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.

 

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.

North Oregon Coast with Kids

Check out that view to the right of this post. Looks pretty sweet, right? The photo wasn’t taken in Cannon Beach, Seaside or Lincoln City, but in the tiny burg of Pacific City, on The Pelican Pub’s outdoor, beach-facing deck. If you’re ready to explore further, along the North Oregon coast, consider these 11 options (heading from south to north, about two hours if you’re driving straight through). Whether you want to watch whales or watch storms for spring break or just book your summer getaway, there’s a town for you:

Newport. One of my favorite coastal towns for activities, dining and accommodation options. Kids love the Newport Aquarium and the Mark O. Hatfield Science Center and there are multiple delicious restaurant options. Skip anything titled or associated with “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” or the Underwater Aquarium (ignore the coupons and discounts!) and spend your time on the beach instead.

Newport Aquarium

We stayed at The Hallmark Resort for just $99 for a lovely autumn-season oceanfront room. I also visited Elizabeth Street Inn and kitchen-equipped Greenstone Inn – they’re all great options; the latter doesn’t have the views of the first two, but there are suites available.

Depoe Bay. A slip of a town lining the Oregon Coast Highway. One recommendation: Stop at the donation-only Whale Watching Center (you won’t miss it, but it’s on the western side of the highway) to whale-watch on the western horizon. Trained volunteers will help you spot the distinctive spouts and kids can look at whale skeletons and facts. Although it’s an adorable town, I’m not sure I would stay here with younger kids, as the road traffic is very busy. More info: Depoe Bay.


Lincoln City. This was where my family vacationed when I was a kid. It’s a built-up conglomeration of mega-hotels, jam-packed antique stores, family fun centers and restaurants designed to feed and house thousands in summer. Sounds like fun? You’ll have a good time here. More info: Lincoln City.

Neskowin. As if designed in direct contrast to Lincoln City, the upscale town of Neskowin seems to say, “We want a piece of coastal peace.”  Here, the cozy grid streets are filled only with kids on bikes and city cars (cars filled with Costco buys — dining picks are slim to none).

Indy 500 vacationers not welcome in Neskowin

Dozens of hand-painted “slow down” signs decorate houses, electrical posts and fences. Look for rental houses through VRBO or Grey Fox (not much in the way of hotels, either). This town is very cute, and just right for the family wanting to get away from it all. More info: Neskowin.

Pacific City. Incredible views and good eatin’ put Pacific City on the map. Sit right in the shadow of a haystack rock (one of a few along the North Oregon Coast)  and drink a beer on Pelican Pub’s porch and watch the kids play in the sand. Breakfast or lunch at kid-friendly, window-surrounded The Grateful Bread is always a wise idea. The well-heeled Inn at Cape Kiwanda has a wine and cheese hour, lovely views, cute giftshop with kids’ toys and a DVD rental option; I loved this homey hotel. A caveat: The rooms can get noisy, as sit right on the two-lane highway.

Pelican Pub, Pacific City

In the morning, drive north from Pacific City along the Three Capes highway, which winds through mountains and valleys to heart-stopping viewpoints.More info: Pacific City.

Oceanside. It makes me nauseous to look at the houses built into the cliffs – but at the same time, I absolutely want to stay in one of the tottering homes (I’ll just pray that my stay won’t coincide with an earthquake or tsunami). The Oceanside community is tiny, at just 326 residents, so the town’s another quiet get-away spot.

Oceanside’s steep hills

One coffeeshop, (Brewin’ in the Wind), one upscale restaurant (Roseanna’s Oceanside Cafe). Not much on the web for Oceanside, other than a rather useful real estate broker’s website.

Garibaldi. Founded in 1867, but there’s not much to draw crowds today. Skip it, unless you really want to visit the Myrtlewood Factory Outlet. More info: Garibaldi.

Rockaway Beach. Vacation homes, antique shops and a family fun center line the streets of this small destination town. It welcomes all visitors — Upper Crust pizzeria even dishes up a gluten-free pizza. The famous 7-mile sandy beach is a treasure for families. More info: Rockaway Beach site and Greg Goes to Rockaway Beach.

Wheeler. A quaint two-block town with a romantic and rustic vibe. No beach here in the town proper, just lovely views of ships and piers. A pleasant getaway for mom and dad at the B&B-style Wheeler Inn. More info: Wheeler city site.

Nehalem. This town is unusual for the area; it’s located on Nehalem River, not the ocean. It’s a touch warmer too, removed from the cooling Pacific winds. Houseboats bob, and a vintage village vibe hums in summer. Hanging flower baskets decorate white-painted porches.

Nehalem’s false-front buildings

It’s not far from the Nehalem Bay State Park, a perfectly picturesque campground featuring yurts, a playground, campsites — all amid short pine trees and twisted sitkas. More info: Nehalem city site.

Manzanita. If you love Cannon Beach’s views but want to get away from the crowds, Manzanita’s a stellar selection. Well-heeled restaurants, spas, yarn shops, bookstores; like a mix of a New England village and Oregon coast. Manzanita attracts repeat visits from families, year after year. Look for a vacation rental, but book it early or go off-season, because most families made plans last summer for this summer.  More info: Manzanita site.


What’s YOUR favorite family-friendly Oregon Coast town, village or city?

Spotlight: Seattle Whirligig!

For the next month, the circus-themed Whirligig event offers a dry escape on rainy Seattle days. The Center is now full of 10 bounce houses – a few gentle ones for children under age 3, many enormous houses for older kids.

Face painters turn regular children into princesses and Spider-Men, cartoonists create pics of mom-and-kid duos and live entertainment lights up the Center House’s stage.

Seattle Center Whirligig with kids

Human gumballs?

Here are a few tips we gleaned from the staff:

  1. Stash cash. Tickets or passes can only be bought with cash. There is an ATM machine available, but it might be best to bring cash with you.
  2. Buy passes ($7.50). The tickets just go too quickly – each trip through a bounce house requires a ticket, and a trip only takes about a minute or two.
  3. Bring a bag to put your kids’ shoes in. Shoes aren’t allowed on the bounce houses, and mom has to schlep them around. Parents sit outside of the bounce houses, so pack a book for yourself in that bag.
  4. Tote water and snacks. Kids get sweaty and thirsty in a hurry. The Seattle Center food court is yucky and expensive, with the exception of Starbucks (the kids’ snack pack saved our day). Wish we’d brought our own.
  5. Go early, when the Whirligig first opens, or go late, when it’s about to close. We went at 4:30 p.m., and it was perfect for the next hour and a half, until we were bounced out of the place.

Whirligig at Seattle Center

That night, they slept. Hard. A+ for Whirligig.

Find more travel fun at DeliciousBaby’s weekly Photo Friday.

Seattle Family Vacation

Aquariums to Volcanoes: 25 spring break ideas

So, what are you doing for spring break? A whole week — and me without plans. So I came up with a list of 25 great ways to spend your family time, from half-day museum visits to multi-day resort experiences.

1. Go tidepooling at Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Ore, Shi Shi Beach, Wash., or Botanical Beach in Port Renfrew, BC.

2. You’ve done 3D – now go for the 4D experience at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, BC.

3. Spend the night on an active volcano — sleep at the National Park Inn on Mt. Rainier.

4. Skip the petting zoo and go on a farm stay.

5. Park your car — you won’t need it in the pedestrian wonderland of Whistler, BC  — then slip down the slopes at the Tube Park.

6. Identify wildflowers on an Oregon-based Columbia Gorge hike.

7. Expose the kids to art – for free – at a Seattle museum.

8. Look for Pokemon toys at the Asian-Canadian supermall Aberdeen Centre in Richmond, BC.

9. Go for a family ride in one of the most “bike friendly cities” in the U.S.: Portland, Ore.

10. Visit Spokane’s Riverfront Park, a family-friendly playground with 15 super-cool attractions.

11. Touch Moon meteorites and Martian rocks at OMSI’s Space exhibit, in Portland, Ore.

12. Look for the Ogopogo Monster in Lake Okanagan, BC.

13. Watch glassblowers create liquid art in the Museum of Glass Hot Shop in Tacoma, Wash.

14. Ride the new Rose Carousel at the Butchart Gardens.

15. Visit the sea lion caves in Florence, Oregon.

16. Use coupons for family-friendly fun on Central Vancouver Island, BC.

17. Go whale watching among the San Juan Islands, Wash.

18. Take the kids skiing – for free – on Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor.

19. Chill out at Harrison Hot Springs in Harrison, BC.

20. Dig into the prehistoric past at the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute in Fossil, Ore.

21. Tour the weird and wacky Roadside America stops around Cascadia.

22. Fly a kite or dig for clams in Long Beach, Wash.

23. Ride the Mount Hood Railroad in Mt. Hood, Ore.

24. Let the kids bounce off (someone else’s) walls at Sky High Sports in Bellevue, Wash.

25. Close your eyes, point to a map of BC, Washington and Oregon. Where did your finger land? Drive there. Tell me what you find.

Or do you have a spring break hot spot to share? Tell us all about it…