Do you daydream about what you and your clan will do as soon as the cold gives way? Spring break is just around the corner and the good news is that you don’t have to jump on a plane to enjoy a vacation that takes you to the desert, mountains or sea. The following destinations are only a handful of hours away by car, but have all of the elements required for the perfect family getaway. Read on to find out where to go and what to do when you get there.

photo: Nickay3111 via Flickr

Mt. Rainier National Park, Ashford Wa.
Minimum hours in the car: 2.25

Just a short drive away, Mt. Rainier National Park is nothing short of magical during the spring months. In areas where the snowmelt has begun, waterfalls are waiting to  mesmerize your family members. Many are reachable by car and there are parking areas only a short walking distance from designated viewpoints. Upon entering the park, pick up a free map or ask a friendly ranger where the best views for your family might be. Some lowland hikes, like the Trail of Shadows which is a 0.7 mile loop, are appropriate for even the littlest hikers, if your clan prefers to stay active. Rangers are also more than happy to point the way to the treks that best fit your needs.

If your family was done with the rain but misses the snow, you are likely to find plenty of the white stuff still around as you drive farther up the mountain. The snow play area at Paradise is open through the end of March or later depending on conditions. Break out the sleds and snow tubes and shoot down the slopes, or suit up with snowshoes and catch the last of the winter glory by foot. Check out VisitRainier online to stay on top of all of the Mt. Rainier Happenings.

Looking for family friendly accommodations? Consider reserving one of the family-friendly cabins at Three Bears Lodge. Each one comes with all of the amenities you could dream of including a fully equipped kitchen with a self breakfast, high chairs, cribs, boosters, toys and a hot tub to soak away the aches from all of the days activities.

For a great place to catch a bite, check out Wildberry Restaurant and enjoy traditional Sherpa Himalayan Dishes and what they call an American Mountain Menu. Your littles will appreciate chowing down on the classic grilled cheese, while you can sink your teeth into a tasty lamb gyro or a yak steak!


photo: James Garrett

Seaside Or.
Minimum hours in the car: 1.5

It’s like enjoying a little slice of the California coast without all of the driving to get there. While the air will most likely still have a chill to it, Seaside has a beautiful and expansive beach with plenty of room for your littles to run, play, and dig in the sand. After you’ve gotten all of your energy out, you can check out the Seaside Aquarium. Featuring living regional marine life, and a hands-on discovery center, you and your kiddos will have the opportunity to learn all about the sea and its inhabitants as you make your way through each area. Don’t miss the 35-foot gray whale skeleton!

Another activity your kids won’t want to miss is the Funland Arcade. Only a short stroll from the beach, this arcade offers gobs of gaming options. They have everything from the classics to the contemporary virtual reality games. There’s even bumper cars and pinball. If you get hungry while playing, grab a slice of pizza from Fultano’s.

Not sure where to stay? Seaside is full of hotel and beach house rental options. Consider staying at Seaside Oceanfront Shilo Inn Suites Hotel. Ask for a room overlooking the ocean and then enjoy meals at their restaurant and swimming in their pool which offers a view of the ocean that you can enjoy as you do laps and the kids splash.

End your family’s day with a 2.5- mile walk along the oceanfront promenade as you watch the sun set.


photo: Cathy Tvia Flickr

Bend Or.
Minimum number of hours in the car: 3.25

If traveling to a location that offers activities like mountain biking, rafting, rock climbing and hiking in both forested areas or desert landscapes sounds like a dream getaway for your family, then Bend is the perfect vacation town for you. While temperatures in spring vary, sun is almost a guarantee and there’s a plethora of outdoor activities for families to do together.

About 30 minutes north of Bend, Smith Rock State Park is packed with trails that take you along winding waterways beneath towering sheer red-rock walls. You are sure to see rock climbers dangling from lines which will thrill your littlest adventurers. If your kids are ready to try their hand at rock climbing, contact Smith Rock Climbing School. They offer guided rock climbing opportunities for families—an experience that will not soon be forgotten.

If your family prefers to keep their feet on the ground, Bend is chock full of businesses, like TumaloCreek Kayak & Canoe, that rent out kayaks, SUP boards, and canoes for  exploring the Deschutes River, which cuts right through the middle of town.

There are family friendly lodging options in Bend, such as the Riverhouse on the Deschutes. Or, If you are looking for an upscale experience, consider staying in Sun River. Just a 20 minute drive from Bend, Sunriver Resort, offers miles of bike/cross country trails, golf, tennis courts, spas and the like. Both Riverhouse on the Deshutes and Sunriver Resort have onsite dining options that accomodate family members both big and small, so everyone goes to bed satisfied after a long day of active play.

photo: Amy Meredith via Flickr

Hot Springs of Southeastern Oregon
Minimum number of hours in the car: 5

If warm water, sunshine and endless room for the littles to run and explore sounds like just what your family needs to recover from the harshness of winter, then spending time at one of the hot springs in southeastern Oregon, is just what the doctor ordered. About two and a half hours outside of Bend, you will find yourself surrounded by stunning dessert landscapes and you will be well on your way to one of two amazing destinations.

Just a couple of the kid-friendly hot spring options available to your clan include Summer Lake Hot Springs Resort in Paisley and Crystal Crane Hot Springs. Summer Lake offers small, cozy cabins for rent and a soak or swim in their large, enclosed water feature. If your family likes to be rugged you can tent or RV camp on their property and just use their facilities. You will need to bring your own food if you don’t want to have to travel for a place to eat.

Another excellent option is Crystal Crane Hot Springs, which offers overnight accommodations in the form of cabins and teepees. Here you can also park your camper or post up in a tent. There is an onsite kitchen and dining hall where you can cook and eat the food you bring, and the hot spring is an open-air, large, pond-like body of water that your kiddos are sure to love.

Most visitors travel to these parts of the state  for the miles of nothing and for the vast open spaces, and you’ll find plenty of areas to explore and indulge in for free and reservation-free camping options in places including the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area and the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge.

What is your favorite Spring Break getaway? Let us know in the Comments below!

—Annette Benedetti