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Travel to Washington State

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The natural world seems larger than life in Washington State, where giant conifers drip with lush green mosses in the Hoh Rain Forest, and volcanoes sit quietly (Mount Rainier and Mount Baker) or show the devastating effects of an eruption (Mount St. Helens). Seattle is the state's largest and trendiest city - its museums, attractions, and technology companies never being far from the historic waterfront. The state capital, Olympia, centers on an impressive legislative building but is otherwise evergreen and sleepy.

Washington State national parks range from the often-visited Olympic National Park to the seldom-toured North Cascades National Park. And throughout the Pacific Northwest state, communities large and small tempt with beaches, island getaways, and lakes suited to pleasure boating.

Olympic National Park and the Hoh Rain Forest

From ocean beaches to mountaintops, Olympic National Park overflows with incomparable scenery. The park covers most of the Olympic Peninsula, and roads only circle the park with a scenic drive on US 101, never cutting through the park's mountainous heart. Dozens of beaches, over-sized trees in the Hoh Rain Forest, lakes, the Sol Duc Hot Springs, waterfalls, and wildflowers at Hurricane Ridge near Port Angeles all list among the many reasons to visit this natural glory.

Seattle Center

Built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Seattle Space Needle and Monorail have continued to lure tourists with attractions, a park setting, sports venues, and restaurants. Among the newer sightseeing options are the colorful glass artworks at Chihuly Garden and Glass and the hands-on musical exhibits at the Experience Music Project. An architecturally interesting public building, the Seattle Central Library, is also worth a visit for its angular steel-and-glass design.

Future of Flight

Even those who aren't plane buffs will likely be impressed by the world's largest building - the Boeing factory located north of Seattle in Everett. Detailed tours through the facility happen daily under the attraction name Future of Flight. Indeed, the Seattle area is a destination for plane-spotters with the Museum of Flight in Seattle and busy SeaTac International Airport.

San Juan Islands

Dotting Puget Sound, various islands range from small rural getaways to thriving artistic hubs. The San Juan Islands are the best known of Washington's many islands, with the four largest being readily accessible by ferry. Each has a mix of galleries, seafood restaurants, and parks, including San Juan Island National Historic Park where British and American troops became embroiled in the Pig War border dispute. Puget Sound is also orca whale territory, and visitors may see the elegant mammals while on a ferry, from shore, or during a whale watching tour.

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier (14,410 feet) is one of a geologically recent chain of volcanoes in the Cascade Mountains. Also known as Mount Tacoma, the volcanic massif is often shrouded in cloud for days on end. But on clear days, it's a landmark visible from many miles away, including from Seattle and Olympia.

Located south of Seattle, Mount Rainier lies at the center of its namesake national park. The Road to Paradise is open, weather permitting, year-round, allowing visitors to reach high elevations for hiking in summer and snowshoeing in winter. A scenic drive winds through the dense forests, taking in waterfalls and views of the Cascade Mountains volcano. Other attractions are within easy distance of the park, including Northwest Trek wildlife park in Eatonville and the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad in the little town of Elbe.

Tacoma Museums

Located between Seattle and Olympia, Tacoma is one of Washington's larger cities. Once industrial in feel, the city has developed a variety of exceptional museums and cultural venues, especially those highlighting the beauty of art glass. The Museum of Glass features exquisite, translucent pieces, while the Bridge of Glass (a walkway decorated with glass sculptures) allows visitors to reach the nearby Washington State History Museum. For differing interests, there's the shiny appeal of LeMay - America's Car Museum, which exhibits heritage automobiles from its world-class collection.