The stunning Columbia River Gorge runs over 80 miles through the Cascade Range forming a boundary between Oregon and Washington. Only a short drive from both Portland and Seattle, families flock to this natural area for its unparalleled, year-round recreation. While popular base-camp options like Hood River draw big crowds and book early, just across the river on the Washington side of the Gorge lies a hidden gem perfect for adventurous families. Bingen is home to dreamy new accommodations that provide easy access to the best outdoor adventure the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Read on to find out more.

photo: via the Society Hotel

Stay


Bingen is accessible by car and is only two stops away from Portland and three stops from Seattle by Amtrak. Just five blocks from the Amtrak station, The Society Hotel is a brand new community gathering space that offers affordable rates, varied accommodation options and concierge-style service parents will appreciate.

A renovated schoolhouse that was built in 1908, burnt down in 1933 and then was converted into a hostel in 1988, the hotel honors the building’s history throughout its campus by featuring some of the original elements of the schoolhouse in the rooms and hotel hallways. Accommodations include 10 European-style standard hotel rooms that are each themed after a school subject and have access to a shared bathroom.

photo: via The Society Hotel

For larger families, we suggest one of the 20 cabins that encircle a grass area with a fire pit, bathhouse and spa. The two-room cabins are perfect for a family of four. They have cozy beds, a sitting and dining area and a small kitchenette where you can cook your own meals. Outside you’ll find a picnic bench and hammock swing to kick back in. And if you’re looking to throw a family reunion, there are two 24-bed bunkrooms you can book for the whole clan.

While we appreciate The Society Hotel’s flexible rooming options, the amenities really make it a special experience for traveling families. The onsite bathhouse and spa features a saltwater soaking pool, cold plunge pool, sauna and bar with juice and cocktails. Parents can also schedule a massage after a long day of outdoor play. Kiddos aren’t forgotten. The owners of the hotel converted the old school’s gym into a multipurpose space where they can get their wiggles out shooting hoops and playing games. The space even features the original bleachers and floors.

During the day, the lobby area has a wonderful space where you can lounge and relax by the fireplace on comfy couches. And there’s even a café that serves coffee and tasty bites for breakfast.

photo: via Wet Planet

Play

If your family loves the outdoors, Bingen is the perfect place to make your base camp for fun. The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail makes for a scenic family bike ride or hike. This trail—once a section U.S. Highway 30—is now only open to bikers and hikers and takes you along the winding curves of the cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge where you catch breathtaking views of the water without motorists zipping by and detracting from the sweeping beauty. If your bike lovers are older (16+), Sol Rides in Hood River offers e-bike tours of the area.

photo: by Annette Benedetti

When the temps rise, getting wet and wild is easy. Wet Planet offers whitewater rafting adventures down the Lower Salmon River, and they are gorgeous! You can book a full or half day trip or go on a multi-day adventure. These trips are appropriate for kids 10+ years old. The younger set are sure to be enchanted while exploring the natural life along one of the Gorge’s trails. Catherine Creek Trail is a stunning wildflower hike that gives visitors breathtaking views of Mt. Hood. It’s easy for little feet and parents with kids on their backs, and makes for a great morning or afternoon activity.

Mosier is only a short bike ride or drive away and it is home to lovely wineries when mom and dad want an afternoon away. Garnier Winery and Idiot’s Grace have beautiful tasting rooms for a romantic escape.

photo: by Annette Benedetti

Eat

You don’t have to go far to get a good meal in Bingen. The Society Hotel has a wonderful onsite café with fantastic bites for the whole family. From coffee and breakfast dishes that include favorites like avocado toast to cocktails and savory sandwiches, you can find everything you desire .Off site, you can grab bites locally at Beneventi’s where you can nosh on amazing pasta dishes, calzones and pizza. When you jump off your raft at Wet Planet, head over to their cafe for some of the best tacos you’ll find in the Gorge.

Across the river in Hood River there’s Solstice Wood Fire Café which Features rustic and inventive pizzas, homemade pasta, seasonal chef’s entrees, and an extensive drink menu. Families enjoy the outdoor patio seating, a kid play area and art by local artists. Located on the Hood River Waterfront, it’s steps away from a fantastic playground (with a climbing wall and other fun features!) and small beach.

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Ferment Brewing Company is a newer brewery and tasting room that has an incredible space on the Hood River waterfront with epic views of the river. They pair their handcrafted beers and kombuchas with homemade fermented food. There’s a great kids menu that includes their homemade frozen yogurt.

Finally, there’s Andrew’s Pizza & Skylight Theater which features a family-friendly environment comprised of a pizzeria, two silver-screen theaters with first-run shows, an arcade and frozen yogurt shop. They carry over 100 wines, have more than 15 local brews on tap and make fresh pastries daily.

Visiting the Columbia River Gorge doesn’t mean having to fight the crowds and booking accommodations months in advance. Head to Bingen on the Washington side and enjoy a luxury family hotel and some of the best outdoor recreation the area has to offer with your favorite young adventurers year-round

—Annette Benedetti

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