Sandwiched between Canada’s British Columbia to the north and Oregon to the south, Washington State is right up there as one of the most breathtaking states in the United States, with the Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountains and the San Juan Islands all jam-packed into the state for travellers to marvel at. Cities in Washington State range from urban hubs, such as Seattle and Tacoma, to smaller and more low-key destinations, such as Long Beach and Gig Harbor, providing the best of both worlds.
An appealing destination thanks to its stunning natural beauty, proximity to Vancouver and Portland, and year-round outdoor recreational opportunities, Washington State truly is the beating heart of the Pacific Northwest. From the Bavarian-themed Leavenworth to its capital city of Olympia, there are so many unique cities and hidden gems to be discovered all across the country’s 42nd state, making it one of the most exciting destinations to visit. Here are the top Washington State cities to tick off your to-see list.
- Cities in Washington State
Cities in Washington State
If you only have time for one tour, try this Olympic National Park, Leavenworth and Snoqualmie Falls 2-Day Tour from Seattle for a trip you’ll never forget!
20 Washington State Cities
Known as the “Emerald City”, Seattle is a major coastal city between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, the largest city by population in the Pacific Northwest region.
Seattle is among the fastest-growing metros in the United States and was established mainly as a hub for the region’s lumber industry in 1851 by members of the Denny Party.
This Washington State city is an influential tech hub on the West Coast.
It is the birthplace of several multinational companies, such as Starbucks, Amazon and Microsoft, all still headquartered in Seattle.
Seattle’s attractions and landmarks include the iconic Space Needle, the popular Pike Place Market and the fascinating Museum of Pop Culture.
In Washington’s northwest corner, roughly 33 miles (53 km) south of downtown Seattle is the city of Tacoma, the Evergreen State’s third-largest independent city by population, with over 219,000 people calling Tacoma home.
Tacoma is conveniently located about halfway between Seattle and Olympia and was officially settled in 1864 when postmaster, Civil War veteran and land prospector Job Carr built the first cabin in downtown Tacoma.
The city was infamous throughout Washington for much of its early existence due to Tacoma’s large paper milling industry, which has been replaced in recent decades with many attractions to visit.
Some of Tacoma’s most popular activities and venues include the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, the Museum of Glass, the Washington State History Museum and the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum.
Recommended tour: Tacoma Puzzling Adventure
Spokane is the state’s second-largest city and the largest in the entire eastern Washington region, renowned for its stunning riverfront views and world-class outdoor attractions.
Spokane is 20 miles (32 km) from the Idaho state border and nearby Coeur d’Alene and was founded back in 1873 as a fur trading hub by two members of the Northwest Fur Company.
The city features a wide breadth of things to see and places to explore, with the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, the Bing Crosby Theater, Riverfront Park and Spokane Falls just a few of Spokane’s attractions that await travellers.
Despite its small population of fewer than 2,300 people, Leavenworth is among the most popular tourist destinations in the state, situated in Washington’s central region, roughly 134 miles (216 km) from Seattle.
Founded in 1885, Leavenworth was a small logging hub for over half a century before the city’s downtown was revamped into an authentic Bavarian village, complete with bratwurst shops and architecture.
Although downtown Leavenworth remains the biggest attraction in the city, there are several other notable places and events to visit, too, such as the annual Christmas Lighting Festival or stopping by the Leavenworth reindeer farm.
Recommended tour: Leavenworth Tour from Seattle
Olympia is the official capital of the state of Washington and a major destination along the shores of scenic Capitol Lake that has one of Washington’s largest arts, culture and live music scenes.
The city is roughly 61 miles (98 km) from Seattle and is among Washington’s oldest continuously inhabited settlements, having first settled in 1846 by Levi Lathrop Smith and Edmund Sylvester.
There is certainly no shortage of unique attractions to visit in Olympia, with the Washington State Capitol, Percival Landing Park, the WET Science Center and the Olympia Farmers Market all excellent options to stop by.
Recommended tour: Outstanding Olympia Scavenger Hunt
Forming part of the broader SeaTac metro area, Everett is a coastal mid-sized city on the shores of Puget Sound that’s best known for being home to Boeing’s jumbo jet assembly plant – the world’s largest building by volume.
Everett also boasts the Port of Everett Marina, the largest marina on the West Coast of the United States.
With just 28 miles (45 km) separating Everett from Seattle, it’s no wonder this city in Washington State is such a popular place.
Swing by the Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens, the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum, the Schack Art Center and Boeing Future of Flight to get the most out of your visit to Everett.
Recommended tour: Break It and Make It: A Glass Fusing Session in Everett
Known throughout the Pacific Northwest as “Little Norway” due to the city’s rich Nordic heritage, Poulsbo, perched on the shores of Liberty Bay, is a destination jam-packed with history and a mosaic of different cultures.
The native Suquamish people inhabited Poulsbo before being officially settled by Norwegian immigrant Jørgen Eliason during the 1880s, with several more Nordic settlers arriving in the following decades.
The city features many sights and attractions, ranging from the beloved Front Street Gallery to the scenic Kitsap Memorial State Park, all within 21 miles (33 km) from downtown Seattle.
The large city of Kirkland, situated on the shores of Lake Washington, is as idyllic a destination as any in the Pacific Northwest, with access to world-class outdoor recreational activities available in and around Washington’s sixth-largest city.
Kirkland boasts a population of more than 92,000 permanent residents, making it an excellent choice for many seeking a balance between urbanity situated just 11 miles (17 km) away.
There’s certainly no shortage of indoor or outdoor fun in this rapidly-growing Washington city, with the Juanita Bay Park, the Kirkland Performance Center and the Bridle Trails State Park all fantastic destinations worth visiting in Kirkland.
Regularly ranking among the ritziest cities to live in Washington State, upmarket Bellevue is a stone’s throw away from downtown Seattle on the shores of Lake Washington.
Bellevue, which means “beautiful view” in French, has a population of more than 150,000 residents and can trace its roots back to 1869 when Aaron Mercer and William Meydenbauer claimed homestead tracts on what is today downtown Bellevue.
The city treats travellers to the best shops, restaurants, entertainment options and attractions Washington has to offer, not to mention access to outdoor landmarks such as Chism Beach Park and Mercer Slough Nature Park.
Bellevue’s reputation as a must-visit Pacific Northwest city is cemented thanks to attractions like the Bellevue Arts Museum, the Meydenbauer Center, the Bellevue Botanical Garden and Meydenbauer Bay Park, so be sure to swing by when visiting Washington.
Recommended tour: Bellevue Scavenger Hunt: Beautiful Views of Bellevue
Ellensburg is an absolute dream destination if you’re a fan of the great outdoors, with the Columbia River and the John Wayne Pioneer Trail right on the doorstep of the mid-sized city in Washington State.
Ellensburg is within 107 miles (172 km) of downtown Seattle, making it the ideal destination for a quick weekend getaway that places travellers right in the heart of some of inland Washington’s most popular outdoor attractions.
There’s more to Ellensburg than just the outdoors, though, with the Ellensburg Rodeo and the Kittitas County Historical Museum providing visitors with a needed break from enjoying Ellensburg’s natural surroundings.
The beautiful coastal city of Bellingham in the Evergreen State’s northwest corner is a laid-back destination 22 miles (35 km) from the Canadian border, making it an excellent base to explore Puget Sound and southwest British Columbia.
Bellingham’s waterfront was a once mighty industrial hub, however, recent decades have seen the city undergo a massive gentrification process, turning Bellingham’s once-forgotten neighbourhoods into tourist hubs filled with art galleries and trendy cafes.
The city has many amazing attractions, such as the Mount Baker Theatre, the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention and the Bellingham Farmers Market.
Recommended tour: Bellingham to Deception Pass Tour
Not to be confused with Vancouver in Canada’s British Columbia province, Washington’s very own Vancouver can be found on the north shore of the Columbia River, just nine miles (14 km) outside downtown Portland.
Much like its larger Canadian namesake, Vancouver was named after George Vancouver and was founded in 1825 as a fort by the Hudson’s Bay Company to facilitate the beaver fur trade with Native Americans in the region.
Vancouver’s proximity to Portland makes it a popular city in Washington, however, there’s plenty to do in Vancouver, too, such as visiting the Vancouver Waterfront or shopping for baked goods at the Vancouver Farmers Market.
13- Gig Harbor
With striking Mount Rainier and Puget Sound as its backdrop, it’s no wonder that Gig Harbor is widely considered among the most picturesque small cities in the Pacific Northwest.
Nicknamed “The Maritime City”, Gig Harbor’s population barely tops 12,000 people, however, its low-key charm and rural atmosphere make the city a sought-after travel destination for many Washingtonians seeking a much-needed break from the city.
Few cities in the state can compete with Gig Harbor when it comes to things to do and places to visit, with the Harbor History Museum, the Sehmel Homestead Park and the Cushman Trail all found within or just outside Gig Harbor.
Recommended tour: 2-Hour Guided Boat Tour in Gig Harbor and Narrows Bridges
Perhaps best known for being the location of tech giant Microsoft’s global headquarters, Redmond is a fascinating city situated less than 15 miles (24 km) from the hustle and bustle of downtown Seattle.
Redmond started as a humble logging settlement during the 1870s, expanding into what is today one of the largest cities in the state and one of Washington’s fastest-growing too.
The city’s attractions range from Redmond’s scenic Marymoor Park to a vibrant micro-brewery scene.
Recommended tour: Redmond Scavenger Hunt: Open the Gates to Microsoft
The small city of Snoqualmie near Seattle is a busy weekend getaway destination in northwest Washington, with limitless outdoor activities and many shops and restaurants at travellers’ disposal.
Named after the native Snoqualmie people who occupied the area before its official settlement, the city might feel familiar to fans of the TV series “Twin Peaks”, filmed extensively in and around Snoqualmie.
This interesting city in Washington State is just 28 miles (45 km) east of the state’s largest metro.
It is home to attractions such as the Snoqualmie Falls, the Northwest Railway Museum and the Snoqualmie Casino, all worth visiting when spending time in Snoqualmie.
Recommended tour: Snoqualmie Falls and Seattle Winery Tour
16- Long Beach
The largest and most-visited city along the Long Beach Peninsula in the Evergreen State’s southwest region, the city of Long Beach is Washington’s quintessential seaside vacation destination, with more than 25 miles (40 km) of oceanfront at your disposal.
Long Beach is a stone’s throw away from the Oregon state border and within an hour’s drive from popular Oregonian cities such as Cannon Beach and Seaside.
There’s plenty to see, do and experience in Long Beach without hopping over to Oregon, however, with the Marsh’s Free Museum, Fort Columbia and the Cape Disappointment State Park, just a couple of Long Beach’s top tourist destinations worth visiting.
17- Port Townsend
A popular destination in the Pacific Northwest for orca watching, Port Townsend in Washington’s northwest corner is among the most visually stunning destinations on the West Coast, with Victorian-era architecture, distant jagged peaks and the Puget Sound synonymous with Port Townsend.
The city plays host to a range of farmers’ markets and film festivals throughout the year, however, Port Townsend’s most popular attraction remains its Port Townsend Historic District, a National Historic Landmark-designated area in the heart of the city.
Port Townsend has many attractions, such as the Fort Worden Historical State Park, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center and the Jefferson Museum of Art & History.
Recommended tour: Port Townsend Film Tours
18- Walla Walla
The commercial and tourism hub in southeast Washington’s Walla Walla Valley, one of the state’s premier wine-producing regions, Walla Walla, is a go-to destination for foodies, oenophiles and patrons of the arts.
The city first came about when the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through the area in 1808, with Walla Walla’s first wine producers arriving during the late 1800s.
Today, Walla Walla is surrounded by more than 150 wineries and is a popular destination among Oregonians, and with attractions such as the Whitman College campus and the Whitman Mission National Historic Site to visit, it’s easy to see why.
Recommended tour: Walla Walla Wineries Tasting Flight in Woodinville
Known as the “Palm Springs of Washington” due to its pleasant year-round climate and fertile soil, Yakima in the Evergreen State’s south-central region teems with Native American culture and tales of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Yakima can trace its roots back to 1847, when a Catholic Mission was first established in the region, followed by an influx of European immigrants who turned the Yakima Valley into one of the state’s richest agricultural regions during the late 1800s.
Yakima is home to an extensive collection of attractions and landmarks to visit, including the Yakima Area Arboretum, the Yakima Valley Museum and the historic Capitol Theatre, all within a 2-hour drive from downtown Seattle.
20- Port Angeles
Home to a permanent population of just over 20,000 people, Port Angeles on the Evergreen State’s scenic Olympic Peninsula is a go-to destination for outdoor recreation in northwest Washington.
Port Angeles is within a stone’s throw from the Cascade Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic National Park and is within a three-hour drive from downtown Seattle.
Steeped in small-town charm and home to a large population of artists and writers, Port Angeles is truly a one-of-a-kind Washington city that boasts attractions such as the Feiro Marine Life Center and the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center to visit.
Looking for the best cities in North America? Check them out here:
- 20 Best Cities in Ohio
- 20 Best Cities in Missouri
- 20 Best Cities in Indiana
- 20 Best Cities in Texas
- 20 Best Cities in Iowa
- 20 Best Cities in Tennessee
- 20 Best Cities in Alabama
- 20 Best Cities in Oklahoma
- 20 Best Cities in New Mexico
- 20 Best Cities in Georgia
- 20 Best Cities in North Carolina
- 20 Best Cities in South Carolina
- 20 Best Cities in California
- 20 Best Cities in Virginia
- 20 Best Cities in Oregon
- 20 Best Cities in Arkansas
- 20 Best Cities in Puerto Rico
- 20 Best Cities in Alaska
- 20 Best Cities in Wisconsin
- 20 Best Cities in Utah
- 20 Best Cities in Kansas
- 20 Best Cities in Washington State
- 20 Best Cities in Rhode Island
- 20 Best Cities in Vermont
- 20 Best Cities in Minnesota
- 20 Towns and Cities in Delaware
- 20 Towns and Cities in New Hampshire
- 20 Best Cities in Mexico
- 10 Best Party Cities in Canada
- 10 Best Cities in Canada For Kids
- 20 Best Cities in Hawaii
- 20 Best Cities in New York
- 20 Best Cities in Idaho
- 20 Best Cities in Florida
- 20 Best Cities in Illinois
- 20 Best Cities in Wyoming
- 20 Best Cities in Nevada
- 20 Best Cities in Pennsylvania
- 20 Best Cities in Colorado
- 20 Best Cities in Arizona
- 20 Best Cities in Massachusetts
- 20 Best Cities in Maine
- 20 Best Cities in Louisiana
- 20 Best Cities in Maryland
- 20 Best Cities in Kentucky
- 20 Best Cities in Montana
- 20 Best Cities in Nebraska
- 20 Best Cities in New Jersey
- 20 Best Cities in South Dakota
- 20 Best Cities in North Dakota
- 20 Best Cities in Mississippi
- 20 Best Cities in Michigan
- 20 Best Cities in Connecticut
- 20 Best Cities in West Virginia