a list of my local favs;
Since I live in the state part of the year I don’t often stay in local resorts, but over the years I have had the opportunity to visit several. Most resorts here focus on the beauty of the natural surroundings as well as the farm and forage to table dining Washington offers. Here is list of my favorites;
I love gardens, and even if you aren’t a gardener yourself, you can’t help but appreciate and admire the beauty of some of these stunning gardens throughout the state of Washington.
Point Defiance Rose Garden – Tacoma
Olympic Sculpture Garden – Seattle
Volunteer Park Conservatory Seattle
Lakewold Gardens -Tacoma/Lakewood
Bloedel Reserve- Bainbridge Island
Nishinomiya Japanese Gardens – Spokane
Rhododendron Species Garden Federal Way
Also seasonally don’t miss the blooming Cherry Blossoms at the University of Washington Seattle (spring), the Sequim Lavender Festival (July), Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland (April May) and the Bob’s Pumpkin Farm in Snohomish (October)
Since one of the reasons people LOVE Washington so much is the beauty, finding the best views in the state is something visitors always are looking for. For me personally the list below offers amazing views, history and recreation from ocean beaches to mountain tops and everything in between. These are all great options that fit most, budgets, fitness levels and schedules;
Dry Falls State Park Vista, Coulee City
Kerry Park Seattle (cover photo)
Vista House at Crown Point on the Columbia River Gorge (technically in Oregon but with a great view of Washington )
Kamiak Butte Palouse
North Head Light, Cape Disappointment, Long Beach
Oh my goodness I have so many favorite things in Washington State! I know I have missed some things – I didn’t even touch on museums or tours. I could write an entire blog about festivals, art and music. But the things I have listed here are the things I have experienced and personally enjoy going back to again and again. My Washington from my point of view. Please add your favorites to the list in the comments below. Get out and enjoy surprising, diverse, beautiful, delicious and friendly Washington State. I sure have these past four months. Washington my home.
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