Visiting Western Washington State

 

Washington state travel advice from a local

People around the world talk about "American culture," but the term itself is somewhat mistaken. Saying that there is one "American culture" misses the reality of the nation. The fact is that the United States is a very big place, composed of 50 states that each has its own distinctive culture, landscape, and personality. If you visit a state in the southeastern United States, for instance, you'll have a very different experience than you will if you visit the northeast or the southwest.

In this article, we're going to talk specifically about Washington state, which is on the northwest coast of the main body of the United States. To the west of Washington is the Pacific Ocean. To the north is the nation of Canada. Washington is a place synonymous with rugged nature, majestic mountains, salmon, polite people, craft beer, and Bigfoot!

Washington is a well-sought-after tourist location because it has such a wide array of things to offer. You can see the ocean, Mount Rainier, and Seattle, the state's biggest city, all in one day, and even on a single tank of gas if you're driving a fuel-efficient car.

(The reason I and many others often specify Washington "state," rather than just saying the proper name Washington, is to avoid having listeners confuse it with Washington, D.C., which is the capital of the United States and clear on the other side of the nation.)

Washingtonians love Nature, Books, Running, Coffee, Salmon, and Beer

   

Washington is defined by its landscape. Because there is so much land to explore, people who live here tend to love the outdoors. Kayaking, hiking, mountaineering, fishing, and camping are all very popular.

On weekends, Washingtonians like to head out to the mountains and rivers. The state sees large runs of salmon every year, to salmon fishing is a major pastime and a big industry.

Washington is also a very literate state, particularly in the capital city Olympia, in Seattle, and in Tacoma. If you read a book at a restaurant in one of these places, you're very likely to have someone start up a conversation about it.

The politics of western Washington tend to be very liberal and democratic.

Washingtonians are also marked by their informality and casualness. People like to dress in relaxed clothes, and flashy attire isn't generally popular. There's also a decided distaste for markers of socioeconomic status. If you go to most bars or restaurants (barring some of the clubs in the bigger cities), you'll likely find it very difficult to tell by sight who makes a lot of money and who doesn't.

Washingtonians love craft beer. There are many breweries in the state, and they frequently experiment with new recipes and seasonal flavors. Most of them have eateries and bars, as well, and craft-beer enthusiasts have cultivated a distinct subculture of their own.

Washingtonians also love coffee. Seattle is the home of Starbucks, after all. Even in small towns, you'll find a little coffee shop or drive-through hut on nearly every corner.

Because there are so many salmon here in the state, much of the cuisines revolved around the fish. There is also a relatively high Asian population and influence here, so Washington has some of the best sushi and Asian cuisine in the United States.

For exercise, running is very popular in western Washington. This may be because there are so many beautiful places to run to, but it may also be because the winters here are so mild. This brings us to the subject of weather…

My travel advice: It Rains a Lot, but Not as Bad as the Legends Say—Still, Try to Visit in Summer

   

The western part of Washington state (as defined by the north-south running Cascade Mountain Range) gets a lot of rain in the wintertime. This is true. But, the actual story is frequently misunderstood.

The rain is almost never heavy. Rather, for the duration of winter, mist and light rain falls perpetually. It's nothing compared to the intense lightning storms you'll find in other parts of the United States. The only reason it bothers people is because it never stops!

With the long winter rainy season comes long periods of gray skies. You can go for days or weeks without seeing a single ray of sunshine. This sometimes starts to wear on people's spirits by about December.

While the severity of the winter rains is exaggerated, visitors should still try to come in summertime, if possible. The reason isn't because the winters are so bad, but instead because the summers are so great!

With clear skies, you can see all the amazing mountains that fill Washington. The weather is usually relatively mild, rarely getting uncomfortably hot. Most Washingtonians don’t go out of state for summer vacation. We stay right here, because there's no other place in the world we'd rather be than Washington in summertime.

Also, because those long gray winters give us the doldrums, Washingtonians are energetic and happy in summertime. It's an active, lively place while the sun is out.

National parks

   

Washington is home to Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and North Cascades National Park. There are actually many other parks and natural areas, but I'll keep it to these three in order to keep this article manageably sized.

Washington has more temperate rain forest land than any other place in the world, and must of it is contained in Olympic National Park. With nearly a billion acres of land, it's one of the largest national parks in the country. This is also where you can see beautiful Washington coastal spots such as Ruby Beach and Kalaloch. These are rugged, rocky beaches, with primal waves pounding the surf. Driving highway 101 around the rim of Olympic National Park is a very popular thing to do.

Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in Washington. It's an awe-inspiring place to visit and is the state's most popular natural landmark. Getting to the top is a serious mountaineering feat, but you can drive around the mountain, as well, and see the many sites waiting there.

North Cascades National Park doesn’t get nearly as much visitation as Olympic or Mountain Rainier, but in some ways that's what makes it so great. This is truly rugged, raw land, with large densities of bear and other wildlife. Many of the roads leading to the park are shut down or otherwise impassable in wintertime, as the higher altitudes get heavy snow.

These parks are fantastic destinations for nature lovers. Olympic and Mountain Rainier require visitors to purchase permits, but as of this writing, the North Cascades are free entry.

Seattle

Photo by Josh Swift on Unsplash

Olympia, Tacoma, and several other Washington cities are great places to visit, but visitors to Washington usually seek out Seattle.

Seattle became a cultural landmark in the 1990s when Nirvana and the grunge music scene became very popular. It's also home to big businesses including Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing.

The Space Needle and Pike's Market are always popular places to visit. A couple years ago the city also built a Ferris wheel on its waterfront. The Museum of Pop Culture has a rock and roll hall of fame, a science fiction movie hall of fame, fantasy movie hall of fame, and a horror movie hall of fame.

Seattle culture is often synonymous with "hipsters" Indie music, indie video games, casual clothes, and technology are very important to Seattleites. This area is a hub of tech culture, so many people who live here are passionate about their gadgets. It's also a highly educated city, as well as an increasingly expensive one to live in.

Washington state travel advice from a local

   

Photo by Nicole Ditt on Unsplash

Western Washington is a beautiful area with more ecoregions than many nations have. The people are marked by their open-mindedness, individuality, politeness, and intellectual natures.

Having the ports of Tacoma and Washington, which sit in the Puget Sound, there is a diverse population of residents and visitors. It's a terrific place to explore, and if you ever get the opportunity to do so, I highly recommend.

The area is not as internationally known as New York City or Hollywood or other areas in the United States, but it's got a lot to offer. Ask most of us living here and we'll tell you there's no better place in the nation to experience.

Written by Jeff from Tacoma, Washington, U.S.A.

 

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