Each holiday weekend, we pack our car and head up to Seattle to visit Baby Wesley’s 91-year-old great-grandma. On my first solo trip with three-month-old Wesley, he started crying on a stretch of I-5 without exits for many miles. Like an oasis in the dessert, I finally pulled into a Starbucks in a truck stop at the Napavine exit. On the return trip, I ended up there again. I can say with certainty that I had never spent so much time in Napavine in my life! On subsequent road trips, I put in a little extra planning to anticipate Wesley’s needs and create opportunities for family fun. Here are our favorite baby-friendly stopovers on the way to Seattle:
Castle Rock, WA
On one of our road trips, Wesley woke up unexpectedly and we pulled into the nearest town of Castle Rock. We’re so lucky we did because we stumbled upon a true gem of a coffee shop: Vault Books and Brew. The book store/coffee shop is located in the historic Castle Rock Bank Building. What was formerly the bank vault is now a children’s play area. How cool is that? After grabbing a cup of joe, we enjoyed a walk along the Cowlitz River trail.
Centralia gets its name because it is halfway between Portland and Seattle. The Centralia McMenamins Olympic Club restaurant is a terrific place to stop for lunch with kids. Wesley was mesmerized by the ceiling fans and giant hanging plants. There are fun things to do such as billiards, shuffleboard and a movie theater with a children’s matinee. If Wes isn’t immediately ready for another nap when we’re done with lunch, we put him in the baby carrier and walk around the historic downtown. Someday when Wesley is old enough, we’ll skip the Olympic Club and head straight for the water slides at Great Wolf Lodge, just north of Centralia.
If traveling on I-5, Olympia is a great place to stop next. There is a lively farmers market on the waterfront Thursdays through Sundays in the summertime and on weekends in the winter. The market features fresh farm produce, food vendors, crafts and music. It’s a quick walk to the waterfront and to a children’s museum. For older kids, the State Capitol building would be an educational field trip.
During holiday weekends, traffic can get horrific on I-5. On our Memorial Day Weekend trip, we decided to take a detour, avoiding the interstate all together. We headed east to Northwest Trek, a wildlife park with native Washington animals. We enjoyed a 30-minute safari ride through the park, observing big-horned sheep, bison, elk and more. Wesley expended energy romping around the outdoor play space. In the animal enclosure area, a playful beaver dove and popped up to look at Wesley through the glass.
Back on the I-5 route, a natural place to stop after Olympia is Tacoma. I recommend grabbing a bite at the Antique Sandwich Company, which has a play area and is conveniently located next to Point Defiance Park. Point D has beaches, trails, an historic fort and a zoo. Afterward, I would suggest heading to Point Ruston’s Ice Cream Social store (best ice cream on Earth) and cruising the waterfront trails on rental bikes. Just north of Tacoma, the Wild Waves Theme & Waterpark would be a fun place for older kids to burn off some energy.
By the time we leave Tacoma, Wesley sleeps the rest of the way to Seattle. Great-grandma delights in watching the baby crawl around and adding new photos to her Baby Wes album. In a couple days, we will do it all over again on the way home and make even more fun memories.
This post originally appeared on Travel Mom Teacher Dad and is reprinted with permission.