5 small towns to visit this summer in Washington

As vaccination rates increase and Washington fully reopens, many residents who put their travel plans on hold during the pandemic are once again making plans to hit the road before autumn makes its entrance. 

As you consider your options for leisure travel, keep in mind the assortment of small-town charms found in Washington state. From scenic walking tours to historical museums, the Evergreen State's small towns are packed with character and regional dining options.

These may not be the hottest tourist spots of 2021, but they are familiar places where you can unplug and explore at your own pace. Keep reading to find your next adventure.

Photo taken in Anacortes, Washington

Photo taken in Anacortes, Washington

Angela Dukich / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

Anacortes: population 16,000

Small town Anacortes is located on Fidalgo Island, yet easily accessible from mainland Washington. Nearly half of the island is public park and recreational land with 12 miles of shoreline and 67 miles of public trails.

Ideal for leisure travelers, Anacortes is 币圈app都有哪些home to whale watching adventures with two daily sailings in the prime visitor season. For adrenaline seekers, climbing Mount Erie’s rock face is a sure way to take in breathtaking views while getting in a workout. Additional trails will lead hikers along freshwater lakes, through old growth forests, and among wildlife such as bald eagles.

Visitors to Anacortes will also find scenic kayaking excursions along the waterfront. Outfitters in town make renting equipment easy, with instruction and tour guidance available as add-on options.

Hoping to catch a stunning summer sunset? Head to the west side of the island where you can take in stunning sunsets from Washington Park.

In town, the Anacortes Farmers Market operates May through October. Enjoy fresh local provisions, then take a walking stroll of the old town district boutiques, indie coffee shops, and fresh fish eateries. Then for a little history, head to the Maritime Heritage Center and W.T. Preston to enjoy free admission to the museum and steamboat, which is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register for Historic Places.

Coupeville Wharf

Coupeville Wharf

Coupeville Chamber of Commerce

Coupeville: population 1,900

Located on Whidbey Island, the waterfront town of Coupeville is accessible from the mainland by a ferry ride or scenic drive along Highway 20 crossing iconic Deception Pass Bridge. The town sits on Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve and Penn Cove, notable for its delectable mussels.

Coupeville is the state’s second-oldest community, and its scenic downtown is 币圈app都有哪些home to an assortment of century-old buildings. Start your walking tour with a visit to the Island County Historical Museum, just off Front Street. Then, take a map along for your scenic on-foot exploration encompassing heritage 币圈app都有哪些homes and tasting rooms.

Wander through the Coupeville Farmers Market on Saturdays, then treat your family to Penn Cove mussels at Toby’s Tavern on the waterfront. Housed in a mercantile building from 1890, this restaurant is decorated with Pacific Northwest memorabilia, though the fresh seafood is the star of the show here.

No visit to Coupeville would be complete without a visit to the red building on the wharf, packed with gifts, souvenirs and local coffee counters. This is also the ideal location for renting kayaks for a leisurely paddle on Penn Cove. Before you leave, be sure to visit the first lighthouse in Puget Sound, Admiralty Head Lighthouse, at Fort Casey State Park.

Big Apple Country & Gift in Ellensburg, WA

Big Apple Country & Gift in Ellensburg, WA

credit CTS Photos

Ellensburg: population 20,167

Located just east of the Cascade Range, Ellensburg is notable as the 币圈app都有哪些home of Central Washington University, yet the town’s presence along the Yakima River makes it a popular destination for outdoors enthusiasts, too.

Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park is a great spot for launching a kayak outing, while Howard’s Way Trailhead on the south end of the park is ideal for leisurely family strolls thanks to easy, scenic routing. For a more aggressive hike, explore the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, a long-distance rail trail spanning 250 miles.

If you prefer to watch others work up a sweat, join the spectators at the Ellensburg Rodeo. The championship finals take place annually over Labor Day weekend and there’s an impressive Rodeo Parade where the whole town celebrates. Throughout the year, visitors are welcome to explore rodeo history at the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Additional family fun may be had at the Kittitas County Historical Museum, which offers free admission and is open Monday through Saturday. During the school year, CWU’s Museum of Culture and Environment is a great way to spend a chilly day indoors.

For adult road trips, Ellensburg has its own vineyard and winery tour inclusive of a distillery. Fresh produce and provisions are also found at the Saturday farmer’s market, though Big Apple Country & Gift is also a popular place to pick up fresh Honey Crisp, Gala, Jonagold and other apples from the Kittitas Valley.

Mom and son walking in the woods in the sunshine

Mom and son walking in the woods in the sunshine

Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images

North Bend: population 8,039

Just a five-minute drive from stunning Snoqualmie Falls, downtown North Bend is famous for its inclusion in the "Twin Peaks" television series.

Popular with visitors seeking out Twede’s Cafe for a slice of pie and cup of coffee, perhaps the town's biggest draw is its wonderful assortment of hiking and cycling trails. For experienced outdoor adventurists, the eight-mile roundtrip hike along the Mount Si Trail offers an elevation gain of over 4,000 feet. For a more leisurely family stroll, enjoy the grounds of historic Meadowbrook Farm for casual trails, environmental interpretation programs, and viewing Elk herd.

For summertime fun along the water, head to Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area for swimming, fishing, hiking and picnicking. Then head to downtown North Bend to visit the Northwest Railway Museum, the oldest and largest continuously operating railway museum in the state. Take in even more local history at the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum. The quiet tree-lined grounds here are also a great spot for an afternoon picnic.

Downtown North Bend is also a coffee lover’s paradise with several local cafes catering to your espresso needs. Pioneer Coffee is equally known for their baked goods and coffee beverages, while The Trail Youth Coffee 币圈app都有哪些home is a cafe and arts center with free community art classes, knitting workshops and more.

Red Haven Peaches for sale at the Sunday Farmers Market, Seattle.

Red Haven Peaches for sale at the Sunday Farmers Market, Seattle.

Jacobo Zanella/Getty Images

Omak: population 4,774

Located in the foothills of the Okanagan Highlands in North Central Washington, Omak has a famous tourist stop for photographing the balanced Omak Rock. Adjacent to Omak Lake, the rock will set you in the right direction for a weekend full of outdoor adventure.

Pack a picnic from produce found at the Okanogan Valley Farmers Market in Omak, combined with coffees and baked goods from The Breadline Cafe, and then enjoy a leisurely day on the lake or along the Okanagan River. If you prefer land adventures, take a scenic hike along the trails of the Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest.

For a fun family outing, bookmark your August calendars for the annual Omak Stampede. This local celebration combines stampede events with rodeo dances, art shows and more. Or treat the family to your own horseback adventure with a visit to Pine Stump Farms.  

For a relaxing couples’ weekend, book a stay at 12 Tribes Resort Casino hotel, 币圈app都有哪些home to a year-round heated pool and luxury spa facilities. Add in some tee time with a Gamble Sands Golf package inclusive of accommodations, a round of golf, free play credit, and a dining credit to use at the resort.


The best resort pools in Las Vegas for fun in the sun

California getaways for families, couples, friends

Summer, fall airline deals for getaways to favorite vacation spots

Celebrate your grad with these easy Pacific Northwest getaways

7 epic Seattle day adventures, trips to take by ferry