Summertime is family fun time. From fantastic museums to wild adventures and rustic resorts, you don’t have to travel far in Washington State to find a destination that will excite every member of the family. From the coast to the mountains, there are endless opportunities to create incredible memories that will last a lifetime. Here are 14 great getaways that you and your kids will love. Best of all, you won’t be hearing that infamous question, “Are we there yet?” because you’re already there.
Woodland Park Zoo
Take a walk on the wild side to see exotic and native animals at the beautiful Woodland Park Zoo. Sprawled over more than 90 acres Seattle’s zoological garden is home to nearly 1,200 animals, including 40 endangered and threatened species. The Zoo offers numerous special camps and programs for children and adults alike. The Zoomazium is an indoor play space specifically designed for children 8 years and younger (though everyone is welcome) to actively learn about animals and the environment while having fun. There are even opportunities to volunteer and give back to the amazing wildlife found at the Zoo.
Located in downtown Spokane along the beautiful Spokane River, Riverfront Park is a picturesque locale with lots of events and activities all year long. Take a ride on the Spokane Falls Skyride and be suspended in a gondola over the raging falls of the Spokane River. If heights aren’t your thing, maybe the beautiful wooden horses in the famed Looff Carrousel will be more your speed. Send the kids to a movie at the IMAX and get your shop on at Riverpark Square. If you’re a foodie, visit in September for Pig Out in the Park and sample everything from chocolate-covered strawberries to gourmet Greek and Thai food. Special bonus for those who discover the garbage eating goat.
Argosy Cruises and Tillicum Village
Operating for more than 60 years, Argosy Cruises is a family-owned company that has made the breathtaking beauty of the Pacific Northwest its main attraction. Board one of nine vessels for a public or private cruise around the Puget Sound for some of the must see tourist attractions. For the ultimate Northwest experience, book a cruise to Blake Island’s Tillicum Village. Enjoy the history of the area and learn about the Coastal Salish tribes while you sample amazing steamed clams and the famous Salmon Bake. How about a theme cruise? Figure out who done it on a Murder Mystery Cruise. Celebrate our country’s independence on the Fourth of July Fireworks Dinner Cruise. Sit back, relax and take in the Seattle scenery from a different vantage point.
Mercer Slough Nature Park
Just minutes from downtown Bellevue, the Mercer Slough Nature Park is the largest of Lake Washington’s remaining fresh water wetlands. You can explore more than 320 acres of wildlife habitat through seven miles of trails including a very unique canoe trail. Visitors can launch their non-motorized boats from the Sweyolocken Boat Launch and lazily explore the beauty of the area. Buy fresh produce at the Blueberry Farm and learn about freshwater wetland ecology at the Eastside Heritage Center. With interconnected boardwalks, soft surface trails and asphalt paths, visitors of all ages can enjoy this unique urban wetland.
Camlann Medieval Village
If you love Harry Potter, chances are you’ll love the Camlann Medieval Village. This living-history museum project, just outside the King County town of Carnation, portrays rural England in the year 1376, and is dedicated to offering the full experience between history and the daily life of a 14th century Englander. The Bors Hede Inne is a dinner theatre restaurant where you will eat food prepared from recipes found in medieval cookbooks. The meal is served by interpreters who stay in character, tell tales of their village and sing “current” songs. Visit during one of the Summer Village Festivals and take in a public feast and a Middle English drama. You can even rent period clothing during your visit to fully immerse yourselves in the experience.
Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum (EMP/SFM)
Since opening its doors in 2000, the EMP building has become a prominent structure and sculpture within the Seattle Center area. Within this state-of-the-art building is an interactive museum dedicated to the American pop culture scene. Explore how Seattle’s son, Jimi Hendrix, affected music yesterday and today. Maybe you’re a horror movie buff. Get an in-depth look at how horror is expressed in cinema, biology, history and contemporary culture. Within the EMP visitors will also find the Science Fiction Hall of Fame where the legacies of the most influential creators in this genre are honored and revered. Authors, artists and filmmakers are honored with exhibits and special productions to showcase their contributions to their professions. Only the hippest of the hip and the coolest of the cool need attend.
Long Beach Peninsula
Question of the day is – what can’t you do on the Long Beach Peninsula? The Peninsula offers visitors blocks of colorful shops, great seafood, comfortable lodging, museums, horseback riding and an expansive beach. Washington’s Southwest Coast is home to a national park, two historic lighthouses, renowned restaurants, cranberry bogs and oyster farms. Dig for razor clams or drop a crab pot to catch your own delicious dinner. How can you not paddle along the coast in a kayak and possibly see a whale spout? Visit in August and take flight with the International Kite Festival. The best place to discover fun!
Hands On Children’s Museum
When it comes to fun and learning, Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia is the place to go for children and their entire family. Hands On is designed for parent-child interaction, so the experience is enhanced by learning and having fun together. Discover the Art & Science of Sandcastles and learn how to build a sandcastle like the masters. Visit the Art Studio to get the creative juices flowing while you use new and recycled art supplies to bring your ideas to life. Even the littlest members of the family can enjoy the museum. In the TotSport children ages birth to four can play and develop necessary skills while having fun.
Slidewaters at Lake Chelan
Make a splash in the pristine waters found in the immaculate Slidewaters park. Twist and turn, scream and laugh and have an amazing time rocketing down the Tube Blaster. Go by yourself, or if you’re scared, share your tube with a friend. Kids can race their parents down one of the intermediate slides that help build confidence, be safe and have fun. Even if you’re not a thrill seeker, you can float down the Lazy River while you take in views of Lake Chelan, the butte and overall beauty of the area. At the end of a wet and wild day, relax in the 60-person hot tub and soak all your troubles away.
Certainly a fantastic place for adults to visit, but Suncadia Resort (near Cle Elum) offers wonderful family-friendly activities as well. Get lost (not literally) in 6,200 acres made for hiking, biking, fishing, boating, cross-country skiing and more. Go Geo caching and go on a GPS Scavenger Hunt. Learn to play Disc Golf. Bring a camera and go on a Photo Scavenger Hunt. CampCadia is a program for children ages 4-12 and offers loads of activities, crafts and field trips organized around fun. All year long there are events and activities for everyone to enjoy and build some great family memories.
Seattle Aquarium/Point Defiance
You might not find Nemo, but you will discover lots of other marine life at one of Washington’s aquariums. Step through a short tunnel at the Seattle Aquarium and into a one-of-a-kind exhibit: an undersea dome with a 360º view into a mammoth 400,000-gallon tank filled with hundreds of fascinating Puget Sound fish from salmon to sharks. At Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, in Tacoma, take a magical journey through three seahorse kingdoms with your tour guide, Potbelly Seahorse. The award-winning Once Upon a Tide: A Seahorse Odyssey is home to four different species of seahorses.
Discovery Sea Kayaks
Discovery Sea Kayaks has been dispatching paddling trips in the stunning San Juan Islands since 2001. Thanks to its guides, who double as professional kayakers, even novices can find themselves paddling in the wake of an orca whale pod or alongside sea lions and otters. The San Juans are teaming with wildlife – jellyfish, sea stars, kelp beds, nesting bald eagles, seal and dolphins, and there’s no better way to see them up close and personal than from sea-level about a slow-moving kayak. By limiting the tours to eight guests, the guides can cater to all of your needs, safety, and wildlife education.
Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad
Take a trip back in time as the chug-chug-chug of a steam-powered locomotive pulls your vintage railcar on fourteen-mile leisurely journey. Weekly excursion and tour trains depart beneath the white cap of Mount Rainier from the Depot and Gift Shop in Elbe. Pulled by vintage locomotives, passengers on the MRSR are charmed as they pass through forest and meadows, next to clear mountain streams and over tall wooden trestles. The Mineral stop is on the shore of Mineral Lake, close to picnic grounds and hiking trails. For a special treat, book a ticket for the MRSR barbecue excursion with live music along with a delicious meal at the lake.
Dude Ranch Roundup
Pack your saddlebags, and take you little ‘dudes and dudettes” on a family outing where horses, hats, history and hospitality abound. Once your kids have a taste of a ranch life, they may never want to turn on the Wii again. Bull Hill Guest Ranch and K-Diamond-K Guest Ranch, both in northeastern Washington, have their own unique history, incredible horseback riding (tailored to the rider’s age and ability), and exciting outdoor adventures like fishing on scenic rivers, fun hayrides, and picturesque hikes. Blue skies, starry nights and the sounds of silence are also included in your dude ranch vacation.