26 Things Washington State is Known and Famous for

The only U.S. state named for a president, Washington is an ethnically and geographically diverse part of the U.S. and Pacific Northwest. From the Pacific Ocean to spectacular mountain ranges, to its fertile agricultural lands in the east, Washington is known for far more than you may think.

Washington State is known for snow-capped volcanic mountains, multiple national parks, as a college basketball capital, as well as for its agricultural prowess. And for outdoors enthusiasts, the rivers, bays and inlets are prime for exploration.

Grab a cup of coffee and let’s see 26 things that Washington is known for.

1. Seattle

View of Seattle USA

Washington is known for many things, but it is truly famous worldwide for the city of Seattle. The largest city in the state and in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Seattle metro has a population of more than four million.

It is a strategically located seaport for trans-Pacific cargo vessels, passenger cruise ships heading north to Alaska during the summer, and serves as a gateway by air to Alaska and the entire Pacific Rim.

Seattle is known for its many museums, a diverse dining scene, natural geographic beauty, and more than its share of rain.

2. Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle

Washington is famous for the Space Needle which towers over Seattle. The 605-foot-tall iconic observation tower is a landmark that was built for the 1962 World’s Fair.

Built to withstand winds up to 200 miles-per-hour and up to 9.0 magnitude earthquakes, visitors are wowed by panoramic views of Puget Sound, downtown Seattle, the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, as well as Mt. Rainier.

3. Chihuly Glass

Chihuly Glass

Washington’s Dale Chihuly is famous for taking the art of blown glass to unmatched levels. The Tacoma native is considered a glass artist/sculptor whose works are displayed in office buildings and museums around the globe.

Seattle is famous for Chihuly Garden and Glass, the renowned museum adjacent to the Space Needle.

4. Puget Sound

Puget Sound

Washington is also known for Puget Sound, the large bay in the northwest corner of the state that is an inlet from the Salish Sea, separating the U.S. from Vancouver Island, Canada. The Salish Sea connects the region with the Pacific Ocean.

Further south, Puget Sound leads into Elliott Bay, where Seattle’s downtown meets the water.

5. Ferries

Ferry in Seattle

Washington is famous for the ferries that transport passengers and autos across Puget Sound and to the San Juan Islands.

The fleet of 23 vessels operated by Washington State Ferries offers multiple daily sailings on 10 routes that serve 20 terminals.

Did you know that this indispensable ferry service is considered part of the Washington state highway system?

6. Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

Located in its namesake Mount Rainier National Park, Washington is famous for Mount Rainier and its 14,411-foot summit, the highest in the Cascade Range.

The mountain is an active stratovolcano and the most prominent peak in the lower 48 states.

Mountain Rainier was named by George Vancouver, a British officer in the Royal Navy, in honor of his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. And yes, Vancouver has a city and island in Canada named in his honor.

The mountain is considered active with a high probability of eruption in the near future.

7. Spokane

Spokane Falls and view of buildings in Spokane, Washington.

Washington is known for the City of Spokane, the 2nd-largest in the state with 230,000 residents.

Located in Eastern Washington just 18 miles from the border with Idaho, Spokane is home to Gonzaga University, a small school with just 7,300 students that perennially produce a top-10 men’s basketball team.

The “Lilac City” is famous for being the birthplace of Father’s Day.

8. Its Name

Seal of Washington State

Washington is famous for its name. When it comes to U.S. states, Washington is the most famous name of all. As the only U.S. state named for a president, Washington State, as it is known by most Americans, gained statehood in 1889.

Named for the first President of the United States, George Washington, the state is located in the Pacific Northwest region of the Western U.S., and is bordered by British Columbia, Canada to the north, Oregon to the south, and Idaho on the east. The Pacific Ocean forms the state’s western boundary.

9. Wine

Grapes in vineyards

Washington is famous globally for producing magnificent wines across the state. With more than 900 wineries in the state, Washington is the 2nd-largest premium wine producer in the U.S.

Exceptional climatic conditions and by virtue of being on the same latitude as several world-renowned wine regions in Europe, help make Washington State wines famous globally.

10. Starbucks

A starbucks mug

Washington is famous for Starbucks and several other companies that are household names in the U.S., and some even around the globe. The best known is undoubtedly Starbucks, the coffee giant that has more than 15,000 stores in the U.S. alone, and over 30,000 locations worldwide.

Washington is also famous as the home of Amazon, Nordstrom, Microsoft, Costco, and Alaska Airlines.

11. Grunge music

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana

Washington is known as the home of Grunge music, an alternative rock genre that emerged in Seattle in the mid-1980s.

A combination of punk rock and heavy metal, famous bands included Nirvana (fronted by Kurt Cobain), Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots. Also known as “the Seattle Sound” this wildly popular musical format spread quickly from coast to coast.

12. Columbia River

Columbia River

Washington is known for the Columbia River, the longest river in the Pacific Northwest at 1,243 miles.

The river originates in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, flows southward through Washington until it forms the border with Oregon. Turning west, it rushes through the Columbia River Gorge, passes through Portland, Oregon, and continues west to the Pacific Ocean.

13. Boeing

Boeing Plane

Famous worldwide, Washington State is known for Boeing, the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world.

While the headquarters have moved to Chicago, Paine Field in Seattle’s northern suburb of Everett continues to roll out Boeing 747-8 freighters, 777 and 787 aircraft.

The largest building in the world by volume (13,385,378 square meters!) was opened here in 1967 to produce the 747, commonly known as “The Queen of the Skies”. Factory tours and Boeing’s ‘Future of Flight Museum’ are both located here.

14. Pike Place Fish Market

4. Pike Place Fish Market

Washington is famous for Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, the place for fresh, premium fish and seafood in the Pacific Northwest. The market has been operating since 1930 and welcomes more than 20,000 visitors each day.

Catch all of the action watching the fishmongers (staff) hurl salmon, halibut and turbot to one another as they serve customers their “catch of the day”.

15. Rain

Rain

If you like cloudy skies and rain, the western half of Washington State is the place for you. Known for misty rain and drenching storms, Washington and the Pacific Northwest, particularly during the fall and winter see storm after storm roll in off the ocean.

The U.S. state average for sunny days is 205 annually, but Washington sees just 165 sunny days each year. Of the 200 cloudy days, measurable precipitation is recorded on 137 days.

When the sun shines the views are spectacular, but our general recommendation is to always pack an umbrella.

16. Whale Watching

Whale Watching

Washington State is famous for whale watching, with the best times each year for sightings running from March through May in Puget Sound, and late spring through early fall in the San Juan Islands and near Bellingham.

Gray, orca, minke and humpback whales migrate down the coast from Washington to Baja California annually.

17. Walla Walla

View of the small city Walla Walla in Eastern Washington during sunset.

And you thought ‘www’ stood for world wide web? Well, I suppose it does, but to residents of southeast Washington State, www means ‘Walla Walla, Washington’.

The small city of 35,000 is famous for sweet onions, and vineyards that grow premium grapes for the state’s renowned wines.

What’s it doing on this list filled with Washington superlatives? We just love the name “Walla Walla”, so had to include it.

And for those who are wondering, Walla Walla translated by the First Nations Native Americans means “many waters”.

18. Hiking & Skiing

skiing down mountains

Washington is known as an outdoor adventure paradise. Two favorite activities here are hiking and skiing, and with so many incredible mountains in the Cascades, Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park, how can you go wrong?

19. Cascade Range

Cascade Range

Washington is famous for the Cascade Mountains, a major range that runs from British Columbia, through Washington and Oregon, and ending in Northern California. Mount Ranier in Washington is the tallest mountain in the range at 14,411 feet.

20. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

Washington State is famous for Olympic National Park, located on the Olympic Peninsula. Four distinct climates are represented here: drier east side, Pacific Coast, temperate west side rain forest, and alpine. More than 2.5 million visitors explore the park each year.

21. Gateway to Asia

Seattle Chinatown Historic Landmark Gate Structure

Washington is famous for its sizable Asian community, with every country across the Pacific being well represented here.

While the Chinatown/International District in Seattle is the epicenter of the Asian-American community, there are other neighborhoods known for the influence of Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Filipino and Japanese residents.

More than 30% of the population in Redmond, Bellevue, Newcastle and Sammamish have Asian ancestry.

22. Professional Sports

Safeco Field, Seattle

Washington is known as a great sports state, and Seattle is known as a great sports city.

The newest team in town (2021) is the Seattle Kraken of the National Hockey League. Famous in their own right, the Seattle Seahawks are the National Football League team, and the Seattle Mariners represent the state for Major League Baseball.

23. Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens

Washington is famous for Mount St. Helens, the Cascade Mountains volcano that erupted in 1980, killing at least 57 people, though many more were never seen again after the eruption.

In 1982, The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was established for research, education and recreation. The 110,000-acre site is environmentally protected to allow it to respond to the devastation naturally over time.

24. Deception Pass Bridge

Deception Pass Bridge

Washington State is famous for the iconic Deception Pass Bridge in the northwestern corner of the state, about an hour south of the Canadian border.

The two-lane bridge crosses from Whidby Island to Fidalgo along route 20, and along with the adjacent Canoe Pass Bridge is the only land crossing between the island and Washington’s mainland. About 18,000 cars cross the bridge daily en route to Deception Pass State Park, the most popular in Washington. The bridge is 1,486 feet in length and crosses over the waters of Puget Sound at a height of 180 feet.

For a truly harrowing experience, there is a three-foot-wide pedestrian walkway on one side where you can peer over the railing into the rushing waters below.

25. Apples

Washington red apples

Washington State apples are known to be some of the sweetest you can find.

Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Honeycrisp and more are grown here and shipped worldwide.

26. San Juan Islands

 San Juan Islands

Washington is famous for the San Juan Islands archipelago that separates the U.S. from Vancouver Island in Canada. Visitors can arrive by seaplane or ferry from Seattle, or by ferry from the village of Anacortes. The islands are just 90 miles north of Seattle and are known for whale-watching excursions and wildlife sightings.

What else is Washington known for? Share it in the comment box below.

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