Family Vacations in Washington


Washington's national parks are brimming with breathtaking natural beauty.

The state of Washington is home to stunning natural beauty as well as metropolitan areas with world-class entertainment for the whole family. In Washington, you can see the soaring heights of Mount Rainier and the man-made spire of the Space Needle. Majestic sights await you at every turn.

Families will enjoy the state's many outdoor activities, such as fishing, hiking and camping, but you won't want to miss Washington's many festivals, markets and urban attractions. In this guide, we've complied information about some of Washington's best kid-friendly vacation spots. Use this information to plan the perfect family trip to Washington:

Seattle Center

Home of the Space Needle, the Seattle Center covers 74 acres with theaters and museums for all ages and interests. Of course, the towering spire of the Space Needle, with its glass-elevator ride to the top, is a sight you won't want to miss.

Northwest Folklife Festival

Every Memorial Day weekend, the Seattle Center is filled with the Northwest Folklife Festival, a celebration of ethnic crafts, music, food, and folklore from around the world. The festival features nonstop performances on 18 stages. Performers of all types flock to the festival -- including some for the hilarious liar's contest.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market's fishmongers are famous for their fish-flinging antics, but there's more to the market than flying seafood. The market hosts more than 100 farmers and 200 artists and crafters selling wares you can only find in Washington.

San Juan Islands

The San Juan Archipelago, north of Seattle in the Puget Sound, is made up of 172 islands and hundreds more rocky island outcroppings. Four of the islands have ferry service: San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw. Take your family on a bicycle tour of the islands to enjoy their natural beauty.

Washington State International Kite Festival

Hundreds of kites from around the world take to the skies every August for the Washington State International Kite Festival. The kite festival gives its participants a stage to showcase intricate kites and impressive flying skills. This festival is not your average day at the beach.

Mount St. Helens

The most famous volcano in the United States, Mount St. Helens also provides a picturesque view of Pacific Northwest wilderness. A protected area since erupting in 1980, the volcano has shown signs of erupting again in recent years.

Museum of Glass

The Museum of Glass opened in 2002 and has been an architectural landmark along the city's waterfront ever since. Inside the museum, visitors can browse permanent and temporary exhibitions of all kinds of contemporary glass art.

No trip to Washington is complete without a visit to the famous Space Needle. Keep reading to learn about seeing the Space Needle and other sights at the Seattle Center.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Seattle City Guide: Discover Seattle, a city that's synonymous with Starbucks, the Space Needle, and rainy weather.
  • Washington State Guide: Learn about the natural beauty you'll find in the state of Washington, including the Columbia River and Mount Rainier.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Washington: Seattle Center

The focal point of the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle overlooks Seattle Center, a mecca of amusement park activity, museums, and restaurants in the heart of the city.

Seattle Center, home of the futuristic Space Needle, is the cultural heart of the city. Its 74 acres are filled with enough high-quality entertainment to keep a family happy for days.

For a view of Seattle Center and beyond, board the Space Needle's glass-enclosed elevator for the 41-second journey to its top. It will bring you 520 feet aboveground, where you can dine in a rotating restaurant or walk around the viewing station for a fabulous panorama of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, Lake Union, and Mount Rainier.

The Pacific Science Center has attractions for every member of the family. You can learn how an animatronic dinosaur works and walk through a warm, humid tropical butterfly house. The antics of East African naked mole rats, some of the most unusual animals you'll ever see, are endlessly entertaining. Feel the vibrations as you step inside a giant guitar to investigate the art and science of music, or settle into your seat and enjoy some stargazing by way of a live presentation

at the planetarium.

The Seattle Children's Museum is filled with hands-on adventure. Visitors of all ages enjoy sending balls through a busy cityscape of pulleys, pipes, mazes, and levers to learn about cause and effect in Cog City. In the Mindscape technology studio, your kids can record a song or become part of a virtual reality video game. An artist-in-residence is always on hand to guide kids through art projects that relate to various exhibits in the drop-in art studio. Younger children will enjoy the activities in Discovery Bay.

Seattle Center is home to one of the best children's theaters in the country. The Seattle Children's Theatre stages top-notch performances of classic children's literature and new works as well. At the end of every performance, members of the cast return to the stage to conduct a question-and-answer period with members of the young audience.

The Experience Music Project, housed in an exotic, gleaming, freeform building designed by Frank Gehry, celebrates musical innovation. The museum is a delight for the senses and uses interactive technology and hands-on exhibits to delve into the influences of various types of music. The city's vibrant musical history is featured in an exhibit about famous rock bands that originated in Seattle, including The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. Exhibits also portray the punk movement and the hip-hop explosion. The museum houses an extensive display of artifacts, including musical instruments, handwritten lyrics, clothing, and other memorabilia.

Children of all ages will enjoy a visit to the Sound Lab, where they can strap on a guitar, climb behind a drum set, or sit at the keyboards in a soundproof studio and play along with their selection of recorded music.

Ready for some outdoor fun? Visit the Center's International Fountain, which attracts children like a magnet during warm, sunny days. A number of grassy knolls and gardens offer ideal locations for a family picnic, and the Fun Forest Amusement Center features a variety of children's rides and games.

Every Memorial Day weekend, Seattle Center hosts a celebration of ethnic music, dance, crafts, and food. Keep reading to learn about the Northwest Folklife Festival.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Seattle City Guide: Discover Seattle, a city that's synonymous with Starbucks, the Space Needle, and rainy weather.
  • Washington State Guide: Learn about the natural beauty you'll find in the state of Washington, including the Columbia River and Mount Rainier.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Washington: Northwest Folklife Festival

©2007 Northwest Folklife
©2007 Northwest Folklife
A colorful celebration since 1972, the Folklife Festival attracts performers from all over the world as well as from the Pacific Northwest.

Under the Space Needle, the Northwest Folklife Festival sprawls across the 74 acres of Seattle Center every Memorial Day weekend. The event is a four-day extravaganza of ethnic music, dance, crafts, food, and folklore from more than 100 countries. Eighteen stages offer nonstop performances, demonstrations, and workshops for every imaginable cultural tradition, including gospel music, hula dancing, and barbershop singing. There are also gypsy bands and a hilarious liar's contest. Street performers and artists are everywhere -- you can find a musical saw player, a kilt-clad highland piper, and a punked-out preteen virtuoso on the violin.

Programs featuring music, storytelling, and crafts are headquartered in the Family Stage Activity Area, where kids can create Chinese dragon masks and build their own harmonica and learn how to play it. The large stages showcase the most popular acts, which might be a group of bluegrass fiddlers, a Brazilian carnival band, or a West African drum corps. The food village offers regional favorites such as berry shortcake and Pacific Northwest salmon; more exotic fare from around the world is also available.

Where else in the world can you see fish mongers tossing their wares and putting on a show? Go to the next page to learn about the Pike Place Market.

Northwest Folklife Festival Information

Address: Warren Ave. N. and Mercer St

Seattle, WA

Telephone: 206/684-7300

Hours of Operation: Memorial Day Weekend, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Admission: Free; Suggested Donation

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Seattle City Guide: Discover Seattle, a city that's synonymous with Starbucks, the Space Needle, and rainy weather.
  • Washington State Guide: Learn about the natural beauty you'll find in the state of Washington, including the Columbia River and Mount Rainier.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Washington: Pike Place Market

Called the soul of Seattle, Pike Place Market began in 1907 as a public market for consumers to buy directly from growers. It’s grown into a major tourist destination with hundreds of shops and restaurants.

The fishmongers at Pike Place Market in Seattle put on one of the best shows in town. They toss the catch of the day through the air like a football as they engage the customers in all kinds of banter. They often pick up the largest fish they can shoulder and invite a visitor to pucker up for a kiss.

Other vendors at the market aren't quite as entertaining, but their wares are just as fresh and enticing. Since Washington is the apple state, every apple product imaginable can be found at a variety of shops, including at least 20 kinds of apple butter, cinnamon apples, candy apples, and, in the fall, fresh apples of all varieties.

The market is one of Seattle's most famous landmarks and tourist attractions. More than 100 farmers and 200 artists and craftspeople occupy the market. You'll also find an assortment of retail shops. Spanning three levels, the market offers the best of Washington's seasonal flowers and produce. Visitors can shop among the vivid colors of exquisite tulips and daffodils in early spring and enjoy juicy golden Rainier cherries in early summer, blueberries in August, and all kinds of high-quality, locally grown produce year-round. Amusing street performers are regulars at the market, and you can choose from a wide assortment of restaurants and cafes, including the world's first Starbucks.

If your family wants to spend some time watching marine life in its natural habitat, hop a ferry to the San Juan Archipelago. On the next page, learn all about visiting the San Juan islands.

Pike Place Market Information

Address: 1531 Western Ave

Seattle, WA

Telephone: 206/682-7453

Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Mon. - Sat and 11 a.m. - 5 p.m, Sun.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Seattle City Guide: Discover Seattle, a city that's synonymous with Starbucks, the Space Needle, and rainy weather.
  • Washington State Guide: Learn about the natural beauty you'll find in the state of Washington, including the Columbia River and Mount Rainier.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Washington: San Juan Islands

You can learn more about the orcas that populate the waters near the San Juan Islands with a visit to the Whale Museum, located near historic Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.

North of Seattle in Puget Sound sits the San Juan Archipelago, a collection of 172 named islands and another several hundred rocky island outcroppings that appear at low tide. Although about 40 of these idyllic islands are inhabited, most people living here reside on the four that have ferry service: San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw. Many families take bicycles aboard the ferry to explore the islands at a leisurely pace.

The islands' sheltered waters are home to harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, dolphins, and orcas. Whale watching is a popular pastime, particularly around Friday Harbor on San Juan Island (the largest island of the group). This area is home to three resident pods of orcas and was the backdrop for the Free Willy movie series. Take a whale-watching boat tour or head to Lime Kiln Point State Park to play in the sand and watch orcas feed just 30 feet from shore.

On the next page, learn how you can see fanciful and complex kites from around the world at the Washington State International Kite Festival.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Seattle City Guide: Discover Seattle, a city that's synonymous with Starbucks, the Space Needle, and rainy weather.
  • Washington State Guide: Learn about the natural beauty you'll find in the state of Washington, including the Columbia River and Mount Rainier.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Washington: Washington State International Kite Festival

©2007
©2007
See kites from around the world at the Washington State International Kite Festival.

The ornate and intricate kites featured in this weeklong festival are worlds away from the diamond-shape structures you used to make out of newspaper, string, and old rags. The festival takes place every August in Long Beach in the southwestern corner of Washington. The event attracts kite fanatics who come to show off their impressive flying skills and stunningly beautiful kites, as well as families looking for a novel way to enjoy a day at the beach.

The festival takes on an international theme with traditional kites from places such as Bali, China, Japan, India, Malaysia, and Thailand. You'll see flying trains made of multiple kites on one string. The aerial dodges, swoops, and twists of stunt kites are great fun to watch, as are the fierce battles of the fighter kites. Kite sizes range from miniscule (there's even a prize for the smallest) to very large. Some are three-dimensional.

Children have their own section of the beach for flying kites, and there are kite-making workshops and all kinds of competitions. And if you just can't get enough of these flying creations at the festival, a kite museum in town has some fascinating displays and a gift shop.

Washington State International Kite Festival Information

Address: Museum at 303 Sid Snyder Dr

Long Beach, WA

Telephone: 360/642-4020

Hours of Operation: Third full week of Aug.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Seattle City Guide: Discover Seattle, a city that's synonymous with Starbucks, the Space Needle, and rainy weather.
  • Washington State Guide: Learn about the natural beauty you'll find in the state of Washington, including the Columbia River and Mount Rainier.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Washington: Mount St. Helens

The infamous North American volcano Mount St. Helens showed signs of activity in 2004 after a mostly quiet quarter-century.
The infamous North American volcano Mount St. Helens showed signs of activity in 2004 after a mostly quiet quarter-century.

Washington's Mount St. Helens is perhaps the most famous volcano in the United States. It earned its reputation the morning of May 18, 1980. The mountain shook, and its north face cascaded into an avalanche, creating a towering mushroom column of ash that blotted out the sun and drifted into Idaho and beyond. The eruption continued through the evening, lasting about nine hours. Two years later, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill making Mount St. Helens a National Volcanic Monument, allowing the ecosystem to respond naturally to the eruption.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument attracts scientists who use it as a living laboratory as well as hikers and other outdoors buffs. The volcano is part of the Cascade Range, which also includes Mount Rainier and Lassen Peak. In recent years, Mount St. Helens has shown new signs of activity, with a lava dome growing under the crater left from the 1980 eruption.

On the next page, learn about the Glass industry in Washington State.

Mount St. Helens Information

Address: Mount St. Helens Visitor Center

Milepost 5, State Rt. 504

Castle Rock, WA

Telephone: 360/274-0962

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Admission: $3 adults; kids free

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Washington State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Washington, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Washington: Museum of Glass

The Museum of Glass is Tacoma, Washington's splashy contribution to the contemporary art world. Its wide array of works in different media have one thing in common: They all incorporate glass.

The museum opened in 2002 and has been an architectural landmark along the city's waterfront ever since. Inside the museum, visitors can browse permanent and temporary exhibitions of all kinds of contemporary glass art.

The museum's Visiting Artist Collection is permanent, featuring works created on-site in the Hot Shop Amphitheater. The Hot Shop has hot and cold glass studios and seating for 138 visitors. The Chihuly Bridge of Glass connects the museum to downtown Tacoma. The 500-foot steel-and-glass pedestrian bridge is adorned with colorful glass spires. It serves as not only a walkway but as a display providing a preview of the stunning glass art masterworks in the museum.

Museum of Glass Information

Address: 1801 Dock St

Tacoma, WA

Telephone: 253/284-4750, 866/4MUSEUM

Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Wed. - Sat. 12 p.m. - 5 p.m., Sun., 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., third Thursday of each month.

Admission: $10 adults; $4 kids

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Washington State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Washington, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.