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Washington (state)

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Washington (state)

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Mount Rainier

Often referred to by its full title, Washington State, to distinguish it from Washington, D.C., Washington [1] offers rugged coastline, mountains, volcanoes, and hundreds of coastal islands to explore. The Cascade Mountains bisect the state, with the damp forested coastal areas to the west, and pineforests, deserts and irrigated farmland of the Columbia River Plateau to the east.



There are many cities in Washington; these are some of the more popular.

  • Bellevue - Fifth largest city in state. Major commercial center on Eastside of Lake Washington with a quickly growing downtown.
  • Bellingham - Home of Western Washington University. Near Canadian border.
  • Olympia - State capital and hub of the fast growing South Sound area
  • Seattle - the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. Home of the University of Washington.
  • Spokane -- Second largest city in Washington, unofficial capital of the Inland Empire.
  • Tacoma - Third largest city in state. Major port and several good museums downtown.
  • Vancouver - Fourth largest city in Washington. Across Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.
  • Walla Walla - at the heart of southeast Washington's blooming wine country
  • Yakima -- the self billed 'Palm Springs of Washington'

Other destinations


  • Drive on the right side of the road! Oncoming traffic comes from the left and you must cross oncoming traffic when turning left. An international drivers licence will usually allow you to drive legally for a few months.
  • The drinking age in Washington is 21 years old. This goes for buying alcohol as well.
  • You must be 18 years of age to legally smoke. Understand that it is ILLEGAL in Washington state to smoke in a workplace, restaurant, bar, bowling alley, non-tribal casino, and (technically, though everyone does it) bus stop. Smoking is also banned within 25 feet (8 meters) of a door or window that can open or a ventilation intake.
  • The western part of the state, particularly the Seattle Metro is very liberal (Democrat), the eastern part of the state, generally divided by the Cascade mountains is seen as conservative (Republican). Adjust your conversation topics accordingly, though you would be wise not to bring up politics at all because it often leads to "passionate" debate.


Most people in Washington speak English with a Pacific Northwest accent. This accent is considered very similar to general American. Washingtonians generally have little to no problem understanding different accents of the English language.

Washington is the fourteenth most populated state, but by comparison has the fifth highest Asian population. You may be able to find a Japanese or Chinese speaker, especially in the Seattle area. There is also a large Hispanic population. In some small towns east of the Cascades more than 50% of households speak Spanish at home.

Get in

By plane

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, (IATA: SEA), called "SeaTac" by locals, connects Seattle to all regions of the world, with especially frequent transpacific routes. Alaska Airlines provides something approximating discount air fare to and from the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.

Spokane International Airport, (IATA: GEG). Most flights go to Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Boise, Oakland (across from San Francisco), Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix and Minneapolis. One flight to Chicago.

Portland International Airport, (IATA: PDX) is just one mile across the state line in Oregon. For SW Washington this is the nearest major airport. One non-stop from Tokyo.

Vancouver International Airport (IATA: YVR) is in Canada 27 miles (44 km) from the border. You will have to go through US customs at Blaine, Washington. For US residents, going through customs twice probably isn't worth it, unless you want to see the Vancouver area also. For Canadians wanting to go to the San Juan Islands, it's the best choice. Also has lots of international flights.

Yakima Air Terminal (IATA: YKM) is a commuter airport with turboprop aircraft, but the largest in the center of the state. Connections are via Seattle-Tacoma.

Bellingham International Airport (IATA: BLI) is a commuter airport with mostly turboprop aircraft about 90 miles north of Seattle and 60 miles south of Vancouver, Canada.

By train

Amtrak has 3 routes into Seattle's King Street Station. These are Amtrak Cascades and Coast Starlight, which serve the West Coast from Vancouver, BC to Los Angeles, and the Empire Builder which serves destinations to the East, running through Spokane, northern Montana, Fargo, St. Paul, Milwaukee, and arriving at Chicago as its terminus.

By car

From British Columbia

Interstate 5 and the Peace Arch [2] crossing is the main port-of-entry to Washington from Canada, though expect to be in queue for awhile when crossing here. An alternative to crossing at the Peace Arch, is to take the Pacific Crossing [3] via British Columbia Provencial Route 15, which typicaly has much shorter queues, and is the commercial truck crossing. It continues on as Washington State Route 543, and runs right onto Interstate 5. Both crossings are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

From Oregon

Interstate 5 (and Interstate 205) provide access from the greater Portland area. Interstate 82 / US 395 provides access from eastern Oregon to the tri-cities area of Eastern Washington. For a more scenic entry, try taking US Route 101 along the Washington and Oregon coast, but be aware for the numerous speed traps in the small cities.

From Idaho

Interstate 90 is the main route in via Coeur D'Alene, but US 2 provides access to the northern parts of Idaho and Washington.

By bus

Get around

Greyhound Bus Company [[4]] has the largest bus route system in the state, mostly along the Interstates 5 and 90.


Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens

Go to Forks. It is where those famous books, the Twilight series, are set.



Locally grown produce and seafood.


Specialty coffee (high quality Arabica coffee beans roasted with greater emphasis on taste and freshness, brewed with dripped water or "espresso" steam) arguably has its birthplace here. Starbucks and Tully's are apparent brands that most associate specialty coffee with Seattle. However, many small local companies are the ones that have paved the way (and continue to do so) in pioneering the specialty coffee industry. When you visit Seattle, be sure to check out these renowned coffee roasters (in no particular order):

Espresso Vivace, Caffe Vita, Zoka Coffee, Victrola Coffee, Stumptown Coffee, Caffe Appassionato, Caffe Umbria, Caffe Fiore, Fonte Coffee, Pura Vida, Vashon Island Coffee, Lighthouse Coffee, Caffe D'Arte, Tony's Coffee/Caffe Ladro, Top Pot Donuts & Coffee, Batdorf & Bronson, Mukilteo Coffee, Moka Joe Coffee, Pioneer Coffee

Washington is also the home to well-crafted local wines and "microbrewery" beers.

Stay safe

Much like any state in the United States, Washington is generally very safe. The chance of you running into any trouble is very, very unlikely.

The police number in Washington (and the entire United States) is 911.

Avoid being out alone very late at night. This is especially true in dark and unlit places where you are an easy target for any crime or other illegal activity.

Always be confident, or at least fake confidence. Obviously, pick pockets and such tend to target people who look vulnerable.

Avoid wearing excessive amounts of jewelry and other expensive items which might catch a robber's eye.

Get out

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