If you’ve never taken the kids to Washington State’s gorgeous Yakima, you’re missing out on killer Mexican food and lush u-pick farms boasting the best cherries and apples in the country. With an almost-always dry climate, somewhere along the two and a half hour drive from Seattle you might feel like you’ve entered a time warp and somehow made it to arid, sunny New Mexico. Below, find picks for where to score the best food and kid fun in town.

STAY
Yakima’s Ledgestone Hotel is the right balance between sleek and cozy. Each suite includes a living room, bedroom, kitchen, and eating area. That gives you the option of preparing a simple family meal after a day exploring the area, getting the kids down, and snuggling up with a glass of wine on the couch while the wee ones snooze.

If you have water babies, you can’t do much better than booking a room at the Hilton Garden Inn. It’s situated in the heart of downtown within walking distance to good food and the Capitol Theatre. Rooms are clean and comfortable, too. But the best part of staying here is tuckering the kids out before naptime or bedtime in the hotel’s indoor pool and hot tub.

Located near the eastern entrance of Snoqualamie National Forest near Mt. Rainier, Whistlin’ Jack Lodge is about a half hour drive from Yakima. Reserve a cottage or bungalow and plan a family bike ride or trek through some of the area’s verdant trails. There’s also a restaurant on the spot. Kids used to roughing it will be at home in these lodge’s rustic, sans television, digs.

Photo courtesy of Whistlin’ Jack Lodge Facebook Page

EAT
A casual family restaurant with a huge menu, Antojitos Mexicanos prepares some of the most authentic South of the Border fare in town. Kids can dip chips into an assortment of house salsas before digging into a quesadilla. Expect friendly service in a low-key environment where no one bats an eye if the kiddos act a little wild.

Take a short drive to the lovely grounds of The Tasting Room at Wilridge Winery. Owner Paul Beveridge began making wine in the garage under his home in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood before starting the biodynamic vineyard in Yakima five years back. Kids are welcome to explore the area, so plan to pack a picnic lunch and nosh while soaking in the glorious views.

One of the most bustling cafes in town, Essencia Artisan Bakery prepares lovingly made scones and croissants that are worth the drive from Seattle to Yakima alone. Grab breakfast, lunch, or coffee and chocolate milk on your way in or out of town. It’ll set the right tone for a happy car ride.
PLAY
Take a stoll through the more than 40 acre Yakima Area Arboretum. Explore the herbarium, spot bird species, hang out in the scenic courtyard, and tour the Kara Kondo Dryland Garden, Joyful Garden, and Raised Bed Vegetable Garden. Each are at their peak in the summer months.

Budding engineers will love checking out turn of the century automobiles and vintage train cars at Northern Pacific Railway Museum just south of Yakima. Learn about a plethora of on-site locomotives, including a steam tractor, freight train, and caboose. Admission for the little ones is only $3.

Beat the heat at Franklin Pool in Franklin Park. Kids will gawk at the more than 100- foot curly Q water slide. Admission is only $2 per kiddo, and with an on-site snack shack you’re set for the whole afternoon.

For more fun, visit the Yakima Farmers Market held each Sunday through the end of October; tour a general store and ride in a pony cart at the Children’s Underground in the Yakima Museum; visit a u-pick farm to stock up on fruit for pies and canning; take a hike on trails around Cowiche Canyon; and stop the through tiny arts village Tieton on your way out of town to view some great art.

— Sara Billups

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Photo courtesy of abhinabaDiane EnseyFrank Fujimoto via Flickr