If ever there was a state to have a wish list of amazing experiences you want to do, a Washington State bucket list is the one to accomplish. There is so much beauty in this area, from the gorgeous Cascade mountains to the stunning Pacific Ocean. With so many things to do in Washington, the hard part is deciding how to narrow down your list.
I’ve lived in this state for most of my life and have slowly had a chance to mark these fun activities off my list, so I wanted to create one for you to use as well. To make it easy, I made a printable Washington bucket list poster to keep track of your goals.
1. Have a Drink on Top of Seattle’s Oldest Skyscraper
Built in 1914, the Smith Tower is the oldest skyscraper in the city. You can take a tour on the bottom floor to see historic pictures and learn about the unique history of the building. Make sure to take time to observe the beautiful marble and gold decorations found throughout the building.
When you’re done, head to the top of the tower for one of the best Instagram spots in Seattle, especially if you go at sunset (which I highly recommend!). You’ll want to put their bar at the top of your Washington state bucket list due to the epic views, unique cocktails, and tasty appetizers.
2. Walk Under Deception Pass Bridge
The most famous bridge in Washington is Deception Pass, which connects Whidbey Island to Fidalgo Island. You can visit this when you’re visiting Anacortes or taking a Whidbey Island day trip, and it’s great to add to your Washington summer bucket list. Diehard fans of The Ring may recognize this as a bridge that was featured in the movie.
Not only is the water a beautiful green color, but you’ll notice various whirlpools due to the two different bodies of water meeting. You can drive over the bridge or walk underneath it to get pictures. For a really unique angle, you can even take a boat tour right under the bridge.
3. Take a Hike to Colchuck Lake
If you love hiking, you’ll want to visit Leavenworth on the weekend to add the Colchuck Lake hike to your itinerary. This is one of the most unique things to do in Washington State, as this moderate hike will drop you right into a blue-green alpine lake.
At 8 miles roundtrip and a 2,280-foot elevation gain, this is tough but doable if you’re in shape. I will give you the helpful tip to bring bug spray in the summer, as thousands of bugs in the area want to enjoy the water as much as you do.
4. Go on the Seattle Underground Tour
I recommend the Seattle Underground tour to everyone I talk to, whether they’ve lived here all their lives or are just visiting for a weekend. While you may notice that downtown Seattle is on a pretty steep hill, it was actually built on top of the original city!
You’ll go with a guide to access the closed off portions under the streets where parts of the original buildings still stand. When it’s a cold and rainy day in December or January, this Seattle bucket list item becomes one of the best things to do in Seattle in winter.
5. See the Stunning Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie Falls is only 45 minutes east of Seattle, making it an easy item to put on your Washington State bucket list. Most people go to the observation deck at the top to get the iconic view there.
The view at the top is beautiful, but you can take the trail down from the top to get to the river. It’s about a mile long and will bring you to a second parking lot complete with a bathroom. From there, go along the boardwalk to walk closer to the falls. If you walk away from the falls, you’ll find a popular spot to play in the river.
During the warmer months, many people head to this part of the river where you can swim. People sunbathe on the rocks or bring a picnic to enjoy. An ice cream stand sells ice cream cones by the main road, so make sure to grab one before you come down.
6. Take a Hot Tub Boat Ride
Whether you’re looking to have a fun weekend adventure or want to impress your friends, going on a hot tub boat in Seattle is one way to easily do that. This experience is one of the best kept secrets in Washington State that I just learned about this year.
I did this during the winter and the temperature of the hot tub mixed with the cool air felt great, but summer would also be a fun time to rent one. You get two hours on the boat and can have a handful of friends with you as you slowly drive around Lake Union.
7. Wine Taste in Walla Walla
While Washington may not have Napa Valley, we do have the Walla Walla region, which is where a large portion of our grapes are grown. The area is in the southeast corner of the state, which makes for a fun road trip on the weekend.
There are dozens of different wineries in the region, which is one of the best things about Washington State. If you’re a local, you’ll likely recognize some of the winery names as wine you’ve had in restaurants before. I recommend going when the weather is warm outside so you can enjoy outdoor wine tasting while looking over the vineyards.
8. Visit the Furthermost Northwestern Corner of the US
One of the most unique experiences in Washington State is being able to say you’ve visited the very northwestern corner of the country. Luckily, this is also a very scenic stop, so it’s worth the trip to visit Cape Flattery on the Olympic Peninsula.
If you want to make it a long day, you can do this during a day trip to Olympic National Park. I recommend heading here first and then slowly making your way back to discover what the rest of the area has to offer, such as hikes, waterfalls, and more.
9. Stay in Olympic National Park
Speaking of the Olympic Peninsula, you’ll want to stop in Olympic National Park while you’re there. This park is one of the best in the Pacific Northwest with everything from rainforests to hot springs to the ocean.
I recommend going on an Olympic Peninsula road trip to truly experience the whole area. One of the more unique items to put on your Washington bucket list is booking a stay in the park, as not all national parks have lodging you can stay at. Lake Crescent Lodge is a beautiful lodge right on the lake that’s perfect for calling your base.
While you’re in the area, make sure to check out the best hikes on Olympic Peninsula. There’s a good range of easy to hard ones to choose from.
10. Drive to Diablo Lake
When you go on a North Cascades day trip, it’ll be near impossible to not stop at the gorgeous Diablo Lake. The colors of the lake seem almost unreal when you see pictures, but you’ll quickly see in person how true the hues are.
You can stop at the overlook to get pictures from the most common vantage point, which is where most people stop before continuing on. If you have extra time and feel like hiking, you can also go below for one of the best hiking trails in North Cascades National Park.
11. Hike Around Cape Disappointment
You’ll want to stop at Cape Disappointment when enjoying a weekend in Long Beach. This area is on the very southwestern corner of the state and you can even see Oregon from it on a clear day!
It’s an easy hike from the parking lot to the lighthouse which sits on the cliff. You can also add in longer hikes if you’re looking for some exercise when making a list of what to do in Washington State.
12. Visit an Old Western Town
Spending a weekend in Winthrop is one of the most unique things to do in Washington State, as you’ll feel like you stepped right onto a Western movie set. All their storefronts have the same theme, from local boutique shops to coffee shops.
Any time of the year is fun to visit, as you can go swimming in the local lake in the summer or cross-country skiing during the winter. Make sure to stop at Three Finger Jack’s Saloon, which completes your experience with swinging saloon doors.
13. Photograph Wallace Falls
Wallace Falls is of the best waterfalls in Washington that is both scenic and doable for most skill levels. This is a great winter hike in Washington, as it’s not usually high enough to get too much snow. There are multiple waterfalls to photograph during this 5.6-mile roundtrip hike.
This hike is one of the best kept secrets in Washington State since it’s so easily accessible. The word is starting to get out, however, so I do recommend going in the morning if possible.
14. Ride the Ferry
Whether you take a day trip to Bainbridge Island or visit one of the San Juan Islands, a must do in Washington State is ride the Washington State Ferry. A ferry ride is the best way to commute, and you’ll have a gorgeous view no matter which ferry you take.
The further north you get, the better your chances are of seeing sea life such as our Orca whales. They might decide to swim along with you to accompany you during your commute if you’re lucky!
15. Backpack the Olympic Wilderness Coast
Adventure lovers will want to get out to the Olympic Coast to put a backpacking trip on their Washington State bucket list. There are various hikes to go on, such as the Ozette Triangle, which will end right at the Pacific.
You’ll have different campsites to choose from along the coast, so pick a weekend and make a reservation in advance. This area is one of the best places to go in Washington State when you want to enjoy nature as well as peace and quiet.
16. Get Close to the Gum Wall
Love it or hate it, the Gum Wall by Pike Place Market draws thousands of curious visitors each year. It’s a Seattle bucket list so they can see this colorful wall in person and decide how close they want to get.
The wall is cleaned periodically, but that doesn’t stop people from putting new gum up each year. Even if you want to keep your distance, it provides a fun background for your pictures.
17. See the Wildflowers at Mount Rainier
There is nothing better in my opinion than taking a day trip to Mount Rainier in late July or early August to see the wildflowers blooming. You can also see wildlife such as marmot exploring the hills and enjoying the warm weather.
There are numerous hikes to go on, with the Skyline Trail in the Paradise region being one of the most popular ones this time of year. Naches Peak Loop Trail is a shorter but equally popular trail on the opposite side of the mountain in the Sunrise area. You’ll quickly see why the mountain is one of the best places to see in Washington State.
18. Find Peace at the Japanese Gardens
Visiting the Japanese Gardens is a must do in Washington State during fall in Seattle. The color of the leaves turns into vivid shades that are perfectly reflected in the pond.
There is a small entrance fee to get in, but this helps keep the number of visitors lower. The gardens are a beautiful place to take a quiet stroll by yourself or get some thinking done as you sit on a bench.
19. Ski in the Mountains
A big reason why I’ll likely never move from Washington is that there are adventures to be had all throughout the year, including winter. We have a variety of mountains to ski at in the state, including Mount Baker to the far north and Crystal Mountain further south. If you’ve never been before, you should put ski lessons on your Washington bucket list.
Located about an hour east of Seattle off I-90, Snoqualmie Pass is the closest place to go skiing around the area. There are four places to ski at Snoqualmie: Summit West, Summit Central, Summit East, and Alpental. I personally prefer Alpental, as it tends to be less crowded.
If you head to Stevens Pass, you can stop in the town of Leavenworth after to spend the night. This Bavarian town in the mountains is magical when there’s snow, so you’ll love winter in Leavenworth.
20. Ride Bikes Along the Pacific Ocean
Taking a vacation down to Ocean Shores is always a blast, as it’s a cute town along the Pacific Ocean full of ice cream shops, activities like mini-golf, and delicious seafood restaurants. There are many things to do in Ocean Shores in the summer particularly.
When you’re there, rent a bike to add a ride along the ocean to your bucket list in Washington. You can bike through the town, grab a snack, and explore some of the beaches along the way.
21. See the Rare Larches
Larches are an elusive tree that turns to a glowing yellow color only a few weeks out of the year, so you’ll want to be ready to go on larch hikes in Washington. This tends to be late September or early October, but you’ll want to look at local trip reports on sites like WTA to see what people are reporting.
Seeing the larches in person is an ultimate Washington State bucket list item since they only appear for a short time. One of the best places to see them is throughout North Cascades National Park, so keep an eye on hikes in that area during the fall to know when to go.
22. Camp on Orcas Island
You may have noticed that many items on this list are active, but one of the best things about Washington State is how much there is to explore in the great outdoors. You’ll want to go camping at least once during the summer, and one of the most scenic places is Moran State Park on Orcas Island.
You can pick a campsite that’s on a lake on the island – does it get better than that? The weather is generally in the 70s during the summer and pleasant, so you’ll enjoy sitting around your campfire. You can also head into town to pick up food or go shopping.
23. Explore a Bavarian Village
If you’re looking for things to do in Washington State this weekend and want to get away, book a trip to Leavenworth. This town has a Bavarian theme to it, and you’ll get a kick out of being able to buy “German” souvenirs while you’re here.
Winter in Leavenworth is a particularly fun time to visit, as they have tree lighting ceremonies, carolers, and more. You can stop at German restaurants to enjoy German beer, bratwurst, spätzle, and more! They often have snow since they’re in the mountains, so kids will love sledding on the hills in town.
24. Visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
One of the best signs that spring in Seattle has arrived is the beginning of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This festival takes place in Mount Vernon and is a must see in Washington State this time of year.
You’ll be greeted with thousands of colorful tulips as you drive through the area, and there are plenty of places to pull off to get pictures. There are beautiful souvenirs by locals to purchase such as paintings and photographs of the area.
25. Walk Through a Rainforest
Did you know on top of everything else the state has, we also have a rainforest? Hoh Rainforest is in Olympic National Park and is one of the top places to go in Washington State due to its vast beauty. You’ll want to stop here if you go on a Pacific Northwest road trip.
After you cross this item off your Washington State bucket list, you can head into Port Angeles to grab coffee or watch the ferries go to and from Canada.
26. Put a Letter in a Mailbox on a Mountain
This adventure is for more advanced hikers, so if that’s you, you’ll want to summit Mailbox Peak. One of the most adventurous things to do in the state of Washington is climbing this 9.4-mile roundtrip mountain that has 4,000 feet of elevation gain.
One of the more unique experiences in Washington State, there’s an actual mailbox at the top of this mountain. People in Seattle will instantly know where you’ve been as soon as you post this iconic picture, and you’ll have another adventure to brag about.
27. Book a Weekend on San Juan Island
When you need a relaxing weekend getaway from Seattle, book a trip to San Juan Island. You’ll have a pleasant ferry ride from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, the main part of town.
From there you can walk around the downtown area, where the majority of restaurants are, or go explore the rest of the island. There are plenty of things to do during a weekend on San Juan Island including visiting a lighthouse, walking through a lavender farm, and trying local wine.
28. Climb Mount St. Helens
Have you ever wanted to climb an active volcano? Now you can when you go on the hike to summit Mount St. Helens. Make sure to read my post on it first, as you do need a permit before you can do this and you will need the proper equipment to complete it.
The fact that you can go to the top of this volcano while most people just view it from the visitor’s center is one of the best kept secrets in Washington State. You can carefully go to the rim of the crater and peek inside to see steam coming out.
29. Admire Palouse Falls
Palouse Falls in Spokane is the official waterfall of the state and is the remains of glacial floods from long ago. The area is a beautiful place to explore in general with hiking trails and campgrounds.
If you can time your trip right, I recommend going at sunrise or sunset for some beautiful photos. This waterfall is one of the best attractions in Washington State that’s free to visit.
30. Stroll Through Point Defiance Park
One of the best things to do in Tacoma is visiting Point Defiance Park, and the fact that it’s free makes it even better. This huge area has hundreds of acres to wander on, and you can even go on a five-mile-long drive in your car if you don’t feel like getting out.
I recommend stopping to see the gardens when the flowers are in bloom, as they’re spectacular. The Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is another fun place to stop during the day.
How many of these items are you looking forward to experiencing? Make sure to print off your Washington State bucket list poster to keep track!
No matter how many experiences you get to on your Washington State bucket list, you’ll love having a taste of what this state has to offer.