I love quirky, odd things along the side of the road. Jackalopes, bigfoot, the world’s largest spoon, aliens….that sort of thing. On a recent road trip to Washington we found ourselves checking out some of the Washington roadside attractions along Highway 2 and we were not disappointed.
Before leaving our hotel in Spokane, I Googled “see along highway 2” and found several articles, I also found one of my favorite websites, which I had forgotten about: Roadside Attractions. This is the go-to source for “offbeat tourist attractions.” Now when you google “highway 2 Washington attractions,” hopefully you end up here.
We viewed Washington’s Highway 2 roadside attractions from east to west, starting in Spokane and ending in Everett. If you are wondering where does Highway 2 start and end, it spans 2,572 miles across the United States in two segments. The eastern segment starts (or ends) at I-95 in Houlton, Maine and ends (or starts) at US 11 in Rouses Point, New York. The western segment starts (or ends) at I-75 in St. Ignace, Michigan and ends (or starts) at I-5 in Everett, Washington. Now you can answer the question, “where is Highway 2 with more information than anyone needs.
Highway 2 Scenic Drive
As you travel Highway 2 Washington, there are so many things to see and do. We had a hard time deciding which roadside attractions Washington has to offer that would be best for us on this trip. I had no idea the Eastern Washington things to do list would be so long. We narrowed it down to what we thought we could see on one day and then modified our plan as we went.
We started at the world’s largest waterfall (no water) just beyond Coulee City. We thought it was pretty hilarious that the world’s largest waterfall is waterless, making it a dry fall, but names are everything. The massive 400-foot cliffs of Dry Falls are the remnants of what may have been the largest waterfall that ever existed on the planet. It turned out to be a really interesting stop and one of the top Washington State tourist attractions. The other Eastern Washington waterfalls we visited actually had water, but this one was quite spectacular even without it.
Several times, glacial Lake Missoula busted its ice dam and drenched with more water than all the rivers in the world combined. Then it poured over this 3.5-mile wide chasm of basalt. Imagine it! Dry Falls State Park is found along the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, which sounds like it needs to be on a things to do in Eastern Washington trip another time.
Amenities: bathrooms, ice cream and hot dog trucks, water, visitor center, interpretive signs.
Address: Hwy 17, Coulee City, WA
Directions: On the west side of Hwy 17, two miles south of where it splits from Washington Highway 2. Pull into the parking lot for a good panorama of the former falls.
Driving through Waterville, I got very excited and started shouting, “lumpy dowser, lumpy dowser.” No one knew what I was talking about. I had read about the statue of a cartoonish man holding a water dowser, but hadn’t added it to our itinerary since it was already pretty full.
We missed a turn in Waterville and pulled over next to the statue and small museum to turn around. It was kismet! That’s what sightseeing in Washington State is all about—finds like this that are weird and fun.
The statue is just called “The Water Dowser” according to the person working in the museum, but since Roadside Attractions calls it “Lumpy Dowser,” and because that’s a better name, that’s what I call it. You should, too. I don’t know if this is one of the best things to see in Washington State, but like I said, I do like weird roadside attractions.
Address: Southeast corner of Central Ave./US 2 and Walnut St.
Directions: In front of the Douglas County Museum.
Hours: Museum – Memorial Day-Labor Day. (Call to verify) Lumpy is out there year round.
Admission: Museum – donation. Lumpy – free.
Leavenworth, WA Attractions
We originally were drawn to Leavenworth after reading about the Gingerbread Factory. It was Finn’s birthday and we were looking for something he would appreciate even more than a giant dry waterfall or the Lumpy Dowser statue. Then we found out it was located in a Bavarian-themed town. And we learned about the Giant Suit of Armor! Clearly we had to stop with so many things to do in Leavenworth, Washington.
Washington Attractions in Leavenworth
We started to head into the Cascade Mountains as we approached Leavenworth. It used to be a normal town, but in the 60s they decided to go with a Bavarian theme to attract tourists. And it worked! There were tourists (including us) everywhere! Even the Starbucks and gas stations have Bavarian fonts in their logos. Everything. Is. Bavarian. It’s cute, but I think it could be a little much after awhile.
“What is there to do in Leavenworth, Washington,” you ask? Turns out, a lot. The setting in the mountains is gorgeous and there is a ski area for winter recreationists. I could have written a whole post on things to do in Leavenworth with kids (or without), but I will keep it to the basics for now.
We planned to eat at the Icicle Brewery (nothing more Bavarian than beer! Except lederhosen.). While the food looked great to me, the boys were not impressed. As it was Finn’s birthday, we decided to eat next door at Sulla Vita, a Euro-themed restaurant. I know, we should have eaten at the Sausage Garten or München Haus, but I can only take so much Bavaria.
(Edit: Having spent a month in Bavaria, I now realize that this town is not nearly as over-the-top as I thought. It’s actually a pretty accurate portrayal of Bavaria.)
Address: Sulla Vita – 931 Front Street, Leavenworth, Washington
The Gingerbread Factory, Leavenworth, WA
I was a little disappointed with the Gingerbread Factory. It’s not a factory. It’s a cute coffee shop that sells gingerbread cookies along with everything else. That said, the boys were pretty happy with their gingerbread, so they would rank it as one of the important Leavenworth attractions.
Address: 828 Commercial Street, Leavenworth, Washington
Giant Suit of Armor, Highway 2 Washington State
This was my favorite stop. It’s right on Highway 2, but we almost missed it, as it is nestled in between a couple hotel buildings. It really is just a giant knight with a shield and battle-ax, but I love the randomness of it. It’s exactly what I was looking for in roadside attractions, Washington State.
Address: 190 Highway 2, WA
There are even more Leavenworth, Washington things to do, but like I said, we had many miles ahead of us and more cool things to do in Washington State. Next time we will check out some of this other fun stuff to do in Leavenworth, WA:
- tubing, kayaking, rafting, or paddleboarding on the Wenatchee River
- watch the Leavenworth Summer Theater or explore local galleries
- celebrate Oktoberfest in Leavenworth (the next best thing to being in Munich!)
We didn’t have time to get to the Nutcracker Museum, but it is on our list of “Leavenworth, WA things to do” for next time. At this attraction in Washington State, you can go on a Nutcracker Hunt (ages 5 to adult!) and get an “I Found the Crackers” pin. That’s enough for me to want to go, but they also have a whole museum filled with nutcrackers.
Their mission is “To foster and encourage the interest of the general public of the importance of nuts in the diets of humans throughout history and in the evolution of the nutcracker. No other tool or collectible has shown such a wide diversity of material and design as the implements used to crack the hard shell of a nut.”
This has to be one of the best and most random tourist attractions Washington State has to offer.
Address: 735 Front Street, Leavenworth, Washington
Hours: 1 pm – 5 pm, daily and year-round
Admission: Adults – 17-64, $5.00; Seniors – 65+, $3.50; Youth – 6-16, $2.00; Child – 5 & under, free
In case you are wondering…..
- Missoula, MT to Leavenworth, WA – 390 miles, 6 hours and 8 minutes
- Leavenworth to Spokane – 193 miles, 3 hours and 4 minutes
Deception Falls, Washington
After all the city fun checking out Eastern Washington attractions, it was time for things to do in Western Washington. We wanted to get into the woods and let the boys burn off the gingerbread cookie sugar. From the Deception Falls Picnic Area parking area, it’s a short walk to a lovely waterfall, but the best part is the 0.5- mile interpretive loop trail along the creek and through the woods. This was our first stop in the forest and it felt great to breathe in the clean air and feel the weight of the Pacific Northwest. To me, the best things to see in Washington State are the ferns, bryophytes, running water, and big trees that ushered us along the trail.
One of the coolest spots is where the creek hits a wall of granite and takes a sharp right turn. This is one of the Washington State scenic attractions you won’t want to miss and it is an easy walk.
Amenities: Vault toilets, picnic tables, interpretive signs
Address: US Highway 2 at milepost 56. The entrance to Deception Falls, WA is on the north side of the highway.
Hours: Open Memorial Day through Labor Day(ish)
There was a period when Anders was little when he got really interested in Bigfoot. Being the interest-led homeschooling mama that I am, I helped him check out a bunch of Bigfoot books at the library. He’d read them in bed and then be too terrified to sleep. We returned the library books. Maybe it wasn’t a good choice for a five-year-old.
Anders is barely scarred from the terror and was happy to visit the Friendly Bigfoot statue. There are actually several Bigfoot statues here, all friendly. This area is where a scene from Harry and the Hendersons was filmed. We haven’t seen the movie, yet, but hopefully it isn’t scary.
To see the Bigfoot holding a raccoon, walk down the grassy hill left of the porta-potties. There are several bigfoot attractions in Washington State and throughout the Pacific Northwest and I think we are ready to see them all! They aren’t all on Route 2 Washington, however, so we will need to expand our search. In terms of things to do for kids in Washington, a bigfoot hunt has to be near the top of the list.
Amenities: Coffee kiosk with food, drinks, Bigfoot fur, and other Bigfoot souvenirs; porta potties.
Address: Hwy 2, near Index
Directions: Espresso Chalet. US Hwy 2 Washington at milepost 36 on the south side. About a mile east of Index and Index-Galena Rd.
Admission: Free- sort of. The parking is only for customers of the coffee kiosk. We bought a cup of tea.
More Things To Do in Eastern Washington on the US 2 Highway
There are more Eastern Washington tourist attractions, but we couldn’t stop at all of them.
Apple and Pear Cider Mills
Some of the cool things to see in Washington State are the apple cider mills along the highway. These cider mills often make both a hard cider and a non-alcoholic cider. Some serve food and have lodging.
There are at least a couple in Wenatchee: Pear Up Cider (pear cider) and Phillipi Ciderhouse and Distillery. Near Cashmere, is the Cashmere Cider Mill, and Leavenworth is home to Bushel and Bee Taproom with a rotating line up of 12 ciders and 12 beers on tap.
Western Washington State Attractions on Washington Hwy 2
Iron Goat Trail
This is an easy walk along the old Great Northern railroad grade built over the Cascades in 1893. This abandoned railway grade is now one of the unique attractions Washington State has to offer. Three miles of the trail are ADA accessible and the whole nine miles goes through tunnels, across bridges, by waterfalls, through the forest, and to interpretive signs that explain the history of the Iron Goat Trail.
- You can get The Iron Goat Trail: A Guidebook from Amazon and learn about the history of the trail, where to go, and what kinds of birds, plants, and animals you can expect to see. It will help you understand one of the points of interest in Washington State.
- Day Hiking: Central Cascades by Craig Romano is a great resource for many trails in the area.
- The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America’s Deadliest Avalanche by Gary Krist is a tale of the of the Wellington Avalanche Disaster that took place here.
This is definitely one of the things to do in Washington State that I am adding to my list. Let me know if you go and what you think.
Amenities: Vault toilets, interpretive signs
Directions: To access the trail from the Wellington trailhead on the east end, drive U.S. 2 to Milepost 64.3 just west of Stevens Pass and turn north on the Old Cascade Highway. Proceed 2.8 miles on the Old Cascade Highway to its junction with the USFS Road 050. Turn right and continue to the trailhead parking lot.
To access the trail from the Martin Creek trailhead on the west end, follow U.S. 2, to Milepost 55, 6 miles east of the town of Skykomish. Turn north on to the Old Cascade Highway, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Road #67. Proceed to the junction with USFS Road #6710 (2.3 miles from Milepost 55). Turn onto USFS Road #6710 and proceed 1.4 miles to the Martin Creek trailhead parking lot.
Hours: Visit the visit the Forest Service website, or call the Skykomish Ranger District Office at 360-677-2414 to find out if the trail is snow-free.
Admission: The US Forest Service requires a day or annual Northwest Forest Pass for each vehicle parked at either the Martin Creek or Wellington trailhead. Other federal recreational lands passes that can substitute for the Northwest Forest Pass include all of the America The Beautiful, The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Passes (Annual, Senior [formerly ‘Golden Age’], Access, and Military).
Wallace Falls State Park
There are a lot of waterfalls in the Emerald State, so it’s not surprising that another one is included in my Washington State sightseeing places.
Wallace Falls State Park has 12 miles of hiking trails that follow the Wallace River, climb the three tiers that make up Wallace Falls, and wander through the forest. There are two lakes, five and six miles from the trailhead that can be hiked or backpacked to.
Amenities: Bathrooms, tent sites, rental cabins, two kitchen shelters without electricity, plus five sheltered and five unsheltered picnic tables.
Address: 14503 Wallace Lake Road, Gold Bar, WA
Hours: 8 am – dusk (parking often fills by 11 am on weekends)
Admission: Washington State Parks Discover Pass — Annual pass: $30, One-day pass: $10
Need more Roadside Attraction inspiration? Check out my post on the Teton Mystery,
Washington State Points of Interest on San Juan Island, or one of these books from Amazon.
- New Roadside America: The Modern Traveler’s Guide to the Wild and Wonderful World of America’s Tourist by Doug Kirby
- Lost America: The Abandoned Roadside West by Troy Paiva
- Eccentric America, 2nd: The Bradt Travel Guide to All That’s Weird and Wacky in the USA by Jan Friedman