It’s the new year, and I just finished putting together our 2016 travel calendar for Seattle day trips for our family. I don’t normally plan all our travels so far in advance, but this year I thought I would do something different.
Towards the end of 2015, I fell into a rut. It’s hard to explain, but after the high of spending five weeks on the road (two weeks in Zambia and three weeks in Indonesia), I came back to Seattle and quickly fell into a mode of uninspired lethargy. I realized that we spend our year building up to a big trip. When that trip is over, there’s nothing else to look forward to.
After coming back from Indonesia, I did get to travel briefly to DC. We also ended our year with a trip to San Diego. But there was a short period of time where I felt like there was nothing to look forward to in terms of travel for our family. We should have incorporated some Seattle day trips instead.
Building in Seattle day trips into our travel calendar
This year will be different. My husband and I both decided to make it our goal to travel somewhere at least once a month. They don’t necessarily have to be big trips, but if we want to maintain our energy and inspiration throughout the year, I think it’s important to incorporate travel into our lives as often as we can.
Because family travel is so much more expensive than solo travel, it’s important for us to maintain a budget for travel if we don’t want to end up in debt by the end of the year. And if we’re going to be budgeting for travel, it’s helpful to know the places where we’re going to be traveling. For families like us who live in Seattle, that’s why planning for Seattle day trips can be so helpful. They make travel affordable and simple.
Our own family travel calendar for 2016 is slightly different from the one I present here, but if you live in the Pacific Northwest, and are looking for ideas for Seattle day trips for 2016, here’s the list for you:
January: Whistler, BC
Being just a three to four hour drive from Seattle, Canada is a great place to visit any time of year. We normally go in the summer time when it’s warm, but in the winter months, a trip to the mountain resort town of Whistler, BC is well worth the effort. If you’re into snow sports, Whistler has some excellent outdoor options for you. And even if you’re not into the snow, there are some other fun things you can do, like exploring the Olympic Village or going hiking on the trails.
February: Portland, OR
In the opposite direction is Portland, OR, which is about a three hour drive south of Seattle. We like stopping by Portland on our way down to California. With its wide selection of restaurants, it’s a great place to visit for amateur foodies like my husband and me. Our favorite restaurants so far have been Pine State Biscuits and Hopworks Urban Brewery.
March: Snoqualmie Falls
If you live in the Western part of Washington State, a trip to Snoqualmie Falls is required for Seattle day trips. The falls are great to visit any time of year, but the best time of year is in the spring, when the snows begin to melt. This usually falls between the months of March through May. Other times of year worth visiting is in the fall, especially if it has been a particularly rainy one. A visit to Snoqualmie Falls is a good introduction to the outdoors as there are plenty of paved paths around the area, to give you a nice taste of nature.
April: Whidbey Island
The Puget Sound is surrounded by islands, and an easy island getaway from the bustling streets of Seattle is Whidbey Island. The island is accessible by ferry from the Mukilteo ferry dock. Otherwise, you can drive further north and get onto the island via Deception Pass. There are plenty of good camping options on Whidbey Island. We camped there last April at South Whidbey State Park, which unfortunately is now closed, but other state parks include Deception Pass, Fort Ebey, and Fort Casey.
Having grown up in Spokane, I go to this city several times a year to visit with my parents. Most visits we end up mainly hanging out at my parents’ house, but this year we’re trying to actively seek out things to do in the city while we’re there.
Spokane is the second largest city in the state of Washington, and over the years has been actively working to engage visitors to the city, with plenty of family oriented activities as well as new locally owned businesses. Our favorite time to visit is during the first weekend in May, when the town comes together for Bloomsday, one of the largest 12k run in the U.S. It’s a great way to welcome the spring and celebrate fitness at the same time.
June: Mount Rainier
One of the unique things about living in Western Washington is our close proximity to an active volcano. Seattleites have a loving fascination with Mount Rainier. Although its most recent eruption was in the 1800’s, geologists are quick to warn about the possibility of an eruption, which can cause terrible devastation and destruction in the surrounding areas.
But despite the risks, Mount Rainier is one of the most beautiful places to visit on my Seattle day trips list. Glaciers cover the top of the mountain, and an abundance of hiking trails allow people to explore the mountainside. Our favorite area to visit is Paradise, which sits on the southern side of the mountain, and affords visitors picturesque views of the peak, along with some beautiful waterfalls.
The city of Tacoma often falls in the shadow of its neighboring Seattle, but there are actually plenty of fun things to do in the city. It’s a great city to do some Seattle day trips! Tacoma is known for its glass museum, which features a permanent collection of 20th and 21st century glass, as well as works from visiting artists.
This past summer, we spent time in Point Defiance Park, which has features a zoo and aquarium, as well as a few miles of coastline. There’s also a living history museum called Fort Nisqually, which we happened to stumble upon on our visit last summer. It was fun to see the fort recreated to how it was in the 1800’s.
August: Cape Disappointment
Another great place for Seattle day trips in the summertime is Cape Disappointment, in the Southwestern part of Washington State. Part of the Lewis and Clark trail, Cape Disappointment provides 27 miles of coastline, as well as two light houses. We enjoyed learning about the history of the area at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, and visiting nearby Astoria in Oregon.
In the month of September, the island town of Bremerton holds its annual Blackberry Festival. We stumbled upon this last year, and were pleasantly surprised by how many things there were to do there. The late summer is the best time to enjoy blackberries in the Pacific Northwest, and doing some Seattle excursions to the Blackberry Festival is a great opportunity to taste the delectable berries in things like pies, ice cream, and other sweet treats.
A popular fall option for Seattle day trips is pumpkin picking. In the Carnation and Duvall area of the Snoqualmie Valley, there are a number of small locally owned farms that offer pumpkin picking, as well as other fall-themed activities like hay rides and corn mazes.
Our favorite farm to go to in the fall is Oxbow Farms, which offers pumpkin picking, as well as a kids’ farm and family-friendly hay rides. Our kids love being able to run around on the farm, and we enjoy learning about the organically grown agriculture that occurs in the area.
November: Vashon Island
Another easy choice for Seattle day trips is Vashon Island, which is accessible by ferry from the downtown Seattle terminal. Vashon Island doesn’t have a lot of landmarks or prominent destinations. However, it’s a nice island to drive around and enjoy the scenery. We like visiting the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie, which offers a wide selection of organic coffee, as well as kombucha on tap.
Washington state has some pretty quirky attractions. One such place that should be on anyone’s Seattle day trips list is Leavenworth, a Bavarian themed town in Central Washington. We like to visit in the summer time, as there are a number of great hikes in the area. But Christmas time is also a great time to do visit Leavenworth. The town is decorated with holiday decor. Snow sport enthusiasts will enjoy skiing or snowboarding in nearby Stevens Pass.
For traveling families like us, keeping the wanderlust at bay can be rather difficult when you try to limit your travel to just one big trip a year. We’re hoping that changing it up this year will help feed our travel bug and keep us inspired throughout the year. In the end, the thing that travel does best is to help bring us closer together as a family. We’re looking forward to all the quality family time, exploring our beloved Pacific Northwest.
Where will your travel plans take you this year?
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