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Things to Do in Washington - page 3

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Cascade Range
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Also known as The Cascades, the Cascade Range runs for over 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) from British Columbia in Canada through Washington and Oregon to California. It’s part of the Pacific mountain system of western North America as well as the Ring of Fire, which is a ring of volcanoes and mountains around the Pacific Ocean. Interestingly, all the recorded volcanic eruptions in the United States’ history have come from volcanoes in the Cascades.

A number of the Cascade Range peaks exceed 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) -- for example, Washington’s highest mountain Mount Rainier at 14,410 feet (4,392 meters) -- making it a top attraction for adventure travelers who want to do some hiking, backpacking or climbing. Another option for exploring the Cascade Range is the Cascade Loop, a road trip that starts 28 miles (45 kilometers) north of Seattle and takes you on a scenic drive through the Cascade Mountains.

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Mt. St. Helens
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On the morning of May 18th, 1980, the largest terrestrial landslide in recorded history punched a 1300 foot hole in the side of Mount St. Helens and rained fire and ash at a speed of 300 mph down the mountainside. 30 years later, this amazing display of Mother Earth’s power is still visible at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument where numerous trails extend throughout the park and give visitors an up-close and personal view of lava plains, the damage from the blast, and the ensuing life birthed from this massive volcanic eruption. From the breathtaking approach drive to the informational visitor centers, your first experiences with this majestic park are likely to be memorable ones.

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Seattle Cruise Port
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A city with many identities – from coffee to technology to nature to seafood – Seattle is a great place to start or end a cruise. Shore excursions that go outside the city can fill all kinds of desires; take a wine-tasting tour, explore Bainbridge Island or visit Olympic National Park.

If you’re in a more urban mood, get to know the city itself at top attractions like Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, as well as one of its many walkable neighborhoods like Lower Queen Anne.

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Original Starbucks
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The most famous coffeehouse in the world, Starbucks got its start in downtown Seattle, and now the city is practically synonymous with java and good cups of joe. While Starbucks locations everywhere serve the signature blends that have made the company world-famous, there are some unique attractions that make this particular Starbucks special – the same elements that harken back to the early days of Pike Place Market.

Take, for instance, the leather on the outer covering of the bar – it was sourced from scrap at nearby shoe and automobile manufacturers - or the walnut used on the tables, doors, and bar top, which was all sourced from a nearby farm. The signage on the bar is recycled slate from a nearby high school.

What you’ll find upon a visit to 1st and Pike is not just the humble beginnings of a now commercial powerhouse, but the same quaint but cunning elements that made it a success 30-some odd years ago, when Starbucks was anything but a household name.

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Johnston Ridge Observatory
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There are a few viewpoints along the road leading from highway I-5 to Mount St. Helens, but the best (and closest to the volcano) is the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is at the end of State Route 504, and the visitor center overlooks not only the yawning crater of Mount St. Helens but also a huge swath of the blast zone. Exhibits walk visitors through what happened on the morning of May 18, 1980, as well as the scientific history that led up to that enormous eruption. There are trails that begin at the Observatory for day hikes, including a half-mile trail that offers great views into the crater. Johnston Ridge is named for the volcanologist David Johnston, who was surveying changes in Mount St. Helens in May of 1980 when it finally erupted. He was never found.

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Ape Cave Lava Tube
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One of the longest lava tubes in North America, the Ape Cave Lava Tube, is in southwest Washington near Mount St. Helens.

Ape Cave is in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest south of Mount St. Helens, the Washington volcano that erupted in memorable fashion in May 1980. The lava tube wasn't created by the 1980 blast, however; a logger discovered it in the early 1950s, and local Boy Scouts known as the Apes did the first extensive surveys of the tube before providing the cave its name. It's believed the tubes were formed about 2,000 years ago, but these lava formations are unusual for this part of the world – most volcanoes in the area don't produce the kind of fast-flowing lava that formed the Ape Cave tubes. There are two lava tubes at Ape Cave. The upper tube is larger, although the lower tube is easier to explore. Ape Cave is the longest continuous lava tube in the country at about 2.5 miles in total, and one of the longest on the continent.

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Bainbridge Island
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A half-hour’s ferry ride from downtown Seattle, Bainbridge Island is a relaxing side trip in Puget Sound. The quaint downtown area stretches just a few blocks from the ferry terminal down Winslow Avenue, which is lined with art and antique shops, clothing boutiques, and cafés and restaurants, many of which focus on using regionally-sourced ingredients in their farm-to-table cuisine.

Aside from the small commercial district, the majority of the island is residential or rural, dotted with small bed and breakfasts and even a few vineyards. The main draw of visiting, other than simply rest and relaxation, is the outdoor activities. Hiking and biking are popular, with miles of trails traversing the rolling hills. Other activities popular with locals and visitors include kayaking, whale-watching, and viewing other wildlife like deer and bald eagles. Kayak and bike rentals are both available year round as temperatures are fairly mild any time of year.

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San Juan Islands
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As one of the most beloved holiday destination for northwestern Americans, the reputation of the San Juan Islands precedes them. The archipelago consists of 172 islands, four of which are inhabited, serviced and ferry-served: Orcas Island, San Juan Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island.

Without a doubt the most popular and impressive activity in the area is killer whale watching: dozens of specimens appear every summer between late May and October off the coasts of the Orcas Island, San Juan Island and Lopez Island as part of their –still widely misunderstood– migration patterns, offering visitors an unforgettable experience. And that’s not to mention the presence of other fascinating animals like seals, porpoises, sea lions, otters, bald eagles, and numerous seabirds! The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor should also be a mandatory stop for water mammal aficionados.

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