Best Family Adventures in Washington

The young (and young at heart) have plenty of ways to get out and play.
Washington Vacation
Washington Vacation

Splash and Play

No surprise—kids love the water. Fortunately, that’s a specialty here in Washington, with the Pacific Ocean to the west, an idyllic archipelago, and a bounty of lakes offering family-friendly adventures in spades. 

Get Beachy

In Southwest Washington, broad swaths of sand and quaint beach towns line the Pacific coast of the Long Beach and Olympic Peninsulas. Every summer the town of Long Beach comes alive for July’s sand castle–sculpting extravaganza SandSations and August’s Washington State International Kite Festival, which fills the skies with colorful flyers. There’s a breeze year-round, though, so expect to find families flocking to the beach with shovel and kite in hand. Farther north in Ocean Shores, where six miles of pancake-flat sand are perfect for everything from clamming to horseback riding, a giant Jaws-style shark maw welcomes travelers to gift shop Sharky’s; it’s a must-stop for saltwater taffy and other beach essentials.

Sail the San Juans

Head to the islands of the San Juans for a whole different kind of waterside adventure. Kids of all ages can go on a whale-watching tour with San Juan Safaris, riding the calm waters of Puget Sound looking for the orcas that live here year-round. Boat captains communicate with each other to help locate the pods every day, so the success rate of sightings is high.

Jump in a Lake

Lakes across the state offer ample ways to make a splash. Tucked between the Okanogan Forest and the Selkirk Mountains, Lake Roosevelt—actually a reservoir—offers 600 miles of shoreline and acres of calm waters for boating, swimming, and fishing. And at more than 50 miles long, Lake Chelan is an aquatic oasis smack-dab in the middle of the state. Parasail over the pristine waters in groups of three, or take the little ones to Slidewaters, a top-rated waterpark a stone’s throw from the lake.

Cheers to Parenthood

Just because you have a tot in tow doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a pint—or two. Many Washington craft breweries welcome families, and some even stock toys, books, and games. The Pints With Half Pints blog, run by a Washington family, catalogs all-ages breweries around the state. Try Seattle’s Optimism Brewing, which has a dedicated play area, or the McMenamins breweries in Bothell and Centralia.


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Three Museums Worth a Trip

1. Museum of Pop Culture

In the shadow of the Space Needle, this colorful museum celebrates all things music, science fiction, film, and more. Kids and teens especially love the interactive Sound Lab, where they can form their own jam band and record a song, while parents can appreciate the collection of guitars belonging to music icons like Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. Seattle;


2. SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention

Prepare for a shocking-good time at this museum all about the advent of electricity. Examine everything from Edison light bulbs to vintage radios, and be sure to catch the electrifying weekend MegaZapper shows, starring one of the largest Tesla coils in the country. Bellingham;


3. Mobius Children’s Museum & Science Center

These sister attractions near the Spokane River encourage active play and learning, from paint stations and a bubble wall to science shows featuring fizzy chemical reactions and flight demos. Buy a $12 bounce pass for discounted admission to both centers. Spokane;

-Allison Williams with Angela Cabotaje

Photo provided by Seattle NorthCountry