Washington state is the heart of the Pacific Northwest. With that title comes everything you'd hope for, from the lush, green Olympic Peninsula to the wild white peaks of the Cascade Mountains and the relaxed, kayaker-friendly San Juan Islands. Head east and you'll see another side of the state: aridly beautiful, with upscale wineries and cowboy-style breakfasts in equal measure, plus orchards, wheat fields and pioneer history.

The biggest urban jolt is Seattle, but each of the state's main population centers – Spokane, Bellingham, Olympia – has its own charm. Still, to get the most out of visiting Washington, you'll want to leave the cities behind and lose yourself in the mountains and the woods, along the coast or on the islands. The best experiences here are mostly unmediated.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Washington.

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