tulip fest

21 Epic Experiences To Have In Washington State

In Hiking, Blog, Wildlife, United States, Washington, Activities, Parks, North America, Interests, Boating, Destinations, Thrills by ajauntwithjoy@gmail.com16 Comments

Having grown up in Upstate New York, I was constantly telling strangers “Yes I live in New York. No, not the city.” By moving to Washington for 2 years, I thought of how lucky I would be to simply say the name of my new state and not have to explain anything else. However, I quickly realized that even fellow Americans assumed I was talking about living in Washington D.C. and seemed to have no knowledge of Washington state.

Luckily, mostly thanks to Instagram, the Pacific Northwest has officially been “put on the map”. More and more people have become aware, and even intrigued, by this area. Washington in particular. To further your knowledge of the beautiful state and all it has to offer, I’ve put together this list of 21 epic experiences you won’t want to miss out on! From caving to kangaroos, this state has an activity for everyone!

1. SUPing in Seattle

Seattle is filled with activities from eating a meal in the Space Needle to visiting the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit to strolling through Pike Place Market. But one of the best activities offered here seems to get overlooked — SUPing, or Stand Up Paddleboarding. Head to Surf Ballard to rent a board and you can smoothly paddle past beautiful homes, race around the buoys, and catch the sunset. You might even encounter a sea lion!

suping seattle

2. Looking For Bigfoot on the Olympic Peninsula

Deep within the Olympic National Forest lies the elusive creature known as Bigfoot. Or at least that’s what a small minority of people think to be true. There are many myths about Bigfoot from his whereabouts to his way of living. Photo and video “evidence” have certainly been around for quite some time now. Whether you believe he exists or not, you’re sure to have fun on the overnight Olympic Peninsula Sasquatch Tour!

bigfoot olympic

3. Kayaking with Orca’s in the San Juans

The San Juans are a group of islands off the coast of Washington and are a popular tourist destination from May to September — specifically San Juan Island and Orcas Island. Both of these islands offer tours to view the local wildlife, with the orca whale being the most sought-after sighting. Get here by ferry or flight and book an up-close-and-personal kayaking tour for whale encounters! I went with Sea Quest Expeditions.

orcas san juans

4. Flying Kites and Riding Bikes in Long Beach

Chances are the Long Beach you’re most familiar with is the city right outside of L.A. Little did you know, Washington has it’s own Long Beach! That ideal beachside town you often read about in books or see in movies — you know the one…complete with a boardwalk, carnival rides,  surfers, and all the ice cream you can handle — that’s Washington’s Long Beach. At 28 miles long, this town claims to have the World’s Longest Contiguous Beach! The boardwalk along the beach turns into a narrow paved trail that extends all the way into parts of Cape Disappointment State Park! Ride your bike or rent one in town and pack a picnic! Long Beach is also home to the World Kite Museum & Hall of Fame. Buy a kite from the museum or stop by the area in late August to witness the International Kite Festival.

bikes long beach

5. Strolling the Farmer’s Market in Bellingham

This fun Saturday market is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. There are over 100 vendors, loads of food carts, and talented (or just plain whacky) performers. Sunset Magazine even named them #1 in their “Ten Farmers Markets Worth A Trip” article! Find the Beeworks Farm booth to sample yummy infused honeys, nectars, and even a honeycomb itself or pick up handmade leather wallets, fresh flower bouquets, artisanal cheese, and more!

farmers market

6. Helicoptering over the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Once April rolls around, Skagit Valley instantly receives an influx of people all hoping to see the Tulip Festival and photograph the rows of blooming tulips. Fields with millions of flowers in varying colors are spread out across acres of land. It’s best to take a car or ride a bicycle (or rent either in town) to each of the participating farms, but by far the best view is from above! Bellingham Helicopter Services is one of a handful of companies offering tours to see the fields from the air. All companies are decently priced and are only available on the weekends. And don’t miss eating at the Farmhouse Restaurant and visiting one of the local breweries after!

tulip fest

7. Driving through Deception Pass to Whidbey Island

Whidbey Island is not only Washington’s largest island, but is the perfect rural PNW vacation. It boasts having a bit of everything for everyone — beaches, top chefs, wine, distillery’s, outdoor adventure, parks, gardens, art galleries, and culture. And getting there is half the fun! Driving right through Deception Pass State Park, you can pull off on the roadside just before a beautiful green bridge with stunning views all around. Tiny kayakers and seals splash around in the water beneath you as you walk over the bridge. Such a dramatic way to enter Whidbey Island!

deception pass washington

8. Hiking in Mount Rainier National Park

Most people attempt to see Mount Rainier NP in a day, and while it can still be done, it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to experience the park as a whole. With so many beautiful trails to choose from in such a large area, consider staying at least 2 days and hiking at least 2 trails. For wildflowers and a waterfall, hike the 7.5 miles Spray Park Trail & Falls. For dramatic views, try the 5.6 miles to Tolmie Peak. For a lake and a lookout tower, hike the 11.2 miles to Lake George and Gobbler’s Knob. The 5.4 miles of Paradise Park and Skyline Trail also have incredible views, wildflowers, and abundant wildlife.

mount rainier

Credit : Maggie Tacheny

9. Relaxing at the Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls is Washington State’s most famous waterfall. At over 250 feet high and between 50-150 feet wide (depending on water levels), it sure demands attention! An observation deck and a short trail allow onlookers a great view. A gift shop and a few picnic tables are also available on-site. However, the best way to experience this attraction is through the Salish Lodge & Spa, which sits at the top of the falls. Splurge a bit and receive award-winning spa treatments. Take advantage of a $25 yoga class that overlooks the falls, or pay $45 for a yoga class with 2 hours of access to the Spa pool, sauna, and steam room!

snoqualmie falls

Credit : Justin Masterson

10. Skiing on Mount Baker

The Mount Baker Ski Area unofficially has the highest average annual snowfall of any resort in the world! Check weather and road conditions before arriving — it’s not uncommon to be driving past sky-high piles of snow on the roadside that tower over your car! Lessons are available at the resort and there are plenty of areas for every experience level. Or, if you’re up for it, you can access the backcountry from several chairlifts.

mount baker

11. Climbing an Active Volcano in Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens is an active volcano open year-round for climbing. Late spring to early fall is prime season for beginners and the experienced alike. Once you purchase a climbing permit, try out the Monitor Ridge Route — it’s strenuous, but non-technical and most people finish a roundtrip climb in 7 to 12 hours. Blowing ash and dust can sometimes be a problem. Bring your sexiest pair of goggles or sunglasses with side shields (does such a pair even exist?!), some kind of dust mask to cover your mouth and nose, and a climbing helmet or hard hat for the extra cautious.

mount st helens

Credit : Kimberley D

12. Exploring Ape Cave in Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Ape Cave is the longest lava tube in the continental US, at over 2 miles in length! Stalactites, stalagmites, and lava flow marks can be seen on the cave floors, ceilings, and walls. Between Upper Ape Cave and Lower Ape Cave, Lower is a quicker and easier hike while Upper is longer and for the more adventurous — mostly because Upper Ape Cave includes performing a drunken-looking scramble over piles of boulders and scaling an 8-foot-high lava fall. Come prepared with a jacket, sturdy shoes, and at least one source of light!

ape cave

Credit : Lisa Norwood

13. Feeding Kangaroos and Wallabys in Arlington

Hidden away in the rural small town atmosphere of Arlington is The Outback Kangaroo Farm. Pay just $10 per adult and walk around the farm as the owner tells you about how they got started rescuing kangaroos, wallabies, and wallaroos. You’re given a small bucket of food to hand-offer these adorable creatures as they paw at and nibble away at it! You’ll also see ring-tailed lemurs, ostriches, emus, llamas, mini donkeys, pygmy goats, turkeys, and more while on the farm. Tours are from Wed-Sun at either 10am, 12pm, 2pm, or 4pm. Bring shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy!

kangaroo wallaby

14. Touring the Boeing Factory in Everett

Any aviation or travel buff would enjoy heading to the Boeing Factory for a tour of airplane production lines to observe what it takes to build a commercial airplane in the world’s largest building (by volume). Gain insight into what the future of flight looks like while riding in an aviation simulator and designing your own airplane!

boeing factory

Credit : Derek K Miller

15. Upscale Dining at the Willow’s Inn on Lummi Island

Lummi Island is a small island near Bellingham that is accessed by a county ferry running at least once every hour. If you’re looking for total solitude and relaxation, this is the place to be! Whether you’re planning an overnight stay or a day trip, don’t miss the food at the cute and cozy Willow’s Inn. The restaurant here (and the chef) has been recognized in loads of “top” and “best” lists for its Pacific Northwest cuisine. The menu is seasonal and the food is all sourced from local farms and fishers! This type of cuisine and this setting is a one of a kind experience. Expect to pay around $175 or more per person.

willow's inn

Credit : Charity Burggraaf

16. Celebrating Oktoberfest in Leavenworth

Leavenworth is a charming little town modeled after a Bavarian village surrounded by the Cascade Mountains. Each weekend in October it hosts a lively and insane Oktoberfest that is quoted as “the next best thing to being in Munich.” A large range of German food and drink are available, bands from Germany are brought in, parades happen every Saturday, and the mayor hosts a keg-tapping ceremony! There is even a free shuttle service within the town (and a fee for outlaying area shuttle pick-ups and drop-offs). However, an even better mode of transportation in Leavenworth is offered through the Hans Christian Andersen Carriage Company, where you can ride through the cobblestone streets in a horse-drawn carriage!

leavenworth oktoberfest

Credit : Hans Christian Andersen Carriage Co

17. Riding a Scenic Gondola in Spokane

Rated as being one of the top 12 scenic cable rides in the world, the Spokane Falls SkyRide offers incredible up-close-and-personal views of the second largest urban falls in America. Each gondola fits 6 passengers and takes them on a 15 minute ride. Travel past art deco City Hall before slowly dropping 200 feet over the Huntington Park Natural Area. It then takes you by a set of the rivers falls and under the historic Monroe Street bridge, ending back in Riverfront Park! The one drawback often stated about this ride is that it can oftentimes be out of service either due to the cabins getting too heated in hot summer temperatures, or because of windy situations. If you have to skip the gondola, exploring Riverfront Park is just as neat!


Credit : Michelle Lee

18. Sleeping in a Treehouse in Issaquah

Just 30 minutes outside of Seattle is a treehouse wonderland nestled into a fairytale-like forest. Each of the 6 treehouses at Treehouse Point are unique and have been built by “The Treehouse Master” Pete Nelson. A homemade continental breakfast in the main lodge is included in your stay, along with all the beauty of the trees and the raging river. And to those who can’t live without checking their emails —yes, WiFi is available. Two night stays start at around $255. No time to stay overnight or have limited funds? Make an advanced reservation online to take a guided tour of the property instead! Tours are typically around $20 per person.

treehouse point

Credit : Adam Crowley

19. Going Crabbing in Chinook

You can find plenty of fishing tours along the Washington coast, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a tour that takes you crabbing. Enter Hi-Line Crab Charters in Chinook. Up to 6 people can be taken into the bay on a 32′ vessel to lift pre-baited crab pots. Dungeness crabs are the species you’re hoping to find, but you may also find starfish and other marine life that have weaseled their way into the pots. The tour lasts about 1½-2 hours and is only available from September-December. You must first have a WA shellfish license — A 1-day resident fee is $11.35, and $20.15 for non-residents. Pick one up at the Chinook Country Store or visit this website for more information. To book your crab charter, call the numbers listed here.


20. Going Apple Picking Anywhere

Over 70% of the United States’ apple supply comes from Washington state. Being that apples are the largest agricultural product grown here, that’s no surprise. There are thousands of WA farms and many provide U-Pick apple orchards, along with endless apple treats such as apple fritters, apple butter, and apple cider. Most picking opportunities start in the Fall. Visit BelleWood Acres to pick with a view of Mount Baker in one of the largest orchards in western WA!

washington apples

21. Encountering Salmon Anywhere

Salmon are a huge part of Washington state culture. For a while, the salmon population in Washington was dwindling due to changes in the environment and because of human influence. Residents have been  working toward reversing these negative effects through increasing watershed health, creating salmon recovery plans, and collecting population data. Luckily, their efforts are recently showing signs of positive changes! You can recreationally fish for salmon or find it on any menu in nearly any form. You also may encounter the fish swimming upstream while spending time outdoors, or while visiting a salmon hatchery.

salmon hatchery

Which activity sounds the most fun?! Tell me in the comments! 

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  1. I love your pictures! I absolutely adore the Pacific Northwest! I’ve travelled around the area a lot since I was a little girl. Can’t believe you saw Orcas – super cool! I also really liked the farmers markets at Ballard :)

    1. Author

      Thank you! I love the PNW too! Such a diverse area.
      And actually, the year I moved to Washington was the year the Orca’s rarely showed up because of the bad salmon run. We didn’t see any Orca’s on our kayaking tour the year I went, but I heard word that they are coming back to the area now!

  2. I loved my visit to Washington State and you reminded me of many of my favourite memories – plus added so more to the wish list. How much do I want to go crabbing. SO MUCH!

  3. I didn’t know we could feed koalas and kangaroos at a zoo in America! That’s incredible. I would love to kayak with the orcas and go see the tulip festival. It’s great that there’s great things that come from Washington and not the Twilight bs. ;)

    1. Author

      Speaking of the Twilight bs, my boyfriend was recently offered a park ranger job in Olympic NP and found out that his housing would probably be right by Forks. He’s so thrilled (not) haha!
      And yeh, the rescue farm allows you to feed kangaroos and wallabies as well as llamas and emu! It’s a pretty cool place!

  4. I didn’t know about so many of these things, but I think you saved the best for last. Salmon is my favorite food, so I’d be looking for a local seafood restaurant to grill me some fish. :)

    1. Author

      You wouldn’t have to look very hard for salmon in Washington! There are TONS of restaurants and fish markets serving and selling the fish! When I lived in Ferndale (Northern WA coast) my roommates and I were always buying fresh salmon from a fish hatchery and cooking it up on the grill. SO good!

  5. Between the wallaby sanctuary, and the moss-covered forest I’m sold! So many cool things I never knew about!

  6. I keep reading about Washington State these days (I’m a Brit with bad America geography and didn’t actually know there was ANOTHER Washington!) I’m such an outdoors girls and there seem to be so many awesome things in Washington (the state- not D.C!) I would love to visit if I ever come to The U.S.A :)

    1. Author

      Loads of people, even some Americans, don’t know or forget that there’s a vast difference between DC and the State. Washington state is the PERFECT place for outdoor adventurers! Actually, the whole Pacific Northwest area is! I hope you get the chance to visit someday!

  7. This is a great list! I LOVE living in WA. Leavenworth is like my second home here and this year will be our 5th year in a row at Oktoberfest! I remember the tulips fields when they took up that whole valley as a kid!

  8. I never really had America on my list, but lately I am starting to change my mind and this post helped!

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