Two Washington cities make National Geographic’s ‘Best Cities’ list

Spokane and Olympia made National Geographic’s ‘Best Cities in the United States’ list this year.

The list of 30 “smaller” cities, compiled by the Nat Geo’s Travel magazine, identified the top U.S. small cities based on things that they think lead to happiness: coffee shops, breweries, music venues, green spaces, galleries, and “Instagrammable moments.”

About Olympia: Washington’s state capital boasts an eye-opening number of coffee shops per capita, from Olympia Coffee (three locations in town) to the skull-art-decorated Burial Grounds. Once suitably caffeinated, head out to one of Olympia’s similarly list-topping green spaces, including 314-acre waterfront Priest Point Park.

About Spokane: A high count of record stores, tattoo parlors, vintage clothing boutiques, and coffee shops per capita boosts Washington State’s second largest city to the top of our hipster-friendly and most caffeinated lists for its population category. Bearded and flannel-wearing locals often show up at Garageland, a gastropub/vinyl store downtown (note the dugout canoe hanging over the bar). Summertime outdoor music festivals bring bands and local brews to Riverfront Park, a 100-acre playground along the Spokane River.

National Geographic says the resurgence of cities — both large and small — is the most exciting travel story in America right now. That’s good news after the U.S. tourism industry said it’s scrambling to attract more international travelers amidst a sharp decline.