If you and your kid crew are in need of a little family vacay, the slower pace, lessened crowds and off-season hotel rates make the post-summer months the perfect time to schedule a weekend out of town. Whether you’re looking for an adventurous getaway, a scenic destination or a relaxing locale, we’ve put together 13 kid-approved fall getaways, all within a few hour’s drive of Seattle. The best part? They all require very little planning on your part.
Located approximately 3.5 hours from Seattle, Lake Chelan is the perfect driving distance for an extended fall weekend getaway. With a proclivity for 300 days of sun, an array of outdoor activities and over 30 wineries hugging the shores of the beautiful blue-green water, this family destination offers a little something for everyone. Hop aboard the Lady of the Lake for a day trip (or overnight adventure) where you can take in spectacular mountain and lake views and enjoy unplugged serenity. This 55-mile journey brings you to the head of Lake Chelan, known as Stehekin Valley; which is only reachable by boat, seaplane or a 50-mile hike. Of course, a fall trip to Lake Chelan wouldn’t be complete without visiting Blueberry Hills—a small, family owned and operated U-pick berry farm and restaurant. The eclectic restaurant serves good old-fashioned grub and the best Breakfast Blintz you’ve ever tasted. Psst… plan to wait in line if you hit the restaurant during peak breakfast or lunch hours. This is a popular place, especially on the weekends!
Stay at Wapato Point, a 116-acre property that sits on 1.5 miles of waterfront in Manson (just a short drive from downtown Lake Chelan). This family fave boasts large sandy beaches coupled with outdoor activities galore (think: biking, swimming, boating, fishing, putt putt golf, tennis and walking trails), a huge indoor pool, hot tub and sauna and accommodations that range from studios and one bedrooms to two and three bedroom condominiums and large homes, making it the perfect resort for families.
Bonus: Lake Chelan hosts a variety of fall festivals. Consider planning a trip Oct.7-8 or 14-15 for the annual Lake Crush Festival, a two-day festival where you can take in the beautiful autumn sounds and sights of Lake Chelan while stomping grapes and tasting the delicious fruits of your labor along with exploring local wineries with special tours from cellar masters and winemakers. November 17-24 marks Lake Chelan’s Festival of Trees. Take a leisurely stroll through the businesses located in historic downtown Chelan while bidding on the beautifully decorated holiday trees that line the main drag. Psst… each tree is designed by a local artist, merchant or organization and all proceeds from the auction will benefit the Chelan Food Bank. Or consider visiting Nov. 24-26 during Lake Chelan’s Fall Barrel Tasting. During this time, visitors can give thanks to the harvest season by enjoying the season’s warming reds straight from the barrel, and linger over samples of the best varieties in the valley. Psst... winemakers will also be on hand sharing their secrets and techniques for creating their award-winning wines and showcasing some of their delicious collections.
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 and horseback riding as well boat rentals on Lake Cle Elum. The city of Rosyln (remember the '90's TV show Northern Exposure which is rumored to be making a comeback?) is a great place to explore with kids and to grab a meal at The World Famous Brick Salon, Roslyn Cafe or Village Pizza. Stay at Suncadia Resort for a posh experience yet casual, kid-friendly and a bit adventurous. You and your crew will love the fab hotel amenities and kids will especially love making making s’mores around the campfire and walking the 1000 Steps trail to the river. Everyone will love the awesome Swim and Fitness Center with two indoor water slides and an indoor pool, fine and casual dining and spa services.
Bonus: For an even extra special trip, plan to go during their Harvest Festival, Oct 7-8 & 14-15. Two weekends of festive events and activities at the Historic Nelson Farm mean Halloween-themed activities, pony and wagon rides, a pee-wee rodeo and a 1,000 bale hay maze and hay pyramid, plus a pumpkin patch, food and beer garden.
Come autumn in Cannon Beach, rain boots replace flip flops. While the crowds are long gone, pelicans and fog roll in this time of year, creating a magical landscape with cozy restaurants snuggled up to a beach starring the beloved Haystack Rock. Your best bet for dinner in the oceanside Oregon city is the Public Coast Brewing Co., serving fluffy cornbread topped with sweet clover butter in an iron skillet that’s bigger than the circumference of your face. Stop in the verdant Ecola State Park on your way to Manzanita, a sleepy beach town 20 minutes south peppered with shops, a bakery and the kid-favorite Left Coast Siesta, a little taco shop slinging fresh Mexican-inspired fare on the cheap. Search sites like VRBO for homey vacation rentals at low-season prices, or hunker down at the The Ocean Lodge.
The only work you’ll do during a weekend at Copalis Beach will be drive the two to three hours it takes to get to the beach town a few miles north of Ocean Shores. Rent a condo at Surfcrest Vacation Condominiums and enjoy the heated outdoor pool or book a cozy cabin at the warm, rustic Iron Springs Resort (pictured above) and share gooey cinnamon rolls prepared by the staff. If you forget your kite or sand toys, the general store sells everything you need to make this beach vacay one to remember. Psst... bring a stack of your kiddo’s favorite books and prepare to spend precious time just being together.
Bonus: Copalis Beach is ground zero for some of the best razor clam digging on the Washington Coast. The Mocrocks Beach is tentatively scheduled to open for clamming Oct. 6-7, Nov. 3 & 5, Dec. 2 & 4 and Dec. 31 and the team at Iron Springs Resort is ready to make your clamming dreams come true. Whether you’re a newbie to the ways of these speedy bivalves or you’re looking to refresh your skills, Iron Springs’ Guided Clam Digs will have you noshing on clams from the comfort of your cabin in no time. Just give Iron Springs Resort a call and book your personalized package which includes all your digging essentials, an official digging license, a clam cleaning tutorial and even a bottle of white wine and sautéed razor clam recipe to prepare dinner in your cabin.
Granted, exchange rates aren’t what they used to be, but you’ll love the variety of shopping, sightseeing and dining experiences this gorgeous, family-friendly world-class city has to offer. The kids will have a blast at the Kids Market at Granville Island, where they can easily spend a few hours climbing around in the indoor playground, playing arcade games or browsing toy stores. There’s something for everyone at Stanley Park (biking, beaches, putt-putt, the fabulous Vancouver Aquarium, a miniature train…) and you’ll definitely want to visit the Telus World of Science. Truth be told, there’s no shortage of things to do with kids in Vancouver, and you may have trouble packing it in.
Stay at Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel (fab indoor pool) or the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton (free breakfast and a really cool rooftop whirlpool and game room.) Don’t forget to get your docs in a row for the border crossing.
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).
Stay at the totally kid-friendly Alderbrook Resort and 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 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, daily cruises aboard the Lady Alderbrook as well as the kayaks, SUP boards and paddle boat rentals 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.
You’ll love the old world charm of this Victorian seaport, with eclectic boutiques, art galleries and the smell of saltwater in the air. The kids will have fun at nearby parks, watching boat building in action at the Northwest Maritime Center, going to jail at the Jefferson County Historical Society or slurping down an old-fashioned milkshake at Nifty Fiftys Soda Fountain. Everyone will enjoy spending time at Fort Worden State Park, kayaking the bay or exploring tide pools at the Marine Science Center. Walk on the ferry to Whidbey Island and check out Fort Casey Historical State Park for a half-day side trip. Stay at Fort Worden (historic officers quarters, houses and even a castle are available), the adorable Swan Hotel near the marina or The Tides Inn & Suites close to the ferry terminal.
Fall foliage (check.) Spa treatments (check.) Hiking (check.) You’ll love all of the above, give or take the cheese factor of this faux Bavarian village about two hours east of Seattle. After all, Leavenworth is all about family fun. The kids can play a round of Bavarian mini golf, catch a movie, or play arcade games at the Icicle Junction Activities Center. Everyone will enjoy nearby hikes, eating bratwurst and visiting the Nutcracker Museum. Stay at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort (think cozy accommodations, farm to table cuisine, onsite expanded Aspen Leaf Spa and amazing rock pools) or Enzian Inn (terrific indoor pool).
Bonus: If a Bavarian Festival is calling your name, plan to go during Leavenworth's annual Oktoberfest festival Sep. 29-30, Oct 6-7 & Oct 13-14. It's the next best thing to being in Munich!
Olympic National Park
If the splendor of the rugged beach and rainforest doesn’t get you, maybe the vampires and werewolves will. You’ll love reminiscing about the good times with Bella, Edward and Jacob at nearby Forks, the kids will have fun splashing around at Sol Duc Hot Springs (open through Oct. 29) and everyone can experience the magnificence of the Hoh Rainforest, Hurricane Ridge and the "seastacks" at Rialto Beach. Plus, short day hikes abound here. Stay at Lake Quinalt Lodge (pictured above), Lake Crescent Lodge or Kalaloch Lodge.
When it comes to brilliant fall colors, you’ll love Hood River’s scenery (and can maybe squeeze in a little wine tasting or windsurfing). The kids will have fun picking fruit along the 35-mile long fruit loop, or opt for some snow-related activities up on Mt. Hood. Everyone should see Multnomah Falls, the Bridge of the Gods and Lost Lake. Stay at Skamania Lodge, Columbia Cliff Villas or the historic Timberline Lodge.
Tax-free shopping, fantastic restaurants, plenty of family-friendly things to do…we love it! Exploring the Oregon Zoo is among the top kid faves, as well as the premier Portland Children’s Museum and the World Forestry Center. Everyone can enjoy the riverfront, walking around Forest Park and making a pilgrimage to Powell’s Books. Stay at The Heathman Hotel (makeout with your partner Fifty Shades-style in the elevator – dare you!), The Benson or Kimpton Hotel Monaco Portland. Psst... check out Hotel Monaco's “Kids Hour” every day at 5 p.m. when they serve kiddos juice and snacks while the adults enjoy wine. How cool is that?
Fairhaven is a bustling historic neighborhood that sits at the southend of Bellingham. You can see the town in a day and take your time getting there and back, or spend the night. Take your time browsing unique goods at several independent retailers, including a sweet kid's spot Wild Blueberries and Village Books, featuring a great children’s section with over-sized reading pillows. Grab brunch at Harris Avenue Cafe and hot chocolates at the attached Tony’s, or share sandwiches at Avenue Bread. Fairhaven is close to Chuckanut Drive: little ones can gawk out the window on the winding road with sweeping water views that spits out near the cute, food-centric Bow Hill. Stop in for a hearty loaf at Breadfarm on your way home.
Olympia’s quaint, colorful college town vibe makes it well worth an autumn visit. If you time your drive before or after rush hour you can make the trip in just about an hour. Start out at the Olympia farmers market where you can grab local produce, artisan goods and a snack. Check out Blue Heron Bakery at its market booth or brick-and-mortor location, browse downtown shops and squeeze in a few hours at the salt-marsh studded Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Don't forget about the Capitol Building and the always-awesome Hands On Children's Museum. You can easily spend the morning or afternoon exploring the eight galleries of hands-on exhibits and immersing yourself in a variety of exhibit topics. At the end of the day, grab dinner at the family-friendly Oly Rockfish Grill and visit BoomShaka Extreme Air Sports if your kids still need to burn off some energy. And if you still have some oomph left, drive 20 minutes south and check in at the Great Wolf Lodge.
Where will you be heading off to this fall? Tell us in the comments below!
— Kristina Moy, Sara Billups & Allison Ellis