Washington State: Best Places to Visit by County (Garfield - Klickitat)
Updated: Jul 23, 2021
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Lower Granite Dam -- To get there, travel west on US 12 toward Pomeroy and look for signs to Lower Granite Dam. You'll drive across the dam to the Visitor Center on the other side which is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday. The visitor center has a fish ladder viewing point where you can see the fish go through the ladder under water. You can also view the fish ladder from outside. Guided, hard-hat dam tours are available, but be sure to bring steel-tipped shoes or you will not be able to go on the tour. For more information on tours, click here. Fortunately, there's plenty to see in the Visitor Center and there is a small, serene park outside the building.
Dry Falls Visitor Center -- The Visitor Center isn't the focal point of this attraction. It is what you see when you stand at the ledge of the butte and look down. Dry Falls is Washington's mini version of the Grand Canyon. It is an extraordinary geological formation that lies 400 feet directly below the parking lot and spans a chasm of three and a half miles. Water no longer tumbles over its cataracts, but it was created more than 12,000 years ago by the cataclysmic floods that resulted from failing ice dams at the end of the last Ice Age. Those ancient and powerful rushing waters poured through Grand Coulee and carved out the spectacular theater of rock you see today.
To get there, take US 2 east from Wenatchee. Travel approximately 65 miles until you reach the junction with SR 17. Turn right onto SR 17 and drive another three miles or so. The Visitor Center and parking lot are just off to the left side of the highway.
At the Visitor Center, you'll find indoor exhibits highlighting the Ice Age and the early human history of the region. And if you'd like to travel down into the basin and explore the plunge pools and hiking trails, drive a few miles further south and visit Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park.
Grays Harbor County
Lake Quinault Lodge -- The Lodge, surrounded by steep mountains and dense rainforest, rests at the southeast shore of Quinault Lake. The annual average rainfall is 140 inches in this part of the peninsula which is manifested in the thick, copious stands of towering trees and lush forest vegetation. The Lake Quinault Lodge is a historic hotel built in 1926 and designed by a Seattle architect in a rustic style reminiscent of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. It is a notable example of a rustic wilderness lodging, suited to its woodland environment on the southern side of the Olympic Mountains.
The Lodge is an informal retreat, with a masonry fireplace as its focus, and plenty of windows facing the lake. The chimney is decorated with a totem pole-shaped rain gauge that measures rainfall in feet. On July 9, 1998, the Lake Quinault Lodge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Be sure to check the website above for rates and availability. The times I have stayed there, I found the rates to be quite reasonable comparatively. There is an excellent restaurant in the main building with many mouth-watering items on the menu. Some of the guest rooms are in the main lodge and others are distributed among newer motel-style structures adjacent to the lodge. You'll find plenty to do there, besides just eating great food and resting in front of a blazing fire in the great room. There are hiking trails around the lodge and the lakeshore always beckons visitors to come and take leisurely strolls to shake off the stresses of the world.
To get there, take US 101 north from Aberdeen-Hoquiam about 43 miles. You'll see the signs for the Lake Quinault Lodge directing you eastward off the highway and into the rainforest.
Deception Pass -- The pass is actually a narrow waterway separating Fidalgo Island from Whidbey Island (i.e., the north end of Island County). The narrow channel rushes different directions throughout the day depending on the tides. In 1792, Capt. George Vancouver named it Deception Pass because he originally believed Whidbey Island to be a peninsula. The narrow waterway proved him wrong, and he was thus "deceived." Today, two narrow bridges, each with just one lane going in either direction, connect the north end (Fidalgo Island) with the south end (Whidbey Island) over a dizzying and thrilling height above the channel below of some 180 feet. There are parking lots on either side of the bridge spans to allow pedestrians to get out and walk along the narrow walkways to the center where the two bridges join at a slight angle over a small rocky island in the middle of the pass. If you suffer from vertigo, this may not be the pedestrian walk for you. At any rate, it is one of the most popular and most photographed places in Washington State.
Deception Pass State Park, which is split between the two islands, tumbles down from the anchor points of the bridge to the beaches in a series of well-manicured drives. There are plenty of "mysterious coves, rugged cliffs and jaw-dropping sunsets" to discover as guests of this park. To get there, just take SR 20 west from Burlington at Interstate 5 for about 13 miles, then continue following signage for SR 20 through the roundabout. In another four miles, you should arrive at Deception Pass.
Port Townsend -- The City of Port Townsend has long been a favorite weekend getaway for lovers and romantics. Nestled in the northern tip of Quimper Peninsula, it is a city that still retains the trappings of its once prosperous past boasting a generous helping of Victorian architecture, with more authentic remnants of this period than any other town north of San Francisco. Wealthy merchants of the late 1800s built these grand houses, many of which have been restored and are located in one of the town's two National Historic Districts.
Today, some of these elegant old homes have been converted to bed and breakfast inns. Downtown on Water Street is where retail and gift shops mingle with coffee houses and cozy cafes. You will find a very walkable city center that is chock-full of artists and craftspeople. Walk southeast from Water Street and you'll find Port Townsend Bay where the cacophony of seagulls, the lapping of seawater against the shoreline and the salty smell of the sea fill your senses.
To get there, traveling north on US 101 from Olympia, or traveling west on SR 104 from the Kitsap Peninsula, follow the signs to take SR 20 to Port Townsend, which will be about 10 miles from the turnoff.
Hall of Mosses -- No visit to the Olympic Peninsula can be complete without at least one visit to Olympic National Park. One of the best places to see the park is along the Hoh River Valley. Renown for its dense rainforest and thick, moss-covered trees, it is an especially popular place for tourists to come and see the spectacle of an ecosystem gone wild, in a unique corner of the world, where one can walk among the Pacific giants -- the Douglas fir, Western red cedar, Sitka spruce and Western hemlock -- completely sheltered under a canopy of moss.
To get there, traveling on US 101 south from Forks or north from Aberdeen/Hoquiam, between mile markers 176 and 177, follow the signage to Hoh-Clearwater State Forest. Travel another 18 miles until you reach the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center.
Pike Place Market -- Located in downtown Seattle, and perched on a bluff overlooking Elliott Bay, the market covers roughly seven acres west of 1st Avenue, stretching from Union Street in the south to Virginia Street in the north. The iconic neon-powered "Public Market" sign with clock is located at the 1st Avenue and Pike Street entrance. It is mostly a covered market area, and is famous for its crowd-pleasing antics with fish mongers flinging the daily catch through the air to be caught and wrapped behind the counter. It opened on August 17, 1907, and is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers' markets in the United States. A stroll through the market on a busy day is an amazing experience of the senses. You'll naturally find sellers of fresh seafood and produce, but you'll also find flower vendors, sellers of arts and crafts, candlemakers and honey producers, bakeries and cafés, purveyors of Seattle souvenirs, and on the lower levels, hobby shops and antique dealers. The market is open to the public for free, but closed on Sundays.
Ballard Locks -- Officially known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, the Ballard Locks is one of Seattle’s most popular tourist attractions. The grounds also feature a fish ladder and the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden — one of the most beautiful park settings in Seattle. The locks carry more boat traffic than any other similar system in the United States. They connect boaters traveling from the Puget Sound to Union Bay and onward through the Lake Washington Ship Canal (a.k.a. "the Cut") to Lake Washington itself. The Locks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Pick a nice sunny day, bring your lunch out to one of the picnic tables along the route and just sit and watch the boats as they rise and fall in the locks moving from one body of water to another. You'll find them in the community of Ballard along N.W. 54th Street.
Seattle Center -- You'll easily spot the Seattle Center from just about anywhere in the city by scanning the horizon for the trademark Space Needle. The Seattle Center, located between Belltown and the base of Queen Anne Hill, was originally constructed for the 1962 World's Fair. It covers an impressive 74 acres of real estate in the heart of the city. Today, it is an arts, education, tourism and entertainment center for both locals and visitors. There is no fee to wander the Seattle Center grounds.
The Space Needle is a very popular attraction, a universally recognized icon of Seattle, and the unofficial ambassador of the campus. Most out-of-towners will want to go to the top to get those expansive territorial views of downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay, the Cascade and Olympic Ranges and, if it's clear, Mt. Rainier. The ride to the top is thrilling, and the front of the capsule lifting you up is windowed giving you a view of the city that is quickly retreating as you climb. Tickets to go to the observation deck are running at $35/person (ages 13-65), $30 for seniors and $26 for kids aged 5 to 12. If you want to purchase the Space Needle/Chihuly Garden and Glass combo ticket, admission will run you $57 for adults, $47 for seniors and $35 for kids aged 5 to 12. If you decide to stay and dine in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Needle, the admission fee is waived.
MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture) is located on the eastern edge of the Seattle Center campus. and is definitely worth seeing. Ticket prices vary depending on day of the week and can range from about $26 to $34 per person.
You can also take the Monorail from Seattle Center into the city's central business district. The end of the line is Westlake Center, the beating heart of Seattle's retail district. The ride is about two minutes in length and costs only $3 round trip for adults and $1.50 for children under 18 and for seniors 65+. Children under 5 ride for free.
Arboretum -- The Arboretum, or University of Washington Botanical Gardens, boasts 230 acres of gardens, natural areas and wetlands. It holds a world-class collection of woody plants that can be explored on your own, or via group tours, or through classes and activities. All parts of the Arboretum, with the exception of the Japanese Garden, are open to the public free of charge. The Graham Visitors Center has maps, restrooms, Arboretum Foundation offices, a gift shop and a rental venue. The park is open year-round and interlaced with well-manicured paths and is well-marked with excellent signage. Plants and trees are also identified by informational plaques throughout the park. You'll find dozens of cheerful and welcoming wayside rest areas appointed with pergolas, canopies, ponds, benches and banquettes. Though the park is sandwiched in between the densely populated Capitol Hill area and the tonier neighborhoods east, like Madison Park and Madison Beach, you'll feel completely removed from urban life as you stroll through the tranquil gardens and trees. To get there, just follow Madison Street eastward from downtown until you get to Lake Washington Blvd.
Seattle Underground Tours -- Located in Seattle's Pioneer Square, second birthplace of the city (the original birthplace is technically Alki Beach in West Seattle), you'll find a company that offers you a glimpse into a side of Seattle that has been sealed away for more than 130 years -- Seattle's underground. If you decide to go on the tour, you'll get all the rich details about why it exists, along with some very amusing anecdotes about Seattle's past. The tour guides are wonderful and make the experience extremely entertaining as well as informative. Ticket prices are $22 for adults (18-59), seniors (60+) and students (13-17), or with valid university ID) can get in for just $20. The fee for children (7-12) is only $10. They also have a flex pass for $27 that allows you to pre-purchase your ticket, even if you don't have a date or time in mind yet. You can purchase your tickets online, or directly from their office at 614 1st Avenue (next door to Doc Maynard's).
Snoqualmie Falls -- Located about 30 minutes east of Seattle, just off I-90 is one of the most popular tourist attractions in King County -- Snoqualmie Falls. At 270 feet, the falls are 100 feet higher than those at Niagara. At the falls, you will find a two-acre park, gift shop, observation deck, the Salish Lodge and free parking and viewing areas. The falls are open from dawn to dusk. To get there from Seattle, get on I-90 eastbound and take exit 25 for SR 18. Make a left turn at the light onto SR 18 East (signs for Snoqualmie Pkwy), continue straight through the town of Snoqualmie about 3.6 miles, then turn left onto Railroad Ave. You should see signage right away.
Port Gamble -- Located near the top of the Kitsap Peninsula, hugging the shoulders of SR 104, is the frozen-in-time town of Port Gamble. Founded way back in 1853 by Captain William Talbot, just two years after the founding of Seattle, the town was modeled after his own hometown of Machias, Maine. He built traditional New England-style homes and imported trees from the East Coast. The town has since been restored by the Pope and Talbot Lumber Company which still owns much of the land and property. It has been preserved as a historic district. Strolling along these quiet, well-maintained streets, shuffling through the fallen leaves, you'd swear you were in New England. You'll find plenty of shopping and good restaurants, a theater, a museum and a few guest houses for overnighting.
Ginkgo Petrified Forest -- In an area of the state that is largely treeless, you might be surprised to find a park that advertises a "forest." Just west of the Columbia River-side town of Vantage, along Old Vantage Highway, you'll find the Ginkgo Petrified Forest. The park is free and easy to find. There is a three-quarter-mile interpretive trail, along with a 2.5-mile hiking trail and a visitors center with exhibits. The dry, windblown hills host an assortment of scrappy wildflowers, sagebrush and broad, sweeping views. The park itself yields many curious finds, including petrified logs from prehistoric ginkgo trees and Native American petroglyphs. The petrified logs wound up here when, some 15 to 20 million years ago, the area was first covered by lakes and swamps and then by molten lava. Submerged logs were preserved intact by the lava cover. Water eventually permeated the logs, and the silica in the groundwater replaced the natural structure of the wood.
Maryhill Museum of Art and Stonehenge Memorial -- One of the least appreciated tourist attractions in the state, possibly because of its remote location, is the Maryhill Museum and Stonehenge Memorial. Located along SR 14 about 107 miles east of Vancouver, Washington is the site of an amazing replica of the ancient Neolithic structure found in England. It was originally erected as the nation’s first WWI memorial, and dedicated in 1918 to the servicemen of Klickitat County. Visitors are free (literally, there is no admission) to walk amongst the stones and admire the exquisite engineering efforts that were surely required to erect this amazing replica. If you wish to visit the Museum of Art, it is located two miles further west on SR 14 from the Stonehenge Memorial. The museum currently houses more than 80 works by Auguste Rodin, European and American paintings and decorative arts, objects from the palaces of the Queen of Romania, Orthodox icons, unique chess sets from around the world, and the renowned Théâtre de la Mode — small-scale fashion mannequins attired in haute couture of post-World War II France. The museum’s Native American collection showcases works from many indigenous cultures.
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