Washington State is one of the most underrated family vacation destinations. There is so much that this west coast state has to offer. Rugged mountains and beautiful coastline with mild temperatures during most parts of the year give you the opportunity to go skiing in the morning and then kayaking in the afternoon. Its location right next to the Canadian border means you can easily head north and visit Vancouver or Vancouver Island for a quick international trip with the family. Here are some of the best areas in Washington State for a fun family vacation.
7 Vacation Destinations in Washington State Worth Visiting
Bellingham is a small hipster town located about 40 minutes south of the Canadian border. This lovely city has lots of great shopping and restaurants as well as a booming craft beer scene. Bellingham has so much to do that it’s the perfect destination for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation. Check out the downtown area and the Fairhaven neighborhoods. Take a stroll with your kids down to Boulevard Park and walk along the seawall and over to the playground. Whatcom falls park is popular with locals and has a gorgeous scenic waterfall and nice, easy hiking trails.
Because Bellingham is a college town there is a great arts scene and lots of tasty and affordable restaurants. Lake Padden is a family friendly beach to go for a swim or kayak on a hot summer day. Kids will also love to visit the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention or the Marine Life Center for some inexpensive, educational fun.
Often overlooked because it’s located on the eastern side of the state, Spokane offers year round outdoor recreation and shopping opportunities. Riverfront Park is a must visit and is packed with family-friendly activities and attractions, including the Spokane Falls Skyride, a tour train, the Looff Carousel, and a humungous red wagon sculpture that kids can climb on. Families visiting Spokane also have easy access to Coeur d’Alene and Silverwood Theme Park, which are both just across the border in Idaho.
Fans of the TV show Twin Peaks will be familiar with Snoqualmie Falls. With more that 1.5 million annual visitors it’s one of the state’s most popular attractions. The opening credits of Twin Peaks feature the iconic falls that look remote are actually easily accessible.
At the falls you will find a two-acre park, gift shop, observation deck, the Salish Lodge and the famous 270 foot waterfall. Less than an hour’s drive from downtown Seattle, Snoqualmie, Washington is a Twin Peaks wonderland with plenty of opportunities to visit the filming locations of the show. Make sure you get there early so you can beat the crowds and get that iconic shot of the falls with The Great Northern Hotel in the background.
Parking and admission are free. There are two observation platforms. The top area is an easy walk from the parking lot, but the lower area requires a hike. The mist off the waterfall is incredibly powerful so be sure to bring a rain jacket and assume that you will get wet.
This Bavarian-style town curled up in the Cascade Mountains about a 2 hour drive from Seattle, but you might think you inadvertently drove through a portal and exited into the Swiss Alps.
Designed as a Bavarian-style vacation destination there is gorgeous natural scenery and architecture from southern Germany. There are plenty of Bavarian themed shops and restaurants and a Nutcracker Museum with over 6,000 different nutcrackers.
Leavenworth is great year round but Christmastime is the best time to go, as the town is routinely snow filled and covered in colorful lights. Plus, there are several holiday themed events to see, like the lighting of the tree in the town square, and a local children’s choir singing Christmas carols.
San Juan Islands
Just an hour drive and a short ferry ride away from Seattle, you are transported into a different world. There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County. Three ferry served Islands, San Juan Island, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island are the most populous and host the vast majority of lodging and dining options and tourism activities
The islands get twice as much sunshine as overcast Seattle, yet enough rain to still have the lushness of the Pacific Northwest. From mid-May to September is definitely the best time of year to visit the San Juan Islands. The weather is by far the best and the Orcas are usually in this area then as well.
Olympic National Park
The heart of the peninsula is the Olympic National Park. This national park covers almost one million acres and includes three separate ecosystems! The vast and varied landscape includes a temperate rainforest, radiating mountain range, large lowland lakes, wild rushing rivers, tidelands and saltwater beaches.
Your family can stare in awe at snow-capped alpine peaks and glaciers near Hurricane Ridge which is an easy day trip from Port Angeles. If you have three days to explore the park, plan a roughly counter-clockwise loop, starting at Port Angeles then following U.S. 101 west and south. It takes approximately 4h 4m to get from Seattle to Olympic National Park, including transfers.
The best way to see the Olympic Peninsula is by car. Many visitors like to drive from Aberdeen on northbound US-101 and “do the loop”, ending in Olympia, taking three or four days to visit the Olympic National Park and Forest area.
No trip to Washington State is complete without a mention of its largest city; Seattle is full of family friendly activities. Stroll through Pike Place Market and pick up some fresh fish and souvenirs Take a ride up the Space Needle and enjoy dinner at the revolving restaurant at the top of the needle. You can also purchase the city pass and gain access to various museums like the Museum of Pop Culture.
Adrienne is a travel blogger who writes at Hubbard Family Travels. She helps families plan better vacations. She believes that adventure doesn’t have to stop once you have kids.