13 Washington Spring Break Ideas for Families

Whether you plan to drive near or far, there’s a Washington State destination just right for your family spring break getaway.

Northwest Washington Family Spring Break Ideas

1. Bellingham. A sweet little city often overlooked by families motoring up I-5; the college town of Bellingham deserves it own multi-day stay. See my post on 20 Things to Do in Bellingham with Kids, go on a scenic drive (stop often for candy!) and play in the snow at Mt. Baker.

2. San Juan Islands. Go whale watching on the ferry ride, then arrive in the supercute village of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, where you’ll probably stay, unless you go out to Roche Harbor. Drive around the island, using the article 13 things to do with kids on San Juan Island as your guide. Great vacation with bigger kids (elementary age).

3. Whidbey Island. An often less-expensive alternative to San Juan Island, Whidbey Island’s got it all: great dining, an unbelievably cool bookstore-puppet shop, and plenty of hikes and beach excursions.

Puget Sound Family Spring Break Ideas

4. Seattle. Spend a day or two at Seattle Center, and don’t miss these 35 free and cheap things to do with kids in Seattle. You could also combine a trip here with Bainbridge Island, just a ferry ride away. Check out the island’s guide to kids’ activities.

5. Tacoma. Yes, you’re very near Seattle, but Tacoma deserves its own spring break exploration, in my opinion, particularly with toddlers and preschoolers. Visit the beluga whales at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (and let the kids go nuts on the great outside play structures) then bring toddlers to the new Children’s Museum of Tacoma.

6. Great Wolf Lodge. Read up on these 18 tips for staying at Great Wolf Lodge (in Grand Mound, about halfway between Portland and Seattle). You could combine a trip here with a stop in Olympia (Olympia is cool, but not worth an overnight stay, IMO).

Washington Coast & Olympic Peninsula Family Spring Break Ideas

7. Long Beach. Washington’s low-key answer to the Oregon Coast, with plenty to keep you busy for a weekend. Ride a horse, visit Jake the Alligator Man at Marsh’s Free Museum, play in the Long Beach sand (well, after you’ve put on a raincoat) and tour Cape Disappointment State Park.

8. Port Townsend. This Victorian seaport is inherently charming, and offers great family-friendly dining and activities for families. You could easily spend a few days here, with excursions to visit Port Angeles‘s kid-friendly picks.

South and East Washington Family Spring Break Ideas

9. Columbia Gorge. I grew up here! But don’t hold that against the Columbia Gorge. Check in at the Skamania Lodge (offering MANY kid-friendly spring-break activities), then go for a hike and count the violets for me.

10. Leavenworth-Lake Chelan. Tiny Leavenworth is great for a day or two — check out these quick guides on things to do with kids in Leavenworth and kid-friendly dining. But this destination can be combined with other destinations. Lake Chelan is another two hours away, but if you’re willing to make this a road trip, Lake Chelan’s pedestrian-friendly town and lovely lakeside views are worth another day or two.

11. Spokane. A wonderful getaway with chilly (but probably sunny) weather. Check out my article on the best of Spokane with kids and enjoy the brand-new Mobius Science Museum.

12. Suncadia. Combine a resort stay at Suncadia with a tour of the still-very-vintage (AKA rustic) ex-mining town of Roslyn-Cle Elum.

13. Walla Walla. If you like to unwind from a family day with a glass of wine, Walla Walla has you all set, with more than 100 wineries in town. But there’s plenty of non-vino activities (thank goodness!) to keep kids occupied, including a children’s museum.

 

13 Great BC Spring Break Ideas for Families

British Columbia’s mountains, lakes and harbors offer hundreds of great spring break family getaways. These standout cities and villages provide lots of great indoor and outdoor fun things to do for little kids, big kids and teens. Take a look and let me know if I’ve forgotten any of your favorite spring break destinations.

North and East BC Spring Break Ideas:

1. Fernie. Tour historic downtown (including the last standing wooden oil derrick in BC), visit the Fernie Nature Centre and enjoy all sort of great activities.

2. Fort Steele. In East Kootenay, this restored 1890s boom town boasts more than 60 heritage buildings, and spring break demonstrations of tin smithing, gold panning and dress making.

3. Kelowna. Ski and tube at Big White (look at the family spring break packages), visit the Kelowna Art Gallery for free on Thursdays and go for drop-in swim time in the wave pool at H2O Adventure Fitness.

4. Prince George. Learn about hands-on science and history at the Exploration Place Museum and Science Center (check out those dino models!), view constellations at the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Prince George Centre, play in the sprays, bubbles and lazy river at the Prince George Aquatic Centre.

5. Revelstoke. Chug your way through the Revelstoke Railway Museum, slalom your way down Revelstoke Mountain Resort (where kids stay, eat and play free through March) and tour the Rogers Pass National Historic Site.

West BC Spring Break Ideas

6. Harrison Hot SpringsSpring break-themed deals and packages for families abound at Harrison Hot Springs and Resort, on the south shores of Harrison Lake.

7. Vancouver and West Fraser Valley. Visit nearby Fort Langley and hear stories by the fire, learn about historic weapons and then back into Vancouver to visit Kitsilano with kids. If it’s raining? No problem. Check out this list of great rainy day activities in Vancouver.

8. Whistler. You’ll still find fresh powder in the impressive Blackcomb-Whistler community; if you stay right in Whistler village, everything (restaurants, lifts, and activites) is walkable. Ride the Peak 2 Peakswing at the new playground and oh yeah, ski! Check the Whistler family deals and activities page at the Whistler-Blackcomb site.

9. Steveston. No, it’s not big and fancy or all that far from Vancouver.  But this little seaside fishing village has charm to spare, and feels worlds away from the big city. Walking the historic streets feels like a step into a quiet past — so it’s just the right speed for a getaway-from-it-all BC spring break with kids. Stay in Vancouver or Richmond (don’t miss taking the kids to sample the international flavors of Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre) or just visit for the day. Read more at Steveston with Kids.

Vancouver Island Spring Break Ideas

10. Ladysmith. On Vancouver Island, this laid-back town offers shopping, beach play and a bright red-and-green little trolley. But before you book your destination, review this round-up I wrote on kid-friendly Vancouver Island resorts.

11. Parksville. Also on Vancouver Island, this beach town was made for families. Explore Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, go on a self-guided tour of Morningstar Farm, wow over the springtime enthusiasm of Little Qualicum Falls and warm up at Nature World, in the butterfly-dotted tropical gardens. 

12. Tofino. Vancouver Island’s western shores offer stormwatching, beaches, movies and even more fabulous kid-friendly excursions. Read more on Tofino with kids, with tips from a Tofino dad.

13. Victoria. One of my favorite destinations if you prefer a pedestrian-friendly spring break; leave the car at home and push the stroller or hold hands in the compact downtown. Enjoy toddler-friendly activities and 35 free and cheap things to do with kids in Victoria.

 

Newport, Oregon with Kids

Newport, Oregon is a similar destination to Cannon Beach, Oregon for the annual family vacation. You’ve got the lovely, cream-toned sand, the toy stores and kite shops, the upscale and midrange restaurants.

But there’s one big difference between Cannon Beach and Newport — you won’t sleep at Cannon Beach hotel prices (which can easily leap into the $300- $400-dollar range). Plus, Newport offers many outdoor and indoor attractions, whether you’re there on a sunny summer day or on a rainy weekend getaway.

The downside? It’s a haul from Portland, Seattle or further north or east. You’ll tack on about two hours of drive time each way to reach Newport (we typically get a Priceline room to rest on the journey between Seattle and Newport). So once you’ve arrived, you might as well stay for a few days, exploring the historic community of Nye Beach, combing for beautiful stones at Agate Beach or perusing the c-shaped Bayfront district.

Fun things to do with kids in Newport

Newport Aquarium with kids

Newport Aquarium’s plexiglass tunnel

The Oregon Coast Aquarium’s top attraction is undoubtedly the over 200-foot-long acrylic tunnels, where tropical fish, reef sharks, graceful rays and other denizens of the deep swim right above you. I’m also partial to the 29-acre aquarium’s Bizarre and Beautiful Gallery and the Dangerous and Deadly Gallery – how does an electric eel make sense in any way? One of my favorite, kid-friendly aquariums in our area. If you’re an AAA member, bring your card, as you’ll get a discount on admission.

Hatfield Marine Science Center a fun thing to do in Newport with kids

Hatfield Marine Science Center

Hatfield Marine Science Center overflows with nerdly fun. All the center’s signs seem to gush over science, courtesy of Oregon State University’s marine science research facility. My kids liked the slightly icky exhibit on invasive species and the please-touch tidepool exhibit. It’s worth the donation (all they ask for). The museum shop’s books can help identify critters you see on any upcoming tidepool walks; if you’re going to buy a book on your trip, why not buy it here?

Yaquina Head Lighthouse Center

Yaquina Head Lighthouse Interpretive Center

Yaquina Head Lighthouse’s Interpretive Center is worth a half-hour visit or so. The center describes lighthouse history, a lightkeeper’s life and how lighthouses work with hands-on exhibits; there’s a small children’s area with activities and period-era toys. Chat with the well-informed staff and volunteers and pick up a few insider tips on touring Yaquina Head.

Devil's Punch Bowl

Never swim in the Devil’s Punch Bowl

Devil’s Punch Bowl is a deep bowl-shaped rock formation where vivid blue ocean water enters, swirls around and makes a scene. During low tide, spot ocean creatures along nearby shoreline. The Punchbowl is a neat stop, but not worth more than about 5 minutes or so.

Sea lions at the Newport Pier

Sea lions in Newport

Walk along Bay Boulevard’s charming mural-infused waterfront, past fishing boats and working fish processing plants and canneries, restaurants and ticky-tacky shops. You won’t be able to miss the noisy, rowdy (and slightly disgusting) sea lions, which eat and burp and hoot and fart. The Homer Simpsons of the sea, as it were. Not the best role models for dinner table behavior, but the seals are an amusing spectacle. You won’t miss the loudmouths if they’re in the harbor — just follow the braying.

A fun toy store in Newport Oregon with kids

Sandcastle Toys, Newport Oregon

Serious fun! Sandcastle Toys offers a lovely collection of card games, beach toys, Playmobil and more. If the knowledgeable owner’s in, ask him for a new toy or board game recommendation.

If you’d rather pick up a flying toy, visit The Kite Company, a delightful 6500-square-foot shop offering high quality kites for every age and skill level. You’ll soon realize what you’ve missed out on by buying kites from lesser shops — as the staff at this store guide you to the perfect kite for your toddler, teen or tangle-prone husband.

AVOID: The Undersea Gardens, Wax Works and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The first two because they are in no way worth the expense. The latter two because it’s too scary for young kids, culturally insensitive and seriously run-down with buzzy videos featuring Jack Palance. I complained even as we left, and I rarely do that. It didn’t matter — the teen staff didn’t seem to care a bit. Not a destination I can recommend.

Family Restaurants in Newport, Oregon

A family restaurant in Newport Oregon

Local Ocean in Newport

Pick up a really fresh cut of fish at the informal, casual Local Ocean Seafoods – you’ll see just-caught seafood behind the fish-market counter as you enter, and the restaurant is right across from the fishing boat “parking lot,” as my son called the pier. With so many options on the salad, soup, sandwiches and big-plate menus it can be hard to pick just one item per person. I recommend ordering a diverse selection so you can try more dishes. There is a kids’ menu, but try to talk the kids into sharing your feast. One of my favorite restaurants along the Oregon Coast. My picks (so far) are the diverse Salade Nicoise and spicy Los Fish Taco with fennel slaw and avocado salsa verde.

Newport Oregon restaurant for families

Saffron Salmon interior

Saffron Salmon isn’t a typical “kid-friendly” restaurant, so go here with the kids when you’re reasonably sure they’re going to behave well, you’ve brought your own small playthings/crayons and the kids aren’t crazed with hunger. I would recommend heading to Saffron Salmon during lunchtime for a less-formal (and less-expensive) experience. Kids will enjoy the bayside view of fishing boats heading in and out of the Newport harbor. With a commitment to local farms and wild food, the restaurant serves natural-beef burgers, fresh Dungeness crab and kid-pleasing shoestring frites.

OK, so you’re a little tired of fish ‘n’ chips by day two at the beach. Head to the unassuming little shack Noodle Café for some pan-Asian dishes. The noodle dishes, pho, and Korean meals are tasty and yes, you can still have just off the boat seafood if you like. We ordered food and brought it back to our room for a no-stress dinner with the kids.

More family restaurants in Newport: My husband has fond childhood memories of Mo’s Annex’s, a Newport institution. Rogue Brewery is a solid choice wherever you find one. Rogue features kids’ menus and the signature Pacific Northwest family-friendly pub atmosphere.

Newport Oregon Hotels for Families:

View from our family hotel room at the Hallmark Inn

View from our room at the Hallmark Inn

On our recent trip, I stayed at the Hallmark Inn. I visited a few family hotels before we chose our room, and we liked what we saw at Hallmark. We slept soundly in the Queen/Queen Stateroom: a spacious double queen with a.ma.zing ocean views and a small kitchenette. To reach the sandy shore, you have to hike down a series of steps, but it shouldn’t be too difficult with toddlers.

If you’re seeking large, apartment-style rooms with kitchenettes, look at Greenstone Inn, located in Newport’s teeny-tiny (but adorable) Nye Beach community. I visited a few rooms — the facility was built so recently that it still has a “new building” smell. Greenstone boasts about its eco-approach to building and outfitting rooms.

Additionally, people rave about the Elizabeth Street Inn, although we did not stay there. I would still recommend the hotel; I stopped in and liked what I saw.

Five Favorite Vancouver Hotels for Families: From cheap to posh

We’re celebrating Vancouver, BC with a week’s worth of Vancouver- and BC-centered posts. I’ll give you the skinny on my favorite kid-friendly hotels, restaurants and activities.

Our family always stays in the downtown core or in the West End. The downtown core is convenient for catching the SkyTrain to Science World and walking along Vancouver’s “high street” – Robson Street. Downside: Very expensive parking, often starting at around $20/day. The West End is convenient to Stanley Park (which will soon become your kids’ favorite park in the whole world) and offers a U.N.-worthy selection of inexpensive, international eateries. I personally avoid staying anywhere along upper Granville street (before you hit Robson) or too near the Gastown neighborhood; both are too noisy and crazy at night for my taste. However, those areas are just fine for young people who like to party.

Here are my top recommendations. We’ve stayed at many more Vancouver hotels over the years. If you’d like my opinion on a possible hotel, e-mail me at lora AT cascadiakids.com and I’ll let you know what I think. I’m sure there are additional hotels that could be added to our list here – add your recommendation if you like. You’ll also find more recs in my book, Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver.

Favorite Kid-Friendly Hotels in Vancouver, British Columbia:

The Westin Bayshore, Vancouver This bright hotel sits right on the edge of Stanley Park and offers expansive views of Coal Harbor. There’s a pedestrian path right in front of the Bayshore Westin – go northwest toward the park’s Vancouver aquarium and water playgrounds, or east toward the Coal Harbour Community playground and gelaterias. You can’t lose! This 511-room upscale hotel is a family favorite; kids love the children’s pack with toy treats and a free in-room movie. An incredible outdoor pool for sunny, warm days and an indoor pool for cloudy, cool days. It’s not cheap, however, and when we’ve stayed, we’ve stayed with Priceline (but the hotel doesn’t come up often). Posh.

Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel. This hotel often comes up on Priceline. Thank goodness. Despite being part of a large chain, this Marriott quickly feels homey – we’ve seen the same staff working the front door for years. Guest rooms with two doubles work well for young families, and the location places you right down the street from the Coal Harbour seawall, movie theaters and Robson Street. Kids are welcome in the 52-foot indoor lap pool. For a splurge, try the morning breakfast buffet or pick up one of the online booking packages with breakfast included. The hearty spread is worth the expense. Posh.

Times Square Suites. I’ll come out with it – this is my hands-down favorite spot in Vancouver. I love the location (right next to Stanley Park), the suite amenities (full kitchen, washer/dryer, separate sleeping area for grownups or kids) and the affordable parking. I love popping over to either a community or Granville Island market and picking up seasonal vegetables, locally made sauces and fresh pasta to cook right in my room. It is the place I always recommend to vacationing families, and you can often score a great deal by booking through their online site. The only downside: This aparthotel is right at a busy corner, so windows facing the street can get noisy, particularly on summer weekend evenings. Ask for a quieter room if you’re sensitive to noise (I am). It’s not the most luxe or fashionably appointed building, but it’s got everything a family needs to have a fantastic Vancouver stay. Cheap to midrange, depending upon season.

Rosellen Suites. If the Times Square is too expensive for my weekend or I want a quiet place to stay, I opt for the Rosellen Suites. This hotel offers very spacious, family-friendly rooms that were once apartments; some rooms have been updated, others are a bit more worn. If a low price is your primary concern, go with the older “classic” suites, which are just fine if you’re not super picky. If you’re on the pickier side, go with the Personality Suites. Either way, you’ll find TVs, kitchens, free WiFi, and one- or two-bedroom options. The Katharine Hepburn Penthouse Suite is super-swank with over 1900 square feet of room, lovely contemporary furniture, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Cheap.

Granville Island Hotel. The upside: Wonderful location, right in the heart of Granville Island, where you’ll find a children’s market, a children’s theater, fresh and inexpensive restaurants, a playground and waterpark. Downside: Very small quarters for a family. Plan accordingly (as in, plan to be outside, enjoying your wonderful location).  Families who are planning to make Vancouver their big-city, big-ticket vacation can request a luxurious Penthouse room, which comes with a Jacuzzi that looks out over False Creek. Niiice! Posh.

Bonus rec: If you’re going with teens who enjoy vintage style or a stroller- or sling-carried baby  — or even if you’re going on a parents-only holiday weekend — you may want to look into the character-rich Sylvia Hotel, located on English Bay. It’s a lovely, historic property, but the location makes it more of a haul for little legs. Cheap.

Family Travel Blogroll

Ceilydh Sets Sail: We bought a boat, quit our jobs and headed out to sea

Ciao Bambino: Inspiring families to travel the world

DeliciousBaby: Making travel with kids fun

Family Rambling: Tips and destinations from a traveling family

Frisco Kids: Your guide to kid-friendly events and trips around the San Francisco Bay Area…and beyond

The Globetrotter Parent: Expat life in Madagascar

Have Baby Will Travel: Eating, sleeping, playing & getting around with baby

Have Kids Still Travel: Because you can’t leave ’em home alone

Kids Go West: Tales of family travel in the Western U.S.

Lollipop Road: A family friendly travel blog

Mom Most Traveled: Travel, giveaways, reviews and more

Mother of All Trips: Bringing the world to your kids — and your kids to the world

On the Go with Amy

Pit Stops for Kids: Getting there should be half the fun!

Q Family Adventures Blog: Inspire family to travel one adventure at a time

Road Trips for Families: Road trips made fun for the whole family.

Themeparkmom: Family Travel

Travel Bargain Mama: Bargains your mama would be proud of

Traveling Mamas: Family vacations, romantic escapes, girls’ getaways, solo trips

Travelling Dad: Travels with Philip

The Travelling Mom: A modern mom’s guide to travel sanity with your family

Travel Savvy Mom: Where to stay when you go

Travels with Children by minnemom: Finding fun with four kids

Two Kids and a Map: Florida travel with kids

The Vacation Gals: Expert advice on family travel, girlfriend getaways and romantic escapes

Wandering Off: Adventures big and small (Texas)

WanderMom: Resources for independent family travel

The World is Calling: Family travel tips and guides

20 Countries in 200 Days: A clockwise loop by train across Eastern Europe, Russia, China and South East Asia with our 1 year old toddler

Dine Around Seattle Sets the Table for Families

During the month of March, Sundays through Thursdays, many travelers and locals take advantage of “Dine Around Seattle.” Frugal foodies can choose from an appetizer, dinner and dessert at some of Seattle’s best restaurants – all for $30. Some restaurants also offer lunch, and the price drops to a sweet ‘n’ cheap $15.

I’d (foolishly) assumed that many of these refined restaurants wouldn’t welcome families.

So I called the participating restaurants and asked whether they could put out high chairs and children’s menus. All offered the former — although Chez Shea needs to borrow the high chair — and many also provided the latter.

This is a good sign. When restaurants offer baby seats or say things like “we’re happy to accommodate,” they probably won’t give you the royal stinkeye when you enter their establishment. Of course, you don’t have to order from the child’s menu. Many kids are happy to share with parents, eat an appetizer or select another dish.

It’s always possible that I’ve made a mistake – when you call to make reservations, tell the restaurant you’re bringing kids, especially so if you need a high chair (there may be a limited number of high chairs). Ask about the price points for the children’s menu, along what they define as “child” (Under 10? Under 12?).

When heading to these restaurants, I would observe the typical dining-with-kids etiquette. Go early or at lunchtime, bring quiet toys, expect good manners from your children (take them outside, if they’re crying or being loud), model gratitude, don’t leave your eating area a mess.

And of course, leave a well-deserved tip.

Then come back and tell us what you thought of your dining experience! I didn’t ask about items on the children’s menu; I’d love to hear if you discovered any unique picks.

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Check the main Dine Around Seattle site for lunch and dinner times, restrictions and the address.

35th Street Bistro No children’s menu but can make kid-friendly food. When do kids eat here? “Not so much for dinner, more for lunch.”
Andaluca Children’s menu
ART Restaurant and Lounge Children’s menu
Artisanal Brasserie Children’s menu
Barking Frog Children’s menu
Barolo Ristorante No children’s menu, but can accommodate with small plates, simple meals and less salt.
Bastille Café & Bar Children’s menu for dinner.
Campagne No children’s menu. Items can be adapted to be more kid-friendly.
Chez Shea & Shea’s Lounge No high chairs, but can borrow one from restaurant next door.  Says that chidren “sometimes” eat there. No children’s menu, but kids can order from the ala carte menu.
Dahlia Lounge No children’s menu, but kid-friendly foods include buttered noodles, potstickers and sides. Pointed out that Etta’s has a children’s menu.
Earth & Ocean Children’s menu.
Etta’s Children’s menu
Eva Restaurant No children’s menu. Said children “occasionally” eat there. Can make something.
Hunt Club No children’s menu, but can “easily” make something.
Mama Melina No children’s menu, but can make something.
Monsoon No children’s menu but “we’re very family-friendly.” Waiter can offer suggestions for kids.
Monsoon East No children’s menu. Says most share with the parents. Asks that diners tell them how many children are coming.
Nell’s Restaurant No children’s menu but “happy to accommodate any way we can,” including pasta with parmesan or a simple steak.
Nishino No children’s menu, but kids like several items, including rice and teriyaki chicken skewers.
Palisade Waterfront Restaurant Children’s menu is “$12 for under 12.” Pasta with alfredo sauce, salmon and other items.
Ponti Seafood Grill Children’s menu.
Ray’s Boathouse Children’s menu.
Restaurant Zoë Children’s menu.
Salish Lodge & Spa The Dining Room Children’s menu.
Serafina Osteria and Enoteca No children’s menu, but can make simple pastas, cheese ravioli.
Steelhead Diner Children’s menu.
SZMANIA’S Children’s menu.
Twisted Cork Children’s menu AND children (under 10) eat free on Mondays.