This post was written by our guest poster, Lynnae Allred with www.piggybackrides.org
The Pacific Northwest has been a favorite destination for our extended family. Here are five activities we think you’ll enjoy just as much as we did:
This fascinating museum featuring the otherworldly blown glass designs of Dale Chihuly is one of the don’t-miss attractions in Seattle. If time or funds mean you have to choose between going to the top of the Space Needle or visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass, choose the Garden–unless you REALLY dig standing in lines and riding elevators.
Every room on this tour features colorful glass bent and twisted into tubes, bowls and orbs. Try to schedule your visit so that you can take in a glass-blowing demonstration as part of your tour. If you have plenty of time, consider having a snack or dessert in the “Collections Cafe,” which features some of Chihuly’s random collection of found objects. Your table is actually a giant shadow box showcasing anything from shaving brushes to Christmas ornaments. Leave a few minutes at the end of your tour to wander in the museum bookstore.
No visit to Seattle is complete without a few hours to wander in this one-of-a-kind Farmer’s Market. You’ll have to make a purchase at the fish market (or hope someone else does) to watch the famous flying fish sailing through the air, but if you stand around long enough, you’ll see why fish throwing is a national attraction.
While it’s a little easier to move about during the off-season or off-hours, when the market isn’t as crowded, the people watching is part of the fun. Make sure you don’t leave without some clam chowder from Pike Place Chowder. There will be a line but it moves quickly.
If you are traveling with a group, consider splitting up into smaller, more “maneuverable” partnerships of 2-3 people at Pikes Place. Be sure everyone has a little cash in hand so that if a particularly beautiful bunch of daffodils or a delicious-smelling cinnamon roll tempts your senses, you can indulge. My son-in-law still raves about the flavor of the fresh white nectarines we bought on a whim.
And yes, this is where you go to take your selfie at the gum wall.
30 minutes north of Seattle, you can visit the Boeing Factory and watch crews assemble commercial jets. This popular tour is about 90 minutes long and sells out well in advance, so purchase your tickets as soon as your trip is confirmed. Children must be at least 4 feet tall to see over the
barriers on the tour, so youngsters and babes-in-arms are not allowed. Since we were traveling with children, we booked two tours a couple of hours apart. Adults swapped supervision duties back at the hotel so that everyone got a chance to take the tour. There’s a great “Family Zone” area with some hands-on activities for little people if your itinerary doesn’t allow for more than one tour.
Caption: The “Family Zone” at the Future of Flight center features several hands-on activities for travelers who are too young to participate in the tour.
You MUST arrive on time, as tours leave by bus and they can’t hold your seat for you if you are late. Plan to be at least 30 minutes early just in case. Be sure you review the website for other rules and restrictions.
If you can plan your trip to catch some of the evening “golden hour” of colorful light that bathes the landscape for about an hour prior to s
unset, you may be lucky, as we were, to use the natural backdrop at this park to get some great family photos. Either way, the gentle hike through the forest area is a great introduction to Washington State’s natural beauty. There is no charge for entry and the park is open daily from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. The trail is just under 3 miles long with limited elevation change so it’s perfect for older hikers or little legs. Locals hike and jog this trail year-round. Highlights of the hike include views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.
Washington’s distance from the equator means a longer-than-usual “golden hour” just before sunset perfect for shooting family photos.
Without exception, the favorite excursion for nearly everyone in our group was our ferry ride to Bainbridge to visit the Bloedel Reserve. Bainbridge Island is only 35 minutes away from Seattle by ferry. You can simply drive your vehicle onto the ferry and it crosses with you. Ferries sail about once per hour.
Once we arrived on the island, we drove directly to the Bloedel Reserve. We happened to arrive at the height of rhododendron season (late May – early June) on a misty, wet day, so conditions were just about perfect. Mr. Bloedel, the businessman who retired at this location, was color blind, so he wanted the landscape design to focus especially on texture. Plan on a minimum of 2 hours to walk the main trail and make sure you have time to just relax and enjoy because that’s the whole point here. The children were just as entranced as the adults. There’s a different view around every bend. Bird marshes, woodlands, glens, a Japanese garden, and volumes of fresh air for deep breathing are the attraction here.
If you have extra time, we can recommend the Indian food at Spice Route Indian Restaurant, but there are lots of highly-rated restaurants and cafes in the area.
A side trip to the Bainbridge Historical Museum completed the day. This is a small museum with a sobering look at the impact that World War II and particularly the Japanese American internment had on the island’s inhabitants.
One of the things we’ve learned about family vacations is the beauty of having a couple days of open itinerary for “simple pleasures.” These lazy days often turn into some of our favorites. For example, you might decide on a whim to try sea kayaking. We took an afternoon drive to nearby
Snohomish to do some window shopping in antiques stores and sample some marionberry pie.
On another afternoon, a well-placed poster alerted us to the fact that it was National Donut Day, and directed us to a cozy shop where we put back all of the calories we had burned off during our hike to the base of Snoqualmie Falls earlier that day.
A cruise to Tilicum Village is also a good option if you are entertaining a large group and want to sample some of the history of how Seattle came to be. A boat ride to Blake Island State Park lands you on the 475-acre island where you’ll be treated with a steaming mug of clams as you disembark. By tradition, you crush the shells underfoot as you head indoors for a buffet of alder-fire-roasted salmon or trout. A Northwest Native American storytelling show is part of the evening. Make sure you don’t leave without a helping of blackberry crisp made with local berries.
The Pacific Northwest is breathtakingly beautiful, but is often overlooked as a family travel destination. From hiking to dining, from art connoisseur to sports fanatic, there’s an experience in or near Seattle that will please every personality.
About the Author: Lynnae Allred is a grandmother and play enthusiast who blogs about family recreation and making connections with play. Learn more at www.piggybackrides.org.