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.

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

Long Family Camping Trips in Washington State

Seattle-based parenting consultant Jenni Pertuset and her 8-year old daughter Meg like camping. No, scratch that – they love camping. The duo have camped for thousands of miles around Washington State for the past three years. Each year, they wrap a different theme around their two-week camping trips.

The first year, mother and daughter toured Olympic Peninsula destinations Jenni visited with her parents, when Jenni was a child. She revisited these places, in part, to remember her father, who had recently passed away.

The second year followed Lewis and Clark’s westward water route in Washington by road, starting from Canoe Camp in Idaho, following the land along Washington’s Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers, and ending at Cape Disappointment  on the Washington coast.

Camping with Kids at Cape Disappointment in Washington State

Camping with Kids at West Beach, Deception Pass in Washington State

In year three, the two camped for the entire month of June, with occasional overnight returns to Seattle to connect with loved ones and to wash up. The third camping year focused on water-centric campsites in Washington State, where they could swim. “We stayed at eight campsites, all on bodies of water,” she says. “Considering that my girl will immerse herself in the Puget Sound even in the coldest months, in effect this meant I could pick anywhere with water, as long as it moved slowly enough not to whoosh her away.”

So yes, they love camping in Washington State. Here’s a quick interview to find out how one expert mom camps with her kid.

1. Your Washington State camping trip in year two (following the Lewis & Clark trail) sounds amazing. What was your favorite part of Year Two?

We visited cultural sites, museums, interpretive centers, and Confluence Project installations learning more about the Corps of Discovery and the Native people whose lands they crossed. With a couple of notable exceptions, most were interesting and engaging. We especially enjoyed the Interpretive Center at Sacajawea State Park in Washington State and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in Oregon.

But far and away the highlight of the trip was the interpretive center at Fort Clatsop (near Astoria) where the Corps wintered on the south side of the mouth of the Columbia. The museum itself is nothing special, but the replica of the fort and the living history guides there are remarkable. My then-6-year-old and I engaged with one man in period dress for over two hours, both of us fascinated the entire time while he told us stories and answered questions, offering interesting facts and considered opinions remarkably well-informed by his studies of the Lewis and Clark journals. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.

2. What’s your favorite type of campsite?

I love camping on the salt water best. Whether it’s a sandy beach on the coast or a rocky one on the Puget Sound, my girl and I are content to spend hours toe-dipping, seal-watching, pit-digging, fort-building, crab-hunting, and sun-soaking. I don’t think you can go wrong with a beach.

Meg’s favorite spot was Rainbow Falls State Park, because the Doty General Store nearby sold penny candy.

3. Any tips for multi-night camping stays, particularly for parents trying it for the first time?

Go to one or two sites, and stay put. Stay to see the details of one place. Decide what you care about, and relax about the rest. I love cooking over the fire, and it suits us to spend a few hours a day at the campsite to prepare meals. But you might prefer to pack super easy food so you can get out on a trail.

Expect everything to take a long time. Linger. Let it slow you down.

4. Which Washington State campsite would you recommend for first-time camping with kids?

I think Deception Pass  State Park is a great choice for first time campers. It’s astonishingly beautiful, with beaches and trails for miles, and it’s still close to civilization in case you’ve forgotten something or just need to escape from unexpected rain in a public library for a couple of hours. For Seattleites, it’s a quick trip out of town, and if you go mid-week (or on the spur of the moment early in the season as we just did to catch the pre-summer sun) there are plenty of spaces available. Don’t try to go on a weekend in August without a reservation made well in advance, though. And make sure you get a spot inside the main park, rather than across the road at Quarry Pond.

Deception Pass State Park with Kids

Swimming at Deception Pass State Park

5. Anything you always bring on camping trips that you would miss if you forgot it?

Apart from the essentials required to shelter, clothe, and feed ourselves, I’d be disappointed if I forgot a book. Reading by the fire or in the tent before sleep is one of my pleasures while camping. As for tools, my two favorite things are telescoping roasting forks with a knob on the handle that allows you to rotate the fork (you can get them for a few dollars at Fred Meyer OR Lora’s example: Coghlan’s 9670 Telescoping Fork) and battery powered LED holiday lights for the inside of the tent.

Rain paints! Rain pants are the best invention ever, ever, ever. I’ve spent plenty of days out in a canoe or exploring a beach, or even sitting at the campfire, totally comfortable because my backside wasn’t soaking wet.

Two things I’ve stopped bringing: my camp stove, because I cook every meal over the fire, and my camp lantern, because as retro cool as it is and as much as it reminds me of camping with my dad, it’s a hassle to light and it’s blindingly bright.

6. Which games, activities and songs you both enjoy while camping?

We often drive long distances to campgrounds, so we usually have an audio book going in the car.

I usually bring a handful of things to do — art materials, a card game — and we never use them. We mostly poke around at and around the campsite, often literally. Meg dedicates hours to digging a “pit trap” at almost every camp site.

Columbia River Gorge Camping with Kids

Jumping into the Columbia River Gorge

7. Any favorite camping foods?

I usually plan for one night of very easily prepared food — sausages and raw fruits and veggies — for every couple of nights of food that takes a bit more effort. We still get to enjoy the fire, but it allows for more flexibility to stay longer at the beach or hike an extra mile or get the tent up before dark.

I tend to keep it fairly simple, but I cook anything that I could make on the stove or grill at home, using a cast iron pan, foil on the grate, or roasting forks. I haven’t taken my cast iron dutch oven recently, but in the past I’ve taken that along to make stews, soups, and cobblers. (An example of a Dutch oven: Esschert Design USA FF117 Fire Pit Dutch Oven)

One important camping tip: Put a big pan of water on to heat while you cook and you’ll have hot water for dishes and for a post-marshmallow washcloth.

Jenni Pertuset and Meg

Jenni and Meg

Thanks, Jenni & Meg!

Readers, what would you bring on a long family camping trip?


Camping Reservations with Kids in Washington, Oregon and BC

How long in advance should you make camping reservations? Now is the time to reserve your camping spot for many Pacific Northwest locations. Don’t wait until late spring or summer, if you want a prime, secluded tent site or one of the much-desired yurts, cabins or fire lookouts. Here’s a quick guide and how-to.

Camping Reservations in Oregon

Half of Oregon´s state park campgrounds accept campsite reservations; the other half are first-come, first-served. Whether you call or go online, you may make reservations 2 days to 9 months in advance of your first night´s stay. “Nine months in advance” counts back to the nearest business day.

You can make Oregon campsite, yurt, cabin and teepee reservations with a Visa or MasterCard through ReserveAmerica’s Oregon page. You can make reservations for national forests, like Mt. Hood National Forest and Siuslaw National Forest at Recreation.gov, but there aren’t many listed.

Read more about Oregon Campground Reservations.

Camping Reservations in Washington

At the campgrounds that accept reservations, you can reserve Washington campsites, yurts, cabins and houses through the Washington State website. Right now, they’re accepting reservations about 10 months in advance – so they’re taking reservations up until the first week of October. You can use a Visa or Mastercard to reserve.

You can make reservations for over 100 National Park Service and US Forest Services destinations, like Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest at Recreation.gov.

Or make Washington State camping reservations at Reserve America, which includes listings from KOA, Thousand Trails, USDA Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation.

The county parks system is more challenging to navigate — you’ll need to research the specific county you want to stay in. Popular camping destinations in Washington State include San Juan County Parks, Salt Creek Recreation Area and Dungeness Recreation Area in Clallam County, Snohomish County Parks and Recreation and Wenatchee River County Park.

Camping Reservations in British Columbia 

Frontcountry reservations open at 7:00 am (PST) on March 15. Reservations for family campsites can be made up to three months in advance of your arrival date, and you can make up to three reservations per transaction. Book your tent site at the BC Parks website, read about backcountry camping at Recreation Sites and Trails,  and about Western camping destinations at Parks Canada. Here’s a quick rundown comparing all the BC camping options.

Where to Ski with Kids in Washington State: Ski Camps, Lessons, Lodges and Daycares

All those rainy days have an upside, too. Thanks to the wet stuff, Washington State residents enjoy a plentiful mountain snowpack and a long season of skiing, snowboarding and tubing with kids. Even if you don’t (yet) enjoy any of the above sports, there’s always the option of making a snowman or two with your toddler. All the better if a lovely lodge is nearby, so you can run inside for a cup of hot chocolate or bowl of hot chili.

Pack the winter-weather apparel, your skis and mittens; don’t forget to check road conditions on Washington State passes before heading out with your tot or tween. Here are Washington State’s winter destinations and their kid-friendly aspects — from cheap and inexpensive cross-country ski trails to upscale snowboarding and skiing resorts.


Where to Ski with Kids in Western Washington  

Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area

Near: Port Angeles

This National Park Service site offers opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, children’s tubing and  ranger-guided snowshoe walks. The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is a nice place to warm up and learn about the region.

Mt. Baker

Near: Bellingham (about one hour east of Bellingham)

Slopes here offer multi-week kids’ ski lessons, parent/child or grandparent/child ski lessons. To save money on your ski vacation, look into the family passes.  The 31 runs here trend toward the black diamond and intermediate levels — so a good spot to go with experienced teens, perhaps.

The Summit at Snoqualmie

Near: Seattle and Bellingham

This peak family ski experience is the closest to the Seattle metro area, about an hour or so east of Seattle. Here, kids can learn to ski or snowboard on slopes or parks and pipe. The tubing hill is popular with families, too. Stay in a rental or just stay in the city. Unfortunately, no childcare is provided at The Summit at Snoqualmie.

Crystal Mountain

Near: Two hours south of Seattle, 90 minutes from Tacoma/S. Puget Sound

A sweet little cherry-red gondola (the only one in Washington State, I believe) whisks skiers and daytrippers alike up Crystal Mountain. Brief 50-minute private lessons teach families to ski (and even chair lift) together – kids as young as two can participate – but you have to book in advance. The Kid’s Club program combines learning and fun; supervision plus two-hour ski lessons for ages 4-12 and snowboarding lessons for ages 7-12.

Where to Ski with Kids in Central Washington:

Loup Loup Ski Bowl

Near: Winthrop and Omak

Kids equipment rental, a tube slide area and tots lessons make this low-key introduction to winter sports. More than 20k of groomed tracks for cross-country skiers and 1,240 vertical feet with 10 cut runs for downhill skiers.

Stevens Pass

Near: Leavenworth.

Stevens Pass puts kids on skis from the age of 3, and generations tend to return to play in the powder again and again. There are teen camps, kids ski lessons, kids specials and Nordic ski opportunities. Read over the informative FAQs regarding youth. A short drive from Leavenworth, and plenty of restaurants to feed hungry families.

Leavenworth Trails

Near: In town of Leavenworth, Washington

More than 26k of beginner-friendly Nordic and snowshoe trails wind through, past and around the uber-cute Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth. It’s a nice place to try skiing or snowshoeing for the first time – more than five shops will help you and the kids get set up on skis.  A projected ice skating rink should be fun for the whole family too (once completed), and tubing is already a go.

Cross-Country Skiing in Leavenworth; Photo courtesy of Sleeping Lady Resort

Cross-Country Skiing in Leavenworth; photo courtesy of Sleeping Lady Resort

Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort

Near: 12 miles from Wenatchee.

Novice through advanced skiers enjoy that dry-side powder, and the mountain’s 36 runs and 2,000 acres of trails and chutes. For children, there are the Kids Club, which combines just-right portions of skiing, indoor supervision and hot chocolate. Half-day, full day, holiday camp and two-hour sessions available for preschool-aged kids through 12-year-olds.

Methow Valley Sport Trails Association

Near: Winthrop, Mazama

More than 120 miles of trails – but with many family-friendly features. For example, kids 17 and under ski free. Another cool feature: the keep-‘em-engaged StorySki loops that reveal a picture book  as kids ski along the 1k trail, and a fun “obstacle course” at the Town Trailhead in Winthrop. Pulk sleds (for non-walkers/small non-skiiers) can be rented at the Methow Valley Ski School (I loved pulks when my daughter was too small to ski).

Lake Chelan Nordic Ski Club at Echo Valley Ski Area

Near: Chelan

Save money, ski cheap. At Echo Ridge, kids 17 and under ski free, and the daily rate for adult skiers is only $10/day. There are more than 25 miles of groomed skate and classic x-country ski trails at this U.S. Forest Service facility co-run by the Chelan Ranger District and Lake Chelan Nordic Ski Club. As the site says: “Groomed trails follow the ridges of the terrain, creating a great skiing experience for all ability levels.  Because the trails are located on the ridge tops they are generally above the fog layer that settles in the valleys. So, if you are looking for sunny skiing head for ECHO RIDGE!”

White Pass

Near: Rimrock, Packwood

This 6,500-foot peak offers child care and Pee Wee Skee lessons – plus an 18-kilometer Nordic network and a day lodge at 4,500 feet. Walk-in lessons are available too, for those age 4 and up.  Once a year, there’s a Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Jamboree; all ages can take free intro nordic and snowshoe lessons.

Echo Valley Ski Area

Near: Chelan

The laid-back Echo Valley’s Family Ski Area has four-lane snow tubing runs – and they supply special tubes for a rapid ride.  The area runs three rope tows, and one lift for skiers and snowboarders. Old-school ski fun, like the equivalent of a roller-rink night.

Where to Ski with Kids in Eastern Washington: 

Mt. Spokane

Near: Spokane

A mere half-hour from Spokane takes you up into a great family-friendly ski resort with lots of snow play opportunities. Tube, ski, snowboard; ride the lift or head for the terrain park. Enroll the kids in one of the children’s ski programs. Or if the kids are too young to ski, the on-site ski daycare keeps kids busy – and even provides breakfast.

 49 Degrees N.

Near: Spokane or Chelawah

Nordic, downhill and snowboarding, plus a terrain park. For the kids there are children’s group ski lessons, one-on-one ski lesson options, and an on-site daycare that features arts and crafts, movies, snacks, and snow playtime. The Li’l Cub Private Lessons (Ages 2-4) packages up a 1-hour lesson, lift, rental, and all day daycare for $119.

Bluewood Ski Area

Near: Dayton, WA or Walla Walla

Bluewood is the second-highest base elevation in the state, but still serves the tot crowd well.Teens like skiing and snowboarding the 24 trails and three terrain parks. The Kinderski program is a parent-child group ski or snowboard lesson designed for kids 5 and under (1 hour, $35); there are also one-on-one preschool lessons for skiing and snowboarding.

Sitzmark Ski Area

Near: Tonasket

The 80 acres at Sitzmark include a double chairlift, rope tow, bunny hill and terrain park. There’s also a ski and snowboard school (6 week classes), and it’s open Thursday through Monday.

Badger Mountain Ski Area

Near: Waterville

A volunteer-run ski area in Eastern Washington with limited hours, but fine if you’re in the area or want a snow-play experience with younger children.

Sno-Parks with Kids in Washington State

Washington State Sno-Parks

Enjoy a variety of winter activities (for cheap) in the Washington State Non-Motorized Sno-Parks; trails and play areas welcome Nordic ski, snowshoe and tube enthusiasts of all ages in winter. Sno-Parks differ in trails – some are groomed, while others are backcountry-only.


18 Tips for Visiting Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge with Kids

Great Wolf Lodge with Kids

Before heading to any big-ticket, big-adventure resort, it’s always best to ask an expert for tips. I asked three BC and Washington State moms who have repeatedly visited Great Wolf Lodge for their best tips, and added a few more tips from my own research. Of course, these are just opinions and suggestions. You may have your own spin on a Great Wolf Lodge stay.

1. Don’t break the bank for Great Wolf Lodge bunks.

The bunk-style suite rooms (Wolf Den, KidKamp and Kid Cabin) are cute and fun, “but we have found that you are not in your room long enough to make them worth the cost if you can fit in a smaller room,” says frequent Great Wolf Lodge visitor and Kelso, Wash., mom Melissa Parcel. Check Great Wolf Lodge’s website with special deals and coupon codes when booking; remember that the resort fee and taxes do add a decent amount to the final price.

2.  Sleep soundly — even at a crazy-busy water park.

For a quieter room, request a room away from the stairwells and on the opposite side of the I-5 freeway. Ask when making the reservation and upon check in. Although there’s a rule about “quiet time” in the evenings, guests do say that unaccompanied children playing MagiQuest down the hallways can be an earful.

3. Book your Great Wolf Lodge breakfast in advance.

If you think you want the on-site breakfast buffet — after considering point #9 below — book it in advance when making your hotel reservation. The total for four people is $40 when purchased in advance and includes drinks. If you buy buffet on-site, it’ll cost $13.95 per adult and $8.95 per child, and does not include drinks.

4. Make it a midweek resort stay.

To avoid crazy lines at these Washington water slides and to take advantage of great deals, head to GWL during the midweek. But ask if the hotel’s hosting a convention during your stay, suggests Korene Torney, a Victoria, British Columbia mom to two girls. Conventions can stretch the hotel’s capacity.

5. Display your cell phone smarts.

When you check in, you’ll get an information packet that offers a cell phone number to register on your phone. “I did this, and got some coupons texted to me, “ says Kirkland, Wash., mom Shannon Maher Longcore, a mom to three kids and frequent Great Wolf Lodge guest. “It saved us some money in their restaurants.”

6. Dive into two-day resort stay play.

Your pass into the GWL starts at 1 p.m. (you can access your hotel room after 4 p.m.), as long as you stop by the front desk to pick up your waterpark wrist bands. On the second day, check-out time is 11 a.m., and you can stay until closing (9 p.m.). There are changing rooms and lockers for use before check-in and after check-out. “We just put our suitcases in the car, and had a small day pack with our necessities in it. That worked out great,” says Longcore.

7. Wait on the MagiQuest wand.

The grand total for your MagiQuest game will come to about $30 total — $17 for the wand, and about $13 per “game.” If it’s your first visit, Melissa Parcel says you may want to wait to purchase the wands. “On our first trip, we caved and bought one for our son, but we spent all of our time in the water park and didn’t get any use out of the wand.” Older kids seem to love the wand game, however, and repeat visitors seem to love the game. Read more about how to extend play at #8, below.

8. Wave that MagiQuest wand.

If you leave near Great Wolf Lodge, you can visit just to play the MagiQuest game and run around the resort, which is something that Melissa Parcel has done twice. “It’s a pretty inexpensive day trip if you live a short distance away.” If you want to re-engage the wand, you’ll pay about $13 per wand on each new visit. You can also use the wands at other properties (provided you pay the “re-up” fee).

9. Host grandma or friends while staying at the resort.

Purchase additional water park wristbands (for $41.20 each) for people visiting you at the water park, even if they’re not staying overnight.

10. Skip the expensive Great Wolf Lodge resort food.

Korene Torney brought her own breakfast and snacks (cereal, yoghurt, fruit and vegetables) for the mini-fridge. Melissa Parcel brought along cereal and doughnuts for breakfast and sandwich making items for the next day’s lunch. Don’t forget to bring camping-style dining equipment (i.e. paper or tin plates, cups, bowls) for your in-room service. Korene Torney’s family also went to two Oregon-born restaurant chains in nearby Centralia: McMenamins Olympic Club and Burgerville (two thumbs up for both of those destinations from Lora!).

11. Freeze Great Wolf Lodge-related tantrums and meltdowns.

“I think limiting pool play to three hours at a time works well,” Korene Torney says. After three hours, Torney’s family lets the kids eat and relax in the room. It can also help to construct a schedule. Torney’s family wakes, eats in the room (with Starbucks from the lobby, delivered by her husband), goes on the morning “Howl Walk” at 9 a.m. (which includes a free craft), then pool time from 10-1. They rest, and eat in the room or drive to Burgerville. Then it’s back into the pool around 5-7 p.m.; out in time for evening stories.

12. Water, water everywhere…but bring a drop to drink.

“The pool room is very warm, so just remember to  drink some fresh water while there,” says Longcore. She says she saw some episodes of possible kid-dehydration; despite all that chlorinated water around, some children forget to sip drinking water.

13. Forget-it-not at home: must-bring items for Great Wolf Lodge.

Some items are spendy to replace on-site, should you forget them at home. Pack swim goggles, earplugs, flip-flops, Aqua Socks (if your bare feet don’t like all that concrete) and a swimsuit cover-up. Swimsuit cover-ups are particularly necessary, Torney says: “You want one because otherwise you’re forced to wear clothes over your suit to get between room and pool.” Men should bring t-shirts or a robe. However, you don’t need to pack a towel – they’re provided for free by Great Wolf Lodge. Life jackets in several sizes, notes Longcore, so there’s no need to bring one from home. You can also bring arm floaties and floating swimsuits, but no other floating devices. Leave the ravenous floaty shark at home.

14. Get crafty with Cub Club.

Bring your own hands-on activities and avoid expensive resort crafts ($10-20) in the Cub Club, Torney says. However, if you do plan to participate in Cub Club (which offers kids’ programs, crafts and projects about nature and the Northwest), make a reservation upon arrival to ensure your child’s spot. Adults must accompany kids under age 12 in the Cub Club; it’s not a childcare venue.

15. Stop the souvenir gimmes.

“We give our kids an allowance of $15,” Korene Torney says. With $15, the kids can enjoy a craft, buy snacks or candy, a cheap souvenir, or pool the money for one wand.  “As is usually the case with an allowance, this provided the perfect opportunity to teach them about the value of money while eliminating the perpetual ‘I wants,’” Torney says. “It worked great for us this year. They both bought ridiculous souvenirs, but enjoyed every minute of it.”

16. Snag your Great Wolf Lodge poolside spot.

“Friends of ours get down to the water area early and camp out at a table,” Longcore says. “If your kids are much older, and don’t need parents hovering, a table would be great.”

17. Entertain the teens at Great Wolf.

At gr8_space (Yes, that’s really the way it’s spelled), teens can use the Internet, listen to music, enjoy evening karaoke or play the Nintendo Wii and Xbox360. Admission runs $10 per child; you may want to bring the DS from home if that seems spendy. Most tweens and teens will be happy with just the water park slides, but you can visit the Myspace page of gr8 space here for a sample of the goings-on.

18. Avoid long checkout lines.

Use the express check-out via your room phone or TV.

You can find more answers on the Great Wolf Ask-A-Mom site (but these answers seem to be pre-vetted by a corporate PR firm). Or read a great write-up of a Great Wolf Lodge stay at PDX Family Adventures.

Do you have great tips (or a promo or coupon code!) for families headed to the Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington State? Leave your tips in the comments.

Read more about Washington Water Parks and British Columbia (BC) Water Parks and Water Slides.

Winter Break Vacation Deals & Ideas for Washington, Oregon & BC

Where will you go for the kids’ two-week break? If you haven’t yet made plans, don’t despair. There are plenty of wonderful ways to celebrate (and rooms to book) in our area. Whether you’ve got the budget of a pauper or a prince, or whether you’d rather stay in a small town or big city, there’s a getaway just right for your family’s travel lifestyle.

British Columbia winter break vacation ideas:

You know I love Victoria, BC: all those great kid-friendly Victoria activities and restaurants. Now’s the time to go, too — Tourism Victoria is promoting special Christmastime rates, starting at just $69/night. Go and enjoy Butchart Gardens’ Christmas lights, caroling and ice skating. The photo at right? It’s a pic we took while enjoying holiday tunes at Butchart Gardens.

Create your own deal for Vancouver, BC. Use my tips to do a little Priceline bidding (four-star rooms are usually plentiful over Christmas break) or take advantage of Tourism Vancouver’s third-night-free package. Then, head up to the snow-draped Grouse Mountain (just 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver), which offers a Santa’s Workshop, ice skating, reindeer, live entertainment, mountaintop sleighrides, a children’s village and classic Christmas movies for a family rate of $79.95. Oh, and there’s skiing and snowshoeing up there too. It’s really a fantastic getaway, right in the city.

If you want to go all out, Whistler’s upscale Fairmont Chateau Whistler puts on the ritz for Christmas. Check out the on-site festivities: The Family Fun Room offers an internet cafe, bouncy castles and video games to keep non-skiing kids occupied; the hotel hosts gingerbread house decorating, tea with Santa and children’s stories with Mrs. Claus. It’s not cheap — but at about $1000 for three nights (and an amazing breakfast, typically around $70/family), it’s the same as you’d spend on two (maybe three) tickets to Hawaii. If you’re looking for more affordable offerings, go before Christmas (rates can be as much as 30% less than the week AFTER Christmas) and take a look at what’s available on Whistler.com.

Washington State winter break getaways:

Take your muggley self to Seattle, where the deluxe Hotel Monaco’s Harry Potter Package offers accomodations, discounted tix to the Pacific Science Center’s Harry Potter: The Exhibition and complimentary valet parking. Down in the hotel’s restaurant, the premium desserts include a Molten Hot Cauldron Cake with Cockroach Clusters and Make Your Own Potion. You never know — you may leave Seattle a wizard, after all.

In the charming little burg of Fairhaven, the Fairhaven Village Inn will offer horse-drawn carriage rides and a Santa visit on December 18. Fairhaven is right outside of Bellingham, Wash. (read more about Bellingham with kids); the adorable village close enough to enjoy the college town but far enough to feel like you’re in a small community.

Over in Eastern Washington, in the Methow Valley, this winter will mark the first StorySki Experience among the region’s popular cross-country ski trails. The Storytrail helps kids keep moving along by posting pages from the book, “Polar Opposites” (by Erik Brookes) along a 1k loop. You’re skiing your way through a children’s picture book, reading more of the story at each stop. The trail will debut at Christmas and stay up throughout the winter ski season (mid-March or so), moving. Kids (under age 12) ski free throughout the Methow.

Oregon winter break vacation packages:

A mere 20 minutes from Central Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor, and about 20 minutes from Bend, Oregon, Sunriver Resort hosts Traditions, a holiday celebration that reaches across generations and includes innovative activities like snowmobile excursions, cocoa mug making, holiday trivia, elf tuck-ins, an ornament workshop and more. Check out Sunriver’s page of packages, because the Sugarplum package starts at $149/night, and includes a $50 resort credit toward your on-site activities, including the appropriately named Ft. Funnigan (which both of my children enjoyed, despite their disparate ages — 4 and 10!).

Portland is another wonderful, family-friendly and discounted destination for families during winter. Plenty of kid-friendly Portland activities and plenty of kid-friendly Portland dining, and Travel Portland is offering an unequalled Portland Perks deal AND $50 in cash. But only through December 20th! I’m sure it will revert to the usual Portland Perks deal after the 20th, but you should take advantage of that $50 rebate. A great destination to visit with toddlers and preschoolers — visit Zoolights and the take in the Christmas Ship Parade.

Do you have any favorite family holiday getaways in our region?

Camping with Kids in Washington State

camping with kids in washington state

Camping with kids in Washington state


Recently, a reader requested an article on family-friendly Washington campgrounds. You ask and I deliver! I pestered the Washington State Parks Department for insider hints and tips on finding great Washington State kid-friendly campgrounds.

Of course, all Washington campgrounds welcome families. But we want the best campgrounds for kids in Washington. Campsites that the kids will remember, and beg you to reserve next summer — even if the mosquitoes ate you alive and the water was too cold to swim in. (Photo at right, our family’s annual campground destination, Penrose Point State Park)

Here’s our Q & A with Linda Burnett of the Washington State Parks. Please note, these are car-camping sites.

Best campsites with kids in Washington State:

Q: Are there any unique family-friendly features at Washington State campgrounds?

Burnett: We have several parks that offer a Junior Ranger Program in the summer. Junior Ranger Programs include campfire stories, beach walks, nature walks, art activities and wildlife talks. The Junior Ranger Program is an interactive activity between park staff, volunteers and visitors. Kids have fun and learn to be good park stewards in the process. Activities and awards are the central feature of the program. The Junior Ranger Program is for kids as well as parents and guardians.

Q: Can you suggest a destination near Seattle that would be a great choice when camping with kids?

Cama Beach State Park offers visitors a chance to step back in time to a 1930s-era Puget Sound fishing resort complete with waterfront cedar cabins and bungalows. These have been refurbished, with modern conveniences added, and are available for rent year round to individuals and groups. Call (360) 387-1550 for reservations. (Lora’s note: These cabins are a stunning $31-82 for waterfront views!)

Within a 90-minute drive of Seattle, Cama Beach offers day and overnight visitors alike a “time capsule” experience. The historic fishing resort was a favorite summer getaway for families for more than 50 years. The area, used for centuries by Native Americans for fishing and hunting, looks out on sweeping views of the Sound, with Whidbey Island and the Olympic Mountains beyond.

Camano Island State Park is a short drive from Cama Beach for the families that prefer camping. It is connected by a mile-long trail to Cama Beach. Both parks are open for day use or overnight stays year round. This is a first-come, first-serve park.

Both parks offer an active Junior Ranger Program.

Q: Can you suggest a family campground along the Washington Coast?

A wonderful kid and family friendly park on the Washington Coast is Cape Disappointment State Park. Don’t let the name fool you, this park is anything but a disappointment.

This park is a 1,882-acre camping park on the Long Beach Peninsula, fronted by the Pacific Ocean. The park offers two miles of ocean beach, two lighthouses, an interpretive center and hiking trails. Visitors enjoy beachcombing and exploring the area’s rich natural and cultural history. The nearby coastal towns of Ilwaco and Long Beach feature special events and festivals spring through fall.

The park has old-growth forest, lakes, freshwater and saltwater marshes, as well as streams and tidelands along the ocean. Three vacation house rentals are available.

Interpretive opportunities include the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center tells the story of Lewis and Clark on their journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. The North Head Lighthouse is also open to visitors (tours cost $2.50 per adult, free ages 7 to 17). Call the center at (360) 642-3029 for hours and tour information.

Other interpretive opportunities, such as the Fort Columbia Interpretive Center and the Fort Columbia Commanding Officer’s House Museum, also are in the vicinity.

Campsite and vacation house reservations can be made online www.parks.wa.gov or by calling (888) CAMPOUT.

Q: There are no guarantees, but is there a location known as a calm, mellow Washington campground?

Twanoh State Park, situated on the shoreline of Hood Canal, features one of the warmest saltwater beaches in Washington state. This is because Hood Canal is one of the warmest saltwater bodies in Puget Sound. The 182-acre marine, camping park has 3,167 feet of saltwater shoreline. The name of the park derives from the Native American Twana tribes, better known as the Skokomish, who made their home in the area.

Twanoh is popular for shellfish harvesting. Oyster beds are seeded annually, providing for ample harvests. Clam season usually is open from Aug. 1 through Sept. 30 each year, while the park is open to oyster harvesting year round. Visitors also enjoy other recreational activities, including hiking, fishing, swimming, water skiing, wildlife viewing and the kids will enjoy the Junior Ranger program offered every weekend in the summer.

This is a first-come, first serve park, an the park offers a Junior Ranger Program every weekend throughout the summer.

Q: When all campgrounds are booked on popular weekends, where’s an overlooked Washington State campground, still typically offering spots? Where can families go when it seems like nothing is left?

I would recommend making reservations for popular weekends some of our most popular parks are booked nine months to a year in advance of the holiday weekends. All the reservation campgrounds are booked every weekend  through the summer (folks start making reservations for their favorite campgrounds 9 – 12 months in advance). There are still openings for the middle of the week or for fall/winter camping. Here are the first-come, first-served parks where camping groups are able to just show up:

Non Reservation Washington State Camping Parks

1.    Beacon Rock State Park

2.    Blake Island State Park

3.    Bogachiel State Park

4.    Bridgeport State Park

5.    Brooks Memorial State Park

6.    Camano Island State Park

7.    Conconully State Park

8.    Columbia Hills State Park

9.    Curlew Lake State Park

10.   Daroga State Park

11.   Fay Bainbridge State Park

12.   Fields Spring State Park

13.   Fort Casey State Park

14.   Hope Island State Park

15.   Illahee State Park

16.   Iron Horse State Park

17.   Joemma Beach State Park

18.   Kopachuck State Park

19.   Lewis and Clark State Park

20.   Lewis and Clark Trail State Park

21.   Mount Spokane State Park

22.   Old Fort Townsend State Park

23.   Palouse Falls State Park

24.   Rainbow Falls State Park

25.   Rockport State Park

26.   Saltwater State Park

27.   Schafer State Park

28.   Twanoh State Park

29.   Wallace Falls State / Park 2 Tent Sites

Q: Any other favorite family campgrounds along a lake or on one of Washington’s islands?

Battle Ground Lake State Park is a beautiful camping park that lies in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Southwest Washington. The lake’s origin is volcanic and is believed to be a caldera, a basin formed when the cone of a volcano collapses.

This 280-acre camping park is popular with anglers with its spring-fed lake that is stocked annually with rainbow trout for fishing. Other fish found in the lake include cutthroat trout, small-mouth bass and catfish.

Visitors may explore ten miles of roads and trails, including a self-guided interpretive trail. The park also offers a variety of recreational activities including horseback riding, boating, swimming and scuba diving.

Another smaller quieter park that offers 25 standard campsites, six hookup sites that accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long and 15 primitive campsites. Campers using the primitive campsites should be prepared to walk a quarter-mile to a half-mile to the campsites.

An interpretive program is offered every Saturday from mid-June through Labor Day. This evening program includes night sky interpretation with a telescope, slide shows and guest speakers. There is a self-guided nature trail in the park.

Reservations for individual campsites and cabins may be made online at www.parks.wa.gov or by calling (888) CAMPOUT or (888) 226-7688.

Check out the cool park-finder form and the map of Washington State campgrounds, read about camping sites with kids in Oregon, tips for camping with babies and young children,  and camping with kids in BC.

Readers, do you have a favorite family-friendly camping spot in Washington State? Care to share your secret? Leave it below!

Brand new! Western Washington State Campgrounds with Playgrounds.

Für Kinder (Kids): Leavenworth, Washington State

Let’s get your assumptions out of the way. You might think Leavenworth is cheesy. It’s fake Bavaria. Leavenworth’s food…well, maybe your great-grandma would like it. Leavenworth is for unsavvy tourists.

OK, some of that is a little true. It was certainly the impression I had after making short visits in the past (an hour or two) without any sense of direction.

But after spending three days in Leavenworth, I have a different take. I looked a little harder, asked a few more questions and found the best spots for a family-friendly vacation.

Yes, the Washington State town’s Bavarian-style building fronts were manufactured during the 1960s and 70s. But the finished craftsmanship is old-world impeccable. On a sunny summer day, when you’re on the flanks of the Cascades – and you can park your car and walk everywhere you need to go – you realize that this dense, populated village has everything you need within a quarter-mile: shops, hotels, restaurants, picnic supplies and movie theaters. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.

Things to do in Leavenworth with kids:

Ride the train with kids. If you’d like to have the complete European experience, take the Amtrak into Leavenworth from Seattle. The train leaves you a distance from the village core (it’s not walkable – don’t even think about it), so you’ll taxi in.  Downsides: The travel time from Seattle to Leavenworth is about four hours, the time schedule is wonky and you’ll miss Peshastin’s fun. But train rides are always fun and you won’t mess with traffic.

kid-friendly leavenworth washington state

Sitting pretty near the Leavenworth Gazebo

Fete and feast. Leavenworth hosts fantastic events year-round, most occurring in the downtown, pedestrian-friendly Front Street Park, in front of the gazebo and maypole. From Maifest through the Christmas season, the festivals offer convivial atmosphere, adorable dancers and kid-friendly bounce houses.

Go for gingerbread. The Gingerbread Factory presents trays of just-baked gingerbread, including dino-style cookies for the kids and chocolate-gingerbread with espresso frosting for the adults. You’ll also find outdoor dining in spring, summer and fall – along with hearty sandwiches.

Spot the salmon. At the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, kids can meet coho, Chinook, steelhead and Pacific lamprey eels (ew!) before hiking along the Icicle River Nature Trail, a one-mile loop. But this is three miles from downtown Leavenworth, so bring the car or plan for a long walk.

Pack a picnic. Stop by the Cheesemonger’s Shop for an incredible selection of international chesses and sausages – I even spotted wasabi-flecked cheese behind the case. Pick up a baguette (also sold here) and head down to the next stop.

Rove along the river. The Waterfront Park Trail wanders through a pine-and-fir forest, past the Wenatchee River, over Blackbird Island and through animal habitats. It’s a few blocks off of the downtown streets, and a sweet, easy ramble suitable for kids of all ages – but the trail’s suitable for a jogging stroller, too.

munchen haus is a child-friendly restaurant in leavenworth, washington

Munchin' at the Munchen Haus.

Babies, meet beers and brats. On nice days, children, grandparents and international students share long wooden benches in the Munchen Haus beer garden. Select your (beef, veggie or curry) sausage, then choose your golden sauce from over a dozen mustard options. I even like the apple-smoked sauerkraut – and I hate sauerkraut.

Head South. You’re tired of German food and want something different? Try visiting South, where kids get a pack of Wikki Stix to play with while you order your not-so-spicy Mexican-fusion fare. Go for the guacamole!

Check out the scene. A good option with tweens and teens, the Icicle Junction Cinema runs first-run films in a 88-person theater. Skip the video arcade.

Cap yourself. The Hat Shop offers a head-spinning selection of hats, berets, fedoras and crazy caps, including animal, character and food hats. Next door, The Wood Shop’s shelves are filled with toys and locally made wooden puzzles (including pirate, cat family and intricate paint-your-own options).

Kiss the Küche – Mann (chef). Various German restaurants will vie for your dollar. There’s not a huge variation, but I liked Andreas Keller’s basement-level restaurant. You feel squirreled away in here, inside the dark-wood interior laced with heavy beams. An accordion player accompanies your Bavarian-costumed servers. King Ludwig’s Restaurant rolls out an entire polka band for your enjoyment; the informal dining setting (vinyl tablecloths) works better for parents of very young or rambunctious kids.

Not your average nutcracker. A nutcracker museum? Yawn. Oh wait, there’s a Yoda nutcracker? A Darth Vader nutcracker? A Superman Nutcracker? An ancient Roman nutcracker and over 4,000 more nutcrackers? Well, that’s cool. My kids loved this museum.

teens in leavenworth washington state

All the cool kids go to Leavenworth.

Chew on this. Schocolat’s glass cases wait at the back of a store, at the end of a maze of thousand-dollar housewares. Do not bring children inside the store – send your partner in to pluck a orange-dark chocolate or a Montmorency dried cherry-with-brandy ganache.

Things to do (car necessary) in Peshastin, a 10-minute drive:

Find fun on the farm. At Smallwood’s Harvest, there’s a challenging walk-through maze, farm equipment, a small playground, a trike-riding pen, a cattle-roping-practice station and a (cash-only) petting zoo keep kids occupied in summer.

family-friendly farm in peshastin, washington state

The windmill at Smallwood's.

In fall, you’ll find hayrides and a corn maze. It’s a perfect little farm, well-manicured and adorable; overnight lodging is also available.

a family-friendly museum in leavenworth washington

Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village

Meet plucky pioneers. At the Historic Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village, we thought we’d stop for about 10 minutes. We ended up staying for over an hour – there was more to explore than the humble building suggests. Kids enjoy museum’s downstairs, stuffed with taxidermied animals found on nearby mountains and plains.

The barber shop.

Outdoors, original buildings found throughout the region were moved to the museum’s back lawn, then populated with vintage tools, toys and furniture. Look into a blacksmith’s or a barbershop, a boarding house or the Buckhorn saloon.

Visit a Dessert Island. Smack-dab in the middle of a dry, desert-like stretch of road, Anjou Bakery crafts upscale, delectable French pastries and hand-makes each espresso shot with love. The cool interior is rustic and homey; the exterior had a small water feature for kids to dip toes into. Try the baguette sandwiches, or grab one for the trip home via Blewett Pass.

Kid-friendly Leavenworth hotels:

downtown leavenworth from my family-friendly leavenworth hotel

A village view from my Bavarian Lodge window.

Bavarian Lodge. We stayed here and felt right at home — there’s an enormous buffet breakfast (with a hot egg dish, yogurt, breads and make-your-own waffles), a free DVD checkout library and year-round outdoor heated pool. Centrally located, right across the street from the city’s gazebo, this hotel has even scored a place on Tripadvisor’s “Top 10 Family-Friendly Hotels in the U.S.”

Enzian Inn. There’s an intense Christian theme at this hotel, which may or may not appeal to you. The indoor pool is certainly a spectacle (in a good way) with a maroon rug on the ceiling, a mural with a Biblical scene and a vivid-blue swim pool and hot tubs. On the top floor, the buffet breakfast is served with a glorious panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.

Innsbrucker Inn. It’s a bookworm’s ideal stay — just pick a book-themed room! Upstairs from the adorable A Book for All Seasons bookstore (great kids’ area), you’ll find among others a Secret-Garden-inspired room, a Shakespeare room and even a “Chocolate Suite” with practically lickable walls. Kitchens, too! Cute multi-paned windows look down on the town.

Pension Anna. If you want to enjoy a Euro-style indie hotel right in the middle of town, try this lodge. The basement-level rooms suit families just fine (the rooms are huge). But the real appeal is staying in the chapel suites in a decommissioned Catholic church — also run by Pension Anna. How often do you get to do that?

How to get to Leavenworth:

Located about two to three hours east of Seattle, from Seattle, Bellingham and points north, I recommend taking Highway 2 out so you can approach the gorgeous Stevens Pass from the west. Return via the ear-popping Blewett Pass along 97, then down to the junction with I-90 (you’ll pass near kid-friendly Roslyn and Cle Elum – stop if you get a chance). The latter route is the best way to go if coming from Southern Washington State or Oregon.

Washington State Deals and Savings

Washington State deals for family trips in Seattle, Bellingham, the Olympic National Forest, the San Juan Islands and more!

Bellingham and North Cascades Visitors BureauTravel packages

Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau: Getaway coupons to use at the beach

Port Angeles and Sequim Visitors BureauCoupons and discounts

San Juan Islands Visitors BureauSpecials and deals

Seattle SouthsidePromotions and deals

Travel Tacoma: Coupons and savings

Visit LeavenworthSpring specials

Washington State TourismDeals and packages

Wenatchee ValleyPick your own adventure packages and deals

Whidbey IslandDeals and promotions

Did I miss one? E-mail me at lora AT cascadiakids.com