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Fun and Interesting Places to Visit in Washington

1. Ballard Locks. Located in western Washington, in Seattle's Lake Washington Ship Canal, between the neighborhoods of Ballard and Magnolia, these Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (also called Ballard Locks) are a series of complex locks at the west end of Salmon Bay, and one of Seattle's most popular tourists attractions. The grounds include a fish ladder (for helping salmon and steelhead heading upstream to spawn) with an aquarium-like viewing area, the 7-acre Carl S. English Jr. (one of the Northwest's leading horticulturists who designed and developed the English estate-style garden; he spent 43 years tending the garden) Botanical Garden (which contains more than 500 species and 1,500 varieties of plants), and a visitor center with exhibits and a gift shop. Completed in 1917, the locks link the Puget Sound with Lake Union and Lake Washington -- with locks for both large and small vessels. Swinging walkways allow walkers, hikers, and bicyclists access to the locks. Nature-lovers should also check out Volunteer Park Conservatory, Washington Park Arboretum Botanical Gardens, and the Seattle Japanese Garden, all about 6 miles southeast. Learn more: Ballard Locks.

2. Maryhill Stonehenge. Located in southwestern Washington, off of Lewis & Clark Highway (Highway 14), about equal distance between Vancouver (100 miles to the west) and Yakima (80 miles to the north), this concrete replica of England's Stonehenge, now part of the Maryhill Museum of Art (and located where the original town of Maryhill was located before the entire town burned to the ground), was commissioned by entrepreneurial businessman (and Quaker) Samuel Hill and dedicated in 1918 as a memorial for those who died in World War I; a monument to heroism and peace. Like the original, the altar stone is placed to be aligned with sunrise on the summer solstice. The site now also includes memorials to those who died in Korea and Vietnam. Hill's remains are in a crypt just below the Stonehenge Memorial, and his mansion on a cliff overlooking the Colombia River turned into the art museum. Definitely continue on and tour the museum and its grounds (as well as the Maryhill Loops Road). Stay at the 81-acre Maryhill State Park, which offers RV sites and 4,700 feet of waterfront on the river (and sits just below the monument). Also worthy of visits are nearby Columbia Hills Historical Park (with great hiking) and While Salam, a Bavarian-inspired town located in the Columbia River Gorge. Finally, take in some Columbia River Gorge wineries while in the area. Learn more: Maryhill Stonehenge.

3. Palouse Falls. Located in Southeast Washington, near the town of Lacrosse off of SR 261, about 100 miles southwest of Spokane, this 198-foot thundering and magnificent waterfall on the Palouse River, about 4 miles upstream from the confluence with the Snake River, is the official state waterfall in Washington, and is found with in the 105-acre state park of the same name. It includes deep (377 feet) basalt cliffs and canyons created by the great Missoula Floods that swept across the Columbia River Plateau during the Pleistocene epoch (Ice Age), and is the only major waterfall left along this thousands-of-years-old glacial flood path. The falls were formerly known as Aput Aput (Falling Water) by the Palouse Indians. The park includes a small number of tent camping sites, picnic tables, and pit toilet restrooms. If you're lucky, you'll also see the yellow-bellied marmot during your visit. Because of the depth of the canyon walls, best times to photograph the falls is early morning or early evening just before sunset. A 2.6-mile loop trail takes visitors to the falls; don't forget to check out the Fryxell Overlook for the best panoramic views of the area. Learn more: Palouse Falls.

4. Riverfront Park. Located along the Spokane River in downtown Spokane, in eastern Washington, this 100-acre scenic urban park (much of it located on an island), and one of the most beautiful in the nation, contains the upper Spokane Falls and was created for Expo '74, a World's Fair event. Besides all the natural beauty of the park, it also contains the Pavilion (a 145-foot-tall metal framed structure that was the U.S. Pavilion during the Expo), an IMAX theater, the 1909 Riverfront Park Looff Carousel, the 1902 Great Northern Clock Tower, Sculpture Walk, a SkyRide over the falls, a small amusement park for kids, and new Recreational Rink (for ice-skating in colder months). For hikers and bicyclists, the Spokane River Centennial Trail (a 37.5-mile, east-west paved rail-trail that connects Sontag Community Park at Nine Mile Falls north of Spokane to Gateway Regional Park in Otis Orchards at the Idaho border) passes through the park and continues on for views of the lower falls, just west of the park. A $64-million redevelopment project is greatly improving the conditions of the park. While there, make sure you also visit Huntington Park for more stunning views of the falls, and then Manito Park, which includes six gardens within a 90-acre park. Learn more: Riverfront Park.

5. Whitman Mission National Historic Site. Located in southeastern Washington, just west of Wall Walla, near the Walla Walla River, this National Historic Site is home to the former Whitman Mission at Waiilatpu where Dr. Marcus Whitman and 12 others were slain by members of the Cayuse Nation, and which highlights the role of the Dr. and Mrs. Whitman in establishing the Oregon Trail; the Mission was a key stop along the trail from 1843-1847, when the massacre occurred. The source of the attack was supposedly a measles outbreak that resulted in widespread death among the Native Americans. As a result of the attack, the U.S. government made Oregon a U.S. territory and helped build the case for setting up reservations and limiting the movement of Native Americans. The park includes the original mission site, a mass grave where the Whitmans and others are buried, the Whitman memorial shaft, and a visitor center (with a small museum). Also check out the Ft. Walla Walla and Kirkman House museums. Nature lovers should make a stop at the nearby Umatilla National Forest. Learn more: Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

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