Top 12 Washington State Attractions

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The state of Washington is blessed with landscapes, whether created by nature or by humans, that are not only scenic but perfect for outdoor recreation—but that's not all the Evergreen State has to offer. Whether you like the view from the top of Seattle's Space Needle or shopping at the bustling Pike Place Market, Washington State has something for everyone. Here is a list of the 12 best attractions to enjoy in Washington.

Explore Olympic National Park

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Olympic National Park , which is a unique and diverse wilderness preserve, is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve. During a visit to the park, you can experience a number of different ecosystems, including alpine mountain, temperate rain forests, and rugged ocean beaches. The park's Hurricane Ridge can be visited on a long day trip from Seattle. If you wish to explore several sections of the park, plan to spend at least three days on a multiday loop around the Olympic Peninsula.

Drive Along Mount Baker Highway

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Mount Baker Highway begins in Bellingham on State Route 542, passes through a charming rural area, then enters Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Along the way, you'll enjoy 60 miles of beauty and recreation. Be sure to stop at the U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Glacier for a map, recreation pointers, and the latest road and trail condition. There will be many places to stop and enjoy the scenery, hike, or picnic, including Horseshoe Bend, Nooksack Falls, Heather Meadows, and Artist Point. If you plan to head all the way up to Artist Point (which, along with Heather Meadows is the reason Mount Baker Highway ranks so high on this list), August or September is the time to go.

Hike (or Drive) in Mount Rainier National Park

The stunning beauty and dominant presence of Mount Rainier demands that all who see it on their horizon will want to visit in person. And the closer in you get, the more gorgeous the view. Mount Rainier National Park is accessible to all who wish to experience it; even if you're not up for a hike, much can be experienced on a driving tour with frequent stops at scenic viewpoints. Those who wish to explore the mountain landscape up close will find hikes that range from easy to difficult, from a few minutes to several days.

Drive the Coulee Corridor

The Coulee Corridor National Scenic Byway runs from Omak in the north, through Moses Lake, to Othello. Along the way, you'll take in stunning scenery, both natural and human-made. Grand Coulee Dam is a major highlight, where you can spend a good chunk of your day. Dry Falls Visitor Center, Banks Lake, Steamboat Rock State Park, Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, Lake Lenore Caves State Park, Potholes State Park, and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge are all worthwhile stops along Coulee Corridor.

Take in Picture-Perfect Landscapes on the North Cascades Scenic Highway

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The North Cascades Scenic Highway follows State Route 20 from Sedro-Woolley to the Methow Valley, passing through portions of both Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and North Cascades National Park. Along the way, you'll see sharp snowcapped peaks, historic dams and powerhouses, and blue-green lakes. There are numerous places to get out and stretch your legs at a scenic viewpoint or hiking trail. Must-do stops include the Diablo Lake Boat Tour , the North Cascades National Park Visitor Center, and the charming Western-themed town of Winthrop.

See an Active Volcano

Mount St. Helens and the lands preserved in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument are fascinating places to visit for a number of reasons. First, getting up close to an active volcano provides a particular thrill. As you drive through the monument, you'll see evidence of the vast destruction from the 1980 eruption , but you'll also see signs of fantastic recovery in plant and animal life. Each of the visitors' centers does an excellent job of filling you in on different aspects of Mount St. Helens, before, during, and after the events of 1980, with photographs, videos, models, and interpretive exhibits.

Shop at Pike Place Market

Seattle's Pike Place Market is packed full of more stalls, shops, and eateries than you can explore in just one visit. Or even a few. But that's one of the things that makes Pike Place Market a favorite with both visitors and residents. You know you'll see a gorgeous array of seafood, produce, and flowers every time, and you know you'll also find nifty craft items, hear entertaining street musicians, and see numerous interesting characters. Along with these old favorites, you'll discover something new and unique to the Northwest.

Immerse Yourself in "Modern" Seattle

A legacy of the 1962 Century 21 Exposition, Seattle Center combines open park spaces with a number of attractions and performance venues. Many of Seattle's major annual festivals are held at Seattle Center, including the Northwest Folklife Festival, Bumbershoot , and Winterfest. The Space Needle , Museum of Pop Culture , the Pacific Science Center , KeyArena, McCaw Hall, and Intiman Theatre are just some of the places you can visit during a day at Seattle Center.

Cross the Puget Sound by Ferry

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Part of Washington's state highway system, the Washington State Ferries convey people and their vehicles to and from points around the Puget Sound . Not only are these ferries one way—and often the only way—to get to the many island communities scattered around the Sound, they are also a fun and relaxing way to experience the beauty of the region. Major ferry docks are located at downtown Seattle, Edmonds, Mukilteo, Clinton, Kingston, Bainbridge Island , and Anacortes.

Relax at Spokane's Riverfront Park

World's fairs and expositions have left Washington with beautiful community spaces, and unique structures that have gone on to become treasured landmarks and Riverfront Park is a stunning example. Expo '74 transformed Spokane's downtown railroad yards into lovely green spaces dotted with interesting buildings. Some of those structures remain, along with fun attractions such as the Spokane Falls SkyRide, the historic Looff Carrousel, an amusement park , and seasonal ice skating rink.

Admire Incredible Glass Art

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No artist is more synonymous with Seattle than Dale Chihuly. The artist's colorful, spiraling works of glass can be seen around the world, but Seattle's Chihuly Garden and Glass is an astounding showcase of the Tacoma-born Chihuly's works. The garden's centerpiece is the 40-foot tall Glasshouse, home to a mesmerizing 100-foot long sculpture.

Marvel at the Science Behind Aviation at the Museum of Flight

Cord Rodefeld/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0 

Seattle's Museum of Flight is home to one of the most extensive air and space collections in the United States and attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year. In addition to ever-changing exhibitions, the museum's permanent collection includes a 1929 Boeing 80A-1, a Lockheed M-21, and a Boeing VC-137B. One of the museum's unique exhibits is a full-scale, interactive air traffic control tower, which offers visitors a glimpse in the work of an air traffic controller.

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Home » Travel Guides » United States » Washington (WA) » 25 Best Things to Do in Washington State

25 Best Things to Do in Washington State

The State of Washington is a nature lovers dream. The natural scenery in the state is some of the most breath taking and awe-inspiring in the entire United States. The terrain is diverse and includes the Hoh Rain Forest, volcanoes (both dormant and recently destructive) forests, and islands.

The cities in Washington are as impressive as the nature and include Seattle , the state’s largest city, and Olympia, the state’s capital. There are a great number of national parks in Washington some well known and others less so but all are equally impressive and worth a trip. Our list of the top 25 things to do in Washington , as always, contains a mix of the best things to do in the cities and natural spots in the state:

1. Olympic National Park

Hoh Rainforest Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

The Olympic National Park in Port Angeles is a great place to enjoy the nature on offer in the state of Washington. Within the park there are mineral springs and cool clear water for natural swimming as well as accommodation in comfortable lodges.

The park is the perfect place to escape from the busy city and enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors.

2. Mount Rainer National Park

Mount Rainer National Park

Another National Park and another must visit spot for nature lovers; Mount Rainer has attracted tourists from far and wide since opening its first visitor center in 1880.

As well as the beautiful scenery, outdoor enthusiasts also have plenty of activities to keep them entertained here including fishing, climbing, hiking and cross country skiing in the winter.

3. The Space Needle

Space Needle, Seattle

This iconic landmark is a must visit attraction when visiting the state of Washington.

The views from the 520-foot high observation deck are unbeatable and include natural landscapes such as Mount Rainer as well as the breath-taking cityscape.

Whilst taking in the panoramic views, it is easy to see why Washington is one of the most visited states in the United States.

Included in : Seattle CityPASS

4. Seattle Center

Seattle Center

The Seattle Center has a lot to offer visitors with a mix of parks and attractions. It was originally built for the Century 21 Exposition in 1962 but it still plays host to many notable performances and events in the city throughout the year. There are a great number of things to see in this area including the SciFi Museum, The Pacific Science Center and the Intiman Theatre to name only a few.

5. Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market, Seattle

The Pike Place Market in Seattle is a great place for gourmets to experience the freshest produce and best ingredients from the state of Washington.

The market also provides the opportunity to sample Seattle delicacies that cannot be found elsewhere. There are also a number of quality restaurants to be found at Pike Place, which offer delicious Washington cuisine.

Recommended tour : Pike Place Market Chef-Guided Food Tour

6. Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square, Seattle

Pioneer Square is a Historic District in Seattle, which is widely regarded as the city’s first neighborhood.

Pioneer Square is recognized as the home of “true’ Seattle, lined with exquisite boutiques and many popular restaurants the picturesque streets give way to a perfect pre-dinner stroll. There are lots of things here to keep you busy on a day out or a relaxing evening with your loved ones.

Suggested tour: Seattle City Highlights Tour

7. Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls

Whether you’re a camera buff or simply looking for some tranquility; the astonishing scenery around the Snoqualmie Falls will satisfy yours needs. Why not gather the family together and pack a picnic for a splendid day out in the two-acre park surrounding the beautiful falls.

Combo tour : Snoqualmie Falls & Woodinville Wine Tasting

8. Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan, Washington

Regarded by locals as George Washington’s playground, Lake Chelan has a lot to offer from swimming in the blue waters to wine tasting. You are sure to find something for all the family here including activities such as kayaking, jet skiing and many other water sports available. When the action-packed day ends be sure to visit one of the many fantastic restaurants on offer where you will become immersed in the bustling nightlife of the area.

9. Seattle Art Museum

Seattle Art Museum

For a cultural stop why not spend an afternoon getting to know the works on display at Seattle Art Museum. The Museum is great for art enthusiasts looking for something a little different. Admire a wide range of works including Abstract Pulse by Robert Davidson and explore the stunning display of Kingdoms of Sun and Moon and the Light in the Darkness.

10. North Cascades Scenic Highway

North Cascades Scenic Highway

You can’t visit Washington without spending some time taking in one of the most superb landscapes in the United States. All the usual outdoor activities are on offer such as cycling, camping and hiking but simply driving along the North Cascades Scenic Highway is a fantastic way to soak up the sights. A sunset visit with a picnic would be an excellent way to spend an evening.

11. Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo is another popular family attraction in Washington. It is situated in Seattle and is home to around 1,100 animals covering an impressive 300 species.

There are plenty of themed enclosures and educational exhibits to explore whilst there and children and adults alike will learn plenty during their visit. The Zoo is always a highlight of a trip to Washington.

12. Mount Baker Highway

Mount Baker Highway

The Mount Baker Highway covers around 60 miles of beautiful natural scenery and recreational opportunities. The highway begins in Bellingham and at the US Forest Ranger Station, you will find a wealth of information regarding the route and will be able to obtain a map. There are a number of spots along the way that provide great opportunities for hiking, cycling or simply taking in the views including Nooksack Falls and Artist Point. Artist Point is one of the most notable stops on the list and is best to visit in August and September.

13. Coulee Corridor

Coulee Corridor

This Scenic Byway spans from Omak to Othello and is another great way to take in Washington’s stunning landscape. There are also plenty of man-made highlights including the impressive Grand Coulee Dam, which is a must visit landmark. For wildlife lovers, the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is worth a visit as are the several state parks along the way including Sun Lakes and Steamboat Rock.

14. Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Driving through Mount St Helens National Monument provides a unique and breath-taking perspective of the damage caused at the time of the 1980 eruption and also a glimpse into the amazing healing abilities of nature. The visitor’s centres at the Monument are top quality and do an excellent job of explaining the natural phenomena that occurred during, before and after the eruption via various exhibits and videos.

Available tour : St. Helens National Monument Small Group Tour

15. Washington State Ferries

Washington State Ferries

The Washington State Ferries are not just a crucial mode of transport for connecting the many island communities of the Puget Sound but they are also a tranquil way to take in the unique beauty of the area. There are major docks in the downtown Seattle area as well as Mukilteo, Clinton and Bainbridge Island.

16. Riverfront Park

Riverfront Park, Spokane

Riverfront Park in Spokane is a great example of the way that various world fairs and expos have shaped Washington throughout the past. The Expo 74 was responsible for the transformation of industrial train yards to green vistas in Spokane and a visit to the area now allows guests to witness some of the notable buildings from the exposition including the Looff Carousel and the Skyride. In winter there is also and ice rink in the area.

17. Boeing Future of Flight

Boeing Future of Flight

You don’t have to be an expert on planes for this building to be worthy of your Washington itinerary. The Boeing factory in Everett is the largest building in the world and is open to the public for daily “Future of Flight” tours. The tours are informative and definitely worth a visit even for those who aren’t aviation buffs. If, however, you are potty about planes, the Museum of Flight in Seattle is also worth a visit.

18. San Juan

San Juan Island National Historic Park

San Juan Island National Historic Park is probably the pick of the Puget Sound bunch when it comes to tourism. The islands were disputed in the so-called “Pig War” dispute between the troops of the United States and Britain. The island is also a great location for whale spotting due to the orcas that frequent the Puget Sound area and daily whale watching tours are available although you may get lucky and see the impressive mammal from shore.

19. Tacoma Museums

LeMay Car Museum

Tacoma is one of the largest cities in Washington and can be found between Seattle and Olympia. During the past, the city has had an industrial atmosphere but it is now also a great spot for tourists due to the number of great museums here. The Museum of Glass is full of stunning examples of glass-work as well as the memorable Bridge of Glass. The LeMay Car Museum and Washington State History museum are also well worth a look.

20. Downtown Seattle

Downtown Seattle

Downtown Seattle is, surprisingly, a great place to escape from the business of the city. The waterfront, with its parks and piers, provides a great place to relax. There are also a number of interesting buildings to be seen in the area and watching a performance at Benaroya Hall is also highly recommended. Tours on the waterfront are available and head, along sea level, from the Sculpture Park to the southern ferry terminal.

21. Port Angeles

Port Angeles

The town of Port Angeles can be found by the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Olympic Peninsula’s northern shores. As well as the Olympic National Park (mentioned earlier on this list), the area is a known widely for being a great place for outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, cycling, golf, kayaking and bird watching. The Visitors Centre has a wealth of information on the best hiking routes and where to see different wildlife.

22. Port Angeles Fine Arts Centre

Port Angeles Fine Arts Centre

Yet another reason to visit Port Angeles while in the state of Washington, is the Port Angeles Fine Arts Centre.  The semi-circle gallery features an ever changing mix of Northwest art exhibits. The grounds of the center are vast and worth exploring as they house around 100 different sculptures along various paths.

23. Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest

Mount Baker, Snoqualmie National Forest

Running parallel with the slopes of the Cascade Mountains, the Snoqualmie National Forest is another stunning place to indulge in outdoor pursuits and observes wildlife. There are a great number of hiking routes in the area as well as cosy cabins to stay in and skiing in the winter months. The nearby town of Glacier is home to the base camp for Mount Baker and offers restaurants and other amenities for travelers.

24. Leavenworth

Leavenworth, Washington

This self-titled Bavarian Village is a great place to sample German culture and heritage in the United States. The locals will often don their lederhosen and dirndls and play a tune on their alphorn and the buildings of the town look the part too. They are built in German architectural style and decorated accordingly with impressive German style Gothic signs. The town plays hosts to a number of entertaining festivals and events during the year and is an immersive Bavarian experience in the United States.

25. Bellingham

Bellingham, Washington

Aside from being an embarkation point for Mount Baker, the city of Bellingham has a lot to offer visitors. The Fairhaven Historic District provides an informative introduction to the area with its art galleries and eateries. The Outdoor Sculpture Collection in the Western Washington University is also well worth a stop and has an excellent collection across the campus. For lovers of the great outdoors there is Whatcom Falls Park with its many walking trails and four falls.

25 Best Things to Do in Washington State:

  • Olympic National Park
  • Mount Rainer National Park
  • The Space Needle
  • Seattle Center
  • Pike Place Market
  • Pioneer Square
  • Snoqualmie Falls
  • Lake Chelan
  • Seattle Art Museum
  • North Cascades Scenic Highway
  • Woodland Park Zoo
  • Mount Baker Highway
  • Coulee Corridor
  • Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Washington State Ferries
  • Riverfront Park
  • Boeing Future of Flight
  • Tacoma Museums
  • Downtown Seattle
  • Port Angeles
  • Port Angeles Fine Arts Centre
  • Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Leavenworth

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Must-Visit Attractions in Washington State

The Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest provides excellent opportunities for outdoor adventurers

The Evergreen State, rounding out the northwest corner of the contiguous US, offers incredible business opportunities, art and outdoor adventures. For those who are just visiting, Washington State can be overwhelming to tackle. However, a good place to start is with the state’s top attractions, offering views – both natural and human-made – guaranteed to impress.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips , compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips .

Olympic National Park

One of three national parks in the state of Washington, the Olympic National Park is home to one of the few temperate rainforests, the Hoh Rain Forest, in the nation, as well as the Olympic Mountains and the Olympic Hot Springs. The park sits on the Olympic Peninsula in the northwest corner of the state, and among the most popular areas to explore is Hurricane Ridge.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Boeing Tour

The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour is an incredible opportunity to visit the world’s largest building by volume, watch 747, 777 and 787 Dreamliner airplanes being assembled and gain admission to both the Aerospace Gallery and Strato Deck. Tickets sell out quickly at no more than $27 per person, so buy yours online.

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washington tourist attractions top 10

The third-largest city in the state is well known for its museums, including the Museum of Glass, the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, the Tacoma Art Museum and the Washington State History Museum. A few other points of interest include the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, as well as the Tacoma Dome.

San Juan Islands

This archipelago, comprising four main islands and several small islands not accessible by ferry, provides beautiful scenery and fun towns to explore. Must-see sights include Moran State Park on Orcas Island and Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Also, there are excellent whale-watching opportunities throughout the area.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Coulee Corridor

With captivatingly stark scenery, the Coulee Corridor National Scenic Byway lies in the desert region of Washington State. The Grand Coulee Dam is the “largest hydropower generating facility” in the nation and provides 75 percent of the Pacific Northwest ’s power. You can also explore areas such as the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge .

Mount Rainier National Park

Mt Rainier is the highest peak in the Pacific Northwest, rising 14,410ft (4,392m), and provides excellent hiking and biking opportunities. The park is also open during the winter for skiing and snowboarding. You can even enjoy Mt Rainier without visiting the park, as it towers gracefully above the rest of the state.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Port Angeles

The city of Port Angeles lies right outside the Olympic National Park. It has views of the Olympic Mountains to the south, while the Canadian city of Victoria sits on the other side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The impressively scenic city is also the starting location for the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

Following the Mount St Helens 1980 eruption, a monument was created in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, to act as a place of exploration and learning. The now-partially imploded volcano has trails open for hiking as well as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. The Learning Center shows how the surrounding ecosystem has reacted over time.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

This gorgeous forest runs more than 140mi (225km) along the west side of the Cascade Range (also known as the Cascades), from the Canadian border to the north end of Mt Rainier National Park. With glacier-covered peaks, meadows and old-growth forests, it’s one of the most visited forests in the nation.

Washington State Capitol Building

The state’s capitol building in Olympia is a sight to behold. It cost $7m dollars to build before opening in 1928 and has the tallest masonry dome in North America. Tours are available, including that of the five-ton Tiffany chandelier and the permanent sculptures.

washington tourist attractions top 10

One of two cities in the state to host a World’s Fair, Spokane is the second-largest city in Washington. Not too far from the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, the 100-acre (40ha) Riverfront Park lies on the Spokane River and features a sculpture walk and a cable car, which provides views over Spokane Falls.

Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area was created in 1968, along with the North Cascades National Park in which it resides. Stretching for 50mi (80km), the lake is the third-deepest natural lake in the nation and a popular annual destination for residents. Aside from the numerous opportunities for outdoor activities, there is also a nearby water park called Slidewaters .

washington tourist attractions top 10

North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades National Park is a vast collection of forests and valleys along the Cascades and offers hiking, camping and climbing opportunities. Ross Lake and Thunder Creek Trail are two of the more popular destinations. The unincorporated community of Stehekin, nestled in the park, is a lovely city getaway with no cell phone reception and limited groceries.

Washington State Ferries

It’s not so much the ferries themselves that are so spectacular, but rather the views possible only from a ferry in the middle of Puget Sound. Surrounded by water, vistas include the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, islands, the Seattle skyline and – if you’re lucky – some orca whales.

washington tourist attractions top 10


This Bavarian-style town in Washington State was redesigned as a tourist destination in the 1960s after the decline of the logging and sawmill industries, which threatened its existence. Now a scenic getaway, Leavenworth is known for its Nutcracker Museum and Christmas Lighting Festival.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Approximately a half-hour from the Canadian border, the northern city of Bellingham is enveloped by evergreen trees and Mt Baker. Two points of interest, in particular, are the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention and the Whatcom Museum . Known as a more “hippie” section of the state, it’s also the location of Western Washington University.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Snoqualmie Falls

With more than 1.5m visitors every year, Snoqualmie Falls is a 268ft (82m) waterfall – that’s 100ft (30m) taller than Niagara Falls – with hiking trails and observation points. Over the years, the waterfall has attracted many daredevils, including tightrope walkers and those who parachuted into its canyon – some successfully and others to their death.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Columbia River Gorge

Dividing Oregon and Washington, the Columbia River Gorge is a canyon where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascades. The 80mi (129km) of canyon drops down to 4,000ft (1,219m) deep.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Vashon Island

Take a ferry to Vashon Island. Stretching for 13mi (21km), the island has 45mi (72km) of shoreline. It provides a wonderful opportunity to experience the relaxed island life while still maintaining proximity to Seattle.

The largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is one of the most popular attractions in the Evergreen State. It hosted the 1962 World’s Fair and has since grown into a flourishing hub for technology and the arts. Don’t miss the Seattle Center (with the Space Needle), the Chihuly Garden and Glass, and Pike Place Market.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Diablo Lake

Camping and hiking are two year-round activities in Washington, and Diablo Lake, near Ross Lake and North Cascades National Park, is one for the purists. Watch the occasional kayak gliding on cerulean waters, its milky hue produced by the sun’s reflection onto tiny suspended glacial partials. Though the lake may be easily mistaken for a natural wonder, it’s man-made. The combination of thriving trout species, soaring mountains and pristine forests only add to its splendor.

Fremont Troll

Where would you expect to find a troll? Under a bridge, of course. But the Fremont Troll is unlike any other, happily residing under the Aurora Bridge in north Seattle. Steve Badanes and his team created this sculpture to transform the area from an unruly wasteland to a must-see sight. Weighing 13,000lbs (5,897kg) and measuring 18ft (5m) in height, the Fremont Toll has a steel eye and clutches a Volkswagen Beetle in its left hand. Featuring in songs and films (including 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle ), there is perhaps not a more famous troll in the whole country.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Elliott Bay Book Company

In Seattle’s trendy Capitol Hill, there are more than 150,000 titles displayed on cedar shelves at Elliott Bay Book Company, tempting passers-by, occasional readers or die-hard bibliophiles. Founded in 1973 by Walter Carr, it went on to call the Globe Building home, introducing Seattle’s first bookstore café. By 2010, the store moved to Capitol Hill, where it organizes about 500 author readings annually. As it proclaims on its website, “Come for the books, stay for the experience.”

The first recorded Europeans arrived in Washington’s capital city in 1792, and by the early 1910s, 22 blocks were developed in the downtown area to produce a deep water harbor. While travelers often overlook Olympia, it’s a fantastic and compact city with a laid-back attitude and a largely carefree lifestyle. It has more than 1,360 acres (550ha) of parkland – quite a figure for a place with just 50,000 inhabitants. Visit the Percival Landing waterfront park in the morning for a mesmerizing start to your day.

washington tourist attractions top 10

How to Cook a Wolf

There may not be an actual wolf on the menu, but the name is catchy. How to Cook a Wolf is an Ethan Stowell restaurant, and the menu focuses on simple ingredients transformed into delectable delights, all at reasonable prices. This Italian-Mediterranean eatery on Queen Anne Avenue in Seattle is first-class all the way. Try its prawn conchiglie with heirloom cherry tomatoes, basil and pangrattato, and finish off with the peaches and cream or fig tart with salted ricotta, lemon sabayon, walnut and basil. Additional reporting by Jo Varley .

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Places to Stay

The best hotels in washington, usa.

washington tourist attractions top 10

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washington tourist attractions top 10

The Best Cabins and Lodges to Book in Washington, USA

washington tourist attractions top 10

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washington tourist attractions top 10

See & Do

Washington state forests you need to visit.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Washington State Parks That Are Worth a Visit

washington tourist attractions top 10

Travel Back in Time at Washington's Camlann Medieval Village

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Food & Drink

The most beautiful picnic spots in seattle.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Guides & Tips

The best coastal hikes in the pacific northwest.

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This Washington Town Believes a Giant Octopus Lurks in Its Waters

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10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions To Visit In Washington State (2024)

Washington State has a population of nearly 77 lakhs but those aren’t the only ones who see the state. Over its residents, Washington hosts millions of tourists every single year. With so many places to visit and things to do in Washington, tourism of the state stands as one of the largest industries. More than the urban and metropolitan life, the natural world is larger and more prominent here. The Evergreen State is home to lush rainforests, archipelagos, sleeping volcanoes, verdant landscapes, snow-capped mountains, and a staggering number of scenic destinations.

Washington is unique and different from other regions of North America. While most of the attractions are nestled in and around the city of Seattle, there are several undiscovered lands far across as well. Though when options are in a dizzying amount deciding where to go can become tough. And to ease that, we have compiled a list of popular and must-visit tourist attractions in Washington State.

10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions To Visit In Washington State

Have a look:

1. The Olympic National Park

The locals and national’s favorite, Olympic National Park, lies on the western side of Washington. Spread over a million acres, it is on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest. This truly impressive wilderness is home to four huge rainforests, glaciated mountaintops, ocean beaches, thick forests, majestic waterfalls, and a diverse range of unique ecosystems. The Park’s centerpiece is the Hoh Rainforest and its sky-touching 500-year-old trees. Besides that, more of its notables include Sol Duc Falls, Sol Duc Salmon Cascades, Hurricane Ridge, Kalaloch and Ruby Beach, Lake Crescent, and more. The National Park is also home to several hiking trails and recreational zones traversing over different landscapes.

Olympic National Park

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2. The San Juan Archipelagos

Located on the north of Puget Sound, off the northwest mainland, are the prestigious San Juan Archipelagos. Regardless of where you are coming from, these are the top-rated attractions in Washington you must not miss. The Archipelago is home to nearly 174 named islands, of which 4 are extremely popular amongst locals and tourists. These islands include Lopez Island, Shaw Island, Orcas Island, and the obvious San Juan Island. Every single island houses a distinct landscape and has a small-town feel to it. The islands are full of parks, seafood restaurants, galleries, shops, and endless recreational activities. Some of the popular destinations within these islands include Eastsound and Moran State Parks, Friday Harbour, and Rocher Harbor. Since all the islands are reachable via ferries, do take out some time and explore them.

The San Juan Archipelagos

3. The Seattle Downtown

The beautiful city of Seattle is amongst the most popular places in Washington. The town, though, has an enormous variety of tourist attractions, but its real deal is the ‘Downtown Seattle.’ It is a relaxed waterfront region operating a cultural hub and a whole lot of attractions. If there is one word that can describe this region, it is ‘Diverse.’ Since Seattle is the home city of Starbucks, you will obviously find numerous first-hand coffee shops here. Besides that, the region is home to diverse attractions, including the Seattle Great Wheel, a ride that lets you grab the amazing views of the downtown skyline and right out across Eliot Bay. Other notables here include Olympic Sculpture Park, Harbor Cruise, Seattle Art Museum, Spheres, Klondike Gold Rush Museum, and the Space Needle.

The Seattle Downtown

4. The Town of Port Angeles

Port Angeles is Washington State’s beautiful town and a must-visit destination. It serves as a basecamp for Olympic Adventures and has so much to do for tourists of all kinds. The best way to explore the town is via bicycle on the Olympic Discovery Trail. The south of town allows for a drive into the famous Hurricane Ridge, one of the most scenic places. Or you can also drive 18 miles towards the Lake Crescent, a crowned jewel of both Port Angeles and Olympic. Besides that, the town’s waterfront is home to Feiro Marine Life Center, where one can meet native sea creatures from close. And since it has a huge waterfront, activities like ocean and lake kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming, and fishing are quite popular here. Lastly, hop on for the Heritage Tour of the Downtown Historic District or whale watching excursion.

Port Angeles

5. The Town of Bellingham

The northwest gem of the State, Bellingham is popular for its tourism in Washington. The town is popular for its Pacific Northwest culture with local culture, museums, and natural space. For a quick introduction to the city, begin with walking through the Fairhaven Historic District. Some of the notable attractions within the city include the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention, Mount Baker Theatre, and Whatcom Museum. For outdoor fun, Bellingham is home to Larrabee State Park, Lake Padden Park, Boulevard Park, and the very popular Whatcom Falls Park. From April through December, the town also organizes the local Bellingham Farmers Market, a lively local affair. Besides that, the third Saturday market takes place from January to March.

Town of Bellingham

6. The City of Tacoma

Tacoma is a beautiful Washington city located on the banks of Puget Sound. The city is popular for its wealth of cultural and recreational opportunities. Since it is the nearest city to the Cascade Mountain Range and Mount Rainier National Park, it also behaves as a basecamp to these wildernesses. However, the most notable feature here is the huge and exclusive Museum of Glass. The museum features the work of Dave Chihuly, a world-renowned artist and Tacoma native. A visit to the museum will introduce you to the amazing Chihuly Bridge of Glass and let you learn the art of glass blowing. Other popular attractions in the city include the Tacoma Art Museum, American Lake, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, and the Foss Waterway Seaport.

The City of Tacoma

7. Bloedel Reserve

Bloedel Reserve is the most beautiful natural attraction in Washington State. Located in Bainbridge Island, the Bloedel Reserve is a beautiful 150 acres forested garden. It once was a personal property to Virginia and Prentice Bloedel, though since 1988, it has been operating as a public place. Visitors can walk through its two-mile looped hiking trail and soak into the extreme greenery of the garden. Some of the notable features of the reserve include the Japanese garden, the Stone Garden, and the Manor house. For reaching the reserve, one can take a ferry ride from Seattle, which takes half an hour to reach here. Bloedel Reserve is extensive and engaging enough to spend 2 to 3 hours of peace.

Bloedel Reserve

8. The Washington State Capitol Building

No American State is complete without its Capitol Building, and Washington, too, isn’t an exception. When in Washington State, do explore its State Capitol Building. This massive 287 feet white structure is located in Olympia, the capital city of Washington. Even though it runs the current legislature, part of the capitol building is open for public exploration. Visitors can join the free guided public tour and learn about the architectural, historical, and political influence of the structure. Some of the highlights of the tour include the five-ton Tiffany chandelier and the State Reception Room. The tour last nearly half to an hour, though it is a must-try.

Washington State Capitol Building

The Capitol Visitor Center is open to visitors Monday through Saturday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Sundays and National holidays mark no entry into any part of the capitol building. Besides the capital building, the other top attractions you can explore include the Children’s Museum, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, and the Olympic Farmer’s Market.

9. The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Another top-rated tourist attraction to visit in Washington State is the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The forest runs with North Cascades National Park at its south, the Canadian border at its north, and the Cascade Mountains as its background. It covers a region of 1.7 million acres dominating several valleys, lowlands, hills, and forest-covered areas. Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, due to its proximity to major cities, is also one of the most-visited wildernesses in the United States. Throughout the forest, several recreational opportunities wind including hiking, biking, horseback riding, waterfall seeking, and camping. It is also home to several water bodies that facilitate water-based adventure and activities.

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

10. The Riverfront Spokane

Spokane is an eastern Washington city also known as the Lilac city (by locals). It is known as the birthplace of Father’s Day and is the host of the largest basketball tournament in the world. The city of Spokane is an economic and cultural hub and is popular for the popular river that runs right through the center adjacent to several world-class buildings. The crown jewel of the city is the illustrious Riverfront Park which encompasses over 100 acres of green space, pedestrian trails, and notable attractions. Following that, other attractions include Manito Park, Riverside State Park, Spokane Falls (a must-see), Mount Spokane State Park, John A. Finch Arboretum, and Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park. Since the weather here is comparatively sunnier, Spokane hosts a longer tourism season than most of Washington.

Riverfront Spokane

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washington tourist attractions top 10

Seattle's Top 25 Things to Do

We dare you to do them all.

In no way is this a comprehensive list of all the incredible experiences to be had in Seattle, but it’s a start. Let’s go!


washington tourist attractions top 10

Space Needle

Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the 605-foot-tall Space Needle quickly became an icon of the city that today is recognized far and wide. On the observation level, which you can reach via a 43-second elevator ride, see the doodle-on-a-napkin concept that led to the Space Needle design. Views from the top feature Elliott Bay, the Cascade Mountains, and even Mount Rainier.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Seattle Center Monorail

Another World’s Fair relic, the Seattle Center Monorail links Seattle Center—home of the Space Needle and several other notable attractions—to downtown’s Westlake Center along an approximately one-mile route. The designated historic landmark can reach a top speed of 45 miles per hour and weaves between skyscrapers above the city streets.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)

Music, science fiction, and pop culture all come together at the fascinating Museum of Pop Culture . The Frank Gehry-designed building looks like a smashed guitar from above, while inside, its colorful exhibits cover everything from the history of indie video games and horror films to Nirvana, the Seahawks, and more.

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washington tourist attractions top 10

Pacific Science Center

This family-friendly museum is where science lessons come to life. At Pacific Science Center , explore galaxies near and far in the planetarium, get up close and personal with colorful creatures in the Tropical Butterfly House, maneuver a two-ton granite ball, find out what it means if you can roll your tongue, and much more.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Chihuly Garden and Glass

The Chihuly Garden and Glass museum is dedicated to the work and career of locally born, world-renowned glassblower Dale Chihuly, who was introduced to the craft while studying at the University of Washington. It is the most comprehensive collection of his art to date, with interior galleries featuring a variety of his work in the medium. The pièce de résistance is the glasshouse, with a vibrant 100-foot-long sculpture in hues of red, orange, and yellow suspended from the ceiling.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Pacific Northwest Ballet

Among the top echelon of dance companies in the world, Pacific Northwest Ballet performs a variety of classical and modern shows in Seattle Center’s beautiful McCaw Hall. Under the creative direction of renowned dancer Peter Boal, Pacific Northwest Ballet offers transformative performances that are sure to impress. Don’t miss its recently revamped version of The Nutcracker , an annual holiday tradition.


washington tourist attractions top 10

Pike Place Market

From the iconic market sign and Rachel the Piggy Bank to the gum wall, the original Starbucks cafe, well over 225 local artisans selling their wares, the famous fish-tossing tradition, and music-playing street performers, there are enough sights and sounds at Pike Place Market to pack a day (or more). The market added its historic MarketFront expansion in 2017, featuring an open-air plaza and fantastic views of Elliott Bay.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Seattle Art Museum – three ways

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is the city’s largest museum dating back to the 1930s and housing a varied collection of artwork that spans multiple eras and geographic regions. Take the time to visit the Olympic Sculpture Park , an outdoor extension of the museum that’s open to the public for free about a mile away at the waterfront. And don’t miss exploring SAM’s Asian art collection at the Seattle Asian Art Museum , located just east of downtown in Capitol Hill.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Central Public Library

You’ve never seen a library quite like this— Seattle Central Library ’s architecturally distinct structure boasts enough glass to cover more than five football stadiums. Head to the 10th floor for a light-filled reading room with peekaboo views of Elliott Bay, or take a self-guided cell phone tour by dialing 206-868-8564*.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Smith Tower

Visit the city’s first skyscraper, built in 1914, and ride the historic, manually operated elevators to the 35th-floor observatory, where 360-degree views await. Displays tell the tale of characters who made Smith Tower what it is today, while the tower’s Prohibition-themed Temperance bar serves themed cocktails.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Seattle Aquarium

Down at the Seattle Aquarium on the waterfront’s Pier 59, learn all about salmon, meet a few adorable sea otters, and greet the various sea creatures of the Pacific Ocean, from puffers to giant clams. Watch scuba divers feed the fish, gawk at sharks swimming overhead in the underwater dome, and even touch a sea anemone.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Washington State Ferries

A ride across Puget Sound aboard one of 22 Washington State Ferries vessels is a quintessential Pacific Northwest experience. Enjoy the breathtaking views from the bow of the boat as you cruise to the nearby communities of Bainbridge Island or Bremerton. This is one of those cases where the journey is as much fun as the destination.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Seattle Great Wheel

Although it was only built in 2012, the Seattle Great Wheel has quickly become a fixture of the city’s skyline—plus it adds an entirely new sightseeing perspective, thanks to its location perched on the end of Pier 57. Enjoy three revolutions around in one of the air-conditioned gondolas to see the city, water, and mountains on the horizon.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Museum of Flight

Aviation buffs, take note: The Museum of Flight is one of the largest air and space collections in the country, with an overwhelming number of things to see—like a Boeing lunar rover and an Air Force One from the Eisenhower era—and do, including NASA space shuttle trainer tours and flight simulators.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Woodinville Wine Country

Western Washington’s wine outpost is in Woodinville, a charming town just a 30-minute drive from downtown Seattle. There are more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms pouring there (including Chateau Ste. Michelle , the state’s first winery), ensuring something for every palate.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Boeing Future of Flight

Boeing Future of Flight is one of Washington state’s premier aerospace attraction and experiences, 25 miles north of downtown Seattle. It is located in Mukilteo at Paine Field. Guests are welcome for the Gallery, Sky Deck, and Boeing Store.

washington tourist attractions top 10

T-Mobile Park and Lumen Field

Cheer on the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park , one of baseball’s prettiest ballparks (with gourmet food, to boot!), or root for the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders FC at neighboring Lumen Field , known for its boisterous atmosphere. Both stadiums offer behind-the-scenes tours during the offseason and when the teams are away.

a light blue viewfinder points in the direction of the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle prominently front and center.

This picturesque Queen Anne spot looks down at the Seattle skyline from the north. It’s the ideal place to get the quintessential view of the city, featuring the Space Needle, Elliott Bay, downtown skyscrapers, and (on clear days) Mount Rainier.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Pioneer Square

Seattle’s original downtown is full of beautiful old buildings in Romanesque Revival style, underground tours that take you beneath the streets to see the remains of the city’s first buildings, and an ever-growing slate of hip shops and restaurants. Take an afternoon or more to explore Pioneer Square ‘s ivy-covered buildings and pop into bars, boutiques, and hidden gems, like Waterfall Garden Park .

washington tourist attractions top 10

Chinatown-International District

The ornate Chinatown Gate welcomes you to this diverse neighborhood, where the food scene is incredible. After eating your fill of everything from pho to sushi, visit Wing Luke Museum , dedicated to the Asian Pacific American experience; practice your pinball game at the Seattle Pinball Museum ; and shop for Japanese snacks and cute gifts at the Uwajimaya supermarket.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Ballard Locks

In Lake Washington’s Ship Canal sits the century-old Ballard Locks , where you can watch the water levels rise and lower to create a “boat elevator” for boats and even kayaks passing between freshwater lakes and the salt water of Puget Sound. The on-site botanical garden and fish ladder are also worth a visit.

washington tourist attractions top 10

South Lake Union

The always bustling Lake Union, located just northeast of downtown, hosts a variety of seaplanes and boats of all kinds, including the floating home from Sleepless in Seattle . Get out on the water at The Center for Wooden Boats , which offers rentals and tours. And explore the area’s burgeoning restaurant and bar scene.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Kenmore Air

If you want to get a better look at the city, the views from Kenmore Air ’s Seattle Scenic Seaplane Tour are unbeatable. Board the floatplane at Lake Union for an exhilarating takeoff, leisure flight, and gentle landing back on the water.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)

Known as MOHAI , this museum on the shores of Lake Union encapsulates what Seattle is all about, with a dash of smart history, a dose of technology, and quirky artifacts around every corner (think a pink truck with toes). Permanent exhibits showcase everything from the city’s maritime history to modern tech innovations.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room

You won’t have trouble finding a Starbucks here in the company’s hometown, but you’ll want to seek out this special Starbucks experience on Capitol Hill. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a Willy Wonka–esque coffee wonderland, where you’ll find exclusive beverages, various brewing methods, a coffee library, and more.


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Must-see attractions in Central & Eastern Washington

washington tourist attractions top 10

Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Central Washington

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is a spectacular 614-sq-mile protected area of rough, crenellated mountains, glacier-gouged valleys, and – as the name implies…

Grand Coulee Dam

Northeastern Washington

The Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center details the history of the dam and surrounding area with movies, photos and interactive exhibits. Free guided tours of…

Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

In a striking state-of-the-art building in the beautiful Browne's Addition neighborhood, this museum is well worth a visit. It has one of the finest…

Yakima Valley Museum

This highly educational and entertaining museum is one of the state's best. It tells the story of the region from a geographic and historical viewpoint,…

Palouse Falls State Park

Southeastern Washington

Fifty-four miles north of Walla Walla and 83 miles west of Pullman, off Hwy 261, this jaw-droppingly magnificent waterfall tumbles 198ft down a craggy,…

Riverside State Park

This park, 6 miles northwest of downtown Spokane, consists of 10,000 acres of protected forest and trails where you can run, walk or cycle to your heart's…

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area

Dry, sunny weather prevails here, drawing people to camp and play on Lake Roosevelt's southern white-sand beaches. As the 130-mile lake inches its way…

Riverfront Park

The site of the 1974 World's Fair and Exposition, this downtown park has numerous highlights, including a 17-point Sculpture Walk and the scenic Spokane…

Lake Wenatchee

Swimming, boating and fishing entertain summertime visitors to Lake Wenatchee, 23 miles north of the city of Wenatchee (and actually much closer to…

Columbia Park

At first glance, the Tri-Cities can seem like nothing but one big traffic snarl. The best solution: go to the park. This 400-acre green space along the…

REACH Museum

In a cool modern building overlooking Columbia Park, this hands-on museum focuses on local and regional history and the ecological impacts of human…

Yakama Nation Museum & Cultural Center

The history of the Yakama Native Americans is well documented at the Yakama Nation Cultural Center, which exhibits traditional costumes, baskets and beads…

Goldendale Observatory State Park

Goldendale Observatory State Park is a 5-acre educational park with an awesome telescope, located atop a 2100ft-elevation hill. It's undergoing…

Spokane Falls

The Upper and Lower Falls of the Spokane River, conveniently located right downtown, are not only visually impressive but also quite refreshing in summer,…

Waterfront Park

Tucked out of view but surprisingly close, this is Leavenworth's access to the Wenatchee River. Wander down 9th St and follow the leafy path over a…

Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

Washington State University's art museum has a large permanent collection of mostly Northwestern art and stages several temporary exhibits each year of…

Bing Crosby House

The immortal Bing Crosby donated a comprehensive collection of his recordings and paraphernalia to alma mater Gonzaga University, and many of these items…

Fort Spokane Museum & Visitor Center

To uncover the history of the Grand Coulee Dam area, visit Fort Spokane Museum & Visitor Center off Hwy 25, 23 miles north of Davenport, where original…

Jundt Art Museum

In the university art center at the end of Pearl St is this museum housing a good collection of classical sculpture and painting, as well as an 18ft…

Monroe Street Bridge

Built in 1911 and one of the largest concrete arches in the US.

Spokane House Interpretive Center

This interpretive center, 9.5 miles northwest of Spokane on Hwy 291, is housed in a fort from the earliest permanent non–Native American settlement…

Yakima Greenway

A pleasant oasis in an otherwise unremarkable city, the Greenway is best accessed via Sarg Hubbard Park at I-82 exit 33. It has 18 miles of paths for…

Fort Simcoe State Park

An interesting historical fort complex is preserved in the 200-acre Fort Simcoe State Park, an oasis of green amid scorched desert hills. It was built in…

Washington State University

Most of Pullman's sights are related directly to expansive WSU, which accommodates more than 22,000 students and one of Washington's leading agricultural…

Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery

Of three thriving fish hatcheries on the Columbia River, this is the largest and possibly the most interesting. Created to provide a spawning ground for…

Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge

Bird-watchers should swing down to this 41,573-acre refuge, where McDowell Lake attracts waterfowl and other birds, especially the white-headed woodpecker…

Fort Walla Walla Museum

This museum occupies the fort's old cavalry stables, with a recreated pioneer village outside. The main exhibit hall contains displays on the Lewis and…

Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center

This good municipal museum places its main focus on – surprise, surprise – apples. Exhibits include a recreation of a 1920s apple-packing shed and a farm…

Jacklin Collection Museum

If you're a fan of geodes and thunder eggs, stop in at this museum in the School of the Environment, showcasing the more than 2000 specimens of petrified…

Sacajawea State Park Interpretive Center

Set in a 284-acre park at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers, the Sacajawea Interpretive Center describes the journey of Lewis and Clark…

Yakima Area Arboretum

This urban green space on 46 acres gathers more than 1000 trees native to the Yakima River area, with demonstration gardens (water-conserving xeriscaping…

Fort Colville Museum

Colville town's most notable attraction has as its centerpiece Keller House, a large 1910 bungalow with attractive Craftsman details. Dispersed around the…

Fort Okanogan State Park

To get acquainted with local history, call in at the interpretive center at Fort Okanogan State Park, 4 miles northeast of the town of Brewster. It tells…

Whitman Mission

An erstwhile stop on the Oregon Trail, this is the site of what is widely known as the Whitman massacre: in 1847 white missionary Marcus Whitman and a…

Thorp Grist Mill

A view of frontier agriculture is on display in the small town of Thorp, 8 miles northwest of Ellensburg, at what was once a de facto meeting place for…

East Benton County Historical Museum

This museum tracks local history and has some exhibits on 'Kennewick Man,' the 9300-year-old skeleton of a Caucasian male found on the banks of the…

Kittitas County Historical Museum

Housed in the 1889 Cadwell Building, this museum is known mostly for its petrified-wood and gemstone collections but also boasts several rooms full of…

Nutcracker Museum

As much a gift shop as a place to peruse, the Nutcracker Museum specializes, as you'd guess, in an exceptional variety (around 5000 at last count) of…

Looff Carousel

Like a relic from an old-fashioned fairground, this 1909 hand-carved carousel is a kids' classic and, along with the larger-than-life Radio Flyer Wagon…

The kitschy Pavilion is a small amusement park in summer and an ice rink in winter. At the time of research it was part of the section of Riverfront that…

Not Central & Eastern Washington... but still worth the visit

A path through the Hoh Rain Forest is filled with old temperate trees covered in green and brown moss.

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Henry Art Gallery

The 22 best Seattle attractions to visit

The best attractions in Seattle celebrate everything that makes this magnificent city so, well, magnificent

The best attractions in Seattle are the sort of spots known worldwide. Even if you aren’t from these parts, chances are you have heard of the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, but they are just the tip of this magnificent iceberg. In fact, there are so many awesome things to do here that even long-time residents are rarely without something new and exciting to check out. Seattle has it all; museums , iconic buildings, a revolutionary musical history, fantastic restaurants, and some of the best coffee shops in the country. Yes, it rains often, but that is just a handy excuse to nip inside for a shot of culture, caffeine, or both. Plus, when the weather is good, those parks are a real thing of beauty.

RECOMMENDED:  The best Airbnbs in Seattle  

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Best Seattle attractions

Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop)

1.  Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop)

One of Microsoft founder Paul Allen’s most significant contributions to the city (and there are a lot of them) is the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop). Formerly known as the Experience Music Project, the museum’s structure was designed in 2000 by architect Frank Gehry, so it is truly a sight to be seen. Exhibits range in topic and explore a variety of themes, from indie video games to horror films to tattoo culture. If you want to beat the crowds, come early on a weekday. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions.

Save on Seattle attractions.

Seattle Great Wheel

2.  Seattle Great Wheel

Who doesn’t love a Ferris wheel? Boasting 360-degree-views of both mountains and open sky, Seattle’s Great Wheel is worth being a bit of a tourist for. At $17 for an adult ride, many locals scoff at this attraction. Don’t make the same mistake: Get in line and get up there. If you’re feeling swank, you can purchase a VIP ticket for $50 that puts you ahead of the line and in a four-person gondola with a glass bottom.

Pike Place Market

3.  Pike Place Market

  • Pine Market

Opened in 1907, the Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operating farmers’ markets in the country. A thriving community of farmers, street performers, and restaurateurs, this is more than just a place to grab a bite: Make sure to check out the underground shops, bookstores, apothecaries, and one very special magic shop. As you head out of the market, you’ll notice a line snaking around the first-ever Starbucks. The inside is exactly like any other Starbucks so waiting in a 20-minute line to order your latte is something you can (and should) absolutely skip.

Seattle Art Museum

4.  Seattle Art Museum

  • Central Business District

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is one of the largest collections of art in Washington, featuring a wide variety of works ranging in genre from contemporary to ancient Roman and more. Depending on the featured special exhibition, lines can be long, so you better check out the offerings before heading there. Entry to the permanent collection requires only a suggested donation, but special exhibitions cost extra.

Olympic Sculpture Park

5.  Olympic Sculpture Park

A part of the SAM family, the Olympic Sculpture Park, which overlooks the Cascade Mountains, is one of the most tranquil places in Downtown Seattle. Free and open to the public 365 days a year, the venue’s vast collection includes pieces by Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra, and Roxy Paine. The park occasionally hosts yoga in the garden, so check out the online schedule before you go.

Experience Seattle like a local.

6.  Gas Works Park

Formerly the site of a city-run gasification plant, the nine-acre Gas Works Park is unusual and breathtaking. Designed in 1975 by landscape architect Richard Haag, this award-winning green space is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. The park centers around the Great Mound, a large hill that offers sensational views of Lake Union and the surrounding area. Make sure to find the Play Barn, a collection of pipes and machinery left over from the former plant. Fun fact: That famous paintball kiss in  10 Things I Hate About You  takes place on the lawn of the Gas Works park.

Washington State Ferries

7.  Washington State Ferries

  • Transportation

The Washington State Ferries are an integral part of the commuter culture in Seattle. The largest fleet of ferries in the United States, the system stops at multiple neighboring islands and towns. Either as a walk-on or car passenger, a day trip out of the city is easy. Even though most boats can carry 200 cars, commuter crossings are very busy so try to avoid them during rush hour.

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

8.  Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

  • Walks and tours

A little-known fact about Seattle: the entire city burned down in 1889, and a new city was slowly rebuilt 22 feet above the rubble. Bill Speidel's Underground Tour is the only underground tour that brings you below street level, making it the ideal activity to sign up for when the rain falls. Remember to wear closed-toed shoes as the tour takes you through the catacombs of the city.

Henry Art Gallery

9.  Henry Art Gallery

The University of Washington is in and of itself a beautiful campus made more enticing by The Henry Art Gallery. The contemporary art gallery features works from all over the world in its permanent collection and is also home to the yearly student thesis exhibitions. Many of their works focus on social activism, including shows by and about the LGBTQ community.

10.  Fremont Troll

Constructed following a city beautification contest in 1990, the Fremont Troll is one of Seattle’s favorite attractions. Drawing inspiration from Norwegian folklore, artists Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead installed the Troll that holds an actual Volkswagen Beetle car as a warning to the drivers above. Every year on October 31st, the community hosts a birthday party for the Troll called Troll-o-ween.

Say hello to the Fremont Troll on this tour.

11.  Ballard Locks

  • Parks and gardens

If you don’t live in Seattle, you probably don’t know what a locks is. Simply put, it is a hydraulics system that lifts a boat from a lower water level to a higher one. Some call it an elevator for boats. What makes the Ballard Locks so special, besides the fact that it is the most used one in the country? The fish dwelling below the boats. Underneath the locks system, you can watch as salmons run from fresh to seawater through the windows of the below-ground fish ladder viewing area. 

12.  Edith Macefield House

  • Historic buildings and sites
  • West Woodland

In 2006, a woman was offered $1 million to leave her home, where real estate gurus were planning on building condos. Said woman declined and became a folk hero of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Though construction continued around her, Edith Macefield stood strong, and her home stands today, surrounded by the glass and concrete of the development. Though Edith has long since passed away, the home remains untouched in her loving memory. The site has also been credited as the inspiration behind the house depicted in Pixar’s  Up .

Chihuly Garden and Glass

13.  Chihuly Garden and Glass

Glassblowing is a favorite pastime of Seattleites, and Dale Chihuly is the master of the craft. Among the towering structures of Downtown Seattle lives a greenhouse turned gallery dedicated to the work of Chihuly. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between what has been grown and what has been blown. However, it is absolutely impossible to overlook one of Chihuly’s largest pieces suspended from the ceiling of the garden. 

Book the best attractions in the city.

14.  Uwajimaya

Seattle’s vibrant Japanese American community has given the city more than its fair share of attractions. Most notable is Uwajimaya, a massive Japanese grocery and gift store. Founded in 1928 by Fujimatsu Moriguchi of Yawatahama, Japan, this family-run store is full of every type of Asian delicacy you can imagine. In addition to exceptional edible items, the store is also home to the Tokyo-based Kinokuniya Bookstore, which serves all of your Japanese stationery and manga needs.

Seattle Aquarium

15.  Seattle Aquarium

  • Greater Seattle

Opened in 1977, the Seattle Aquarium is dedicated to conserving aquatic health inside and outside its walls. Offering programming for all ages, the aquarium emphasizes wildlife native to the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The underwater dome is one of the best ways to get acquainted with the family of sea-dwellers.

See the best of Seattle.

16.  Museum of Flight

  • South Beacon Hill

The Museum of Flight, found in Boeing Field’s backyard, is the largest private air and space museum in the world. Founded in 1929, it has grown to become one of Seattle’s most trafficked educational attractions. Robust programming (the venue boasts one of the largest educational programs in the world) includes daily tours, flight simulations, and the occasional theatrical reenactment. Come early or around closing time to avoid the daily throngs of visiting school children.

17.  Add-a-Ball

There are a ton of pinball bars in Seattle, but Add-a-Ball is the king of them all. Hidden in the back of a massive empty lot, Add-A-Ball offers multiple rooms of pinball, video games, and even an air hockey table—each equipped with cup holders to hold your beer or whatever else you order at the bar. The staff hosts pinball tournaments, which are very popular with locals, but if you’re just trying to have a good time, skip them. Tournament nights can get a little… intense.

18.  Grand Illusion Cinema

  • Movie theaters

The longest continuously running movie theater in Seattle, Grand Illusion Cinema is a required stop for all film nerds. Opened in 1970, the volunteer-run non-profit space is filled with vintage red velvet seats where you can get comfortable to watch new indie releases and art film classics. 

Space Needle

19.  Space Needle

If you’ve seen a picture of Seattle, you’ve seen the Space Needle. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the symbol of the city is one of its most visited attractions. At the time of its erection, it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. Technically, however, it’s only made of six floors. The tower can get very busy in the sunny months, so snag a timed ticket and be prepared to wait.

Grab your Seattle CityPass and save on top attractions.


20.  Seaplanes

Even though you’ll see the mountains almost everywhere you go throughout Seattle, something about being on their level makes it particularly awesome. Consider hopping on a chartered Seaplane out of Lake Union and experiencing the majesty of the city’s topography from above. If you want to make a weekend of it, Kenmore Air offers flight and hotel packages to the San Juan Islands and beyond.

21.  T-Mobile Park

  • Sports and fitness
  • Pioneer Square

The state-of-the-art field in Seattle’s SODO district is home to the Mariners baseball team. Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, it's worth a visit to check out the field. The stadium frequently offers discount tickets that won’t blow a hole through your wallet. Pro tip: Don’t drive to the stadium on game days when the southern part of the city basically shuts down. Instead, take the Link Light Rail, which runs from T-Mobile Park to most neighborhoods around the city.

22.  Green Lake

  • Rivers, lakes and ponds

Keeping Seattleites inside when the sun is out is practically impossible. Though many residents go hiking on one of the many trails throughout the state, less ambitious folks opt to get a beach towel and enjoy the freshwater lake in the middle of the city. With 2.8 miles of trails and paved walkways around it, visiting the lake can turn into the best excuse for a leisurely bike ride or long walk.

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Washington, D.C.   Travel Guide

Courtesy of Kevin Voelker Photography | Getty Images

washington tourist attractions top 10

29 Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.

Not surprisingly, many of Washington D.C.'s main attractions relate to its principal enterprise: politics. These include the White House and the U.S. Capitol , of course, as well as monuments and historic sites dedicated to notable figures who

  • All Things To Do
  • 1-Day Itinerary
  • 2-Day Itinerary
  • 3-Day Itinerary

washington tourist attractions top 10

The Tidal Basin The Tidal Basin free

If you've never been to Washington, D.C. before, plan to spend some time along the Tidal Basin, an approximately 107-acre pond encircled by a 2.1-mile loop trail. Constructed to use the strong tides of the Potomac River to clear silt from the Washington Channel and to maintain steady water levels in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pools , it now also serves as the backdrop to some of D.C.'s best-loved sites. Every spring, the Tidal Basin bursts with color as cherry blossom trees (gifted to the city from Tokyo ) bloom into cotton candy-colored tufts, and they attract hordes of visitors. You can follow the path that leads around the basin, but recent visitors recommended testing the waters in a paddleboat. Paddleboats are available to rent from spring until fall for $32 per hour for a four-passenger boat. You can pick up a paddle boat every day starting at 10 a.m. from the boat dock near Maine Avenue. Hours of operation end between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. depending on the time of year.

Even if you don't make it to town for the cherry blossoms, you won't want to miss the three major memorials that can be found along the Tidal Basin's shores: the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial . A memorial to Virginia Declaration of Rights author George Mason, also stands nearby.

washington tourist attractions top 10

The White House and the Washington Monument The White House and the Washington Monument free

Even if you're only in town for a short trip, visiting the Washington Monument and the White House – two marble symbols of the U.S. – is a must for any first-time D.C. visitor.

Standing just shy of 555 ½ feet, the Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world at its completion in 1884. Nowadays, you can ride one of the monument's glass-encased elevators to the top observation deck to enjoy 360-degree views of the city, which invariably impress visitors. You can explore the attraction's exterior for free 24 hours a day, but National Park Service rangers are only available from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. to answer questions. The monument itself is open to visitors every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free timed-entry tickets can be reserved up to 30 days in advance via . (There is a $1 nonrefundable service charge for each ticket.) Some same-day tickets are distributed daily on a first-come, first served basis. The ticket window opens at 8:45 a.m.; be prepared for a line. The Smithsonian Metro stop is closest to the monument. Visit the National Park Service's Washington Monument page for more information.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Lincoln Memorial Lincoln Memorial free

U.S. News Insider Tip:  The best time to see this monument is after dark when it's illuminated. You'll still contend with crowds, but it will be worth it. – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor

Although the Lincoln Memorial is just one of the District's many monuments, the larger-than-life Honest Abe is also among travelers' favorites. History buffs might enjoy reading Lincoln's  two famous speeches – the Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address – which are both etched into the memorial's north and south walls, respectively. Meanwhile, art history and architecture aficionados will enjoy admiring the building's striking design by Henry Bacon, complete with 38 Doric columns, 36 of which signify the states in the Union at the time Lincoln passed away.

washington tourist attractions top 10

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washington tourist attractions top 10

World War II Memorial World War II Memorial free

U.S. News Insider Tip:  While it's pretty during the day, the memorial is incomparable at night. Visit after sunset. – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor

The World War II Memorial was dedicated in 2004 to the 16 million American military members who served during World War II, including the thousands of individuals who lost their lives during the fight. A circle of 56 columns (representing the U.S. states and territories from the era) looks over the Rainbow Pool. At night, with lights shining, this memorial can be quite ethereal. The structure also has a wall of more than 4,000 gold stars – one for every 100 Americans who died in the conflict.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials free

One of the most moving war memorials, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – or "the Wall," as it's commonly referred to – is a long black granite wall with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who perished during the Vietnam War emblazoned on its surface. Recent travelers said their visits to the site were heartbreaking but thought-provoking and powerful, adding that even the toughest of individuals will find it hard to not become emotional while reading the wall's names. If you're looking for a specific person, keep in mind that the soldiers' names are ordered by the date they died, not alphabetically. Also, reviewers recommend using the attraction's name books and visiting during the day when there's ample sunlight.

When you're wandering along the eastern side of the Mall, venture to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Paying tribute to the 1.5 million who served in "The Forgotten War," this privately funded site contains 19 stainless steel statues of soldiers in combat. In a triangular area known as the Field of Service, soldier statues march toward an American flag. Next to the soldiers is a 164-foot-long granite wall that pays homage to the unnamed troops that fought in the Korean War. Another highlight of the memorial is the Pool of Remembrance, a tranquil place for reflection. However, some past travelers cautioned that the memorial lacks signage, so younger visitors may not understand as much as those who lived through the war.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial free

Located on the northwest rim of the Tidal Basin , this 30-foot granite memorial pays homage to civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Everything from its address at 1964 Independence Ave. (a reference to the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress) to its design (which shows King emerging from a "mountain of despair," a reference to his "I Have a Dream" speech) are meant to reflect King's significant contribution to American history. What's more, this towering sculpture opened to the public in 2011, making it one of the newest memorials to open in the District. It is also the National Mall's first memorial dedicated to an African American.

Previous visitors raved about this memorial, adding that its powerful symbolism and beautiful design will give you chills. Plus, the sculpture's proximity to other memorials and monuments like the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial make it convenient to reach. However, some reviewers wished there was more information on King's life, legacy and commitment to nonviolence around the statue.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum free

Note: Beginning in 2018, the museum embarked on an ambitious, multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort to renovate and reimagine all of its exhibits and put 1,400 new objects on display. It's reopening galleries in stages, but the IMAX theater is closed. Check the website to see what's on display before you go.

Attracting millions of people each year, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum contains a trove of celebrated aircraft, including Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega 5B, the Apollo 11 Command Module, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and Wilbur and Orville Wright's 1903 Wright Flyer, among others. Exhibits include flight simulators, an IMAX theater and the Einstein Planetarium. And parents beware: The gift shop is huge, so get ready for pleas from your kids. 

washington tourist attractions top 10

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture free

U.S. News Insider Tip: When hunger strikes, don't miss the Southern comfort offerings at Sweet Home Cafe, including fried chicken, collard greens and fish po'boys. The food is surprisingly delicious for a museum eatery. – Nicola Wood, Senior Editor

Designed to replicate the three-tiered crowns found in Yoruban art from West Africa, with bronze-colored latticework accents that honor the ironwork of enslaved African Americans, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture opened on the National Mall in 2016. More than 40,000 artifacts are displayed inside, including photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists, boxing headgear and a robe used by Muhammad Ali, and a fedora once worn by Michael Jackson.

washington tourist attractions top 10

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washington tourist attractions top 10

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum United States Holocaust Memorial Museum free

You need to be in the right frame of mind to visit this sobering museum that focuses on the atrocities of the Holocaust. Through film footage, photographs and historical artifacts, it confronts subjects such as Hitler's rise to power, anti-Semitic propaganda and the horrors of the Final Solution. In addition to its permanent exhibition, "The Holocaust," the museum mounts several special exhibits. The facility also has a Hall of Witness, a three-story chamber beneath skylights; a Hall of Remembrance, a space with an eternal flame intended for individual reflection as well as public ceremonies; the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center; a library and a reading room.

Past travelers felt moved by this powerful museum but cautioned that its graphic collection is not ideal for younger children. (Indeed, the museum itself has age recommendations for its exhibits, signaling that some material may not be suitable for kids.) Many were especially impressed with its informative, thorough and respectful displays, adding that you can easily spend a few hours perusing its halls.

washington tourist attractions top 10

National Gallery of Art National Gallery of Art free

U.S. News Insider Tip: There are two things you won't want to miss here: the rooftop terrace, which affords panoramic views of the city and a photo op with a giant blue rooster, and the only Leonardo da Vinci oil painting on permanent exhibition in the U.S. – Catriona Kendall, Associate Editor

If you're any kind of art connoisseur, you should make a stop at the National Gallery of Art. Composed of the East Building, which houses the gallery's more modern works (think: Henri Matisse and Mark Rothko), and the West Building, which contains the collection's older works (from Sandro Botticelli to Claude Monet), this museum has enough to fill an entire afternoon. Visitors often remark on the museum's large size and expansive collection. Pace yourself and maybe order a coffee, gelato or lunch at one of the gallery's five bars and cafes.

washington tourist attractions top 10

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

U.S. News Insider Tip:  Even if you don't have time to catch a performance, head to the rooftop of the Kennedy Center to grab a drink and see an incredible sunset from the terrace. The on-site REACH art gallery and sculpture garden (free) are also fun to wander around. – Erin Evans

Many travelers highly recommend a visit to The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, built and named for America's beloved Camelot president. The Kennedy Center houses the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera and hosts numerous other dance, theater and musical performances throughout the year. Although ticket prices can run a bit high, you can take in a performance for free on the Millennium Stage. The Kennedy Center debuted a new permanent exhibit in 2022: Visitors can explore the free "Art and Ideals: President John F. Kennedy" immersive exhibit to learn about the relationship between Kennedy's presidency and the arts. The facility also includes the REACH, an indoor/outdoor complex comprising an art gallery, sculpture garden, classrooms and studios, lecture halls, a video wall and more interactive spaces.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History free

With a collection of more than 147 million items, this robust Smithsonian museum on the National Mall attracts millions of visitors each year. Some of the museum's highlights include replicas of giant whales and other marine life in the Sant Ocean Hall. There's also a 2,000-pound, 52-foot model of a mega-tooth shark suspended above a dining area. In addition, you can venture to the Butterfly Pavilion for some fluttery fun with multicolored bugs. No stop at this museum would be complete without stopping by the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils – "Deep Time" exhibit features approximately 700 specimens, including Tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops dinosaurs. Other permanent exhibits explore human evolution, ancient Egypt and geology, among other topics.

Although this museum is especially appealing to families, past visitors said there's something for everyone here. However, the property can get quite crowded on weekends, holidays and during the busy summer season, so consider arriving on a weekday or in the offseason to avoid crowds. Recent museumgoers also suggested saving some time for the Hope Diamond, which is on display in the geology exhibit.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Washington National Cathedral Washington National Cathedral

U.S. News Insider Tip: Opt for a tour instead of exploring on your own, especially if you want to spot some of the cathedral's weirder gargoyles (like the famous Darth Vader). – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor

Construction first began on this massive cathedral – the sixth largest in the world – in 1907, but it wasn't actually completed until 1990. (Though work on the building continues, including extensive and ongoing repairs after an earthquake damaged the structure in 2011.) Designed in the Gothic style, the Washington National Cathedral sits surrounded by gardens, creating a pleasant atmosphere for visitors. Take a stroll around the cathedral and peer at its high vaults and flying buttresses, keeping a close eye out for gargoyles (there's one of Darth Vader!). Step inside to admire the building's intricate stained-glass windows.

washington tourist attractions top 10

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washington tourist attractions top 10

Arlington National Cemetery Arlington National Cemetery free

Arlington National Cemetery sits in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The cemetery spans about 1 square mile and serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members, veterans and their families. Visitors should be sure to spend some time viewing the Memorial Amphitheater, the John F. Kennedy Gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Additionally, finding the grave of a notable veteran, family member or friend proves to be a powerful experience, according to visitors. The cemetery also has a downloadable app available to help you pinpoint the location of a grave.

Previous travelers appreciate the trolley tour from Arlington National Cemetery Tours, but they warn that the excursion is a bit pricey at $19.50 for adults, $10.75 for children ages 4 to 12 and $15 for seniors ages 65 and older. (There are discounted prices for service members, veterans and their families.)

washington tourist attractions top 10

Planet Word Planet Word

The world's first voice-activated museum, Planet Word strives to provide an immersive language experience through multiple exhibits and interactive galleries. Its word-centric exhibits span three floors and explore such topics as how people learn to speak, words’ origins, the world’s diversity of languages, famous speeches (which visitors can recreate using teleprompters), songs (which you can deliver karaoke style), jokes and how advertising uses language to persuade consumers. It also has a library, of course, as well as recording booths for listening to others reflect on the power of words and for preserving your story. Its Lexicon Lane contains multiple "puzzle cases" with themed word puzzles that can be solved using various clues deposited around the room. The museum, which opened in 2020, also has a restaurant and a gift shop.

Visitors frequently enthuse about this museum with adjectives like "clever," "creative," "fascinating" and "innovative." Many say its well-executed interactive activities make it an especially engaging place for families. Plan on spending at least a couple hours here.

washington tourist attractions top 10

U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress free

Arguably the most magnificent building in Washington, the U.S. Capitol is where visitors go to witness politics in action. Inside, members of both houses of Congress debate and create national policy and law, while visitors explore the building's north and south wings and circular centerpiece: the Rotunda. This iconic hall houses paintings, frescoes and sculptures depicting famous scenes from American history, not to mention an iconic cast-iron dome added to the structure in 1868.

Touring the Capitol is free of charge, but you'll need to make your reservation well in advance to ensure you get a tour slot (you cannot see the Capitol without booking a tour). The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center welcomes visitors Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Inauguration Day). The tour does not include the Senate and House of Representatives galleries. Though some travelers express mixed reviews on whether the U.S. Capitol warrants the time and effort spent (both making reservations and going on the actual tour), most agree the site is well worth a visit.

washington tourist attractions top 10

National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum free

The National Portrait Gallery most notably houses images of every previous president, allowing visitors to reminisce about each political figure as they progress through the hall of portraits. The presidential portraits aren't alone, though, as the National Portrait Gallery also houses artistic renderings of notable American citizens ranging from sports figures to civil rights leaders. Moreover, the National Portrait Gallery only takes up half of the building and shares the space with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This museum showcases rotating exhibits, which have previously exposed visitors to work created in response to the Vietnam War, glasswork, native women artists and more. The Smithsonian American Art Museum also operates a separate branch, the Renwick Gallery, devoted to contemporary craft and decorative arts.

Previous travelers insist that you take a few minutes to enjoy the shared Kogod Courtyard; its glass-paneled roof protects visitors from the elements while maintaining an abundance of natural light. These visitors also recommend that you take a few hours to explore both the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as there are a variety of interesting, small exhibits that are easy to miss if you're in a rush.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute free

More than 1,800 animals reside at the Smithsonian's 163-acre National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, from Asian elephants to cheetahs to sea lions. Look up every now and then as you stroll beneath the Orangutan Transport System (called the O Line): You may spot orangutans swinging along cables between steel towers. Or, if you're more intrigued by animals native to South America, head over to the Amazonia exhibit, home to creatures like titi monkeys and multiple frog species. The Great Cats exhibit features Sumatran tigers and African lions, among other feline predators. The zoo also has a playground and other attractions geared toward kids. If you time your visit for the holidays, swing by the zoo after dark for its ZooLights exhibition, when animal lanterns and lights bedazzle the park.

Recent visitors praised the zoo's pleasant surroundings and broad selection of species. Others warn future travelers to temper expectations: It's popular during the spring and summer seasons and there are long lines for (somewhat overpriced) food. Though some said the zoo could be more exciting and have a broader array of animals, keep in mind the more than 360 species are free to visit.

washington tourist attractions top 10

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washington tourist attractions top 10

U.S. National Arboretum and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum U.S. National Arboretum and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum free

Note: Due to the discovery of boxwood blight, the arboretum temporarily closed its Boxwood Collection and adjacent Perennials Collection in order to prevent spread of the disease. It is expected to remain closed through late 2023.

Located northeast of downtown Washington, D.C., the United States National Arboretum rewards its visitors with beautiful outdoor spaces. The arboretum's outdoor collections range from dogwoods to azaleas to magnolias, but none of the plants are the area's primary attraction. Instead, most travelers make the trek here for the National Capitol Columns and the bonsai collection. The National Capitol Columns were built in 1828, decorated the Capitol building until 1958 and found their way to the arboretum in the 1980s. Now, the columns serve as an excellent place to snap photos or enjoy a picnic. The area's bonsai trees sit in the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, which boasts an astounding 300 miniature trees that staff members rotate through the museum's three pavilions and special exhibits gallery.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery free

The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery combine to comprise the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art. Opened in 1923, the Freer Gallery showcases American paintings from the late 19th century aesthetic movement, plus art from China, Egypt, India, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The Sackler Gallery opened in 1987 in the adjacent building, and it displays Thai earthenware, a Tibetan Buddhist shrine, Iranian artifacts and a host of rotating exhibits.

Past visitors particularly appreciated the Peacock Room, a gilded blue and gold room filled with frescoes of peacocks and pottery. The Sackler Gallery's underground exhibits also serve as a boon for sweltering tourists during the District’s hot summer months, which delighted recent travelers. The general consensus is that there are some remarkable works of art here.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Rock Creek Park Rock Creek Park free

A large urban park extending from the Washington, D.C.-Maryland border to the Potomac River, Rock Creek Park is a destination for an expansive array of outdoor activities. It has more than 32 miles of hiking trails and 13 miles of horseback riding trails while bicyclists can use its paved trails and roads. It has a nine-hole golf course and tennis courts. Fishing and paddleboating on the Potomac River are additional options. The park also boasts plenty of built things to see, such as scenic bridges, fountains and statues.

In addition to its more than 1,750 acres of outdoor space, the park encompasses multiple noteworthy structures. The Nature Center features a book- and game-filled children's Discovery Room, displays of live turtles and snakes and an observation deck. It provides hiking information and serves as the starting point of the half-mile Woodland Trail. The Peirce Mill operated as a grist mill from 1829 to 1897, making the historical building the last one of its kind in the area. The Old Stone House, constructed around 1766, ranks as the oldest building on its original foundation in Washington D.C. Its former kitchen contains historical exhibits.

washington tourist attractions top 10

National Archives Museum National Archives Museum free

A treasure trove of the United States' founding documents, the National Archives Museum is high on travelers' to-do lists and almost always has long entrance lines. But once you do get inside, you'll see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, along with one of the surviving copies of the Magna Carta. Other interactive and kid-friendly exhibits fill the museum, which is located off the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro station on the Green and Yellow lines. Conveniently, the museum is also a popular stop on many of the city's best bus tours .

If you love history, you'll enjoy visiting this museum. Reservations are not required but are available. Reserving free passes on's website comes with a service fee of $1.00 per ticket, but travelers say paying for advance tickets will save you from having to wait in a long line to enter. The museum encourages reservations during its peak season from March through Labor Day. Also, be aware that photography is not permitted anywhere inside the building.

washington tourist attractions top 10

9:30 Club 9:30 Club

U.S. News Insider Tip: If you're attending a concert at this venue, plan to arrive early, as the line can stretch around the block for popular artists. And if possible, avoid using the coat check (unless you want to be stuck waiting in line for hours after the show).  – Alissa Grisler, Associate Editor

The 9:30 Club has often been heralded as one of the best live music venues in America. The iconic club began earning its accolades around the time it opened in 1980, though, and has hosted groups like Nirvana, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fugazi and Public Enemy, among others. While the 9:30 Club relocated and expanded over time, the club is still small enough to feel intimate. Its location near the bustling U Street corridor means that travelers will have no shortage of options for a pre-show dinner or a post-show drink (the staple Ben's Chili Bowl is just a few blocks away). Alternatively, the 9:30 Club offers a small menu of quesadillas, nachos and tacos if you want to eat there.

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Heurich House Museum Heurich House Museum

German-American immigrant and brewing entrepreneur Christian Heurich built the mansion that now bears his name in the late 19th century. Now, its stands as both an example of Richardsonian Romanesque residential architecture as well a testament to the business-owner's legacy. (It also, appropriately enough, serves as the headquarters of the District of Columbia Brewers Guild, a nonprofit trade organization serving the city's craft brewing industry.) The museum aims to preserve the building, its grounds and its collections while demonstrating the relevance of Heurich's version of the American dream to the modern day.

Visitors typically find the tour guides highly knowledgeable and enjoy seeing the fine period furniture and the well-preserved, intricately decorated structure.

washington tourist attractions top 10

National Building Museum National Building Museum

U.S. News Insider Tip:  The permanent exhibits are a bit technical, but special exhibits are accessible (and often hands-on!) for everyone, regardless of their knowledge of architecture. – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor

Washington boasts countless examples of iconic architecture, but the National Building Museum fittingly stands out from the rest. The gargantuan former Pension Building, which completed construction in 1887, once housed the United States Pension Bureau as well as a variety of political events like inaugural balls. In 1985, the building completed its transition into a museum, and it was officially renamed the National Building Museum in 1997. Currently, the museum showcases various interesting intersections of architecture and design throughout American history and culture via approximately 100,000 photos, 130,000 architectural drawing and prints, and more than 20,000 objects ranging from building materials to toys.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Frederick Douglass National Historic Site free

Like other parts of the South, the Washington metropolitan area – which includes Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. – was once home to numerous plantations that profited off the labor of enslaved African Americans. To learn more about one of the region's most famous former slaves, visit the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in the district's Anacostia neighborhood.

At this historical site, you'll learn all about Frederick Douglass, who had been born into slavery in 1818 who fled from Maryland to New York City in 1838. After becoming a free man, Douglass devoted his life to speaking against slavery, producing abolitionist newspapers and writing about his experience as a slave. In 1872, Douglass and his then wife, Anna, moved to Washington, D.C. The couple moved into the house known as Cedar Hill in 1878. After the death of his first wife in 1882, Douglass married Helen Pitts in 1884 and continued to live in the house until his death in 1895.

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25 Top Tourist Attractions in Washington D.C.

Last updated on November 3, 2023 by Carl Austin and Alex Schultz - Leave a Comment

The capital city of the United States, Washington D.C. is fittingly packed with incredible things for you to see and do. Aside from being home to the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government, it has dozens of world-class museums, while countless marble-clad monuments and memorials are situated along the National Mall.

A federal district of its own, the vibrant metropolis lies along the east bank of the Potomac River, sandwiched in between Virginia and Maryland. While the rest of the city is well worth a look due to its thriving dining and nightlife scenes, most people simply head straight to the National Mall, which is where almost all its top tourist attractions in Washington D.C. can be found.

This is because the lush, green parkland is not only bordered by both the White House and Capitol Building but contains the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and numerous Smithsonian museums too.

In this post, we'll cover:

25. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Not far from both the National Mall and Lincoln Memorial you can find the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. One of the best places in all of D.C. to watch a show, the state-of-the-art venue hosts more than 2000 performances each year, ranging from ballet and opera to concerts, plays and dance shows.

First opened in 1971, the huge cultural center is named after the former president and lies alongside the Potomac River. Besides an elegant Opera House and Concert Hall, the campus encompasses the refined Eisenhower Theater, as well as several other smaller venues. In addition, there are also some brilliant restaurants and rooftop terraces to try out.

24. International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum

One of the most fun things to do in Washington D.C., the International Spy Museum unveils the techniques and technologies used by spies throughout the ages. Set just south of the Smithsonian Castle, its galleries are packed with interactive exhibits, artifacts and even equipment that cover thousands of years of espionage’s hidden history.

A firm favorite with both adults and children alike, the museum was founded in 2002 and is now located at L’Enfant Plaza. While exploring the world’s largest collection of international espionage artifacts you’ll not only see concealed cameras and weapons but ingenious gadgets and disguises too. Guests can also crack codes and try out their spying skills, while fantastic photos and displays teach you all about important spies, scientists and covert missions.

23. Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Another of the most popular and picturesque places to explore around DC is the atmospheric Arlington National Cemetery . Established during the American Civil War, it is now the final resting place for many of the most revered military veterans and influential figures from throughout the United States’ past.

Situated just across the Potomac River, the lush, green graveyard and its amazing monuments and memorials overlook the city from a prominent hillside. While many go to pay their respects at JFK’s grave, other people instead head to the moving Iwo Jima Memorial or grand Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Aside from ambling past rows and rows of well-maintained graves, you can also stop by the attractive Arlington House or peek into the Pentagon next door.

22. Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Smithsonian's National Zoo

Boasting an incredible selection of exotic animals, birds and reptiles, the superb Smithsonian’s National Zoo can be found just fifteen minutes’ drive north of downtown. Sprawled across a huge area, its spacious enclosures and exhibits are home to everything from orangutans and elephants to gorillas, giant pandas and komodo dragons.

One of the oldest and most prestigious zoos in the States, it was founded in 1889 and is very highly thought of for its excellent research and conservation work. In total, it now impressively contains over 2,700 animals that represent more than 390 species from as far afield as Africa, Asia and South America. On top of this, interesting talks and live demonstrations constantly take place in the zoo.

21. United States Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden

Right next to the majestic Capitol Building is another very pleasant outdoor space for you to enjoy: the United States Botanic Garden. Lovingly landscaped, its gorgeous grounds and gleaming glass conservatory are a treat to stroll around with pretty plants, flowers, trees and shrubs wherever you look.

The oldest continually-operating botanic garden in the country, it was first established in 1820 with exquisitely manicured lawns and colorful flower beds found next to lovely water features and fountains. Inside the conservatory are scenic sections dedicated to desert plants and orchids, jungle species and primeval trees with marvelous Mediterranean and medicinal areas also on show.

20. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

One of the many must-see monuments in D.C. is the striking statue that makes up the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Dedicated to the inspirational leader of the Civil Rights Movement, it lies at the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin, just off of the National Mall.

Only erected in 2011, the 30-foot memorial is inscribed with motivational and moving quotes from King’s speeches and sermons. Thanks to its powerful symbolism, beautiful design and the profound impact that he had on the country, the magnificent monument is now a popular spot to visit and photo with countless other memorials also lying nearby.

19. National Archives Museum

National Archives Museum

Situated on the north side of the National Mall you can find the National Archives Museum which is home to some of the nation’s most important documents. Sure to delight history aficionados, it contains not only the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution but the Bill of Rights too.

Built in 1933, the imposing building features exquisite architecture with a fantastic facade fronting the renowned and resplendent rotunda within. Here you can examine the Charters of Freedom before moving on to other equally interesting chambers that display the Emancipation Proclamation, Louisiana Purchase Treaty and an original Magna Carta dating to 1297.

18. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Set on the southwestern side of the Tidal Basin is yet another monument that is well worth checking out when in town: the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Dedicated to the 32nd President of the United States, its four outdoor ‘rooms’ represent each of Roosevelt’s terms in office, highlighting the considerable challenges both he and the country faced in the thirties and forties.

Water features prominently throughout the various outdoor areas of the memorial with a single large drop and cascading waterfalls symbolizing the Great Depression and World War II. Dotted about the tranquil gardens are stones engraved with his speeches and sayings and stunning sculptures of the President in his wheelchair, the First Lady and their dog Fala.

17. World War II Memorial

World War II Memorial

One of the most prominent and popular parts of the National Mall after the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial is the massive and impressive World War II Memorial. Located at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, it commemorates the Americans who served in the armed forces during WWII and the civilians who supported them on the homefront.

Surrounding an oval plaza and fountain are granite pillars that represent each state and US overseas territory and two triumphal arches for the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. In addition to snapping some photos of iconic scenes of the war experience etched on bas reliefs you can also pay your respects at the Freedom Wall, which is dedicated to those who lost their lives during the war.

16. National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

While it is most known for hosting images of every previous president, the National Portrait Gallery also contains countless other portraits, paintings and photos of notable American citizens. Housed in the historic Old Patent Office Building, its enticing exhibits and artworks can be found just a short walk north of the National Mall.

Established in 1962, the exceptional art museum now boasts a large collection of some 23,000 items including drawings, statues and engravings. While wandering around its light and airy galleries you can see amazing depictions of everyone from Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama to Frida Kahlo, Benjamin Franklin and Pocahontas with temporary exhibitions and talks also regularly taking place.

15. National Museum of African American History & Culture

National Museum of African American History & Culture

The latest addition to the Smithsonian’s many institutions is the superb National Museum of African American History & Culture. Opened in 2016 on the National Mall, its extensive array of artifacts, artworks and audio installations shine a light on the cultures and communities of African-Americans in the country and the colossal challenges they have faced over the centuries.

The only national museum of its kind in the US, its interesting and interactive exhibitions focus on diverse themes like African craftsmanship, the breakdown of segregation and the fight for equality. Aside from seeing items owned by famous figures such as Muhammad Ali, Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner, you can also enjoy the astonishing architecture of the building which is based on the three-tiered crowns found in Yoruban art.

14. National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art

As it is widely considered to be one of the best museums in the States, the National Gallery of Art is definitely not to be missed when in D.C. Packed with incredible paintings and photos, sculptures and prints, it showcases masterpieces by everyone from Raphael and Rembrandt to Monet, Picasso and van Gogh.

Founded in 1937 on the National Mall, the museum consists of the neoclassical West Building, the strikingly modern East Building and a gorgeous outdoor sculpture garden. Each focuses on various artistic mediums and epochs covering not only modern and contemporary artworks but the medieval period too with astounding pieces by European masters and American artists featuring throughout.

13. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

A very sobering yet important place to visit, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is set just south of the National Mall. Home to thousands of historic artifacts, photos and oral testimonies, it educates people on the atrocities committed during WWII, confronts genocide and antisemitism and remembers the survivors and victims of the Holocaust.

As soon as you enter the museum you are immediately confronted by the past as you are handed an identification card of an actual person who experienced the Holocaust. While wandering through its well-designed galleries full of shocking images and original artifacts, visitors learn about everything from Hitler’s rise to power and Aryan ideology to the horrors of Kristallnacht, ghettos and the Final Solution. Particularly moving parts are its Tower of Faces and candle-lit Hall of Remembrance.

12. Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials

Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials

Yet further thought-provoking and powerful spots for visitors to stop by are the Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials. Located not far from one another, their striking statues, plaques and memorial walls can be found towards the western end of the National Mall.

One of the most visited monuments in DC, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has a black granite wall emblazoned with the names of the fallen for you to walk along, as well as a Women’s Memorial and a bronze sculpture called The Three Servicemen. Equally impressive and emotive is the memorial to the Korean War Veterans that features stunning statues of a platoon on patrol and a peaceful Pool of Remembrance where you can pay your respects.

11. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Another of the biggest and best museums in not just D.C. and the States but the world is the excellent Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Lying along the National Mall, its almost endless galleries are crammed with awe-inspiring artifacts, exhibits and specimens that look at everything from Ancient Egypt and Korean culture to dinosaurs, epidemics and meteorites.

A firm favorite with families, the massive museum is a delight to explore with its collection now numbering a whopping 145 million items in total. Asides from seeing replicas of giant whales and skeletons of triceratops, you can also watch tarantulas be fed in the Insect Zoo, wander through the colorful butterfly pavilion or catch a show in its IMAX theater.

10. Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral

The U.S. government likes to separate church and state, so it doesn’t have a formal national cathedral, but if it had one, it would have to be the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, which is considered the spiritual home of this nation.

More commonly known as Washington National Cathedral, this Neo-Gothic structure is the sixth largest cathedral in the world. Funerals for Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and Ford were held here. Worship services are free, but admission is charged to tour the rest of the cathedral.

9. Library of Congress

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is today the largest library in the world. But it had more humble beginnings, being founded in 1800 to house early documents of the United States that were transferred from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. For the first 100 years, it was mainly a reference library for Congress, but today is home to 158 million items that include 36 million books in 460 languages and 69 million manuscripts.

It has the largest collection of rare books in North America. The library is open to the public, but potential users are asked to check the library’s list of holdings on online before they come to make research materials more easily findable when they arrive. The main reading room is known as the Sacred Room, and is absolutely stunning.

8. Georgetown Neighborhood

Georgetown Neighborhood

Georgetown is an historic district that was established in Maryland decades before the U.S. government was established in Washington, D.C. It became part of the nation’s capital when Congress created the District of Columbia in 1871. Today Georgetown is a trendy place to live, work and play. It is home to a top university, several embassies and the Old Stone House, the oldest unchanged building in D.C.

Located in northwest Washington, D.C., the area has served as home to such notables as Thomas Jefferson, when he was vice president of the United States; Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner following a War of 1812 battle; and John F. Kennedy, who left his home there to move into the White House.

7. National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

Visitors don’t have to be kids to be fascinated by the National Air and Space Museum. Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Air and Space Museum offers plenty of hands-on activities for kids of all ages, from eight to 80. The museum is a treasure trove about America’s air and space programs.

Exhibits include everything from the 1903 Wright Flyer to the Apollo 11 moon-landing expedition to exhibits on how scientists are exploring space today. The best part? Admission to the basic museum is free, though fees charged may be charged for features such as IMAX.

6. Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial is a tribute to the US’ third president, Thomas Jefferson, and incorporates many of his thoughts on architecture. Its formal style resembles the Pantheon in Rome. This design created a controversy because some felt it looked too much like the Lincoln Memorial. The debate was settled by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who laid the cornerstone in 1939.

Located on the National Mall, it features a statue of Jefferson looking toward the White House, and is intended to memorialize Jefferson’s views as a statesman and philosopher. Because Japanese cherry trees had to be torn down for the memorial, it now hosts Washington’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

5. Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is a stunning tribute to the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated as he attended a theatre performance. A mammoth statue of the seated president is surrounded by a Greek Doric style temple. The memorial was dedicated in 1922, with Lincoln’s last surviving son, Robert Todd, in attendance.

Located at the west end of the National Mall, the memorial is where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963. It also has been featured in several movies ranging from 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Nixon to an episode of the Simpsons. The memorial is open 24 hours a day, with National Park rangers on hand from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

4. Washington Monument

Washington Monument

One of the most distinctive and defining landmarks in DC, the brilliantly bright white Washington Monument rises dramatically above the National Mall below. Towering 555 feet in height, the enormous obelisk commemorates the First President of the United States and his significant military achievements during the American Revolutionary War.

The tallest monument column in the world, it makes for a stupendous sight as it looms above the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial. Besides taking photos of the majestic marble structure, you can also take a trip up to its lofty observation deck. From here you can enjoy simply phenomenal views over many of the city’s most important and impressive monuments, museums and memorials.

3. United States Capitol

United States Capitol

The United States Capitol is where Congress meets. Sessions of the Senate and House of Representatives are open to the public when the bodies are in session. Visitors need free passes, which can be obtained from their congressmen’s office. At the same time, they can also get passes to tour the Capitol building, as guided tours do not include visiting legislators in action.

The Capitol was one of the first buildings constructed by the fledgling U.S. government following the Revolutionary War. Construction began in 1793, with legislators meeting there for the first time in 1800. Central to the Capitol building is the rotunda, which lies under the dome. This is where honored citizens, such as presidents, lie in state.

2. White House

White House

The White House serves many purposes. It is where the President works and lives with his family. It is also the symbol of the United States to the rest of the world. It is where the President officially meets with leaders of foreign nations and hosts them at state dinners.

The site for the White House was selected by George Washington, first president of this new nation, but President John Adams was the first to live in it. It was burned by the British during the War of 1812, but later reconstructed. Self-guided tours are available for visitors who plan ahead. They must request a tour through their congressman’s office 21 days to six months in advance.

1. National Mall

National Mall

Visitors to Washington, D.C., won’t want to miss a stroll on the National Mall, a greenway that will take them past many of the capital’s important sites. Located downtown, the National Mall stretches on the west from the US Capitol building to the Potomac River and on the east from the Jefferson Memorial to Constitution Avenue.

Across the streets from the mall, but still considered part of it, are a variety of Smithsonian museums and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. To the east, nearby attractions include memorials to Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and James Garfield, and the Reflecting Pool. With about 24 million visitors a year, it is the top tourist attraction in Washington.

Map of Tourist Attractions in Washington DC

Map of Tourist Attractions in Washington DC

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Top 20 must-see tourist attractions in WA

Travel & Touring  |  WA Destinations

27 September, 2022  By: Monique Ceccato

No matter which part of WA you're planning on visiting, there'll  be no shortage of incredible wonders to keep you busy.

There are so many unique things to see and do in Western Australia, from sprawling forest and rugged coastlines to ancient gorges. Not sure where to start sightseeing? These top 20 WA tourist attractions are a great way to begin planning your trip.

1. Ningaloo Reef

People swimming over Ningaloo Reef near Coral Bay

Covering some 300km from Carnarvon’s Red Bluff, all the way around the tip of the cape, to Exmouth Gulf’s Bundegi Beach, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef is the world’s largest fringing reef system, much of it accessible close to the mainland. It’s also the home of the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark .

Anywhere between 300-500 of these plankton-feeding giants frequent the reef throughout the year. From mid-March through to late July, the chances of seeing them swim along the reef are high. Watch them from the air or witness them gliding through the water in their natural habitat on a thrilling whale shark swim.

The whale sharks are in good company, with manta rays, turtles, and humpback whales also frequent visitors to Ningaloo’s waters. If you’re lucky, you’ll see them on a snorkelling, diving, or whale shark swim, too.

2. Valley of the Giants

The Tree Top Walk in the Valley of the Giants

If anything in WA is going to make you feel small, it’s the towering Tingle trees of the Valley of the Giants, between Denmark and Walpole . Endemic to the South West and Walpole Wilderness Area, the eucalypts can grow up to a whopping 24m in circumference and 45m in height.

The best living example is aptly named the Giant Tingle Tree. Follow the 1km loop trail from the Hilltop Lookout carpark, and you can walk through the hollowed-out base of the 400-year-old tree.

For a different perspective, head out on the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk . The 600m-long circular walkway is suspended 40m above the ground, enveloping you in the canopies as you wander your way around.

3. The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park

Taking a drive through Nambung National Park, 190km north of Perth near Cervantes , is as close as you’re going to get to feeling like you’ve just landed on another planet. Thousands of jagged natural limestone structures known as The Pinnacles jut out of the park's yellow desert landscape.

Formed 25,000 to 30,000 years ago from sea shell deposits left behind when the ocean receded, The Pinnacles have been whipped into their irregular shapes by wind and sand erosion. There are column-like structures that reach 3.5m in height and others that are shorter, smoother, and more like small domes.

4. Bungle Bungle Range

The Bungle Bungle Range with people walking in the foreground

Until 1983, the orange and black striped domes of the Bungle Bungle Range were known only to the traditional custodians of the land, the Karjaganujaru people. Shortly after a film crew ‘discovered’ the ranges, the Purnululu National Park was established, and, in 2003, the Bungle Bungles and park received their UNESCO World Heritage status.

Approximately 300km south of Kununurra , the sandstone cones – some up to 250m tall – are remote, accessible only by four-wheel drive or on a scenic flyover with Helispirit or AviAir. From above, trace the deep canyons and gorges as they snake through the Bungles. On the ground, don’t miss Cathedral Gorge, a red rock amphitheatre with near-perfect acoustics and a serene pool of water.

5. WA Museum Boorla Bardip

WA Museum Boorla Bardip exterior of building

After four years of downtime and $400m worth of upgrades, the impressive WA Museum Boola Bardip (meaning ‘many stories’ in Nyoongar language) reopened to the public in 2020. At four times the size of the old museum, there are almost 7,000 square metres of gallery to explore.

Eight permanent exhibitions are on display, each centring around either the people of Western Australia and their stories, the beautiful landscapes and fauna of the state, or Western Australia’s place in and impact on the world.

Taking pride of place in the gallery hall is Otto, a 24-metre blue whale skeleton that’s more than 120 years old. It joins many more displays of WA’s unique flora and fauna, installations on the state’s most recognised landforms, and information on the prehistoric creatures that once roamed the land.

6. Kings Park

Two people sitting on the grass at Kings Park

The best views of Perth city come courtesy of Kings Park . Sitting atop Mount Eliza just to the west of the city, the 400-hectare park looks out over the Swan and Canning Rivers, the city skyline, and the Darling Ranges in the distance.

Soak up the views by picnicking on the manicured lawns or wandering the Lotterywest Federation Walkway, pausing on the bridge for happy snaps. Keep following the many trails and walkways to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of native bushland, which covers two-thirds of the park. The final third consists of playgrounds, grassed areas, and the native flower-filled Western Australia Botanic Garden.

Head up from late August to October to see the flower beds blooming with carpets of everlastings, kangaroo paws, and all kinds of West Australian acacias.

RELATED: Top 20 things to do in Perth »

7. Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison underground tunnel tour in a small boat

Only decommissioned as a maximum-security prison in 1991, the Fremantle Prison has a long history with some of Western Australia’s most hardened criminals. Built by convicts in the 1850s, the site now stands as the largest convict-built structure in all of WA. It’s also known as the best-preserved convict-built structure in Australia.

Entry to the site is free and allows visitors access to the museum, cafe, gift shop, and prison gallery, where you can peruse art created by current inmates in Western Australia. For a more in-depth introduction to the prison, three daytime tours are on offer. Each walks you through the stories of convict and prisoner life within the prison walls. Those with nerves of steel can opt to do a tour of the tunnels deep beneath the prison, including some water-filled sections of tunnel where you’ll make your way through in replica convict punts. (Prices vary).

8. Rottnest Island

People swimming near reef on Rottnest Island

Rottnest – or Wadjemup in Whadjuk Nyoongar language – has garnered plenty of international attention thanks to its cute, furry quokka population. But, the 19km2 island has so much more to offer than just a cheeky selfie with its most famous residents.

The shores of Thompson Bay are just 25-minutes by ferry from Fremantle (RAC members can purchase discounted tickets ). There, you’ll find the newly refurbished Isola Bar e Cibo, Hotel Rottnest, and Samphire Rottnest. Choose any one in the trio for an indulgent long lunch in the sun, complete with quokka visitors and impeccable ocean views.

Hire a bicycle from the nearby Pedal and Flipper, and spend the day bay-hopping around the island. There are plenty to choose from, but snorkelling fans should make a beeline for The Basin and sun-soakers, the stretch of sand at Pinky Beach.

9. Busselton Jetty

Busselton Jetty aerial photo

Wagin has the giant ram, Harvey the big orange. Busselton , 45-minutes south of Bunbury , is famed for its king-sized jetty. At 1.841km, the Busselton Jetty is officially the southern hemisphere’s longest timber piled jetty.

There’s a 90-seat electric train that runs the length of it, transporting passengers from the shores of Geographe Bay out to the underwater observatory at the end. It’s one of only six natural underwater observatories in the world and allows you a first-hand glimpse into what lies below the surface.

There, 8m down, you can watch southern calamari, decorator crabs, and, if you’re lucky, southern fiddler or eagle rays going about their daily business among the pylons.

10. Wave Rock

Aerial shot of Wave Rock near Hyden

Known as Katter Kitch to the Nyoongar people, Wave Rock near the town of Hyden is a significant site for many reasons. Not only was it a keniny (dancing ground) for the Ballardong custodians and an important part of their Dreamtime stories, but its unique formation was some 270 million years in the making.

Standing at 15m tall and 100m long, the multi-coloured granite landform gets its name for its likeness to a crashing wave. Even if you’re not a regular Kelly Slater, standing at the base of the wave for a photo ‘surfing’ it is customary.

Just 800m away you’ll find the Wave Rock Salt Bath. It’s a 6m-deep gypsum pool the colour of jade, with a higher salinity than the Dead Sea. Slide in for a relaxing, weightless float.

RELATED: Perth to Wave Rock road trip (3 days) »

11. Kalbarri National Park

Pot Alley coastal cliffs in Kalbarri National Park

Experiencing the beauty of Kalbarri National Park is now even more accessible, thanks to the dual cantilevered platforms of the Kalbarri Skywalk. Extending 25m out from the rim of the Murchison River Gorge, the universally accessible platforms project sightseers over the 100m high chasm for a view you just wouldn’t get otherwise.

To see the red and white banded gorges from a different angle, take the 9km grade 4 Loop Walk. It starts along the edge of the cliffs and winds its way down to the river bank below before climbing back up to end at the iconic Nature’s Window. Temperatures in the valley can reach 50 degrees in summer, so the trail is closed after 7.00am from November to March. It’s best to attempt it in spring and autumn.

RELATED: Perth to Kalbarri road trip itinerary »

12. Karijini

An aerial shot of Karijini National Park with a family walking

Tranquil, fern-lined swimming holes, arid plateaus, and deep rock chasms are hallmarks of Karijini National Park, a desert oasis 1,400km to the northeast of Perth.

Karijini is one of WA’s most unique and picturesque national parks, one that needs to be seen to be believed. Explore its deepest crevices and hidden swimming holes by taking one of the many walking trails that weave through the park. Fern Pool and Hamersley Gorge’s Spa Pool are some of the most popular routes. Fed by a small waterfall and surrounded by curved rock, the iridescently blue waters of the latter are an unforgettable place to take a dip.

It’s best to save your visit until late autumn, winter, or spring, avoiding the blistering heat and the deluge of rain the summer (and wet season) brings.

13. Albany’s Gap and Natural Bridge

People on the viewing platform over The Gap near Albany

Albany’s southern-facing coastline is one of the most exposed in the state. It’s also one of the most spectacular. Enjoy panoramic views from Bald Head to West Cape Howe from universally accessible lookout points at The Gap and the Natural Bridge.

At The Gap, a meshwork platform allows you to stand 40m above the surging Southern Ocean and watch it as it smashes against the granite cliff face below. In winter, a spraying of seawater is expected, so prepare well with ponchos and raincoats. For a less turbulent and altogether drier experience, the equally scenic Natural Bridge is a short walk away.

RELATED: Perth to Albany road trip itinerary  »

14. Stirling Range and Bluff Knoll

Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Range

If you thought it didn’t snow in Western Australia, think again. When the conditions are just right, a light dusting covers the Stirling Range’s tallest peak, Bluff Knoll , 415km from Perth. It’s a spectacle that draws tourists and hikers in from all around the state.

Climbing to the top of Bluff Knoll is a healthy challenge, the 6km round trip taking around 3 hours to complete. If you’re not up to the climb, there is a 42km scenic drive (on unsealed roads) that winds through the Stirling Range National Park, with plenty of lookout points along the way.

A short drive away is the Granite Skywalk in the Porongorup Range, another challenging uphill hike with a spectacular vantage point at the top.

15. Dolphins at Monkey Mia

Dolphin feeding on the beach at Monkey Mia

There are few places in Western Australia where you can get a close-up look at dolphins in their natural habitat. At Monkey Mia a small resort town fringing Francois Peron National Park on the Coral Coast, morning meetings with the bottlenose are a daily occurrence.

The wild dolphins cruise into the bay in the early morning, past a line-up of people in ankle-deep water, hoping to catch a glimpse. Anyone that’s paid the reserve fee on entry to the site can join in on the viewing, but spots are limited, so it’s best to arrive early.

Post-dolphin interaction, cool off in the bay's calm waters, have a bite to eat up at RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort’s  Boughshed Restaurant or take a hiking trail through the national park.

RELATED: Things to do in the Shark Bay region »

16. Aboriginal rock art of the North West

Wandjina Aboriginal Rock art paintings on a rock wall

Western Australia’s most prized art collection isn’t housed within the Art Gallery of Western Australia; it’s in the caves and on the rock faces of Murujuga National Park, 5km northeast of Dampier.

Aboriginal engravings (known as petroglyphs) in this region have been estimated to be up to 40,000 years old, providing a pictorial record of anything that held meaning to the Ngarluma-Yindjibarndi, Yaburara-Mardudhunera and the Woon-goo-tt-oo Aboriginal people of the Pilbara at that time.

The most popular site to see the ancient artwork is Ngajarli Gorge. A 700m accessible boardwalk winds through the rock piles where you can find human figures, marine life, and birds etched into the stone, as well as other historical artifacts. Remember to tread lightly, respect the artwork, and, due to cultural restrictions, avoid taking photos of any petroglyphs of the human form.

RELATED:   Aboriginal rock art of the North West »

17. Horizontal Falls

A boat crossing Horizontal Falls in Talbot Ba

Western Australia’s Kimberley region is home to a rich Aboriginal cultural heritage, a long pearling history, and some of the most striking landscapes in the country. It can also lay claim to Australia’s largest tides. At its most extreme, the tidal difference can reach 10m or more, causing a rushing effect as the water ebbs and flows over the course of the day.

The fast-moving water can be seen all around the Buccaneer Archipelago, but it’s in Talbot Bay where the tide really puts on a show. Each day, water gushes through the narrow gaps in the McLarty Range, forming what’s known as the Horizontal Falls (or Garaanngaddim to the Dambimangari people). Witness it from the air on a scenic flight from Broome or Derby, or land on the water before jetting through the falls on a high-speed boat.

RELATED: Great drives in the Kimberly and Pilbara »

18. Abrolhos Islands

Aerial shot of Abrolhos Islands

Rottnest isn’t the only idyllic island that lies off the west coast. The Houtman Abrolhos – better known as the Abrolhos Islands – is a chain of 122 small islands and islets 90-minutes from Geraldton by fast ferry or even closer by light plane. With most of the islands nothing more than brilliantly white sand, turquoise waters, and coastal scrub, they’re a day-trip destination only.

Pack a snorkel and take to the waters, where seagrass meadows and tropical coral reef meet. The islands are home to the southernmost tropical reef in the Indian Ocean, a product of the warm Leeuwin current passing through the otherwise temperate waters. On dry land, get to know the infamous history of the islands (it includes shipwrecks and mutiny), and watch the sea lions and tammar wallabies bask in the sunshine.

19. Lake Argyle

 Aerial shot of Lake Argyle at sunset with boats in the water

Technically classified as an inland sea, the mammoth Lake Argyle is Australia’s second-largest artificial reservoir. The freshwater system just out of Kununurra covers approximately 1000km2 and holds 32 million cubic litres of water – that’s some 20 times larger than Sydney Harbour.

Fed by the fertile Ord River, the lake is a thriving marine environment. A wildlife cruise along the lake’s shoreline, its 70 islands, and up the Ord River will expose you to the region’s plentiful native flora and fauna, including wallabies, freshwater crocodiles, and more than 240 species of bird. Cruise at sunset and the odds of ticking them all off the ‘spotto’ list increase exponentially. But, to truly appreciate the size of Lake Argyle, it’s best seen from the air.

20. Mitchell Falls

Mitchell Falls three-tiered waterfall

There are arguably no Australian falls more beautiful than the Kimberley’s Mitchell Falls (known as Punamii-Uunpuu to the Wunambal people). An intercept along the Mitchell River’s path, the falls tumble down a series of red rock tiers, collecting in deep, emerald-coloured pool after pool.

Swimming is permitted in the top pools, where it’s safe to cool off without the threat of the local wildlife. A dip comes as a welcome treat after the 4.3km walk out to the falls, taking the Punamii-Uunpuu walking trail from the campground.

Less energy is expended seeing the icon by air, either on a scenic flight or helicopter tour departing from Kununurra.

Need a place to stay in the Kimberley?

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Image credit: Tourism Western Australia

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RAC - For the better

Guard shoots alleged robber at Chinatown Walgreens, a frequent target of crime

Police say the man who was wounded has targeted the store in six previous robberies.

washington tourist attractions top 10

Six times since July, police allege, the same man robbed the same Walgreens in Chinatown, across the street from the Gallery Place Metro station. The FBI joined D.C. police trying to track him down.

Residents had long complained of crime and decay in the once-bustling downtown Washington neighborhood of shops and businesses that never seemed to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic , and they had pressed city officials to take more aggressive steps to clean up the area. Prosecutors began seeking stay-away orders to keep those charged with crimes from coming back, and the city planned an initiative to offer resources for those in the area needing help.

Then on Sunday evening — the day before the city was scheduled to roll out that initiative — police said, 24-year-old Kamanye Williams again robbed the Walgreens at Seventh and H streets Northwest, taking a security guard’s gun and grabbing $4,200 in cash from a backroom.

But this time, D.C. police said another security guard shot the suspected robber, now carrying two firearms, sending him to a hospital with critical injuries. The guard, Police Chief Pamela A. Smith said, “did exactly what needed to happen.”

The robbery and shooting illustrated the challenge officials have faced in reducing crime in a central commuter hub and a destination for those coming to sporting events and concerts at Capital One Arena, a few blocks from the Walgreens.

Violent crime increased 12 percent last year in Chinatown, which saw 52 robberies, compared with 40 in 2022, according to police statistics for the patrol area that covers the neighborhood. Robberies, though, have gone down significantly so far this year. Through early February of this year, there had been just three, compared with 12 during the same time period in 2022.

On Monday, officials vowed to make more improvements so people feel safer. The police chief joined Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) to announce the opening of a new office a few doors from the Walgreens where police officers and health and other officials will offer services to residents, including help with substance abuse and mental health problems.

The Chinatown-Gallery Place area — where high-rise apartment buildings and hotels sit alongside major tourist attractions such as the National Portrait Gallery and government buildings including the FBI headquarters — is roughly sandwiched between Mount Vernon Square and Pennsylvania Avenue. It includes more than 1,100 businesses employing 28,600 workers, according to city planning documents, and permanent residents number about 3,800.

The troubles in Chinatown have built since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered offices across the city. Streets are pockmarked with vacant storefronts that used to be restaurants and retailers, and residents have complained that the area around the Metro station, devoid of the ebb and flow of office workers, is particularly desolate, though Metro’s general manager said Monday that ridership is “going up.” Last week, the system saw its highest 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. hour since the pandemic.

At a community meeting in August, residents and executives for Monumental Sports & Entertainment — which owns the Capital One Arena and its two principal tenants, the Washington Capitals and Wizards — complained of drug dealing , loitering and assaults. Some people told police they had seen drug deals under the signature Friendship Arch, and they described pushing through the illicit activity to get into the Metro station. Police made arrests, they said, but they would soon see the same offenders back in the area hours later.

Residents, business owners confront D.C. officials over Chinatown crime

Police stepped up patrols with officers on foot and bicycles, and federal prosecutors said they started charging more misdemeanor crimes and seeking court-issued stay-away orders for people they arrested at or near the Metro station, hoping to keep them from returning to the area. Asked if that initiative is working, Smith said she has been in close contact with the U.S. attorney’s office but did not directly answer the question. “When we have asked for stay-away orders, they have been granted,” the police chief said.

In December, the owner of the two sports franchises announced plans to move the teams to a new arena in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood as soon as 2028.

Bowser is pushing Monumental to reconsider and to accept the District’s $500 million offer for upgrades. She said Monday’s announcement of the city’s first “Safe Commercial Corridor Hub” in Chinatown was one way of addressing the wide range of issues that can affect public safety, without relying exclusively on police. Monica Dixon, president of external affairs at Monumental, said the initiative “will make a big difference here, and we’re excited about it.” But when asked if Monumental was still considering Bowser’s offer, Dixon said the company was focused “100 percent” on Virginia.

D.C. officials said other hubs are planned this spring along the U Street entertainment area and in Anacostia.

The mayor said crime in Chinatown and across the city is down, but noted, “We have to work urgently to keep that up. We not only want people to be safe, but feel safe.”

Smith said the new office will ensure officers out on foot and on bicycles reach emergencies faster, and will make crisis counselors from the city departments of behavioral health and human services more accessible to people abusing drugs, experiencing homelessness or suffering mental breakdowns. Authorities said the office could also help free officers to concentrate on more serious criminal matters.

“This isn’t just about crime,” Smith said. “It’s about making sure we can quickly get services to people who are suffering.”

Before Sunday’s shooting, Smith said detectives and the FBI had been investigating armed robberies at the Walgreens, focusing on one man and possibly some accomplices. The robberies began in July and continued at pace of roughly one a month into the winter, authorities said.

Smith said investigators “were closing in on this suspect” when he “came back again” on Sunday.

About 6:30 p.m., police alleged, Williams, armed with a gun, walked into the Walgreens and forced a guard and an employee into a backroom. Police said he took away the guard’s gun, and stole money.

A second security guard then entered the backroom and shot Williams. A police report says authorities recovered $4,265, a black handgun belonging to the alleged robber and a Glock handgun that belonged to the guard.

Armed guards, called special police officers, are licensed by the District. D.C. police said their criminal investigation division and internal affairs are investigating the shooting. The guard who fired his weapons works for a private security company contracted by Walgreens. A representative of Walgreens did not respond to an interview request on Monday.

Smith said additional arrests are possible in the case. She said the suspect was being charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, armed robbery, assault on a police officer and carrying an unlicensed firearm in connection with Sunday’s incident. The chief said he faces six other charges in connection with the previous holdups of the Walgreens.

A police department spokesman, Tom Lynch, said the first robbery at the Walgreens that authorities attributed to Williams occurred July 18. The spokesman said one additional robbery occurred each month in 2023, except for October. Lynch said in each instance, a gunman forced an employee into a backroom. He said most occurred between 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Police said Williams remained hospitalized on Monday and he has not yet made an initial appearance in D.C. Superior Court. It could not be determined if he has an attorney.

A woman who answered a phone at an address linked to Williams identified herself as his grandmother, but declined to provide her name. She said she had not heard of the accusations against Williams. “I don’t have the full story, so I don’t want to comment,” she said.

Meagan Flynn contributed to this report.

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