Best Places to Visit in the Pacific Northwest: 12 PNW Destinations

by Flora Backup
Here are some of the coolest and most unique places in the Pacific Northwest to visit this year
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Are you planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest? Here are some of the coolest and most unique places in the Pacific Northwest to visit this year.

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These mesmerizing destinations will blow your mind!

Are you contemplating a journey to the heart of the captivating upper-left corner of the United States? Here, we delve into the most exciting and scenic places to visit in the Pacific Northwest. These sights, experiences, and attractions are guaranteed to craft an unforgettable travel story.

Renowned for its lush forests, stunning coastlines, and vibrant cities, the Pacific Northwest is a region that effortlessly blends the thrill of the great outdoors with the allure of cultural sophistication. From the hip, bustling streets of Portland and Seattle to the serene, majestic beauty of Crater Lake and Mount Rainier, there’s no shortage of adventures to embark on in this diverse corner of the country.

If you’re a foodie looking to sample the freshest seafood, a nature enthusiast yearning for breathtaking landscapes, or looking to immerse yourself in a rich arts scene, the Pacific Northwest offers incredible places to visit for every traveler. To guide you on your journey, I’ve curated a list of some of my personal favorite Pacific Northwest destinations.

Here’s everything you need to know about the best places to go in the Pacific Northwest.

The top places to visit in the Pacific Northwest right now
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Best Places to Visit in the Pacific Northwest: 12 Must-Visit Destinations

Are you ready to discover all the best Pacific Northwest places to visit? As noted above, there’s a vast selection of exciting Pacific Northwest destinations for all travelers to love. Keep reading to discover the hidden gems of this incredible region.

Are you looking to explore vibrant cities and new cultures? Or would you prefer a relaxing retreat in the Pacific Northwest’s best nature? Whatever you’re planning, the Pacific Northwest can accommodate your needs.

Here are all the best places to visit in the PNW that you should know about:

1. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Among the most awe-inspiring Pacific Northwest places to visit is Crater Lake National Park. Nestled within the heart of southern Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, this national park is a testament to the raw power and beauty of nature. It’s home to Crater Lake which is the deepest lake in the United States. It’s a mesmerizing body of water formed over 7,000 years ago by the collapse of the ancient volcano, Mount Mazama.

The lake’s intense blue color and crystal-clear waters are a sight to behold, a spectacle that draws visitors from around the globe. The allure of Crater Lake National Park extends beyond its namesake. The park’s diverse landscape, dotted with towering cliffs, verdant forests, and vibrant wildflower meadows, offers a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon is definitely one of the exciting Pacific Northwest destinations
Crater Lake National Park in Oregon is renowned for its stunningly deep blue lake within a volcanic caldera.

In the summer months, the park comes alive with hikers, campers, and photographers, all eager to explore its natural wonders. Boat tours offer a unique perspective of the lake. While the scenic Rim Drive encircles the caldera, providing a breathtaking views at every turn. Winter ushers in a blanket of snow, transforming the park into a paradise for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

If you’re a seasoned hiker, an amateur photographer, or simply a lover of natural beauty, Crater Lake National Park is a must-see when deciding where to visit in the Pacific Northwest. It’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular destinations in the region!

2. Pike Place Market, Seattle

When considering what to do in the Pacific Northwest, a visit to Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market is a must. As one of the oldest continuously operating public farmers’ markets in the United States, Pike Place Market is a vibrant sensory feast that embodies the spirit of Seattle.

The market is a bustling labyrinth of stalls selling a vast array of goods. Fresh seafood, locally grown produce, handcrafted jewelry, and an array of international foods are just a few of the treasures you’ll find here. Don’t forget to stop by the famous fish market. This is where vendors toss salmon and other seafood to each other in a lively display that always draws a crowd.

With its myriad of shopping and dining options, Pike Place Market is a must see
Seattle’s vibrant Pike Place Market: fresh produce, crafts, iconic fish toss—cultural hub enchanting locals and tourists.

Beyond shopping, Pike Place Market is also home to a variety of restaurants and cafes, including the original Starbucks store. The market’s lower levels house a quirky mix of antique dealers, comic book sellers, and small independent boutiques.

With its lively atmosphere, stunning waterfront views, and a myriad of shopping and dining options, Pike Place Market is undoubtedly one of the coolest places to visit in the Pacific Northwest.

3. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington

Are you searching for unique places in the Pacific Northwest? Look no further than the Columbia River Gorge. This spectacular canyon, carved by the Columbia River, straddles the border between Oregon and Washington. This offers a stunning blend of natural beauty and outdoor adventure.

The Gorge is renowned for its numerous waterfalls. This also includes the 620-foot Multnomah Falls, one of the tallest and most photographed waterfalls in the United States. A short, paved trail leads to a viewing platform where you can marvel at this natural wonder. Other notable waterfalls include Bridal Veil, Latourell, and Wahkeena Falls, each offering its own unique charm.

Columbia River Gorge offers a stunning blend of natural beauty and outdoor adventure.
Columbia River Gorge is a natural wonder attracting explorers and nature enthusiasts.

The Columbia River Gorge is a true haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, and water sports. The Gorge’s winds are perfect for windsurfing and kiteboarding, particularly in the town of Hood River. It is known as the windsurfing capital of the world.

Boasting breathtaking landscapes and a wide array of recreational activities, the Columbia River Gorge is undoubtedly one of the best places in the Pacific Northwest for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

4. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

When it comes to the coolest places in the Pacific Northwest to visit, Mount Rainier National Park stands out as a must-see destination. Dominated by Mount Rainier, an active stratovolcano standing at over 14,000 feet, the park is a testament to the awe-inspiring power of nature.

The park’s diverse ecosystems range from lush old-growth forests at lower elevations to subalpine meadows bursting with wildflowers in the summer. Higher up, the landscape transforms into a rugged alpine world of glaciers and snowfields. This diversity makes Mount Rainier National Park a haven for a wide array of wildlife, including black bears, elk, and mountain goats.

For those advebture-seekers, Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most exciting places in the Pacific Northwest to visit.
Mount Rainier National Park is a captivating natural wonder in Washington state, featuring the iconic Mount Rainier.

Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the park, with over 260 miles of maintained trails. Routes vary from easy walks through meadows carpeted with wildflowers to challenging climbs up to high alpine vistas. For the adventurous, Mount Rainier offers opportunities for mountaineering, with the summit serving as a popular challenge for experienced climbers.

For those seeking stunning landscapes and an outdoor adventure, Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most exciting places in the PNW that you should know about.

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5. Portland Japanese Garden, Oregon

For those pondering over relaxing things to do in the Pacific Northwest, a visit to the Portland Japanese Garden should be high on your list. This is nestled in the hills of west Portland. This 12-acre haven is considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan.

The garden is a tranquil oasis, meticulously designed to promote peace, harmony, and tranquility. It features eight separate garden styles, including a Tea Garden, a Strolling Pond Garden, and a Sand and Stone Garden. Each offers a unique blend of plants, water, and stones, crafted with careful precision to create a serene and meditative environment.

Portland Japanese Garden is perfect for those seeking a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The Portland Japanese Garden with a peaceful ambiance that embodies the essence of Japanese culture and aesthetics.

Visitors can wander along the winding paths, take in the stunning views of Mount Hood from the Heavenly Falls, or participate in a traditional tea ceremony in the authentic tea house. The garden also hosts various cultural events, workshops, and exhibitions throughout the year, offering insights into Japanese culture and traditions.

With its beautiful landscapes and calming atmosphere, the Portland Japanese Garden is undoubtedly one of the best places to go in the Pacific Northwest. It is perfect for those seeking a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.

6. San Juan Islands, Washington

If deciding where to go in the Pacific Northwest, the San Juan Islands are a destination that should not be overlooked. This archipelago, nestled between the mainland and Vancouver Island, is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

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The islands are renowned for their stunning landscapes, which range from pebbly beaches and quiet coves to lush forests and rolling farmlands. Each island has its own unique charm. It also offers opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and camping.

San Juan Islands offer a wealth of PNW places to visit and experiences to enjoy.
The San Juan Islands are a picturesque archipelago off Washington’s coast, known for their scenic beauty

One of the main attractions of the San Juan Islands is the opportunity to see wildlife. The waters around the islands are home to a variety of marine life, including seals, sea lions, and orcas. On land, you might spot deer, foxes, and a wide variety of birds.

If you’re exploring the charming seaside town of Friday Harbor, hiking up Mount Constitution for panoramic views, or spotting orcas on a whale-watching tour, the San Juan Islands offer a wealth of Pacific Northwest places to visit and experiences to enjoy.

7. Olympic National Park, Washington

Hands down, this attraction is one of the most exciting Pacific Northwest destinations. Olympic National Park offers a vast wilderness area on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. It boasts a diverse range of landscapes and ecosystems, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.

The park is a unique blend of rugged coastal beaches, rainforests, alpine meadows, and mountain peaks. It’s home to the Hoh Rain Forest which is one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforests in the United States. This is where mosses and ferns blanket the forest floor and ancient trees reach towards the sky.

Olympic National Park is one of the best places in the Pacific Northwest for those seeking adventure and natural beauty
Olympic National Park is a diverse paradise featuring lush rainforests offering a haven for outdoor explorers and nature lovers.

And if you’re looking for things to do in the Pacific Northwest, then look no further than Olympic National Park. Hiking trails wind through the park’s varied landscapes, offering everything from leisurely walks to challenging climbs. Wildlife viewing is also popular, with the park home to a variety of animals. This includes black bears, elk, and numerous bird species.

Take it from me, Olympic National Park is one of the best places in the PNW for those seeking adventure and natural beauty. Don’t miss it on your next visit!

8. Powell’s City of Books, Portland

In the heart of downtown Portland lies a paradise for book lovers: Powell’s City of Books. As the world’s largest independent bookstore, Powell’s is a labyrinth of literature. This offers more than a million new and used books spread over nine color-coded rooms. It’s easy to lose track of time as you wander through the stacks. Where you explore everything from the latest bestsellers to rare and out-of-print titles.

Powell’s is more than just a bookstore. It’s a cornerstone of Portland’s vibrant arts and culture scene, hosting regular author readings, book signings, and other events. The store also features an art gallery and a coffee shop. This makes it a perfect place to relax and enjoy the city’s creative atmosphere.

For bookworms and charm seekers alike, Powell's City of Books is a must-visit in the Pacific Northwest.
For bookworms and charm seekers alike, Powell’s City of Books is a must-visit in the Pacific Northwest.

If you’re a bookworm or just someone who appreciates the charm of a good bookstore, Powell’s City of Books is a must-visit when considering where to visit in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a testament to Portland’s love for literature and a unique destination that embodies the city’s quirky, independent spirit.

9. Leavenworth, Washington

Tucked away in the central Cascades, Leavenworth is a charming Bavarian-style village that’s one of the coolest places to visit in the Pacific Northwest. With its alpine-style buildings, German restaurants, and numerous festivals, Leavenworth offers a unique slice of Bavaria in the heart of Washington State.

The town is a hub of outdoor activities, with opportunities for hiking, biking, and river rafting in the summer, and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. The surrounding mountains and rivers provide a stunning backdrop for these adventures, making Leavenworth a favorite destination for nature lovers.

Leavenworth, Washington, is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the PNW due to its unique Bavarian charm.
Leavenworth, Washington, is a charming Bavarian-style village nestled in the Cascade Mountains, known for its alpine architecture.

It’s not just the outdoor activities that draw visitors. Leavenworth is famous for its festivals, which celebrate everything from Oktoberfest to Christmas. The town’s Nutcracker Museum, which houses over 6,000 nutcrackers, is another unique attraction.

If you’re sampling German beer at a local brewery, exploring the great outdoors, or simply strolling through the picturesque streets, Leavenworth offers a unique and memorable Pacific Northwest experience.

10. Cannon Beach, Oregon

Looking for unique places in the Pacific Northwest? Cannon Beach should be high on your list. This charming coastal town in Oregon is renowned for its beautiful sandy beaches, framed by dramatic cliffs and iconic sea stacks.

The most famous of these is Haystack Rock, a 235-foot sea stack that’s home to a variety of bird species, including tufted puffins. At low tide, the area around Haystack Rock reveals tide pools teeming with marine life. This provides a fascinating glimpse into the ocean’s ecosystem.

Cannon Beach is a captivating coastal destination in the Pacific Northwest known for its iconic Haystack Rock.
Cannon Beach is a captivating coastal destination in the Pacific Northwest known for its stunning sandy shores and iconic Haystack Rock.

Beyond the beach, Cannon Beach offers a vibrant arts scene, with numerous galleries and a renowned annual sandcastle contest. The town’s quaint streets are lined with boutiques, restaurants, and cafes, perfect for a leisurely stroll.

If you’re exploring the tide pools, watching the sunset over the Pacific, or simply enjoying the town’s laid-back vibe, Cannon Beach is one of the best places in the Pacific Northwest for a relaxing coastal getaway.

11. Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, Washington

For any traveler deciding where to go in the Pacific Northwest, Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is a destination that should not be overlooked. This charming seaside town is the commercial hub of the San Juan Islands. This offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural attractions.

Friday Harbor is a gateway to the islands’ outdoor adventures, with opportunities for hiking, biking, and kayaking. The surrounding waters are home to various marine life, including orcas, seals, and sea lions. This makes the town a popular base for wildlife-watching tours.

Friday Harbo is a quaint waterfront town offering picturesque views, attracting visitors seeking coastal charm.
Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, a popular base for wildlife-watching tours for those seeking a blend of nature

There’s more to Friday Harbor than just its natural attractions. The town boasts a vibrant arts scene, with numerous galleries and studios showcasing the work of local artists. The Whale Museum offers insights into the marine life of the region, while the San Juan Islands Museum of Art features rotating exhibits of contemporary art.

With its picturesque setting, abundant wildlife, and thriving arts scene, Friday Harbor is one of the best places in the Pacific Northwest for those seeking a blend of nature and culture. As such, I recommend this Pacific Northwest place to visit to everyone I meet.

12. Bend, Oregon

Nestled against the eastern edge of the Cascade Range, Bend is a vibrant city that offers a unique blend of natural beauty and urban charm. With its stunning landscapes and outdoor recreational opportunities, Bend is a paradise for adventure seekers.

The city is surrounded by a wealth of natural attractions, from the snow-capped peaks of the Cascades to the high desert plateaus. Outdoor activities abound, with opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, and skiing. The Deschutes River winds its way through the city and is a popular spot for rafting and kayaking.

Bend, Oregon, is a must-visit destination in Pacific Northwest, drawing adventurers and nature enthusiasts.
Bend offers a unique Pacific Northwest experience with outdoor adventures and cultural offerings, perfect for adventure-seekers

In the heart of the city, you’ll find a thriving arts scene, a host of craft breweries, and a variety of restaurants serving everything from gourmet cuisine to classic comfort food. It’s here, amidst the city’s bustling streets and vibrant culture, that you’ll discover why Bend is one of the coolest places to visit in the Pacific Northwest.

If you’re exploring the great outdoors or enjoying the city’s cultural offerings, Bend offers a unique and memorable Pacific Northwest experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Best Places to Visit in the Pacific Northwest:

Looking to expand your knowledge about the coolest Pacific Northwest places to visit? Here are some common questions I get asked a lot about the best Pacific Northwest destinations.

What is the best month to visit the Pacific Northwest?

The best time to visit the Pacific Northwest largely depends on what you want to do. For outdoor activities like hiking and camping, the summer months (June to August) offer warm weather and the least amount of rain. However, if you’re interested in winter sports, the months of December to February are ideal. Fall (September to November) is a great time to enjoy the region’s vibrant autumn foliage. Whenever you visit, there’s an abundance of exciting things to do and places to visit in the Pacific Northwest.

How do I spend a week in the Pacific Northwest?

A week in the Pacific Northwest can be spent exploring its diverse cities and natural attractions. You might start in Seattle, visiting Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, then head to the San Juan Islands for some whale watching. From there, you could explore the natural beauty of Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. End your trip in Portland, where you can enjoy the city’s food scene and visit the Portland Japanese Garden.

Here’s everything you need to know about the best places to go in the Pacific Northwest.
Oregon is characterized by its natural beauty, ranging from lush forests to towering mountains and vibrant cities.

Is the Pacific Northwest good for a family vacation?

Absolutely! The Pacific Northwest offers a wide range of family-friendly activities. From exploring national parks and wildlife watching to visiting museums and cultural attractions, there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

What are the must-see places in the Pacific Northwest?

The Pacific Northwest is home to numerous must-see places. Some highlights include Crater Lake National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, the San Juan Islands, and the cities of Seattle and Portland. Each offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural attractions.

Wrapping up the Best Pacific Northwest Places to Visit

The Pacific Northwest, with its stunning landscapes and vibrant cities, is a region that offers a wealth of experiences for every type of traveler. From the incredible beauty of Crater Lake and Mount Rainier to the bustling, cultural hubs of Seattle and Portland, there’s no shortage of places to go in the Pacific Northwest.

If you’re a nature enthusiast, a foodie, a culture lover, or someone seeking a peaceful retreat, there are things to do in the Pacific Northwest for all to enjoy. It’s a place where you can start your day with a sunrise hike and end it with a gourmet meal. You can watch whales in the morning, and attend a theater performance in the evening.

What are you waiting for? Start planning your Pacific Northwest adventure today and discover for yourself why this region is a gem worth exploring. Happy travels!

The top places to visit in the Pacific Northwest right now
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