Northwest Spring Break: Where to go for great weather

Where should you take the kids for a spring break in the Pacific Northwest? Where can you go without a raincoat, scarf, hat and boots? Below, you’ll read about the March and April temperature and rainfall averages. It’s in Imperial and Fahrenheit, just to keep it all consistent, and the site I used (Weather.com) to compile the information offered that approach first. I’m sorry, Canadians!

Low rain spring break

If you’re desperate for some sun or just a break from the rain, Central and Eastern Oregon are great places for the kids’ spring break. Bend, Oregon is mild, with average March temps of 51 and 57 in April, and about .75 inches of rain. Pendleton, Oregon has a March high of 54 and an April high of 61, and about an inch of rain in each month. Further East, Baker City sees 50 degrees as the high in March, and 58 in April, with a scant .82-.85 inches of rain over the two months.

In British Columbia, Penticton sees March average temperatures of 49 and April of 59, with low precipitation (.8-1 inch).

But my money for a great spring break might be on Lake Chelan, Washington. This little lakeside town sees warm temps in March (54) and warms up even more (63) in April, with precipitation amounts decreasing from 1.1 inches in March to .68 inches in April.

Mild weather spring break

Leavenworth, Washington warms up from March’s 53 high to 62 in April, and daily rainfall drops from 2 inches to 1.1 inches.

For a Vancouver Island spring break, Victoria is mild but not too cold and wet — 50 degrees in March, 55 degrees in April; 2.8 inches of rain in March, and 1.7 inches in April. Also on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo’s average high in March is 51 and April is 56, but April sees a giant plummet in rain averages — 4.6 inches in March (that’s a bit too rainy for me) and 2.4 in April. These are good destinations if you want to enjoy some outdoor time (but only Nanaimo in April!).

Lots of rain spring break

Our region’s big cities are rainy for spring breaks in March and April — but on the upside, there are many wonderful indoor attractions. Vancouver, British Columbia offers 4.3 inches in March and 3 inches in April, 49 degrees as the March high and 54 Fahrenheit in April. In Seattle, the March high is 54 with 3.5 inches of rain, and April isn’t much better — 59 with 2.7 inches.

In Portland, it’s a little warmer, but rainier: March has a 56 degree high (and 4.5 inches of rain) and April has a 61 degree high (3.4 inches of rain). Eugene has similar temps to Portland, but it’s much rainier — March offers 4.9 inches of rain, and April offers 3.3 inches.

Massive rain spring break

So, if you hate rain, don’t go to the Oregon Coast, which is well-sprinkled throughout March and April. Newport sees 7.75 inches of rain in March and 4.7 inches in April (54 and 56 degrees F, respectively), and Cannon Beach is walloped with 8.7 inches of rain in March, and 5.9 inches in April (53 and 55). Bring a raincoat. Or just give in and wear your swimsuit — everywhere.

Camping in the Rain with Kids

You’ve got your reservations in hand, but the forecast is for rain. Should you go?

Alaska-based mom Jennifer Aist, author of Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping & Boating with Babies and Young Children, has plenty of experience with family camping in the rain. “Last summer we had 43 days in a row of rain, “ she says. Instead of getting wet and miserable, Aist got prepared.

The first hint? Bring drop-proof rain gear. Aist specifically recommends Oaki Wear clothing: “It is well built and holds up beautifully to lots and lots of rain and puddle stomping,” she says. If it’s chilly out, she brings rainboots for the kids, along with extra socks. “Nothing dries out well in rainy conditions,” she says. Stuff sacks (example: Granite Gear Toughsack)help keep a change of clothes protected from the elements.

If you’re car camping near pavement, Aist suggests packing sidewalk chalk. “It looks cool on wet pavement,” she says.

Those handy blue tarps offer respite from rain, plus a dry(ish) place to cook, read or play board games. Aist recommends that parents learn the knot best for tying tarps: the taut line. (here’s a YouTube link on how to tie the knot — love this guy’s moustache). On a sloping site, sure your tent’s opening faces downhil, not uphill, as you don’t want rain to flow into your tent.


It might seem counterintuitive, but Aist suggests avoiding the tent, at least during the day. “Tents are for sleeping,” Aist says. “Everything gets wet when you are in and out all day. It gets a bit claustrophobic too. Embrace the rain, because it can really be lots of fun to play in — just keep moving. Even hiking in the rain isn’t so bad.”

Michelle Tice would agree. Tice, a Vancouver-based mom who blogs at savvymom.ca, booked a stay months ago for Vancouver Island’s Parksville, along with friends. A total of 14 kids and 25 adults had planned the weekend, and weren’t going to be deterred by rain in the forecast.

The downpour set in.

“We had to shower the kids each night,” Tice says, but it was worth a little extra work. Croc-style shoes let water pass through, so feet got dirty and wet, but not cold (no waterlogged socks). They brought lots of extra clothing, and bikes for mud-puddle splashing.

“Exploring beaches, forests and puddles, can be done in the rain too.” They also explored local-area kids’ activities for “a change of scenery,” she says, including Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Coombs Country Market.

“The kids did not care about the rain, only the adults did,” Tice says. “So the faster the adults cope, the better for all.”

With a mug of steaming hot chocolate in your hand, could you really disagree?

More tips for setting up camp in the rain:

Your-Camping-Guidebook.Com (funny name, good site).

A good video on setting up a tent in the rain, made by TrailPeak.com.

Seven Funky, Must-Visit Vancouver Stores

So, you’ve been to Granville Island. You’ve enjoyed the hip shops along Vancouver’s 4th Avenue. Ready for something different? Don’t want to buy just another mass-produced souvenir from the Robson stores? Here are seven indie-owned Vancouver shops that everyone will love.

1. Urban Source. Hundreds of bits ‘n’ scraps fill this store – no, it’s not a hoarder’s dream. Instead, it’s a clever shop that challenges children and adults alike to craftily reuse and recycle. Take paper and caps and create a flight of fancy in the form of a bird, or make your own decorative wrapping paper. It’s a fun way to spend $10 and make something beautiful once you get home.

Gettin' crafty with the bins at Urban Source

2. Regional Assembly of Text. If you’re helplessly devoted to type, this tiny shop will get your ink flowing. Create your own button-pin with the store’s typewriter and art supplies, browse cool ‘zines, select a handmade card, pick up a screenprinted shirt and otherwise immerse yourself in a type-cast world.

GumDrops helps you weather the weather.

3. GumDrops. Yes, it rains here. A lot. That’s no reason to hide inside. Head into the rain-focused GumDrops and pick up a gumball-colored matching set of raincoat, hat and boots. Children’s sizes are available, along with more sedate, urban rain fashions and summer (all weather!) sandals. You’ll weather any storm.

Chinatown, a kid-friendly place to go in Vancouver

4. Miscellaneous shops in Chinatown. In Vancouver’s Chinatown, a stuffed-animal wave awaits even the pickiest of children. Shops overflow with Pikachu, Hello Kitty and Disney Princesses (some authorized, some questionably authorized). We particularly like browsing businesses for Totoro-themed school supplies, cool Chinese sandals and stuffed animals. Don’t forget to visit side streets to enjoy a serendipitous shopping experience.

5. Stepback offers clever vintage and refurbished housewares, including melamine plates, children’s chairs, and 1940s-60s pastel-hued accessories. It’s a sure stop if you’re hoping to uniquely outfit the new baby’s nursery.

At 3H Craftworks

6. 3H Craftworks. This texture-rich store benefits both the manufacturer (a craft collective of developmentally disabled adults) and the consumer (you). You’ll find imaginative storyboards, hand puppets, sun hats, hand-stitched dresses and yes, even a sock monkey or two.

7. Smoking Lily. Our family’s must-stop shop for unique screenprinted tees for teens and adults, cool skirts (well, only for the ladies of the family), beautiful housewares and other one-of-a-kind items. These ahead of the trend tees, dresses and skirts aren’t cheap, but you may luck into a sale.

Do you have a favorite Vancouver shop?

What to Pack for an Outdoor Festival (with Kids)

It’s festival season here in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. We’ve got festivals of every stripe — berry festivals, Shakespeare festivals, folk festivals, medieval festivals, rose and rodeo festivals. Our family recently went to the Folklife Festival with our kids, and here’s a packing list I created. These items fit into one small backpack ( thankfully, we didn’t need any rain gear), which we slung over the stroller, along with the small cooler.

Festival essentials:

  • Cell phone
  • ID
  • Keys
  • Cash (more than you think you’ll need) and Credit/Debit card and pin
  • Tickets if necessary
  • Map or iPhone or Android event schedule/map
  • Camera w/extra battery or memory card

Festival packing for family health

  • Sunblock
  • Bug repellent
  • Sunglasses and sunhat
  • Chapstick
  • Water bottle (two big ones)
  • Tissues for well-used portapotties and for sad songs.
  • Mini-first aid kit w/bandaids, allergy med, 1-2 pain relievers, safety pins
  • Baby wipes
  • One or two plastic grocery bags or small Ziploc bags. Because.
  • Beach towel for grassy areas or a pashmina-style shawl – can be used for warmth, to sit on, last-minute cleanup, etc.
  • Ear plugs or ear coverage for kids
  • Thin thermal layer if it’s chilly
  • Poncho/raincoat if you expect rain

For the family blood sugar:

  • Shoulder/stroller-ready soft-sided cooler
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Granola bars, trail mix, kids’ health bars
  • Oranges or other easy-peel fruit
  • Chocolate

Festival packing for the kids:

  • Paper and pencils/pens/crayons (think about whether these will get so hot they’ll melt)
  • Bubbles, stickers, other lightweight and keep-busy items
  • A chapter book you can read to them during slow times.
  • Disposable camera
  • $5-10 spending money per child for cotton candy, small toys, etc.
  • A method for transporting them when they’re tired (and whiny). Do not discount this aspect, even if you think your child is too old for a stroller. When the choice is A) leave early with a whining, unhappy child or B) let them nap/color/blow bubbles in the stroller despite the disapproving eyes of parental passerby (holding whiny kids) …yes, you should choose B. I’m not saying I would stuff my teen into a stroller, but a 5 year old? Yes. If you think the area will be uneven (think grassy fairgrounds), you may want to bring a child carrier instead. Baby jogger-style strollers can easily become too unwieldy.

Write your phone number your child’s arm or on a piece of paper they keep in a pocket; make sure they understand what to do if they get lost.

Daytrip! Four Portland day trips with kids

On certain winter weekends, you’re cooped up inside the house, kids bickering and frustrated while the rain pounds outside.

Sounds like it’s time for a daytrip.

A daytrip is a break from the usual routine. Hop in the car for an hour or so, motoring down the freeway and along country lanes. Enjoy a movie or a museum or a hot chocolate (or all three). Bring a change of clothes in case the kids want to play at a park (despite rain or snow). Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore daytrips based out of the Portland, Vancouver and Seattle metro areas.

Home Base: Portland

Oregon Coast with kids daytrip

Take Hwy 26 out to Seaside and Cannon Beach, where the kids can fly kites, make mud castles and storm-watch from the warm safety of a café. Or make your way out west toward Tillamook, Ore., and tour the Tillamook Visitors Center before visiting the quiet little towns of Rockaway Beach and Manzanita.

Time one-way: About 90 minutes.

Mt. Hood with kids daytrip

Take Hwy 26 east to Portland’s beloved mountain and take a free tour of Timberline Lodge, counting animals you find hidden in ironwork, woodwork and on the mountain. Play in the snow, drink hot chocolate at the lodge, then go to Government Camp and stop for a brief 10-minute self-guided tour of Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum (check out those tiny, vintage hiking shoes from an elementary-aged mountain climber).

Time one way: About 90 minutes

N. Bonneville Hot Springs with kids daytrip

Fed up with the rain? A day pass to the Bonneville Hot Springs offers a pool and two jetted hot tubs featuring heated, sulfate-rich water. Weekdays are the deal here, though ($15/3 hour pass for adults), and weekends incur significantly higher rates ($25/3 hours pass for adults). Kids under age 2 are free, and the Family Swim Time runs on Sundays from 1:30-7:30. Post pool, head into Stevenson, Wash. (my hometown!) to visit the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center or a meal at the upscale Skamania Lodge.

Time one way: About an hour

Salem with kids daytrip

Head to the Oregon state capitol to enjoy A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village, an interactive children’s museum, the Riverfront Carousel and an indoor playground featuring four themes (trains, princess, music and market).

Time one way: About an hour

Rainy Day Rambles: All-weather hikes with kids

You’ve got a hike planned. But it’s raining, pouring, dumping outside.

Just go, says Jennifer Aist, the author of the book “Babes in the Woods,” a guide to hiking, camping and boating with babies and small children.

“If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you need to embrace the wet,” Aist says. “Otherwise you’ll rot away on your couch.”

An Alaska resident, Jennifer’s been on plenty of hikes with her three kids in Washington State and British Columbia. She knows rainy days. “I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent in the rain in campgrounds, on trails and on beaches,” Aist says.

But rain is a magical, surprising twist on the everyday hike, in Aist’s opinion. Let’s find out how to make your drizzly-day family hike a fantastic success.

Why is a rainy-day hike such a great idea?

Aist: To kids, rainy days just mean putting on another layer of clothing.

Rain brings out different critters on the beach. Rain brings earthworms to the surface for easy picking. Rain makes for perfect fort-building conditions. Rain sounds neat. Rain makes fantastic puddles. Rain makes for better wildlife sightings. Rain makes great little creeks for damming up.

Rain keeps lots of folks inside so you get the whole trail to yourself.

I hadn’t thought about it that way. But how do you prevent wet babies?

Aist: ERGOBaby makes a sport model of their carrier, which uses a fabric that is a bit better for rain than their cotton counterpart. Ergo also sells a cool add-on Weather Cover, made from fairly waterproof/windproof material that you put on over the carrier. But really, all soft structured baby carriers are going to get wet.

The makers of the Kindercoat have rain ponchos and jackets that are designed to be worn over a sling/wrap/mai tai or ergo or other soft structured carrier. These are great! A bit pricey, but great. You can even wear 2 babies at once in them.

External frame backpacks, like those made by Kelty and Sherpani are generally made of nylon and come with rain/shade hoods so they fare better. If you’re pushing an infant on a fairly flat, even trail, the Chariot or other system has very effective rain flies that keep baby nice and dry.

And of course, you can always carry an umbrella.

The author's daughter in Puddlegear.

Good tips. How do you keep walking-age kids dry?

Aist: For mobile kids, I’m a big fan of the one-piece rain suit and some tall rain boots. Puddlegear makes some really nice PVC-free ones. Molehill Mountain makes great kids outdoor gear. Great poly pro options, rain gear, all sorts of cool stuff.

You have to assume that little kids will stomp in puddles and get lots of water in their boots, so wool socks are a must.

Hats from Sunday Afternoons keep the rain off your face.

I also avoid cotton clothing wherever possible (wet cotton makes you cold). I give more details on how to dress in warm layers in the book, as well.

How long of a hike should parents aim for?

Aist: Length of trail really depends on lots of different things. With young infants, it is much easier to go farther and longer. You may have to stop and nurse on the trail, but otherwise they are usually pretty content just hanging out.

Toddlers and preschoolers are a whole different story. Start short and test out the waters. Thirty minutes may be plenty for some.

My oldest could easily hike 10 miles at age 4, but her brother pooped out at 3 miles at the same age. Better to get back to the car wanting to do more than dragging a kid in the midst of total melt down back to the car.

Also, is the trail interesting? All uphill? Easy? Good views? Cool landmarks like a fun bridge along the way? Look for those little extras to boost your child’s interest.

Are there any warm-your-soul snacks or drinks for a rainy-day hike with kids?

Aist: I bring a thermos with hot cocoa or hot apple cider with us on cold days. This is always a big hit. I also aim for snacks that hold up well when wet.

Sandwich bread is a total bust. Apples are good, berries are great, hard granola bars do OK.

Is there a good rule of thumb that parents should keep in mind regarding rainy-day hikes?

The author with two of her three children.

Aist: Rule of thumb? Make it fun! Make it so they want to get out and do it again. Better yet, make it so fun that mom and dad want to take them out again.

So go ahead and stomp in the puddles yourself. You can clean up when you get home.

The number one reason people don’t like to take kids out in rainy/cold weather is because someone is cold. Gear up to keep everyone toasty. Bring snacks–or pick them along the way. Sing, be silly. Share in the natural wonder kids enjoy.

And know when to call it a day. If a meltdown is imminent, head for home!

————-

Discover Canadian-made rainy day clothing recommendations from Yoyomama.

Packing Checklist for NW and BC Vacations

Our weather is unpredictable but our climate is mild. We dress in layers, and prep for rain and sun. The Cascadia uniform: T-shirt, hoodie, rain-proof jacket, jeans, water-repellent shoes.

The Pacific Northwest dress code is casual and natural. We wear a lot of dark and vibrant colors. White, not so much. In the cities, women don’t typically wear much make up.

We wear jeans to fine restaurants and yoga pants pretty much everywhere else (I’ve shown up to pick up my kids from school in my pajamas, and no one even noticed — or maybe they were just too Seattle-nice to say anything to my face).

If you look in our car trunks, many of us pack an extra pair of hiking boots. Just in case

Typically, our kids wear comfortable cotton clothing that can get dirty and still clean up well. Think Hanna Andersson. But a little girl in a fancy dress (or a boy in a suit jacket) will get lots of compliments.

You can wear what you like, of course.

Clothing (for one week)

  • Five shirts; a mix of long-sleeve and short-sleeve, depending on season.
  • Three–five jeans/pants (winter) and/or shorts/skirts (summer).
  • Lightweight synthetic or wool sweater or a hoodie.
  • Five pairs of socks.
  • Two pairs of shoes (one will get muddy). We’re a people of sensible footwear, the land of Birkenstocks with socks. You can’t do worse.
  • Seven pairs of underwear, because accidents happen.
  • Swimsuit.
  • Sunglasses (Really! Seattleites buy more sunglasses than in any other U.S. city) and sunhat or baseball cap.
  • Warm hat or toque, gloves, and scarf (winter only).
  • Lightweight, waterproof coat and boots. We don’t usually use umbrellas — you can, but give plenty of personal room to other pedestrians.
  • Trail-running shoes for beach or wilderness hikes.

Paperwork

  • If traveling between the U.S. and Canada, bring your passport or enhanced driver’s license.
  • If the kids are traveling with only one parent, a signed document from the non-present parent, stating that it’s OK to take the children over the border. Include contact information for the non-present parent.
  • Health, auto, and travel insurance documents.
  • Airplane and train tickets or your confirmation numbers.
  • Your itinerary.
  • Confirmation for hotels and car rental.
  • Paper maps (available at gas stations) or Google Maps.
  • Membership cards: AAA or other roadside assistance plans
  • Membership card from your local zoo, children’s museum, or science museum, if you can benefit from reciprocity.

Toiletries and health items

  • Toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss.
  • Contact lenses or glasses.
  • A first-aid kit with Band-Aids, Tylenol, allergy medicine, gauze, anti-bacterial ointment, tweezers and nail clippers.
  • Prescription medicines.
  • Sunscreen, aloe vera for summer or ski vacations.
  • Stain-removing wipes.
  • Lip balm (it’s windy on the ferry decks — and your kids will want to go on the outside decks).
  • Hairbrush or comb.

For baby & toddler

  • Diapering supplies.
  • Travel changing pad.
  • Receiving blankets or other thin blankets (great for cleaning up messes).
  • Car seat.
  • Stroller. Jogger-style strollers work well on steep downtown Seattle streets and in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, but can be too big to navigate through crowded areas (Pike Place Market, downtown Victoria in summer). City-style umbrella strollers are best if you’re planning to visit during summer.
  • Backpack or baby carrier, particularly if you plan to bring a baby or toddler into Pike Place Market or Granville Market during summer.
  • Baby food, formula, and/or breastfeeding supplies.
  • Sippy cup.
  • Preferred baby food and a spoon, a bag to put them into.
  • Clean-up washcloths or wipes in a baggie.

For older kids

  • Book (plan to pick up a few more while in a NW town from one of our children’s bookstores).
  • Notebook, journal, or activity book with crayons, felt pens, or colored pencils.
  • Favorite toys from home; although you can pack a few basics and plan to visit a local toystore while here.
  • Nightlight and/or small flashlight.
  • Freezer-size bags for wet clothing.
  • Pool toys (inflatables, floaties).

Snacks for the car, plane, train, or ferry

  • Instant oatmeal packets.
  • Dry cereal.
  • Cheese sticks.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
  • Trail mix.
  • Baby carrots or oranges.
  • Water or juice boxes.

What did I forget?