Family Day Trips from the Seattle Area

If you’ve only got a day, try one of these family-friendly daytrips from the Seattle area for winter break, spring break or a weekend escape:

Bellingham with kids daytrip

Take I-5 North to Bellingham and enjoy the town’s artsy vibe, parks and museums, then get a cool scoop at Mallard Ice Cream. In fact, there are over 20 family-friendly things to do in Bellingham.

If you don’t want to drive as far as Bellingham, try the picture-perfect, riverfront town of La Conner for spring’s tulip festivals or just to stroll streets stacked with bookstores, toy shops and museums.

A typical storefront in La Conner

Don’t forget to try the Banana Coconut Cakes at Calico Cupboard Cafe.

Time one-way to Bellingham: About one hour, 40 minutes.


Kitsap County with kids daytrip

A quick ferry from downtown Seattle delivers you to Bremerton, where you can pick up a pack of Belgian frites at Fritz European Fry House or tour the U.S.S. Turner Joy warship (my son loved the maze of sleeping bunks and chow hall).

Maybe you can find your sea-legs aboard the U.S.S. Joy — I obviously didn’t!

Drive up the peninsula to enjoy’s Poulsbo’s Nordic theme and the Poulsbo Marine Science Center (note: currently closed for repairs — keep an eye on their website), then end your day on Bainbridge Island’s KiDiMu. Ride the ferry home.

Time one-way to Bremerton: About one hour; round-trip drive time about two hours.

Olympia daytrip with kids

Visit Olympia’s stellar Hands On Children’s Museum with little kids or the Washington State Capitol Building with big kids. Then spend a few hours in the local toy stores, cafes and at Olympia’s April-December farmer’s market. Read more here: Daytrip: Olympia with Kids. Need more to do? On the way down, you can always make a stop at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and a 19th-century fort at Fort Nisqually’s Living History Museum.

Finding out what’s up with George at the Washington State Capitol

Time one-way to Olympia: About one hour


Snoqualmie Pass daytrip with kids

If the snow skipped your neighborhood, there’s still a chance of catching the white stuff up on Snowqualmie Pass, even into early spring. Whether sledding at Hyak, skiing at Summit West, tubing at Summit Tubing Center or just playing in the snow, the Cascades offer dramatic vistas of cloud-wrapped, evergreen-studded peaks. Read more at The Summit at Snoqualmie website.

Sledding and snowshoeing at Hyak

In summer, either enjoy the cool breezes or push on just a little further over the mountains and let the kids visit “The Other Washington,” featuring a dry, arid landscape and rolling hills of bleached grass. A prime pick: Washington’s weird little Petrified Gingko Forest (about 2 hours from Seattle; head to downtown Ellensburg for food).

Time: 45 minutes to 90 minutes, depending upon road conditions. Pack chains and check road conditions before leaving.


The Most Beautiful Villages and Towns of the Pacific Northwest

Still looking for that perfect last-minute gift? Last week, I picked up The Most Beautiful Villages and Towns of the Pacific Northwest by travel writer Joan Tapper, with lush photos by Nik Wheeler.

Tapper knows her stuff.  She’s the founding editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine and she’s a great judge on what makes for a beautiful destination– she highlights those smaller, quaint towns that feel like they’ve gracefully aged for the past 100 years. Each village or town is accompanied by text and large photographs; this is as much a coffee-table display book as it is a dream-guide of where to go during your lifetime.

The downside is obvious – it’s a pictorial wish list. You won’t find specifics, you won’t find much on what to do with kids. The price is steep at $40 USD, $45 CAN, yet understandable, due to the photo-heavy format. The book sells for considerably less on Amazon.com.

Regardless of these issues, if you (or your gift recipient) flips through the pages on a rainy, wintry day, you’ll find yourself taking mental notes for next summer. I think I’d like to head to Florence’s waterfront neighborhood and ride Kaslo’s streetcar. The photos and narratives complement each other; it would be difficult to imagine the Oregon Coast’s jagged haystack rocks and soft sand without a photograph. And without the text, you wouldn’t understand historical transformations that many of these towns went through, as logging and fishing economies fell away.

Which villages are covered in the book? Here’s a rundown. Do you agree? What was left off the list – and out of the book?

Oregon’s Most Beautiful Villages and Towns:

  • Albany and Brownsville
  • Ashland
  • Astoria
  • Baker City
  • Bandon
  • Cannon Beach
  • Florence
  • Hood River
  • Jacksonville
  • Joseph
  • McMinnville

Washington’s Most Beautiful Towns and Villages:

  • Coupeville
  • Ellensburg
  • Friday Harbor and Eastsound
  • Gig Harbor
  • La Conner
  • Oysterville, Ilwaco, Seaview and Long Beach
  • Port Townsend
  • Walla Wall and Dayton
  • Winthrop

British Columbia’s Most Beautiful Villages and Towns:

  • Fernie
  • Fort Langley
  • Fort Steele
  • Ganges
  • Ladysmith and Chemainus
  • Nelson and Kaslo
  • Revelstoke
  • Whistler