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Easy, Spontaneous Day Trips for Seattle-Area Families

Enjoy a quick change of scenery on an easy family day trip

Nancy Chaney

Published on: December 15, 2023

View of the waterfront of the town of Port Townsend, Washington, on the Olympic peninsula best easty family day trips from Seattle
Enjoy a day away in beautiful Port Townsend.

Want to get away? Like right now? Sometimes you’re desperate for a change of scenery when a big vacation isn’t in the cards. Maybe it’s not in the budget or you’ve got one planned but it’s a long ways off. When you need a quick mental break, we invite you to consider the easy, spontaneous family day trip. 

Just pack the kids, the dog, the jackets and hats — and lots of snacks — into the car and go. (Pro tip: A full set of dry clothes, at least for the little kids, is never a bad idea.)

Now, off you go to these fun and family-friendly destinations within a couple hours of Seattle.

1. Whidbey Island

Whidbey offers families beaches, trails, cute seaside towns and two epic state parks worth a visit from anywhere. Hop on the ferry in Mukilteo or head toward Anacortes and drive across the heart-stopping Deception Pass Bridge.

Price Sculpture Forest on Whidbey Island with boy in foreground
Price Sculpture Forest on Whidbey Island. Credit: Camille Gullickson

2. Port Townsend

Port Townsend is a lovely Victorian seaport that will please visitors of all ages. Get the really good popcorn, lunch like a local and save a good chunk of time for exploring phenomenal Fort Worden. (Then watch “An Officer and a Gentleman” when you get home and have put the kids to bed.)

3. Bellingham

This hip college town is all about the parks. You could spend days exploring Whatcom Falls, Lake Padden, Boulevard Park and more. Stroll the streets of historic Fairhaven. A newer playground is definitely worth a visit. And might we suggest taking the kids on an advance college visit to fantastic Western Washington University?

Taylor Street Dock boardwalk to Boulevard Park in Bellingham Washington
Walk the Taylor Street Dock from Fairhaven to Boulevard Park in Bellingham.

4. Fall City

Nestled along the banks of the Snoqualmie and Raging rivers, Fall City has a thriving arts community that hosts a variety of family programs and fine arts events throughout the year. Throw in great parks, farms and places to stop for yummy treats and you’ve got all the ingredients for a fun day trip.  

5. Gig Harbor

A visit to charming Gig Harbor dives you right into our region’s maritime history. You can learn about salmon and how to keep our oceans healthy as well. Visit a super kid-friendly museum, explore a bunch of parks and dip your toes in the water at Bella Bella Beach.

6. Vashon Island

When you visit Vashon Island, a beautiful ferry ride whisks you across the water, taking you from city to country in mere minutes. Play with driftwood on the beach, take in the view of Mount Rainier if the sun gods cooperate, visit the town for snacks or lunch, and see if you can spot the bike tree.

Playing at Point Robinson on Vashon Island near Seattle Washington
Frolic at Point Robinson during a visit to Vashon Island. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

7. Bainbridge Island

Walk on the Bainbridge ferry for a jaunt across Elliott Bay — if you don’t bring your car, you don’t have to wait in the ferry line! Stroll the town of Winslow and savor some ice cream. If you bring your car (or hop on transit) and your hiking shoes, you can check out the beauty of the island on kid- and dog-friendly hikes. Keep an eye out for gnome homes as you wander through the forest. Be sure to pop out of the woods long enough to visit this one-of-a-kind playground before heading back to the city. 

Bonus: Leavenworth

At more than two-and-a-half hours away, over a mountain pass (or two), Leavenworth is an ambitious day trip. While hotels here can be expensive, this Bavarian-themed mountain town is such a nifty and complete change of scenery from the city that it might be worth it for your family. Visit the shops, walk along the river, eat a giant pretzel and check out the new Leavenworth Adventure Park. Enjoy!

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2021 and updated for 2023.

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