Washington State in the Pacific Northwest attracts visitors throughout the year who come for its miles of mountains and forests, islands, outdoor activities, and of course, the Cascade Mountains. Home to the bustling cities of Seattle and Olympia and a number of beautiful national parks, it’s easy to see why the state of Washington is one of the most popular spots for a family vacation in North America.
Sunny days spent on Long Beach, busy afternoons sightseeing in Vancouver and Seattle, or energetic hikes through Rainier National Park or Olympic National Park – Washington state has all this and more. With miles of forests, coastline and mountains to explore, cities packed with family-friendly attractions, and remote islands with beautiful beaches, why would you want to spend your family vacation anywhere else?
The Space Needle, Seattle – This iconic tower in Seattle is recognizable to all. Built for the 1962 World Fair, you’ll get the best views of the city from the top.
Pike Place Market, Seattle – The oldest continually-operating farmers market in the USA, Pike Place Market is where the first Starbucks was opened, and there’s a famous fish market to shop at too.
Olympic National Park – Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Olympic National Park has plenty of outdoor activities for all ages. Rent a kayak at Lake Crescent, relax on one of the many beaches, explore the Hoh Rainforest, or hike 18 miles to the summit of Mount Olympus to see the glacier fields.
1. Seattle – One of the most popular vacation destinations located near Puget Sound, there’s plenty for families to do in Seattle. Once you’ve seen the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, check out the Seattle Art Museum Downtown, head for the Jimi Hendrix exhibit at the Experience Music Project, get your imagination fired up at the Science Fiction Museum, or take the kids to Seattle Aquarium.
2. Olympia – The state capital has a rich art and music scene and embraces alternative culture. While you’re here, head for the Hands On Children’s Museum for interactive exhibits for younger kids, see the Capitol Building and stroll around Bigelow House Museum, the oldest surviving home in the city, built in the 1850s.
3. San Juan Island – One of several islands in Washington State, the island of San Juan is home to the city of Friday Harbor. Here you can visit the Whale Museum, go whale watching in a sea kayak, or feed Popeye the harbor seal from the pier (pick up a bag of fresh fish at the seafood shack).
4. Lake Chelan – This popular vacation spot in north-central Washington state is the place to come for hiking, biking, water sports, fishing, golf and tennis. You can also try skydiving, hang gliding or river rafting if you’re feeling really adventurous!
With a diverse climate, the best time to visit Washington state depends on the area you’re going to. Seattle has a reputation as a rainy city while the area east of the Cascade Mountains can be dry and hot. If you’re planning a city vacation, visit Seattle between June to September if you don’t mind crowds – the city is busiest in July and August. By far the best month to visit the state is September when temperatures range from around 67-75°F and the cities are usually quieter.
Cars are the best way to get around the state, with car rental available at many locations. The main interstate roads are I-5 near Washington, I-90 near Seattle, and the I-82. The state’s main highways running east to west all cross the Cascade Mountains, so these roads are subject to delays or closure during winter weather.