Last summer was all about the ultimate road trip. This year, families are ready to fly away and explore beyond their own area code. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of our favorite nearby vacation destinations for Seattle families. Since shorter is better when traveling with the Littles, each of these direct flights promises an escape from the routine with warm weather wonder in under three hours.

Monterey, CA

Monterey County beckons with ocean waves and chic Carmel-by-the-Sea strolls. Now with a new non-stop flight from Seattle to Monterey Airport, this is the time to explore the Monterey Bay.

Play: The Monterey Bay Aquarium needs little introduction. If your family loves sea creatures, this is the place to get up close and personal with sharks, colorful fish, penguins, otters and more. Hop back onto land with wildlife viewings at Monterey Zoo and Elkhorn Slough Safari. The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail is a breezy way to take in amazing views by bike or surrey (families can rent both). Fort Ord Dunes State Park is a quiet beach spot perfect for kite flying or picnics, while Folktale Winery & Vineyards is a beautiful place with fantastic wine. Pop their bubbly rosé while the kids take on a game of cornhole.

Stay: Sanctuary Beach Resort is a beach-tastic escape that boasts sunset bonfires, coastal hikes and weekend beach yoga on Marina State Beach, but we know your kids will love the heated swimming pool. For families who want to stay busy, Carmel Valley Ranch is the place to stay. This 500-acre resort offers everything from saltwater pools and bocce courts to an amazing farm experience that includes beekeeping, cheesemaking and Ranch Hands kids camps.

Flight time: Just over 2 hours

photo: Sydney Martinez

Las Vegas, NV

Roll the dice and take your gang to Nevada this year. Don’t worry, this trip won’t be a gamble as there is tons of under 21 fun to experience around the city. With flights direct from Paine Field this family vacation is a win.

Play: Las Vegas has so much to offer families. There are many kid-friendly shows and chocoholics can go crazy at Hershey's Chocolate World and M&M's World. Customize your sweet treats at both shops. Adrenaline junkies can get their hearts pumping 100 stories off the ground at Thrill Rides at The STRAT Hotel, Casino and Skypod, while superhero fans can geek out at Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. The City That Never Sleeps might tucker out some littler campers, so after a few days, trek into the Silver State. Seven Magic Mountains is a must-see art installation with seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders standing more than 30-feet high, just 10 miles south of Las Vegas.  

Stay: Just outside the city you'll find Boulder City's Boulder Dam Hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and home to the BC-Hoover Dam Museum. Small-town charm and the Hoover Dam make this a good place to stay. Raft or kayak along the Colorado River, hike or bike the Historic Railroad Trail at Lake Mead, or blow off steam at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Then ride the original Union Pacific rails in a pedal cart. You can hitch a ride on a train coming back to the station.

Flight time: Just over 1.5 hours

Boise, ID

As anyone who has been there once will tell you, Boise is awesome. It packs much to do in a manageable space, and direct flights from SeaTac are quick and cheap. Service from Paine Field will resume on September 8, 2021.

Play: JUMP (a.k.a. Jack's Urban Meeting Place) is an interactive space that's also a giant playground. The main attraction is the five-story, covered spiral slide. Load the big kids and tots into the tube and prepare for excitement. Then it's off to a three-story jungle gym or down the eight-person Team Slide, with its near-vertical drop. Then get nose-to-beak with raptors at the World Center for Birds of Prey. Guests watch gigantic soaring owls, hawks and falcons swoop overhead and the kiddos will learn all about avian science and raptor conservation at the show. The impressive-for-its-size BAM (Boise Art Museum) has a full program for kids. Don't miss Family ART Saturday, held the last Saturday of each month. Take in the great outdoors at the Boise Greenbelt, the beloved city park that stretches 25 miles along the Boise River. Rent bikes or just go for a stroll.

Flight Time: 90 minutes

San Diego, CA

Imagine long, lazy days at the beach and endless white sand to play in. San Diego is the place to go for that quintessential SoCal summer. Paine Field has direct flights so your group can travel in style and with ease.

Play: San Diego is an amusement park, cultural hub and beach party all in one. Start with the birthplace of modern California, Old Town, where your family can wander through vibrant, historic buildings, enjoying food and festivities. For more brain buzz go to The New Children’s Museum in the heart of San Diego’s downtown Gaslamp Quarter. Don't forget the San Diego attractions that are so well known, they're on your kiddo's radar. We're betting LEGOLAND and the just-opened LEGO Movie World top the list, followed by the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Beyond seeing over 800 animals (at the zoo) and exploring the Safari Park's 1,800 acres, families can hop aboard the Africa Tram that transports visitors through a wide-open landscape similar to that of the African Savannah. Don't forget San Diego's amazing beaches!

Stay: Enjoy the true west coast lifestyle by staying Hotel del Coronado.  The legendary property has been welcoming travelers for over 130 years. DelVentures offers amazing amusements for kids, from virtual rock wall climbs and paint parties to slime labs and theater camps. The summer 2021 schedule can be found here. At night, gather your gang around a private campfire to roast s’mores while watching the sun slowly dip below the Pacific Ocean.

Flight time: Just under 3 hours

Sun Valley, ID

For fresh mountain air and old Hollywood flair, pack up and fly to Sun Valley, Idaho. SeaTac offers direct flights to Hailey, just 13 miles away.

Play: Keep kids cool from the summer heat at Sun Valley’s splash parks and waterways. The Rainmaker Splash Park, plunging into the always-chilly Big Wood River or the two-story indoor waterslide at the Wood River YMCA in Ketchum are faves. Families can also hit the trails. Little and big legs will find many perfect paths, like Adams Gulch, a popular spot close to Ketchum, the White Clouds Loop or try the four mile loop at Taylor Canyon. It's full of wildflowers and photo-ready insta-moments.

Stay: A big draw for families is the iconic Sun Valley Resort. For youngsters who love to ice skate, the resort's destination outdoor skating rink is open year-round, and putt putt at the Sun Valley Club, plus bowling in the game room mean the kids can always find something to do. The gondola on Bald Mountain whisks families to panoramic views, and little wranglers enjoy feeding the horses at the Sun Valley Stables. For groups that want to stay closer to the action, Knob Hill Inn Sun Valley is an oasis within an oasis, with suites designed for families. Kiddos can splash in the Mediterranean-style pool with garage door walls, as fresh air and sunbeams stream in from outside.

Flight time: 90 minutes

Spokane, WA & Coeur d'Alene, ID

Who needs the I-90 headache when you can arrive in Spokane quickly? SeaTac currently flies direct, and Paine Field restarts flights on September 8, 2021. Vacation started!

Play: On the Washington side, families will want to spend all day at Riverfront Park. Take a ride on the Numerica SkyRide over the Spokane Falls and then roller skate or scooter on the Skate Ribbon. The Glacial Dam splash pad is where kids can swish down a three-story Columbian slide tower, play on a log jam climber and explore an alluvial deposit fossil dig. To stimulate the mind spend a day at Mobius Children’s Museum and take an ice cream break at The Scoop when you're done. Manito Park offers 78 acres of native and cultivated landscape, plus a botanical garden. Feed the ducks at Mirror Pond, or frolic in the playground area after snacking at Park Bench Cafe. 

Just a 30-minute drive east of Spokane is Coeur d'Alene, a city that was made for summer. Built on a lake, the warmer weather makes childhood memories daily. Stay overnight or pop in for the day. Families will love the scenic town and endless recreational options. The ROW Adventure Center delivers that outdoor adrenaline rush with whitewater rafting, fishing, lake kayaking, biking and hiking adventures. 

Stay: Treat yourself and check into the Historic Davenport Hotel for a taste of the gilded age. The hotel is well-situated in walkable downtown Spokane, and small ones with a sweet tooth will appreciate that Bruttles Gourmet Candies is across the street.

Flight time: 90 minutes

Los Cabos, Mexico

Although this one's a longer flight, Los Cabos is a must-visit destination for sun-starved Seattleites looking to frolic in blue pools.

Play: Overlooked San José del Cabo is an authentic Mexican town, with a mellow vibe and plenty of family-friendly activities. Swim, kiss and ride with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery. The pequeños will love Flora Farms, a working organic farm and local institution. They even have summer camp with farming, gardening, painting, tie-dye classes and water games. Or just check out the Thursday night Art Walk where families stroll the gallery district, meet people and peruse the arts and crafts.

Stay: For home base halfway between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, check in to the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, that just completed a massive, multi-million dollar renovation. New fab additions on property include 14 plunge pool oceanfront suites for sun-drenched personal swimming, and the Enclave beach club, with plush treehouse-style cabanas overlooking the hot sands and cool surf. The Kids’ Club is complimentary (hello parents' dream!) for kids ages 4-12 (daily from 9:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.) It includes a Splash Zone with a pool and waterslide, as well as activities that nurture their creative side, encourage them to play outside, and unleash pure fun. The offerings change monthly, with plenty of surprises in store.

Flight time: Just under 4.5 hours

—Natalie Compagno

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