Washington State History

These places of heritage help the state celebrate its unique history.

Like the snowclad volcanoes that punctuate Washington’s landscape, the state’s past is ancient, explosive, and awe inspiring. Visitors can get schooled on this colorful heritage at a variety of museums and sites that offer fascinating glimpses of the traditional lives of Native Americans, personal accounts of pioneers, hands-on lessons in history, and inspiring natural settings. Here’s a sampling.

  • Washington State History Museum, Tacoma
    This stately museum offers 106,000 square feet of storytelling and interactive displays, including a model railroad, a “history mystery” exhibit, and the Great Hall of Washington History.
  • Lynden Pioneer Museum, Lynden
    Northeast of Bellingham, the Lynden Pioneer Museum offers a replica of historic downtown Lynden and more than 40 horse-drawn buggies.
  • Cashmere Pioneer Village, Cashmere
    What did Washington look like during the 19th century? Drive 10 minutes east of Leavenworth and peek into the past through windows at a painstakingly re-created outdoor village that allows you to walk through the front door of pioneer life.
  • Pioneer Square, Seattle
    The historic birthplace of Seattle, Pioneer Square is recognized as the city's first neighborhood. Admire the area's Renaissance Revival architecture and learn more about Seattle's early years at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
  • Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Vancouver
    Once the headquarters of Britain’s storied Hudson’s Bay Company, this fur-trading outpost is now a National Park official site. Inside the fort’s timber walls, enjoy blacksmithing demonstrations or a self-guided tour through the 1849 U.S. Army barracks.
  • Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane
    Home to a constant rotation of nationally touring exhibitions, this Spokane institution is anchored by a fascinating collection of Native American pottery and basketry, as well as pioneer-era quilts.
  • Columbia River Gorge Interpretive Center Museum, Stevenson
    Learn about the first peoples living along the Columbia, view a 19th-century fish wheel, and consider the quirky nature of the world’s largest rosary collection.
  • Makah Cultural and Research Center, Neah Bay
    On Washington’s rocky northern shoreline, the Makah tribe show-cases traditional clothing, an ethnobotanical garden, photographs, and artifacts up to 500 years old.
  • Fort Walla Walla Museum, Walla Walla
    In the midst of wine country, discover one of the nation’s largest collections of antique agricultural equipment and mid-19th-century buildings.
  • Chief Timothy State Park, Clarkston
    This 282-acre park on the Snake River is the easternmost site of seven Columbia River Basin–located works designed by acclaimed artist Maya Lin for the sweeping Confluence Project.

-Lora Shinn

Photo Credit: Pioneer Square in Seattle