Washington state is the heart of the Pacific Northwest. With that title comes everything you’d hope for, from the lush, green Olympic Peninsula to the white peaks of the Cascade Mountains and the crisp, whale-surrounded San Juan Islands. Head east and you’ll see another side of the state that’s more cowboy than a boutique, where the world gets much of its apples and the skies go on forever. The biggest urban jolt is Seattle, but other corners such as Spokane, Bellingham and Olympia are gaining sophistication by the day.
Museum of Flight
It’s no surprise that the city that spawned Boeing has stumped up with one of the nation’s finest aviation museums, chronicling flight history from Kitty Hawk to the Concorde. It’s a multifarious affair gluing together a broad sweep of flight-related memorabilia in several hangar-sized galleries. The exhibits include some of the most ingenious human-made objects that have defied gravity: menacing V2 rockets, Apollo lunar modules, and aerodynamic gliders.
Vancouver National Historic Reserve
Situated within the easy walking distance of the city center is Vancouver’s most important historical monument, and also one of the most important statewide. Comprising an archaeological site, the region’s first military post, a waterfront trail and one of the nation’s oldest operating airfields, the complex’s highlight is the reconstructed Fort Vancouver Historic Site.
Pike Place Market
A cavalcade of noise, smells, personalities, banter and urban theater sprinkled liberally around a spatially challenged waterside strip, Pike Place Market is Seattle in a bottle. In operation since 1907 and still as soulful today as it was on day one, this wonderfully local experience highlights the city for what it really is: all-embracing, eclectic and proudly unique. A brand-new expansion of the market infrastructure adds vendor space, weather-protected common areas, extra parking, and housing for low-income seniors.
This streamlined, modern-before-its-time tower built for the 1962 World’s Fair has been the city’s defining symbol for over 50 years. The needle anchors the complex now called the Seattle Center and draws over one million annual visitors to its flying saucer-like observation deck and pricey rotating restaurant.
Opened in 2012 and reinforcing Seattle’s position as the Venice of North America, this exquisite exposition of the life and work of dynamic local sculptor Dale Chihuly is possibly the finest collection of curated glass art you’ll ever see. It shows off Chihuly’s creative designs in a suite of interconnected dark and light rooms before depositing you in an airy glass atrium and – finally – a landscaped garden in the shadow of the Space Needle. Glassblowing demonstrations are a highlight.