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?

Bellingham’s Fairhaven Toy Garden

This weekend I had the chance to stop by the Fairhaven Toy Garden in Bellingham, Washington.

This 1,900-square foot shop encourages families to play with puppets, pick costumes and test out a toy car’s wheels. Anyone over age 10 can try their hand at needle-felting pocket-sized rabbits and sheep at the store’s Saturday workshops.

Shelves of yarn and art supplies keep creative kids happy. A window-side table encourages families to sit and color with wax crayons and Lyra pencils.

The Toy Garden’s Waldorf-inspired owners supply wooden building toys, colorful roving, moldable beeswax and other natural playthings.

It’s a sweet little shop, and it’s within sightline of the Fairhaven Village Inn, which you might win a free night’s stay at with my Midweek Getaway Giveaway.

Even if you don’t win, you might drive to Fairhaven for a felting workshop. As one of the store’s owners told me: “Mostly adults show up!” But it would be a fun late-morning jaunt with your tween.

After the toy store, play tag in the village green, near the store, or explore the rest of Fairhaven with your child. It’s a relaxing way to spend the day.

Win a Night’s Stay in Delightful Fairhaven

Oh, here it comes. That looooong stretch between the last spring holidays and summer vacation. Why not plan now for a little getaway – a quick midweek break for a day or two?

Photo Credit: Fairhaven Village Inn

The Fairhaven Village Inn is offering a lucky family a free one-night stay at their deluxe hotel, valid Sunday-Thursday nights, for our Bellingham Midweek Getaway Giveaway.

You may remember that I stayed at the Fairhaven Village Inn a month or so ago, on our trip to Bellingham. I really liked it – cozy in-room fireplaces, a library with board games, free breakfast in the breakfast nook, and a perfect location, right in the heart of Bellingham’s historical Fairhaven district.

If you have elementary-age kids, ask the teacher if it’s OK first, of course. But a midweek getaway makes educational sense if you include the Whatcom Museum of History and Art, the American Museum of Radio and Electricity or the museum-gallery Mindport. And you can always schedule your getaway around an early-release day, if necessary.

Bellingham is about two hours north of Seattle, and about an hour south of Vancouver, BC.

Here’s how to enter:

You can enter a maximum of two times, using each method of entry ONLY once. You must enter via the first option (below). Please do not try to game the contest system in any way – you will be disqualified.

REQUIRED ENTRY: Read this article on Bellingham with kids and this article on Mindport. Next, return here to leave an entry below about what you want to do with your kids in Bellingham, Washington. Your entry must show up on this page. Don’t forget to leave your valid, correct e-mail address.

BONUS ENTRY: Become a fan of the CascadiaKids Facebook page and leave a response that says, “This is my bonus entry” under the post “Win a midweek getaway to Bellingham.”

Contest Rules:

This contest ends at 11:59 pm Pacific Standard Time on April 6, 2010. On April 8, 2010, the winner will be selected at random from all eligible entries received, using Random.org and will be notified by e-mail. Please ensure that you have entered the correct e-mail address in your entry. Your e-mail will not be sold or displayed.

If no response is received within 7 days from first e-mail notification, the first winner will forfeit the prize and another entrant will be selected at random using Random.org.

Fairhaven Village Inn will provide the prize to the winner. The value of the hotel stay is $169. The prize is valid for a parkside room, on a Sunday through Thursday stay and must be redeemed by June 30, 2010. Please reserve your room as soon as possible, particularly if you plan to go in June. The prize information must be presented when making reservations. There is no cash value. There are no substitutions. The prize is not transferable. Winner is solely responsible for any national, state or city taxes incurred.

General Disclaimer: By participating in the “Midweek Getaway Giveaway,” you release and agree to hold harmless CascadiaKids subsidiaries, affiliates, directors, (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any liability whatsoever for any claims, costs, injuries, losses, or damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the Midweek Getaway Giveaway or acceptance, possession, or use of any prize (including, without limitation, claims, costs, injuries and losses related to personal injuries, death, damage to or destruction of property, rights of publicity or privacy, whether intentional or unintentional), whether under a theory of contract, tort (including negligence), warranty or other theory.

Spotlight: Boats & Bikes in Bellingham

Fairhaven, Wash., August 2009.

I love looking at this photo on grey Northwest days. It reminds me that summer — my favorite time of year — is just around the corner. Summer means bike and boat season, endless daylight hours and sunsets that drip with color (instead of noses that drip with…well, you know).

I cannot wait.

Find more inspirational photos at Delicious Baby.

20 Things to Do in Bellingham with Kids

Recently, we went on a short jaunt to Bellingham, Wash., about 30 minutes south of the U.S.-Canadian border, and two hours north of Seattle. It’s a cute little college town with a thriving arts scene and fabulous food. Turn-of-the-century architecture lines downtown Bellingham’s streets, and the town is home to Washington’s oldest brick building (built in 1858).

While many of us know Bellingham as a place to stop en route to Vancouver or Seattle, I think Bellingham deserves its own overnight stay or weekend getaway. Here’s my guide to family travel in Bellingham:

10 a.m. Whatcom Museum of History and Art

Bellingham Family Interactive Gallery

Family Interactive Gallery

The Whatcom Museum’s new Family Interactive Gallery took us all by surprise. It’s amazing what they’ve done in such a small space.

Kids can craft in the art room, build with enormous Tinkertoy-like foam toys, or play camp (like with tents, not with sequins) in a Northwest-themed area.

We created a soundscape with authentic Cascadia noises (orcas, owls and of course, rain).

I liked how real art was mixed into each exhibit space, along with questions to provoke discussion.

The gallery is ensconced in smooth, touchable wooden fixtures and forms; all of it is handcrafted from sustainable wood, by a local woodworking shop.

Noon. Super Mario’s. Most kids love Mexican food, all smothered in cheese and whatnot. But how about El Salvadoran food? What if the restaurant was named Super Mario’s? (3008 NW Ave., 360-393-4637). With such an awesome name, you can’t go wrong. Right?

No one was in the small dining spot (thereby violating travel rule #1: Never eat in an empty restaurant). Super Mario’s was a jarring combo of high-end and low-end, and I feared for the worst. It was inside a stripmall, with granite-style tables and marble floors, with two dueling televisions playing on each end of the rectangular room.

But Super Marios served a fantastic south-of-the-border meal – we had pupusas (tip: add the green sauce for a stellar experience), we had creamy tamales, we had quesadillas that rocked so hard that even my veggie-hating kids ate them in a hurry and pleaded with us to quit stealing bites.

Super cookies at Super Mario’s restaurant

AND they play Nickelodeon on one of the TVs, at least on the day we were there. Can’t beat that. By the time we left at 1 p.m., (pink sugary cookies in hand), the restaurant was full.

1 p.m. Aladdin’s Antiques. Half history lesson, half shopping experience, Aladdin’s Antiques (427 W Holly St.; 360-647-0066) offers cute figurines, Star Wars goodies (we found a retro 1981 activity book my son now carries everywhere) and great vintage finds for your kid’s room. My kids have found enough treasures at antique malls to be interested; yours may need some convincing.

Aladdin’s Antiques

If your kids are definitely NOT into in oldy-worldy goodies, you can send them (with your partner) to Mindport. They’ll love it, promise.

2 p.m. Mallard Ice Cream. About a 10-minute stroll from Mindport, Mallard is the ice cream shop a child would design, if only we parents would let them. Bright-red barstools, vivid green couches, and out-of-this world flavors that seem like they were hand-mixed by a creative 4-year-old foodie – black sesame vanilla, cardamom, rose, butter pecan and over 20 more.

A big bowl of goodness at Mallard Ice cream

We all wanted to try multiple flavors, so we bought a bowl with four scoops, topped with chocolate and whipped cream. After the kids polished off the bowl, they played a sticky-fingered game of Connect Four.

3 p.m. Walk Fairhaven. Fairhaven is a steep-sloped Bellingham neighborhood. It’s crowded with artisans’ galleries, kids’ toy shops, a cupcake shop, a great gelateria (Sirena) and cool little indie bookstores, all within about six city blocks.  An itty-bitty San Francisco, as it were.

A former rough-and-tumble waterfront town in the 1800s, Fairhaven has now been gentrified. You won’t need to fear the likes of “Dirty Dan,” described as an “infrequent bather” (sound like anyone in your home?). He was also worked as a rum-runner, war-inciter and in other jobs not outlined on Career Day. However, you will see bronze statues memorializing Dan and placards describing the town’s bad history. Kids love that stuff.

Dirty Dan

Fairhaven is well-situated for Seattle and Vancouver families – the railway station drops you about a quarter-mile from all of the action. Victoria families can take the Victoria-San Juan Cruises over to Fairhaven, starting in late spring.

Fairhaven

Fairhaven Village Fish and Chips (also a local favorite)

Summer may be the best time to visit – you can take advantage of the Fairhaven Outdoor Movies (see the past year’s showings here).

5 p.m. Marine Park. Walk 10 minutes from Fairhaven’s core toward the water, past the Amtrak station and the large ferries destined for Alaska daily (as part of the Alaskan Marine Highway System) and toward Marine Park.

Rock tossing in Fairhaven

Flat, smooth stones (perfect for skipping) populate the Marine Park’s shoreline. I recommend arriving about 10 minutes before sundown. Bring your camera! Here, it’s like the sun can only set in some sort of Kodak moment, behind the San Juan Islands and the Olympic Mountain Range.

The view from Marine Park

6 p.m. Boundary Bay Brewery. We drove back out of Fairhaven for dinner. While Fairhaven has plenty of restaurants, we’d heard raves about Boundary Bay Brewery, and we weren’t disappointed.

If you forgot to make a reservation, kids can pick through the Duplo block basket in the waiting area. But note: Make a reservation! Although this brewpub offers large rooms and lots of seating, it’s incredibly popular with college kids, families and singles. Smart sandwiches on Great Harvest bread, creamy salmon chowder, micro-brewery beer, the whole authentic Cascadia mix.

Overnight. At this point, we could’ve gone home, but we decided to spend the night in Fairhaven to soak up the atmosphere. We stayed at the 22-room Fairhaven Village Inn, which has special winter rates and a fun library room with games.

Fairhaven Village Inn’s board game shelves

The room’s gas fireplace made the room toasty on a winter night, and the next morning, my kids gobbled their free continental breakfast. They ate cereals, bananas, muffins, made-to-order waffles, eggs and yogurts. Yes, each child ate all of those things. When you figure the cost of feeding four people in my family, a breakfast-inclusive stay is always a money-saver.

8 a.m. Harris Avenue Restaurant: However, if you decide to sleep elsewhere, I recommend going for breakfast at Fairhaven’s Harris Avenue Restaurant (1101 Harris Ave.; 360-738-0802), where we’ve eaten on our way back from Vancouver, BC. You’ll find hearty breakfasts, plus fruit face pancakes for the kids. Huge, huge lines. Get here early for your cornmeal pancakes.

Harris Avenue Cafe at noonish, after the lunch rush dies down.

 

This summer, we hope to return — maybe take the Amtrak up for a family day trip, or bring the car for a weekend. We want to cruise the well-regarded Chuckanut Drive, forebodingly called Upchuckanut Drive by some locals.

My youngest is an upchucker. We’ll need to be well-prepared.

——————————————

To discover more about Bellingham, check in with Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism.

What did we miss in Bellingham? Do you have any tips for the prevention of road nausea?

Bellingham Family Vacation

Mindport Art in Bellingham with Kids

Mindport art gallery and museum in bellingham with kids

Art galleries don’t usually welcome children with open arms. Or ask you to touch the art.

But Mindport, in Bellingham, Wash., is a different sort of gallery. The wooden works inside are meant to be used by hands big and small. It’s an artistic explosion of science, music and movement. Rube Goldberg would love this gallery-museum-playspace.

The light-filled entry gallery offers multiple workstations with awesomely odd contraptions, including a pneumatic ping-pong device that spins balls using forced air; a pun-riddled miniature train route; and a case with a hundred compasses — all controlled by the magnet in your child’s hand.

The second gallery has subdued lighting and natural items to explore — shells, bones — along with a music corner featuring a few guitars and light-and-sound invention that’ll have the kids dancing.

The gallery isn’t just for kids, and parents are expected to keep a watchful eye to ensure a child’s gentle hands. But the creators-owners encourage, explain and enthuse over visitors of all ages. After a short time, Mindport’s mellow calm will seep into your soul, and perhaps inspire an invention or two at home.

Best for: Children of all ages; not a place to go with cranky kids right before dinner or at naptime.

Mindport is located at  210 West Holly, in Bellingham, Wash. Hours are Wednesday through Friday noon-6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday noon-4 p.m. It’s closed every Monday and Tuesday. Admission is $2.

Bellingham Family Vacation