The Lavender Castle in Sequim, Washington
We are all overdue for a mood-reviving getaway. The pandemic appears to be receding, but we’ve been here before, and even if splurging on plane tickets isn’t too big of a risk, the constantly shifting regulations of international travel are hard to navigate. Not to mention there’s a war happening in Europe, so this really isn’t the best time for that once-in-a-lifetime international vacation.
Fortunately, the Pacific Northwest is a worthy travel destination in its own right. And thanks to my teen’s pandemic-inspired hobby of surfing Airbnb (airbnb.com), we’ve discovered some truly unique vacation rentals. You can plan a nearby trip your kids will never forget — with as much, or as little, social distancing as you want.
Fortunately, Jurassic Park isn’t real. But parents can offer kids the next best (much safer) thing at the Jurassic Retreat in Washougal, Washington. Life-size T. rex, velociraptor and triceratops movie props dot the grounds of this rustic-industrial lodge house, which hosts as many as eight guests. Parents will appreciate the hot tub, full kitchen and laundry amenities, while kids will marvel at a dinosaur skull mounted in the great room, dinosaur-themed artwork and a huge TV. It even has bunk beds.
8 guests ● 3 bedrooms ● 5 beds ● 2 baths
There may be more accurate replicas of Bag End available in Washington, but it’s hard to find another underground house that sleeps a family of five. Corner Getaway is a cozy 500-square-foot hobbit hole located within walking distance of Sequim Bay State Park and the Olympic Discovery Trail. Inside, there’s a double bed in the bedroom, and a single bed, sofa bed and air mattresses in the living room and loft. Outside, there’s a firepit and a private half acre where kids and pets can play.
5 guests ● 1 bedroom ● 3 beds ● 1 bath
Once upon a time, in a land not too far away (only 1 mile from the center of Sequim), there was a fairy tale castle surrounded by lavender. Feel like royalty sitting in front of the central hearth or climbing the circular stair to your medieval-themed bedroom. Kids will appreciate the provided dress-up clothes and castle-themed movie collection — just remember, the swords and armor are for display only.
12 guests ● 2 bedrooms ● 4 beds ● 2 baths
It’s okay to fall asleep in these classrooms. It’s not exactly Hogwarts, but the hosts promise that the Rainier Schoolhouse in Mineral, Washington, is “gently haunted.” Used as an artists’ retreat space for part of the year, this former elementary school near Mount Rainier is perfect for a family reunion. Play piano or project a movie in the library (or just lounge in the comfy chairs), make big meals in the fully stocked kitchen and throw a dance party in the gym. You can barbecue and make s’mores outside or roam the 4-acre property with the dog. It’s located within walking distance to a fishing lake (kayaks provided) and a 25-minute drive to the entrance of Mount Rainier.
10 guests ● 6 bedrooms ● 6 beds ● 2.5 baths
One of a handful of docked vacation boats in Gig Harbor, the Shamrockin will rock you to sleep at night. You can’t take the boat out, but kayaks are also available; the boat’s harbor location means you can paddle to the waterfront Anthony’s seafood restaurant when you don’t want to deal with dishes in the galley. This charming little boat is far from ADA-accessible — you need to be nimble to climb aboard and to squeeze into the smaller sleeping spaces. There is a safety rail on deck, but families with small children might want to wait a few seasons.
4 guests ● 2 bedrooms ● 2 beds ● 1 bath
Sorry, kiddos — this unique sans enfants getaway is for adults only. Under the Stars offers a truly unique eco-glamping adventure designed to maximize comfort while minimizing environmental impact. Guests will sleep on air mattresses in a clear bubble tent with an unobstructed view of the night sky. You can prep the provided basket of grown-on-site veggies in a covered cooking area nearby, and soak in an outdoor tub (no soap!) that waters the vegetable garden. If you’re looking for adventure, the site is close to Hood Canal, state parks and national forests, as well as the small town of Hoodsport. But if you just want to relax on-site, there’s a meditation tent and more than half a peaceful acre to explore.
4 guests ● 1 bedroom ● 1 bed ● 1 bath
This farm-stay lodging may look rustic, but the inside is downright cozy. One of the bedrooms comes stocked with toys on the off chance that you’ll have downtime from all the activities the Columbia River Gorge has to offer. This quiet location outside of White Salmon has prairie views from the upstairs and views of the river from various points on the property. If you’ve got a bigger brood, consider renting out the third floor of this old dairy barn in Arlington ($279/night; sleeps 10).
4 guests ● 2 bedrooms ● 2 beds ● 1 bath
From spheres suspended by cables to luxe Scandi-modern structures, the Pacific Northwest hosts an abundance of tree house rentals. Looking very much like a child’s idea of the perfect secret clubhouse in the trees, The Squirrel’s Nest hits the sweet spot at 280 square feet and is nestled 15 feet above the ground between two fir trees. Accessed by a spiral staircase, the tree house sleeps four with a queen and two single beds. There’s a loft and two balconies, but only a half-bath. That’s okay; The Squirrel’s Nest is near Redmond, so you can run home for a shower.
4 guests ● 1 bedroom ● 3 beds ● half bath
Why sleep in the trees when you can rise above them? At Skyhouse, you’re not actually locked in a tower, but after a 98-stair ascent to the Space Needle–like Skyroom, you might choose to stay up top rather than return to the main house at ground level. For family members who can’t handle all those stairs in order to take in the bird’s-eye views of Hood Canal and Olympic Mountains on three sides of the Skyroom, two levels of wraparound decks down below offer plenty to see and enjoy.
11 guests ● 3 bedrooms ● 5 beds ● 3.5 baths
You’ll feel like you’re heading somewhere (even though you stay put) in the Great Northern Caboose. It’s one of four retired railroad cars remodeled into vacation rentals in Cle Elum. Located next to the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail and the Milwaukee Road interpretive trail of railroad history, and with a small railroad museum out back, this unique lodging experience is perfect for cyclists and train enthusiasts alike. The railcars are part of the Iron Horse Inn, which has ADA suites in the main building and serves farm-to-table breakfasts.
5 guests ● 4 beds ● 1 bath