Where to Go for U.S. Thanksgiving Getaways

Not everyone heads across the country (or county) to visit relatives at Thanksgiving. If you’re looking for a four-day getaway, here are a few ideas:

A four-star hotel Thanksgiving stay in Vancouver, BC:

The obvious benefit of traveling to Canada? Canadians don’t celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving any more than they celebrate the Fourth of July. Which means schools are in session and hotel rooms are plentiful. You can breeze in and out of museums (like Science World) and attractions without fighting the hordes of summer or school’s-out masses.  I love Vancouver’s rainy day attractions and almost always get the perfect, upscale Priceline hotel for a great price (typically around $80/nt).

Don’t miss: Robson Street holiday shopping with kids is a fine idea, on the day after Thanksgiving.

A four-day stay in Victoria, BC:

All the bennies of Canada, but with more traditional small-town charm. Many Victoria shops have their Christmas décor up, and you can even do a little shopping without fighting crowds.  Attractions like Butchart Gardens offer discounted fall entrance fees and hotels are about half the price of a summer stay. Take the Clipper if you want a car-free Victoria vacation or bring the car (we typically do) if you want to stay completely dry. Don’t miss the Fairmont Empress’s Festival of Trees, which features dozens of beautiful and wacky decorated trees.

Don’t miss: Discovering 35 free and cheap things to do with kids in Victoria.

A tree that even a toddler can love, at the Festival of Trees

A pre-season Thanksgiving vacation in Whistler:

In December, the crowds descend upon Whistler. But this year, it’s already snowed several times in the village, and there’s plenty of fluffy stuff on top of the mountains. Village hotel prices are still reasonable, the kids’ ski clubs are open and the village is completely sane (vs. INSANE in peak season). The only downer: cross-country skiing is not open. We typically visit Whistler every year at Thanksgiving and find a decent deal through the Suite Secrets program.

Don’t miss: Taking the awesome Peak 2 Peak.

A discount Thanksgiving stay in Portland:

So, most shops will be closed in Portland on Thanksgiving and the shopping madness begins the day after (as typical in the U.S.). However, you should find a great three-night stay through Priceline, and Powell’s Books will be open for business – so you can take the kids and hang out in the cozy children’s area and the coffeeshop. For Thanksgiving dinner, I like the McMenamins’ buffets, which serves up heaps of goodies for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

Don’t Miss: Once Thanksgiving Day is over, there are all those wonderful kid-friendly restaurants and kid-friendly, affordable attractions.

The Washington or Oregon Coast:

If you’re inside the just-right hotel or condo, a coastal Thanksgiving offers spectacular natural beauty mixed with cozy indoor stay. A few recommendations for a coastal getaway include Newport, Ore., (incredible views at the Hallmark Hotel and great kid-friendly attractions, including the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center); Cannon Beach, Ore. (read more on my activities for Cannon Beach); and the Westport area (if you want a beach to yourself — this is your spot, and there are a few rooms left at Vacation By the Sea).

Don’t miss: Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, seen in the photo at the right.

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving weekend getaway in the Northwest or Canada? Where do you like to go?

Families Travel! Penticton with Kids

Joanna Nesbit, a Bellingham-area mom (and fellow travel writer) recently went with her family to Penticton, BC, for three nights. Penticton is about a five hour drive from Bellingham, six and a half from Seattle and about five from Vancouver, BC.

“We went over Memorial Day weekend, which is a great time in Canada because it’s not their holiday,” Nesbit says. “Penticton is a beautiful town located on the land bridge that separates Okanogan Lake and Lake Skaha. It’s friendly, easy to navigate, and there are plenty of grocery and restaurant options for visitors.”

Nesbit went about her trip in a smart way – she brought her 13-year-old daughter’s friend along with them, and then met up with friends (who had a son the same age as Joanna’s 10-year-old).

Q. Where did you sleep in Penticton, BC?

We camped at Banbury Green RV Park. It’s pretty but tight. I wasn’t prepared for was how small the sites are. There are some other RV parks that might be just as good, not sure. Here’s a list of RV parks (Kaleden and Penticton addresses good; others too far away).

Penticton camping site

Penticton camping site

Q. What did you like about the campsite? What types of amenities did it offer?

The location was fantastic, a few minutes out of town right on Skaha Lake. We rented a paddle boat and the kids swam (sort of – the lake was cold). We also played rousing games of volleyball, rode bikes on a nearby trail, and of course roasted marshmallows. The RV park has showers, toilets, amenities for washing dishes, ice at the office, and paddle boat rentals (with life jackets)– $10 per hour or $25 for 4 hours.

Q. Which Penticton activities did your family enjoy?

We went to the Okanagan Amuseuments Go-Kart track just a few minutes down the road from the RV Park, where some of us got on Go-Karts and others got on bumper boats. Found Loco Landing online, which we missed, but I would feel confident saying it would be a blast. The bumper boats are cheaper here than what we paid.

bumper boats in Penticton, BC

Bumper boats in Penticton, BC

We went to the Skaha Bluffs climbing area, on the other side of the lake from the RV Park. The climbing area in the spring is a huge attraction for visitors (and the RV Park was full of climbers). It’s a beautiful place to walk around even if you’re not a climber (I’m not), and a great place to climb for all ages. However it would be too hot to climb there in the summer.

We also played on the public beach on Skaha Lake that features a playground, picnicking areas, a kiosk with ice cream and sno-cones. The lake does have a drop-off that parents of small children should be wary of – it’s marked (more on Penticton beaches here). We saw a kids’ spray park for younger kids (Lakawana Park) that looked great but it didn’t appeal to mine (ages 10 & 13)

Q. What did you need to do to bring a child’s friend across the Canadian border? How did that work out?

To take unrelated kids across the border, you need either a passport, or picture ID and a certified copy of a birth certificate, as well as a letter of permission from the parents that includes phone number(s) of parents and dates their child is entering and leaving Canada. There might be a form online. We put her documents in a clear zip-loc bag for easy visibility, and it was no problem.

We took a friend for Leah because we knew her younger brother would have a friend there. She had someone her own age to hang out with — by the time kids are teens (she’s 13), they really care about hanging out with friends. It worked out very well. But I’d pick that friend carefully if it’s for multiple days (we had Leah’s friend for three days).

Read more about entry into the Canada with kids or entry into the U.S. with kids.

Win a free Suncadia family stay

As you may recall, I recently visited Suncadia Resort in Washington State.

Would you like to go, too?

Suncadia has offered our readers an exclusive one-night stay in a Lodge one-bedroom, which can be used any time in the next year – excluding all holiday weekends and weekends in July and August.

Still, that leaves you plenty of time to try one of Washington State’s newest family resorts.

Want to enter? Go visit the Suncadia page (or my previous post here about Suncadia) and tell me what you and the kids would like to do at Suncadia or in nearby Roslyn, and what time of year you’d like to visit.

The winner will be drawn at random.

You have three ways to enter this drawing:

  1. Read any of my articles on Roslyn or Suncadia or visit the Suncadia resort site and tell me what you want to do in the area. Leave a note below.
  2. Sign up for the mailing list (enter at right) and come back and tell me you did so (leave a comment.
  3. Tweet this contest. Come back and tell me you did so (leave a comment).

Please be patient when waiting for your comment to appear. I have to hand-approve all comments. If it doesn’t come up in 4-5 hours, e-mail me.

See you at Suncadia!

Contest Rules:

This contest begins today, June 30, 2010, and ends at 11:59 pm Pacific Standard Time on Tuesday, July 6, 2010. On July 6, 2010, the winner will be selected at random from all eligible entries received on this page’s comments, using Random.org. The winner will be notified by e-mail on or around July 7. 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 from the first-drawn winner within one week (7 days), the first winner will forfeit the prize and another entrant will be selected at random using Random.org. The value of the hotel stay is $215+ and the Suncadia Resort will provide a gift certificate for the giveaway.
The prize is valid for one night in a Lodge one-bedroom room. Prize is valid for one year from start of contest. Redemption is subject to availability and excludes weekends in July and August and all holiday weekends. Other restrictions may apply.
Please reserve your room as soon as possible. The prize information must be presented when making reservations. There is no cash value. There are no substitutions. The prizes are not transferable. The winner is solely responsible for any national, state, provincial or city taxes incurred.
Sweepstakes void where prohibited by law. Entrants must be age 18 and over and residing in the U.S or Canada.
If a resident of Canada is selected as a winner, they will be required to correctly answer, without assistance of any kind, whether mechanical or otherwise, a timed, mathematical skill-testing question (3*6)+(12/2)-8 to be administered by Lora Shinn by e-mail before the awarding of the prize.
By participating in the “Suncadia Giveaway” 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 Seattle getaway 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. CascadiaKids is not liable for technical error, omissions or Internet inaccessibility.
I did not accept money, services or gratuities in exchange for this giveaway. I requested the giveaway prize, because I like the hotel and think it’s a good match for CascadiaKids readers.

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Cle Elum Family Vacation

Giveaway: A Portland, Oregon package deal!

So, if you know me, you know how much I love Portland, Oregon.

I grew up near Portland, so I have all my own childhood memories of the vibrant, funky city – shopping the Portland Saturday Market, hanging out with the wildlife at the Oregon Zoo and making stump speeches at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Now that I’m a mom, I’ve rediscovered the town. I love taking the kids to Portland for OMSI, kid-friendly brewpubs, family-friendly (and cheap!) food, the Portland Children’s Museum and oddball attractions like the 3D Center of Art and Photography and 24-Hour Church of Elvis (around since I was a teen).

Wanna love Portland as much as I do? It’s easy! You can enjoy a one-night stay in the City of Roses at one of my favorite hotels – the Hotel Monaco Portland.

The Hotel Monaco offers enormous rooms, with pull-out couch in one room, connected by a glass sliding door to an extra-large bedroom; a convivial lobby (wine hour every afternoon, with Wii games and sparkling apple juice for the kids) and kid-friendly amenities like robes and a goldfish you can babysit. Yeah, really.

It’s right in downtown Portland, so you can train in via Amtrak from points south or north, or drive into Portland and park your car for the weekend. Take the MAX right up to Washington Park’s attractions (zoo, children’s museum, playground, rose garden, mini-train).

My monkeys jumping on the bed at Hotel Monaco. No monkeys or beds were hurt during the production of this photograph.

Not only do you get a King Suite, you’ll also enjoy the awesomeMini Da Vinci Kids Package:”

  • 4 tickets to the Portland Children’s Museum
  • Free Valet Parking
  • A complimentary bottle of Hotel Portland’s private label Oregon wine
  • Cookies and Milk
  • 2 Kid’s packs at check in (includes coloring book, crayons, playing cards and more)
  • 4 5×8 canvases with watercolor paints
  • In-room movie

Read more about the Hotel Monaco Portland and Portland Children’s Museum in my book, Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver
(the book has tons of family-friendly Portland hotels, parks, restaurants and attractions).

Wow, it’s going to be fun. Do you have room in your car for me?

You have three ways to enter:

  1. Read any article on Portland and tell me what you want to do in Portland or why you want to stay at the Monaco. Leave a note below. Don’t miss the article on family-friendly Portland restaurants.
  2. Sign up for the mailing list (enter at right) and come back and tell me you did so (leave a comment)
  3. Tweet this contest. Come back and tell me you did so (leave a comment).

Please be patient when waiting for your comment to appear. I have to hand-approve all comments. If it doesn’t come up in 4-5 hours, e-mail me.

See you in PDX!

Contest Rules:

This contest begins today, June 9, 2010, and ends at 11:59 pm Pacific Standard Time on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. On June 16, 2010, the winner will be selected at random from all eligible entries received on this page’s comments, using Random.org. The winner will be notified by e-mail on or around June 16. 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 from the first-drawn winner within one week (7 days), the first winner will forfeit the prize and another entrant will be selected at random using Random.org. The value of the hotel stay is $215+ and the Hotel Monaco Portland has provided a gift certificate for the giveaway.
The prize is valid for one night in a King Suite and the “Mini Da Vinci Kids Package.” The room must be redeemed by May 11, 2011. Other restrictions may apply.
Please reserve your room as soon as possible. The prize information must be presented when making reservations. There is no cash value. There are no substitutions. The prizes are not transferable. The winner is solely responsible for any national, state, provincial or city taxes incurred.
Sweepstakes void where prohibited by law. Entrants must be age 18 and over and residing in the U.S or Canada.
If a resident of Canada is selected as a winner, they will be required to correctly answer, without assistance of any kind, whether mechanical or otherwise, a timed, mathematical skill-testing question (3*6)+(12/2)-8 to be administered by Lora Shinn by e-mail before the awarding of the prize.
By participating in the “Portland, Oregon Package Deal” 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 Seattle getaway 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. CascadiaKids is not liable for technical error, omissions or Internet inaccessibility.
I did not accept money, services or gratuities in exchange for this giveaway. I requested the giveaway prize, because I like the hotel and think it’s a good match for CascadiaKids readers.

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Giveaway: Win a Seattle family getaway

If you’re planning to visit Seattle, one hotel I recommend is the MarQueen Hotel.

The hotel is a converted apartment building, so families enjoy plenty of space in each suite-style room. Most rooms offer suite-style accommodations and kitchenettes, and a few provide ranges as well. There’s a complimentary “grab and go”  breakfast – croissants, juice, coffee, fruit.

Lobby at the MarQueen Hotel

This isn’t a corporate hotel. But the turn-of-the-century feel is just right for a Seattle stay, and it can be difficult to find larger rooms in Seattle hotels.

Bedroom at the MarQueen Hotel

The MarQueen Hotel also offers the perfect location for families – just a few blocks from Seattle Center, where kid-friendly attractions like the Pacific Science Center, The Seattle Children’s Theater and the Seattle Children’s Museum welcome visitors.

Several family-friendly restaurants are near the MarQueen (I like McMenamins Queen Anne ‘s burgers and Phuket’s pad Thai, personally). And a fantastic, full-service grocery store – Uptown Metropolitan Market — is right around the corner.

A quick 5-minute monorail ride delivers you downtown for Pike Place Market, movie theaters, shopping and ferry service.

Right up the steeeeep hill to Upper Queen Anne, you’ll find families pushing strollers down the street, coffee shops and an awesome little game store – Blue Highway Games. It’s a fantastic place to pick up some travel games before you head home.

Would you like to try the MarQueen? They’re offering a free night’s stay and valet parking service to a drawing winner.

Just leave a comment below about what you’ll do in Seattle; you can use my article on 35 free things to do with kids as a guide, or suggest your own activity..

REQUIRED ENTRY: Leave an comment below about what you want to do with your kids in Seattle. Your entry must show up on this page. Don’t forget to leave your valid, correct e-mail address. Entrants may be disqualified for violating any rule laid out here or for any other reason at the discretion of sweepstakes organizers. Please be patient for your comment to show up – I have to approve each one individually, to block spam.

BONUS ENTRY METHOD: Twitter this contest or tell friends about it on your FB page, then come back and leave a comment that you did so. One extra entry for a FB post or Tweet (for a total of TWO extra entries).

Contest Rules:

This contest begins today, May 12, 2010, and ends at 11:59 pm Pacific Standard Time on Tuesday, May 18, 2010. On May 19, 2010, the winner will be selected at random from all eligible entries received, using Random.org. The winner 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 one week (7 days), the first winner will forfeit the prize and another entrant will be selected at random using Random.org. The MarQueen Hotel will provide the prize to the winner. The value of the hotel stay is $200.
The prize is valid for a one-bedroom suite room for a family of four (two adults, two children). The room must be redeemed by 12/30/2010; July, August, Labor Day weekend, Memorial Day weekend and other high-occupancy dates will be excluded. Other restrictions may apply.
Please reserve your room as soon as possible. The prize information must be presented when making reservations. There is no cash value. There are no substitutions. The prizes are not transferable. The winner is solely responsible for any national, state, provincial or city taxes incurred.
Sweepstakes void where prohibited by law. Entrants must be age 18 and over and residing in the U.S or Canada.
If a resident of Canada is selected as a winner, they will be required to correctly answer, without assistance of any kind, whether mechanical or otherwise, a timed, mathematical skill-testing question (3*6)+(12/2)-8 to be administered by Lora Shinn by e-mail before the awarding of the prize.
By participating in the “Seattle Family Getaway,” 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 Seattle getaway 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. CascadiaKids is not liable for technical error, omissions or Internet inaccessibility.

Giveawayyyy! 7 places to see pirrrrates of the Pacific!

Arrr, mateys. If you’ll be travelin’ around our fair region, you’ll be wantin’ to meet some scallywags of the Pacific. We’ve got plenty o’ pirates, as we’ve got the balmy climate, easy access to shippin’ routes and dozens of islands fer storin’ loot.

Read more below, then enter to win some pirate-worthy swag from three good-hearted donors: A four-pack of tickets providin’ you with admission to Science World, an awesome P is for Pirate t-shirt and a pirate hand puppet (or felt story board).

1.Science World, Vancouver.

Practicing cannon skills at Science World

On May 7, 2010, Vancouver’s Science World museum welcomes the Treasure! exhibit.  As we all know, if there’s one thing a pirate loves, it’s a chest full of gold.

Treasure! at Science World (photo courtesy Science World)

Learn more about underwater treasure, modern treasure hunts and hidden treasure at this two-story science museum. And if ye don’t care for gold, diamonds and other valuables, Science World offers two floors of awesome exhibits — move a ball with your mind (really!), lift a hippo and hide away inside a animal’s tree home. Science World is always one of my top stops in Vancouver.

2. Milagros Boutique, Portland.

A play area fer wee rascals at Milagros Boutique

This sweet little shop focuses on the natural, organic and local, from cloth diapers to Oregon-made stacking toys. My favorite things for sale? The “P is for Pirate” shirts and locally-made wooden swords.

Photo courtesy Milagros Boutique

Thoughtful owner Jennifer seeks out completely unique merchandise that you really can’t find anywhere else — and she always finds clever ways to work with local store owners, Portland-based musicians and charitable orgs. Although I don’t live in Portland anymore, I’ve been known to order online from Milagros and I almost always drop by when in town to check out the boutique’s new picks.

3. 3H Craftworks, Vancouver.

Shopping at 3H

Amidst the upscale hustle-bustle of Vancouver’s West Fourth Avenue, 3H’s modest storefront belies the creativity inside. This non-profit shop displays hand-sewn felt storyboards, dresses, finger puppets and hand puppets — all crafted by local adults with physical challenges or mental illness who cannot find work elsewhere.

A pirate hand puppet: Photo courtesy 3H Craftworks

So you’ll have your choice of cool, locally-made playthings that serve an awesome cause. Try out the pirate-themed puppets for imaginary adventures.

4. Glowing Greens Miniature Golf, Portland. A pirate-themed blacklight mini-golf with reggae tunes, glow-in-the-dark skeletons and a Caribbean theme. Great for tweens and teens.

5. Portland Pirate Festival, Portland. Swashbuckle, drink grog, and and oh yeah, watch a pirate puppet show with thousands of pirate-costumed pals. Check out the children’s events.

6. Archie McPhee, Seattle. Seattle’s favorite schlock emporium has a soft spot for the hard life of a pirate. Pick up a Blackbeard Pirate Action Figure, Pirate Bandages or a Deluxe Eye Patch.

7. The Maritime Museum of British Columbia, Victoria. If visiting Victoria’s downtown, this very small museum may interest kids gaga over ships. Climb up the ratlines and into the crow’s nest of a ship. But don’t miss the pirate’s corner, which features nasty-looking gibbet (human drowning cage). Ew! But just right for older kids.

***

Would you like to win some booty? Ai, of course ye would. No gibbets here. Leave a good, clean pirate joke down below to enter the drawing for four free tickets to Science World, a free P is for Pirate t-shirt (sizes newborn-8) and a free pirate puppet or pirate felt storyboard kit.

Of course, ye can pirate someone else’s joke, cos that’s what a high-seas rascal would do. Enter by Tuesday, May 11, 2010. The random drawing will be held next Tuesday. All prizes can be sent to pirate ships located in Canada or the U.S.

Ar. It’s hard to write like a pirate fer more than a sentence or two.