What Is Washington Known For?
Washington State, located in the Pacific Northwest, offers a unique blend of natural beauty and urban innovation. With robust tech and aerospace sectors, diverse cultural influences, and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, it’s a hub of progress and diversity. Washington’s commitment to environmental stewardship and its key role in the nation’s agricultural production further define its character. From modern city life to expansive landscapes, and from indigenous heritage to innovative sectors, Washington embodies the multifaceted nature of the American experience.
Nestled in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, the state of Washington is a geographical and cultural wonderland that continues to captivate both residents and visitors alike.
Or, at least, I assume that’s why tens of thousands of people seem to be intent on moving here every year.
What I do know, however, is that Washington is a unique place, even among the other states of the PNW.
First, Washington is home to breathtaking natural beauty. This state is not just a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, but a place where nature truly takes center stage. Here, one can witness the splendor of Mount Rainier, navigate the dense Hoh Rainforest, explore the enchanting San Juan Islands, or admire the cascading waters of Snoqualmie Falls. With its diverse ecosystems, Washington stands as a testament to nature’s incredible power and resilience.
But Washington’s appeal isn’t limited to the natural world. Its urban centers, notably Seattle, are famed for their rich history, architectural marvels, coffee culture, tech industry, and vibrant arts scene. Not to mention, the state’s legacy in the music industry, having birthed bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and the burgeoning wine industry, are points of pride for Washingtonians.
So whether you’re very familiar with Washington State or just considering visiting, let’s check out some of the things that the state is known for and see if it’s for you!
30 Things Washington Is Known For…
Seattle, Washington’s largest city, is a cultural and economic hub. It’s also a strange place full of lots of strange characters (of which I am one at times).
Known for its distinctive skyline dominated by the iconic Space Needle, Seattle’s vibrant music scene birthed the grunge movement in the 1990s, with bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden gaining international fame.
The city is also known for its rich theater scene, with numerous theater companies operating in the region. The tech industry thrives here with major corporations such as Amazon and Microsoft having their headquarters in the Seattle metropolitan area, drawing a diverse and highly skilled population to the city. Home to a multitude of museums, parks, and festivals, Seattle also boasts the famous Pike Place Market, a lively and bustling public market overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront.
2. Space Needle
The Space Needle is an iconic observation tower in Seattle, a symbol of the Pacific Northwest, and a signature of the Seattle skyline.
Standing at 605 feet tall, it was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River when it was built for the 1962 World’s Fair.
Offering panoramic views of the stunning cityscape, visitors can enjoy a meal at the rotating SkyCity restaurant (if it ever reopens…), learn about the tower’s history, and experience the thrill of the glass floor at the observation deck.
3. Tech Companies
The tech industry is a significant part of Washington’s economy and identity, with two of the world’s largest tech companies, Microsoft and Amazon, headquartered in the Seattle metropolitan area.
This should also give you an idea of the type of people who live and work in Washington…tech dudes making $400k per year but concerned about plastic straw waste. Just don’t ask them how they’re going to recycle the battery from their Tesla.
However, it’s undeniable that these companies, along with a vibrant startup scene, contribute to Washington’s reputation as a tech powerhouse.
4. Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park, established in 1899, is a 236,381-acre park that showcases the grandeur of the Pacific Northwest’s landscapes and ecosystems.
Dominated by Mount Rainier, an active stratovolcano standing at 14,411 feet, it’s the highest peak in the state and one of the most prominent in the continental United States.
The park offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, wildlife viewing, and winter sports, along with over 260 miles of maintained trails and three campgrounds. It’s also home to old-growth forests, subalpine meadows, and over 150 bird species, offering rich biodiversity.
5. Olympic National Park
Covering nearly a million acres, Olympic National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its diverse ecosystems, which include the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, and temperate rainforests.
The park is home to several unique species, such as the Olympic marmot, the Olympic mud minnow, and the largest unmanaged herd of Roosevelt elk in the Pacific Northwest.
The park offers a variety of recreational activities like backpacking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Visitors can also explore the historic Lake Crescent Lodge, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, and the famous Hoh Rain Forest.
Washington, specifically Seattle, is famous for its coffee culture, and, believe me, the people are proud of it and do their best to live up to the stereotype.
Seattle gave birth to Starbucks, the largest coffee chain globally, which opened its first store in 1971 at Pike Place Market. But it’s not just about Starbucks; the city is home to numerous local coffee shops and roasters. Coffee lovers in Seattle take their brew seriously, and coffee is woven into the city’s social fabric, influencing conversations, relationships, and the pace of life.
Seattle also hosts coffee festivals and has coffee-related tours that take participants on a journey through the coffee process, from roasting to brewing.
7. Grunge Music
Washington state, particularly Seattle, was the epicenter of the grunge music movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s (and all the people who came for it are still here…)
Grunge, characterized by its distorted guitar sound, angst-filled lyrics, and stripped-down aesthetics, was a departure from the ostentatious glam rock and heavy metal scenes of the 1980s.
Bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains led this musical revolution, creating a cultural shift. The legacy of grunge music is still evident in Seattle’s vibrant music scene today, which continues to foster diverse musical talent and innovation.
You may have thought that, as a coastal state, Washington would be exporting huge amounts of seafood. While you wouldn’t be totally off base, the main export that the state is heralded for is….drumroll…apples.
In fact, Washington state is the leading producer of apples in the United States, providing about two-thirds of the country’s total apple supply.
The apple industry also plays a significant role in the state’s agricultural economy, providing jobs and supporting local communities.
Washington’s fertile volcanic soil, low rainfall, and plenty of sunshine make it ideal for apple cultivation and the state grows a variety of apples, including Red Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, and Honeycrisp.
Every year, Washington celebrates its apple industry with apple-themed events and festivals.
Washington is the second-largest wine producer in the United States, behind only California. The state’s diverse climate and rich soil allow for the cultivation of a wide range of grape varieties.
Washington’s wine country, spread over regions like the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla, and Columbia Valley, hosts over 1,000 wineries producing varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.
The state’s wines are known for their quality and diversity, regularly scoring high on wine critics’ charts.
10. The Boeing Company
The Boeing Company, originally founded in Seattle by William E. Boeing, has been a significant part of Washington’s identity and economy for over a century. As one of the largest global aerospace manufacturers and the second-largest defense contractor in the world, Boeing designs and manufactures airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets, satellites, telecommunication equipment, and missiles.
Even though its headquarters have moved to Chicago, the company still has a considerable presence in Washington, especially in the Everett factory, which is known for being the largest building in the world by volume (they’re making airplanes there afterall…)
11. Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders
Sports play an important role in Washingtonian culture, and the Seattle Seahawks (NFL) and the Seattle Sounders (MLS) are the two teams with the most rabid fanbases.
The Seahawks, who play at Lumen Field, have a Super Bowl title and multiple playoff appearances. Their fans, known as the “12th Man,” are famous for their enthusiastic support and you’ll see flags/signs/etc. throughout the entire state if you’re road tripping.
The Sounders, one of the most successful teams in MLS, have won the MLS Cup multiple times. Matches at Lumen Field are known for their lively atmosphere and passionate fan support.
12. Pike Place Market
Established in 1907, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the United States. Overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle, the market is a place of business for small farmers, craftspeople, and merchants.
It’s also home to the original Starbucks and the best grilled cheese sandwich you can get your hands on (at Beecher’s).
In addition to the food, you can find a bunch of (overpriced) craft shops and typical farmer’s market fare including veggies, honey, fish, etc.
If you’re in Seattle for more than a day, Pike Place Market is a must-visit.
13. Gates Foundation
Even though this might be considered an off-shoot of “Tech Giants” I figured I’d include it separately as it influences the area greatly, including the public schools.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, headquartered in Seattle, is one of the world’s largest and most influential charitable organizations.
Founded by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, the foundation’s primary aim is to enhance global healthcare and reduce extreme poverty. With a considerable endowment, it invests vast amounts in diverse projects, from improving education in the United States to combating infectious diseases worldwide.
Over the years, the Gates Foundation has played a pivotal role in immunization efforts, agricultural development, and policy planning. Its high-impact philanthropy has affected millions of lives across the globe, driving progress in health and education.
There are several charter schools in Washington that are sponsored by Bill Gates so, if you want your kids to get into tech, move to Washington and start them young!
14. The Emerald City
Seattle is often referred to as the “Emerald City,” a nickname owing to the lush evergreen forests of the state.
The nickname truly encapsulates the city’s charm, nestled between Puget Sound and Lake Washington and surrounded by mountains and evergreen trees.
This greenery is not confined to the outskirts alone but extends into the heart of the city with numerous parks, such as the 534-acre Discovery Park and the iconic Volunteer Park. The city’s dedication to maintaining its natural spaces amidst urban growth contributes significantly to the high quality of life enjoyed by its residents.
15. Diverse Cuisine
Washington State offers a diverse culinary scene influenced by its rich cultural diversity, abundance of fresh produce, and access to the sea.
From the fresh seafood, including the world-renowned Dungeness crab and Pacific salmon, to the farm-to-table movement, the state’s culinary landscape is a treat for foodies.
It is also known for its Asian cuisine, with sushi, pho, and dim sum being quite popular.
Unlike Portland (which is mainly known for street food, doughnuts, and food trucks), Seattle has several luxury restaurants worthy of Michelin Stars that will please even the pickiest travelers.
16. Unique Wildlife
Washington state is home to diverse ecosystems that support a rich array of wildlife. From the orcas that inhabit the waters of Puget Sound to the Roosevelt elk in the Olympic National Park, the state offers numerous opportunities for wildlife viewing.
It’s also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with hundreds of bird species, including the American Goldfinch, the state bird.
The state prides itself on conservation efforts and its various parks, wildlife refuges, and nature reserves, including the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, work towards the conservation of these species and their habitats.
17. Native American Heritage
Washington state has a rich Native American heritage with over 29 federally recognized tribes. These tribes, including the Yakama, the Spokane, and the Lummi, have greatly influenced the state’s history, culture, and identity.
Visitors can learn about this rich cultural heritage through various museums, cultural centers, and events, such as the Seattle Art Museum’s Native American collection or the annual Canoe Journey event where tribes from the Pacific Northwest travel along traditional canoe routes.
18. Education and Research Institutions
Washington is home to several esteemed educational and research institutions, including the University of Washington, Washington State University, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
The University of Washington, in particular, is noted for its medical, engineering, and science programs and is considered one of the top research universities globally.
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, based in Seattle, is renowned for its work in disease research. These institutions contribute to making Washington a hub for innovation and research.
19. Outdoor Recreation
Given its diverse landscapes, ranging from the Pacific coastline to towering mountain ranges and vast forests, Washington State offers a plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities.
Activities such as hiking, skiing, kayaking, fishing, boating, and camping are popular and people from the area almost all claim to enjoy them (whether or not that’s true…)
Washington is a haven for hikers, with trails ranging from the challenging Pacific Crest Trail to the picturesque trails in the Mount Rainier National Park and the Olympic National Park. The state’s waters are ideal for boating and fishing, with numerous lakes, rivers, and the Pacific Ocean providing a variety of aquatic adventures.
20. Sustainability Efforts
Washington State is nationally recognized for its leadership in sustainability and environmental stewardship.
It has extensive policies and programs aimed at preserving its natural resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting clean energy (including the dang paper straws that people keep giving me).
The state produces a significant amount of its energy from renewable sources, notably hydroelectric power thanks to its many rivers. Seattle, known as the Emerald City, is a leader in green building practices and was among the first cities to implement a comprehensive recycling program.
The city also promotes eco-friendly transportation, with numerous bike paths and an expanding light rail system. These efforts are reflected in the residents’ attitudes towards conservation and sustainability, making Washington a forerunner in the fight against climate change.
21. Ballard Locks
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, commonly known as the Ballard Locks, is a complex system that separates the saltwater of the Puget Sound from the freshwater of the Ship Canal connecting to Lake Union and other waterways.
Built in the early 20th century, the locks are used for recreational and commercial boat traffic, preventing the mixing of sea and freshwater while maintaining the water level of the freshwater bodies. The locks also house a fish ladder, which allows salmon to migrate between fresh and salt water.
The Ballard Locks are one of Seattle’s top attractions, especially when Salmon are moving through as you can see them via underwater viewing windows.
22. Washington State Ferries
The Washington State Ferries system, the largest ferry system in the U.S., is a vital part of the state’s transportation infrastructure. It serves eight counties within Washington and the Province of British Columbia in Canada.
With a fleet of 21 ferries, it provides transportation to over 23 million passengers annually. The ferry system is an iconic part of Washington’s culture, offering stunning views of the state’s waterways, islands, and surrounding mountains.
23. Aerospace Industry
Washington has a long history with the aerospace industry, largely due to The Boeing Company.
Established in Seattle in 1916, Boeing has grown into one of the world’s largest aerospace manufacturers. Despite moving its headquarters to Chicago, the company maintains a significant presence in the state. The largest division of Boeing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, is headquartered in Renton, and its largest factory is located in Everett.
Other aerospace companies, including Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne, also operate in the state. The Museum of Flight in Seattle offers an extensive overview of the industry’s history and Washington’s role in it.
Besides apples, Washington state is known for producing the highest quality cherries in the United States, specifically Bing, Rainier, and Chelan cherries.
The state’s combination of rich volcanic soil, plentiful sunshine, and crisp mountain water provides an ideal environment for cherry trees. Cherry harvest season in Washington is a bustling time, with farms opening for U-pick and a variety of festivals celebrating the juicy fruit.
25. San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are a beautiful archipelago in the northernmost corner of the contiguous United States, between the U.S. mainland and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
They’re known for their stunning natural beauty, wildlife (including orcas and seals), and relaxed pace of life. Popular activities include kayaking, whale-watching, hiking, and exploring the local arts scene. Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the most populous of the islands, is a charming seaport known for its historic architecture, art galleries, and boutiques.
26. Pacific Science Center
The Pacific Science Center in Seattle is a major hub for science education. Founded for the 1962 World’s Fair, it’s an independent, non-profit science museum based in Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood.
With its interactive exhibits on topics like health, the environment, and space exploration, along with an IMAX theater and a planetarium, it’s a popular destination for families and school groups.
Leavenworth is a small Bavarian-styled village in the Cascade Mountains, known for its charming architecture, German beer, and sausages. The town transforms into a festive wonderland during Oktoberfest and the Christmas season, attracting visitors from all over. Outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy the town’s proximity to various recreational activities such as hiking, biking, and skiing.
Houseboats are a unique feature of Seattle, offering a different lifestyle choice for residents. A significant number of houseboats or “floating homes” can be found on Lake Union and Portage Bay. These homes range from modest one-bedroom dwellings to multimillion-dollar floating mansions.
The houseboats became famous from the movie “Sleepless in Seattle,” and they continue to be a tourist attraction and a treasured part of the city’s landscape.
29. Tacoma Museum District
Tacoma, the third-largest city in the state, is known for its vibrant museum district.
Museums such as the Museum of Glass, where visitors can see glass art and live glassblowing demonstrations, the Tacoma Art Museum, showcasing a collection of local and international art, and the Washington State History Museum, offering a deep dive into the state’s rich history, all contribute to making Tacoma a cultural hotspot.
30. Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens, an active stratovolcano located in the state’s southern part, is famous for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980, which was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in U.S. history.
Today, the volcano and the surrounding area are protected within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, a popular destination for outdoor activities and education. The Johnston Ridge Observatory, located in the monument area, offers stunning views of the crater and exhibits about the eruption and the area’s geological history.
I may be a bit biased (since I live here) but I do feel that Washington State has way more to offer than…the other states I’ve lived in (looking at you, Utah).
Despite being super long-winded I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of what Washington State is known for and the things it has to offer.
I guess you’ll just have to visit us to figure out the rest…