Pop Culture Pilgrimage

Follow in the footsteps of your favorite film, TV, and literary characters across the Evergreen State.
Washington State Vacation
Washington State Vacation

Washington has made its mark on screen and in print for decades. Explore the state’s diverse backdrops to follow in the footsteps of your favorite fictional characters. 

Seattle relished the limelight in the ’90s, with blockbuster hits like Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle putting the city on the mainstream map. Travelers today can glimpse the film’s famous floating home from Lake Union and sit on the same Athenian Inn barstool that Tom Hanks did in Pike Place Market. Cameron Crowe’s movie Singles starred the city’s hip Capitol Hill neighborhood—along with a grunge-tastic soundtrack. Frasier gave a front-row view of the iconic Space Needle. And 10 Things I Hate About You took actors Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles on a rom-com romp to quirky city sites, such as Gas Works Park and the Fremont Troll. Then, of course, Grey’s Anatomy immortalized Seattle’s real-life Fisher Plaza, home to a TV news station, as the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital.

On a wilder front, Free Willy showcased orcas gliding between the San Juan Islands—which you can see for yourself on a whale-watching tour—while scenes for Harry and the Hendersons were filmed in the Cascade Mountains. Road-trippers pause at EspressoChalet (5000 Hwy 2, Milepost 36, Gold Bar), where the movie’s Bigfoot Museum stood. Devotees of David Lynch’s cult classic Twin Peaks also head to the Cascades for a slice of cherry pie and coffee from Twede’s Cafe in North Bend, better known on screen as the Double R Diner. Stay tuned for the series’ Showtime revival in 2016.

On the Olympic Peninsula, Richard Gere and Debra Winger found their way around Port Townsend’s Fort Worden State Park in the 1982 drama An Officer and a Gentleman. Meanwhile, Twilight fanatics flock to Forks, a quiet logging town that has embraced its connection to Stephenie Meyer’s vampire sensation. Twihards can see Bella’s truck at the Forks visitor center, visit the beaches of La Push, and stop by the harbor town of Port Angeles, where Bella and Edward had their first date. 

On the literary front, Bainbridge Island inspired the serene settings in David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars, while revered writer Sherman Alexie consistently sets his works in his home state. His award-winning novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian chronicles the life of a teenager growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and then in Reardan.

Cheryl Strayed’s bestseller Wild—and its 2014 film adaptation—stirred interest in the Pacific Crest Trail, 500 miles of which run through Washington. From Skamania on the Columbia River, hop on the Washington portion of the trail and trek as far north as the Canadian border.

-- Corinne Whiting