10 Great Places to Eat in Whistler with Kids

Crepe Montagne: A great place to eat with kids in Whistler

Crepe Montagne: A great place to eat with kids in Whistler

1. Crepe Montagne offers beautiful atmosphere and crepe prep. I love the warm lodge-like interior, fresh juices, French-language kids books and savory crepes with egg, ham and cheese. It’s also a great dessert destination, with preschooler-friendly crepes like caramel and chocolate or that tasteful favorite, Nutella and banana.

2. Options are the name of the game at Splitz Grill, which makes it a Whistler restaurant good for kids. Pick a meat (veggie burger, beef or chicken), then pad the bun with your selections of fresh veggie add-ons, sauces and dressings. The dining area is sort of cafeteria-style, but the food is filling, cheap and served-to-order.

3. At the base of Blackcomb mountain, Nagomi Sushi, a kid-friendly sushi joint, dishes up everything from fried edamame to fresh rolls. Sushi in Whistler (IMO) is not all that different from one place to the next  (I’m ducking as I write that). Locals and visitors debate over which one is best (Sachi Sushi and Sushi Village are the other favorites). What do I suggest? Choose the restaurant you can find seats in.

Pasta Lupino: Handmade, kid-friendly pasta

Pasta Lupino: Handmade, kid-friendly pasta

4. Pasta Lupino is a solid pick if you’re not quite ambitious enough to make a full-blown dinner in room, but you don’t want to sit through yet another restaurant meal. Here, mix-and-match a pasta shape (like short radiatore, short spinach cesare, linguini, spaghettini) and a pasta sauce (like alfredo, bolognese, tomato and basil, the spicy sausage arrabiata), for fun, let the kids pick one combo, and then choose another for grown-ups.

5.  Ciao-Thyme Bistro fills your plate with shareable omelettes, wraps and griddle cakes for a hearty start to the day. At lunch, the sandwiches, melts and wraps are solid options. Dinner can get expensive (entrees $25+), so consider it a splurge. It’s a bustling, buzzing Whistler restaurant, and therefore great for kids.

6. Pizza is a cheap and delicious way to refuel — but Creekbread takes it to a new level, with lots of all-natural ingredients (free-range pork, locally grown veggies and even housemade organic olive oil) atop wood-fired dough, baked in a clay oven. Flavorful toppings, big broad wood tables, outdoor seating and a gregarious atmosphere. We loved this place so much, we visited twice. A great place to take toddlers and big kids, too.

Other options: Beet Root Café (yummy cookies), quick deli lunch at the Whistler Marketplace IGA, veggie dishes and sandwich pitstops at Ingrid’s Village Cafe in Whistler Village and Portobello for kid-friendly pizza, fresh sandwiches and homemade soups.

Bonus: The Lift Coffee Company makes a hot latte and breakfast (including great pastries and oatmeal).

Great Gifts for the Local Family Traveler

What to buy the traveler in your life? Check this list:

Spot It is my favorite new game, hands down. It’s easy to learn (you’ll get it in about two seconds), scales well by age (I’d say 5 and up) and comes in a very portable tin.

Gift certificates to a favorite hotel or restaurant. Many come with bonuses for you, too. I’ve seen a 10% bonus for purchases for the Victoria Clipper, an extra $25 gift card when you purchase one $25 gift card at the Cannon Beach’s Wayfarer restaurant and a few more I can’t really mention — they were only for e-mail subscribers to the hotel e-mail lists. But you’ll find these sort of “secret deals” when you sign up for a restaurant or hotel’s e-mail li.

Reusies are one of our favorite ways of transporting snacks for the kids (particularly crackers, nuts, cheese, etc.) in the car. Children can chow down, then seal up the container themselves — no plastic lids to struggle with. ReUsies 2 Pack Reusable Sandwich and Snack Bag – Pirate

If I were buying just one gift for the family traveler, it would be a picnic backpack. We’ve had ours since our wedding day and have used it over and over again — it’s a fantastic way to save money. Eat oatmeal in your hotel room or create a picnic from yummy things you’ve collected at Granville Island market. Here’s one example: Picnic at Ascot Classic Blue Picnic Backpack for Four with Blanket

A NW-centric book, like Lonely Planet Pacific Northwest Trips or (my book) Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver or The Most Beautiful Villages and Towns of the Pacific Northwest.

Chicco Capri Lightweight Stroller. I don’t have the money for a Maclaren. But I think a Chicco umbrella-style stroller ($65-75) is a great value for those of us on a budget. This particular stroller works well no matter what the streets throw at it — cobblestones, dips, bumps or grass-covered hills. It fits easily into most crowded urban restaurants and the handles work well for my tall husband. If you don’t want to buy from Amazon, head to your local Babies R Us, which typically has this stroller in stock.

A membership to a local zoo or science center. All the better if they’re participating members of the ASTC Passport Program or the Association of Zoo and Aquariums, which allows the recipient to visit nearby cities’ zoos and science centers for free or at huge discounts.

Is there anything you hope Santa brings you this year?

Seaside, Oregon with Kids

Fall might be the perfect time to hit the beach. At least according to Jackie Boucher, a Vancouver, BC mom who also blogs at Wee Life (and that beautiful blog is more than a wee bit addictive). Last year, Jackie traveled over six hours to reach the gorgeous Oregon Coast, along with her husband Adrian and their son, Spenser, then age 5.

The family loved their destination, the outrageous family-fun town of Seaside. “It was quirky and kitschy and fun with loads of stuff for kids,” Jackie says.

Jackie and hubby had been to the Oregon Coast before, pre-baby Spenser. But back then, the coast was only a stopover on a longer trip. “We always knew that one day we would make it our destination and give it the attention it deserves,” Jackie says. “The coastline is simply stunning.”

Q: What did your family enjoy doing in Seaside, Oregon?

We walked the two- or three-mile promenade. We brought hockey and soccer equipment to play on the firm smooth sand, and hung out on the beach. We ate razor clams and candy (in particular, salt water taffy) because that’s what you do when you are in Seaside.

Playing hockey on the Oregon Coast

Playing hockey on the Oregon Coast. Photo courtesy Jackie Boucher

We noted other unique culinary delights too. I wish now I was brave enough to try the chocolate covered bacon at the Buzz on Broadway.

Another must-do is renting a surrey to pedal up and down the main drag. We also took a half-day trip to Cannon Beach where they have a nice playground, gorgeous beach, good shopping and The Wayfarer, a good restaurant with a killer view.

Riding bikes on the Oregon Coast.

Riding bikes on the Oregon Coast. Photo courtesy Jackie Boucher.

Q. What kinds of kid-friendly things did you do in Seaside? Which activities did your son enjoy most?

Seaside’s main drag. We walked up and down that street several times stopping in candy shops, riding the carousel at Seaside Carousel Mall, and spending time on the bumper cars in Funland, the arcade. Our favourite candy store was Seaside Candyman. The Seaside Carousel Mall has a great toy store, Under the Big Top Toys.

We went in last October and stumbled across a captivating pumpkin festival; we witnessed a giant pumpkin smash an old surrey to smithereens. I documented the craziness on my Wee Life blog here.

Q. Where did you stay?

The Sandy Cove Inn was a bit off the beaten track but had a kitchen, a good restaurant across the street as well as a small family run grocery store and the beach/prom was practically right there.

Q. Did you find any kid-friendly restaurants to eat in?

If you love seafood, this is your part of the world. Our favourite was the Bell Buoy at 1800 S Roosevelt Drive. This establishment has two parts, a factory/fish market and a restaurant. The first is the fish market and micro-cannery. They smoke their own salmon and make their own cocktail sauce. This is where you would get your razor clams to take back to your kitchenette (if you are so lucky to have a kitchenette).

Bell Buoy a kid-friendly restaurant in seaside oregon

The Bell Buoy, a kid-friendly restaurant in Seaside, Oregon

The Bell Buoy also offers a family-style restaurant, which cooks up delicious clams, oysters, crab cakes or just simple fish and chips. Oh, and clam chowder.

The I-5 Drive: Stops from Portland to Seattle

Three hours is just too long to sit in the car. The infamous slog between Seattle and Portland invariably adds a few more hours due to bizarre traffic snafus. (What is the energy vortex causes the mysterious slowdowns in Tacoma, Olympia and Chehalis, anyhow?) Put it all together, and you’ve got a real tantrum starter for parents and kids alike. Unless you give up for a little bit, pull over and chill out. Here are a few of our favorite kid-friendly stops along the Seattle-to-Portland I-5 route.

the salmon creek burgerville in vancouver is a fine place to stop along i-5 with kids

The Salmon Creek Burgerville.

Exit 7: Burgerville. This Salmon Creek Burgerville (on the edge of Portland) is a fast-food diner that thinks it’s a restaurant – thank goodness. There’s outdoor seating, an indoor play area with crayons and a few toys and small kid-size picnic tables. Eat your local blackberry shake, Walla Walla onion rings or juicy natural-beef burger; on some weekends, you’ll also encounter no-cost kids’ events. Free wifi, too. Exit 76: Recreation Park and Penny Playground. If a three-year old designed a fort, it might look a bit like this park’s peaked playground: a delightful maze of levels, hiding spots and peek-a-boo corners. Even the stairs surprise here – they shake beneath your feet while leading you up to tunnels and turrets. A large grassy area encourages running, if you packed a boomerang, kite or frisbee. Cool off with the on-site spray park and pool in summer.

penny park in centralia a good stop for kids off of i-5

At the Penny Park in Centralia

Exit 81: Olympic Club Hotel & Theatre. This historic building in the McMenamins chain offers lovely outdoor dining next to a train track, so kids can watch rail cars hustle through downtown Centralia. A cozy pub-style interior restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner; the movie theater and last-minute hotel may bail you out if there’s sudden snowfall or a four-hour traffic delay on the freeway. Exit 82: Burgerville. Yes, another Burgerville. But the Centralia location is the first that southbound travelers encounter and the last that northbound roadtrippers can dine at. Pick up a healthy kids’ meal (served with apples instead of fries, if you like) right at the halfway stopping point between Portland and Puget Sound.

Exit 88: Great Wolf Lodge. If you decide you’d like to make a stopover between Portland and Seattle, this is a popular destination. Read more about what to do in Grand Mound at 18 Tips for Visiting Great Wolf Lodge. 

Do you have a favorite kid-friendly restaurant, activity or playground along I-5?

The Best of Spokane with Kids

Our family first passed through Spokane back in 2001, on our I-90 Washington-to-New York driving adventure (with a toddler – yeah, we’ve always been crazy!). Spokane was cute — historic, turn-of-the-century buildings, a riverfront park and bustling college scene. I threw Spokane into my “bucket list” of destinations to visit in the future.

Fast-forward 9 years, and life finally afforded the opportunity to return. Here’s my guide to the best of this Inland Northwest city with kids:

Best place to spend the day in Spokane:

Riverfront Park is one of the most adorable urban parks ever. The park’s 100 acres are packed with preschooler-friendly amusement park rides, an IMAX theater, the fast-spinning 1909 Loof Carrousel (a tiger and a giraffe are two of the unusual animals aboard) and a not-at-all-scary gondola over the Spokane Falls.

Spokane Riverfront Park's Golden Arm

Trying to grab the ring from the Looff Carrousel's "Golden Arm"

Families meander along picturesque, Euro-style bridges and beneath a 1901 Clocktower, slide down a giant Radio Flyer wagon and feed a garbage-eating metal goat. Save money and buy the day pass (in summer, add-on the Skyride and get the whole deal for around $20).

Best way to spend a too-hot afternoon or too-rainy morning:

The deceptively humble Mobius Kids Children’s Museum, housed in a downtown Spokane River Park Square mall. While the 16,000 square foot facility doesn’t look like much at first, my kids loved driving little plasma cars around the streetlight-enhanced Cooper’s Corner; buying fish and sundries from a Filipino market and paddling a canoe in the Bayanihan exhibit; and dressing up in the Globe Theatre. It’s a cute stop worth an hour or so, particularly with preschool-aged kids.

Riding a plasma car through Mobius Kids' streets

Best place to chill out in Spokane:

Families nestle into Auntie’s Bookstore’s nooks and cluster upon the  carpeted steps in the children’s area. You’ll find new and used, board books and chapter titles, cool kits and collectible tomes on the shelves. One of the best little bookstores I’ve seen in Washington State, and right next to Uncle’s Games, where you’ll find games to keep the kids entertained on the way home.

Most unique Spokane park:

Kids will always remember the accessible Discovery Playground, situated about 20 minutes outside downtown Spokane in the town of Spokane Valley. You’ll find adult-sized flowers, a sprinkler-filled play area, climbable rock walls and built-in trampoline. Caveat: No shade here – it’s you and smokin’ concrete and flamboyant sun. Perfect for heat seekers.

A child-friendly Spokane park

Hatching out of an egg at Spokane's Discovery Park

Best Spokane hotel with kids:

The heartbreakingly beautiful Davenport Hotel, which offers multiple floors of 1914-era details, a pool, a high-ceilinged reception area (complete with fish pond) and restored ballroom upon restored ballroom. My kids and I loved wandering the second story hallways, where photos are framed by elegant, restored moldings and take-your-breath-away ballrooms fit for a Queen. When booking a stay here, be sure to stay in the historic, restored hotel (not the newer tower), because the pool is in the historic building. If you’re staying with a train-crazed toddler, ask for a room that’s nearer to downtown Spokane’s rail line, and you’ll hear trains all night long (in our family, that was a good thing).

The gracious lobby at the Davenport Hotel

Best kid-friendly foodie restaurant in Spokane:

Sante places some of the best food this side of the Cascades on the table, in the form of omelettes, sandwiches, soups and risottos. We ate breakfast here on our last day. Had I known about the quality beforehand, I would’ve eaten here for breakfast, lunch and dinner on every occasion, bathed in the restaurant’s wall of window light. The charcuterie and dining menu changes weekly, so I won’t bother telling you what we had — but suffice it to say that they’ll always make something delectable for adults and kids to eat. Don’t miss the pastry and sweets case – we picked up hand-made sour fruit candies for the kids.

An omelette at Sante, a kid-friendly Spokane foodie restaurant

An omelette at Sante, a kid-friendly Spokane foodie restaurant

Best kid-friendly crepe restaurant in Spokane:

Madeleine’s Café and Patisserie, located right downtown, whips up seasonal crepes from scratch. Order from the counter, then sit inside among the bistro-chic tables or head outside (like local families do) to eat al fresco beneath Madeleine’s blue awnings. Before you leave, pick out an eclaire or macaron for later. Yeah, it’ll get smushed in the backpack, but it’ll still be delicious.

Best kid-friendly Italian in Downtown Spokane:

The plush, floral-fabric chairs might make you a little nervous about the quality and kid-friendliness of Europa’s cuisine. But those chairs are awfully comfortable after a day of sightseeing, and the classical music soothes jangled nerves. Tangy bread is delivered to your table – you’ll probably be fighting over the crumbs before your main dishes arrive. I recommend anything made with the pesto cream sauce. The kids loved the “make your own pizza” option; even a small pizza was too much for my kids to polish off.

Best place to pick up food to eat in your room:

The interior of Moxie restaurant is a better fit for couples — and a little fancy for my children after a full day of sightseeing. However, quality Asian-fusion cuisine is always a hit in our home. Excellent, not-too-spicy (unless you want it) fare; it’s not cheap, but the ingredients are top-notch, as is the preparation.

Best place to buy toys in Spokane:

With little kids, head to Whiz Kids Toys, where I was interested to find all the toys organized by subject (toy shop owners: this is a great idea). All the horse books, toys and other equine gear is in one place. If you’re in the market for big-kid jokes, cool collectibles, awesome books and vintage fun, check the shelves at Boo Radley’s. With so many eclectic finds, you’ll be sure to pick up an oddball gift you’ve never seen anywhere else.

Best place to stop on I-90:

Ellensburg, Washington, located about midway between Seattle and Spokane. In Ellensburg, families can dig into breakfast or lunch at the popular Yellow Church Café, where the only thing sinful is the cinnamon roll. Afterward, walk a block to Dick and Jane’s Spot, a fun-show of odd lawn art. Kids will either love the house or get spooked.

Have you been to Spokane with kids? Do you have any recommendations for our readers?

Read more about Spokane’s kid-friendly options at Visit Spokane.

12 Tips for Green Family Travel

At one Portland hotel, Earth Day isn’t a once-a-year event.

Every day, The Doubletree Hotel diverts 68% of its waste stream from landfills, composts up to 17 tons per month and purchases more than half of their food products seasonally within a 500-mile region. You can even offset your travel footprint from the hotel’s website.

As more hotels become eco-aware, they’re offering choices to families concerned about the environment. And some changes adopted industry-wide – like the option to skip washing your sheets during your stay – also save hotel-owners money.

“Green travel has become part of mainstream travel,” says Brian T. Mullis, of Sustainable Travel International, a Washington State-based not-for-profit organization that helps visitors and worldwide businesses go greener.

We asked Mullis for tips on how to green your hotel stay, restaurant visits and transportation options. Here are his suggestions:

Transportation:

1. Cut your carbon. Use a carbon calculator to figure out your travel carbon footprint. Lessen or eliminate transportation-related carbon emissions, by offsetting emissions every time you travel.

2. Train your kids. Train travel requires half as much energy per passenger mile, compared to an airplane. In the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver are all connected by Amtrak Cascades (and kids travel at 50% off).

3. Pack lighter. Apply the golden rule of packing when traveling by plane, train or car: Organize everything you want to bring with you, and then cut it in half. Why? Additional weight requires more fuel and produces more carbon dioxide emissions. You can always wash clothes while you’re away, read and swap books, and rent equipment (like camping gear or skis).

4. Seat yourself. Biking is another great, green way to see a region at a gentle pace. Or in some cases, to sightsee at the local’s pace, since bicycle transportation is very popular in some countries and in some regions of the U.S., like Portland.

Hotel Stays:

5. Waste not. Don’t add to the waste stream. Ask hoteliers to recycle any paper, plastic and glass recyclables that you leave in your room. Bring your own shampoo and soap. Or request that the soap, shampoo and other amenities that are provided only be replaced if they’re empty.

6. Chill out. Turn off your air conditioner or set it a few degrees higher when away from your room. If it’s a cool time of year, keep the heat thermostat reasonable — not set at t-shirt and shorts temperature.

7. Burn less. Turn off lights, television and other appliances when not in use, just like you do at home. Appliances and computers can leak up to 20 watts of energy even when turned “off,” so if you’re staying somewhere for a few days, consider unplugging appliances you don’t intend to use.

Dining Out:

8. Go local. Eat local foods at local restaurants, not chains, so that the money goes back to the local community. Choose local snacks and drinks, and you might discover a new favorite food. But this isn’t hard and fast – Portland’s Burgerville and McMenamins are both good examples of restaurant chains that have a heightened awareness due to their eco-savvy customers.

9. Buy organic. Pesticide- and hormone-free, certified organic food is better for the planet and your body. But organic certification isn’t available worldwide, and when it is, it’s often very expensive. This means that not every organic farmer is certified. Ask about organic practices and use your own judgment.

10. Choose sustainable seafood. Many species are falling victim to over-fishing with predictions of global seafood resources depletion by the middle of the century, if we don’t change our habits. Check out Seafood Choices Alliance, Seafood Watch or Ocean Wise.

11. Ask questions. The best way to find out if your vegetables are organic, your fish is sustainable, or your milk is hormone-free is to ask the waiter, the restaurant manager, the grocer or the farmer you are purchasing it from.

And most importantly:

12. Talk to your kids. Mullis suggests that when you make green choices, talk about your intentional decisions with your kids. Let the kids know why you’re turning off the lights or choosing one seafood dish over another. Hopefully, they’ll follow your lead.

Find more travel-green tips at Eileen Ogintz’s Travel green for Earth Day and read this article on long-haul family train travel in my article for E Magazine, “Riding the Rails.”

Do you have any ideas to share?

10 Family-Friendly Restaurants in Portland

Lucky you, going to Portland, Ore., with the kids. So many amazing dining spots, and so little time. I’m giving you a quick rundown of my favorite Portland kids-welcome restaurants, from cheap to chic, granola to gut-busting.

Kid-friendly restaurants in Portland, Oregon

1. Vita Café. Even meat eaters will devour the vegan vittles at this café. Take a seat at one of the booths, order off of the extensive vegetarian and meaty menu. Then head back to the waiting area, where you’ll find two small containers stuffed with table-ready toys (cars, plastic figurines, you know, all the stuff you mean to bring to the restaurant but forget at home). Kids’ menu items are only $1 on weekday nights between 5 and 7 p.m., a total deal. Don’t try passing yourself off as a kid, even if you are a short adult. It never works, dang.

2. Mother’s Bistro & Bar. City swank atmosphere, serious comfort food.  I love Mother’s for breakfast, but so does every other family. Make reservations, arrive at the crack of dawn, whatever you have to do to sit in the restaurant’s center, surrounded by gilded mirrors and chattering families. It’ll make your little girl feel like a princess. And that’s before the chocolate-chip-flecked mouse-face pancake arrives.

kid-friendly laughing planet cafe in portland oregon

Dinosaur train at Laughing Planet, Ecotrust Building

3. Laughing Planet Cafe. Now this is a green restaurant chain. Order your food with a few greenbacks. Then, kids play with emerald dinos while waiting for their cilantro-sauced bowl of goodies to appear (the restaurant borrows heavily from Mexican cuisine). Afterward, you’ll bus your own table, sorting leftovers into their proper ecological receptacles. Perfectly Portland. And damn good. And cheap. No item on the children’s menu breaks $3.50.

4. Hopworks Urban Brewery. This sustainability-focused spot knows what families like, and the restaurant is just a short drive from OMSI. Ask for seat near the kids’ play area, where preschoolers toddle about with trains and play-pizza sets. Older children busy themselves with stretchy pizza dough, but the wait is never too long for your organic-tomato pizza or grilled-chicken sandwich. What’s on tap for baby? Earth’s Best baby food, naturally. For adults, I recommend the handcrafted beer sampler.

A pomegranate, orange and whipped cream waffle. For real.

5. Waffle Window. Fruit. Whipped Cream. Exotic toppings (Pumpkin pie? YES!). It’s what your kids wish you served them every morning. You must go. That’s all there is to it. You really order at a window. Then you take the dishes inside of an adjoining restaurant (yes, a little odd) and share a long table with whoever else is eating waffles that morning; you may be able to get a two-top along the window or outside, as well. Doesn’t matter. You still must go. It’s on Hawthorne’s busy street — after finishing, you can browse bookstores and toy shops.

6. Staccato Gelato. Nestled in the vintage vibe of Portland’s Sellwood district, Staccato serves up perfect bowls of egg-enriched gelato. But you can also order the kids a PB & banana panini (Elvis missed out). They’ll run off to play in the mini-sized children’s corner, decorated with a fanciful, silhouetted cityscape, while you get to drink your coffee in (near) peace. There’s another location at NE 28th as well, but I like this one because it’s close to the roller rink at Oaks Amusement Park.

7. Burgerville. At this 50s-themed, Portland-grown restaurant chain, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef goes into your burger, seasonal berries mix up your shake and native sweet potatoes transform your fries. The kids’ meals provide (upon request) apples instead of fries and milk instead of pop. The music-loaded jukebox is all the entertainment you’ll need, because the food arrives within a few minutes of ordering. Great in a pinch, with multiple locations throughout Portland and along I-5 North up to Centralia, Wash., and a solid alternative to Other National Fast Food Chains.


Friday night jam at Mississippi Pizza

8. Mississippi Pizza Pub. Mismatched furniture and  set the stage for fun at this community pizza joint. Always check the calendar before arriving — the pub’s offerings include live music shows for kids, kids’ spelling bees, and evening entertainment that starts at a family-friendly 6 p.m. With so much going on (particularly on weekends), there’s no excuse for skipping a set. Oh, and the pizza’s good too — your choice of whole-wheat, regular or gluten-free, plus lotsa toppings. Arrive during late afternoon, so you can walk through Mississippi’s busy, indie-biz neighborhood.

kid-friendly playroom at old wives tales restaurant in portland oregon

Playroom at Old Wives’ Tales

9. Old Wives’ Tales Restaurant. At Old Wives, kids are never an afterthought. This well-established restaurant offers playroom just for kids, a raucous, noisy affair where kids climb up, down and around a cutout featuring an underwater scene and a circus train. Of my listings here, Old Wives may offer the most options. Dozens of different items on the kids’ ala carte menu, including half a waffle or a turkey frank, so super-picky kids can have their pick.The food at Old Wives is very Cascadia granola. You know what I mean. Two words: carob mousse.

10. Laurelwood Brewing Company. I know. Another pub? It’s true, all we do in Cascadia is drink coffee and beer. With our kids playing in a kids’ play area. Don’t mess with success, baby. Laurelwood’s pubs offer a multiple-choice menu for adults and a small, low-walled play area for kids. The downside? All locations can become insanely busy with half-hour or 45-minute waits. The upside is that the Laurelwood NW Public House location is close to downtown and the Pearl, via a 10-minute ride on the cute Portland Streetcar. (As of publication, the NW location closed, but will be reopening in the spring of 2010).

Hmm. While writing this, I thought of 10 more. Guess I’ll have to save those for later.

Where do you like to dine in Portland, kids in tow?

Portland Family Vacation

Vancouver Kid-Friendly Restaurant: Little Nest

Little Nest is Vancouver, BC’s best kid-friendly restaurant.

This cafe in Vancouver, B.C. proves that a kid-friendly restaurant can offer amazing food, decent prices AND a play area. I’ve never had a meal here and thought, “eh.” No. I wonder, “How can I recreate this meal at home? And is it wrong to kidnap the chef?”

The owner, Mary MacIntyre, ensures that the restaurant’s breakfast and lunch menu focuses on local, seasonal and organic produce, so it’s constantly changing. A few items we’ve had include the eggs with local tomatoes, basil, radish and multi-grain baguette, house-made muesli with organic yogurt, fresh fruit “fries” with strawberry jam, and a brie sandwich that knocked my (mismatched) socks off.

The food here’s so good that kid-less grown-ups typically occupy all the two-top tables. And it’s so popular that we try to arrive right at opening; past experience has left us waiting for a place to sit.

Fruit fries!

Little vintage birds and highchairs complement the cafe’s retro, homey interior — wide wooden tables, low-slung couches, a bright white ceiling. The owner’s husband is an artist and salvager; those swank mid-century modern couches and cool tables were found via Craigslist, flea markets, demolitions and yard sales.

Cooking up a storm at Little Nest

Cooking up a storm at Little Nest

Toddlers and preschoolers busily prep and serve the play kitchen area. There’s also an awesome recliner and sweet 70s and 80s toys.

“The family friendly element was just a natural reflection of me, my needs as a parent and my philosophy of food and eating and living in general,” MacIntyre says. “It should be a shared experience.”

It’s a comfortable place. You want to linger, chat and watch the kids play. Unless, of course, waiting diners are eyeing your table hopefully.

Best for: families with younger children and foodies of all ages.

Where is this kid-friendly Vancouver restaurant?

Little Nest is located at 1716 Charles St., just off Vancouver’s countercultural-cool Commercial Drive. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Monday. Combine a breakfast or lunch at Little Nest with the Victoria Park playground, a few blocks away.