Have you ever wondered what the sweet spot between hearing the kids shout, “Super fun car games…yay!” and repeatedly asking, “Are we there yet?” is? Turns out, it’s two hours. So if a summer vacation plan is what you’re after, we’ve got more than a few ideas for weekend trips from Seattle that take two hours or less to get to. Whether you want to drive or hop on a plane, these seven great family escapes will keep you and the kids playing whenever you visit. Read on to make your plan!
Port Townsend, WA
The dramatic, windswept location, perfectly preserved Victorian architecture, and carefully curated shops and restaurants set the stage. You’ve arrived in Port Townsend, and there’s nowhere else in the state quite like it.
Parks and Rec: Fort Worden is a 434-acre park that will amaze and surprise at every turn. Once a military fort and barracks, it is now an unofficial scavenger hunt, filled with surprises and amusement in every nook and cranny. The restored houses, formerly military housing, provide unique holiday rental opportunities. Be sure to point out Alexander’s Castle to your Disney-obsessed kids. There are e-bikes, cornhole, badminton, yoga, plus jazz concerts for adults and budding musicians, in this cultural haven. Don’t forget to tell your group a ghostly tale before climbing the ruined barracks by the sea. Camping, swimming, museums, even a Pulitzer-prize winning poetry publisher can all be found on the property. It’s impossible to see it all in one day. Thank goodness summer vacation is three months long.
Foodie Fun: Port Townsend is packed with options for hungry little eaters. Doc’s Marina Grill has all the yummy fish, chips and chowder one would expect from the aquatic surroundings. Front Street has a plethora of choices, including must-lick local institution Elevated Ice Cream Company. Further afield, Finnriver Cidery, in nearby Chimacum, makes for a unique experience, nourishing the mind and spirit as well as the body. The menu is simple but satisfying: salads, bratwurst and sandwiches. The cider is what you'd expect from a cidery that thinks in terms of appellations instead of mass appeal, and their mission is inspiring. They engage with the community and reconnect with the land, with the sense of place imbued by Washington state apples.
Learning Moments: The čičməhán Trail is a wonderful way to learn about the S’Klallam people who lived in this area for hundreds of years, while also enjoying a walking tour throughout the town. There are 18 sites throughout the city, sectioned into three-, six- and eight-mile loops, each telling a part of the tribe’s history. Print out the map in advance and then check off the signs as you find them. Whether you do some or all, every plaque is moving and educational.
Just For Kids: Port Townsend is the epicenter of the maritime environment that makes our state so special. So bring your little mariners down to the water next to the Northwest Maritime Center. There's a pirate ship where young sailors can raise the mizzenmast and jib the topsails. There are also maritime youth programs for ages 5-17. Eye patch and parrot not required, but highly recommended.
Cozy Time: The Port Ludlow Inn is a picturesque hideaway where groups can bond and connect, with watercolor views and casual activities. Check in and make a reservation at The Fireside. Be sure to ask about their dining events, as they are a farm-to-fork regional mecca. Inquire at the front desk about farm tours and wine tastings, or sign up for hiking, biking, kayaking, giant lawn games, beach strolling or bird watching. On the flipside, grab a board game from the front desk, sip some tea and breathe in the sea air while winning at Trivial Pursuit.
Drive Time: Two hours from Seattle.
Parks and Rec: The protected seashore of Bellingham and Whatcom County is perfect for exploring tide pools, taking scenic hikes and watching seabirds swoop in for their catch. If you want to see all the beauty this area offers, head down Chuckanut Drive and stop at Larabee State Park for hiking trails and water access. It’s $10 to enter the state park and you’ll have loads of options for a day by the shore.
Foodie Fun: Drive by Zane Burgers in the Fairhaven neighborhood and you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time to the days of carhops. We found the burgers to be delicious and inexpensive, just what you want when feeding a family. Topping our list of favorite restaurants in downtown Bellingham is AB Crepes where sweet and savory crepes are the focus (our favorites: the Nutella and banana crepe and the crepizza) and the POG mimosa really hits the spot.
Keep Bellingham’s many breweries in mind when you visit as they not only have unique beers for the adult members of your crew but their energetic vibe drowns out all sorts of cranky toddler moods. Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro was serving up a blackberry wheat on our visit and offered Etch-a-Sketches to the kids while they waited for food (BRILLIANT).
Learning Moments: The quirky and eclectic (or electric?) SPARK Museum should definitely be on your must-visit list. Kids will love learning about static electricity through hair-raising hands-on demonstrations. Find out how things like telephones worked before smartphones were invented (i.e. “the olden days”). Upstairs in the museum is an area just for the littlest visitors. If you visit on the weekend, time it right so that you can check out the Megazapper live show as it’s certainly going to inspire your little scientists.
Just for Kids: If the temps dip and the rain falls during your Bellingham visit, there are still tons of options for keeping the kids active. We particularly loved our visit to VITAL Climbing Gym where the drop-in rate of $17/person can’t be beat. Kids can rent shoes here and your pass is good for the whole day so you can take a break for lunch (crepes! See below!) and return for more bouldering action.
Drive Time: 1.5 hours from Seattle
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Bend is alluring to city slickers who need that boost of the great outdoors without giving up the comforts they crave. Chock full of eateries, breweries and yoga studios, yet steps away from parks, mountains and ranches, Bend and Central Oregon tempt urbanites to trade their sneakers for cowboy boots.
Parks and Rec: Tumalo State Park cradles Oregon's spectacular Deschutes River just four miles north of Bend. Camping, yurts, fishing, swimming, kayaking, hiking, biking and more await your group. Everyone loves cuddly and cute alpacas. Visit Crescent Moon Ranch to feed and pet these super soft creatures. For a more slippery sort, head to Wizard Fish Hatchery where kids can feed the fish for a mere 25 cents.
Foodie Fun: Nancy P’s Bakery is sure to please the hungry Littles. This café offers breakfast and lunch daily along with a selection of delicious baked goods. Dine on the patio to enjoy the foliage, including an heirloom apple tree. You scream, I scream, we all scream for… Goody’s Ice Cream. Their cool, smooth treats are made with locally sourced ingredients. Vegan and gluten-free families love Café Yumm in the Old Mill District of Bend overlooking a pond.
Learning Moments: Take thee to the theatre! Tower Theatre was renovated in 2004, and the Art Deco Modern venue is Central Oregon’s premier stage. Introduce all ages to the wonder of live performance at their family-friendly shows. A real gem is the High Desert Museum that features the stories of the people and places that are part of the High Desert. Don’t miss the Kids Curate exhibit and Raptors of the Desert Sky program, where hawks, owls and more swoop overhead while a naturalist narrates.
Cozy Time: Stay at Sunriver Resort and hop from one entertainment area to another–an aquatic center, a marina with kayaking, canoeing, stables for horseback riding, trails for biking, courts with pickle ball and tennis and much more. New best friend alert–request Takoda the Bear Factory In-Room Kits so they can build their own stuffies.
Flight Time: Just over an hour to Redmond Airport, plus a 20-minute drive to Bend.
Hood Canal, WA
The Hood Canal is a winding waterway set between views of the Olympic National Park, oyster beds and forest trails. Families have been spending their free time along these shores for centuries, and this year is no exception. It’s hard to pin down what makes this region so special, but perhaps it starts with a perfect gathering place, Alderbrook Resort & Spa.
Parks and Rec: Potlatch State Park is located right on the Hood Canal with 57 acres available for camping, fishing, picnics, beachcombing and shellfish harvesting. Alderbrook Resort & Spa has five miles of private trails and a water sport center where families can rent wild rides like hydrobikes, paddle kayaks, peddle boats and seacycles.
Foodie Fun: The newly renovated Restaurant at Alderbrook Resort & Spa serves up scrumptious fare and their menu for little eaters is extensive. Hamma Hamma Oyster Saloon is a tradition. Grab chowder, oysters and more and sit in their outdoor wooden A-frame huts for fresh air and views. A true culinary highlight is Hook & Fork at Union City Market. The outdoor setting pairs perfectly with the flavorful offerings—such as salmon salad, trout dip, charbroiled oysters and the you-can’t-stop-slurping clam chowder.
Learning Moments: Sign up for Alderbrook Resort & Spa’s guided nature walks to learn about wildflowers, fungus, and plant life depending on the season. Discover Shinrin Yoku–Forest Meditation-by grabbing a booklet from the concierge and heading into the trees.
Just For Kids: The glass enclosed pool and hot tub area is where the kiddos will splash all day. Be sure to take them on the Nautical Flag Hunt which zigs and zags all over the property. Afterwards pick up a wooden frog music maker from the gift shop so your group can sing along with the amphibian night symphony.
Cozy Time: Order a s’mores kit (or two) for an evening treat by the bonfires.
Drive Time: 1.5 hours from Seattle.
Bainbridge Island, WA
How about a vacation that starts at once? That’s the magic of Bainbridge Island. Your adventure begins on a ferry ride across the Sound with nature’s tableau escorting the way. Bainbridge Island has foodie haunts, parks and water sports, shopping, culture and quiet moments for bonding and laughter. And with so many new additions—if you think you know Bainbridge, think again.
Parks and Rec: Tiny tots and big kids alike will have 90 acres of play space to frolic and play at Battle Point Park. A new all-abilities kid’s structure provides hours of amusement, plus tennis, basketball, roller hockey and pickleball—the world's fastest growing sport was invented here. Or for water babies head to Schel Chelb Park for a beach day of sand castles, swimming and kayaking, or enjoy the Waterfront Park and City Dock where families can stop by Exotic Aquatics Kayak/SUP Rentals to get in that paddleboard fix.
Foodie Fun: With so many choices, it’s hard to choose where to nosh. If you ask us, Via Roso 11 is an absolute must. The atmosphere is convivial and boisterous; you will feel at home at once thanks to the authentic Italian, just-like-Mama-cooked menu. Savor their homemade gnocchi, secret pesto sauce, bruschetta with Genovese basil, pasta and pizza. No need to get hangry, kids get Italian crackers immediately and all pasta dishes can be ordered in a kid’s portion. You can also grab an A Go Go picnic box or pasta to cook at your Airbnb later.
More food of note: Proper Fish and their British fish and chips and East Coast lobster rolls do not disappoint. Streamliner Diner serves up famous brunch, while Pleasant Beach Donuts satisfies that sweet tooth. Get dolled up and dine at Joe’s Restaurant or Ba Sa.
Learning Moments: The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial is a special and important place to take your family. This serene monument and sculpture wall tells the story of the Japanese Americans who were exiled from Bainbridge in 1942 and reminds us to “Nidoto Nai Yoni”...let it not happen again. BIMA–Bainbridge Museum of Art–houses beautiful local and international art. The best part? Both museums are free.
Just for Kids: KiDiMu is a hands-on museum for children with lots of interactivity and STEM activities. Make sure to get a copy of the Second Edition of Explore Bainbridge Activity Book when you play. Bloedel Reserve is not just for kids, but the vast property is filled with the wonders of nature and many activities for budding naturalists.
Cozy Time: After all that excitement, it’s time for bed. We highly recommend The Inn at Pleasant Beach for a luxury, boutique hotel in a prime location with a pool. It’s above The Marketplace (with gourmet sandwiches, coffee and adult bevvies) and Island Cool frozen yogurt. Plus it's across the street from the movie theatre. Win, win!
Ferry Ride: 35 minutes from Seattle.
Oh, Canada! The border is open and travel to Canada is in full swing this summer. Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city tucked into a delicious, bite-sized morsel next to the Pacific. Food, nature and shopping—plus that exchange rate—make this a great family escape.
Parks and Rec: Pack your bathing suits because Kitsilano Beach has golden sand ,and Kitsilano Pool is a heated saltwater swim hole with views of the city and mountains. Vancouver’s newest urban playground is called “park of the future” and was designed with sustainability as a priority. Six thousand shrubs, perennials, climbers and mature trees embrace the space.
Foodie Fun: Sign up for Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.'s Sunday night pizza-making fun from 5-7 p.m. Sal Y Limon serves authentic Mexican street food fare, and has a kids play area complete with play kitchen and toys. For more games head to Bells & Whistles where they serve up a chill atmosphere and arcade games for all ages amusement.
Just For Kids: Psst parents, this one’s for you too! The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is serenely beautiful and awe-inspiring. Adults will love the views and nature. Kids will be exhilarated by the swaying of the bridge. Check out Science World and the Kids Market at Granville Island for more kid-approved fun.
Learning Moments: Art inspires. Grab the group and take a self-guided art tour around Vancouver and discover BC’s diverse art scene. The tour takes folks through Stanley Park, around totem poles, the Vancouver Art Gallery, public art and more.
Cozy Time: Stay at the coveted Fairmont Waterfront, a luxury hotel with children-specific perks like kids’ robes, babysitting services (advanced notice is required) plus 5-year-olds and younger eat for free off the kids menu. Granville Island Hotel is conveniently located on Granville Island surrounded by parks, and the colorful Aquabus provides fun transfers to downtown, Stanley Park and Science World.
Flight Time: One hour from Seattle.
Drive Time: Just over two hours, depending on the border crossing wait times.
Monterey County provides ocean waves and chic Carmel-by-the-Sea strolls. Throw in a world-famous aquarium and California sunshine, and you’ve got a vacation that feels like endless summer.
Parks and Rec: 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. Consider attending the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for some fast and furious fun.
Foodie Fun: Folktale Winery & Vineyards is a beautiful place with fantastic wine. Pop their bubbly rosé and enjoy the delicious Wine Garden Restaurant while the kids take on a game of cornhole. Fisherman’s Wharf is a sensory feast, and we recommend Abalonetti Bar and Grill for seafood and views. Revival Ice Cream uses seasonal, fresh ingredients, and Old Monterey Café serves up memory-making pancakes.
Just For Kids: Little tykes love the MY Museum, a hands-on experiential place that is conveniently adjacent to Dennis the Menace Park. Your kids may not know who that is, but they'll love the playground dedicated to this comic strip kid.
Learning Moments: Visit the Mission San Antonio de Padua and teach your family about the history and archaeology of early-California and Native American culture that helped shape the state.
Cozy Time: Sanctuary Beach Resort is a beach-tastic escape that boasts sunset bonfires, coastal hikes and weekend beach yoga on Marina State Beach. 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 from Seattle.
Sometimes a staycation is all your family needs to bond and recharge. If even driving or flying a few hours seems like too much, check out these two new or newly renovated properties just a brief car ride away. Don’t forget the board games and bubble bath!
Parks and Rec: The Lodge at St. Edward State Park is located inside an actual state park, so enjoying the Washington park system is as simple as stepping outside the lodge doors. Grab a beach game and head to the lake front after an easy hike, or choose from more lengthy trails nearby. Sign up for weekly yoga classes on Saturdays, they are kid-friendly and a blissful treat. The newly renovated Fairmont Olympic has an indoor pool and hot tub with beautiful, light-filled glass windows for hours of splashing around and aquatic games. Kid-sized bathrobes are available so they can “spa” just like the adults.
Foodie Fun: The Fairmont Olympic has a multitude of delectable dining options: from the dress to impress The George (now serving weekend brunch), to Shuckers Restaurant, that welcomes casual gourmands every day except Sunday, to the staycation go-to room service. Cedar + Elm inside The Lodge at St. Edward State Park is an elegant dining experience with a burger on the kids menu as big as their heads. Sunday brunch is a family affair, so make a reservation in advance.
Learning Moments: The renowned architectural masterpiece, downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library and Seattle Art Museum are short walks from the Fairmont Olympic. Ask at the front desk of The Lodge at St. Edward State Park for the "Stories of St. Edward" self-guided walking tour, or stroll down the Gallery of Fine Arts hallway to gaze at the hotel’s unique art collection on display.
Just For Kids: Get the “secret” code from The Lodge at St. Edward State Park’s front desk to the gymnasium on property for access to pickle ball, cornhole and other games for group competition. The Fairmont Olympic loves to welcome kids with a milk and cookies night time treat.
Cozy Time: Enjoy the newly renovated rooms at the Fairmont Olympic and signature Le Labo bath products. Request the park side rooms at The Lodge at St. Edward State Park for the best views.
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