Washington — Overview
Don’t let the rain deter you from planning a trip to Washington. Most of the state is actually dry and sunny most of the time (on the eastern side of the Cascades). True, it rains a lot in Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula. But this doesn’t seem to dampen the energy and creativity of the folk who live and work in this fascinating metropolis on the edge of the world.
Seattle is easily the urban highlight, with its patchwork of cool neighborhoods, its proximity to the rustic San Juan Islands, and lush shiny nature all around. It’s an ideal base for starting out, just an hour from the volcanic wonderland of Mount Rainer National Park and the rainforests on the Olympic Peninsula. The dining, nightlife, and music scene in Seattle is top-notch.
But in reality, almost anywhere you travel in Washington, you’ll find extraordinary cafés, craft breweries, and coffee houses that take tremendous pride in keeping things local. There’s really good value for what you get here, including lodging if you visit in the rainy months. Though few people can honestly cheer about weather that drizzles nine months out of the year, Washington residents are surprisingly jovial about their situation. If they can deal with it all year, you can handle it for a few days.
The sheer diversity of things to do in Washington makes it a superb travel destination. The Cascade Mountains divide the state into two parts, offering incredible outdoor recreation in the hills and America’s second-largest wine scene along its eastern flanks. You can sea kayak with whales in Puget Sound, bike rural islands just across the bay from Seattle, or ski neck-deep powder at resorts like Mount Baker. You won’t find yourself in need of entertainment.
Seattle is a great city to explore on foot and by public transport. But the rest of the state requires a vehicle to properly enjoy it. Having a rental car will pay for itself many times over by getting you to the sea, the mountains, and even the islands off Puget Sound. Most of the driving in Washington is scenic, especially in the Cascades and its foothills.
- Wander the lanes of Seattle’s Pike Place Market for a taste (and sip) of what every urban market should be like
- Tour the wineries of Yakima Valley or Walla Walla and discover your own new favorite label of pinot noir
- Tramp through America’s only true rainforest in Olympia National Park and be sure and bring your best rain gear
- Get intimate with an active volcano in Mount Rainer National Park, a wonderland of trails, forests, lakes, and wildlife at just an hour’s drive from Seattle
- Go German for a day in the oddly authentic Bavarian village of Leavenworth, which is tucked into the foothills of the Cascades
- Try to spot killer whales off the San Juan Islands by taking a tour by sea kayak or boat
- Grab a ferry over to the San Juan Islands and experience a rural paradise that seems a universe away from the grit and glitter of Seattle just across Puget Sound