Travel | Family fun | Food

Sweet Ice Cream Day Trips Around Washington State

How far would you drive for the perfect scoop?

Photo credit: Rory Graves

We recognize this truth as self-evident: summer adventures such as hikes, beaches and road trips go better when there is the promise of a scoop at the end. We asked ParentMap writers for their fresh-churned ideas for ice cream day trips. 


Courtesy Mallard Ice Cream

1. Bellingham: Rock Trail + Mallard Ice Cream

The adventure: Head to Larrabee State Park to hike Rock Trail, a 2.4-mile roundtrip adventure that starts at the highest point of the park and descends via a 130-step staircase into a ravine flanked by three rock cliffs more than 100 feet high. Admire the rock cliffs’ unique geology: small caverns called tafoni.

The scoop: Top off with a cone at the jewel of Bellingham, Mallard Ice Cream, a renowned maker of artisan, locally sourced ice cream. Torn between specialty flavors (ghost pepper mint, rhubarb) and classics such as cookies and cream? Choose the “indecision scoop,” one scoop with two flavors.

Sweet tip: Want lunch (after dessert, of course)? The Saturday farmers market in downtown Bellingham is your spot, where food stalls (and seating) abound, from Indian or Thai curry to wood-fired pizza to meat pies.

— Joanna Nesbit


Photo credit: Elevated Ice Cream Co. website

2. Port Townsend: Old-timey jail + Elevated Ice Cream Co.

The adventure: Among all there is to do around Port Townsend, a best-kept secret is the Jefferson Museum of Art & History, and especially the basement, where kids can explore the old city jail (open daily). Be sure to read how Jack London spent the night there.

The scoop: Two blocks away, find Elevated Ice Cream Co., which started in 1977 in a kiosk made out of a Victorian elevator cage (hence, the name). Now located across the street from the original spot, it scoops rich, freshly made ice cream in flavors from amaretto hazelnut and cookies and cream to dairy-free Italian ices with seasonal local fruit. And yes, there's a candy shop, too.

Sweet tip: Also don't miss Fort Worden State Park, with hiking trails, a beach, kayaking, a marine science center and more.

— Tiffany Pitts

Photo credit: Columbia Kayak Adventures website

3. Richland: Kayaking + Rosy’s Ice Cream & Diner

The adventure: Drive east to downtown Richland for a half-day kayaking adventure with Columbia Kayak Adventures. Your guides will shuttle you to Ringold Springs; as you paddle back, keep an eye out for blue herons, pelicans, egrets and even coyotes.

The scoop: It’s a short walk to awesomely retro Rosy’s Ice Cream & Diner for an old-fashioned ice cream soda or new-school espresso shake.

Sweet tip: Kayaking not your thing? Rent a bike from Greenies in downtown Richland and bike the Richland Riverfront Trail.

— Kathleen F. Miller

Courtesy Cascadian Farm

4. North Cascades: Thunder Creek Trail + Cascadian Farm Ice Cream

The adventure: The high, jagged peaks found in North Cascades National Park leave little room for flat, kid-friendly hikes, but the Thunder Creek Trail is a stellar exception. Leaving from Colonial Creek Campground, the trail hugs an arm of turquoise-blue Diablo Lake before skimming alongside the cold, frothy waters of glacier-fed Thunder Creek. Hike in as far as you like, and then turn around. (Note: It's the National Park Centennial this year, and admission is free to all national parks on Aug. 25.  Also families of fourth graders are free!)

The scoop: Cool off at Cascadian Farm’s charming roadside stand (on S.R. 20 between Rockport and Marblemount) with a cone of tasty homemade ice cream in flavors made from Cascadian’s organic berries, or a creamy chocolate that is heaven on a sugar cone.

Sweet tip: For an overnight outdoorsy adventure, pack your camping gear and snag a site at Colonial Creek Campground. Last-minute campers love its no-reservations policy, and kids will love the evening campfire programs.

— Lauren Braden


Oaks Park Amusement Park

5. Portland: Biking + amusement park + Salt and Straw

The adventure: A fun 3-mile ride in ultra-bikable Portland is to pedal south on the Springwater Corridor trail from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to Oaks Park amusement park for a screaming-fun time with coasters, mini golf, roller skating and carnival games.

The scoop: Once you’re back at OMSI, it’s a 10-minute drive to Salt and Straw, one of Portland’s favorite artisan ice cream shops, known for wacky flavors such as sea urchin merengue and tahini-cardamom, as well as kid faves such as chocolate gooey brownie and doublefold vanilla.

Sweet tip: To add some nature to your adventure, bring your birding books and stop to bird-watch at the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.

— Jessie Kwak

Sweet reader picks for ice-cream day trips

1. Mount Vernon: Explore the Skagit Wildlife Area in Mount Vernon with a stop for ‘immodest’ cones at Snow Goose produce stand.

2. Tacoma: Sprayground at Wright Park in Tacoma followed by a salted-caramel milk-shake at Shake Shake Shake.”

3. Ballard/Edmonds: “Highbrow: Sunday trip to Ballard Farmers Market, Parfait for ice cream, and Golden Gardens. Lowbrow: Stop at Dick’s Drive-In in Edmonds for milkshakes and then to the Edmonds waterfront to watch the ferries and trains.”

4. Issaquah: “Costco gelato from the store in Issaquah is tasty, and at $1.50 for three scoops, affordable. It tastes great after a hike to Franklin Falls.

5. Alki: “From Seattle, take the King County Water Taxi to Marination Ma Kai for Hawaiian shave ice.”

6. Lake Forest Park: “Bike ride on the Burke-Gilman Trail to Swirl Yogurt in Lake Forest Park Town Centre.”

7. Monroe: “Western Heritage Center in Monroe with a stop at Snoqualmie Ice Cream in Maltby on the way home.”

8.Elements Frozen Yogurt in downtown Puyallup is right across the street from Pioneer Park, which has a new play structure and splash park!”

9. Alki: “We rent a quad bike at Alki beach, then head to Pepperdock’s for some yummy ice cream.”

Originally published in August 2015; updated in July 2016.

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