Western Washington State Campgrounds with Playgrounds

Campgrounds offer many natural playthings to entertain kids: sticks, stones, spiders (OK, maybe not spiders). But one of my favorite childhood memories featured a Washington campground decked out with swings, slides and other fun play equipment. Here’s a quick list of Western Washington kid-friendly campgrounds that roll out the green carpet.


Kid-Friendly Washington State Campgrounds:  Scenic Beach State Park. Photo courtesy Washington State Parks.

Kid-Friendly Washington State Campgrounds:
Scenic Beach State Park. Photo courtesy Washington State Parks.

Northwest Washington Kid-Friendly Campgrounds

Belfair State Park. Belfair, Washington. Sleep in one of 120 campsites and let the kids play at the nearby beach or on the simple playground, which has swings, toddler-ready slides and a small climbing structure.

Blake Island Marine State Park. Blake Island, Washington. Only reachable by boat (no roads!), this kid-friendly campground features 44 campsites and petite, older wooden playground with slides and a tire swing.

Cama Beach State Park. Camano Island, Washington. The draw at this location? The family-ready cabins. As for the playground, only a small kid-sized boat and a solitary swing.

Rasar State Park. Concrete, Washington. Kids will enjoy the wood-and-plastic climbing structure with slides and monkey bars over woodchips, and parents enjoy the variety of sleeping options, including walk-in tent sites, lean-to shelters and reservable bunk-bed equipped cabins ready for families of five.

Deception Pass. Oak Harbor, Washington. Reserve one of 167 campsites or the one cabin (requires a boat for access), and let the kids climb on the small playground.

Fort Flagler Historical State Park. Nordland, Washington. Not one but two playgrounds are available at Fort Flagler: at one playground, swing on one of four swings, including infant swings and two tire swings; at the lower campground, kids slide and scramble on the climbing walls and monkey bars. Tired yet? Tuck into one of the 100 sites, including tent-only, full hookup/RV and primitive campsites.

Illahee State Park. Bremerton, Washington. A small saltwater campground with 23 tent sites and a smaller toddler- and preschooler-friendly playground.

Kitsap Memorial State Park. Poulsbo, Washington. When you’re done spotting marine life in the tidepools, head back to your five-person bunk-bed cabin or one of 21 campsites. A wooden play structure keeps kids busy, although better suited for older children.

Lake Sylvia State Park. Montesano, Washington. This campground’s semi-shaded, newer, and fenced-off playground sits below towering firs, and features multi-level climbing facilities and a small tunnel-slide, and benches for parents to rest with babies or toddlers. Just 31 tent spaces here, perfect for families.

Larabee State Park. Bellingham, Washington. Count sea-stars on the beach, then head to the newer playground with balance-boosting equipment, a wide slide, rock-climbing walls (plastic, but OK), ladders and a standing swing. Sleep well in one of the 51 standard tent sites, 26 utility sites or eight primitive sites.

Moran State Park. Olga, Washington. Take the ferry to Orcas Island for 151 campsites and a small playground for the kids.

Saltwater State Park. Des Moines,Washington. Camp out with the kids in one of 47 campsites near the beach, and an older wooden playground with a chain-ladder, slides, monkey bars and platforms.

Kid-Friendly Washington Campgrounds: Scenic Beach Playground

Kid-Friendly Washington Campgrounds: Scenic Beach Playground

Scenic Beach. Seabeck, Washington. A larger Western Washington campground with 52 reservable sites, tidepools and two well-shaded playgrounds featuring a tire swing, climbing and slide equipment, ladders and slides.

Sequim Bay. Sequim, Washington. Lay down stakes at this 49-site campground in the Olympic Peninsula. The playground has a few swings, including one toddler swing.

Spencer Spit. Lopez Island, Washington. A more rustic family campground with 37 spaces but no showers or hookups, so maybe not great for long-term camping stays. Small playground.

kid-friendly campgrounds in washington state

Blake Island State Park Playground. Photo courtesy Washington State Parks.

Southwest Washington Kid-Friendly Campgrounds

Battle Ground State Park. Battle Ground, Washington. Slip down the tunnel slide or corkscrew slide, scramble across the monkey bars and jump from platform to platform at this kid-friendly campground, which also provides 25 campsites and four cabins that accommodate five people (perfect for families with three kids).

Ike Kinswa State Park. Silver Lake, Washington. A giant 101-site and nine-cabin campground situated near a large freshwater lake, offering year-round camping and an older wooden playset with corkscrew slide, tall platforms and tire features.

Rainbow Falls. Chehalis, Washington. The petite playground will entertain kids for a few minutes — just a toddler-approved slide, a few small wooden platforms and hang bar. All sites here are first-come, first-served: 53 campsites, including a few hiker/biker only (walk-in) sites.

Seaquest State Park. Castle Rock, Washington. Yurts! This Mt. St. Helens campground offers five yurts (suitable for families of six), 55 tent spots and 33 utility spaces, along with a small vintage playground featuring metal ladders and wooden platforms.


Did I miss something? Get something wrong? Can you recommend another playground? Do you have photos of any of these playgrounds? Please e-mail me at lora AT cascadiakids.com. I will also add photos as I receive them from state parks.












All Aboard! Take the Amtrak Train from Seattle to Leavenworth

The scenic three-hour, 20-minute ride between Seattle and Leavenworth on the Amtrak offers enchanting scenery and incredible views. Seat children next to the window to look for wildlife among the fir-layered mountainsides and rambling rivers. You’ll also pass through the second-longest tunnel in the U.S., the Cascade Tunnel, while traversing 4000-foot peaks. You won’t deal with closed mountain passes or the twisting highways —  just sit back and relax in the giant seats. The only disappointment: the train’s schedule makes it impossible to go on a daytrip (it leaves Seattle in the evening, and returns in the early morning).


13 Tips for Taking the Amtrak Train to Leavenworth

  1. Book your ticket through Amtrak.com and note that kids go half-price, which makes for a sweet (and less-expensive ride). Adult tickets range from $23-40+ each way, depending upon traffic volume. Also, check the “Smart Fares” section of the Amtrak site to find more deals.

    Kid on Amtrak Train

    Kid on Amtrak Train

  2. The Amtrak train departs from three stations en route to Leavenworth: Seattle King Street, Edmonds and Everett. Those living in North Seattle may want to board in Edmonds, Snohomish County residents may want to board in Everett, and South Seattle at King Street.
  3. Parking is limited at King Street, Edmonds and Everett stations. Bring cash for any olden-days pay lots (though most take credit cards), and arrive at least a half-hour in advance to scope out your parking choices. Better yet, ask a friend to drop you off at the station.

    Vintage Amtrak Dining Car Menu

    Vintage Amtrak Dining Car Menu

  4. Weather and freight train backups can delay Amtrak trains. Our train from Edmonds to Leavenworth was delayed by an hour and 15 minutes; our return train from Leavenworth to Edmonds was delayed by three hours and 30 minutes. Sign up for alerts through the Amtrak.com site, and check the site for real-time schedule changes. If you’ll be arriving late at night (10:30 p.m. for us), you might think about how to set the kids up to sleep for an hour or two.
  5. Meals are served aboard the train – but for lunch and dinner, only for those with reservations. Sign up as soon as you board the train headed toward Leavenworth, but realize that some seatings may sell out, and you may not make reservations when booking your ticket. Bring extra food if you think you might be hungry.
  6. That said, our dinner was an unpleasant combination of mediocre and expensive; seemingly microwaved vegetable mix and rice, although the meat was okay. Maybe it was an off night (although others told us they had the same experience). The children’s menu was fine, although mostly comprised of cheese and white bread. Bring your own meal, or ask your waitress what she would recommend. Snacks are also served, but those prices aren’t much better. You may also be seated with strangers, if you’re a party of three. Here’s a link to the Empire Builder / Leavenworth train menu Eastbound (dinner, toward Leavenworth) and Westbound (breakfast, toward Seattle). The service was very good and homey, though. I’m pretty sure my waitress even called me “hon.”

    Amtrak Dining Car

    Amtrak Dining Car

  7. Entertainment is limited, and there aren’t movies (as on the Cascades trains) but there are 120-volt plugs next to two-seat configurations. Bring a laptop, card games, books and quiet activity books.
  8. Amtrak passenger seats offer generous proportions, with reclining seat backs, extendable trays, footrests and seat pockets. So don’t worry about leg room – think about three times the size of an airplane seat setup. Seat reservations aren’t available, but the conductor, whenever possible, will try to keep groups together.

    Leavenworth Train Station

    Leavenworth Train Station

  9. Train shelters are heated, so you’ll be warm while waiting. Heat lamps even warm outdoor waits, in Leavenworth. Spend a few moments at the stations to look at historic documents and knickknacks.
  10. The Leavenworth Amtrak station (‘Icicle Station”) is located only about a mile outside town along a quiet road, but you must walk up a steep hill without a wide shoulder. I would not attempt to walk this route with kids, but instead take Leavenworth Shuttle and Taxi, which charges about $5 per passenger. Book your pickup in advance, and drop-off at the Leavenworth station. Our driver was courteous, prompt, and gave us frequent updates on the train delay. The driver does not have a carseat available for babies or younger children, so if that’s important to you, bring one with you.
  11. The Leavenworth Amtrak train leaves early in the morning – boarding is at 6 a.m. (unless late). Ask your hotel if they’re willing to pack a sack breakfast for you, to go – our hotel, the Bavarian Inn, was happy to do so. Request this upon check-in or when making a reservation.
  12. Amtrak rail employees seem both stressed and patient. Employees appear to be doing the best they can, despite demanding, upset passengers — some of whom stuffed paper towels into the toilets on our train, rendering the toilets inoperable. That wasn’t cool.
  13. No changing tables are available, so bring extra changing pads for baby. There are toilet receptacles for diapers in the bathroom,but you might want to double-bag any disaster-scented works.
View from Amtrak Rail Car

View from Amtrak Rail Car

Read more about things to do in Leavenworth hotels, Leavenworth for kids and Sleeping Lady Resort.

Suncadia Resort with Children: Trip Report

Cycling on the Suncadia Resort Paths

Cycling on the Suncadia Resort Paths

Recently, Josie Swanson, her husband and her two sons  (2.5 and 5.5) visited Suncadia Resort, just east of Washington’s Cascade mountains. She shared some new restaurants she found (which sound SO good) and activities at the resort. Let’s hear more!

How did you like Suncadia Resort? What kinds of things did you do with the kids while at the resort?

The kids liked the playgrounds, water slides/pool/hot tub, hiking/biking/scootering around, seeing lots of wild animals (elk and deer), etc. I liked the sauna, steam room and gym. It was a great place to run (except for the altitude!).

I didn’t do the spa, but would next time. We stayed in the Lodge one-bedroom and a full kitchen and a washer and dryer was nice. It would be fun to be there in the winter to use the ice-skating rink and do other snow sports.

The thing I liked a lot about Suncadia is how CLOSE it is to Seattle. We hate long drives. The trip back was so fast! And the service was great, too.

In Cle Elum, we took the kids to Interactive Toys, which is now called The Plaza. She’s going to still have toys, but fewer, and is adding in some other things.

Where did you eat with your kids at Suncadia or in Roslyn?

The Roslyn Cafe has new owners as of December and was really good and kid-friendly! Kind of reminded me of Endolyne Joe’s and some other Seattle places. Full bar, great drinks!

The newish Roslyn cafe Pie in the Sky was excellent and the brunches were better than Seattle brunches. Rustic, down-home, perfectly seasoned. I’d eat anything on the menu. The owner is AWESOME. We’d eat there all the time if out there more.

Village Pizza was good! Crust could be better, but the browned cheese on top was a nice touch. We were starving, so it was a hit with us.

The ambiance in the family dining room was terrible at The Brick Saloon. If you can’t go there without kids and eat in the bar (which is very cool), it may not be worth it.

Safeway is the only real store out there. The little natural foods store in Roslyn — Maggie’s Pantry — was very limited, but nice to have in a pinch.

Eating with Kids at Roslyn Cafe

Eating with Kids at Roslyn Cafe

Any caveats or things you wish you knew in advance about staying at Suncadia?

They do nickel and dime you. Our final bill for three nights was BIG.

Our good friends happened to plan a trip there that overlapped, and they have boys the same age as ours. Our friends also liked it a lot, except the nickel-and-diming and they only stayed two nights and felt that they needed three.

I can only compare this place to places like Alderbrook, Semiahmoo, Sleeping Lady and Surfsand. We thought it was substantially better than most.

Running on the Suncadia Resort paths

Running on the Suncadia Resort paths


Read more: Suncadia Resort Hotel Review with Kids and Kid-Friendly Roslyn Picks

Sleeping Lady Resort: Enchantment for All Ages

I’m not quite sure what I expected when I planned a stay at Sleeping Lady. But I figured I would be close to Leavenworth (one of my favorite little Washington towns), and I’d heard good things about the Central Washington resort — although mostly from adults.

But I had no idea that Sleeping Lady was such an enchanting and magical place.

On the 67-acre grounds (which also host a local radio station), quiet pathways weave between native trees, plants — and art. The outdoor Art Walk takes visitors past quirky works sure to delight children, such as a salmon catching a human (“Shaman Salmon”), the nine-foot tall “Chichuly Icicles” and the “Evil Eye Tree,” where the bright-blue glass eyes (traditionally used by Turkish and Greek people as a talisman to ward off evil) hang like teardrops from a living tree.

Sleeping Lady art walk

Along the art walk in late autumn.

Winter is the perfect time to go, perhaps, as snow usually blankets the ground mid December through February. At the resort’s doorstep, 8K of track and skate groomed trails offer a way to nordic-ski off all the calories you’re about to eat (more on that, in a bit).

On check-in, front-desk staff gave us a fun booklet packed with cool facts about the property, jokes, wildlife tips and dot-to-dot and Sudoku activities, and told us about the Saturday night kids’ movie.

Sleeping Lady Trail

An ice-covered pond at Sleeping Lady Resort

We stayed in the double alcove room, which featured hand-hewn fir log beds and desks and down comforters. There was an adorable little alcove that my six-year-old son claimed as his own; he created a tent hideout that entertained him during downtime. But I’ll be honest, the floor space is a bit tight – it’s better for reading and relaxing (there’s no television). To run off kid energy, you gotta get outside.

Alcove room at Sleeping Lady Resort

Playing in the one-bed alcove.

Luckily, you can walk down the trail to the The Grotto for a glass of wine next to the fire pit or inside by petroglyph-laced rock walls (kids allowed until 8 p.m.) or The Library, well-stocked with books, a fireplace and a piano.

The cozy library at Sleeping Lady Resort.

The cozy library.

The Play Barn acts as a game room, with foosball, table tennis and room for a board game or two. You can check out board games at the front desk or bring your own.

In warmer seasons, kids love taking a dip in the resort’s rock-lined swimming pools. But the outdoor adjacent hot pool is heated year round, however. If you think you’ll go, don’t forget to pack sandals and cozy bathrobes for the kids to prevent frozen toes and noses en route from your room to the pool.

You can read more about activities and amenities at Sleeping Lady.

Kid- (and Parent-)Friendly Food at Sleeping Lady

The rosemary-flecked crispy rolls were still warm from the oven at The Kingfisher Restaurant; this was my first hint that Sleeping Lady’s dining experience would be anything but typical.

Most stay packages include dinner buffet and/or breakfast buffet; let me tell you, the food here is worth every penny. “Buffet” is not usually a word that excites me – most buffets are half-warmed congealed cheese-food bakes. Here, the buffet includes all natural grassfed, hormone-free beef hangar steak, served with organic roasted carrots and parsnips and organic pumpkin soup. Local organic produce is sourced from Leavenworth and Sequim.

Oh, and the desserts. Tiny, perfect desserts (flans, custards, pie, cake) in miniature espresso cups, saucers and shot glasses.

Yummy desserts at Sleeping Lady buffet

Yummy desserts at Sleeping Lady buffet

There’s a PB&J station for picky eaters (a great idea I might steal for the next playdate/party I host) and stuffed grape leaves and potato salad for epicurean preschoolers.

Breakfast, well – do you remember that Richard Scarry illustration regarding Kenny Bear’s breakfast? It’s sort of like that. Breakfast included: fruits, assorted cheeses and salami, boiled free range eggs, Samish Bay yogurt, organic steel cut oatmeal, chicken and pork sausage, grilled roma tomatoes, free-range scrambled eggs, boiled free-range eggs, waffles, pancakes, raisin bread French toast. And yes, coffee. There were even more food options, but I got a hand cramp from writing it all down, and I figured you would probably get the idea from the list above.

One of the buffet tables at Sleeping Lady Resort, in the morning.

One of the buffet tables at Sleeping Lady Resort, in the morning.

If you can, ask for a window-side table, so you can enjoy the beautiful views of Icicle Canyon and the soaring Sleeping Lady mountain.

Extra: The small Mercantile has that homespun feeling and sells arty-crafty kits, regional clothing and books and journals.

Caveats: It’s not cheap, generally speaking. But the prices are justified if your children really do eat like Kenny Bear, of course, and some of the packages are good deals. For example, Lowest rates are $208 for Bed & Breakast package and $318 for the Great Escape Package for two adults, 2 kids 5-12 Sunday – Thursday through April 30, 2013.

If I were staying again, I would stay for at least two nights and plan to explore Leavenworth during the day, do some cross-country skiing and spend more time in that pool. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a one-night stay, as Leavenworth is fairly remote and requires a two- to three-hour drive, unless you live nearby. I personally wouldn’t want to drive those roads in the dark. In the winter, the short days and long drive times would make the visit way too brief to be enjoyable with very small children. Trust me — once you get here, you’ll want to stay as long as you can.

But there’s so much to do in the area and at Sleeping Lady itself that your family will never get bored. Sleeping Lady is now one of my favorite destinations in the Pacific Northwest.

Last-Minute Kid-friendly Winter Escapes in Washington & Oregon

It’s not too late to go somewhere for winter vacation. Here’s a quick rundown (and a few opinions) on Destination Resorts’ getaway options in our area.


Web: Sunriver Resort

Location: Central Oregon

Phone: 541-593-1000

Sunriver Resort is my favorite property in our region. This winter, Sunriver is offering over 100 workshops, camps and childcare options through “Traditions.” Among the offerings: sleigh rides, snowshoe and caving tours, magic shows and Fort Funnigan (both of my kids gave the Fort their approval). I love the new indoor pool, generously sized condos, solid dining options and all the great options in Bend. It’s close to Mt. Bachelor, too, for the fresh-powder fans.

Sample rate: $189 for a lodge room. I recommend a vacation rental (usually the same price or less) when staying here; the kitchens make a huge difference in a pleasant family vacation. But the website doesn’t always work well (it was nonfunctional, this morning, for example)– call to get exactly what you want. Sunriver’s knowledgeable reservation agents are great.



Web: Skamania Lodge

Location: Southwest Washington

Phone: 800-221-7117

In the Columbia Gorge (and only about 45 minutes east of Portland), the Skamania Lodge offers Elf Story Time through December 29, along with s’more roasting and wine tasting (only for grown-ups). Check the event calendar for more information. There’s a page on “family offers” but honestly, nothing seems all that family-friendly, so I’d just stick with a rack rate unless you’re planning to eat in the restaurant (which is quite good).

Sample rate: $174



Location: Central Washington

Web: Suncadia Resort

Phone: 509-649-6400

Located about 90 minutes east of Seattle, Suncadia Resort has two popular waterslides, an indoor pool and outdoor sports galore (rope-tow sled hill, ice skating, cross-country skiing, and more) and s’mores by the fireplace. Campcadia offers childcare (so you can relax in your room with a good book, get a spa treatment or go out on a cross-country excursion). Check the current schedule for more information. The bad news: this place is quite sold out, and rooms that remain aren’t cheap. Activities are extra.

Sample rate: $349


Location: Seattle

Web: Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue

Phone: 206-971-8000

Maybe you just want to enjoy the big city’s pleasures, kids in tow. The Seattle Family Vacation Package includes an overnight stay, welcome bag with bottled water and snacks, a “Red the Lion” plushy, tix to the Woodland Park Zoo, overnight parking AND a $50 Chevron gas card. Not bad. I haven’t stayed here or visited the property yet, so if you end up going, e-mail me and let me know what you think. Here’s a quick link to the Tripadvisor reviews.

Sample Rate: $159


Hotel Review: Suncadia with kids

I’ve often cast a covetous eye at friends’ photos of Suncadia Resort, a lodge-style, kid-friendly stay just east of the Cascade Mountain range. About 90 minutes from Seattle, this resort offers houses, condos, suite-style rooms and hotel rooms on 6,400 acres of pine-spiked landscape.

Obviously, it’s time for a review.

We stayed in the Lodge One Bedroom, a 870-square-foot suite-style option in the main 254-room Lodge at Suncadia. The kitchen was marble-trimmed, with real wood cabinetry and stainless steel fridge, dishwasher and range.

Living room at Suncadia Resort

Open floor plan in Suncadia Resort living room. Photo courtesy of Suncadia.

The high-ceiling living room featured a gas fireplace and stunning views of the Cascade range. The bathroom was so big I could drive my Honda inside. The bedroom came with a King bed, a television, work desk and yes, even more gorgeous views.

What to do at Suncadia with kids:

Bikes are spendy at the two-hour rate, so spring for the 24-hour price or bring your own for tooling around the paved trails. Suncadia’s 10 miles of trails are also easy with strollers or baby joggers.

Deer with gourmet tastes

Deer love Suncadia’s taste in plants.

And always keep an eye out for the locals — we saw a family of eight deer mowing down the property’s native plants when we were there. Apparently quite used to humans, they didn’t budge, even when we were about nine feet away, snapping photographs.

The Fitness and Swim Center’s pool is generously sized and offers a few toys, including noodles and diving rings. You have two water tubes to choose from — the green one is slower but you’ll screech your way through pitch-black darkness, while the yellow one runs faster but offers more light. The flumes dump you into a soaker-sized tub at the end (not a pool).

Pool at Suncadia

Photo of pool courtesy of Suncadia

The tube and pool family hours vary, so call ahead to make sure you’ll arrive in time to enjoy both.

It’s an all-season sort of resort, but probably best in summer (boating, hiking, additional outdoor pool and children’s programs) or winter (cross-country skiing, snow play and a rope tow). Spring and fall offer iffy weather but dramatic vistas and migrating birds. During our spring stay, we went to Roslyn and Cle Elum for some sightseeing and shopping (recommended), and it was nice to return to Suncadia for evening storm-watching.

The on-site restaurant Fifty 6 offers a menu at well-heeled prices. Smaller portions (for small tummies) are available; the children’s menu served the standards. We did not eat in the restaurant, and instead took advantage of our Suncadia kitchen and less-expensive restaurants in Roslyn.

My only complaint: The front desk staff didn’t seem as professional or helpful as they could’ve been, with the exception of a few standout employees. And when we accidently left our swimsuits behind in the room, the suits were apparently gone for good and housekeeping staff wouldn’t call us back. It didn’t leave the best impression regarding customer care.

This experience wouldn’t stop me from returning — it’s an excellent family vacation destination and my daughter came up with a list of 20 reasons to return — but it might encourage me to look under every bed and double-check closets before leaving.

It was insanely windy when we were there. More so than usual, I was told. But friends say it’s often blustery, just because of the location. Pack a windbreaker and a hat. Don’t pack any hair products – it’s a lost cause. Just pack a hat.


If you don’t want to pay rack rate at Suncadia (And who wants to pay rack rate anywhere? Not me), sign up for the Suncadia Resort E-mail Club, so you can stay abreast of last-minute specials.

Cle Elum Family Vacation

Für Kinder (Kids): Leavenworth, Washington State

Let’s get your assumptions out of the way. You might think Leavenworth is cheesy. It’s fake Bavaria. Leavenworth’s food…well, maybe your great-grandma would like it. Leavenworth is for unsavvy tourists.

OK, some of that is a little true. It was certainly the impression I had after making short visits in the past (an hour or two) without any sense of direction.

But after spending three days in Leavenworth, I have a different take. I looked a little harder, asked a few more questions and found the best spots for a family-friendly vacation.

Yes, the Washington State town’s Bavarian-style building fronts were manufactured during the 1960s and 70s. But the finished craftsmanship is old-world impeccable. On a sunny summer day, when you’re on the flanks of the Cascades – and you can park your car and walk everywhere you need to go – you realize that this dense, populated village has everything you need within a quarter-mile: shops, hotels, restaurants, picnic supplies and movie theaters. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.

Things to do in Leavenworth with kids:

Ride the train with kids. If you’d like to have the complete European experience, take the Amtrak into Leavenworth from Seattle. The train leaves you a distance from the village core (it’s not walkable – don’t even think about it), so you’ll taxi in.  Downsides: The travel time from Seattle to Leavenworth is about four hours, the time schedule is wonky and you’ll miss Peshastin’s fun. But train rides are always fun and you won’t mess with traffic.

kid-friendly leavenworth washington state

Sitting pretty near the Leavenworth Gazebo

Fete and feast. Leavenworth hosts fantastic events year-round, most occurring in the downtown, pedestrian-friendly Front Street Park, in front of the gazebo and maypole. From Maifest through the Christmas season, the festivals offer convivial atmosphere, adorable dancers and kid-friendly bounce houses.

Go for gingerbread. The Gingerbread Factory presents trays of just-baked gingerbread, including dino-style cookies for the kids and chocolate-gingerbread with espresso frosting for the adults. You’ll also find outdoor dining in spring, summer and fall – along with hearty sandwiches.

Spot the salmon. At the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, kids can meet coho, Chinook, steelhead and Pacific lamprey eels (ew!) before hiking along the Icicle River Nature Trail, a one-mile loop. But this is three miles from downtown Leavenworth, so bring the car or plan for a long walk.

Pack a picnic. Stop by the Cheesemonger’s Shop for an incredible selection of international chesses and sausages – I even spotted wasabi-flecked cheese behind the case. Pick up a baguette (also sold here) and head down to the next stop.

Rove along the river. The Waterfront Park Trail wanders through a pine-and-fir forest, past the Wenatchee River, over Blackbird Island and through animal habitats. It’s a few blocks off of the downtown streets, and a sweet, easy ramble suitable for kids of all ages – but the trail’s suitable for a jogging stroller, too.

munchen haus is a child-friendly restaurant in leavenworth, washington

Munchin' at the Munchen Haus.

Babies, meet beers and brats. On nice days, children, grandparents and international students share long wooden benches in the Munchen Haus beer garden. Select your (beef, veggie or curry) sausage, then choose your golden sauce from over a dozen mustard options. I even like the apple-smoked sauerkraut – and I hate sauerkraut.

Head South. You’re tired of German food and want something different? Try visiting South, where kids get a pack of Wikki Stix to play with while you order your not-so-spicy Mexican-fusion fare. Go for the guacamole!

Check out the scene. A good option with tweens and teens, the Icicle Junction Cinema runs first-run films in a 88-person theater. Skip the video arcade.

Cap yourself. The Hat Shop offers a head-spinning selection of hats, berets, fedoras and crazy caps, including animal, character and food hats. Next door, The Wood Shop’s shelves are filled with toys and locally made wooden puzzles (including pirate, cat family and intricate paint-your-own options).

Kiss the Küche – Mann (chef). Various German restaurants will vie for your dollar. There’s not a huge variation, but I liked Andreas Keller’s basement-level restaurant. You feel squirreled away in here, inside the dark-wood interior laced with heavy beams. An accordion player accompanies your Bavarian-costumed servers. King Ludwig’s Restaurant rolls out an entire polka band for your enjoyment; the informal dining setting (vinyl tablecloths) works better for parents of very young or rambunctious kids.

Not your average nutcracker. A nutcracker museum? Yawn. Oh wait, there’s a Yoda nutcracker? A Darth Vader nutcracker? A Superman Nutcracker? An ancient Roman nutcracker and over 4,000 more nutcrackers? Well, that’s cool. My kids loved this museum.

teens in leavenworth washington state

All the cool kids go to Leavenworth.

Chew on this. Schocolat’s glass cases wait at the back of a store, at the end of a maze of thousand-dollar housewares. Do not bring children inside the store – send your partner in to pluck a orange-dark chocolate or a Montmorency dried cherry-with-brandy ganache.

Things to do (car necessary) in Peshastin, a 10-minute drive:

Find fun on the farm. At Smallwood’s Harvest, there’s a challenging walk-through maze, farm equipment, a small playground, a trike-riding pen, a cattle-roping-practice station and a (cash-only) petting zoo keep kids occupied in summer.

family-friendly farm in peshastin, washington state

The windmill at Smallwood's.

In fall, you’ll find hayrides and a corn maze. It’s a perfect little farm, well-manicured and adorable; overnight lodging is also available.

a family-friendly museum in leavenworth washington

Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village

Meet plucky pioneers. At the Historic Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village, we thought we’d stop for about 10 minutes. We ended up staying for over an hour – there was more to explore than the humble building suggests. Kids enjoy museum’s downstairs, stuffed with taxidermied animals found on nearby mountains and plains.

The barber shop.

Outdoors, original buildings found throughout the region were moved to the museum’s back lawn, then populated with vintage tools, toys and furniture. Look into a blacksmith’s or a barbershop, a boarding house or the Buckhorn saloon.

Visit a Dessert Island. Smack-dab in the middle of a dry, desert-like stretch of road, Anjou Bakery crafts upscale, delectable French pastries and hand-makes each espresso shot with love. The cool interior is rustic and homey; the exterior had a small water feature for kids to dip toes into. Try the baguette sandwiches, or grab one for the trip home via Blewett Pass.

Kid-friendly Leavenworth hotels:

downtown leavenworth from my family-friendly leavenworth hotel

A village view from my Bavarian Lodge window.

Bavarian Lodge. We stayed here and felt right at home — there’s an enormous buffet breakfast (with a hot egg dish, yogurt, breads and make-your-own waffles), a free DVD checkout library and year-round outdoor heated pool. Centrally located, right across the street from the city’s gazebo, this hotel has even scored a place on Tripadvisor’s “Top 10 Family-Friendly Hotels in the U.S.”

Enzian Inn. There’s an intense Christian theme at this hotel, which may or may not appeal to you. The indoor pool is certainly a spectacle (in a good way) with a maroon rug on the ceiling, a mural with a Biblical scene and a vivid-blue swim pool and hot tubs. On the top floor, the buffet breakfast is served with a glorious panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.

Innsbrucker Inn. It’s a bookworm’s ideal stay — just pick a book-themed room! Upstairs from the adorable A Book for All Seasons bookstore (great kids’ area), you’ll find among others a Secret-Garden-inspired room, a Shakespeare room and even a “Chocolate Suite” with practically lickable walls. Kitchens, too! Cute multi-paned windows look down on the town.

Pension Anna. If you want to enjoy a Euro-style indie hotel right in the middle of town, try this lodge. The basement-level rooms suit families just fine (the rooms are huge). But the real appeal is staying in the chapel suites in a decommissioned Catholic church — also run by Pension Anna. How often do you get to do that?

How to get to Leavenworth:

Located about two to three hours east of Seattle, from Seattle, Bellingham and points north, I recommend taking Highway 2 out so you can approach the gorgeous Stevens Pass from the west. Return via the ear-popping Blewett Pass along 97, then down to the junction with I-90 (you’ll pass near kid-friendly Roslyn and Cle Elum – stop if you get a chance). The latter route is the best way to go if coming from Southern Washington State or Oregon.

Leavenworth: Washington’s Bavaria

Recently, I went on an article-scouting trip to Leavenworth, Washington with the family. We had a wonderful time. So wonderful that by Saturday evening, I began picking up real estate fliers. Here’s a (very brief!) introduction to the little town, located about two hours northeast of Seattle. I’ll write up a guide to Leavenworth with kids soon, I promise.

Leavenworth sits on the flanks of the North Cascades; the town was remodeled in the 1960s and 1970s with a Bavarian theme.

Leavenworth hosts frequent festivals -- music, food and dancing. And costumes! And bounce houses.

These guys know how to play a mean horn.

I picked up gingerbread with espresso frosting here at The Gingerbread Factory. Yum.

And sometimes you experience cognitive dissonance. Das Bling Shop?

We visited this adorable farm with the kids. It's right outside Leavenworth.

The farm's windmill.

The farm's playground.

The farm's finger-eating goats.

Yes, you should do this.

I took all of these photos with the Hipstamatic App for the iPhone. I recommend it!

To see more photos of family travel, check out DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday.

Northern Exposure: Kid-friendly picks in Roslyn, Washington

Drive 90 minutes east of Seattle along I-90, and you’re transported into another era.

In Roslyn, Washington, two blocks of false-front wooden storefronts stand shakily across the street from one another, like cowboys frozen in a standoff since the early 1900s. Docile, fat dogs wander through town, begging for scraps from restaurants. Shacks – once houses – look like they’re ready to collapse into the earth’s embrace. Chill winds race down the mountain and wipe the smile off of your face. To live in Roslyn, Washington, you have to be a little tough. And that is awesome.

Roslyn restaurants and stores near Suncadia

False-front buildings in Roslyn, Washington

But these few blocks also yield a wine store, a natural foods shop, coffee shops, well-maintained bed and breakfasts and an art gallery.  To live here, you also have to be clever and flexible.

The name Roslyn won’t mean much to your kids, unless they’re huge fans of Northern Exposure (unlikely). Roslyn, Washington, was the backdrop for the 90’s TV show; it stood in for Alaska’s Cicely.

Roslyn is just a few miles from the popular Suncadia Resort (I’ll be writing a review of Suncadia soon), so it’s a nice excursion from the complex.

Neighboring Cle Elum — a former railroad town –- seems a little more put together, with wide streets and a tidy main street. It feels more like a suburb of the wild west. It’s OK, but no Roslyn.

Here’s how to spend an afternoon in Roslyn:

Meet a miner. In the log-cabin-sized Roslyn Museum, where you’ll discover Roslyn’s history, from mining heyday to Hollywood set. There’s no attempt to whitewash ugliness in Roslyn’s past, so be sure to read the story of how African-Americans were brought in to break a coal miners’ strike for better working conditions. Cynically set against each other for a day’s wages, it ended as you might think.


kid-friendly attraction in Roslyn like the roslyn museum

Checking out a 100-year-old 3D photo at the Roslyn Museum

Appreciate modern plumbing. No honeybuckets back in the day, hon. You’ll appreciate your tiny bathroom after viewing the maroon outhouse, right outside the Roslyn Museum, near the coal car replica.

Buy board games. The enormous inventory at Cle Elum’s Interactive Toys offers hundreds of choices for bored kids. On a budget? Clear plastic bins brim with inexpensive finger toys, crayons and animals.In the store’s rear, there’s a ceramic-painting spot; pick your hues and paint a dog or cherub.

Catch a flick. The vintage Roslyn Theatre is certainly appealing, with balcony seating and a dogs-allowed policy. But the tiny theater only shows one first-run movie. If that movie’s is rated anything over G, you probably won’t be taking the kids. Unless you’re a bad, bad parent like me (“cover your eyes!”).

Drink up. Check out The Brick, the longest-operating saloon in Washington State. The family entrance and family side offers booth seating, a giant TV and a kids’ menu; the bar side provides pool tables, beer and a running water spittoon that streams beneath the barstools. In the old days, miners didn’t want to move their aching bones from their drinkin’ seats fer a spit.

Make your condo neighbors jealous. Buy a 6-pack of maple-walnut or cinnamon-raisin rolls from Cle Elum Bakery (501 E 1st St., 509-674-2233). Stick ‘em in your Suncadia oven the next morning and let the smell waft through the building.

cheap food and souvenirs at the roslyn natural market

In the Roslyn Natural Market

Get your granola gear. The Roslyn Natural Market offers organic produce, interesting foodie imports (we tried some olive-oil-soaked tortillas from Spain), and shopping bags benefiting the nearby Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW. Everything in here appears delicious. Except the hats.

Feast on pizza. Village Pizza (105 W. Pennsylvania Ave., 509-649-2992) offers baskets of trivia cards on each table, thick-crust pizza with not-so-spiced tomato sauce and unusual toppings (we had cashew and spinach). You don’t eat on plates, but right off of the white-and-red-checked papers setting each table place. My family loved the restaurant; I thought it was so-so, and didn’t love the crust.

roslyn restaurants and cafes

Roslyn Cafe

Eat breakfast with a legend: Known as “Roslyn’s” on Northern Exposure, the hard-working, family-friendly Roslyn Café serves up the staples: burgers, sandwiches and kids’ meals. Try the parmesan-sprinkled fries. Irregular hours in the off-season, so call before arriving.

Discover more: Drop into Cle Elum’s tiny box of a visitors bureau. Helpful staff will stuff your pockets with brochures and pamphlets and offer advice on kid-friendly trails, campsites and excursions.

Stay overnight. If you’d like to sleep in a miner’s home, check out Roslyn Rooms.

Who’s Petrified Now? Washington’s Gingko Forest

The forest wasn’t petrified. I was petrified. You know you’re not in Western Washington any more when you see this sign like this one…

Gingko Petrified Forest

Today (March 19, 2010), the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage, Washington reopens after a winter hiatus. In contrast to Western Washington’s rainy, temperate climate, Vantage’s climate reflects its Central Washington location, just east of the towering Cascade Mountain Range. It’s darn dry here.

Millions of years ago, this area was lush and damp, a swamp-filled rainforest dripping with tropical-looking plants and giant gingko trees. Then volcanic eruptions and massive floods tore through the region, burying artifacts in soil and stone. Today, the Gingko Petrified Forest’s Interpretive Center stands on top of a violent-looking gorge, where Earth-mama drama once ripped through the land.

On the day we were there, we didn’t see any of the bobcats, rabbits or skunks that live among the 7,470-acre park’s sagebrush and Ponderosa pine. So we walked among petrified logs and tried to decipher petroglyphs.

Petrified Wood

petroglyphs at the Gingko Petrified Forest, Washington State


Inside the fascinating interpretive center, we saw fossils that staff had labeled with “looks like” signs (an angel? a coyote? a deep sea fish). We pretended like we could shop from the museum’s displays of gems and semi-precious stones.

Petrified Wood-Fish

We watched tiny speedboats power down the river, looking rather insignificant when up against the giant basalt cliffs and millenniums of history.

A speedboat on the Columbia River

Find more photos and stories at DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday.