Oregon Coast Road Trip with Kids

Oregon Coast Road Trip with Kids

Just south of the busy tourist towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside is the 40-mile, quieter Three Capes Drive, which has a few haystack rocks of its own. From north to south, you’ll follow the gentle C shape from Tillamook to Pacific City. This coastal drive — rich in over 2,500 acres of warm-sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, dunes dotted with evergreens and coastal rainforest – encourages you to slow down, smell the sea air and unwind. Here’s an all-day itinerary for enjoyment:

10 a.mOregon Coast Road Trip 1: Tillamook Cheese Factory with Kids, Oregon

The town of Tillamook acts as a road-trip gateway to the coast, tying Highway 6 from Portland to the Oregon Coast’s Highway 101 (Portland is about 90 minutes away). A quick 30-minute self-guided tour on at the Tillamook Cheese Factory reveals quirky facts. For example: Why is the Oregon Coast a great place to make cheese? Facts are always best served with samples and treats, so try the facility’s complimentary samples and pick up a picnic lunch for later.

Tillamook Factory Signs

Tillamook Factory Mad Men-Era Ads

11 a.m. Oregon Coast Road Trip Stop 2: Cape Meares Scenic Viewpoint 

Just 8 miles from Tillamook and over 200 feet above the ocean, Cape Meares Scenic Viewpoint offers ocean-view housing on a bluff – to the largest colony of common murres south of Alaska. From the parking lot, walk a paved .2 mile down to the 1890s-era lighthouse and watch for migrating grey whales (nearly 18,000 pass Oregon’s shores annually), puffins, seals and Stellar sea lions. Kids will love running the paths guarded by giant evergreens — and don’t miss the “Octopus Tree,” a 250+ year-old sitka spruce shaped by time and wind into a many-trunked fascination. Read more about the Octopus Tree so you sound like an expert to the kids.

Octopus Tree Oregon Coast

Octopus Tree

12 p.m.  Oregon Coast Road Trip Stop 3: Oceanside

From Cape Meares, take Bayshore Drive south and pop into Oceanside’s heart-stopping idea of real estate. Oceanside’s vacation community steps up the face of sheer cliffs, rewarding inhabitants with incredible views of the offshore Three Arch Rocks Refuge, the oldest National Wildlife Refuge west of the Mississippi, where over a quarter-million nesting birds land annually. Grab a latte at local coffeeshop Brewin’ in the Wind, dig your toes into Oceansides’s sliver of sand and marvel over the gravity-defying habitats surrounding you. I would really like to stay here someday.

1 p.m.  Oregon Coast Road Trip Stop 4: Cape Lookout State Park

Stop at the 700-foot Cape Lookout State Park for a hike and picnic lunch. Set right in a lush coastal rainforest, the cathedral-like setting also acts as a sanctuary for deer, elk and yes, even a bear or two (hide the roast beef sandwiches). Get back in the car and move south along the two-lane Cape Lookout Road past glossy salal, stout firs and twisted spruces blanketing eastern hills. Blackberries brambles offer juicy gems in summer, a roadside snack that one-ups store-bought candy. To the west, waves fall like dominoes on sandy, quiet beaches.

2 p.m.  Oregon Coast Road Trip Stop 5: Whalen Island

The Clay Meyers State Natural Area at Whalen Island‘s gentle contours are the perfect setting for a post-picnic hike with the kids after a long day on the road. It’s an easy loop hike, about a mile and half long through a variety of Oregon Coast land, from mudflats to dunes. Read more about the Whalen Island hike at the Portland Hikers Field Guide.

4 p.m.  Oregon Coast Road Trip Stop 6: Pacific City

Spend the night in Pacific City’s beachfront community, the southern entrance to the Three Capes drive and home to Cape Kiwanda and the Pacific dory fleet. Pacific City is similar to Cannon Beach, right down to the signature haystack rock and sandy coastline — but it doesn’t have the shops or crowds. It’s like Cannon Beach’s shy Oregon Coast sister.

Surfing, shopping and sunsets are all here in Pacific City. Put down the car keys and pick up a micro-brew at Pelican Pub and Brewery. The brewery offers a sophisticated kids menu (grilled salmon is an option),  and the staff brings a packet of goldfish crackers ASAP after you order a kids’ meal, a godsend for starving kids and anxious parents. After the meal, sit on the pub’s back deck, immerse yourself in the salt air and let the craggy-faced haystack rock offshore hypnotize you as the kids play in the sand.

Pelican Pub: Oregon Coast with Kids

View from the Pelican Pub outdoor patio

You can walk from the pub to the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, where every room has an ocean view. However, be aware that the hotel’s rooms are right above the road. Although I was anxious about reviews that disparaged road noise, I really enjoyed this hotel.  The Inn kindly rents DVDs from a complimentary library with many family options, a board game library and a hunt through the hotel’s trinket “toy chest.” Other cool benefits of staying here: Free chocolates, manager’s reception on Friday nights (cheese, wine, etc.), free coffee for mom and dad, and nice family-sized vacation packages.

If you need lots of room or are staying multi-generational, you might look into the vacation rentals that dot the Oregon Coast; VRBO or Google some options.

Inn at Cape Kiwanda: Kid-friendly Oregon Coast Hotel

Inn at Cape Kiwanda: Kid-friendly Oregon Coast Hotel

For breakfast, head to Grateful Bread Bakery and order the Gingerbread Pancakes. Do it for me…and tell me how you liked them!

From here, it’s about two hours back to Portland, without traffic. Not as beautiful of a road trip, but you’ll have your memories, right?

View Larger Map

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.

Seattle with Kids: 10+ Things to Do at Seattle Center

Just a Monorail ride away from downtown, Seattle Center is a 74-acre emporium of educational amusement, amusing education and more than a few free things to do. Seattle Center is home to many of our city’s kid-friendly attractions—The Pacific Science Center, The Children’s Museum, The Chihuly Museum and EMP|SFM – all sheltered under the 605-foot-tall Space Needle.

No one can see all the Center’s sights in a day, so our family advises visitors to plan a Seattle Center-ic day appropriate for the age of your child or children, and your budget.

10+ Things to Do with Kids at Seattle Center

1. Climb, scramble, swing and thrill at the brand-new (2015) Artists-at-Play outdoor playground, featuring innovative equipment (inspired by real kids’ suggestions) such as a labyrinth, a kid-powered carousel, an enormous slide, tall climbing platforms (nets keep kids contained) for big kids, and a smaller toddler-friendly playground as well. This downtown Seattle playground can be a real zoo around lunchtime, so go early or go late. It’s free. 

Seattle Center Playground

Artists at Play outdoor playground: Photo courtesy Jodie Marks-Dias

2. Babies through preschoolers love the 22,000-square-foot Seattle Children’s Museum. Toddlers enjoy kicking back in a Japanese tatami-lined living room, producing a lightening-lit and thunder-enhanced play, serving up a plastic-taco feast in the Mexican restaurant or assembling a deli sandwich (mm, felt!) in the mini-grocery. There’s a baby-play area as well, so don’t worry about little sibs. On the downside, some exhibits have been looking a bit tired lately.

3. Animatronic dinos, Jersey-accented talking bugs and naked mole-rats are the teachers at The Pacific Science Center, and there’s no test afterwards. In the butterfly exhibit, docents ask visitors to check their reflections in mirrors, because the blue morphos often try to hitch a ride out. There’s also a well-padded toddler and baby play area in the Science Playground (in fact, big kids aren’t supposed to play in this zone, and staff keep an eye out for trespassers), so baby sister will be busy scrambling on the toys and splashing in the water.

Pacific Science Center Toddler Area: A fun thing to do with kids

Pacific Science Center Toddler Area

4. Preschoolers through big kids thrill when riding the gold capsule elevator to the top of the Seattle Space Needle. Visiting is something most Seattleites do once every 10 years or so — the view from up here is pretty impressive, and gives a good sense of the city’s layout. However, it’s not a cheap thrill.

5. The Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum’s design inspired a lot of debate. Many Seattleites compare Frank O. Gehry’s building to wadded-up Christmas wrap…which happens to be a child’s favorite under-the-tree gift. The interior is worthwhile for music-savvy older kids and teens: paying homage to Hendrix’s Woodstock Fender Stratocaster, learning to play drums or piano in a (thankfully) soundproof room, or becoming a full-fledged rock star in the “On Stage” activity, complete with smoke, stage lighting and thousands of adoring fans.  Kids 4 and under are free.

6. Older kids and teens will also love the fantastic shapes (and great Instagram opportunities) inside the Chihuly Garden and Glass, where a rainbow of spires, swirls, orbs and mobiles decorate the museum’s interior. It can be a challenge to visit with younger kids. Because, let’s face it, that glass looks irresistibly touchable. King County residents should bring proof of address, and they’ll pay less.

Chihuly Museum with Kids

Chihuly Museum with Kids

7. Families with more time at the Center can play “chicken” with the free International Fountain (outfitted with over 150 nozzles and jets) on sunny days. Free. 

8. See a production created, directed and dramatized just for kids at the Seattle Children’s Theatre in auditorium-style seating, and seek out matinee tix whenever possible.

9. Catch Seattle’s beloved, family-friendly women’s pro basketball team, the Seattle Storm.

10. Snag seats to hear a Top-40 singer at KeyArena (those nosebleed seats are seriously high — I’ve taken teens to concerts here), although prices can be high.

11. Inside the free Seattle Center House, you’ll find the Armory, which offers moderately priced international cuisine. I’ll be honest — the food court’s food was once not great, but it’s become much better, with high-quality options.

12. If you’re lucky, a (free!) Festal Event will be going on: I love the dance and music performances, and fascinating booths full of treasures from around the world. Get cash, so you’re prepared if desserts and foods are for sale.

13. The Seattle Center also hosts some of Seattle’s best family events, including summer’s Movies at the Mural and Northwest Folklife Festival.

14. In winter, check out Whirligig (read my tips on saving money at Whirligig).

If you don’t want to ride the Monorail, inexpensive street parking can be found NORTH of Seattle Center, often. Not always, as the parking situation depends on events. But often.

BC’s New Family Friendly Holiday

British Columbia has a new holiday that celebrates families. “Family Day” will occur on the second Monday of February, starting this year (2013).

Here’s a quick round up of events that will happen next Monday throughout BC, including street entertainment and face painting in Vancouver, all-ages concerts in Victoria and free skating in Nanaimo.

Family activities such as skiing and snowboarding on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, sleigh rides, snowmobile tours, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, ziplining and ice skating are always on the menu at Whistler and on Family Day, many local activity operators are offering discounts on these experiences.

Whistler Blackcomb is offering half-price lift tickets to B.C. residents on Monday, February 11 and including a free drop-in craft station at Millennium Place, kids’ yoga jam at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and Park Rider Ski and Snowboard Sessions.

The Whistler Museum is offering entry by donation on February 11 while the Meadow Park Sports Centre (my favorite! I love the kids’ pool) is offering family drop-in rates at half the regular price. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is offering discounted family admission passes February 9 and 10.

Now this sounds like a holiday we could all enjoy (hint, hint Washington & Oregon legislators).

Vancouver’s Kitsilano with Kids

One of the best ways to really “meet” a city is through staying, playing and eating in a real neighborhood. You can hang out with other locals, discover in-the-know restaurants and shops, visit less-touristed attractions and generally trade in your anonymous experience for something a little more personal.

This week, we have a special guest post on Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood from Vancouver-based blogger Claudia Laroye, an avid traveller, mother of two, and author of thetravellingmom.ca blog. She is passionate about family travel and about educating children through the travel experience. Her blog offers a modern mom’s guide of ‘how to’ travel tips and information, as well as destination advice for the new or experienced traveller. She contributes to Tourism Vancouver’s InsideVancouver.ca, Canadian print publications, and other travel sites on the web. Let’s hear Claudia’s take on Vancouver’s hottest neighborhood.

Kitsilano, Vancouver, British Columbia

I’ve lived in Kitsilano for ten years. We’ve raised our children in this family-friendly neighborhood, and have felt very lucky to have done so. The neighborhood has everything – beaches, parks, restaurants, cafes, yogawear & clothing stores, and baby boutiques. It’s a funky area with high-density apartments and condos for young singletons and marrieds, and older single-family areas with larger (and now expensive) homes.

In the past, Kitsilano has been more of a hippie hangout with a more dodgy, free-love reputation from the 1960s. Those days are long gone, though, as real estate prices have increased and people discovered the desirable beach-front, west side location. Kits is a great place to live, but also a wonderful place to visit, a go-to beach and leisure spot for Vancouver residents and tourists alike. — Claudia Laroye

A Day in Kits

Waking up from your night at the Granville Island Hotel, begin your day with croissants and coffee from the Granville Island Public Market or La Baguette et L’Echalotte. Walk west along the waterfront, following the footpath towards Vanier Park. Spend the morning exploring the Maritime Museum, including the RCMP ship the St. Roch – the first ship to circumnavigate North America.

Continue walking west towards Kits Beach, and let the kids play in the newly renovated and accessible playground. Before lunch you can dip a toe into English Bay or visit Kits Pool, then stop for lunch at The Boathouse Restaurant at Kits Beach, or continue south a few blocks to Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. at First & Cypress St.

kids make your own pizza night at rocky mountain flatbread

Rolling out dough on make-your-own pizza night at Rocky Mountain Flatbread

You can spend the afternoon strolling the shops of West 4th Avenue, and take a playground break at Connaught Park, near the Kits Community Centre at 12th Ave. and Larch St. If it’s a summer weekend you may see soccer, rugby or cricket matches in progress.

For late afternoon and dinner, pick up a bunch of picnic goodies from Choices or Capers, and head down to Jericho Beach for some water play and to watch the sun set. Another wonderful Kitsilano day!

Guide to Kitsilano with Kids

What to See in Kitsilano with Kids

Kits is packed with Vancouver Tourism-brochure staples like the HR MacMillan Space Centre and Maritime Museum at Kits Point. Both of these museums are fantastic places to visit with kids, involving interactive displays, and lots of touching-feeling action. [The Maritime Museum has an online coupon for free kids admission with paying adult.] They are both located within walking distance of Granville Island (itself a major destination on the Kits/False Creek border), Kits Beach, and Kits Pool – which are popular destinations, particularly in summer.

Maritime Museum, Vancouver with kids

Looking for ships at the Maritime Museum

Kits Beach is the eastern-most point of the Kits beach ‘system’ that goes west towards UBC and Point Grey. The western beaches (in order east to west) are: Kits Beach, Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks. West of Spanish Banks the beachfront trail enters Pacific Spirit Regional Park at UBC. The beachfront trail is ideal for walking and biking, and all of the beaches are accessible by car, with free parking lots.

Shopping in Kitsilano with Kids

Where do we start? The main shopping streets in Kits can be found on W. 4th Avenue and West Broadway. There is also a niche shopping area at First & Yew near Kits Point.

West 4th Avenue has morphed into a bustling commercial district with unique boutiques and cafes, and what I’d term yoga/activewear, housewares, and baby ‘zones’. In other words, there are groupings of such retail clusters that specialize in baby and young children-related toys, clothes & supplies, as well as yogawear & various activewear retailers (think NorthFace, Helly Hansen, IceBreaker). Two not-to-be-missed stores for shopping for the under 5 set are Hip Baby and Crocodile Baby. For moms and dads, check out the original Lululemon location, and stroll the many funky boutique clothing and book shops. For the travel bug, Wanderlust is Canada’s largest travel retailer, with maps, luggage & books to suit planning for any and every future trip.

On West Broadway, the flavors become more Greek, literally. This section of Kits attracted Greek immigrants 50+ years ago, and it’s still highly visible in the shops, restaurants, and even the banks.

Greek shops in Kitsilano Vancouver kid-friendly

Greek delicacies in Kitsilano, Vancouver

The annual Greek Day festival in June is a summer highlight in the neighborhood. Must visit shops include my favorite bookstore, Kidsbooks, as well as the Toy Jungle toy store, and the Just Imagine costume company. For traveling moms, browse the lovely trinkets at the WishList Boutique, and for sublime chocolates (for your own consumption or as gifts), do not miss Thomas Hass and his world of chocolate excellence. His Sparkle cookies are a local (and now world-famous) legend.

Where to Eat in Vancouver Kitsilano with Kids

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. is a very Kits pizza parlor, with a kids play kitchen area and local, organic ingredients. Earl’s on Fir & Broadway for West Coast tasty. (Be warned: they have no high-chairs). The Eatery for a unique — and funky — sushi experience. Moderne Burger for awesome handmade burgers in an authentic diner setting. Terra Breads for bread, baked goods & sandwiches. White Spot for BC tradition & family friendliness. Banana Leaf for amazing Malaysian cuisine (sharing plates is encouraged). Capers (Whole Foods) for beach/park picnic supplies ‘to-go’ from their deli-restaurant. Maria’s Taverna for great Greek food.

The best cafe (where cappuccinos approach those found in Rome, Italy), is at 49th Parallel, on 4th Avenue. It’s just the simply the best in town. Period. A delicious second choice is Caffe Artigiano, several locations.

Where to Stay in Vancouver / Kitsilano: Kits Hotels, B&Bs and more

The one thing that Kits does not have a lot of are hotels. There are a few small-scale bed and breakfasts, catering often to couples and adults. However, the Rose Garden Suite at the quiet and lovely Greystone B&B can accommodate up to six people, with a full kitchen, and breakfast is included.

The next best solution is staying at the Granville Island Hotel, in False Creek. It’s close to Kits, even within a pleasant walking distance, and is superbly located on the Island itself, near the Public and Kids Markets, community centre and artisan shops. The Hotel is also pet-friendly, the restaurant (Dockside) is kid-friendly, and the Granville Island playground and waterpark are within 200 feet of the hotel.

Granville Island Public Market with kids

Granville Island Public Market with kids

Thanks, Claudia! You can also follow Claudia (as I do!) on Twitter @travelling_mom

If you’d like more Vancouver neighborhood recommendations, check out my book, Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver.

One-Tank Trips: 3 great day trips from Seattle with author Chloë Ernst

Wow, this week we have a special treat — an interview with Vancouver-based freelance journalist Chloë Ernst, who has penned guidebooks, newspaper articles and magazine stories. She’s the author of Day Trips from Seattle: Getaway Ideas for the Local Traveler. I own this book; it’s well researched and a fabulous find (which is why I asked her to do a quick Q&A with me).

Ernst doesn’t just try to drop in to local sites: “When I travel (on a day trip or a 3-month stint), my mission is to become a local in each place I visit. Over the years that has meant surfing on the Washington coast, dancing in the Fería de Sevilla, shopping in the New York Garment District, and avoiding bears in Whistler.”

Chloë Ernst

Do you want to tell us a little bit about how you wrote the book? How much time did you end up spending in the Seattle area? Any experiences that you learned from?

I put together Day Trips from Seattle during a series of long-weekend trips. Maps are my major travel must-have. I get lost easily so I try to study road maps intensely before I head anywhere.

During one solo road trip I left my wallet at a gas station. When I backpack, I always have cash and credit cards stashed in different places. But when I travel by car I relax more and am (unintentionally) a little less protective of my valuables. It reminded me to be more prepared if things should be lost or stolen while on the road.

Luckily a lovely gentleman in Arlington bought me lunch (which I couldn’t pay for due to the missing wallet), phoned the gas station where I last was, and ensured I got my wallet back.

Which Seattle day trip is your personal favorite — a destination to which you always want to return?

Heading east on I-90 means a sunnier climate than we’re used to in Seattle and Vancouver. One day trip that stands out connects Roslyn, Cle Elum, and Ellensburg. I love the small-town-nature and history that each offers. Roslyn mixes mines and cemeteries with its faux-history as Cicely in Northern Exposure. Cle Elum has a railroad feel as well as the spirited, community-run Carpenter House Museum. (Read more about Roslyn/Cle Elum with kids)

And Ellensburg make a great final stop, with museums, the eclectic art at Dick and Jane’s Spot, and the chimps at the “chimposium” on the Central Washington University campus who communicate with sign language.

Is there a Seattle day trip in your book that you would recommend for families?

Day tripping south to Federal Way, Puyallup, and Eatonville offers lots of family activities. In Federal Way there’s the pick of Wild Waves Theme Park (with water slides) and West Hylebos Wetland Park (with nature trails). Going on to Puyallup, you’ll find superb bakeries (such as Pioneer Bakery) and the restored Meeker Mansion — although I’m still creeped out by the framed, Victorian-era hair sculptures in one of the rooms. The intricate flowers and shapes are made entirely from strands of human hair!

Eatonville is close to Mt. Rainier and feels very rural. Both Northwest Trek Wildlife Park and Pioneer Farm Museum have lots of animals to engage and activities to entertain kids.

Is there a budget-minded Seattle day trip that stands out for you?

When I think budget day trips, I always think the beach. Driving out to Ocean Shores or Westport is a fair distance, but the sand and saltwater are worth it. Ocean Shores has a free interpretive center with hands-on exhibits, and we always see wild deer along the road. But I prefer Westport. It’s less glossy and has more state parks. The Westport Maritime Museum features a free outdoor exhibit of whale bones and other sea life. [Note: Here’s my piece on Westport with kids]

In the fall, drive a few minutes down to Grayland and you can watch the cranberries being harvested. Before visiting I had no idea that the farmers harvest the berries by flooding the fields so the cranberries float to the surface.

Do you have a favorite day trip from the Vancouver area? Can you give a few highlights of that day trip?

From Vancouver, Squamish makes a quick day trip with wilder nature than we’re accustomed to in the city. The Stawamus Chief is one of my favorite hikes on a sunny day. Hikers climb ladders and rocky slopes to reach one or all of the three peaks on the hulking granite massif. In winter, bald eagles congregate on the nearby rivers and especially in Brackendale.

Also on the Sea-to-Sky Highway (which extends up to Whistler and beyond), the Brittania Mine Museum can happily eat up hours with gold panning. Someone will — almost guarantee-ably — get gold fever and have to be dragged from the sand beds that are salted with gold and pyrite. There is also a fabulous mine tour there that includes a ride on a squeaky mine train and mining equipment demonstrations. The noises can be loud and perhaps not great for younger children, but it’s tons of fun.

Read more:

Washington State Round-Up from Cascadia Kids.

Family Day Trips from the Seattle area from Cascadia Kids.

9 Great Day Trips from Seattle from the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau.

4 Great Day Trips from Seattle from RoadTrip America.

Washington, Oregon and British Columbia Travel Giveaways

Updated: May 6 2011

A whole mess of giveaways! The giveaways and sweepstakes listed below aren’t provided by me, but by regional tourism bureaus, travel websites, businesses and other resources. Check ’em out and enter today. I’ll add more when I hear of them, and remove old ones that have expired. Let us know if you win! Four Cascadia Kids readers have already become winners (see below).

Carefully read the contest rules. Some contests are limited to Canadian or US residents. Others are open to all.

Oregon Trip Contests and Giveaways:

The Oregon Adventurecation is back! Pick one of seven incredible Oregon vacations, courtesy of Travel Oregon. Ends June 15, 2011.

Gift certificate are given away every week for the Mt. Hood Territory. The grand prize will be a three-night vacation for two to Mt. Hood Territory and a $500 travel allowance for local lodging and meals.

Kids are almost always welcome in our region’s pubs.  Win a two-night weekend in “Beervana” (that would be Portland, of course), airfare, plus dinner at the BridgePort Brew Pub and tickets to Brew Fest. Ends June 26, 2011.

Win round-trip airfare plus two nights stay in Seattle (or Portland) and farm-to-table experiences with Tully’s Discovery Getaway.

Giveaway for a one-night stay in Astoria, Oregon from Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites. Ongoing, monthly winner.

Washington Trip Contests and Giveaways:

Share your Washington! Invite friends and family to visit our gorgeous region and you could win a year’s worth of in-state air tix PLUS two free tickets to anywhere Alaska Airline flies. Ends June 15, 2011.

Clipper Vacations is celebrating 25 years in the boat business; the fleet’s ships ferry people throughout the Puget Sound. Win a three-city, three-night tour of the Northwest’s best spots — the winner will enjoy a night in Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle, free transportation and free activities (such as a visit to Butchart Gardens and a guided tour of Seattle’s Pike Place Market). Ends June 30, 2011.

Win a Leavenworth Staycation from Seattle Perks Prize-a-Thon. Ends May 12, 2011.

Win a night at Hotel Murano or the Seattle Sheraton, win tickets to top attractions, plus gift cards from Tourism Revealed: Puget Sound. Ends May 31, 2011.

Win $200 RainierBucks to use on a Mt. Rainier stay via Visit Rainier.

Win a night’s stay in Leavenworth via the Best Western Icicle Inn. Ongoing, monthly winner.

Win round-trip airfare plus two nights stay in Seattle (or Portland) and farm-to-table experiences with Tully’s Discovery Getaway. Ends May 31, 2011.

British Columbia Trip Contests and Giveaways:

Clipper Vacations is celebrating 25 years in the boat business; the fleet’s ships ferry people throughout the Puget Sound. Win a three-city, three-night tour of the Northwest’s best spots — the winner will enjoy a night in Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle, free transportation and free activities (such as a visit to Butchart Gardens and a guided tour of Seattle’s Pike Place Market). Ends June 30, 2011.

The MV Coho is giving away two free round-trip tickets for car and driver to Victoria, British Columbia; once there, the winners will enjoy two nights at the Hotel Grand Pacific and events at the Victoria International Cycling Festival Events. Contest ends May 27, 2011; Tickets must be used June 10th-12th.

Hey mountain bikers. Ride on FOX Racing Shox in Whistler and win five nights accommodations, a ride with Fox Racing Shox rider Andrew Shandro, an adventure activity and a $100 dining voucher. Ends June 30, 2011.

Tourism Vancouver Island collects and posts island-wide contests — there’s always a Vancouver Island resort offering a free night’s stay somewhere. Ongoing.

Party of Five to Pride Sweepstakes. A celebration of Vancouver’s Pride Weekend with two nights shared accommodations for five people (in two connecting Superior Rooms) at the chic OPUS Hotel Vancouver on the edge of Davie Village, and a gift of $500 worth of culinary bliss at Raincity Grill Restaurant.

Win airfare to Los Angeles, then an Amtrak Coast Starlight trip from L.A. to Seattle, then a connecting train from Seattle to BC. (Whew, are you tired yet? You also get $500.) This trip sweepstakes is courtesy of Wild Horse Canyon wines. BC residents only. Closes May 15, 2011.

Did I miss a giveaway? E-mail me at lora AT cascadiakids.com or leave a comment below.

Free & Cheap Fun with Kids for Winter Holiday Break

What are you doing this week? Check out these lists of great cheap and free fun in our region — and maybe add a few more of your own. These lists were written in summer, so you’ll have to gloss over some suggestions and skip those fountains (brr). But you should find plenty of fantastic activities here. And if you’ve already done everything in your own city, plan a weekend getaway trip to a nearby city and take advantage of their fab freebies:

Best Kids’ Bookstores in Cascadia

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do with Kids in Vancouver, BC

10 Things to Do with Kids in Vancouver (Rainy Day Edition)

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Victoria, BC with Kids

Free Museums in Seattle and Tacoma

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do with Kids in Seattle

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do with Kids in Portland, Oregon

Portland Freebies: Free and Cheap Portland Attractions

My Passports with Purpose Picks

So, you’ve probably heard about the great Passports with Purpose program, which is raising thousands to build a village in India. What should you bid on? Here are my picks for the Pacific Northwest-centric donations and raffles. I mean, of course you can also bid on excellent options like Caribbean vacations, but these all have that unique NW stamp and should appeal to families. A few are for mom and dad only, though!

Click here to enter into the giveaway for one of these prizes:


Keen shoes or sandals. Because every Cascadia woman has at least a pair in her closet.


Amazon Kindle E-Book Reader. Because you need a great book on the Amtrak between Vancouver and Seattle.

Apple iPad 16 GB Wi-Fi + 3G. And you need an iPad too.

Bakery Nouveau Gift Certificate. Seattle pastries + super-cute West Seattle neighborhood = Great idea.


Hotel 1000 Stay and Spa Package.  An overnight Seattle stay, spa treatment and indoor golf for two our for up to 40 PEOPLE. That is a little wacky and cool.

B&B package at Fairmont Olympic, Seattle. This is a giveaway for a drop-dead gorgeous 450-square foot room. And breakfast. And valet parking.

Hotel Monaco One-Night Stay in Seattle. Hey, this one is mine! Stay at one of my favorite Seattle hotels for families.

SageCliffe Resort Weekend Getaway. Sick of the rain? Drive over Washington’s mountains and enjoy a retreat at a deluxe winery.

Lakefront Room at the Woodmark Hotel (Kirkland, Wash.). Just 10-20 minutes from Seattle, if you win the Woodmark, you’ll be blessed with a lovely location and a few surprising extras…

Two night Getaway to Juniper Lane Guest House, San Juan Island. A great pick for Victoria, BC or Northwest Washington residents, this stay is a two-night grownups-only score.

One night at Seattle’s Hotel Andra. How about a night in the hip Hotel Andra? Yeah, that’s awesome.


2 Adult/2 Child 3-Day Go Cards (city of winner’s choice). Use this card on your next Seattle trip – it offers admission to an incredible number of the city’s family-friendly attractions.

Two Walrus and Carpenter Picnic Tickets. Have you ever gone oyster harvesting? At night? One of those do-it-before-you-die PacNW experiences. 

Travel Gear

SteriPEN Adventurer Opti with Solar Charging Case – Water Purifier. A steripen will come in handy for all of your Pacific NW camping excursions.

Vacation Packages

Portland Perks Travel Package. This package – worth $500 – is a total steal. Includes two-night stay, free breakfast, free parking and a Portland coupon book.

Willows Lodge-Barking Frog-Wine tour. A Woodinville retreat (not far from Seattle) and dinner for two, plus a tour. Nom.

Two-night stay at any Kimpton hotel. Ooh, you know I love those Kimptons (the parent hotel of the Monaco I offered above).

One note: If you have any questions about when your stay would be valid, you should ask the hosting bloggers. Last year, I won a two-night stay in Vancouver but didn’t know it had to be used in the next two months (Jan-Feb), which caused some logistical issues. It was a great stay, nonetheless, partially because they bent the rules to allow a March visit. But I might’ve bid differently had I known.

Did I miss anything? Yes? Let me know!

Click here to enter into the giveaway for one of these prizes.