Oregon Road Trip: Dig for Fossils, Meet Dinos & Haunt a Ghost Town

Each turn on an Eastern Oregon road trip presents a new view of the region. Driving through valleys and over peaks carved by ancient floods, you’ll encounter flat range where cattle graze, basalt mountains that stretch thousands of miles into the blue sky, yellow wheat fields bending with the breeze, white windmills generating power for a growing urban population. Truly unusual sights dwell here, yet it’s not too difficult to find a room, even during summer’s peak travel season. It’s like a little slice of undiscovered Oregon — so get out there. Here’s a trip to remember.

Eastern Oregon Road Trip with Kids, Stop by Stop:

Shop a tiny Powell’s at Country Flowers Soda Fountain, a one-woman emporium of gifts, lattes, great kitchenware, beauty supplies and yes, a very small Powell’s Bookstore. Really! It’s a book-lover’s oasis.Condon Café offers microbrews on tap, bottles, pizza, salads and fine service.

Country Flowers; Powell's in Oregon

Country Flowers; Powell’s in Oregon

Wash the grit off at the restored Hotel Condon, a welcome sight after a day driving along hot, dusty roads. This 1920-era hotel offers spacious rooms for families, cable, and yes, hot showers. Truly one of my favorite little Oregon hotels. Wine and cheese hour and a continental breakfast is included in the nightly rate.

Kid-friendly Hotel Condon in Condon, Oregon

Hotel Condon in Condon, Oregon

Drive back in Time. From Condon, it’s a 20-minute drive south along the John Day Highway, a valley with giant basalt mountains cut by floods, flanking both sides of the road, until you reach the town of Fossil.

Find fossils in the aptly named Fossil. Behind Fossil High School, you’ll find Oregon’s public fossil beds, where you can scrape and brush aside layers of dirt and rock to find your very own plant fossil, such as the needles of a metasequoia that fell 33 million years ago. The fossil tools are free for use by anyone, but there is a $15/four-person family admission fee.


Digging for fossils with kids in Fossil

Digging for fossils with kids in Fossil

Meet ancient residents at Oregon Paleo Lands Institute, which has a full-size Plesiosaur found right in Fossil, along with little puzzles and playthings for younger children. Don’t miss the family activities at OPLI, if you can arrange your visit around one of the hikes.

Oregon Public Lands Institute with Kids

Oregon Public Lands Institute with Kids

From Fossil, you have two good choices. You can drive for another hour south toward the Painted Hills, which are stunning; I recently wrote about the Painted Hills. Or you can drive a half-hour west  for an otherworldly hike at the Clarno Unit of John Day Fossil Beds, just 18 miles west of Fossil; giant rock outcroppings almost look like a sci-fi high-rise made of stone (those little holes/windows look they belong in alien condos, for sure). It’s a great place to picnic.

Clarno Unit with Kids

Clarno Unit with Kids

Heading north again, don’t miss a chance to creep through the Oregon ghost town Shaniko, where the town’s  remaining buildings are painted in almost-giddy colors. You can still get lunch or ice cream in town though — without scaring your wallet.

Shaniko Ghost Town with Kids

Shaniko Ghost Town

From here, it’s about a 90-minute drive to The Dalles. Eat at Burgerville, just for me. Drive back toward Portland along I-84, through the Columbia River Gorge.

Family-Friendly Hotels & Rentals in Whistler & Blackcomb

Allura Direct. Want to enjoy all the comforts of a separate bedrooms, a full kitchen  and a washer and dryer?  Try a vacation rental through Allura Direct, which connects Whistler vacation rentals by owner to families hoping to find a little home-away-from home. More than 400 condos, homes and lodges around Whistler, Blackcomb, Creekside and further. The booking engine even allows you to note whether you need free baby equipment, a pet-friendly rental or a private yard.

Kitchen at the kid-friendly Sundial Suites in Whistler

Kitchen at the kid-friendly Sundial Suites in Whistler

Sundial Boutique Hotel.  One of my favorite places to sleep in Whistler — I love this little independently owned boutique hotel, from the compact, fully equipped kitchens to the two-bedroom suites. A room with a view of the skiers (winter) or mountain bikers (summer) provides free entertainment year-round, and is worth the splurge. Sign up for the online e-mail blasts and find out first when the hotel offers deals and specials on the suites.

Tourism Whistler. This site connects you to hotels with availability, so you can compare prices and quality levels. Double-check your deal with a site like Tripadvisor to get some honest reviews (some of the hotels listed wouldn’t be my first choice, but might be yours). Many of the upscale hotels I’ve stayed at (below) I scored through their “Suite Secrets” deals,  which matches budget-minded travelers with Whistler accommodation inventory that hasn’t yet sold. You must book within the next 14 days, so it’s best for last-minute Whistler deals.

Kid-friendly Whistler Chateau Fairmont

Kid-friendly Whistler Chateau Fairmont

Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Amazing breakfast, lots of family activities, (including board games, complimentary bathrobes, tot fun packs), but a bit of a walk from the main Whistler village. However, if you’re planning to spend time at Blackcomb Family Adventure Center or the tubes, it’s perfect. The breakfast at Wildflower is killer (nom, those Pemberton potatoes). If you can, get a mountainside view; the kids may find that watching wildlife is better than  TV.

Westin Whistler. Tidy, tight rooms – but many have a mini-kitchenette and a sofa, and the Whistler-side ski lifts are literally minutes from your door. Check out the “typical” Junior Suites (with oven and microwave) or the one-bedroom suites. The hotel also makes jogging strollers available upon request.

Pan Pacific Whistler. Five-star luxury in two locations — one in the village, and one on the mountainside. I love the Whistler Mountainside‘s gorgeous outdoor hot tubs and spacious suites (with full kitchens). On the other hand, I like the Whistler Village Centre’s great location and free buffet breakfast .

Finding Family Whistler Hotel and Condo Rooms and Deals:

For lodging in Whistler, BC, the peak period is Christmas through New Year’s Eve, when you could pay up to $800 per night or more for a hotel room (No, there’s not an extra $0 in that number) at top properties. Less expensive Whistler accommodations are available in late spring and fall (through the second week of December), although I’ve also found great deals in the middle of summer, when you can take the Mountaineer train up from Vancouver. Winter prices are reasonable, as long as your timing doesn’t coincide with BC school spring break.

When you’re booking your room or condo, ask about noise — any hotel with windows facing certain outdoor plazas and restaurants can get loud until late at night (not good for littles and light sleepers). Construction is often done in summer, so ask about the possibility of jackhammers destroying your baby’s naptime along with outdated hotel rooms.

Have you been to Whistler? I’m always looking for new ideas for great Whistler hotels. Where did you stay, and did you like it?

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.

Tips and Hints: Finding a family-friendly hotel

Kid friendly hotels – whether in Portland (Oregon) or Portland (Maine) — are blessedly similar. Sure, the landscape changes, but a great hotel offers both respite and recreation to vacationing families.

Here are questions we ask before we go, we or read over hotel websites to find the answers. Any of these points are equally valid if you’re looking for family friendly New York City hotels or kid friendly Las Vegas accommodations. And of course, you’ll want to take into account customer reviews or guidebook recommendations (I recommend dozens of kid-friendly Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle and Portland hotels in my book Northwest Kid Trips).

However, it’s rare to find a hotel that offer every amenity – you’ll probably weight some kid-friendly hotel features over others, and some won’t matter you a bit.

Questions to ask before you book your family-friendly hotel:

Do kids stay free? If we need a rollaway, is that free? Do kids eat for free?

Most (if not all) family-friendly hotels offer free stays for children under age 18, even if extra bedding (rollaway bed) is required. Kids may be offered free breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Does your hotel offer a free breakfast for families? What time is breakfast served?

A free breakfast for the whole family is a total score, in my book. Even if it is blah hotel food, fresh from Sysco, dished up assembly-line style. You can’t mess up cereal, fruit and eggs, at least not to an inedible extent. However, breakfast has to be served when a child’s internal alarm clock wakes the whole family . A 9 a.m. cereal call is not going to work for most children; they’ll wait too long and the whining will begin.

Is there a pool? Is it indoor or outdoor? If outdoor, what’s the temperature? Are there hours that are off-limits to families?

In the summer, an outdoor pool is lovely in the Pacific Northwest or British Columbia. But during any other time of the year, get staff to specify whether the pool is indoor or outdoor. An outdoor, unheated pool is a disappointment on a rainy spring day. A pool that kicks kids out by 8 p.m. is nothing but frustrating (10 p.m. seems reasonable, though).

Does your hotel offer any children’s services or perks?

Some Seattle, Portland and Vancouver hotels offer kid-friendly options like toy-stuffed backpacks, treasure hunts, holiday parties, stuffed animals, free passes to area attractions, borrowable board games, fish-babysitting opportunities and complimentary kid-bathrobe use. But you may not know unless you ask. Even if booking agents tell you about the amenities at booking time, you may have to remind front-desk staff at check-in. They’re busy and may forget.

Are there rooms on the ground floor that open onto a lawn or beach? Is there a fence or other kid-containment device? If the room opens onto a balcony, is it safe for toddlers or preschoolers?

Access to an outdoor area is lovely – as long as it’s safe. Older children, in particular, do well with wide-open spaces right outside the back door.

Is there a DVD player in the room? Do you offer kid movies for rent or free?

Some hotels are now offering DVD players and free rentals for families, or a coupon for one free on-demand family movie. I love this trend.

Is Wi-Fi free in the room?

I love it so I can work after the kids pass out (I’m often writing about our trips). But my kids love Wi-Fi because I can always set them up with a streaming movie or TV show if I need to take a quick shower. On our last long trip (taken during the school year), my daughter wrote blog posts on the educational aspects of the vacation — and then posted those items for her teacher’s review.

Where is the nearest playground or play area?

Hopefully, it’s around the corner or within a few blocks of your hotel.

Where is the nearest shopping or eating center?

I am not a fan of suburban stays – I don’t like being forced to eat lunch or dinner on-property, particularly because most hotel food is so overpriced and undertasty. I also generally dislike driving once at my destination, so I prefer to stay near a downtown location, where you can visit parks, pick up inexpensive food and toys, ride public transport and go for walks to people-watch.

Do you offer baby cribs, playpens or child-proofing kits?

You won’t need to bring your own massive furniture from home or rent it, if the hotel offers on-site baby-care items. In some older properties, you may want to make sure that the crib or pack ‘n’ play is up to current safety standards.

Does the room come with a fridge or microwave?

Many hotels offer minibars, but those rarely keep our noshes cold enough, and there’s all that moving around of tempting expensive liquor bottles. I prefer a fridge; sometimes you can pay a little extra to get a mini-fridge delivered to your room ($10-$15/night), if they’re not an automatic amenity. And a microwave is nice, if your children want warmed-up food.

Do you offer a clothes washer and dryer in the room? On site?

Some suite-style hotels do offer clothes washing facilities. You don’t have to pack as many clothing choices, and you won’t worry (as much) when your toddler paints his pants with ketchup.

Playmobil vacation on a hotel bed

Playmobil vacation on a hotel bed

Can we get a larger hotel room, such as a corner room?

This can be more important than a room with a view, at least for vacationing families. Rooms size and layouts – particularly in older properties – can vary tremendously, and you’ll want a room with ample floor area for playing, rather than a supersized, spa-style bathroom. On the other hand, if you’re staying in a city and plan to be out and about for most of the day, the room’s size may not matter so much.

Does the hotel room have a bathtub?

With smaller hotel room footprints, you may find only a shower in the bathroom. My kids are flexible and can go with any type of set-up (or we just don’t wash them for a day or two, oh horrors). But if your children insist on a bathtub (and you don’t want your kids to smell like mine), then you should insist on a tub as well.

Where is the parking located? Is it on-site? Is the parking garage down the block? Do you offer valet parking only?

Babies and toddlers usually require more gear: carseats, strollers, blankets, diapers, wipes, food, diaper bags…the list feels endless. You will forget something in the car. Or you will forget something in the hotel room. If you can’t easily access your vehicle – without going through a valet or three elevator systems – you will curse every forgotten item. You and your partner may play a super-fun game of “I think it’s your turn.”

It is not really a fun game. I’m lying. You should find a hotel with in-building or on-site parking.

One more note: Leave a decent tip for housekeeping, whenever they come to your room. Kids make messes and it’s nice to provide a little extra to those who work hard to clean up after you.

What would you add to this list of family-friendly hotel features?

Vacationing on a Seattle Houseboat Rental with Kids

Seattle mom Leah Adams recently took an exciting and unusual staycation. She slept for two nights on a Seattle houseboat with her husband, daughter (10) and son (8). Leah took advantage of a weekend-only special (the houseboat usually rents by the month) and found that a houseboat serves up a rockin’ (and rollin’) family vacation.

Q: What did you enjoy about the Seattle houseboat?

I loved the cedar paneling (smelled just like I imagined a houseboat would). The efficiency of being in a small space appealed to me. There’s something so lovely about being totally satisfied in a small space, leaving all the extraneous stuff in our house behind. The Lake Union location, near Fremont, was fantastic. Fremont deserves the designation as “Center of the Universe.”

seattle with kids

Leah's son enjoying typical Seattle shorts-and-t-shirt weather

I loved being able to walk everywhere. The small conversations that happen when you’re walking past someone’s garden (and peeking in their windows! ha!) really bond a family.

The resident momma mallard and her three ducklings enchanted my son; it seemed every time we looked out the window, there they were, swimming in circles right in front of our houseboat.

Everything you would expect in an efficiency kitchen was there – coffee maker, toaster oven, stove, full size fridge and freezer, dishes, cups, utensils. Plenty of towels and linens. We brought our own pillows, only because three of us are very picky. Checking it out first before packing gave me a good idea of what to bring.

Q: What did you do with kids while staying on the “Molly Brown” Seattle houseboat?

On Saturday night, we walked to dinner at Blue Moon Burgers, had Royal Grinders gelato with Lenin, walked to the troll where we posed with lots of other tourists (seems our kids had never officially visited before), then walked home.

Sunday morning, we walked up to the Varsity Inn for a mediocre diner breakfast. We should have walked further into Fremont, even to the Essential Baking Company, but I wasn’t sure it was open.

As we walked back from breakfast discovered an amazing mosaic on the Wallingford steps. Then we visited Gas Works Park, running to the top of the hill, down to the terrace, through the painted refinery room (kinda gross), bushwacked a bit through the park, discovered a shortcut back to the marina. I was worried about surprising people in the bushes, but we didn’t see (or even smell) anything foul.

gas works park, seattle with kids

View from Gas Works Park.

Sunday afternoon, we took the bus from 35th to Northwest Folklife Festival, and back home around 5 p.m.

Monday morning, Lance and my son walked to the Essential Baking Company for breakfast coffee, while my daughter and I lounged around, reading and rocking. Lance chatted for ages with the neighbors, who were transplants from Bothell, about life in the marina. They glowed about the amount of community there is at the marina compared to their neighborhood in Bothell.

Q: Could you cook in your houseboat?

There was a full kitchen, though not a ton of counter space. I would call it a very efficient kitchen. You could definitely have frozen pizza, burritos or any prepared food from the Fremont PCC frozen foods/deli case heated up to eat on houseboat.

The kitchen table is small, and that’s where the television sits, so I wouldn’t want to eat too many meals there. The marina is so close to the park, I would probably choose to picnic most of the meals besides breakfast.

Q: Would a houseboat be difficult with a toddler or preschooler?

I guess it would depend on your particular toddler or preschooler, but it really wasn’t a challenge at all. There are no railings on the dock, so I suppose if your child was impetuous and couldn’t tell the difference between the dock and water, you might have a problem.

Q: Any challenges involved with a houseboat vacation for four family members?

This houseboat had a tiny little pump-action toilet, but there was a ‘cabana’ with a full bathroom and shower for the use of the residents. It was just a short walk down to the dock.

The shower was lovely, but once we found out that the entire marina pumps all of their grey water into Lake Union, I started thinking differently about how much conditioner I used in my hair. The neighbors said their 40-gallon septic tank gets pumped once every two weeks, and that is even with using the toilets in the cabana most of the time. I guess you would just make a point of stopping in the cabana every time you left the property. Time to take a potty break everyone!

My husband’s perception of the experience was very different than mine. He can’t put his finger on exactly what bothered him, but he said he wouldn’t do it again. I loved everything about it, and he wouldn’t go again. Go figure. He couldn’t wait to pack up Monday morning, and I really wanted to stay there all day, lounging around, reading and listening to the rain.

Q: So, would you suggest a Seattle houseboat stay as a family-friendly vacation?

I do think staying on a houseboat is a family-friendly vacation, especially if the kids are 5 and up. We could have rented kayaks from Agua Verde Cafe or the Northwest Outdoor Center for additional fun around Lake Union. How cool would it be to kayak up to your front door?

We didn’t bring our bikes with us, but the Burke Gilman Trail goes right past the marina. If we had planned a little further in advance, we would have biked from the houseboat to the Seattle Center for Folklife.

Thanks, Leah. Find out more about the boat Leah stayed on (Molly Brown) at VRBO.com. And you can find more VRBO.com houseboat rentals on Lake Union.

Would you stay on a houseboat?

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.

Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Port Townsend

Port Townsend’s well-travelled residents wouldn’t accept just any ol’ menu. So you’ll find a wealth of kid-friendly picks to refuel your family travels and adventures.


In the “Uptown” above downtown Port Townsend, you’ll find two excellent breakfast options within walking distance of the town’s Victorian-era mansions.

Pane d’Amore

Enjoy the fruits of residents’ refined tastes at Pane d’Amore, a tiny shop that brims with customers, before the sign is flipped to “open.”  Kids love the cinnamon twists, a braid of crunchy, buttery delight. Adults might opt for the sophisticated apple-shaped danish. Eat these flaky delicacies outside or you’ll find crumbs under the carseats for weeks.

If you’re looking for a little more ooh-la-la, take the family to Sweet Laurette’s Café and Bistro: chocolate croissants, pear galettes, metal chairs in a verdant outdoor dining area and full by 9 o’clock a.m.

And back in downtown, the brand-new Water Street Creperie’s (1046 Water St.; 360-385-1151) sweet and savory options satisfy everyone in the family. Order your cinnamon or chicken pesto crepe, then snag an outdoor table facing Water Street, the town’s main drag.


So many choices. Such limited stomach real estate.

Follow your nose to Waterfront Pizza (951 Water St.; 360-385-6629), then choose from downstairs’ bustling take-away window or upstairs seats overlooking Port Townsend’s water street. Pizza takes time here – at least 20 minutes – so enjoy the Trivial Pursuit card-filled baskets, color with crayons and look jealously at your neighbor’s pie. The cornmeal-dusted crust is piled high with vegetables and meat; this is knife-and-fork pizza.

A fruit-faced bear pancake at Salal Cafe

Want something a little lighter? Salal Café (634 Water St.; 360-385-6532) presents sandwiches, soups and eggy entrees inside a window-wrapped, light-filled interior or out on the flower-full patio. Crayons and paper make their way to you upon your seating, and kids’ meals include a bear-faced pancake (banana nose!) and a heart-shaped grilled cheese. Try the homemade strawberry jam. If you love it, you can buy some to take home.

For organic and locally-grown fare, Better Living Through Coffee serves hearty sandwiches, salmon chowder and small pastries from a premium location overlooking the water.

Better Living Through Coffee’s fresh options

Lunch on one of the low couches, while the kids read from the basket of picture books or look for the toy bags filled with simple games.

Don’s Plaza Soda Fountain (1151 Water Street; 360-385-2622) serves a straightforward, no-nonsense meal. It’s an authentic 1961 diner spot housed in the rear of Don’s Pharmacy. Go to the back right of the store to sit on swiveling stools and order at a low counter. Burgers, dogs, malts, sundaes and phosphates are on the menu — same as 50 years ago — but with a modern-day addition of a Gardenburger.


Here’s where things can all fall apart. You’ve hopefully had plenty of adventures by 5 p.m., and wisely choosing your evening restaurant makes for a memorable day (in a good way).

A ferry-side view from La Isla’s booths

Are the kids all kinds of whiny? Could you care less what you’re eating and want a view of the ferries leaving the Port Townsend dock? Eat at La Isla Family Mexican Restaurant (1145 Water St., 360-385-1714), a Mexican restaurant long on views and short on stylish décor. The menu is mediocre but it works; the cabbage salsa is different and delicious.

Are the kids doing reasonably well? You want a beer, nice conversation, pub-style food and paper tablecloths the kids can draw on? Eat at The Public House Grill, a local favorite. The kids’ menu includes fish ‘n’ chips, salmon fritters and burgers.

Are the kids behaving exceptionally? You want wine, foodie fare, sophisticated dining and $7/plate children’s meals? Eat at Silverwater Cafe, a restaurant that knows how to grill piece of fresh, wild salmon and serve it on a bed of wild rice and asparagus. Portions are small but perfectly cooked.


After dinner, pick up an ounce of ice cream at Elevated Ice Cream & Soda Shop. This ice cream shop actually sells ice cream by the ounce, so even the baby receives a right-sized portion of vanilla-mint or one of the shop’s flavors of ice cream or Italian ices. Kids can sit at a petite French-style café table to devour their cone. Next door, a dentist’s nightmare of a candy shop sells delectable chocolates and giant lollipops.

Bring change — for 75 cents, the shop’s vintage bison provides rides.

A bison-ridin’, ice-cream eatin’ cowpoke in Elevated Ice Cream.

Port Townsend Family Vacation

Vancouver Kid-Friendly Restaurant: Little Nest

Little Nest is Vancouver, BC’s best kid-friendly restaurant.

This cafe in Vancouver, B.C. proves that a kid-friendly restaurant can offer amazing food, decent prices AND a play area. I’ve never had a meal here and thought, “eh.” No. I wonder, “How can I recreate this meal at home? And is it wrong to kidnap the chef?”

The owner, Mary MacIntyre, ensures that the restaurant’s breakfast and lunch menu focuses on local, seasonal and organic produce, so it’s constantly changing. A few items we’ve had include the eggs with local tomatoes, basil, radish and multi-grain baguette, house-made muesli with organic yogurt, fresh fruit “fries” with strawberry jam, and a brie sandwich that knocked my (mismatched) socks off.

The food here’s so good that kid-less grown-ups typically occupy all the two-top tables. And it’s so popular that we try to arrive right at opening; past experience has left us waiting for a place to sit.

Fruit fries!

Little vintage birds and highchairs complement the cafe’s retro, homey interior — wide wooden tables, low-slung couches, a bright white ceiling. The owner’s husband is an artist and salvager; those swank mid-century modern couches and cool tables were found via Craigslist, flea markets, demolitions and yard sales.

Cooking up a storm at Little Nest

Cooking up a storm at Little Nest

Toddlers and preschoolers busily prep and serve the play kitchen area. There’s also an awesome recliner and sweet 70s and 80s toys.

“The family friendly element was just a natural reflection of me, my needs as a parent and my philosophy of food and eating and living in general,” MacIntyre says. “It should be a shared experience.”

It’s a comfortable place. You want to linger, chat and watch the kids play. Unless, of course, waiting diners are eyeing your table hopefully.

Best for: families with younger children and foodies of all ages.

Where is this kid-friendly Vancouver restaurant?

Little Nest is located at 1716 Charles St., just off Vancouver’s countercultural-cool Commercial Drive. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Monday. Combine a breakfast or lunch at Little Nest with the Victoria Park playground, a few blocks away.