12 Family Hotels That Offer a Free Breakfast

Okay, even if you don’t looooove chain hotels, you gotta admit — the free breakfast is awesome. Even if it’s just a bowl of cereal or a pastry and orange juice, that’s one meal out of the way. You can avoid  taking your gang of ravenous, borderline-manic children into a Denny’s or breakfast diner (hmm, or is it just me with that problem?).

Hanna Pauli

Your breakfast will not look like this. “Breakfast- Time” painting by Hanna Pauli.

I created this list of free breakfast-serving hotels in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Some of these are not just fine, but great — you’ll get a hot meal, a cooked-to-order breakfast omelet or an evening reception. Not bad at all. Many chain hotels also provide indoor pools (preferable in our always-undependable climate)  so the kids won’t mind if there’s not much of a personal touch. Free breakfast and a pool — I’m ready to go now.

Caveats: Check with the specific property you’re booking to make sure that they are offering breakfast. Always, always check.

1. Staybridge Hotels. These hotels offer a hot buffet breakfast, including fresh waffles. Evening receptions as well, Tuesdays through Thursdays. See the lists of Staybridge Oregon hotels, Washington hotels and BC hotels.

2. Embassy Suites. Free breakfast might include a cooked-to-order omelet, bacon, eggs, breakfast potatoes and pastries. Also, an evening reception (with wine!). Most locations are clustered in the Puget Sound and Portland. Also in the Hilton family: DoubleTree sometimes offers a continental breakfast. The roomy Homewood Suites provides a full, hot breakfast like Embassy Suites — along with a weeknight free manager’s reception featuring dinner items. Most are in the Puget Sound, Vancouver/Portland metro and in Medford, Oregon. Oh, and 15% off for active and retired military service members.

3.  Comfort Inns. The common Comfort Inns now advertise a free hot breakfast, including eggs, sausage, waffles and fresh fruit. Many locations in Oregon, Washington and Canada.

4. Oxford Suites. This contemporary-focused hotel chain has a free buffet breakfast and many also offer family rooms. Locations on the Oxford Suites map ? Six hotels in Oregon, six hotels in Washington State — stretching from Klamath Falls, Oregon to Silverdale, Washington.

5. Hampton Inns. While not so common throughout our area, Hampton Inns have a free hot breakfast served daily, with fresh waffles and oatmeal. If you’re in a hurry, the “On the Run Breakfast Bag” gives you the basics: apple, cereal bar, muffin, water. Check the map in this Hampton Inns link to find two in Oregon (Salem and Astoria), two in BC (Vancouver and Surrey) and more in Washington. I’ve stayed at the one in Burlington, and found it just fine, with easy access into the North Cascades.

6. Ramada Limited, Super 8, Travelodge. The Wyndham family offers free continental breakfast at many of the budget properties, including Ramada Limited, Super 8, and Travelodge.  I’ve stayed at Super 8s a few times; not my first choice, but it might be yours. See this listing of BC Ramada properties and use the Ramada map for Oregon and Washington free-breakfast hotels.

7. Holiday Inn Express. This hotel chain isn’t skimping on the free hot breakfast bar; here you’ll find cheese omelets, bacon and sausage, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls, an assortment of cereals and pancakes at a few locations. View the British Columbia Holiday Inn locations, Washington State hotel and Oregon hotels.

8. Best Western Plus. Best Western Plus provides a free breakfast at the PLUS locations (and even then, I would call and make sure — also, some non-plus locations will offer breakfast too.). Here are locations for Best Western in Oregon, Best Western in BC and Best Western in Washington.

9. Days Inn. Pick up a complimentary breakfast at “participating locations,” Days Inn says. Which means you should double-check, but you’ll probably find the juice and pastries out at Oregon Days Inns and Washington State Days Inns. More than 108 Days Inn hotels dot British Columbia.

10. La Quinta Inns and La Quinta Inns and SuitesLa Quinta Inns and La Quinta Inns and Suites serve up a continental breakfast. These properties are mostly found in Washington and Oregon, with just one in Richmond, BC.

11. Country Inn and Suites says that their free breakfast choices vary, but could include waffles, scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, hard-boiled eggs and biscuits and gravy. Nom. Unfortunately, there aren’t many in the Pacific Northwest —  one near Puyallup, one in Portland, none in BC.

12. Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Springhill Suites and TownePlace Suites. Several of the Marriott family of hotels offer free breakfast (hot and continental), including the Residence, Fairfield, Springhill and TownePlace. Only a handful in BC (a Fairfield in Kelowna, a Residence Inn with free breakfast in Vancouver), but there are many free breakfast buffets in the Washington hotels and in Oregon hotels.

13 Washington Spring Break Ideas for Families

Whether you plan to drive near or far, there’s a Washington State destination just right for your family spring break getaway.

Northwest Washington Family Spring Break Ideas

1. Bellingham. A sweet little city often overlooked by families motoring up I-5; the college town of Bellingham deserves it own multi-day stay. See my post on 20 Things to Do in Bellingham with Kids, go on a scenic drive (stop often for candy!) and play in the snow at Mt. Baker.

2. San Juan Islands. Go whale watching on the ferry ride, then arrive in the supercute village of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, where you’ll probably stay, unless you go out to Roche Harbor. Drive around the island, using the article 13 things to do with kids on San Juan Island as your guide. Great vacation with bigger kids (elementary age).

3. Whidbey Island. An often less-expensive alternative to San Juan Island, Whidbey Island’s got it all: great dining, an unbelievably cool bookstore-puppet shop, and plenty of hikes and beach excursions.

Puget Sound Family Spring Break Ideas

4. Seattle. Spend a day or two at Seattle Center, and don’t miss these 35 free and cheap things to do with kids in Seattle. You could also combine a trip here with Bainbridge Island, just a ferry ride away. Check out the island’s guide to kids’ activities.

5. Tacoma. Yes, you’re very near Seattle, but Tacoma deserves its own spring break exploration, in my opinion, particularly with toddlers and preschoolers. Visit the beluga whales at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (and let the kids go nuts on the great outside play structures) then bring toddlers to the new Children’s Museum of Tacoma.

6. Great Wolf Lodge. Read up on these 18 tips for staying at Great Wolf Lodge (in Grand Mound, about halfway between Portland and Seattle). You could combine a trip here with a stop in Olympia (Olympia is cool, but not worth an overnight stay, IMO).

Washington Coast & Olympic Peninsula Family Spring Break Ideas

7. Long Beach. Washington’s low-key answer to the Oregon Coast, with plenty to keep you busy for a weekend. Ride a horse, visit Jake the Alligator Man at Marsh’s Free Museum, play in the Long Beach sand (well, after you’ve put on a raincoat) and tour Cape Disappointment State Park.

8. Port Townsend. This Victorian seaport is inherently charming, and offers great family-friendly dining and activities for families. You could easily spend a few days here, with excursions to visit Port Angeles‘s kid-friendly picks.

South and East Washington Family Spring Break Ideas

9. Columbia Gorge. I grew up here! But don’t hold that against the Columbia Gorge. Check in at the Skamania Lodge (offering MANY kid-friendly spring-break activities), then go for a hike and count the violets for me.

10. Leavenworth-Lake Chelan. Tiny Leavenworth is great for a day or two — check out these quick guides on things to do with kids in Leavenworth and kid-friendly dining. But this destination can be combined with other destinations. Lake Chelan is another two hours away, but if you’re willing to make this a road trip, Lake Chelan’s pedestrian-friendly town and lovely lakeside views are worth another day or two.

11. Spokane. A wonderful getaway with chilly (but probably sunny) weather. Check out my article on the best of Spokane with kids and enjoy the brand-new Mobius Science Museum.

12. Suncadia. Combine a resort stay at Suncadia with a tour of the still-very-vintage (AKA rustic) ex-mining town of Roslyn-Cle Elum.

13. Walla Walla. If you like to unwind from a family day with a glass of wine, Walla Walla has you all set, with more than 100 wineries in town. But there’s plenty of non-vino activities (thank goodness!) to keep kids occupied, including a children’s museum.

 

13 Great BC Spring Break Ideas for Families

British Columbia’s mountains, lakes and harbors offer hundreds of great spring break family getaways. These standout cities and villages provide lots of great indoor and outdoor fun things to do for little kids, big kids and teens. Take a look and let me know if I’ve forgotten any of your favorite spring break destinations.

North and East BC Spring Break Ideas:

1. Fernie. Tour historic downtown (including the last standing wooden oil derrick in BC), visit the Fernie Nature Centre and enjoy all sort of great activities.

2. Fort Steele. In East Kootenay, this restored 1890s boom town boasts more than 60 heritage buildings, and spring break demonstrations of tin smithing, gold panning and dress making.

3. Kelowna. Ski and tube at Big White (look at the family spring break packages), visit the Kelowna Art Gallery for free on Thursdays and go for drop-in swim time in the wave pool at H2O Adventure Fitness.

4. Prince George. Learn about hands-on science and history at the Exploration Place Museum and Science Center (check out those dino models!), view constellations at the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Prince George Centre, play in the sprays, bubbles and lazy river at the Prince George Aquatic Centre.

5. Revelstoke. Chug your way through the Revelstoke Railway Museum, slalom your way down Revelstoke Mountain Resort (where kids stay, eat and play free through March) and tour the Rogers Pass National Historic Site.

West BC Spring Break Ideas

6. Harrison Hot SpringsSpring break-themed deals and packages for families abound at Harrison Hot Springs and Resort, on the south shores of Harrison Lake.

7. Vancouver and West Fraser Valley. Visit nearby Fort Langley and hear stories by the fire, learn about historic weapons and then back into Vancouver to visit Kitsilano with kids. If it’s raining? No problem. Check out this list of great rainy day activities in Vancouver.

8. Whistler. You’ll still find fresh powder in the impressive Blackcomb-Whistler community; if you stay right in Whistler village, everything (restaurants, lifts, and activites) is walkable. Ride the Peak 2 Peakswing at the new playground and oh yeah, ski! Check the Whistler family deals and activities page at the Whistler-Blackcomb site.

9. Steveston. No, it’s not big and fancy or all that far from Vancouver.  But this little seaside fishing village has charm to spare, and feels worlds away from the big city. Walking the historic streets feels like a step into a quiet past — so it’s just the right speed for a getaway-from-it-all BC spring break with kids. Stay in Vancouver or Richmond (don’t miss taking the kids to sample the international flavors of Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre) or just visit for the day. Read more at Steveston with Kids.

Vancouver Island Spring Break Ideas

10. Ladysmith. On Vancouver Island, this laid-back town offers shopping, beach play and a bright red-and-green little trolley. But before you book your destination, review this round-up I wrote on kid-friendly Vancouver Island resorts.

11. Parksville. Also on Vancouver Island, this beach town was made for families. Explore Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, go on a self-guided tour of Morningstar Farm, wow over the springtime enthusiasm of Little Qualicum Falls and warm up at Nature World, in the butterfly-dotted tropical gardens. 

12. Tofino. Vancouver Island’s western shores offer stormwatching, beaches, movies and even more fabulous kid-friendly excursions. Read more on Tofino with kids, with tips from a Tofino dad.

13. Victoria. One of my favorite destinations if you prefer a pedestrian-friendly spring break; leave the car at home and push the stroller or hold hands in the compact downtown. Enjoy toddler-friendly activities and 35 free and cheap things to do with kids in Victoria.

 

Northwest Spring Break: Where to go for great weather

Where should you take the kids for a spring break in the Pacific Northwest? Where can you go without a raincoat, scarf, hat and boots? Below, you’ll read about the March and April temperature and rainfall averages. It’s in Imperial and Fahrenheit, just to keep it all consistent, and the site I used (Weather.com) to compile the information offered that approach first. I’m sorry, Canadians!

Low rain spring break

If you’re desperate for some sun or just a break from the rain, Central and Eastern Oregon are great places for the kids’ spring break. Bend, Oregon is mild, with average March temps of 51 and 57 in April, and about .75 inches of rain. Pendleton, Oregon has a March high of 54 and an April high of 61, and about an inch of rain in each month. Further East, Baker City sees 50 degrees as the high in March, and 58 in April, with a scant .82-.85 inches of rain over the two months.

In British Columbia, Penticton sees March average temperatures of 49 and April of 59, with low precipitation (.8-1 inch).

But my money for a great spring break might be on Lake Chelan, Washington. This little lakeside town sees warm temps in March (54) and warms up even more (63) in April, with precipitation amounts decreasing from 1.1 inches in March to .68 inches in April.

Mild weather spring break

Leavenworth, Washington warms up from March’s 53 high to 62 in April, and daily rainfall drops from 2 inches to 1.1 inches.

For a Vancouver Island spring break, Victoria is mild but not too cold and wet — 50 degrees in March, 55 degrees in April; 2.8 inches of rain in March, and 1.7 inches in April. Also on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo’s average high in March is 51 and April is 56, but April sees a giant plummet in rain averages — 4.6 inches in March (that’s a bit too rainy for me) and 2.4 in April. These are good destinations if you want to enjoy some outdoor time (but only Nanaimo in April!).

Lots of rain spring break

Our region’s big cities are rainy for spring breaks in March and April — but on the upside, there are many wonderful indoor attractions. Vancouver, British Columbia offers 4.3 inches in March and 3 inches in April, 49 degrees as the March high and 54 Fahrenheit in April. In Seattle, the March high is 54 with 3.5 inches of rain, and April isn’t much better — 59 with 2.7 inches.

In Portland, it’s a little warmer, but rainier: March has a 56 degree high (and 4.5 inches of rain) and April has a 61 degree high (3.4 inches of rain). Eugene has similar temps to Portland, but it’s much rainier — March offers 4.9 inches of rain, and April offers 3.3 inches.

Massive rain spring break

So, if you hate rain, don’t go to the Oregon Coast, which is well-sprinkled throughout March and April. Newport sees 7.75 inches of rain in March and 4.7 inches in April (54 and 56 degrees F, respectively), and Cannon Beach is walloped with 8.7 inches of rain in March, and 5.9 inches in April (53 and 55). Bring a raincoat. Or just give in and wear your swimsuit — everywhere.

9 Awesome Seattle Day Trips with Kids

Just because you’re between vacations doesn’t mean you have to stay home. These nine fun excursions get the family out of the house for the day. Whether you have one or two hours or an entire 12 hours to drive, play and explore, you’ll find a great escape below.

Seattle to Whidbey Island Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Whidbey Island?

The Mukilteo ferry dock is about 35 miles north of Seattle, then there’s a half-hour sailing time to Clinton. Ferries run every half-hour on weekends and cost $24.85/RT for a family of four. Driving from Clinton to Fort Casey takes about 40 minutes.

Fort Casey batteries and bunkers fun for kids

Exploring the Fort Casey Batteries is always a fun thing to do with kids on Whidbey Island.

Things to do with kids on Whidbey Island on a day trip?

Seattle to Vashon Day Trip:

How long does it take to get to Vashon?

Take a ferry from West Seattle, then drive a few miles of two-lane country roads. Ferries leave about once an hour, and costs about $26/RT for a family of four in a car. Ferries run mostly once an hour, sometimes twice during peak hours, and sailing time is about 20 minutes.

Things to do with kids on Vashon Island on a day trip?

Seattle to Bainbridge Island Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Bainbridge Island?

A few miles to the downtown Seattle ferry dock. Ferries leave about once an hour, and a round-trip trip costs about $40 for a family of four in a car (with kids over age 6). Passenger-only (walk on) saves about $10 on that total, and most attractions are in the downtown Bainbridge core, which is more like a small town.

Things to do on a Bainbridge day trip with kids?

Seattle to Bremerton and Poulsbo Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Bremerton and Poulsbo?

Ferry from downtown Seattle to Bremerton takes about an hour for the crossing time, then you’ll need to drive another 17 miles to Poulsbo. Ferries leave once an hour – every 90 mins, and costs about $40/RT for a family of four in a car. You can return via Bremerton or push on to Bainbridge Island and sail back to Seattle from Bainbridge.

Things to do on a Bremerton and Poulsbo day trip with kids?

Seattle to Bellingham Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Bellingham?

Bellingham is about 90 miles via I-5, or around 1 h 30 m.

Things to do with kids in Bellingham on a day trip?

  • Watch a Tesla coil light up at the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention.
  • Learn about the beauty of nature and science at Mindport.
  • Sehome Hill Arboretum.
  • Take your teen to a movie at the Pickford Center.
  • Hike a trail at Larrabee State Park.

Seattle to LaConner Day Trip:

How long does it take to get to LaConner? 

Laconner is about 70 miles along I-5, so around 1 h 20 m.

Things to do with kids in LaConner on a day trip?

Pierce County Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Pierce County?

About an hour south along I-5, then along Hwy 167.

Things to do on a Pierce County day trip with kids?

Discovery Village toddler area a fun place to take kids in Gig Harbor

The toddler area at Discovery Village; it’s a fun little place to take kids in Gig Harbor.

Seattle to Tacoma Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Tacoma?

Tacoma is about 40 minutes south, along I-5.

Things to do with kids on a Tacoma day trip?

Seattle to Olympia Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Olympia?

About an hour south, along I-5.

Things to do with kids in Olympia day trip?

Camping Reservations with Kids in Washington, Oregon and BC

How long in advance should you make camping reservations? Now is the time to reserve your camping spot for many Pacific Northwest locations. Don’t wait until late spring or summer, if you want a prime, secluded tent site or one of the much-desired yurts, cabins or fire lookouts. Here’s a quick guide and how-to.

Camping Reservations in Oregon

Half of Oregon´s state park campgrounds accept campsite reservations; the other half are first-come, first-served. Whether you call or go online, you may make reservations 2 days to 9 months in advance of your first night´s stay. “Nine months in advance” counts back to the nearest business day.

You can make Oregon campsite, yurt, cabin and teepee reservations with a Visa or MasterCard through ReserveAmerica’s Oregon page. You can make reservations for national forests, like Mt. Hood National Forest and Siuslaw National Forest at Recreation.gov, but there aren’t many listed.

Read more about Oregon Campground Reservations.

Camping Reservations in Washington

At the campgrounds that accept reservations, you can reserve Washington campsites, yurts, cabins and houses through the Washington State website. Right now, they’re accepting reservations about 10 months in advance – so they’re taking reservations up until the first week of October. You can use a Visa or Mastercard to reserve.

You can make reservations for over 100 National Park Service and US Forest Services destinations, like Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest at Recreation.gov.

Or make Washington State camping reservations at Reserve America, which includes listings from KOA, Thousand Trails, USDA Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation.

The county parks system is more challenging to navigate — you’ll need to research the specific county you want to stay in. Popular camping destinations in Washington State include San Juan County Parks, Salt Creek Recreation Area and Dungeness Recreation Area in Clallam County, Snohomish County Parks and Recreation and Wenatchee River County Park.

Camping Reservations in British Columbia 

Frontcountry reservations open at 7:00 am (PST) on March 15. Reservations for family campsites can be made up to three months in advance of your arrival date, and you can make up to three reservations per transaction. Book your tent site at the BC Parks website, read about backcountry camping at Recreation Sites and Trails,  and about Western camping destinations at Parks Canada. Here’s a quick rundown comparing all the BC camping options.

Vancouver’s Aquatic Centre at Hillcrest Park

In British Columbia, Vancouver’s winter rains can make a Stanley Park visit dreary and walking the seawall with a toddler sheer drudgery. But in East Vancouver’s Riley Park neighborhood, The Aquatic Centre at Hillcrest Park is the perfect way for a family to splash away the doldrums.

This 66,500 square foot water zone — and Olympic legacy facility — is now the largest pool in Vancouver, and includes a 70-person hot tub, separate dive and 50-meter lap swim tanks (with moveable floors), plus a lazy river and children’s area with playful fountains, showers and toys. The depth of the children’s pools is under 1 meter (a little over three feet), but there’s a zero-depth entry path, thanks to the focus on accessibility.

In fact, the entire pool is designed with accessibility in mind, so wheelchair users can roll via a gentle ramp into all sections, even the hot tub and play area. A bonus: it’s one more free thing to do with kids in Vancouver, if you’re the parent of a child under age three.

Hillcrest Aquatic Centre, Vancouver family fun with kids

Hillcrest Aquatic Centre. Photo Courtesy Vancouver Park Board.

The pool complex embraces mid-century modern design, with knotty pine walls, globe-shaped lights and dramatic floor-to-ceiling window views of the North Shore. In short, it’s gorgeous.

Hillcrest Aquatic Centre wasn’t as oppressively noisy as the traditional public pool from our childhood days — I think either the soundproofing or tall ceiling heights help. It’s also much cheaper than the typical resort waterpark.

If you time your visit right, you can combine a trip here with the Vancouver Winter Farmers Market, an interesting (and more locally focused) alternative to the Granville Farmers’ Market.

In summer, kids can enjoy the outdoor pool with sprays and bubble jets.

Prices: $5.98/adult; $4.24/youth; $2.99 children (ages 3-12); Under-3s are free; Families (1-2 adults and children under age 18) are $2.99 each.

Shortcut to Hillcrest Aquatic Centre schedule and prices.

More Vancouver Pools, Spray Parks and Beaches.

One-Tank Trips: 3 great day trips from Seattle with author Chloë Ernst

Wow, this week we have a special treat — an interview with Vancouver-based freelance journalist Chloë Ernst, who has penned guidebooks, newspaper articles and magazine stories. She’s the author of Day Trips from Seattle: Getaway Ideas for the Local Traveler. I own this book; it’s well researched and a fabulous find (which is why I asked her to do a quick Q&A with me).

Ernst doesn’t just try to drop in to local sites: “When I travel (on a day trip or a 3-month stint), my mission is to become a local in each place I visit. Over the years that has meant surfing on the Washington coast, dancing in the Fería de Sevilla, shopping in the New York Garment District, and avoiding bears in Whistler.”

Chloë Ernst

Do you want to tell us a little bit about how you wrote the book? How much time did you end up spending in the Seattle area? Any experiences that you learned from?

I put together Day Trips from Seattle during a series of long-weekend trips. Maps are my major travel must-have. I get lost easily so I try to study road maps intensely before I head anywhere.

During one solo road trip I left my wallet at a gas station. When I backpack, I always have cash and credit cards stashed in different places. But when I travel by car I relax more and am (unintentionally) a little less protective of my valuables. It reminded me to be more prepared if things should be lost or stolen while on the road.

Luckily a lovely gentleman in Arlington bought me lunch (which I couldn’t pay for due to the missing wallet), phoned the gas station where I last was, and ensured I got my wallet back.

Which Seattle day trip is your personal favorite — a destination to which you always want to return?

Heading east on I-90 means a sunnier climate than we’re used to in Seattle and Vancouver. One day trip that stands out connects Roslyn, Cle Elum, and Ellensburg. I love the small-town-nature and history that each offers. Roslyn mixes mines and cemeteries with its faux-history as Cicely in Northern Exposure. Cle Elum has a railroad feel as well as the spirited, community-run Carpenter House Museum. (Read more about Roslyn/Cle Elum with kids)

And Ellensburg make a great final stop, with museums, the eclectic art at Dick and Jane’s Spot, and the chimps at the “chimposium” on the Central Washington University campus who communicate with sign language.

Is there a Seattle day trip in your book that you would recommend for families?

Day tripping south to Federal Way, Puyallup, and Eatonville offers lots of family activities. In Federal Way there’s the pick of Wild Waves Theme Park (with water slides) and West Hylebos Wetland Park (with nature trails). Going on to Puyallup, you’ll find superb bakeries (such as Pioneer Bakery) and the restored Meeker Mansion — although I’m still creeped out by the framed, Victorian-era hair sculptures in one of the rooms. The intricate flowers and shapes are made entirely from strands of human hair!

Eatonville is close to Mt. Rainier and feels very rural. Both Northwest Trek Wildlife Park and Pioneer Farm Museum have lots of animals to engage and activities to entertain kids.

Is there a budget-minded Seattle day trip that stands out for you?

When I think budget day trips, I always think the beach. Driving out to Ocean Shores or Westport is a fair distance, but the sand and saltwater are worth it. Ocean Shores has a free interpretive center with hands-on exhibits, and we always see wild deer along the road. But I prefer Westport. It’s less glossy and has more state parks. The Westport Maritime Museum features a free outdoor exhibit of whale bones and other sea life. [Note: Here’s my piece on Westport with kids]

In the fall, drive a few minutes down to Grayland and you can watch the cranberries being harvested. Before visiting I had no idea that the farmers harvest the berries by flooding the fields so the cranberries float to the surface.

Do you have a favorite day trip from the Vancouver area? Can you give a few highlights of that day trip?

From Vancouver, Squamish makes a quick day trip with wilder nature than we’re accustomed to in the city. The Stawamus Chief is one of my favorite hikes on a sunny day. Hikers climb ladders and rocky slopes to reach one or all of the three peaks on the hulking granite massif. In winter, bald eagles congregate on the nearby rivers and especially in Brackendale.

Also on the Sea-to-Sky Highway (which extends up to Whistler and beyond), the Brittania Mine Museum can happily eat up hours with gold panning. Someone will — almost guarantee-ably — get gold fever and have to be dragged from the sand beds that are salted with gold and pyrite. There is also a fabulous mine tour there that includes a ride on a squeaky mine train and mining equipment demonstrations. The noises can be loud and perhaps not great for younger children, but it’s tons of fun.

Read more:

Washington State Round-Up from Cascadia Kids.

Family Day Trips from the Seattle area from Cascadia Kids.

9 Great Day Trips from Seattle from the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau.

4 Great Day Trips from Seattle from RoadTrip America.

Ew, Camping! Alternatives to tent camping to reserve NOW

Camping isn’t for everyone.  These options will get you out into nature and the outdoors — but you won’t wake to mud sloshing around your tent.

Alternatives to tent camping in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia:

Yurts. At Washington’s 412-acre oceanfront Grayland State Park, sleep in a 16-foot-diameter heated yurt outfitted with a queen-size futon, an end table and heater (a fine choice for a first camping trip with a baby or toddler). Or try Cape Disappointment’s yurts, which offer bunk beds that sleep three, a heater, floor lamp and an end table — and you’re never far from spectacular Washington Coast views of the Pacific Ocean. Read more about renting a Washington State Parks yurt. Or research on the BC Parks yurt page and the Oregon State Parks homepage. Renting a yurt on the Oregon Coast is the best of all worlds, and locals know it — these round-a-bouts are booked up fast.

U.S. Forest Service cabin, cottage, guard station or lookout. Some are more like mountainside or prairie chalets, complete with running water and flush toilets (but look carefully — some of the running-water perks are only available in summer). Others are more vintage-Victorian or pioneer days (complete with outhouse) but offer propane cookstoves, fridges, heat and light.

Airstream trailer. Silver Cottages offers a unique (although expensive) stay. Prices start at $849/three nights but includes delivery, setup, sleep spots for four occupants (i.e. two adults, two kids or one adult, three kids) in 31-foot silver Airstream trailer, complete with kitchenette, fridge, microwave, dinette, heat and air. Sleep in Bellingham, San Juan Islands and Lakedale Resort.


Officers’ Quarters. Take shelter in one of the dozen homes lined up in a row, tidy and upright. As they were once officers’ quarters of the early 1900s, you’ll find lovely crown molding, bannisters and loads of vintage touches. Read more about Washington vacation houses on the Washington State Parks website, which also lists lighthouse keepers’ quarters.

Teepee. Fields Spring State Park offers the only two teepees in Washington State, and one even offers an indoor/outdoor carpet floor. Yes, you have to bring your own sleeping bags and pads, but you don’t have to set up the tent! Oregon offers teepees at Owyhee park.

Log cabin. Sleep pioneer-style in a real log cabin — right on the Oregon Trail. Read more about the Emigrant Springs Totem cabins.

Beach house. Once a 1930s fishing resort, the Cama Beach cottages are now rented out by the Washington State Parks. Snore inside a retro cedar bungalow that overlooks the Puget Sound and Whidbey Island. Only a 90-minute drive from Seattle, this is a sweet nearby getaway. However, unless you book a bungalow rental, you’ll still cook outdoors. The upside from your kids’ perspective? That means s’mores for sure.

Treehouse. Want to sleep IN the trees, not under the trees? Check out Vertical Horizons Treehouse Resort for a B&B in a tree. Parents of teens (16 and over) can look into Free Spirit Spheres on Vancouver Island — these orbs float in the trees, like little alien pods. Pretty cool. Here’s a YouTube video about staying in a sphere treehouse.

Camping in the Rain with Kids

You’ve got your reservations in hand, but the forecast is for rain. Should you go?

Alaska-based mom Jennifer Aist, author of Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping & Boating with Babies and Young Children, has plenty of experience with family camping in the rain. “Last summer we had 43 days in a row of rain, “ she says. Instead of getting wet and miserable, Aist got prepared.

The first hint? Bring drop-proof rain gear. Aist specifically recommends Oaki Wear clothing: “It is well built and holds up beautifully to lots and lots of rain and puddle stomping,” she says. If it’s chilly out, she brings rainboots for the kids, along with extra socks. “Nothing dries out well in rainy conditions,” she says. Stuff sacks (example: Granite Gear Toughsack)help keep a change of clothes protected from the elements.

If you’re car camping near pavement, Aist suggests packing sidewalk chalk. “It looks cool on wet pavement,” she says.

Those handy blue tarps offer respite from rain, plus a dry(ish) place to cook, read or play board games. Aist recommends that parents learn the knot best for tying tarps: the taut line. (here’s a YouTube link on how to tie the knot — love this guy’s moustache). On a sloping site, sure your tent’s opening faces downhil, not uphill, as you don’t want rain to flow into your tent.


It might seem counterintuitive, but Aist suggests avoiding the tent, at least during the day. “Tents are for sleeping,” Aist says. “Everything gets wet when you are in and out all day. It gets a bit claustrophobic too. Embrace the rain, because it can really be lots of fun to play in — just keep moving. Even hiking in the rain isn’t so bad.”

Michelle Tice would agree. Tice, a Vancouver-based mom who blogs at savvymom.ca, booked a stay months ago for Vancouver Island’s Parksville, along with friends. A total of 14 kids and 25 adults had planned the weekend, and weren’t going to be deterred by rain in the forecast.

The downpour set in.

“We had to shower the kids each night,” Tice says, but it was worth a little extra work. Croc-style shoes let water pass through, so feet got dirty and wet, but not cold (no waterlogged socks). They brought lots of extra clothing, and bikes for mud-puddle splashing.

“Exploring beaches, forests and puddles, can be done in the rain too.” They also explored local-area kids’ activities for “a change of scenery,” she says, including Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Coombs Country Market.

“The kids did not care about the rain, only the adults did,” Tice says. “So the faster the adults cope, the better for all.”

With a mug of steaming hot chocolate in your hand, could you really disagree?

More tips for setting up camp in the rain:

Your-Camping-Guidebook.Com (funny name, good site).

A good video on setting up a tent in the rain, made by TrailPeak.com.