The Most Beautiful Villages and Towns of the Pacific Northwest

Still looking for that perfect last-minute gift? Last week, I picked up The Most Beautiful Villages and Towns of the Pacific Northwest by travel writer Joan Tapper, with lush photos by Nik Wheeler.

Tapper knows her stuff.  She’s the founding editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine and she’s a great judge on what makes for a beautiful destination– she highlights those smaller, quaint towns that feel like they’ve gracefully aged for the past 100 years. Each village or town is accompanied by text and large photographs; this is as much a coffee-table display book as it is a dream-guide of where to go during your lifetime.

The downside is obvious – it’s a pictorial wish list. You won’t find specifics, you won’t find much on what to do with kids. The price is steep at $40 USD, $45 CAN, yet understandable, due to the photo-heavy format. The book sells for considerably less on

Regardless of these issues, if you (or your gift recipient) flips through the pages on a rainy, wintry day, you’ll find yourself taking mental notes for next summer. I think I’d like to head to Florence’s waterfront neighborhood and ride Kaslo’s streetcar. The photos and narratives complement each other; it would be difficult to imagine the Oregon Coast’s jagged haystack rocks and soft sand without a photograph. And without the text, you wouldn’t understand historical transformations that many of these towns went through, as logging and fishing economies fell away.

Which villages are covered in the book? Here’s a rundown. Do you agree? What was left off the list – and out of the book?

Oregon’s Most Beautiful Villages and Towns:

  • Albany and Brownsville
  • Ashland
  • Astoria
  • Baker City
  • Bandon
  • Cannon Beach
  • Florence
  • Hood River
  • Jacksonville
  • Joseph
  • McMinnville

Washington’s Most Beautiful Towns and Villages:

  • Coupeville
  • Ellensburg
  • Friday Harbor and Eastsound
  • Gig Harbor
  • La Conner
  • Oysterville, Ilwaco, Seaview and Long Beach
  • Port Townsend
  • Walla Wall and Dayton
  • Winthrop

British Columbia’s Most Beautiful Villages and Towns:

  • Fernie
  • Fort Langley
  • Fort Steele
  • Ganges
  • Ladysmith and Chemainus
  • Nelson and Kaslo
  • Revelstoke
  • Whistler

Bloom! June family festivals and events

June 1 – June 13. Portland, Oregon. All the best Portland Rose Festival events happen in June: The Starlight Parade is on June 5, Grand Floral Parade is on June 12 and “Circus City” runs with clowny antics from June 9-13. It’s Portland’s kid-friendly party.

June 3 through September. Vancouver, BC. Enjoy an aria or an Antony at Bard on the Beach. Older children will particularly appreciate the setting (and seating) in Vancouver’s gorgeous Vanier Park.

June 5-6. Nanaimo, BC. The Vancouver Island Baby Fair in Nanaimo offers cool products, performers and photo contests. I would love to see those baby races (I’m betting on any baby sporting teeth and steel-toed booties).

June 5-6 and June 12-13. Squamish, BC. On a Day Out with Thomas, kids get to ride a Thomas-faced train, create Thomas crafts and meet characters from the show. We’ve done this before with our then-two-year-old Thomas fan. He didn’t stop talking about it for a year. You have been warned.

June 5-7. Astoria, Oregon. Remember that “Goonies” flick from your childhood? Re-live the magic in Astoria, Oregon — meet former Goonies stars, tours of Goonies shoot locations and enjoy general 80s retro fun at the Never Say Die: Goonies 25th Anniversary Celebration.

June 12-20. Marysville, Washington. When the strawberries arrive in Cascadia, you know summer’s arrived (hopefully!). Welcome the ruby berries with open hands and an open mouth at the Marysville Strawberry Festival.

June 12. Lane County, Oregon. At three Willamette National Forest water sources, kids 10 and under can use free fishing poles and worms to catch The Big One (or just a rainbow trout) during National Fishing Week.

June 18-20. Spokane, Washington State. Where better to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Father’s Day than where Father’s Day was founded (Spokane). No, the day isn’t a Hallmark invention. Find all the facts and events at the Father’s Day Birthplace website.

June 19. Cannon Beach, Oregon. Cannon Beach’s 46th annual sandcastle contest will undoubtedly feature weird and wonderful creations. But really, do you need an excuse to visit Cannon Beach? No, you do not.

June 25. Pendleton, Oregon. Kids’ activities + wiener dogs in costumes + sunny, hot Oregon = sounds like an odd kind of fun. Head out to Pendleton’s Wiener Dog Race. Raffles, foods, and children’s activities. Pick up free passes to the children’s museum if you’re coming in from out of town.

June 26-27. Eatonville, Washington. Banana slugs don’t taste like bananas, and you should not put one in a smoothie. Don’t ask me how I know. Learn more about our slimy friends and watch a slug race at Northwest Trek’s Slug Fest.

June 26 and 27. Salem, Oregon. Travel around the globe at the World Beat Festival, with music and dance in nine performance areas, workshops and cultural activities in five World Villages, plus a children’s cultural tent featuring free fun.

Did I miss a cool event listing? Do you have a tip for me for July’s calendar? Send it to me at lora AT cascadiakids. com.

Cannon Beach Guide: Family-friendly picks

Oh, the Oregon Coast — golden beaches, great food, and thriving coastal communities full of art galleries and cool toystores and bookstores. Enjoy a misty morning tidepooling adventure with a hot coffee in hand. Or recline in a beach chair with a new book — while the kids create turreted castles from crystals of warm sand. Your choice.

Haystack Rock

One of my favorite destinations along the Oregon Coast is Cannon Beach, only about an hour west of Portland. Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock offers probably one of the most-photographed scenes in Oregon: Sundown, when the skies turn impossible shades of pink and purple, and the sun sinks behind the basalt monolith.

Keep in mind — all of the photos here were shot in November. Yes, November. It was awesome.

Go tidepooling. Pick up delicate anemones and grouchy crabs at Haystack Rock, near Tolovana State Park. Bring binoculars to find nesting birds in Haystack Rock’s cliff face (and oh yeah, watch your head). Look for one of the HRAP volunteers, who will tell you all about the creatures and features of the park.

Pick up Haystack CookieCannon Beach Bakery, where a bag  of Haystack Macaroon Cookies is only a few bucks. Named after the signature landmark, these treats are thankfully NOT made from rock and bird poo. Nope, just flour, dates, coconuts and walnuts.

Sea stacks off of Ecola State Park

Hit the trails. I like Ecola State Park, where the kids can count rings in felled trees, hike up and down a bluff, gather smooth coast stones and watch surfers catch the perfect wave. Don’t miss the striking sea stacks right off shore.

Eat fish ‘n’ chips. Sit at Ecola Seafood’s vinyl-covered tables. You’ll love the enormous, perfectly cooked portions of salmon, razor clams and halibut. Kid meals are served with a lollipop – as if they’d have room after all that fish fare.

Rent bikes. Check out Family Fun Cycles (1160 S Hemlock St.), where the knowledgable staff will get your butt in the gear. Rents during low tide – check those tide tables.

Pick up a picture book. Sit a spell at Cannon Beach Book Company, the solution to a sandcastle full of rain. You’ll also find Klutz books, great for little crafters, and nice chapter book selection.

Sandcastle construction at Surfsand Resort

Sleep in. I love Surfsand Resort, where kids can enjoy roasted hot dogs, craft projects and ice cream socials. And that’s before you get to the two-pager DVD list and luxe rooms featuring kitchenettes, Haystack-rock-view rooms and the sound of the surf. The hotel is right on the beach — perfect for quick cleanup.

Wind down. “Bedtime Stories,” on 89.5 (KMUN) from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., an evening radio program of kid-oriented stories and songs.

Go fly a kite. Pick your high-flier from one of dozens at the Kite Factory (339 Fir St.), then head to Tolovana State Park.

Bring home taffy. Choose your chewy goodness from Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, a local landmark, where the stretchy goodness is made on-site. Toss together a bag from the choices offered, whether you want traditional (root beer) or different (pomegranate).

This is just the tip of the monolith — I list more Cannon Beach restaurants, activities, restaurants and shops in my book Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver.

Beachy Keen! 5 NW Spring Break Spots

kid-friendly cannon beach

Sure, some families are heading to Mexico, Hawaii and Florida for spring break. But you don’t have to fly thousands of miles to get your sand fix. Save time and money by checking out one of the five sweet Northwest beaches.

Okay, you won’t find 80-degree temps or swim-ready water — not in the spring, at least — but the following destinations offer cool prices to match the chilly days.

cannon beach with kids

1. Family-friendly Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Why go? Cannon Beach in the off-season offers mellow charm, mild weather and no summer-crowd insanity. But the infrastructure is ready year-round, whether you want to buy a kite, nosh on Haystack cookies or browse for books.

Go tidepool-peeping for anemones and barnacles. Or take it easy –while the kids create sand McMansions, watch the still-gorgeous sunsets from your Pacific-front hotel — at one-third to one-half the price of a summer stay.

Sites to explore: Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce and Our Cannon Beach

astoria museum with kids

2. Kid-friendly Astoria, Oregon

Why go? If forecasters are calling for rain, Astoria’s Victorian-era architecture and art-rich community is a sure bet. Enjoy great kid-friendly breweries and bakeries, an indoor water recreation center and downtown Astoria’s toy store and comic shop.

After visiting Columbia River Maritime Museum, make a splash at the Astoria Aquatic Center. Not far out of town, visit the atmospheric Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent their first dreary winter. Then retreat to your heated hotel and praise modern conveniences.

Sites to explore: Astoria and Warrenton Chamber of Commerce and Astoria Oregon

kid-friendly long beach washington lighthouse

3. Kid-friendly Long Beach, Washington State.

Why go? On Southwest Washington’s tip, Long Beach hosts funky curios like Jake the Alligator Man, chainsaw-carved logs and beachfront houses with eccentric decor. Personally, I love the house with hundreds of buoys displayed out front.

But beyond the video games, go-karts and beach trappings (and kids love all of it), you’ll also find an amazing foodie community’s restaurants in Long Beach and neighboring towns of Ilwaco, Seaview and Nahcotta. And gentle hikes through Cape Disappointment State Park provide see-forever views of the Pacific Ocean before you come upon a stately lighthouse.

Sites to explore: Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau and Bailey’s Bakery and Cafe, which serves up some of the best baked goods I’ve ever enjoyed.

4. Kid-friendly Newport, Oregon.

Why go? The furthest south (a little over 120 miles from Portland), Newport embodies that taffy-in-your-teeth memory of childhood beach vacations. Fly kites, ride bikes on the beach, tread water in the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s underwater tunnel, or go whale-watching in the early spring.

The Oregon Coast is famous for great crabbing and clamming, plus warm, California-sent breezes. Although spring brings iffy weather, nothing could  ruin that fresh batch of caramel corn and bubblegum-flavored taffy.

Sites to explore: Newport Oregon (Don’t miss that free child’s admission on the “Special Deals & Promos” page) and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association

kid-friendly westport donuts

5. Westport, Wash.

Why go? Westport’s rocky shoreline is about as far as you can get from the silky sands of Mexico or Cannon Beach’s art galleries. But that’s part of the fun — this is old-world Washington, rugged and unrefined.

Pick through sea-smoothed rocks for a favorite, walk down Westport’s tourist-tacky marina, and down a cup of hot clam chowder at Merino’s Seafood. In winter and spring, watch storms create spectacular, crashing walls of water.

Sites to explore: Westport Washington

What’s your favorite taffy flavor?