Summer is flying by and before you know it, you’ll be gearing up for the back-to-school grind. Before that happens, make the most of your last days of summer by planning an end-of-summer road trip. Whether it’s a last-minute weekend excursion to the mountains or an extended trip to a seaside town, scroll down for 11 family road trip destinations—all within a few hours drive or less of Seattle.
Super easy to get to (assuming there isn't any major construction on Snoqualmie Pass), the city of Cle Elum offers lots of outdoor family fun including hiking, biking, horseback riding and water activities on Lake Cle Elum where you can rent boats, jet skis and more. The city of Rosyln (remember the TV show Northern Exposure?) is a great place to explore with kids and to grab a meal at The World Famous Brick Salon, Roslyn Cafe or Roslyn Village Pizza.
Stay at: Suncadia Resort, A Destination Hotel for a posh experience yet casual, kid-friendly and a bit adventurous. Families visiting Suncadia can enjoy golfing, biking, hiking trails and horseback riding as well as fab hotel amenities. Kids will love the ice cream socials in the lobby, nightly s'mores around the campfire and the new pool and Backyard BBQs at Suncadia's Nelson Farm. And everyone in your crew will love the Suncadia Club Swim & Fitness Center (with two indoor water slides, an indoor pool and a ginormous outdoor pool with poolside service) as well as the fine and casual dining options, outdoor amphitheater and spa services. Check Suncadia’s website for special end-of-summer packages.
If you're looking for a place where you can get in some serious R&R, you’ll love Lake Chelan and the fact that there’s not much to do here except park your rear and relax. If you must get up, nearby wineries are a fun diversion as well as shopping in downtown historic Chelan. The kids will have fun swimming, building sand castles, playing putt putt, driving go karts at Rally Alley and taking a boat cruise up the lake. And everyone will love splashing around at Slidewaters, Lake Chelan's awesome water park that is also the new home of Lakeside Surf, the world’s largest and the first deep water stationary wave in the US. The 52 ½ foot wide Citywave will allow you and your little surfers to catch six-foot waves on standard ocean boards and fins. Psst! Lakeside Surf is a stand-alone surf park that operates both independently and in connection to Slidewaters and will remain open into the late fall.
Stay at: Campbell’s Resort, Wapato Point, Mountain View Lodge & Resort or Lake Chelan Shores for a quintessential laid-back family resort experience. Or grab a few other families and rent a lakefront house.
If you’re looking for a road trip with options (like ferries vs. bridges), Hood Canal is the place to go. Located between the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas, this fantastic family destination will take you less than two-hours to get to (that is…if you don’t encounter road and ferry traffic). If you're planning a weekend visit, consider skipping town a day early and returning on Tuesday (cough, cough). Since you’ll be trading high-rise buildings and busy freeways for sea-creature filled tide flats and beautiful beaches, your kiddos will think they’re in a whole new world in Hood Canal.
Stay at: The totally kid-friendly Alderbrook Resort & Spa. Tucked away towards the south end of the Hood Canal, near a tiny little town called Union, Alderbrook is the true Hood Canal showstopper! Kids of all ages will think the hiking trails at Alderbrook are awesome and will love dining on the patio, roasting s'mores by the campfire, beach combing and playing lawn games near the cottages. Everyone will love the indoor pool with restaurant service (Margaritas poolside, anyone?), the complimentary daily activities, cruises aboard the Lady Alderbrook, kayaks, boats, SUP boards, paddle boats and more at the marina and the Xbox Game Room. Psst! In addition to hotel rooms, the resort offers spacious cottages, perfect for families who are looking to spread out a bit and take advantage of full kitchens.
If a little island adventure is what you need, you’ll love the variety that Whidbey has to offer, from scenic farms to quaint towns to the arts to endless beaches. The kids will have fun exploring forts, beach combing and hiking. Everyone will enjoy walking the pier at historic Coupeville, exploring Greenbank Farm or riding the Coupville/Keystone ferry to downtown Port Townsend.
Located just south of Pacific Beach on the Washington coast, Seabrook offers an expansive Pacific Ocean shoreline to play all day. Beyond building sandcastles and splashing in the ocean surf, you’ll find plenty of wide-open spaces to fly a kite or watch others practice with their stunt kites and other wind-powered devices. If seafood is your thing, you can also clam on the beach for razors, depending on the season or take advantage of the rentals at Buck’s Bikes in town. Stop in before you hit the beach for bikes of every shape and size, including trailers for the tykes in tow. Buck’s also rents skimboards and Seabrook is a primo spot to check out this sport with your crew if you haven’t already.
Stay at: A Seabrook beach cottage. It's the first step in planning your simple end of summer Seabrook vacay. And it couldn’t be easier than filling in filters to narrow the expansive rental options so what you end up with is exactly what you need. Seabrook’s got pet-friendly cottages, cottages with ocean views, cottages with a touch of farm life; and each one has different perks, like bicycles guests can use, hot tubs for soaking or gas grills for a summer BBQ, that make this an oh-so-easy place to stay with kids. Plus, each cottage’s distinct personality, with cheeky names to match like "Tide Together" or "When Pigs Fly," add that homey feel that’s comforting and familiar.
The San Juans
If you're looking for a little of this and a little of that, you’ll love everything about the San Juan Islands: the ferries, the slower pace and the downright other-worldliness of these eclectic islands. The kids will have fun kayaking, glamping, and exploring historic parks. Everyone will enjoy boating, learning about Orca whales, swimming in island lakes and gourmet dining.
Stay at: Rosario Resort & Spa, West Beach Resort or Pebble Cove Farm on Orcas Island, the Lopez Islander Resort on Lopez or Roche Harbor, Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes or the Earthbox Inn on San Juan Island.
Semiahmoo & Birch Bay
Craving a beach experience without the high surf? Consider a trip up North (less than two hours from Seattle, just prior to the Canadian border) to the Semiahmoo and Birch Bay areas. Semiahmoo (pronounced Semi-ah-moo) is located at the tip of a one-mile “spit” of land bordered by Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay with views of White Rock, BC. No roaring ocean surf here; just gentle waves from passing fishing boats lapping at the shore of the rocky beach. When the tide goes out at either Semiahmoo or nearby Birch Bay, you can explore the sand flats for miles. Bring your beach shoes for the rocky part and plan to go barefoot when the tide is low!
In addition to beach walking, shell-finding, clamming-digging, kite-flying and wildlife-watching (bald eagles, seals and more), Semiahmoo has a paved trail, perfect for biking and walking, that runs the length of the spit (about a mile). The addition of Paddle and Pedal Adventures, which set up shop right next door to the hotel, is the place to go if you don't want to haul your own bikes; they can rent you one along with kid trailers and kid-tandems, too. They also rent kayaks and sell an assortment of sand toys. (Hint: This little spot tucked behind the water tower by Semiahmoo Resort has the best sandy beach on the spit…great for sandcastles!). During the summer months, short rides around the bay are offered on a charming, vintage passenger ferry named Plover. Kids get to steer for part of the journey and will become honorary captains—taking home their own certificate. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Birch Bay Waterslides offers fun for all ages with advanced slides and a kiddie area with three tame slides. The nearby Miniature World Family Fun Center has an 18-hole mini golf course, go-karts and a miniature train ride through a quirky “Forest of Imagination.”
Stay at: Semiahmoo Resort for an ideal beach weekend. You can literally park your car at the resort and not leave again for the whole stay. The hotel, reminiscent of a New England seaside resort, is welcoming to families. Kids love the outdoor swimming pool and the sprawling beachside lawns for volleyball, croquet, horseshoes and just running around. The hotel also offers G & PG-rated family movies along with evening bonfires with s’mores fixings and daily scavenger hunts. Another option on Semiahmoo spit is to rent a condo at the adjacent Beach Walker Villas and purchase passes to use the hotel's pool and gym. Nearby Birch Bay (more boisterous than Semiahmoo and not as self-contained) is home to numerous condo rentals of many vintages. Check out Vacationville, VRBO or even Craigslist for assistance. In Birch Bay, you’ll have to cross the road to get to the beach and will often find people “cruising the strip” in the summer months. Like Semiahmoo, low tides in Birch Bay provide plenty of beach fun.
If you've been itching to get to the mountains, you’ll love the achingly beautiful alpine landscape and wildflower covered meadows of Mount Rainier. The kids will have fun playing on the nature-inspired playground or taking a tram ride at Northwest Trek (on the way to or from the mountain), exploring the 1887 homestead at the Pioneer Farm Museum or the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum in Elbe, hiking kid-appropriate trails, exploring the Mt. Rainier National Park's visitor centers and participating in the Junior Ranger program. Everyone will enjoy family-friendly one-day adventures and camping in the forest.
If you're looking for a scenic destination, you'll love the Methow Valley and especially the drive there via the majestic scenery of the North Cascades. The dry heat will have you basking in the sun. The kids will have fun hiking and mountain biking on easy trails, followed by a round of mini golf and ice cream in the old west-themed town of Winthrop. Everyone will enjoy horseback riding, a huge range of water sports and even a hot air balloon ride.
If the sea is calling your name, you’ll love the sound of the waves crashing along the expansive coast, the smell of the salt in the air and sniffing out fresh oysters in the tiny town of Oysterville. The kids will have fun flying kites, eating saltwater taffy, saying hi to Jake the Alligator Man and playing safely on the beach. Everyone will enjoy walking the boardwalk, exploring sand dunes and checking out historic lighthouses.
—Kristina Moy, Allison Ellis, Katie Kavulla & Allison Sutcliffe