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Washington state offers a scenic wonderland of outdoor activities, luring visitors with its dramatic landscapes, enchanting islands, active volcanoes, dazzling skylines and mystical rainforests. And at the end of a busy day of exploring the natural wonders, it’s time to sample some of the world-class wine and cuisine in Washington’s Wine Country.

Washington’s four national parks and monuments are year-round attractions. Mount Rainier National Park features 26 glaciers and the iconic Mount Rainier, one of the state’s five active volcanoes. Olympic National Park, a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, features the nation’s longest wilderness coastline and rate temperate rainforests. North Cascades National Park contains 400 miles of trails, many leading into vast, undeveloped wilderness areas. Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument can be explored by helicopter, car or on foot.

Although natural wonders abound in Washington, there are also impressive architectural marvels. In Seattle, the 607-foot-tall Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, and features an observation deck and the rotating SkyCity Restaurant, which was named 2009 Restaurant of the Year by the Washington Wine Commission. Seattle also offers the architecturally adventurous Experience Music Project, and the dramatic nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park. The city’s Pike Place Market is a teeming, sprawling bazaar featuring fresh fish and produce, seasonal flowers, local crafts and stunning views of Puget Sound.

For arts and culture, Washington offers special events throughout the year, including the Antique & Collectible Show in Ocean Shores, the Quilt Show at the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds, the Beachcombers Driftwood Show in Grayland, the Old Snohomish Antique & Classic Motorcycle Show in Snohomish, the Whidbey Island Kite Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival. Music lovers have a wide variety of festival choices, featuring everything from Bach to bluegrass, jazz, blues and accordion.

For active, outdoor entertainment, the annual Spokane Hoopfest is the biggest 3-on-3 street basketball tournament in the world, attracting more than 200,000 players and fans to the downtown area, and including an outdoor festival with concerts, shopping, entertainment and food.

Home to over 650 wineries and vineyards scattered throughout the state, Washington is the number-two premium wine-producing state in the country. Many of the wineries offer tours and tastings, featuring excellent reds and whites.

Washington offers food lovers an extraordinary culinary crossroads. As a coastal state graced with agricultural abundance, it’s a place where fresh ingredients abound. As a major Pacific Rim seaport, it’s a place where the world’s cuisines cross-pollinate in all sorts of creative and delicious dishes. And as a no-nonsense northwestern state, it’s a place where you can still get a great cheeseburger. Washington’s cuisine attracts world-class chefs and casual “foodies” with its wide variety of fresh seafood and produce.

For the tops in Washington dining, try the Herbfarm Restaurant, northeast of Seattle in Woodinville. Formerly a roadside farm stand specializing in herbs, Herbfarm has become one of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the state. Other top choices are the Backdoor Kitchen on San Juan Island, Molly Ward Gardens in Poulsbo, and the Ajax Café in Port Hadlock.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, commonly known as Sea-Tac, is the gateway to the state, and serves most U.S. airlines, and many international carriers.  The airport is the primary hub for Alaska Airlines, and served more than 31 million passengers in 2009, making it the 17th-busiest airport in the U.S. Ground transportation, including rental cars, cabs and shuttles, are available at all major airports in the state, as well as downtown areas. For a leisurely exploration of the state, Amtrak’s north-south route traverses Washington from the Oregon border to Canada, while the east-west route connects Seattle and Portland with Spokane.

Washington has two distinct climate zones. West of the Cascade Mountains, mild, humid summer days feature temperatures that rarely rise above 79°, with winter temperatures rarely dropping below 46°. The eastern half of the state has four distinct weather seasons, with warmer, drier summers, and colder, snowier winters. Western Washington also experiences frequent cloud cover, fog and drizzle.

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