Northwest-Bound: 10 Family-Friendly Fall Road Trips
In spite of school activities, team sports and social obligations (or maybe because of them) you need a fall vacation. 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 with the kids. Here are ten kiddo-approved getaways within a few hours of Seattle. Grab a couple of wool blankets, fill a carafe with hot cider and get ready to hit the road!
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 Lumberyard, 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 twenty 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 Ocean Lodge.
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 The Renaissance Harbourside Marriott (fab indoor pool) or the Hampton Inn (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.
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 cottage at the Tidelands Resort and cook meals at home, or book a cabin at the warm, rustic Iron Springs Resort and share gooey cinnamon rolls prepared by staff on Saturdays in the winter. They’re also for sale in the general store during the week. Pack a stack of your kiddo’s favorite books and prepare to spend precious time just being together.
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 the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort (onsite spa, organic restaurant; cozy accommodations) or Enzian Inn (terrific indoor pool).
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 Fifties. Everyone will enjoy 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 for a half-day side trip. Stay at Fort Worden (historic officers quarters, houses and even a castle are available), the adorable Swan Hotel and Cottages near the marina, or The Tides Inn close to the ferry terminal.
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 oversized reading pillows. Grab brunch at Harris Ave. 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-Edison. Stop in for a hearty loaf at Breadfarm on your way home.
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 October 13), and everyone can experience the magnificence of the Hoh Rainforest, Hurricane Ridge and the ‘seastacks’ at Rialto Beach. Short day hikes abound. Stay at Lake Quinalt Lodge, Lake Crescent Lodge or Kalaloch Lodge.
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 (makeout with your partner Fifty Shades-style in the elevator – dare you!) The Benson or Hotel Monaco (check out their “Kids Hour” every day at 5pm when they serve kiddos juice and snacks while the adults enjoy wine. How cool is that?).
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-mortar location, browse downtown shops and squeeze in a few hours at the salt-marsh studded Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Grab dinner at the family-friendly I.talia Pizzeria, then drive 20 minutes south and check in at the Great Wolf Lodge.
Where will you be heading off to this fall? Let us know in the comments section below!
–by Sara Billups and Allison Ellis
Photos provided by Allison Ellis, Melinda Wong, Portland Red Tri, skycaptaintwo flickr page, Powell’s Books Facebook page, Nature Beach House Facebook page, Fairhaven Village Inn Facebook page, Gilman Village Facebook page, Marje B. via Yelp and The Farmers Market Facebook page.