Volcanic views, colorful coastlines and charming cities await in the Pacific Northwest. There’s no place like it in the world, and that’s probably why it’s such a popular road trip.
Of course, you’ll do all the main tourist attractions (did someone say Space Needle?), but you’ll have to fit in some kid-friendly fun if you want everyone to enjoy the ride.
Here are 10 things to do on your family road trip to the Pacific Northwest:
Pacific Science Center (Seattle, WA)
This isn’t your ordinary museum. Located in the heart of Seattle, the Pacific Science Center boasts more than 200 hands-on activities located indoors and out. There are also two IMAX theaters, a butterfly house, laser dome and a state-of-the-art planetarium.
There’s a lot to take in, but don’t skip the dinosaur exhibit. That’s always a favorite with the kiddos.
Seattle Aquarium (Seattle, WA)
One of the coolest things about the Seattle Aquarium is that it’s practically located on the water. It’s just at the water’s edge along the coast of Seattle. Kids seem to love the sea otters, with their mischievous antics, but there’s plenty more to see and do.
The children can touch the starfish, sea urchins and sponges. And then, catch a glimpse of the harbor seal exhibit. You could easily spend an entire day here, and fortunately, there’s a café for when your stomachs start grumbling.
Children’s Museum (Seattle, WA)
This children’s museum gets some mixed reviews, but it’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in the Seattle area anyway. They have been updating their exhibits also, so if you’ve been before, it may be a different experience now.
They often have pop-up programs that focus on different cultures, so check the website before you go to see if there’s anything interesting going on.
Pike Place Market (Seattle, WA)
This is a fun stop for the whole family, but it can be a bit stressful for parents because of how busy it gets. Try going early in the morning to beat the crowds and be sure to bring coins, so the kids can ride Rachel. Rachel the Pig is a life-sized piggy bank that’s located at the corner of Pike Street and Pike Place. Your donations to Rachel go to the Pike Place Market Foundation, which helps support a food bank, preschool, senior center and medical clinic.
Hands On Children’s Museum (Olympia, WA)
The Hands-On Children’s Museum in Olympia is arguably the best children’s museum in the Puget Sound area. It’s certainly the largest. Let the kids get all the yelling out of their systems in the scream room that measures decibels, and if it’s a nice day, let them enjoy the half-acre of fun in the outside area.
Oregon Zoo (Portland, OR)
If you follow the Oregon Zoo on Twitter, and you probably should, you’ll find detailed Amazon-style reviews on all their animals. There’s the turtle that comes “with super cute case” and “retractable accessories.” And the platypus that is “NOT WHAT I ORDERED.” Apparently, this reviewer had ordered a duck, otter and beaver bundle. The reviews are hilarious, and you’ll get to see the animals in person at the Oregon Zoo in Portland.
Prehistoric Gardens (Orford, OR)
Take this stop along Highway 101 and be transported back into a prehistoric era. All of the dinosaurs are cast from cement and surrounded by gigantic flora and fauna. This is a great stop if you’re already traveling along 101, but you may want to go out of your way to see it if you have kids who love dinosaurs.
Whale Watching (Pacific Coast)
Whale watching is a year-round activity along the Pacific Coast, and you can see these massive beauties anywhere from California to Washington. Grab your binoculars and head out early in the morning. Try to find a spot where the sun is at your back and you’ll have a great view and a good chance of spotting some gray whales.
Sea Lion Caves (Florence, OR)
The Sea Lion Caves in Florence are a unique natural attraction, and they’re definitely worth seeing. Here, you’ll see these mammals in their natural habitat. It’s a great stop for someone who wants to be close to wildlife without disturbing their lives.
One caveat is that this isn’t a cheap exhibit. Admission is $14 and you must remain behind a fence to view the sea lions. But you stand to learn a lot about sea lions as you navigate through the indoor and outdoor viewing areas.
Enchanted Forest (Salem, OR)
This is a charming attraction that the little ones will love. It is small, but you will leave here feeling like you got your money’s worth. The journey starts at Storybook Lane, which winds up a hillside with attractions like Alice’s rabbit hole and a long slide down a giant shoe. Then, you’ll visit Western Town and English Village and end with amusement park type rides.
Regardless of where you stop, one thing is for certain: this is a trip of a lifetime. It is a long one, though so make sure your car is ready. The best family cars for a long road trip have lots of leg room and a smooth ride. If your car isn’t ready consider renting one… and enjoy the ride!