With spring break just around the corner and things slowly coming back to life, families are eager to get out and explore. Our suggestion? A family road trip in search of adventure along the I-5 corridor (and beyond). We’ve got the scoop on fabulous destinations that put families first, from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula on down to Ashland in southern Oregon. Here’s what you need to know!

Washington

photo: Greg Freitas

Hood Canal

Packed with activities and events, Hood Canal calls itself the “Wild Side of Washington,” but sometimes its best moments are found simply relaxing on a deck, looking at the view. The Hood Canal is “wildly” popular in summer—but spring tempts without the crowds. Approaching the fjord, the winding waterway gives drivers glimpses of sparkling blue, while scenic spots offer #InstaReady, snow-capped mountain views. Bike trails abound—from long distance to leisurely pedaling. Anglers will rejoice; spring is trout season so grab a pole to catch dinner. You’ll also finds scenic hiking trails, golf courses for all levels, kayaking, SUP and boating galore. The Ridge Motorsports Park is a brand-new racing course for tiny speed demons, or for serious thrills consider sky diving at Skydive Kapowsin. Want more? Hood Canal is famous for SCUBA with its gentle currents and giant Pacific octopuses as diving friends.

Meals are meant to be savored outdoors in Hood Canal, overlooking happy campers playing in the water. When the family cook is off-duty head into Union for some stand out options. The Restaurant at Alderbrook is a culinary treat with views to match. 2 Margaritas gives your group some spice while Union Square Deli is the place to pick up sammies and pizza. The charming, European-style Union City Market at Hood Canal Marina is a must. Grab provisions, souvenirs and wine, and sit outside on their eclectic patio with stunning views of the Olympics over the water. The world-famous, all-ages Hamma Hamma Oyster Saloon awaits up in the road in Hoodsport, at weekends only for the moment.

Airbnb Nearby: This is the house on the Canal for entertaining and enjoying the gorgeous scenery. Whip up tasty dishes in a gourmet kitchen, or grill meats on the deck BBQ. Take advantage of the stand-up paddle board, paddle boat and two-person kayak. Kids are welcome but house should be baby-proofed by renters.

Spokane

Perhaps you have foodies, outdoorsy folk and culture lovers all sharing the same roof, debating spring break destinations? Well hello, Spokane! This perfectly-sized walking city has lots to offer families. Head to Riverfront Park and plan on spending most of the day there. The gorgeous, 1909 Looff Carrousel harkens back to fancy festival days. Take a ride on the Numerica SkyRide over the Spokane Falls and then roller skate or scooter on the Numerica Skate Ribbon. Adults can sip bevvies while kids spin around the track. Take the sculpture self-guided walk–the art is astounding. Littles will especially love the Garbage Goat and the giant red wagon called The Childhood Express. The all-inclusive Providence Playground just opened and there are plenty of other play spaces throughout the park. Stay after sunset to watch the mesmerizing Pavilion Light Show.

Just across the Spokane River, the booming neighborhood of Kendall Yards beckons. Tots will appreciate an ice cream break at The Scoop or lunch at Versalia Pizza. Kid-friendly Maryhill Winery has live music  and sunset views. Or treat the fam to succulent lobster rolls at High Tide Lobster Bar. Sharing not recommended. Spokane has a plethora of well-curated shopping haunts for those who enjoy finding unique collector’s items. Boo Radley and Atticus are sister stores and the kids toys, vintage books and souvenirs are all must-haves. Auntie’s Bookstore is a beloved local indie, while just next door the aptly named Uncle’s has one of the best board game collections in the state.

Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture is an eclectic museum with a mansion tour. This spring the highly acclaimed Dressing the Abbey is on display. Grab sandwiches at Browne’s Bistro nearby for a picnic. For more culture, step into The Historic Davenport Hotel for a taste of the gilded age. Request information about a tour at the front desk. Kiddos will love the indoor Koi pond and all the glitter and glam.

Airbnb Nearby: Manito Park boasts blooms galore in a delightful, 117-year-old park, replete with Japanese Garden. Book a classic 1920s bungalow with park views, in a chic neighborhood with play parks and splash pads.

Long Beach Peninsula

For families already dreaming of summertime and surf breaks, head to the Long Beach Peninsula, where beach life is a year-round state of mind. The aptly-named beach is an adventure wonderland. Splash, play tag, build sandcastles, fly kites or stroll the half mile boardwalk through the rolling dunes to spot whales. For a slightly different view of the ocean head to Cape Disappointment for the day to commune with lighthouses and lore. There is much more than the beach to entertain families. Visit the World Kite Museum and take home a flying piece of art, or visit Fun Beach Speedway to take kids go-karting. Afterward treat your sweet tooth to some delectable goodies at historic Cottage Bakery and Delicatessen. West Coast Horse Rides will put smiles on your budding wranglers.

There are many culinary delights in town but these two are highly recommended and worth the short drive. The Depot in Seaview was once a working train depot, now Chef Michael Lalewicz works to create magic on a plate. Kiddos love their burger night! For a unique experience enjoy oysters, beer, and wine at Oysterville Sea Farms & Seafood Market, the only spot in historic Oysterville on the Willapa Bay.

Airbnb Nearby: This Airbnb sleeps up to eight and has an awesome game room with air hockey, foosball, dart board, cornhole and a wall-mounted, flat-screen TV. Bikes are provided for guests to enjoy and the Discovery Trail is just a quick pedal away!

Whidbey & Camano Islands

Are we there yet? The most repeated question on every road trip makes Whidbey/Camano Islands’ slogan “The Shortest Distance to Far Away” so appealing to families. One quick easy drive and your group becomes immersed in adventure, art and history—plus the culinary draw of slurping famous mussels. By ferry or by bridge, these islands bring the vacation vibe—quickly. Enjoy nature while getting an adrenaline rush: Breeze through the air at Canopy Tours Northwest. Or scale a tree for a wowza view of the Deception Pass Bridge with AdventureTerra. It’s all the rage–axe-throwing is available at Arrowhead Ranch, or for a calmer afternoon you can make your own charcuterie board. Giddy up! Private or group horse rides are available at Pacific Northwest Riding Academy.

These islands love to display beautiful creations around their unique flora. The newly opened Price Sculpture Forest is a 16-acre outdoor museum where native plants and art combine. Earth Sanctuary is a nature retreat with two miles of meandering trails for exploration and meditation, while Matzke Fine Art features a “gallery in the woods” that’s home to 150 works, from emerging and well-known artists. Cloudstone Sculpture Park offers over 20 acres of pristine landscape filled with carved stone, cast bronze, monumental steel and earthworks. The Allgire Project is an outdoor, urban mural gallery in downtown Oak Harbor. The walkable experience tells the history and culture of the community in a vibrant, meaningful way.

Hungry? Grab to-go yummies at 3 Sisters Market or baked treats and coffee at Camano Commons. Kristoferson Farm is a fabulous excursion, an open-air farm store among hay bales. Salt & Sea Provisions is a weekend pop-up so grab a picnic basket and start filling. Ultra House gives tiny tykes noodles to gulp, Frasers Gourmet Hideaway is a local fave, and The Oystercatcher serves much more than delicious oyster dishes.

Airbnb Nearby: There are dozens of home rental options on the islands, but we've got two words: Alpaca. Farm. The Alpaca Retreat is located on a working, 100-acre alpaca farm! This newly-renovated house accommodates 10 people. Leisure activities include basketball, a pickleball court, ping pong, a forest walking trail and of course, adorable alpaca viewing.

Olympic Peninsula

Road tripping is all about movement, getting out on the open road, and discovering new things. The Olympic Peninsula is the perfect place to explore at your own pace. Washington’s largest National Park is a vast playground of snowy peaks, temperate rain forests and dramatic Pacific sunsets. Start with Port Townsend, go beachcombing around Fort Worden, then take a break in town--the tinies will love Elevated Ice Cream. Walk along the shops and bites of Water Street and take in the festive vibe.

Beachcombers and tidepool fans will enjoy exploring Dungeness Spit, an 11-mile sand spit that also gave us the tasty crab of the same name. Littles who appreciate fanciful journeys will marvel at Bandy Farms Troll Haven, a whimsical embrace of all things troll. The kiddos will love Olympic Game Farm, they can gawk at lions, tigers, bison, zebras and lynx without leaving the car. Roar! Hikers and nature lovers will thrall to the Hoh Rainforest. The Hall of Mosses Trail is perfect for tots, at less than one mile, it's still packed with natural wonder. Tired muscles should seek out the soothing waters of Sol Duc Hot Springs. With multiple pools at up to 104 degrees, (including a full-sized swimming pool) tadpoles of all ages will revel in a soothing soak. Further afield, Seattleites who are truly yearning to get away from it all will value the solitude at Kalaloch. You and the kids will find yourselves surrounded by miles of ocean, forest and very little else. Enjoy lunch on the beach among the massive logs, then drive to spectacular Ruby Beach for sunset.

Airbnb Nearby: This epic Airbnb sits atop Lake Crescent at Thompson Point, and just a 10 minute walk from the Olympic Discovery Trail. Hike to Marymere Falls, have lunch at Lake Crescent Lodge (starting May 2021), and then return to your home away from home for pure relaxation on the lake!

Oregon

Bend

Families flock to Bend from all over the country for its unmatched outdoor recreation and adventures. You'll have to wait until late Spring May 1st) but prepare to get wet and wild on the Deschutes River with Sun Country Tours—their guides can take you on a white water rafting excursion or a relaxing tour down the river by stand up paddle board or inner tube. Just a little further south on 97, you'll find the world-renowned Smith Rock; climbers come to the area for an opportunity to scale the sheer walls of Monkey Face. Your little monkeys may not be ready to climb like a pro, but book a day with the guides at Chockstone Climbing Guides and they will be well on their way. All of the required gear is provided and you will feel safe in the hands of these climbing experts.

Mt. Bachelor Village gives traveling families a variety of lodging options. Rent a hotel room, a river view condo or a vacation home. There is something available to fit every family budget and all options come with amenities like indoor and outdoor pools, playgrounds, golf courses and access to biking and hiking paths.

When in Bend, do like the locals and hit the breweries. Stop by the iconic Deschutes Brewery for some true Central Oregon flair. You will enjoy a selection of award-winning craft beer and hand-crafted ales. And if you are craving a good burger, they won't disappoint. 10 Barrel is another local brewery that offers up fantastic brews along with outdoor fire pits and plenty of room for kids to be kids.

photo: Annette Benedetti

Crystal Crane

If you want to give your family a truly epic spring break experience, there's no road trip like one that takes you to one of Oregon's gorgeous hot springs. While there are many to choose from, Crystal Crane is well worth planning a family trip to. This eastern Oregon hot spring is a wonderland for both parents and kids alike. The large heated pond is spacious enough for little ones to splash and enjoy themselves, and there's a private bathhouse where parents can soak in cedar-enclosed tubs. But, the hot spring is only part of the the fun. Lodging options include cabins, tent and RV camping, or a stay in a teepee! All of the options are cozy and rustic, but the teepee offers an experience your kids will be talking about for years to come! There's even a soaking tub in one of the teepees.

For a little adventure head to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Just 29 miles away, this location is home to over 58 species of mammals including mule deer, pronghorn antelope  Rocky Mountain elk, coyotes and bobcats. The visitor center has recently reopened and fall is perfect for wildlife viewing, fishing and you'll likely get some great photos.

Silver Falls

Spring is the perfect time to witness Oregon's waterfalls in their full glory. Gushing with runoff from the winter melt, the views will leave you in awe. Silver Falls State Park is easy to overlook for bigger vacations elsewhere. But don’t be fooled, the green jewel is full of fun times, and is affordable and easy to get to. You’ll be able to escape to the woods while still sleeping warm and cozy.

The state park offers over 35 miles of hiking trails, and the good news is that spring is the perfect time to see wildflowers start popping up all over! Waterfalls are the thing to see here, and the full 7 mile trail of Ten Falls loop will let you see them all. Don’t miss out on the four falls that you can actually walk behind! If you’re not up for the full loop you can easily drive to the trailheads and break it up into sections as small as 1 or 2 miles. And if you want to go a bit faster, hit the dirt on your mountain bikes. Or just spend a day hanging by the wide creek and throwing sticks in the river on the South Lawn. Nearby you’ll find picnic shelters, barbeque stands, a playground, and horseshoe pits for the perfect afternoon picnic.

If you need a day in town after some hiking, drive 15 minutes to Silverton, a sweet historic town. Go on a mural hunt for the town’s 30 gorgeous works, try some locally-brewed beers (ok, parents only), find a Frank Lloyd Wright House, or stop by the 80 acres of the Oregon Garden for more spring blooms. 

Another short jaunt north leads you to Mt Angel, the faux-Bavarian town that hosts an Oktoberfest every year by their authentic glockenspiel. Get some sausages at the Mt. Angel Sausage Company, (to-go orders only) and stay in cabins at the park through the National Park Site, or check out the Silver Falls Lodge, with 37 lodge rooms or private cabins available.

Ashland

If you want an Oregon road trip that will fulfil all of your Spring getaway dreams, Ashland is a must-visit locale. Southern Oregon boasts beautiful green fields, a wine country to rival the best, and stunning rugged landscapes. It also has some of the best family-friendly fun around!

Ashland is known for its Shakespeare Festival, which is currently streaming online. And while you can't catch shows the way you did pre-COVID, you can still check out the charming town and it's many offerings in the way of restaurants and shops! An experience that's perfect after a day of outdoorsy fun. While the nearby mighty Rogue River is great fun to raft, the peak season is in summer, so instead get out on the water with a fishing tour! March is the perfect season for Winter Steelhead. All you need is a fishing license, and the family-owned Fishing the Rogue will set you up with everything else. If you’re lucky, you’ll even come home with dinner! 

And for a unique and fun experience, stay at a working farm! The Willow Witt Ranch has 445 acres of forest, wetland, and a small sustainable farm. Choose from the Farmhouse Studio, the large Meadow House, or pitch your own tent, then spend your days finding spring blooms in the meadows around it. For a really different experience, go on a day hike with the goats! The goats will pack your lunch on the 4-hour excursion up to nearby Grizzly Peak, where you can enjoy beautiful views of the valley below. There's also birding opportunities available as well as miles and miles of hiking trails right outside your front door.

Astoria

What would Spring Break be without a little Ocean air? This historic town is where the forest meets the sea, and your family meets a good time! Started by Scandinavians, fur traders, Lewis and Clark, and named for John Jacob Astor, the city boasts a mix of all those influences perfectly. Admire the lovely Victorian houses on the hilltops, stop by Finn Ware for some Scandinavian-inspired goods (like salty licorice!), or check out Lewis and Clark’s 1805 winter camp at Fort Clatsop.

In town, don’t miss a walk along the pier and a stop at Frite and Scoop ice cream available for curbside pickup. Then mask up and head to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, especially if you’re little ones are fans of boats. This small museum does a really great job at offering interesting and dynamic exhibits, and you can even step aboard a real floating lighthouse ship! You’ll look at the river outside differently once you learn how dangerous it actually is to the ships sailing it.

Stay at the Cannery Pier Hotel, built on the site of an old cannery, 600 feet over the water. You’ll get views of the real working boats that ply the waters, and you can rent bikes to explore even more. 

Across the river in Washington, take a day to explore Cape Disappointment, which is much better than it sounds (someone had a bad day there!). Clamber over rocks to scan the waters for whales, who tend to migrate in March. The numerous hiking options include a great lighthouse, and you can warm up inside the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, which marks the end of the group’s epic journey to the Pacific.

For a stay on the Washington side of the river, check out the Sou’wester Lodge in Seaview. A beloved hipster hodgepodge of vintage airstream trailers, cabins, and a guesthouse, the campus offers a sauna and spa services, live music on weekends, fire pits for roasting, an honor-system store with local goods, and bikes to borrow to search out the beach just down the road.

Crater Lake (Opening May 2021)

Crater Lake is a destination that stands out from most Oregon destinations. Did you know it is the deepest lake in the United States? The water-filled caldera is a stunning blue and the scenic Rim Drive is a "must do" activity for all visiting families. This 33-mile tour winds around Crater Lake and has plenty of pullouts along the way for photo ops and restless legs. 

Crater Lake National Park Lodge offers visitors three types of in-park lodging to choose from. The lodge is located in Rim Village and overlooks the lake. They also have cabins at Mazama Village located south of the rim in a beautiful forest setting. And for families who want to camp, the Mazama Village Campgrounds are available. If you decide to leave the lodge for dining, check out Beckie's Cafe. Try the hot cakes for breakfast, a Farewell Bend Burger for lunch or a Rogue Gorge Steak for dinner. Don't forget to save room for the homemade pies!

—Natalie Compagno & Annette Benedetti

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