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 not a bad idea this time of year.)
Now, off you go to these fun and family-friendly destinations within a couple hours of Seattle.
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.
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.)
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 Western Washington University?
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.
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! We’ve got all of the fun stops in the town of Winslow, including a playground, a fun kids’ museum, a book store, a bakery and some legendary ice cream. (Pro tip: If you do drive on the ferry, you can take a hike or visit this one-of-a-kind new playground).
To learn a little about a local tribe and its history, visit the village of Suquamish. You can reach this spot via the Bainbridge ferry (and make some of the stops mentioned above) or by way of the Edmonds–Kingston ferry. Visit the Suquamish Museum to learn about the tribe’s culture, pay your respects at the gravesite of Chief Seattle, and play at the Suquamish Shores Natural Play Area, which opened in 2021.
7. 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 and snack like a Parisian. Paint your own keepsake before heading home.
At more than two-and-a-half hours away, over a snowy 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. Enjoy!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2021 and updated for 2023.