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 Trek: A Fabulous Seattle Day Trip

Several months ago, we visited Northwest Trek Wildlife Park for the first time. Located in rural Pierce County, Northwest Trek is a fabulous way to meet some of the Northwest’s critters up close and in the animals’ natural habitat — yes, at the same time.

The Tram Tour takes passengers on a 50-minute circular loop through tall grass, evergreen forest and past mountain-fed lakes. The guide kept up the informational, fact-packed patter on our trip, and answered all and any questions — no question was too silly or small. She slowed so we could take photos of bison, bighorn rams and bull elk. Half the fun was watching the tramful of children get so excited at spotting well-camouflaged deer or

Reindeer harem at kid-friendly Northwest Trek in Tacoma

A reindeer harem at Northwest Trek. Really, that’s what it’s called…

The animals are obviously used to visitors; I swear a few posed for the excited toddlers and preschoolers (and photo-taking parents). The tram tour was my favorite part, but the guides make it clear that the tram is not stopping or turning back, so it’s not a good idea for babies, overtired and upset preschoolers or well, claustrophobes.

Once off the tram, we splashed in puddles along the pavement on the Walking Tour. The kids (being kids) often spotted the  creatures faster than adults did, from black bears to turkey vultures.

Walking Tour at NW Trek

Walking Tour at NW Trek

The Cheney Family Discovery Center resembled one of the better National Park visitor centers. Here, kids could touch pelts, compare their armspan to an eagle’s or play with puppets.

Cheney Family Center NW Trek

Measuring up at NW Trek’s Cheney Family Center

I’d like to go back and try the ziplines, which welcome kids from ages 6 and up; we’ll need to make a reservation to try those.

I didn’t love the cafeteria food in the cafeteria, however, and I didn’t love the nonexistent breakfast options. I would bring a lunch, next time, or drive to Tacoma, about 45 minutes away.

It’s not cheap ($18.25 for adults), you’ll often find Northwest Trek deals and coupons, if you keep an eye out. For example, the Chinook Book offers one free youth admission with one paid adult admission.

The story behind Northwest Trek (part of Metro Parks Tacoma) is fascinating and beautiful; read more about Connie Hellyer, the woman who donated the land.

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?

Free & Cheap Fun with Kids for Winter Holiday Break

What are you doing this week? Check out these lists of great cheap and free fun in our region — and maybe add a few more of your own. These lists were written in summer, so you’ll have to gloss over some suggestions and skip those fountains (brr). But you should find plenty of fantastic activities here. And if you’ve already done everything in your own city, plan a weekend getaway trip to a nearby city and take advantage of their fab freebies:

Best Kids’ Bookstores in Cascadia

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do with Kids in Vancouver, BC

10 Things to Do with Kids in Vancouver (Rainy Day Edition)

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Victoria, BC with Kids

Free Museums in Seattle and Tacoma

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do with Kids in Seattle

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do with Kids in Portland, Oregon

Portland Freebies: Free and Cheap Portland Attractions

Museum Madness: Free Northwest museum entry on September 25

On September 25, 2010, you and a guest can gain free entry to one of the Pacific Northwest’s fabulous museums, thanks to the Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day.

Go to the site to see the complete list, but for family-friendly options, here are my picks and why you should go:

Portland Area:

Obviously, the Puget Sound offers the most kid-friendly picks, and my money (or lack thereof) would be on enjoying Seattle that weekend.

Read more about Museum Day, including rules and requirements, at the Smithsonian Magazine’s website.

Where do you think you’ll go?

Free Museums in Seattle and Tacoma with Kids

Seattle Art Museum: A museum that participates in free museums

Seattle Art Museum

Updated for Summer 2013

Here’s a rundown of Seattle’s free museums. I’ve included my opinion on the ages that will get the most out of the experience.

Every Friday Free Seattle Museum:

Soundbridge at Benaroya Hall. 200 University St.,  Seattle; 206-336-6600. Pay-what-you-can every Friday from 10-4. Suggested donation $5-15/family. Best for children under age 6.

First Thursday Free Seattle Museums:

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Free. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., University of Washington, NE 45th Street and 17th Avenue NE; 206-543-5590. Best for kids age 3 and up.

Henry Art Gallery. “Pay as you wish” (or free) 11 a.m.-9 p.m. First Thursday, University of Washington, NE 45th Street and 17th Avenue NE. Best for kids age 6 and up.

KiDiMu. Free 10-4,301 Ravine Lane NE,  Bainbridge Island. 206-855-4650. Best for the 6 and under set.

Museum of Flight. Free 5-9 p.m., 9404 E. Marginal Way S.; 206-764-5720. Best for kids age 3 and up.

Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). Free 10 a.m.-8 p.m., 860 Terry Avenue N ; 206-324-1126. Best for kids age 3 and up.

Nordic Heritage Museum. Free 10 a.m. -4 p.m., 3014 NW 67th Street,
Seattle; 206-789-5707. Best for kids age 6 and up, but the museum often offers preschool-targeted storytimes on first Tuesdays.

Northwest African American Museum. Free 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., 2300 S. Massachusetts St.; 206-518-6000. Best for kids age 6 and up. Also free on the second Thursday of the month.

Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Free 10 a.m.-9 p.m. First Thursday, 100 University St.; 206-654-3100. Best for kids age 5 and up.

Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM). Free 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Volunteer Park, 1400 E. Prospect St., Seattle; 206-654-3100. Best for kids age 6 and up. Also free on the second Thursday from 5-9 p.m.

Wing Luke Asian Museum. Free 10 a.m.-8 p.m., 719 S. King Street; 206-623-5124. Best for kids age 8 and up, except during”Family Day” on third Saturday.

First Friday Free Tacoma & Bellevue Museums:

Children’s Museum of Tacoma. Free admission from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., 936 Broadway Ave., Tacoma, 253-627-6031. Best for kids age 6 and under. Museum is typically “pay as you will.”

Bellevue Arts Museum. Free admission from 11 a.m.-8 p.m., 510 Bellevue Way NE; 425-519-0770. Here is BAM’s cool guide to visiting the art museum with your family.

First Saturday Free Seattle Museum:

Seattle Asian Art Museum. Free admission from 10 a.m. -5 p.m. on “Family Day,” with arts activities and movies.

Third Thursday Free Tacoma and Bellevue Museums:

KidsQuest Children’s Museum. Free admission from 5-8 p.m., 4091 Factoria Square Mall SE, Bellevue, 425-637-8100. Best for kids 6 and under.

Tacoma Art Museum. Free 10 a.m. — 8 p.m., 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253- 272-4258. Best for kids age 6 and up.

Museum of Glass. Free 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 1801 Dock St., Tacoma. 1-866-4-MUSEUM. Best for kids age 7 and up.

Washington State History Museum. Free 2 p.m.-8 p.m. 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, Toll-free 1-888-BE THERE (1-888-238-4373). Best for  kids age 3 and up.

Third Friday Free Everett Museum:

Imagine Children’s Museum. Free admission from 5-9 p.m., 1502 Wall St., Everett. 425-258-1006. Best for babies and up.

Third Saturday Free Museum in Seattle

Wing Luke Asian Museum. “Family Day,” with arts activities included, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Free Seattle Museums — Free all the time:

Center for Wooden Boats. 10 a.m. – 8 p.m during summer, 1010 Valley Street, Seattle, 206-382-2628. Best for kids age 5 and up.

Frye Art Museum. Tuesday through Saturday  10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday,  Noon to 5 p.m., 704 Terry Avenue Seattle, 206-622-9250. Best for kids age 5 and up.

Olympic Sculpture Park. 30 minutes prior to sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset; 2901 Western Avenue, Seattle, 206-654-3100. Best for kids age 2 and up.

Seattle Children’s Museum. “Pay as you wish” last hour of the day (4-5 p.m.). 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, 206-441-1768. Best for ages 6 and under.