If that trip to the Happiest Place on Earth didn’t quite happen this summer, don’t fret Seattle parents. There’s still plenty of time to plan the next best thing—a family day trip that won’t break the bank and offers up plenty of summertime fun. The best part? These destinations all come in just shy of the, “Are we there yets?” making them the perfect option for both parents and kids alike. If you’re ready to roll, gas up the car and read on!
Leavenworth: The Bavarian Adventure
How far from Seattle: 135 miles (approximately a 2.5-3 hour drive)
Surrounded by beautiful mountains, Leavenworth is a small Bavarian-styled town that doesn’t skimp on the theming. Most of the architecture here is meant to look as if the buildings were plucked from Bavaria and then placed in Eastern Washington. And it's hugely popular any time of the year. Summertime is great with its hot dry weather, of course, but so is the fall with its changing leaves and Oktoberfest celebration; spring brings new budding flowers and wildflowers galore and during the winter, this place is decked out with thousands of Christmas lights. Since Leavenworth always seems to have something to celebrate, it makes for a great place to visit year-round.
What to Do: Leavenworth is very family-friendly. Bavarian music plays throughout the town (often live!) and many of the local shopkeepers dress in traditional “Bavarian wear.” Traditional food can also be found around every corner...not to mention the many ice cream and candy shops that line the streets. Psst! During the summer months, you can find art shows on the weekends at the Front Street Park. The town is also designed to be walkable, but if the tots get tired, you can always board the trolley that comes by every so often. And if all this isn’t enough to impress your petite posse, Leavenworth also boats a handful of parks, swimming pool, miniature golf, arcade, movie theater and even a pump track to enjoy.
Day Trip Tips: The Baren Haus serves up some of the best burgers in town with homemade hamburger buns and Gustav’s is a family style pub that's been a Leavenworth favorite since 1982. Also, the Wood Shop and Hat Shop is a must see along with the always popular Nutcracker Museum.
500 W. U.S. Hwy. 2
Leavenworth, Wa 98826
Crystal Mountain Resort: Experience the Mountain Without the Snow
How far from Seattle: 82 miles (approximately a 1.75-2.25 hour drive)
We often forget that mountain passes can still be as fun to visit during the summer as they are during the winter, and Crystal Mountain Resort is one of the best.
What to Do: Start off by riding the Mt. Rainier Gondola that will transport your family to the 6,872 summit of Crystal Mountain in about ten minutes. Do we really need to mention that you’ll see sweeping views of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Range? This experience can make your ho-hum picnic lunch into something spectacular or you can plan to have lunch at the Summit House restaurant. While at the top, plan on taking part in one of the fairly easily interpretive hikes led by a forest ranger.
Day Trip Tips: Save this trip until late June. Crystal Mountain Resort doesn't open until June 22, 2018. Also, the weather can change dramatically with the elevation, so plan on wearing comfortable shoes and dress in plenty of layers.
Crystal Mountain Resort
33914 Crystal Mountain Blvd.
Enumclaw, Wa 98022
Deception Pass: Nature’s Playground
How far from Seattle: 80 miles (approximately a 1.5-2 hour drive)
There is so much to do and explore at Deception Pass with its sweeping views of the ocean, mountains, evergreen trees, sandy beaches, sand dunes, rocky hills, peaceful lakes and so much more. Of course, your kids won’t appreciate it all until they have to go back home.
What to Do: Plan to park near the Deception Pass Bridge and walk across for a spectacular view. You will need a Discover Pass to enter the 4,134 acre park ($10 for the day or $30 for a year’s pass). The park has the distinction of being placed between the fresh water Cranberry Lake (which has its own swimming area with a large dock to swim out to) and the salty Puget Sound. There are many hiking, biking and even horse trails that wind through the park, but for families with small children who would rather just stroll, take advantage of the paved nature trail which starts out in a heavy wooded section and then suddenly opens up to a view of the Sound and large sand dunes (which is also a great place for kids to play in).
The sandy beach is also a great place to practice your balancing skills on the logs or look for sea shells. And the park is a great place for clamming, crabbing and fishing and boasts plenty of picnic spots and easy restroom access. If you go, plan time to visit the Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center in the Bowman Bay area of the park. Originally built in the 1930s, the building is now home to a museum cared for by the Washington State Parks staff.
Day Trip Tips: The city of Oak Harbor is just 8.8 miles away and offers even more family fun. Want to save some money on parking? Plan to explore the park for free on a Discover Pass Free Day. Upcoming dates are: Aug. 25, Sept. 22 and Nov. 11 & 23, 2018. Also, be sure to pack swimsuits and towels even if you don’t plan to get wet because it’s hard to resist not jumping over the waves.
Deception Pass Park
41020 State Route 20
Oak Harbor, Wa 98277
Snoqualmie Falls: Where "Twin Peaks" Comes Alive
How far from Seattle: 30 miles (approximately a 30-45 minute drive without traffic)
Here’s an excursion that parents who are fans of the old TV show and new reboot will go crazy over, while pretending to be looking at the waterfall. Located just a short drive from the little town of Snoqualmie, Snoqualmie Falls is one of Washington state’s most popular scenic attractions. And there's a good reason why. The 270-foot waterfall is impressive! The Falls also boast a two-acre park, gift shop, observation deck and gorgeous Salish Lodge & Spa which just received a 12 million dollar renovation!
What to Do: At the visitor’s site for Snoqualmie Falls, there's a short sidewalk trail that will give you a good view of the majestic falls and will impress even the toughest pint-sized critics. The site is right next to the Salish Lodge & Spa where the former (and new remake) of Twin Peaks was filmed. Psst...go inside the Lodge’s gift shop to find some Twin Peaks swag. Then, take a trip into the city of Snoqualmie to check out the Northwest Railway Museum and make a stop at the Snoqualmie Falls Candy Shoppe & Cafe. While you're there, consider taking a 75-minute excursion on the historic train for another view of the Falls and the Upper Snoqualmie Valley. The historic train ride is old, rickety and kids love it! On your way home, stop by Twede’s Café in North Bend (also known as The Double R Diner) for a slice of Twin Peaks cherry pie alongside a “damn fine cup o’ coffee!”
Day Trip Tips: The Northwest Railway Museum is located at 38625 S.E. King St. with trains departing daily from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Special schedules and fares are offered on Father's Day Weekend, Day Out With Thomas, North Bend Festival, Snoqualmie Railroad Days, Labor Day Weekend, Grandparents' Day, Halloween and Christmas. The Snoqualmie Falls Candy Shoppe is located at 8102 Railroad Ave. S.E. and if you go, you'll want to try their old-fashioned shakes. You can thank us later! Twede’s Café is located at 137 W. North Bend Way (4.5 miles from Snoqualmie). Psst...don't forget to get a pic in front of Twede's famous sign.
6501 Railroad Ave. S.E.
Snoqualmie, Wa 98065
Mount Rainier National Park: Not Just for Hardcore Hikers
How far from Seattle: 65 miles (approximately a 1.75-2.25 hour drive)
Despite what you might have heard, Mount Rainier National Park isn’t just for hardcore hikers itching to reach the summit. It's a discovery paradise with six major rivers, subalpine wildflower meadows, ancient forests, abundant wildlife and kid-friendly hiking trails galore.
What to Do: The park offers a number of different trails and kid-friendly tours to give every family a chance to see Mother Nature at its finest without wearing them all out – unless of course, that is your goal. If you’ve never been, you might be surprised to learn that some trails are fairly short (1.5 miles long), paved and are often led by forest rangers. For families who want a little extra oomph with their visit, consider taking in a geocaching treasure hunt. But whatever you do, don’t leave the mountain without making a stop at the Sunrise Visitor Center set on the highest point of the mountain that can be reached by car. This awesome visitor center is full of interesting facts and interactive displays about mountains, glaciers, animals, wildflowers and more.
Day Trip Tips: Weather conditions can change quickly, so plan to dress in plenty of layers and wear comfortable shoes. Also, be sure to grab a snack and a souvenir from the gift shop located at Paradise Inn. And add a Mt. Rainier Park pass to your list of must-haves on this trip. You can get one online or grab it from the ranger station on the way into the park. Psst…if you have a 4th grader, you can get a free park pass for the whole fam!
Mount Rainier National Park
55210 238th Ave. E.
Ashford, Wa 98304
Poulsbo: The Amazing Race
How far from Seattle: 21.5 miles (approximately 1.5-2 hour's drive including ferry ride)
With a little planning ahead of time, you can take your family on their own Amazing Race to Poulsbo. It's a mini adventure just waiting to be taken!
What to Do: First, board the Bainbridge Ferry in Seattle and be sure to take the kids to one of the ferry's decks to feel the wind blow through their hair and get a good look at their surroundings. Once on the other side, the cute little town of Poulsbo is just 11 miles down the road.
Poulsbo has a proud Norwegian heritage, though the town isn’t as themed out as Leavenworth. Still, there is a little bit of everything for everyone here. There are lots of shops to visit in downtown Poulsbo, outdoor activities like kayaking around Liberty Bay and a free Marine Science Center to explore as well as taste-testing real Lutefisk and ice cream shops and eateries for stopping at on the way back to the car. Psst...time your visit, during one of the town's many festivals for even more family fun.
Day Trip Tips: Visit the Washington State Ferries’ website to start planning this day trip. And while in Poulsbo, be sure to explore the many parks the city has to offer (think: 15 city parks, totaling 137 acres!) as well as plan a stop at Sluys Poulsbo Bakery for a sweet treat or afternoon pick-me-up. The quaint, family-run bakery offers breads, donuts, cookies and pastries along with coffee, a perfect accompaniment for the trek home.
Front St. N.E.
Wallace Falls State Park: A Wonderful Waterfall
How far from Seattle: 47 miles (approximately a 1.5 hour drive)
Those who have visited Wallace Falls often go back again and again. The hikes are fun and the waterfall is majestic. And the popular, well maintained path along the Wallace River has all the bells and whistles for a fantastic family outing.
What to Do: Of course, the main attraction here is the 265-foot tall waterfall where the view just gets better the higher you go on the trails. However, the downside is that the higher you go, the harder the hike is, so this is an experience for families with older children and physically fit parents. One trail is shorter, but also steeper while the old logging trail is fairly easy, but longer. Psst...groups of hikers often go up one trail and come down the other to get the full experience. After you and your crew are good and tired and back at your car, drive a little further to Gold Bar and stop at Zeke’s Drive In for an iconic Zeke’s Burger and a milkshake. It's definitely the cherry on top of this family outing. Zeke's is located at 43918 State Route 2 in Gold Bar.
Day Trip Tips: A Discover Pass is required for parking, so plan to purchase one before you head out. If you're lucky, you’ll find a ton of wild blackberries ready to be snatched up on your trek. And while at the Falls, be sure to stay on the marked trails as the hills can get pretty slippery.
Wallace Falls State Park
14503 Wallace Lake Rd.
Gold Bar, Wa 98251
South Everett & Mukilteo: Planes, Trains & Ferry Boats
How far from Seattle: 28 miles (approximately a 30 minute drive without traffic)
In just one day, your family can experience the making of an airplane, learn how trains work and travel across the sea.
What to Do: Start your day off with a Future of Flight and Boeing Factory Tour to learn the dynamics of flight, experience new aviation innovations, design your own airplane and learn how planes are made. Then, tour the Boeing Assembly Plant inside the world’s largest building. After you've had your aviation fix, travel to the Mukilteo Ferry Dock (which is less than 15 minutes away) to board the ferry for a round trip tour (about 45-60 minutes). Psst...before boarding the ferry, consider grabbing a quick fish and chip’s meal at Ivar's Mukilteo Landing outdoor Fish Bar. After your ferry ride, head back towards Downtown Everett to visit the Imagine Children’s Museum where your kids can touch and explore the Museum's awesome exhibits and check out the Monte Cristo Railroad and Railway Collector Train display.
Future of Flight and Boeing Factory Tour
8415 Paine Field Blvd.
Mukilteo, Wa 98275
Seattle Center: How to Have Fun for Little or No Money
How far from Seattle: You’re already there!
Okay, so what if you want to get away for the day, but you don’t want to drive far and you don’t have a lot of cash to spend? Believe it or not, there is a lot to see and do for free (or virtually free) right in our own backyard at the Seattle Center.
What to Do: First of all, plan your outing during one of the Center’s celebrations which are held every month. You and your kids can learn a thing or two about different cultures and enjoy authentic music, dance, art and more – all for free! Then, travel around the grounds and really see all of the wonderful artwork, sculptures, water fountains and plants that you are usually too busy to see when rushing to a show or museum exhibit. Be sure to make a stop at the Artist at Play playground near MoPOP, it's a must-do and will keep the kids busy for a long (long!) time. After they’ve worked up a sweat, bring them over to the International Fountain to cool off while you sit back and enjoy the music and laugh at the crazy people getting soaked down below. Psst..don't forget to stop by the Armory for lunch or an afternoon treat and be sure to bring your camera for the endless photo opps. If you're feeling flush, take your crew to the top of the Space Needle to take in the Emerald City from the nearly completed glass observation deck that's 520 feet above or take the Monorail to Downtown for more adventures.
Day Trip Tips: Street parking is usually cheaper than the parking garages. Want to turn this into a bigger adventure? Consider taking the bus. Or better yet, go on a Sunday when street parking is free. And even if you don’t plan on buying anything, be sure to visit the gift shops at MoPOP and the Space Needle. They often have lots of fun Seattle-centric trinkets to look at and you just might find that one thing you didn’t know you needed!
305 Harrison St.
Seattle, Wa 98109