Washington Water Parks & Water Slides

Washington State Waterparks

Washington State Waterparks: Birch Bay Waterslides

Need a way to cool off the kids this summer? Try one of Washington’s waterparks, where children (and parents) can ride down giant water slides, splash in water sprayparks, dump buckets of water on friends, play in a wet-sand playground or just chill in the pool. If you’re within an hour or two of the Washington-BC border, you may want to read this piece on BC Water Parks.

Ready? Let’s splash.

Water Parks in Western Washington

Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington.

Washington State’s mega-water park that draws visitors from BC and Oregon, this indoor water park offers year-round fun — as long as you spend the night. No day passes here, folks. So with your night’s stay, you’ll also get admission to the indoor water tree fort, a crazy funnel water slide, rafting slides and four story flumes, among other wet ‘n’ wild stuff. For younger kids, there are kiddie slides, water guns, a wave pool and water basketball. Overstimulating, expensive, and well, kids love it.

Wild Waves, Federal Way, Washington State.

Washington State’s other water park, in an infamously temperature-variable area. You could end up riding water slides in mid-summer rain, under overcast skies or in glorious sun — perhaps  all in the same day. That said, this water park’s prices are a good value for bigger kids who are tall enough to ride the park’s multiple giant water slides  (42″ or taller) like Zooma Falls or Konga River and Slides. For younger children there’s the pirate-themed “Pirate’s Cove” spray playground. Look for coupons and passes to cut costs.

Birch Bay Waterslides, Birch Bay, Washington.

This year is Birch Bay’s 30th year of running a low-key outdoor waterpark alternative to the Big Boys (see above). They’re adding a pizza restaurant this year, and are planning to run lots of giveaways and discounts this year to honor their anniversary. The half-dozen slides include curlicue, straight-shot and drop chute rides, along with a children’s slide and tube slide. Nothing too fancy, just a nice way to cool down in summer.

Henry Moses Aquatic Center, Renton, Washington.

A great outdoor aquatic center with zero-depth entry (like a beach) suitable for toddlers, along with a toddler area; for bigger kids, a lazy river with tubes and a wave-machine enhanced pool, a spray area, an island lagoon, two big water slides, a water play structure. At just $14 per person over age 5 ( non-resident), not bad. Sells out fast though, so line up early.

Sprayparks and Wading Pools, Seattle, Washington.

Seattle’s communities are watered in summer by the City of Seattle’s wading pools and spray playgrounds (sprayparks). None of these are quite as wonderful as the ones in Vancouver BC,  but they’re not bad, if you’re in town. The lakes and shorelines of Seattle are also popular, and many have shallow depths suitable for toddlers/preschoolers, along with lifeguards.

 

Water Parks in Eastern and Central Washington

Blaster Ride: Slidewaters Waterpark in Central Washington

Blaster Ride: Slidewaters Waterpark in Central Washington

Splash Down Family Water Park, Spokane, Washington.

Six-story slides, body slides, tube slides, dark slides, four-story-tall bowl slides for big kids, teens and adults. For younger fry — a toddler/preschool-aged area with toddler slides, splashketball, a space where you can refill your water guns, and another area where you can launch water cannonballs at other people (who will hopefully remain your friends and family). For a less-expensive water experience, head upstream to the water jets and splashpads at Discovery Playground in Spokane Valley.

Surf ‘n’ Slide Water Park, Moses Lake, Washington.

Some municipal pools just do it right. This outdoor waterpark is like a mini-amusement park, with big (200 feet) and small slides, a lazy river, zero-depth entry points and a wet-sand playground for the littles and a surf simulator. Located off of I-90 between Spokane and the Cascades, this is a nice place to stop and cool off for a few hours. Admission $8-10 pp, so a pretty good deal.

Slidewaters, Lake Chelan, Washington.

The best  sunburn of my life came from this place, in eighth grade. I earned that burn. Slidewaters continues to thrill big kids and teens with the Downhill Racer and Purple Haze slides, and dependably sunny weather. In the past year, this small park recently added a long lazy river for summer tubin’. Wear your sunscreen.

Asotin County Family Aquatic Center, Clarkston, Washington.

Southeast Washingon’s place to slip down body slides, ride tubes down a slide or around a lazy river, a wave pool with kid-friendly zero-depth entry, and an adventure spraypark. There’s a giant indoor pool as well, with fountains, zero-depth entry and sprinklers, if you just need a break from the Eastern Washington sun.

Suncadia Resort with Children: Trip Report

Cycling on the Suncadia Resort Paths

Cycling on the Suncadia Resort Paths

Recently, Josie Swanson, her husband and her two sons  (2.5 and 5.5) visited Suncadia Resort, just east of Washington’s Cascade mountains. She shared some new restaurants she found (which sound SO good) and activities at the resort. Let’s hear more!

How did you like Suncadia Resort? What kinds of things did you do with the kids while at the resort?

The kids liked the playgrounds, water slides/pool/hot tub, hiking/biking/scootering around, seeing lots of wild animals (elk and deer), etc. I liked the sauna, steam room and gym. It was a great place to run (except for the altitude!).

I didn’t do the spa, but would next time. We stayed in the Lodge one-bedroom and a full kitchen and a washer and dryer was nice. It would be fun to be there in the winter to use the ice-skating rink and do other snow sports.

The thing I liked a lot about Suncadia is how CLOSE it is to Seattle. We hate long drives. The trip back was so fast! And the service was great, too.

In Cle Elum, we took the kids to Interactive Toys, which is now called The Plaza. She’s going to still have toys, but fewer, and is adding in some other things.

Where did you eat with your kids at Suncadia or in Roslyn?

The Roslyn Cafe has new owners as of December and was really good and kid-friendly! Kind of reminded me of Endolyne Joe’s and some other Seattle places. Full bar, great drinks!

The newish Roslyn cafe Pie in the Sky was excellent and the brunches were better than Seattle brunches. Rustic, down-home, perfectly seasoned. I’d eat anything on the menu. The owner is AWESOME. We’d eat there all the time if out there more.

Village Pizza was good! Crust could be better, but the browned cheese on top was a nice touch. We were starving, so it was a hit with us.

The ambiance in the family dining room was terrible at The Brick Saloon. If you can’t go there without kids and eat in the bar (which is very cool), it may not be worth it.

Safeway is the only real store out there. The little natural foods store in Roslyn — Maggie’s Pantry — was very limited, but nice to have in a pinch.

Eating with Kids at Roslyn Cafe

Eating with Kids at Roslyn Cafe

Any caveats or things you wish you knew in advance about staying at Suncadia?

They do nickel and dime you. Our final bill for three nights was BIG.

Our good friends happened to plan a trip there that overlapped, and they have boys the same age as ours. Our friends also liked it a lot, except the nickel-and-diming and they only stayed two nights and felt that they needed three.

I can only compare this place to places like Alderbrook, Semiahmoo, Sleeping Lady and Surfsand. We thought it was substantially better than most.

Running on the Suncadia Resort paths

Running on the Suncadia Resort paths

 

Read more: Suncadia Resort Hotel Review with Kids and Kid-Friendly Roslyn Picks

Whale Watching in Washington State with Kids: Seattle, San Juan Islands & Beyond

Whale watching tours near Seattle

Orca Whales. Photo via NOAA.

Three resident orca whale pods (family groups of whales) circle our waters  June through September — along with visiting orcas in April, May, and late September and early October. Minkes, humpbacks and gray whales also pop up here and there, along with smaller whales such as white-sided dolphins. Whale-watching trips are fun for creature-crazy kids — the tours’ naturalists also point out the wild variety of birds, deer and other island or sea residents. Here’s a quick rundown of whale-watching trips in Puget Sound (Washington only), including prices and ages welcome aboard.

With young children, look into the short trips; older kids and teens can (probably) handle the longer cruises. Most of the excursions listed here are on bigger sightseeing boats (not the zodiac-style inflatables that are not typically recommended for young children).

Questions to ask about taking children on whale-watching trips:

  • Do children often ride the boat? (More to get an idea of the kid-friendliness of the tour company)
  • How many people do you take on outings?
  • Do you have kids’ activities on board, such as coloring books, toys, etc.
  • Is there a naturalist or marine biologist on board?
  • Is there a heated indoor space?
  • Is there an on-board restaurant?
  • Are there changing tables or a place to change my baby or child?
  • What do you suggest we bring with us? (Binoculars, route maps, snacks, bird ID guides — or are they supplied?)
  • What’s your cancellation policy?
  • What if we don’t see any whales? Do you offer a free trip or money back (or just tissues for the kids, boo hoo).

Whale Watching Options in Puget Sound (Seattle, Friday Harbor, Orcas Island, Bellingham) :

San Juan Excursions
Departs from: Friday Harbor, Washington State.
Ages: All ages
Kids ages 3 –12: $59
Tours last: 3-4 hour trips
Kid extras:  A children’s library, coloring crayons and books, a $1 snack bar, complimentary binocular use and a visit to the wheelhouse where they can “drive” the boat with the Captain.

San Juan Safaris
Departs from: Friday Harbor, Washington State.
Ages: All ages
Kids ages 2-12: $55
Tours last: 3 hours

Western Prince Whale & Wildlife Tours
Departs from: Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington State.
Ages: All ages on Western Prince II; Kids 6+ only on Western Explorer
Kids on WP II 2-12: $56; Kids on Explorer 6-12 $76
Tours last: 2.5-5 hours
Kid extras: On-board snack bar, coloring sheets, toys, two naturalists on boards who are kid-friendly.

Clipper Vacations
Departs from: Seattle, Washington State.
Ages: Age 6 and up. Clipper Folk Say: “The day is long, nearly 12 hours with all but 2.5 hours onboard the vessel.  It is a lot of sitting time to keep young kids entertained.  Although we often see whales along the way, the whale watch excursion itself is 2.5 hours including to/from the dock.”
Kids under age 12: $20
Tours last: All day (12 hours).
Kid extras: An experienced, family-friendly naturalist is on board; three decks seating up to 200 people; rent binoculars for $5/pair; changing table in washroom.

Puget Sound Express
Departs from: Port Townsend, Washington State.
Ages: All ages
Kids 2-10: $65
Killer Whale Tour lasts: 4 hours
Kid extras: Coloring offered to children; kids can accompany parents to the bridge to meet the Captain  (weather and conditions permitting).

Island Adventures
Departs from: Anacortes, Washington State.
Ages: All ages
Kids 3-12: $49+ (lots of deals though)
Tours last: 3-6 hours
Kid extras: Guests receive a 64-page color-photo wildlife viewing guide, free binocular use while on board.

Mystic Sea Charters
Departs from: Anacortes, Washington State
Ages: All ages
Kids 3-17: Start at $49
Tours last: 5-6 hours

Island Mariner
Departs from: Bellingham, Washington State.
Ages: All ages
Kids 4-17: $49
Tours last: 6.5 hours

Deer Harbor Charters
Departs from: Orcas Island (Rosario & Deer Harbor), Washington State.
Ages: All ages
Kids under 17: $42 & up
Tours last: 3.5 hours

Orcas Island Whales
Departs from: Orcas Island Ferry Landing, Washington State.
Ages: All ages
Kids 12 & under: $59
Tours last: 3.5 hours

13 Washington Spring Break Ideas for Families

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

Northwest Washington Family Spring Break Ideas

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

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

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

Puget Sound Family Spring Break Ideas

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

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

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

Washington Coast & Olympic Peninsula Family Spring Break Ideas

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

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

South and East Washington Family Spring Break Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Seattle Airport with Kids: Play Areas, Rocking Chairs and More

The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of the biggest in the Pacific Northwest, with non-stop flights daily to places like Paris, Dubai and Amsterdam. Whether you’re jetting for a distant land or coming into Seattle to enjoy the salmon and (evasive) sun, the Seattle Airport offers great play areas and one of the best central terminal areas I’ve seen in the world. Pull a rocking chair up to the massive windows and enjoy the view.

Seattle-Tacoma Airport Rocking Chairs with Kids

Play Areas for Kids at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

The airport’s cute play area attracts families to the intersection of the A and B concourses. (Here’s a map of the Seattle airport) It’s a lifesaver if a flight is delayed, or you need to check in extra early for an international flight. There’s seating for adults, and plenty for toddlers and preschoolers to do — kids love playing on the giant toys shaped like airport mainstays.

Children's Play Area at Sea-Tac

Children’s Play Area at Sea-Tac

 

In the restroom, there’s a child-sized step to make using the bathroom a little easier.

If you’re looking for a slower pace, the “Quiet Zone” at the B4 gate might be perfect for the family who’s seeking some peace from a hectic airport. Curl up with a book or a sleeping baby.

Family Restrooms at the Seattle airport

All restrooms have children’s changing facilities. There are also 13 family restrooms: one at the North Satellite, four at the South Satellite (including the train level), five on the A Concourse, two on B Concourse, one on D Concourse.

Areas for Nursing Moms at Sea-Tac

The play area offers a nursing room with a rocking chair.

Of course, in Washington State, moms are free (and encouraged) to nurse wherever they like, whenever they like. I’m not making it up — it’s a Washington State law. While it’s fine if you don’t breastfeed, breastfeeding in public is very normal throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The Rocking Chairs at Sea-Tac: Fun for everyone

Near the gorgeous, floor-to-ceiling central terminal window, Sea-Tac offers wooden rocking chairs, so you can rock a toddler and watch the aircraft on the airfield. Or let the kids rock while you eat lunch (this area is essentially the dining area for the food court).

Seattle-Tacoma Airport Rocking Chairs with Kids

Central Terminal Sea-Tac Rocking Chairs: Fun with Kids

“The central terminal debuted in 2005 and the rocking chairs became so popular they were virtually loved to death,” says Perry Cooper, airport media manager at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. “Our carpentry shop kept having to repair them when they broke to get them back out in the area. Since then we’ve ordered more than two dozen more and they are now found throughout the airport at different gates looking out the windows – even though they are supposed to be just for the central terminal.”

Family Extras: 

Like many airports in the U.S., Sea-Tac airport’s TSA also offers a time-saving family lane — look for it when you join the security line, or ask someone for help in finding it, particularly if you’re pushing a stroller.

 

Thanks to Perry Cooper for background information. Photos Courtesy Port of Seattle/Don Wilson.

How to Get Good Seats on the Victoria Clipper

The Victoria Clipper passenger ferry is an efficient, pleasurable way to travel between Seattle and Victoria, whether you’re with kids, as a couple or boating solo. While you can take ferries from Anacortes to Sidney, or Port Angeles to Victoria, the Clipper is the fastest (no-flight) way to reach Vancouver Island’s shores from Seattle, or vice versa.

However, the Victoria Clipper boards in groups, and if you’re in the dreaded last boarding groups, you won’t have your pick of seats. You may find yourself wedged between strangers in less-than-ideal spots without views of the gorgeous islands, inlets and mountains.

I personally love the window-side, table-seating area (even if I do have to share it with other travelers), the front of the boat, the upstairs, or seats with plenty of play-room nearby. So I really want a spot in one of the first boarding groups. Here are three ways to get a Victoria Clipper seat:

How to Get Great Seats on the Victoria Clipper

1. Travel with your children under age two. Parents with young children qualify for pre-boarding, so you (and your stroller and other gear) will get on first. If you have kids older than two or still need special assistance, you can ask (but no guarantee). Ask about pre-boarding options at check-in or when purchasing tickets.

2. Get your assignment early. Visit the Clipper offices in Seattle or Victoria, check in and get your assigned boarding seven days before departure. You don’t have to wait until day of departure to get your assigned seating — and almost everyone else will be doing that — instead, you can check in and get your boarding group up to a week (7 days) in advance.

3. Join the Commodore Club. Clipper passengers who often travel between Seattle and Victoria may wish to sign up for this club, which gives you points toward a free Clipper trip with every trip purchased. According to the person who signed me up, the frequent-boating Club also lets you join Boarding Group 1 when you purchase tickets (if this is not your experience, please let me know).

9 Awesome Seattle Day Trips with Kids

Just because you’re between vacations doesn’t mean you have to stay home. These nine fun excursions get the family out of the house for the day. Whether you have one or two hours or an entire 12 hours to drive, play and explore, you’ll find a great escape below.

Seattle to Whidbey Island Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Whidbey Island?

The Mukilteo ferry dock is about 35 miles north of Seattle, then there’s a half-hour sailing time to Clinton. Ferries run every half-hour on weekends and cost $24.85/RT for a family of four. Driving from Clinton to Fort Casey takes about 40 minutes.

Fort Casey batteries and bunkers fun for kids

Exploring the Fort Casey Batteries is always a fun thing to do with kids on Whidbey Island.

Things to do with kids on Whidbey Island on a day trip?

Seattle to Vashon Day Trip:

How long does it take to get to Vashon?

Take a ferry from West Seattle, then drive a few miles of two-lane country roads. Ferries leave about once an hour, and costs about $26/RT for a family of four in a car. Ferries run mostly once an hour, sometimes twice during peak hours, and sailing time is about 20 minutes.

Things to do with kids on Vashon Island on a day trip?

Seattle to Bainbridge Island Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Bainbridge Island?

A few miles to the downtown Seattle ferry dock. Ferries leave about once an hour, and a round-trip trip costs about $40 for a family of four in a car (with kids over age 6). Passenger-only (walk on) saves about $10 on that total, and most attractions are in the downtown Bainbridge core, which is more like a small town.

Things to do on a Bainbridge day trip with kids?

Seattle to Bremerton and Poulsbo Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Bremerton and Poulsbo?

Ferry from downtown Seattle to Bremerton takes about an hour for the crossing time, then you’ll need to drive another 17 miles to Poulsbo. Ferries leave once an hour – every 90 mins, and costs about $40/RT for a family of four in a car. You can return via Bremerton or push on to Bainbridge Island and sail back to Seattle from Bainbridge.

Things to do on a Bremerton and Poulsbo day trip with kids?

Seattle to Bellingham Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Bellingham?

Bellingham is about 90 miles via I-5, or around 1 h 30 m.

Things to do with kids in Bellingham on a day trip?

  • Watch a Tesla coil light up at the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention.
  • Learn about the beauty of nature and science at Mindport.
  • Sehome Hill Arboretum.
  • Take your teen to a movie at the Pickford Center.
  • Hike a trail at Larrabee State Park.

Seattle to LaConner Day Trip:

How long does it take to get to LaConner? 

Laconner is about 70 miles along I-5, so around 1 h 20 m.

Things to do with kids in LaConner on a day trip?

Pierce County Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Pierce County?

About an hour south along I-5, then along Hwy 167.

Things to do on a Pierce County day trip with kids?

Discovery Village toddler area a fun place to take kids in Gig Harbor

The toddler area at Discovery Village; it’s a fun little place to take kids in Gig Harbor.

Seattle to Tacoma Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Tacoma?

Tacoma is about 40 minutes south, along I-5.

Things to do with kids on a Tacoma day trip?

Seattle to Olympia Day Trip

How long does it take to get to Olympia?

About an hour south, along I-5.

Things to do with kids in Olympia day trip?

Seattle’s New Kid-Friendly Museum of History and Industry

Recently, my kids and I visited the new 50,000-square-foot facility of the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), which has now relocated to Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood’s Naval Reserve Building (Armory), right next to the Center for Wooden Boats. It’s easily accessible by South Lake Union Streetcar from downtown Seattle. The former museum was a place we visited…well, once.

What a difference $90 million and more exhibit space can make. Just walking into the into the museum’s Faye G. Allen Grand Atrium, you’re wowed. Planes soar overhead, the Toe Truck is parked in the corner and a tower of Seattle-centric signs and brands is arranged along Wall of Icons. Using small cranks, you can make an Ivar’s Clam dance, a cowboy raise and lower his pistol, and the Rainier beer sign light up. There’s some cool art (“Wawona,” an 11,000-pound sculpture carved from a dismantled schooner, that seems to grow up through the ceiling and down into Lake Union below) and an interactive exhibit that takes your photo and asks questions like, “How do you deal with all the rain?” and “How do you take your coffee?”

Atrium at MOHAI kid-friendly museum in Seattle

Atrium at MOHAI

The previous building also didn’t seem to consider the kids quite as much as it could. But now, children get in free (14 and under with an adult chaperone), and the museum’s exhibits regularly offer interactive aspects. In the main exhibit, “The Seattle Journey,” Kids can help build the railroad in a Simon-says like game…

Pounding railroad spikes at MOHAI

Pounding railroad spikes at MOHAI

watch a humorous short musical film on the 1889 Seattle Fire (really well done, in my opinion – watch for the glue pot’s star turn), and pull a casino-style slot machine to find out the fate of various early boomtown settlers. Push a button, and discover whether Puyallup is a Native American, Spanish, American or British word.

The Seattle Fire at MOHAI

The Seattle Fire at MOHAI

The history here covers Seattle’s Native American days through our “Wobbly” union period to today’s multicultural Pacific Rim-focused tech boom (although this section is quite small).

Looking over 1950s-era children's toys at MOHAI

Looking over 1950s-era children’s toys at MOHAI

Rotating exhibits are also engaging (I’ll cover those in a future post), and it looks like additional unoccupied room is available on other floors, so the museum could always expand in the future.

Compass Cafe

Compass Cafe at MOHAI

The Compass Café offers a lovely view of the water and boats. There are a good handful of children’s dining options: spaghetti ($3.95), pb&j half-sandwiches ($2.50), mac and cheese ($3.95). My kids loved the Compass Cookies, which turned their tongues blue.

Compass cookies at MOHAI

Compass cookies at MOHAI museum’s Compass Cafe

The front desk provided a children’s scavenger hunt, but honestly, we were so engaged in the museum’s hands-on activities that we didn’t have time to play the suggested games.

So I bought a membership; now we have one more wonderful way to spend a rainy day.

Bonus: Family and early-learning options, including Saturday morning “Family Lab.”

Read more about the hours and prices.

Last-Minute Kid-friendly Winter Escapes in Washington & Oregon

It’s not too late to go somewhere for winter vacation. Here’s a quick rundown (and a few opinions) on Destination Resorts’ getaway options in our area.

SUNRIVER RESORT

Web: Sunriver Resort

Location: Central Oregon

Phone: 541-593-1000

Sunriver Resort is my favorite property in our region. This winter, Sunriver is offering over 100 workshops, camps and childcare options through “Traditions.” Among the offerings: sleigh rides, snowshoe and caving tours, magic shows and Fort Funnigan (both of my kids gave the Fort their approval). I love the new indoor pool, generously sized condos, solid dining options and all the great options in Bend. It’s close to Mt. Bachelor, too, for the fresh-powder fans.

Sample rate: $189 for a lodge room. I recommend a vacation rental (usually the same price or less) when staying here; the kitchens make a huge difference in a pleasant family vacation. But the website doesn’t always work well (it was nonfunctional, this morning, for example)– call to get exactly what you want. Sunriver’s knowledgeable reservation agents are great.

 

SKAMANIA LODGE

Web: Skamania Lodge

Location: Southwest Washington

Phone: 800-221-7117

In the Columbia Gorge (and only about 45 minutes east of Portland), the Skamania Lodge offers Elf Story Time through December 29, along with s’more roasting and wine tasting (only for grown-ups). Check the event calendar for more information. There’s a page on “family offers” but honestly, nothing seems all that family-friendly, so I’d just stick with a rack rate unless you’re planning to eat in the restaurant (which is quite good).

Sample rate: $174

 

SUNCADIA RESORT

Location: Central Washington

Web: Suncadia Resort

Phone: 509-649-6400

Located about 90 minutes east of Seattle, Suncadia Resort has two popular waterslides, an indoor pool and outdoor sports galore (rope-tow sled hill, ice skating, cross-country skiing, and more) and s’mores by the fireplace. Campcadia offers childcare (so you can relax in your room with a good book, get a spa treatment or go out on a cross-country excursion). Check the current schedule for more information. The bad news: this place is quite sold out, and rooms that remain aren’t cheap. Activities are extra.

Sample rate: $349


RED LION HOTEL ON FIFTH AVENUE

Location: Seattle

Web: Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue

Phone: 206-971-8000

Maybe you just want to enjoy the big city’s pleasures, kids in tow. The Seattle Family Vacation Package includes an overnight stay, welcome bag with bottled water and snacks, a “Red the Lion” plushy, tix to the Woodland Park Zoo, overnight parking AND a $50 Chevron gas card. Not bad. I haven’t stayed here or visited the property yet, so if you end up going, e-mail me and let me know what you think. Here’s a quick link to the Tripadvisor reviews.

Sample Rate: $159