27 Best Sights in North Central Washington, Washington

Cascade Loop

Fodor's choice

One of the state's most famous scenic drives, the popular 400-mile Cascade Loop encompasses areas of northwestern Washington from Puget Sound to the Cascades and beyond on a number of roads. Its eastern portion includes towns in the Methow Valley such as Winthrop, the Lake Chelan Valley, and the Wenatchee Valley and Cascade foothills. Winthrop has plenty of outdoor activities as well as a lively downtown; heading south on the loop brings you to the resort area of Chelan, on 50-mile-long Lake Chelan, and then to the fruit-growing center of Wenatchee and on to Leavenworth, with its Bavarian-style architecture and mix of old-style and hip shops and restaurants. Although you could drive this portion of the Cascade Loop in a day, the charming towns, landscapes, and outdoor adventures make it easy to linger for a few days or more.  

Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards

Fodor's choice

One of Chelan's several acclaimed operations with female founding winemakers, this upper North Shore winery with a bordello-inspired tasting room has helpful staff and a pretty outdoor picnic area. The winery's playful approach extends to the interesting lineup, including two crisp and bright rosés that feature Gamay Noir grapes grown in the Chelan Lake AVA, the Blanc de Noir sparkling wine called "Good in Bed," and the Shameless Hussy label with its red blend of Syrah and Merlot and its fresh and fruity Viognier. There's also an aromatic vermouth aperitif that pairs perfectly with light tapas. The winery has a tasting room in downtown Leavenworth, too. 

Karma Vineyards

Fodor's choice

With a gracious patio, koi pond, and fireplace overlooking the lake as well as a dark and inviting wine cave, this first-rate winery on the South Shore stands out for its superb Brut de Brut Champagne-style wine as well as for its Alsatian grapes, including Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Sparkling wines predominate and are even offered by the can (handy for a picnic).

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Lake Chelan

Fodor's choice

Tremendously popular in summer, this narrow, 50-mile-long fjord—Washington's largest natural lake—offers striking scenery year-round. The views take in sparkling blue water with snowcapped peaks in the distance. The lake offers swimming, boating, fishing, and a chance to soak up the sun. By road, the only access to the shore is its southeastern end, but you can explore the rest of the lake by boat.

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Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery

Fodor's choice

Self-guided tours reveal how chinook salmon are released into the Wenatchee River in the hope they will return someday to spawn and keep the species thriving. Even if nothing's spawning, the view of millions of eggs in the nursery or thousands of small, 4-inch "fries" wriggling in the aquarium is something to see. Be sure to set aside time to walk the pretty, 1-mile Icicle Creek Nature Trail loop, an easy and enjoyable stroll with wildlife viewing platforms, interpretive signs, and great bird-watching. A butterfly garden is in front of the hatchery building.

Ohme Gardens

Fodor's choice

At this lush green oasis, high atop bluffs near the confluence of the Columbia and Wenatchee rivers, visitors can commune with a blend of native rocks, ferns, mosses, pools, waterfalls, rock gardens, and conifers on a mile of paths. Herman Ohme purchased the land in 1929 as a private family retreat and developed the gardens—now owned and managed by Chelan County—for his wife, Ruth.

Pybus Public Market

Fodor's choice

Set in a renovated warehouse along the Columbia River, this market hall modeled loosely on Seattle's Pike Place Market has been a cog in the revitalization of Wenatchee's riverfront since it opened in 2013. Inside are several excellent restaurants as well as vendors selling fresh produce from nearby farms, artisanal cheeses and charcuterie, seafood, coffee, gelato, and baked goods.

Rocky Reach Dam Park and Discovery Center

Fodor's choice

This 125-foot-tall hydroelectric dam on the Columbia River, about 8 miles north of Wenatchee, supplies power to about 7 million people, and there's much for visitors to see and do here, including an engaging Discovery Center and a 17-acre park with picnic shelters and great river views. Expanded and reopened in 2021, the Discovery Center has four floors of all-new interactive exhibits, including the Sternwheeler Video Game, where guests pilot a sternwheeler through a video of rapids. On the lower floor, displays present Native American artifacts from the former Museum of the Columbia. Three theaters, virtual reality activities, a STEM Center, hydroelectric exhibits, art displays, and a full calendar of learning events make this a must-stop for families and anyone interested in learning more about hydroelectric power and river habitats.

Aplets and Cotlets Candy Kitchen

Part of Liberty Orchards, Aplets and Cotlets was founded by two Armenian brothers in Cashmere, the apple, apricot, and pear capital of the Wenatchee Valley. When area orchards hit a rough patch in the 1920s, the brothers began producing the dried-fruit confections of their homeland, naming them aplets (made from apples) and cotlets (made from apricots). Free samples are offered during the 15-minute tour of this little factory and candy store set amid the shops and cafés of charming downtown Cashmere. The shop also has displays about the company's history and sells many other specialty sweets, including Turkish Delight, fruit-and-nut Orchard Bars, and a great variety of chocolates. 

Benson Vineyards Estate Winery

The excellent estate-grown wine is part of the reason to drop by this vineyard hugging a hillside on the north shore of the lake. You'll also want to soak up the sweeping Lake Chelan and mountain views from the tasting room—with its large south-facing windows—and the terrace. The patio is a pleasant setting to enjoy Neapolitan-style pizza, artisan sandwiches, and gelato from the on-site bistro, Cafe Myth.

Historic Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village

At this engaging living history museum on the edge of the historic hamlet of Cashmere—midway between Wenatchee and Leavenworth—you can explore an excellent collection of Native American artifacts, as well as 20 pre-1900 Chelan County buildings that have been reassembled and furnished with period furniture and other historical objects. Surrounded by snowcapped mountain peaks, Cashmere is one of Washington's oldest towns, founded by Oblate missionaries back in 1863, when the Wenatchi and their vast herds of horses still roamed free over the bunch grasslands of the region.

Lake Chelan State Park

On the lake's less crowded southwest shore, 9 miles northwest of Chelan, this 127-acre park with 6,000 feet of shoreline is a favorite hangout for soaking up sunshine and accessing the water. There are docks, a boat ramp, campsites, boat rentals, food service, and plenty of picnic areas.

7544 S. Lakeshore Rd., Chelan, 98816, USA
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $10 per vehicle or $30 for annual Discover pass (good at all Washington state parks)

Leavenworth Reindeer Farm

In the town known for its year-round Christmas vibe, this one-of-a-kind reindeer farm is where you can meet and learn about Santa's valued magical-sleigh-pullers. It's open 11 months of the year, but the most festive time to come is December, when Santa makes guest appearances and poses for photos with visitors. He returns in July for "Christmas in July," when you can also meet the baby reindeer that were born in spring. In January, the Elsa and Anna characters from Frozen make a one-day visit during the winter tour season (November, January, and February). The rest of the year, tours are just as interesting but not as crowded.  Reservations are a must and visits to the farm are not allowed without tickets. Reindeer aren't as tall as they are sometimes depicted, but their antlers are formidable; the up-close visits in their enclosure are only recommended for ages 8 and up (and anyone under 13 needs to be with an adult). You'll get an opportunity to feed the reindeer and, after the tour is over, enjoy snacks around the campfire.

Marlin Handbell Ringers

Keeping alive an 18th-century English tradition that evolved into a musical form, 14 ringers play 108 bells covering 5½ chromatic octaves. The bells are rung as part of the town's Christmas festivities and also in early May.

Nefarious Cellars

An intimate boutique winery on the South Shore draws a devoted—and growing—following, especially for its compelling blends, like the bright and zesty off-dry Consequence (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling) and the classic Rhône red, called RX. This estate with sweeping lake vistas also rents out a stunning two-bedroom guesthouse. Tasting reservations are recommended, and the maximum number of people in a group is six. 

495 S. Lakeshore Rd., Chelan, 98816, USA
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tastings $15, Closed Mon.–Thurs. Nov.-Apr., Mon. and Tues.–mid-June, and Mon. mid-June–Oct.

Nutcracker Museum and Shop

More than 9,100 modern and antique nutcrackers—some of them centuries old—are displayed in this museum, which in 2022 was added to Guinness World Records for having the world's largest nutcracker collection. You can also view exhibits on the region's Native American heritage and pioneer families presented by the Upper Valley Historical Society. The museum gift shop stocks nutcrackers of all sizes and in the likeness of all kinds of characters.

Peshastin Pinnacles State Park

Although it's just 34 acres, this high-desert park in Dryden, about 3 miles northwest of Cashmere, is a terrific spot to admire otherworldly, pinnacle-shape rock formations, as well as a favorite destination for rock climbing. A steep 1½-mile trail leads to a dramatic promontory with great views of Wenatchee Valley.

Shafer Historical Museum

The museum is made up of several downtown buildings that nod to Winthrop's colorful mining and ranching past, including "the castle," a late-19th-century log house built by one of the town's pioneer founders. Other structures include a country store, print shop, schoolhouse, women's dress shop, and an open-air display of vintage mining equipment. Although you can go inside the buildings in summer only, the grounds alone are worth a stroll and are open year-round.

Silvara Cellars

Set on a hilltop just outside of Leavenworth, with gorgeous views over the valley, this winery is a must-stop for wine lovers. There's a tasting room where you can sample wine and learn more about the award-winning wines that Silvara makes with grapes sourced from more than a dozen Washington state vineyards. Outside there's an expansive patio with tables and firepits for socializing over wine, cheese, and other light bites. For an especially unique experience, reserve one of the clear dome "igloos" for your group.

Stemilt Creek Winery

Founded by fourth-generation farmers who have been growing fruit in the Wenatchee foothills since the 1890s, Stemilt Creek has developed a sterling reputation for its Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other Bordeaux-style wines. The tasting room in downtown Wenatchee is in the Pybus Public Market.

3 N. Worthen St., Wenatchee, 98801, USA
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tastings from $12

The Confluence: Art in Twisp

Since it opened in the early 1990s, this nonprofit community art gallery has mirrored Twisp's growth into a renowned artists' colony. Set along the town's charming main commercial drag, the gallery hosts a half-dozen exhibitions each year. The outstanding gift shop stocks an impressive selection of works, from paintings to postcards to pottery.

Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park

About 10 miles north of Lake Chelan State Park, this 232-acre park also abuts the lake's southern shore but attracts even fewer crowds. It's truly a place to get away from it all, and there are plenty of tent and RV sites as well as day-use amenities including picnic tables and a marina.

20530 S. Lakeshore Rd., Chelan, 98816, USA
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Closed Nov.–Mar., $10 per vehicle or $30 for annual Discover pass (good at all Washington state parks)

Wapato Point Cellars

Home to the popular Winemaker's Grill restaurant, which serves dinner daily, this well-respected operation with a tasting room and wine bar is in the small North Shore town of Manson and makes a great stop whether you're thirsty, hungry, or both. In warm weather, have a seat on the patio and drink up the mountain views while enjoying a glass of wine. The winery won the top spot with its 2018 Cabernet Franc in the 2022 Sunset magazine International Wine Competition—the first Washington winery to win that honor.

200 S. Quetilquasoon Rd., Manson, 98831, USA
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Basic tastings free, winemaker tastings $15

Waterfront Park

A flat and easy 3-mile trail winds along this pretty city park on the banks of the Wenatchee River, down the hill from downtown Leavenworth. The trail crosses Blackbird Island and has several patches of beach that are ideal for a dip on a hot summer day. It's a wonderful park and trail for wildlife watching.

Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center

Located in two connected early-1900s former government buildings, the city's well-designed history museum contains Native American and pioneer artifacts, exhibits on Washington's famed apple industry, and a display about the 1931 landing of the first-ever nonstop flight across the Pacific, which went from Japan to Wenatchee. Children enjoy the hands-on area and the model railway. The museum also displays works by Northwest artists.

Wine Cellar Leavenworth

In the center of town—in full Bavarian style, naturally—this two-story building contains hip eateries (Tumwater Bread & Pizza, J5 Coffee, Post Office Saloon) at street level. Descend the staircase into the building's stylish subterranean cellar, however, and you'll discover the tasting room for Obelisco Estate Winery, plus Pika Provisions, a trendy cocktail bar.

WineGirl Wines

Founded by acclaimed winemaker Angela Jacobs, WineGirl Wines changed hands in 2020 but continues to welcome wine lovers to its attractive downtown tasting room. Sourcing grapes from vineyards in the Columbia Valley and Lake Chelan (where there's a second tasting room), WineGirl makes several red wines, including Malbec, Syrah, two Merlots, and two port-style wines, along with whites, rosés, and sparkling wine. The Pin-Up Girl wines are adorned with colorful vintage-style labels and include a Gewürztraminer called "Pretzel Girl" in honor of the Leavenworth vibe; it's a perfect souvenir. You can do a special tasting with red wines and chocolate.