15 Best Things to Do in Federal Way, WA

Federal Way, WA
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Federal Way is among the largest cities in Washington State, located in King County, Washington, within the metropolitan area.

It is near the Puget Sound inlet and flanked by Mount Rainier in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area.

It was originally a logging settlement called ‘Federal Way‘ after the Federal Highway US 99.

In the 1860s, the loggers started using the shore along Puget Sound for access to the timber that was available inland.

And by the 1880s, around 50 homesteaders had filed claims.

The name ‘Federal Way’ was first used when five schools merged operations in the school district and planned the construction of Federal Way High School.

There are plenty of recreations available to anyone in Federal Way.

It is home to the largest theme park in Washington, and the aquatic center Olympians use as a training ground.

Natural beauty also abounds, with thriving gardens from the Powellswood Garden, the Pacific Bonsai Museum, and the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden.

The city boasts a family-friendly way of life, stunning views of Puget Sound, and international cuisine in its 275 restaurants.

Any visitor can enjoy the lovely native ornamentals, the aromatic firs, and the heart-stopping vista of the Olympic mountain range as they wander the city.

Nearly 1 million tourists visit Federal Way each year, and if you want to be among them, check this list of the best things to do in the city.

Admire the Pretty Flowers at Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden

A pathway lines with plants at Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden
Dmitry Kovba / Shutterstock.com

The Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden is a woodland covering 22 acres that houses the world’s largest collection of Rhododendron species.

It is a living museum that shares and conserves this collection with the public and the scientific community.

Pastel-colored flowers at Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden
TayaJohnston / Shutterstock.com

Its scientific and educational events include pollen and seed distribution, the annual Rhododendron Species Symposium, and a biennial catalog with beautiful rare plants on sale.

The Rhododendron Species Foundation supports this garden and conserves the Rhododendron species by distribution and collection, and documentation of wild-collected materials from the field.

A pretty flower at Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden
Dmitry Kovba / Shutterstock.com

Find plants from far-flung places at the Rutherford Conservancy, see a magical otherworld at the Victorian Stumpery, and spot amazing rhododendron foliage at the Big-Leaf Rhododendron Garden.

See blooming vibrant species at the Azalea Collection, spot dwarf and compact rhododendrons at the Alpine Garden, and enjoy the serenity and wildlife of the Pond Garden.

Vibrant flowers at Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden
Dmitry Kovba / Shutterstock.com

Discover Local History at the Historical Society of Federal Way

The Historical Society of Federal Way serves the public through educating, displaying, indexing, researching, and preserving the history of the Greater Federal Way.

It gathers the history of the Federal Way through research and donations, building a sense of identity, community, and heritage.

Located across Steel Lake, in Federal Way’s Heritage Center, it offers a sanctuary for artifacts, exhibits, and information about Federal Way and South King County’s past.

It formed in 1988, in anticipation of Washington State’s centennial, at a time of heightened awareness of the state’s past.

Since then, it has accumulated a vast archive of historical information.

It has collected thousands of images featuring life in the city for the past 100 years.

It has also made many public presentations on various historical subjects.

It has lovingly restored the Barker Cabin, the oldest structure in Federal Way built in 1883, and the Denny Cabin, constructed in 1889.

Have a Workout at #Best Hour Kickboxing

Have some quality exercise at this national award-winning kickboxing studio with a location at Federal Way.

This studio has spent years helping customers to get into amazing shape, catering to various body types, abilities, and fitness levels.

Their kickboxing program promises to make anyone stronger and more confident, helping them develop as physically and mentally strong kickboxers.

You will never get bored with their team of full-time instructors, 100+ unique playlists, and over 200+ class plans.

They craft every class plan to strengthen every muscle in your body, whether it’s a 30 or 50-minute class, helping to build strength, confidence, and endurance.

They equip their locations with state-of-the-art Heart Rate Monitors, where connected chest and armbands report the number of calories burnt during class.

The #Best Hour vibe revolves around motivation, truth, and positivity, unlike anything you’ve experienced in a gym.

Take a Stroll at West Hylebos Wetlands Park

Wooden pathway lined with trees at West Hylebos Wetlands Park
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

West Hylebos Wetlands Park protects 120 acres of land wending through unique old-growth forests and wetlands in the heart of Federal Way.

It is an ecological and hydrological conservatory, a wildlife refuge, a nature trail, a natural wonder, and one of the few remaining natural bogs in South King County.

A lake at West Hylebos Wetlands Park
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It features picnic areas, two small ponds, bird watching platforms, a 1.7-mile interpretive boardwalk trail network, an old-growth Sitka spruce, and western red cedar stands.

Stroll the wide graveled path past two restored cabins: the Denny Cabin, from a Seattle founder, and the Barker Cabin, the oldest standing structure in Federal Way.

Read the informational kiosks and follow the path winding around a large hedge into a wooded and protected environment.

Exterior of Denny Cabin at West Hylebos Wetlands Park
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Walk the Marlake Loop, go into the forest with its hemlocks, Douglas firs, and giant red cedars, and get educated on the interpretive signs.

Reach a junction and walk to the serene Brooklake or take the long way past the 600+-year-old Sitka spruce tree and the Deep Sink peat bog.

Exterior of Barker Cabin at West Hylebos Wetlands Park
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Relax with a Massage at Happy Foot Massage

Come relax, destress, unwind, and rejuvenate at this massage spa in Federal Way.

Happy Foot Massage’s specialty is the Chinese foot massage, relieving tension, calming tired muscles, and tempering migraines.

Their massage sessions are suitable for folks with back pain, sports injuries, arthritis, tension headaches, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and menstrual disorders.

Their massages increase vitality and circulation, help in stress management and relaxation, and help to improve stress and stress-related conditions.

Try their Swedish Massage, which is beneficial in increasing oxygen in the blood, improving flexibility and circulation, and decreasing muscle toxins.

Their Hot Stone Massage unlocks energy pathways, enhances the soothing mechanism of pressure, and helps release wound-up muscles.

Their Foot Reflexology Massage helps those with plantar fasciitis, ankle injuries, and tension from everyday work.

Their Chair Massage decreases blood pressure and heart rate and leaves anyone feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

Deep Dive with Underwater Sports

Underwater Sports is a dive shop in Federal Way that is part of a local chain, selling and repairing local equipment and giving instructional classes.

They offer tank fills and onsite equipment servicing and have all your diving equipment needs covered at their showroom.

They have initiated thousands of people into local diving at Puget Sound and worldwide.

Their PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water Diver course is the most popular scuba certification, initiating thousands of people via open water, pool sessions, and knowledge development.

Their Advanced Open Water Scuba introduces further capabilities by introducing new abilities and fresh ways to have fun.

Their Rescue Diver Course is rewarding and challenging, teaching anyone how to prevent problems and manage them when they occur.

Their Divemaster Course expands dive knowledge and sharpens your skills to professional levels.

Gaze at the Tiny Trees in the Pacific Bonsai Museum

A larix laricina bonsai in Pacific Bonsai Museum
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way is one of two museums in the United States dedicated solely to bonsai.

It is also one of the few bonsai museums in the world.

It sustains a collection of 150 trees: some of the finest examples of bonsai anywhere in the world.

These trees are the most geographically diverse in the country, with bonsai from Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Canada, and the United States.

A sequoia bonsai in Pacific Bonsai Museum
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With an elegant outdoor museum in a grand fine art setting, a rotating selection of 60 bonsai, and the changing seasons, you can always find something new in the museum.

The place offers traditional and contemporary bonsai exhibitions, educational programs, public happenings, field trips, and group tours.

An ongoing exhibit features viewing stones or suiseki, valued for their color, beauty, shape, and pattern, which enhance the bonsai’s quality, creating a beautiful nature scene.

Go Swimming at Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center

The Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center is an aquatic center in Federal Way and a legacy venue of the 1990 Goodwill Games.

It is one of the premier natatoriums in the country, with both swimming and diving complexes and 2500 seats.

It maintains one of the most active competition schedules in the United States and hosts over 50 events every year.

It has hosted some premiere events with national and international competitions, such as the Olympic Trials, the NCAA championships, the PAC-12 Conference championships, and the Speedo Junior National Championships.

It is open to the public for family swims, lap swims, open swims, pool exercises, and swimming lessons.

The recreational pool is rentable for private affairs, and a banquet hall is there for company gatherings, parties, and weddings.

Down a Glass of Wine at Abbe Vineyard Winery

In 2009, a group of friends got together and started Abbe Vineyard Winery.

They started off planting ¼ acre of Chardonnay and Mellon grape varietals, following it up with another 1 ½ acre of more Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Muscatel, Viognier, Pinot Munier, and Riesling.

It was challenging to grow these varietals in the Pacific Northwest, but they heartily took on this challenge.

In their third year, they bought 2500 Pinot Noir plants, transported them to Federal Way, replanted them, and waited for the fruits of their labor.

Today, they continue to create wines from what Mother Nature yields, bringing grapes to fruition as the wines on the table.

Try their Viognier 2014 with rich aromas of honeysuckle and apple, the Pinot Noir 100% with cherry and red fruit note aromas, and the Barbera 2016 with rich flavors of cherries, strawberries, and raspberries.

Have a Splash at Wild Waves Theme and Water Park

Aerial view of Wild Waves Theme and Water Park
Jessica Spengler from Hove, United Kingdom, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wild Waves Theme and Water Park is the largest combination amusement and water park in the Pacific Northwest.

It is a go-to summer destination and one of three water parks in Washington State.

It features over 60 slides and rides, including three roller coasters, a lazy river, a 24000 square foot wave pool, and enough fun for the entire family!

Waterslide tower in Wild Waves Theme and Water Park
Jeff Sandquist, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get your blood pumping at The Wild Thing roller coaster; rock, spin, and rotate at the Disk’O Flashback; flip upside down at the Timber Axe; and feel the rush at the Klondike Gold Rusher.

Twist, turn, and plunge at the Pacific Plunge; splash down the tubes at the Konga Slides; head down thrilling rapids at Raging River Ride; and ride the waves at the Wave Pool.

Have an exhilarating ride at Riptide, make a splash at Zooma Falls, and soak and relax at the Warming Tubs.

People swimming at Wild Waves Theme and Water Park
Jeff Sandquist, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watch a Show at Centerstage Theater

Centerstage Theatre is an award-winning venue, a longtime feature of the South Sound Arts Community since 1977, that has performed at the Knutzen Family Theatre since 1988.

The patrons choose all the shows at the theatre with artist/audience safety and artistic integrity in mind.

They believe in theatre as an agent of change, challenge, and education, producing and presenting stellar performances to progress the lives of communities in western Washington.

They aim to promote the development and extension of theatre in the state of Washington.

They strive towards giving a showcase for artists who want to further their theatre experience and aspire to professional careers.

They also run workshops and classes taught by professional and creative instructors to help students prepare for professional productions and auditions.

They have a reputation for accomplished and innovative productions of both popular works and recent works with mass audience appeal.

Bask in the Beauty at Powellswood Garden

Powellswood Garden merges native woodland and a vivid pleasure garden in a captivating forest preserve.

Let your five senses be enraptured as you traipse this paradise of beauty and serenity.

Begin your visit at the Entry Garden, enclosed by Japanese maples, Portuguese Laurels, and tricolor beeches.

View lush green shades and hues of the evergreen hedge, conifers, grasses, and rhododendrons at the Fern and Rhododendron Borders.

Take in close-up views of the Perennial Border that circles a stream and pond, with varicolored shrubs, perennials, and trees.

Find an exquisite arbor in the Shade Garden with its climbing roses, clematis, redwoods, golden locus, and orangebark stewartia.

Sit in the simple space of the Woodland Garden, which has a pile of ferns under a shade of Douglas firs and an overlook providing views of the ravine below.

Stroll onto the pretty lawn of the Spring Garden, which is sprinkled with blossoms from Shirotae cherry trees and marked with Pacific Fire vine maple and Divinely Blue deodar cedar.

Relax at the House Garden with its bold combinations of colors and plants, and visit the Garden Room for knowledge about the place’s programs, history, and volunteer opportunities.

Spend a Day at Dash Point State Park

Sandy beach at Dash Point State Park
Roman Khomlyak / Shutterstock.com

Dash Point State Park is a 398-acre park on Puget Sound, straddling the border between King and Pierce counties.

It has over 3300 feet of shoreline, 11 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, and 140 campsites.

Wooden bridge walkway at Dash Point State Park
GeorgeColePhoto / Shutterstock.com

Its activities include windsurfing, skimboarding, wildlife viewing, windsurfing, birdwatching, swimming, fishing, and beachcombing.

The shoreline at high tide is a hotspot for anglers who want to fish, and at low tide is a big draw for families and boarders eager for sand flats and shallow sea.

Picnic area overlooking a beach at Dash Point State Park
Beach Creatives / Shutterstock.com

Dash Point is a prime spot for skimboarding wherein a boarder can hurl a small, thin board into shallow waves and ride it like a surfboard and skateboard hybrid.

Birders can spot raptors and shorebirds; botanists can identify rich plants, trees, and flowers; and beachcombers will spy starfish and crabs.

Flowers along a trail at Dash Point State Park
MCIPEE, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pay Respect to the South King Fire and Rescue 9/11 Memorial

The South King Fire and Rescue fire department has the most comprehensive 9/11 memorial on the West Coast.

Almost 3000 people, including 343 firefighters, died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The memorial honors the men and women who lost their lives during these tragic events in New York.

At the memorial is a 1216 pound, a 12-foot steel beam from the Twin Towers, picked up by two firefighters in 2001 and transported to Federal Way.

The beam is mounted so that it is pointing towards New York City.

Found here is a stone from Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at the memorial, excavated from the field where Flight 93 crashed after heroic passengers wrestled it from terrorists.

And there is also a limestone building block from the Pentagon, shipped by the Washington D.C. fire department to Federal Way.

A wall of black granite encloses these artifacts, containing the names of all the people who lost their lives in the attack.

Have a Day Out at Catapult Adventure Park

Catapult Adventure Park is an amusement center in Federal Way featuring hours of entertainment for the whole family.

If you’re looking for team-building activities, an exercise workout, competitive games, and exciting recreations, they have all your needs covered.

You can race up a rock wall and battle a jousting partner, swing the rope courses and sail down a zipline, and do cartwheels and backflips on an open court.

Reach new heights at Mt. Catapult, zoom down the slide at Double Drop, test your coordination at the Flying Leopard, and hop from place to place on the Cat Walk.

Dive into the huge Catapult Mega-Chute, knock your opponent off guard at the Cat Fight, test your reflexes at the rotating Tornado Twirl, and go rock climbing at Cliffhanger.

Practice acrobatic skills at the Leaping Leopard Giant Airbag, test your upper body strength at the Giant Cat Tree and test your agility and strength at the Giant Cat Course.

Explore all these exciting attractions and more, and have a swell time with your loved ones at Catapult Adventure Park!

Final Thoughts

Federal Way showcases a whole host of natural beauty and exciting family-friendly recreations.

Make sure not to miss this list of the best activities to pursue in this quality city.

Nestled close to the natural world of beautiful Washington State, Federal Way is a hearty and winsome destination for anybody.