Make a Splash! Water parks in Washington, Oregon and BC

Nothing says “Cascadia summer” like a line-up of shivering, dripping-wet kids. So I created a list of water parks large and small, indoor and outdoor, westside (cool) and eastside (dry, hot) to keep the kids chilled-out this summer. Do you have a favorite?

Washington Water Parks

Great Wolf Lodge, Grand Mound, Washington.

Make a splash: This indoor Washington water park resort features toddler-friendly pools and big-kid slides. The five-person circular rafts slips down the River Canyon Run, with drops from six stories high.

Splash Down Family Water Park, Spokane, Washington

Make a splash: Ride down the 400-foot Spokane Falls slide at this Eastern Washington water park.

Slidewaters: Lake Chelan Waterpark, Lake Chelan, Washington.

Make a splash: rip down 8 slides, including the 420-foot “Purple Haze” slide that envelops you in darkness at this Washington State aquatic park, located in Washington State’s inland community.

Wild WavesFederal Way, Washington State.

Make a splash: Try any one of the thrilling flumes, including the Python Banzai or Konga Banzai. One of the most popular water parks in Western Washington — plan accordingly!

Birch Bay Waterslides, Birch Bay, Washington.

Make a splash: This low-key four-slide park in North Washington (near the U.S.-Canadian border) covers all your bases, from tame to torrential.

Oregon Water Parks

North Clackamas Aquatic Park, Milwaukie, Oregon.

Make a splash: This indoor Oregon municipal park features three water slides, an 85-degree wave pool and free lifejacket rentals.

Wings and Waves Waterpark at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon.

Oregon’s newest water park is INSIDE an aviation museum — so you’ll cannonball right next to fighter planes. Go on the Sonic Boom or Nose Dive slides — or just hang out in Splashdown Harbor.

Emigrant Lake, near Ashland, Oregon.

Make a splash: Not really a water park, but a fantastic, unique way to mix fresh-water fun and a 280-foot twin flume waterslide at a campground facility.


Splash! At Lively Park, Springfield, Oregon.

Make a splash: This all-indoor facility offers an indoor wave pool, a 144 foot slide, and year-round water activities. Read more at Pitstops for Kids.

Jamison Square, Portland, Oregon.

Make a splash: At this municipal, downtown water spot, kids can sit on steps while fountains of water cascade down, filling the bowl below. Then, mysteriously, the jets shut off, the water drains out — and the flow start all starts over again. A free, kid-friendly Portland water park!

British Columbia Water Parks

Cultus Lake Water Park, Fraser Valley, BC.

Make a splash: You’ll find over 12 features at the Cultus Lake water park, including a spray “Pirate’s cove,” a “Valley of Fear” and a slide that shoots you at 60 km per hour (about 30 miles per hour).

Bridal Falls Waterpark, near Chilliwack, BC.

Make a splash: This BC water park offers over eight slides for the whole family, with long, straight shots down super-fast slides – including one that shoots you down a pitch-black tunnel.

Splashdown Park, Tsawwassen, BC.

Make a splash: Gentle rivers, intermediate rides and “advanced” body slides, including the with 425-foot “Oliver Twist” drop at this water park near Vancouver, BC.

Atlantis Waterslides, Vernon BC.

Make a splash: This BC water park offers 10 looping, swooping slides and flumes, many with views of beautiful Lake Okanagan. Located on the dry side of BC.

Variety Kids Water Park, Vancouver BC.

Make a splash: This free Stanley Park water playground or “sprayground” isn’t fancy — no slides — but it is efficient at cooling off kids. Cannons, sprinklers, and splashable streams galore at Vancouver’s largest outdoor spray park.

Families Travel! Great Wolf Lodge with Kids

Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound with Kids

Great Wolf Lodge with Kids

Located about 90 minutes north of Portland, Oregon and 90 minutes south of Seattle, Great Wolf Lodge (one of 12 in the Great Wolf chain) was created with families in mind, from 4,000-square-foot water pools to evening pajama storytimes.

Ryan Ellis of Vancouver, Washington, went with wife Marissa, and children (Sam, age 10, and Ben, age 7) to the waterpark resort in Grand Mound, Washington. Let’s find out what Ryan thought of Great Wolf – and what you should know before you go.

Q: What did you like about Great Wolf Lodge with kids?

I liked that there was something for every age. Kids had the Cub Paw Pool, older kids liked the MagiQuest (live-action magic-themed treasure hunt) game, teens had their own game room (Northern Lights Arcade) and adults had a couple of bars. But everyone loved the water park and arcade.

Q: What did your kids like at Great Wolf?

The top three things they liked were the wave pool, the MagiQuest game and the water slides.

Q: Which ages would enjoy Great Wolf the most, though?

Kids over age 6. I saw a lot of really small kids, but they were pretty limited on the water features they could participate in. I think the minimum height for a lot of the features was 48 inches. (Lora’s Note: Yes, that’s correct)

Q: What is the Great Wolf food like? Passable? Pretty darn good?

We packed our own food. There is a fridge and microwave in every room and I am a cheap S.O.B. We went to Trader Joes before and bought a bunch of frozen burritos, bananas, carrots, salad and mixed nuts. Oh, and wine. Lots of wine.

Q: How much per night at Great Wolf Lodge? What’s included in the price?

We went from Sunday through Monday, the least expensive of the nights, and it was $190 per night for our Family Suite before taxes, for four people AND it included admission to the water park for all four people. Friday night or Saturday night sets you back much more for the same room. The MagiQuest game is extra, $17 for the wand and $10 to play the game, but the kids loved it.

Q: Is there anything a parent should do (or not do) to have a good time at Great Wolf?

Bring lots of snacks. Playing in water makes everyone hungry and thirsty, and resort prices are outrageous. It was nearly $7 for a hot dog and about $4 for a soda.

Q: Anything during the experience that surprised you at Great Wolf Lodge?

That you can’t make it a day trip to the water park. You have to stay at the hotel to get in, and the suites have a base price for four people — same price for family of two as a family of four.

Q: Would you go back to Great Wolf with kids?

Yes, we are already planning on going back with a friend and her son probably in the winter. The smiles on the faces of the boys defined the fun we had. (This Hallmark moment brought to you by sappy fathers anonymous).

As we were packing to go home, the kids were plotting on a way to live there.

Thank you so much, Ryan! Have you stayed at Great Wolf? What did you think? Leave a comment below.

Read another trip report on Great Wolf Lodge with kids, from the site.

The I-5 Drive: Kid-friendly Oregon stops from Portland to Southern Oregon

Today,  Amy Whitley, the Oregon-based editor at Pit Stops for Kids cruises over to guest-post on my blog. Pit Stops for Kids is a great resource for families traveling through our region. You’ll find parent reviews on road-side attractions, restaurants, motels, parks, and airport playspaces. Seriously, her site is fantastic. Thanks, Amy.

The Northwest is cross-crossed with dozens of wonderfully scenic and historic highways and byways, but sometimes, you just need to get from Point A to Point B. Living in Southern Oregon, we’ve put in our share of miles up and down I-5 from the Washington border to our north and the California border to our south. Luckily, this section of the interstate is chock full of great pit stops for kids!

From north to south, these are our top five favorites:

Enchanted Forest, Salem, Oregon. Exit 248.

Enchanted Forest is what we call “theme park lite”…and when you want to stop for only a few hours, that’s a good thing! The park is pretty, imaginative, and not overwhelming in size, allowing a family to cruise through the highlights from breakfast to lunch (or stay all day if desired). My kids especially love the fairy tale village and the Indian caves (think Disney’s Tom Sawyer Island in miniature). Read a full review here!

Splash! Lively Park Swim Center, Springfield, Oregon. Exit 194A.

Splash! is by far the best public swimming pool we’ve ever seen! With tubes, slides, a wave pool and more, your kids will be in heaven…even if the weather is insisting on the usual Oregon drizzle. And you’ll love the affordable admission and numerous lifeguards. If you don’t have towels on-hand, they’re available! Read more!.

Saturday Market, Eugene, Oregon. Exit 194B.

This one is only available on Saturdays, but so much fun, it’s still worth a spot on the list! Vibrant and colorful, the Eugene Saturday Market is a great place to take kids…especially around lunchtime. You’ll find a food court full of organic, local options, live entertainment, and many clothing and artisan vendors. Lots to see and take in!

On a Wildlife Safari. Photo courtesy Pit Stops for Kids.

Wildlife Safari, Winston, Oregon. Exit 119.

As an animal rights advocate, I was nervous the first time we visted Wildlife Safari: would it be a dubious operation? Would I feel the animals were well-cared for? I shouldn’t have worried. Wildlife Safari is an awesome experience (you get to drive past giraffes licking at your windshield and lions lounging in the sun!) and does much to educate visitors on animal welfare. You can easily spend half a day here! Details here!

Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon. Exit 19.

Ashland is a beautiful town with lovely restaurants and performance arts, but if you only have time to stop and let little ones stretch their legs, Lithia Park is a must. Gorgeous in all seasons, Lithia is surrounded by old-growth trees and gardens, duck ponds, walking paths, and a great play park. In the winter, try the outdoor ice rink. Photo at upper right is from Lithia Park (courtesy of Pit Stops for Kids). Directions and details here. And if the weather is bad, try out ScienceWorks Museum instead!

9 Amusement Parks in the Northwest and BC

We don’t have any mega-big-deal-amusement parks* here in Cascadia. But we do have several options within easy driving distance of major cities, including water parks and kid-friendly rides. The parks are all fairly inexpensive (at least when compared to airfare for four, lodging and ticket prices at mega-big-deal-amusement parks). It’s low-key fun, an easy getaway in pleasant weather.

Oaks Amusement Park

Oaks Amusement Park

1. Oaks Amusement Park. Portland, Oregon. One of the Pacific Northwest’s oldest operating amusement parks, Oaks Park pops with options: a year-round roller rink, big kid thrill rides, gentle toddler rides. I love this quaint amusement park. Free admission, pay per ride. It’s well-shaded and nestled along the banks of a river, so you can take over-excited kids for a chill-out walk before hopping back into the car. A 15-minute drive from downtown Portland in the quaint Sellwood District.

2. Wild Waves: Theme & Water Park. Federal Way, Washington. In the summer, corkscrew-style slides deliver hordes of screaming kids. It’s not all wild, as the gentle wave pool welcomes younger children. Post-swim, visit the the Enchanted Park and drive bumper cars, ride the ferris wheel or discover your scream on a kiddie coaster. Big problem though – the food here is distinctly sub-par, and you can’t bring in your own. Plan for a car picnic.

3. Great Wolf Lodge. Grand Mound, Washington. Located halfway between Portland and Seattle, this indoor waterpark offers raging river slides, family-friendly rooms (with bunk beds), a kids’ spa, and a magical wand that kids can use to play an interactive game throughout the building. Caveat: You can’t enter without staying the night – but a night’s stay allows you to come and go from the water as you please. It’s sort of like an all-inclusive, right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Playland at PNE

4. Playland at the PNE. Vancouver, BC. Like a county fair in the big city, all summer long. This amusement park is about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, and worth the cost with elementary-age kids or middle schoolers. But even my son (then 2) found plenty of just-ride rides among the selection of over 20 options. Cool big-kid rides: The wooden roller coaster and the “Hellevator.” Bring sunscreen or go during evening hours (like we did); buy the pass for hours of fun.

5. Enchanted Forest Theme Park. Turner, Oregon. If you find yourself driving along Oregon’s I-5 this summer, check out this campy, cheesy and amusing park. Stand in a giant’s mouth, get mildly spooked in the Haunted House, take a stroll through Storybook Lane, Western Town or English Village. It’s the sort of amusement park you’d enjoy if you like old-school Paul Bunyan statues, Roadside America and other oddities still hanging around the Northwest like old moss. I’d go; I’m not sure you would. But you should.

6. Cultus Lake Waterpark and Slides. Cultus Lake, BC. In British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, about 80 km (50 miles) east of Vancouver, the weather dries out and the lakes warm up. So Cultus Lake Waterpark is a fine place to spend the day. Tweens can tear down the maze-like Blasters and Twisters, while the more hesitant (like me!) can enjoy the milder Kiddie Slides. The unusual “Valley of Fear” slide is set up like a skater’s half-pipe; families can slip along in double or triple tubes. Bonus feature: You can bring in your own food.

7. Riverfront Park. Spokane, Washington. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for decades, ignorant to this unique – and diverse — park. In Spokane, the 100-acre Riverfront Park offers: a SkyRide past waterfalls, tour train, wide grassy areas for picnics and running, mini golf, a garbage-eating metallic goat, a ginormous red wagon, a pavilion of amusement rides, an IMAX theatre and water bumper boats. Whew. I’m tired from just listing the options. Worth a weekend’s exploration.

8. Dinotown. Bridal Falls, BC. Yes, it’s a theme park based on dinosaurs.  Three hours from Seattle and a 1 ½ hours from Vancouver, this park is basically like an outdoor Chuck-E-Cheese, but with a sorta-dino-themed train, a musical tribute to the Flintstones, dinosaur mascots, bumper cars and other quasi-dino choices. Not a must-see unless your kid really, really, really loves pink dinosaurs. Update 7/25 CLOSED.

9. Slidewaters. Lake Chelan, Washington. It’s almost always dependably sunny and hot on Washington’s eastside – so there will never be an excuse for skipping the eight slides. At Slidewaters, the new “Purle Haze” ride slips you through 420 feet of disorienting darkness. As a parent, you’ll probably prefer the hot tub and cool pool. Wear sunscreen, because the sun’s rays are a bit sneaky — I think I still have scars from my Chelan burns.

*Full disclosure: My husband works for The Mouse.

Did I miss an awesome waterpark, theme park or fabulous fun center? Let me know.