If you want a family vacation that guarantees rugged landscapes, outdoor adventures and memories that will last a lifetime, then it’s time to take your clan on a road trip across the Pacific Northwest. There are an endless number of routes, destinations and famous sites to see—we picked our five favorites to help get the planning started. Click through for details on where to go, stay and play on your getaway.
City to Sea—Seattle to Mt. Rainier to Portland to Seaside Or—294 Miles
Seattle to Mt. Rainier in Ashford, Wa: From Seattle, take I-5 South to WA 512 E. From WA 512 take WA 7 to WA 706, which will take you all of the way to Ashford Wa.
Ashford, Wa to Portland, Or: Take WA 7 and US 12 take I-5 South. Follow for 75.8 mi. until you reach Portland.
Portland to Seaside, Or: Take I-405 to US-26 W. Follow US-26 for 78 mi. until you reach Seaside.
The Starting Line
Make sure to check out the Space Needle and all of the attractions at Seattle Center before you begin your road trip. Your little adventurers will love running through the musical fountain's spray and catching one or two rides on the carousel.
Mt. Rainier in Ashford
Ashford gives visitor's access to Mt. Rainier National Park via the Nisqually Entrance. There are trails that will take you around lakes, past waterfalls, and through meadows. Stop at the visitor center and talk to a friendly ranger to find out which trails are best for your crew. After you are done exploring by foot, get a bird's eye view of the mountain on the Mt. Rainier Gondola—a ride that is especially thrilling for the littlest travelers.
Outside of the park area, there's plenty to do. Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad offers thrilling rides for train enthusiasts of all ages, and there are themed excursions throughout the year, so check ahead to see the offerings and to reserve your seats. Also, NW Trek and Wildlife Park offers visitors close encounters with the local wildlife.
Your family can camp inside of the national park area, but you must plan ahead (Sites can book up to a year in advance.). If you would prefer a more sheltered mountain experience, consider reserving a cozy cabin. Three Bears Lodge has six cabins that are specifically designed for families with young children. They come with highchairs, toys, cribs and anything else you might need. And, all of the cabins have fully equipped kitchens (with complimentary waffle supplies!) If you choose this lodging option, the only thing you need to bring with you is food.
Satisfy appetites big and small at Base Camp Bar & Grill. A double bacon cheeseburger will fuel your next hike and the kids are sure to love the corn dogs. If you are looking for breakfast fare, head to Rainier Valley Inn for a scramble, stack of pancakes or french toast.
The city of roses has an abundance of fun activities for the family. OMSI is a must and will please the scientists in your family (big and small). If you are looking for active fun, head to Washington Park. It's home to the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children's Museum, World Forestry Center, Hoyt Arboretum, Portland Japanese Garden, and International Rose Test Garden. Let the kids play on the play equipment, say hello to the bears and wander through gardens with flowers like they've never seen before. If you road trip mid-summer, make sure to check out the Rose Festival for rides, concerts, parades and more.
For a hotel with a view, the Portland Marriott Downtown sits right on the river and offers great views and a pool for the kiddos to play in. Another big bonus is their breakfast buffet which comes with tons of choices. There's something available for even the pickiest of eaters.
If you have a good-sized clan, you definitely want to check out the two bedroom suites at the Residence Inn Portland Downtown/Pearl District. They come with a kitchenette, two bedrooms with queen-sized beds and bathrooms and a little living room area with a couch that is a pullout bed. It's just like being at home.
For a fun breakfast experience head to Slappy Cakes in SE Portland. At Slappy Cakes your kids will slide right up to the griddle, which is built into each table, while you take the pancake making into your own hands. The kiddos choose their batter and ‘fixins’ which include options like chocolate chips and bananas or crisp bacon, roasted mushrooms and vegan sausage. Then you cook them up right there while they watch.
Portland is famous for its food carts! So make sure to hit a couple up. Don't miss PBJ's Grilled, because what kid wouldn't love a deluxe PBJ? And if your little eater is allergic to peanut butter, no worries, the Grilled Cheese Grill is there to meet his or her lunch and dinner needs.
Seaside offers visitors more than just a long stretch of beautiful beach to relax on. The town has a fun boardwalk with tons of spots offering fun activities for kids of all ages. The Funland Arcade is the North Oregon Coast's largest arcade and has hundreds of games for your kids to play. Located two blocks from the ocean, Seaside Carousel Mall is waiting to take your kids for a spin. The carousel is a perfect replica of a classic edition and great for snapping those pics, you'll want to show off to family and friends later.
If you are in the area for an extended stay, the Seaside Aquarium is well worth a visit. It's the oldest aquarium on the West Coast and full of marine life and educational opportunities your kids will enjoy.
The Shilo Inn Suites Oceanfront Hotel overlooks the beach has a large pool and an attached boardwalk restaurant. If you are looking for a place that puts your family in the middle of everything and has all of the amenities this is the right hotel for you. Another great option is the Best Western Ocean View Resort. It's located on the oceanfront promenade and has an indoor saline pool, fitness room and is only five minutes from the heart of Seaside.
It probably doesn't come as a surprise to learn that the seafood in Seaside is amazing. Head to Doogers Seafood & Grill for crab cakes and fish and chips. They even offer a junior and gluten free menu. If you are in the mood for breakfast at any time of the day, head to Pig 'N Pancake where they are always serving up the morning classics and then some.
photo: Nickay3111 via Flickr
What is your favorite PNW family road trip? Share it with us in the comments below.