The city of Seattle, shining with office towers, great restaurants and buzzing with its sweet addiction to coffee, has come to define Washington for many out-of-state visitors. Even sophisticated Seattleites, however, have a love affair with this state's outdoor attractions. Puget Sound entertains with whale-watching cruises and feeds the state with its prolific seafood. The Cascades provide opportunities to hike and ski, while the Columbia River Valley enriches life with panoramic vistas and award-winning wines. Over it all stands Mount Rainier and half a dozen more national parks.
Nothing compares to gleaming Seattle on a sunny day. The Space Needle soars overhead, Mount Rainier looms in the background and the whole image reflects off glistening Puget Sound. Spokane sits amid the high desert on the other end of Washington, with emerald parks along the Spokane River and Idaho's ski resorts just a quick drive away. Quiet Olympia centers around the white, colonnaded dome of the state capitol.
Travel northwest of Seattle to explore the watery world of Pacific beaches and orca whales among the forested San Juan Islands. Just east of the city, the snow-covered Cascade Mountains satisfy the appetite of outdoor enthusiasts with the adrenaline rush of summertime mountain biking and winter snow skiing. Washington's eastern high desert is its most overlooked region, a landscape of sagebrush and cliff-ringed reservoirs.
Eating and Drinking
Seattle's famous Pike Place Market overlooks Puget Sound and sells a cornucopia of local foods, from succulent apples and peaches to king crab legs the length of a man's arm. Creamy clam chowder and cedar-plank salmon are culinary staples throughout Puget Sound. In central and eastern Washington, grilled steak and potatoes share menu space with fresh seafood. Good, strong coffee or a Pacific Northwest microbrew beer is the perfect beverage to accompany any meal.
Lavender, snow-capped Mount Rainier towers over the national park that bears its name. Identify Cascade wildflowers and birds along quiet nature walks or strap on a backpack for the 93-mile Wonderland Trail. From glacier-topped peaks to rainforest valleys and Pacific beaches, no park captures Washington's natural diversity better than Olympic National Park. Seattle's Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park sheds light on the prospectors who settled this area with little more than a mining plan and a bit of optimism.