“One tank of gas or less” should be the definition of day trips. And whether you’re looking to run out of town for an overnighter at an aviation museum and water park or want to spend a long weekend at an ice cream-themed spa, these nearby spots definitely meet the criteria. Scroll down to read all the fantastic locations that’ll make you eager to pack your weekender.

Girl camping

photo: L.L. Stub Stewart State Park by Travis via flickr

One-Three Days: Camping Trip
Vernonia
While packing to go camping does take some planning, this may be your best bet for a quick getaway. The approximate travel time is one hour to this small town nested in the Cascade foothills near the Nehalem River. The wooded, secluded and small community offers tons of recreational opportunities for families, including L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, Big Eddy Park and Vernonia Lake for camping and Lee’s U-Catch stocked fishing pond (54658 SW Nehalem Hwy. S, 503-429-2450).

At Hawkins Park (end of Park Drive, downtown), a portion of Rock Creek is dammed in the summer to make way for swimming and wading in what’s dubbed, “Dewey Pool.” Also, the temperature in Vernonia is generally about 10 degrees cooler than Portland, making it an even sweeter destination in the summertime. If you’re looking to add a little education to your adventure, there’s the Vernonia Pioneer Museum (511 E. Bridge St., 503-429-3713), featuring rocks, Native American and early settlers’ artifacts, as well as old logging photos and tools.

Vernonia
Online: vernonia-or.gov

boy standing in front of airplane

phot: Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum by Loren Kerns via flickr

One-Two Days: Active Overnighter
Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum and Wings and Waves Water Park
Near McMinnville, about a one hour’s drive from Portland, is the double-whammy aviation museum and water park. Boom! History buffs and aqua tots alike can find a lot to love about this place, including the ability to take a dip via the water slide that starts in an actual Boeing 747 sitting on the roof of the museum. In all, there are ten slides for daredevils and tiny tots, a wave pool and a museum that teaches little ones about the power of water. The museum also houses the impressive, all-wood, World War II-era Spruce Goose, along with the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird plane that can reach speeds over 2,000 mph.

This can easily be an out-and-back day trip by itself, or you can extend it by staying in McMinnville at McMenamins Hotel Oregon (310 NE Evans St., 503-472-8724), in the heart of the city, where you won’t have to go far to order tasty food and get some much-needed sleep. The hotel’s centralized location in McMinnville is a great jumping off point for strolling around the bustling town with your little ones.

500 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way
McMinnville
503-434-4185
Online: evergreenmuseum.org

Great Wolf Lodge

photo: Great Wolf Lodge by eyeliam via flickr

Two-Three Days: Kids’ Paradise Getaway
Great Wolf Lodge
Head a short, 1.5 hours north into Washington on I-5 and you’ll be at the closest thing we have to Disneyland. The water park features a wave pool, water slides for the brave, and a pretty extensive kids’ water play area for the itty bitties in the crowd. There is a restaurant onsite, and food is also available within a short drive, like Mariachi Alegre Restaurant, with authentic Mexican food (as well as hotdogs for kids), just down the street from the resort, as well as Burgerville and McMenamins Olympic Club in nearby Centralia.

In addition to the water park, there’s the ice cream-themed Scooops Kid Spa, serving up manis and pedis for little fingers and toes. You can also head to MagiQuest, which is an indoor scavenger hunt that sends kids running up and down stairwells, scratching their heads, searching for clues and pointing at things with magic wands to make them move or reveal the next clue. If you have a littler one, you can just buy a wand, activate it, then point it at things, like the bear skin on the wall in the lobby or the teeter-tottering squirrels above the check-in counter, to see what will happen. Make sure you get a hotel room away from the stairwells for a lot more peace and quiet. The hotel does offer really cute cabin-themed rooms for a premium, but you won’t be in your room that much. Also, water park passes are good for the day, even after you’ve checked out.

Great Wolf Lodge
20500 Old Hwy. 99 SW
Grand Mound, Wa
360-273-7718
Online: greatwolf.com

Two girls smiling on horseback

photo: Kah-Nee-Ta by McD22 via flickr

3-4 Days: Relaxing Resort
Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spa
Two hours east of Portland in the high desert lies Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spa, where you can eat, sleep, play in the pool, ride horses, play tennis, hike and golf. The resort is divided into two sections: the kid-centric Village and the Lodge up the hill. The sections are about ½-mile apart, so be aware of this when you book your room or teepee. At the bottom of the hill is the large, warm springs-fed Village pool where you can swim or slide down a massive water slide in the warm water or just float in your floatie all day long. Plenty of chairs are around, but you need to get there early or keep your eyes open to score good ones within eyeshot of the pool. (Note: Cover the chair with your towel. They get insanely hot in the desert!)

Stay on the grounds where the giant pool is, either in a teepee or a hotel room, or in the Lodge on the hill with another smaller and less-busy pool, for Lodge guests only. The concession stand is the only place to get food down at the big pool area, but shuttles run frequently to the resort on the hill where the full-service restaurant is. Spa services and golf are also available if you’re able to take a moment for yourself, and horseback riding for all is available across the street from the big pool, along with hiking and kayaking options.

Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spa
6823 Hwy. 8
Warm Springs, Or
541-553-1112
Online: kahneeta.com

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What’s your favorite getaway spot? Let us know in the comments!

—Kelley Gardiner