A visit to the Pacific coast is on our family’s list of places to visit and renting a car will be a definite must have for us so that we can savour the extraordinary beauty along the coast. There’s something for everybody – mountains, oceans, forests and beaches for nature lovers to top rated museums, attractions and shopping for city folks. For families with older children, it will be hard pressed for them not to be impressed with the many unique experiences, including sandboarding, sleeping in an yurt, touring an abandoned underground city and so much more.
About a 3-hour drive from Vancouver, BC, Seattle is home to the original Starbucks, which still resides at Pike Place Market, a large outdoor shopping market. Seattle is a city with plenty to do for tweens. The highest point (605 feet to be exact) with the best views of the city is at the top of the famous Space Needle, however, visitors may be surprised to learn that the former downtown Seattle currently lies beneath the now bustling city. Bill Spiegal’s Underground tour will take you below the streets to what is now a dark underground where the city once lived. If you have boys, a visit to the Musuem of Flight is a must, as it’s home to the original fighter plane, the original Air Force One, a prototype Boeing 747 and the world’s fastest aircraft, the Blackbird spy plane. Older tweens and teens who are music, sci fi and pop culture fans, will definitely enjoy a visit to the EMP Museum of Music, which not only houses amazing pop culture artifacts but also interactive exhibits such as performing live On Stage or jamming in the sound proof rooms of the Sound Lab. Baseball fans will enjoy taking a behind the scenes tour of Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. Visit the press box, private suites, dugouts and more. Other popular attractions include the Pacific Science Center and Seattle Aquarium. Be sure to travel via the monorail and get a unique perspective riding above the city.
Olympic National Park
Just under a 3-hour drive from Seattle is Olympic National Park, home to 3 major ecosystems – forest, coastal and sub-alpine. Nearing a million acres, you’ll find rugged mountains, ancient rain forests, ocean tidepools and a variety of animals throughout the park. Drive to the top of Hurricane Ridge and admire the amazing view and take a hike along the trails. You may even see some animal friends along the way. A walk through the Hoh Rain Forest is another must see. It’s a sea of green but be prepared for wet and muddy conditions. Rialto Beach is an excellent spot to watch the spectacular Pacific sunsets, crashing waves, seastacks, orphaned driftwood and tidepools, often full with starfish and sea anemones. The “Hole in the Wall” is a natural arch eroded by surf that’s a must see during low tide only.
A 6-hour drive from Vancouver, Portland is a shopping hub, thanks to the state’s zero sales tax. Pioneer Place is the city’s upscale mall, while trendy tweens and teens may enjoy the Pearl District. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is considered one of the country’s top museums. The museum boasts the largest planetarium in the Pacific Northwest and the USS Blueback naval submarine. Kids of all ages will love Oaks Park, an amusement park with old-fashioned carnival rides and games (home to largest rollerskating rink in USA). Take a birds eye view of the city and beyond on the Portland Aerial Tram. Portland is famous for its food carts and for something different, families with older tweens and teens may enjoy embarking on one of the many walking culinary tours.
Since you’re travelling with a car, there are a few attractions outside of Portland worth mentioning.
Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark
Located about 45 minutes from Portland, the Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark is part of the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, an attraction in its own right, and with the addition of the indoor waterpark, makes this a must see. The waterpark has a giant wave pool, an educational hands-on water exhibit and 10 water slides, including one that descends from an actual Boeing 747 that sits on top of the roof.
Mount Hood Adventure Park at Skibowl
For families with tweens/teens, a visit to Mount Hood Adventure Park is a must. A 2-hour drive from Portland, Mount Hood has over 20 summer activities like swinging Tarzan style high on the treetops, a motor raceway, reverse bungee, ziplining, mountain biking, kayaking and more. There’s plenty of fun to be had whether you’re looking for extreme attractions or more down to earth ones.
South Beach State Park
Just 2.5 hours from Portland, South Beach State Park located in Newport, stretches several miles along the Oregon coast with recreational activities a-plenty. Watch surfers, fly a kite, ride a bike, kayak, visit a lighthouse, go horseback riding or look for sealife in tidepools. But it’ll be staying in a yurt that may just be the highlight for families with kids. The park has 27 yurts available for rent for a fraction of what you’ll pay at a hotel, with each yurt sleeping up to 5 persons.
Sand Master Park
Ever heard of sandboarding? Picture riding the majestic sand dunes instead of the waves and you’ve pretty much got the idea. A 3-hour drive from Portland, Sand Master Park is the world’s first sandboard park. Take a lesson, learn the art of sand sculpting or my fave, grab a dune buggy ride with the family.
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About Wendy Morelli
Wendy loves her 2 kids and her iPhone, not necessarily always in that order. She is an app obsessed mom who loves everything tech and is (unfortunately) old enough to remember the brick Motorola cell phone and the Commodore computer. Her love for technology stems back to the 10+ years of working for technology based companies. Wendy's alter ego, "AppHipMom" has been featured in Canadian Family, iVillage, Women in Biz, EverythingMom, BlogHer and Savvy Mom.