5 Fun West Coast Travel Ideas for Families

By: Jessika Toothman

The West coast offers a versatile array of travel destinations for your family.
The West coast offers a versatile array of travel destinations for your family.

The West Coast won't leave you and your family waiting in search of fun for long. Over a thousand miles in length, the West Coast is packed with potential travel destinations. Learn more about some of those popular vacation spots here.


5: Seattle Area

Located on Puget Sound, the city of Seattle lies nestled among the Cascade Range (which includes sights such as Mount Hood, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Crater Lake) and the rich landscape of the Olympic Mountains opposite the waters of Lake Washington.

The city itself features activities to please everyone in the family, from the lofty Space Needle to the sparkling Seattle Aquarium. There's the lively Pike Place Market where the fishmongers are among the many arresting and entertaining scenes, and a variety of cultural destinations are available such as the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Wing Luke Asian Museum.


The Pacific Science Center and Museum of Flight can be great attractions for those more scientifically inclined, and beaches, parks, sculptures and gardens are scattered around the city. And even though you won't get a library card for your efforts, a trip to check out the architecturally arresting Seattle Central Library can be worth catching.

4: Portland Area

Cruising south, we reach the Portland area, which sits just below the Washington border. Still within sight of the Cascade Range, Portland stretches around both banks of the Willamette River and sports several nature recreation areas, both in and around the city.

A visit to the exquisite Portland Classical Chinese Garden can contrast nicely with a spooky subterranean tour of the infamous Portland Underground. The Museum of Contemporary Crafts and the Portland Saturday Market could appeal to others in the family, while the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Maritime Center and Museum and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry might do for the rest.


Portland is also a great place for families to visit who like to get a little exercise together -- the city is set up to cater to bicycle riding. And a bevy of breweries, restaurants and cafes can give tired riders a place to rest along the way.

3: San Francisco Area

The San Francisco area is packed with entertainment everyone in the family can get excited about. The sparkling waters of the San Francisco Bay and the iconic sight of the Golden Gate Bridge are just the beginning.

Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 are popular tourist destinations, and a visit there can include lots of shopping, or visits to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and the Aquarium of the Bay. Just a little further along is the Exploratorium and the Wave Organ -- a water-powered sound sculpture.


A stroll through Chinatown can be like stepping into another world. Sights include everything from temples to tea shops, and you can even check out fortune cookies getting made. For a historical treat, visit City Lights, the popular beat generation bookshop or Haight-Ashbury, the famous hippie hangout. If you're looking to experience a darker side of history, Alcatraz Island can be an alluring tour.

The Golden Gate Park is also packed with sights, restaurants, bakeries and cafes abound in San Francisco, which can be a pleasant city to tour on foot. The famous system of streetcars can provide a lift if the bountiful hills prove too challenging.

2: San Diego Area

Continuing down the coast, we come to the San Diego area. Animal lovers can have a ton of fun in San Diego, which not only offers the San Diego Zoo but also SeaWorld and the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

For those who enjoy interesting architecture, tours are available to showcase San Diego's rich architectural history.


Beaches can lure many families looking for fun, and whale watching, surfing, jet skiing and sailing are among the many activities beach-goers can look forward to. When it's time to get out of the sun, consider the San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego Museum of Man or the San Diego Museum of Art. There's even a museum in the bowels of an aircraft carrier -- the USS Midway Museum.

1: Phoenix Area

Although not technically on the coast, the Phoenix area -- with its looming palm trees and scorching desert landscapes -- can be a fun new experience for many families. Phoenix is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with pastimes such as hiking, biking and horseback riding through the stunning vistas. Looking for a little adventure? Rock climbing, white water rafting and hot air ballooning are also available in the area.

Phoenix is not without its fair share of museums, too; the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum and the Bison Western Museum can be a new treat in museum visiting. There's even the Bead Museum, which has more than 100,000 beads -- one of which is 15,000 years old.


Another popular place to visit in the area is Taliesin West, winter home to late architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The foundation that maintains Taliesin West offers a number of different tour options, which highlight the interior of the house, the desert landscape surrounding it, and even one that focuses on instructing kids of the value in studying and appreciating architecture.