Plan a getaway with these family-friendly recommendations for hikes, attractions, dining and more. Spanning island to high desert, all of the locations highlighted are a four-hour drive or less.
Just getting to this island in Washington’s Puget Sound is an adventure! First, you’ll need to drive to Seattle’s Colman Dock, where you’ll board a ferry for the 35-minute trip to Bainbridge. (The ferry transports cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.) Park your car and head up to the sun deck to get the best view of the Seattle skyline as the ferry pulls out of the dock. Once on the island, head to Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre botanical garden with 23 distinct landscapes to explore. Plan on taking two hours to stroll the 2-mile loop. (Pro tip: Reserve timed-entry tickets well in advance at bloedelreserve.org.) Or take a walk through a lush canopy of firs, cedars and maples on the West Grand Forest Trail network; be sure to visit the impressive rock cairn off the Ted Williamson Trillium Trail! Pro tip: The bathroom is open at Prue’s House at the top of Hilltop Trail. Head back to Bainbridge Island’s main drag — Winslow Way — for a snack at Coquette Bake Shop, and then peruse the truly excellent selection of silly finger puppets at Calico Toy Shoppe.
Don’t miss the lovely children’s room at Eagle Harbor Book Co. For dinner, Doc’s Marina Grill has a kid-pleasing menu — and filling fish ’n’ chips for grown-ups. Or get the freshest catch at Proper Fish. Spend the night at an Airbnb or take the ferry back to Seattle.
Day trips and short jaunts have proven to be highly beneficial for everyone’s mental health in my family. It’s easy to keep a safe distance from others while visiting the beautiful natural scenery in the coastal towns of Waldport and Yachats. You can catch a glimpse of lounging and playful harbor seals during a morning walk across the Alsea Bay Bridge in Waldport. Venture to Smelt Sands Park in Yachats and walk along the paved 804 Trail to watch blowholes put on a show. Walking north along the 804 Trail leads you to a vast sandy beach. (Thor’s Well is another nearby blowhole, but please don’t walk on those rocks! The trail north from Thor’s Well will lead you to peaceful tide pools full of green anemones!) For beach-going without the walk, drive north of Waldport to Seal Rock State Recreation Site. Bring chairs and park yourselves next to the little creek if engineering a dam or building a sandcastle would keep your kiddos busy for an entire afternoon. (And stop by Seal Rock’s Indulge for to-die-for fudge or Tillamook ice cream. Don’t miss the decadent salted-caramel fudge — trust us!) For camping-lite accommodations that help you easily distance, check out the deluxe cabins at the Waldport/Newport KOA. Each has a private bathroom and kitchenette, but you’ll need to bring your own linens or sleeping bags, and a camping cookstove. There are also fire pits and outdoor grills. Or get takeout fish ’n’ chips from Luna Sea Fish House in Yachats. (If your kids don’t do seafood, there’s a cheeseburger on the menu, too.) Swing by the newly reopened Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport on your way in or out. You can read about its COVID-19 safety procedures at aquarium.org.
Think Bend isn’t close enough for a weekend getaway? Think again. A quick three-hour drive over Mount Hood gets your family to Oregon’s favorite high-desert playground, and there’s lots to do here even without snow falling. Mount Bachelor, situated in the serene Deschutes National Forest, offers day hikes ranging from gentle to challenging, plus scenic chairlift rides all the way up to Pine Marten Lodge, perched at 7,800 feet. Pro tip: Older kids won’t want to miss the Mount Bachelor ZipTour. And kids 12 and up can embark on a starlit canoe tour of the Cascade Lakes with local company Wanderlust Tours, which includes dessert and hot cocoa served on the lakeshore. Keep dinner simple with the family-style takeout menu at globally influenced Spork, or dine on kid-sized rice bowls and tacos, with a side of fresh veggies. Of course, Bend is known for beer, and we like Crux Fermentation Project — about the kid-friendliest brewery around. The food-and-drink specials are good during Sundowner Hour (half-hour before and after sunset). Check out vrbo.com for house rentals. And be sure to visit Columbia Park, which is famous for its pirate ship play structure.
A trip to Reser Stadium to cheer on the Beavers isn’t the only reason to hit this classic college town. Family-friendly offerings, fun outdoor activities and a burgeoning food scene are all great reasons to visit this summer. Bring your bikes and cycle along the scenic Campus Way bike path that stretches from the Oregon State University campus to the Benton County Fairgrounds. Avery Park is worth a visit so your kids can clamber over the Dinosaur Bones play structure and old Georgia Pacific locomotive.
Get fresh veggies and a different view of the Willamette River at the Corvallis Farmers Market, open April through November on Saturdays and Wednesdays at Northwest 1st Street and Jackson Avenue. Hit up the long-lived New Morning Bakery in Corvallis’ quaint and walkable downtown for a quick and tasty breakfast or lunch. We love the fresh salad options from the deli case (and the irresistible pecan-and-cinnamon pull-aparts). For dinner (and independent artisan beer), check out Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery. Craving something sweeter? Swing by Benny’s Donuts and peep a dazzling array of regionally inspired doughnut flavors, from Oregon marionberry to Canadian maple. Visit airbnb.com for a slew of affordable rental houses.