Welcome to Washington, a weird and wacky place! With so much natural beauty here, don’t forget to check out all the roadside oddities while on your next road trip. After all, this is the place where Bigfoot is considered a protected species and a metal goat will eat your garbage. So take a drive on the wild side to find some of the best, don’t-miss, fantastical sights.

photo: Natalie Compagno

Monarch Sculpture Park - Tenino

Monarch Sculpture Park is an outdoor contemporary art space located along the bike path seven miles northeast of Tenino. Free every day from dawn to dusk, the gallery contains over 120 pieces, many of them interactive. Created in 1998 by sculptor Myrna Orsini as a gift to the community, the center hosts residencies for artists from around the world. Her Pig’s Brick House—one of three fanciful interpretations of the three little pigs fairy tale—is just one of the Spokane-born sculptor’s works of whimsy that delight children of all ages. Kids will love to ring the many gongs and bells!

Nearby Nibbles: Don't miss Main Street Cookies in Rainier. The artisanal bakery promises a "no-compromise approach to baking" that produces some of the most delicious cookies you've ever tasted. You may take a no compromise approach to sharing.

photo: Greg Freitas

Searching for Sasquatch in Snoqualmie

Do you believe in Bigfoot? Washingtonians do. After all, Bigfoot is a protected species here by law. If your supernatural-obsessed kiddos ask whether Bigfoot exists, don’t worry. Hidden Northwest Tours has all the answers. We highly recommend a stop in Snoqualmie for these family-run, kid-friendly excursions. Master storytellers Bob and Laura Antone preserve the culture of oral traditions in their beloved region. From historical walking tours through nature, to building your own bark Sasquatch, they lovingly curate each gathering while weaving in local native traditions. It’s a Salish belief that Sasquatch comes from another dimension, through a portal in the woods, to protect their people. Don’t take it from us, ask Bob and Laura all about it when you sign up for their scheduled or private group tours. The Snoqualmie Valley is a place of “high strangeness,” so come prepared. UFO’s, Bigfoot and mystery await.

Nearby Nibbles: Buckshot Honey serves up creative comfort food inspired by family recipes. Arrive hungry and grab extra napkins, the Dave’s Way brisket sammie is messy and delicious. Full bar, wine, and beer make this the perfect spot to discuss your Bigfoot sighting.

Robin Hood Resort - Hood Canal

Romantics and fairy-tale fans will love Robin Hood Village Resort. Built with whimsy by Don Beckman in 1934, the cottages, pub and restaurant caught Hollywood’s eye. Beckman was asked to build the set of the 1938 film Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn, adding to the legend of the hideaway. Today this is a cozy, peaceful retreat with Swingwood Forest (named for its many picturesque swings) on one side and the Hood Canal on the other. Be sure to take advantage of the hot tubs (not every cabin has one) and the water sport/picnic area across the road on the water’s edge. Bring Maid Marian, Little John, and your Merry Men—there is room for the whole cast at Robin Hood Village Resort.

Nearby Nibbles: For nautical nosh the family will dig Union City Market. Grab picnic-style snacks or order from the pop-up restaurant and post up at their charming picnic tables on Hood Canal for a panoramic water-to-mountain view.

Soap Lake

Soap Lake is one of the most unique lakes in the world. The water is filled with healing minerals that cleanse the skin, stimulate circulation and create an unmistakable suds effect. Swim, float, splash and bathe: The kids will love playing in the soothing mud! Get into the spirit by staying in a tipi or cabin at Smokiam RV Resort right on the lake.

Odd & On the Way: Don't miss George Washington in George, Washington! Just off Interstate 90 at exit 149, a large bust of George Washington greets visitors as they pass by Shree’s Truck Stop & Gas Station. The bust is a copy of the one created for the nation’s bicentennial.  

Marsh’s Free Museum - Long Beach

The curiosity shop has entertained children for centuries, and since 1921, Marsh’s Free Museum has delighted visitors to the Long Beach Peninsula. Archie McPhee fans will love it! The shop displays what it claims is one of three authentic shrunken heads on the West Coast and so much more. The collection includes stuffed sharks, a two-headed pig, a two-headed calf, and a cycloptic lamb—with presumably the correct, single head. Non-taxidermy fans can gaze at the Soviet military medal collection, as well as truly beautiful sea glass and seashells. Budding anthropologists will marvel at Jake the Alligator Man, something of local celebrity who has sold tens of thousands of postcards, and who enjoys a richly detailed biography—nightclub dancer! sideshow performer!—that is as hilarious as it is false.

Odd & On the Way: Don’t miss the “World’s Largest Frying Pan” right across the street. It is indeed a very large pan, at 14-feet high and almost 10-feet wide. As it dates to 1941, it is no longer in fact the world’s largest—having been surpassed by younger, larger pans. And who among us hasn't? The frying pan is a fitting tribute to the town’s annual Razor Clam Festival.

Peace Arch Park - Blaine

The border with Canada is still closed. But you can still drive to Blaine for an odd but rewarding day trip. An international anomaly, the Peace Arch Park and Monument were created in 1921 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the treaties of The War of 1812 and to honor the long-standing peace between Canada and the United States. The Peace Arch monument is situated right on the international border, covering parts of British Columbia as well as Washington. No passport is required to go to the park. Friends, families and acquaintances from both countries use the park as a beautiful, safe meeting place; a "free-zone" of international cooperation. The entire locale has such a positive, welcoming spirit.

The American Kitchen facility is available for rental and the annual Art in the Park is well-attended. Kids love to blow off steam at the playground and large grassy area. Bring up some Seattle Dogs and Fremont Brewery beer to swap for some B.C. wine and Bannock bread. Make new friends!

Nearby Nibbles: Stock up for your picnic at Peace Arch City Café in downtown Blaine, then pop across the street for adult bevvies to-go at Tiny Taproom. It may not be the smallest bar in the West, but it is certainly the most charming.

Garbage Goat & the Milk Bottle Cafe - Spokane

You will never look at garbage cans the same way again after visiting Spokane’s Garbage Goat. Built as public art for the World’s Fair in 1974, the metal goat has a small vacuum that allows it to eat small bits of trash. Although its diet is less than desirable, the goat gets to claim the charming Riverfront Park as its home.

When homemade ice cream is served out of a 38-foot-high milk bottle, you know it will be good. The Garland Milk Bottle was built in 1935 as a retail outlet, “designed to build better men and women by making dairy products more attractive to boys and girls.” Today Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle is a nostalgic diner with award-winning milkshakes, homemade burgers and Grandma’s recipe potato salad that's guaranteed to please.

Odd & On the Way: For Spokane-accented gifts to bring back to Seattle, Boo Radley’s is a colorful novelty store downtown. Inspired by the famous character’s collections of wacky stuff, the store sells vintage lunchboxes, groovy t-shirts and wild toys.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Valley of the Rainforest Giants – Lake Quinault

There is nothing odd about trees; trees are wonderful. What is odd, possibly, is obsessively measuring them and then declaring that one particular tree is the largest of its type in the entire world. Really? There isn’t a bigger tree in Siberia or South America that is dozens of miles from the nearest forest ranger with a tape measure? 

Lake Quinault is amazing and the Valley of the Rainforest Giants is super, super cool. It features six trees dubbed largest in the world or USA by the National Forestry Association. The world’s largest Sitka Spruce in particular is mighty impressive—a 1000 year old tree that is nearly 200 feet tall and sits just 1200 feet from the main road. Even the tiniest toddler can waddle down the path, stare up in the sky and say "wow!"

Odd & On the Way: Giant totems are found all over the state, but the stunning turquoise totem at Lake Quinault Lodge, built by a master carver, doubles as a rain gauge. It’s a good thing it’s so tall—the region averages 140 inches of rain per year—four times more rain than Seattle.

Maryhill Museum of Art & Stonhenge

You don’t have to travel to England to see Stonehenge. There’s one right here on the Columbia River Gorge. Sam Hill was a local builder who also built the Peace Arch Park. He dedicated this gorgeous space on the banks of the Columbia to his wife Mary, and their daughter (also Mary). The Museum has plenty of fun places for kiddos to play. The Discover Room encourages kids to become artists and curators, and the Dickson Sculpture Park offers ample space for the fam to spread out and explore. The art is of the highest quality, including over 80 pieces by renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Then there’s Stonehenge! Hill built a full scale replica of England’s mysterious monoliths three miles east of the museum. "Stonehenge West" opened in 1918, to honor the soldiers from Klickitat County who served in World War I. Kids who love scampering around the rocks and learning about the real thing may not realize how lucky they are as the English original is mostly closed to visitors these days.

Nearby Nibbles: After a romp through the stones, take the tots to kid-friendly Maryhill Winery. The scenic property overlooks the river; the famous live music series is scheduled to resume sometime in 2021.

Washington's Theme Towns

Washington has given birth to not one but four theme towns, all of them unique in their own way.

If you’re driving along the North Cascades Highway and suddenly think you’ve stumbled onto Oktoberfest–you have. Prost! Leavenworth was a logging town that lost its mill. But instead of becoming a ghost town, the citizens created a reason for tourism by turning Leavenworth into Little Bavaria. After gorging on sausage, schnitzel, and spaetzel, top the trip off with a visit to the only year-round reindeer farm in the lower 48.

Not to be outdone, Winthrop decided to entice tourists with their old-timey Western past. Saloon-style storefronts and wooden sidewalks add to the charm. Have lunch outdoors in a clear igloo along the banks of the Methow River at Old Schoolhouse Brewery. Myriad horseback riding opportunities will keep the little dogies entertained for hours.

If you pull over just north of Bainbridge Island and see Vikings roaming the streets, you must be in Poulsbo. This little slice of Norway takes its traditions seriously—Norwegian was even the official language until the 1940s. Enjoy the quaint Norwegian architecture and murals, famous Norwegian baked goods and general Scandinavian hygge. 

Spring means tulip season and all things Dutch. Lynden, east of Bellingham, has the largest Dutch population in the state, and all the windmills, canals and stroopwafel the kids will love. For excellent sandwiches don’t miss Avenue Bakery; then shop local by picking up some children’s books from the huge selection next door next door at Village Books.

—Natalie Compagno

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