Seattle may get all the press, but anyone who's spent time in Washington knows the Evergreen State boasts a vast, rugged, and diverse landscape, with the westside's prototypically lush forests eventually making way for the eastside's unexpectedly arid valleys. Small towns dot the landscape throughout — but they're often overlooked by the more metropolitan-minded traveler. Don't make the same mistake! Here, five small-town gems not to miss on your next trip to Washington.
Brooks Kraft/Corbis via Getty ImagesFriday HarborFor a taste of coastal living, look no further than this picturesque town on San Juan Island. The archipelago is renowned for its whale watching, and it's here in Friday Harbor that you'll likely set off on your voyage. (If you'd rather enjoy your marine mammals on dry land, however, the town is also home to The Whale Museum.) Comprising just a little more than 2 square miles, Friday Harbor is walkable from any ferry port — whether you want to dine on the catch of the day or simply take in the breathtaking view.
VW Pics/UIG via Getty ImagesLeavenworthWant a taste of Europe without leaving the country? Check out this Bavarian village nestled in the Cascade Mountains. A ploy to drum up tourism following the departure of the railroad, the town got a major makeover in the 1960s, inspired by the Danish-themed town of Solvang, California. Leavenworth leans into the kitsch with attractions like the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum — which houses more than 5,000 of the little chompers, dating from prehistoric to modern times — and the annual beer-fueled Oktoberfest. And, with its proximity to nature, it's an ideal jumping-off point for outdoor delights like skiing and hiking.
Barcroft/Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesMaryhillCalling Maryhill a town would be overly generous — as of the 2010 U.S. Census its population numbered just 58 souls — but this tiny parcel of land along the Columbia River Gorge is totally worth a pitstop. Established in the early 1900s, Maryhill is most notable for its impressive Stonehenge replica — depicting what the original English monument would have looked like when it was constructed — commissioned by entrepreneur Sam Hill. It was dedicated on July 14, 1918, in honor of those lost during World War I, and in 1929 was relocated closer to Hill's house, which is now the Maryhill Museum of Art. The museum's modest collection includes works by Auguste Rodin, Émile Gallé, and numerous Native Americans, in addition to oddities like mannequins from the Théâtre de la Mode. Oh, and the grounds are patrolled by a colorful muster of peacocks.
ABC Photo Archives/ABC Photo Archives/Getty ImagesNorth BendDavid Lynch fans will feel right at home in North Bend — the real Washington town masquerading as the fictitious Twin Peaks. Whether it's enjoying a damn fine cup of coffee and slice of cherry pie at the Double R Diner (a.k.a. Twede's Cafe) or mugging with the giant log from the show's opening credits, you can live out your TV fantasies here.
VW Pics/UIG via Getty ImagesWalla WallaBoasting some 140 wineries and tasting rooms, this Southeastern Washington city is cheekily nicknamed "The Napa of the Northwest." And no wonder: Walla Walla's rich soil and dry climate (Seattle, this is most certainly not) make for the ideal landscape in which to harvest grapes. While Cabernet Sauvignons dominate, the region's Syrahs are particularly beloved by critics. But if you'd rather imbibe in culture than vino, Walla Walla's got that too. A major stop on the historic Oregon Trail, the city is rife with relics of yore — whether it be the Whitman Mission National Historic Site (where missionary Marcus Whitman and 12 others were killed by a band of Cayuse after bringing measles to the valley) or the Fort Walla Walla military outpost. The city is also home to the longest continually operating symphony orchestra west of the Mississippi. Music to any traveler's ears.