Skiing and Snow – Trekaroo Family Travel Blog https://blog.trekaroo.com kids. trips. tips. Wed, 11 Mar 2020 18:48:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 https://blog.trekaroo.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/cropped-Trekaroo-Social-Media-Purple-Gear-512x512px-32x32.png Skiing and Snow – Trekaroo Family Travel Blog https://blog.trekaroo.com 32 32 9953755 Best Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts for Families [And the Best Season Pass!] https://blog.trekaroo.com/best-ski-resorts-for-kids-in-lake-tahoe/ Thu, 12 Dec 2019 09:30:24 +0000 http://blog.trekaroo.com/?p=5327 When the first big winter storm hit the California coastline, our family clapped for joy because it meant that the High Sierras were getting their first serious snowfall of the winter season.

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What are the best Lake Tahoe ski resorts for families? What is the best Lake Tahoe season pass is for your family? We have the answers you are looking for!

There is nothing quite like a Lake Tahoe ski vacation. This is California’s premier ski destination and one of our favorite places in the U.S. for a family ski vacation. Lake Tahoe boasts epic scenery, world-class ski resorts, proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area, comfortable ski conditions, lots of activities for kids, and good restaurants that are welcoming to families.

Every year, when the first big winter storm hits the San Francisco Bay Area, our family claps for joy because it means that Lake Tahoe is getting its first serious snowfall of the winter season.

Ski and snowboard Lake Tahoe with kids
Shredding it in Tahoe | Photo by Brennan Pang

The Best Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts for Families

Just about every ski resort in Lake Tahoe welcomes families with open arms. However, all ski resorts are not created equal. Our guide to the best resorts for families will help you decide where to hit the slopes with your kids in tow! Depending on what’s important to your family, here are our recommendations for the best ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area. 

Check out our Ultimate Family Ski Vacation Planning Guide. It’s an incredible resource to prepare families for an ultimate ski vacation.

1. Heavenly Ski Resort- Lake Tahoe’s Best All-Around Ski Resort for Families

Heavenly Ski Resort is one of the best Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts for families
Heavenly Ski Resort | Photo by Flickr/Brenrub

There are lots of reasons why Heavenly Ski Resort consistently gets rave reviews from Trekaroo families. This large ski resort features lots of intermediate runs so families are able to ski together happily for a large part of the day.

In addition, families with young children love Heavenly’s exceptional ski school. We particularly love how easy the drop-off and pick up experience is. Thoughtful touches like having ski instructors take care of fitting your children with rental equipment and very friendly staff make all the difference at drop off.

 

Heavenly’s Day Care offers care for wee ones as young as 2-months old in their CA licensed nursery. It is the only ski resort offering this service. Heavenly Day Care even offers unique ski-play programs for 3 and 4-year-olds who are ready to be eased onto the slopes but prefer to play.

We also love Heavenly’s delicious on-mountain dining options serving heart-warming favorites like burgers and chili, but also healthy options like fresh salads and gourmet meals for those who like to dine well. Numerous lodges throughout the vast mountain makes it easy for families to take frequent breaks and rendezvous for meals mid-mountain.

World class skiing and the awesome ski school do come at a price. One day lift tickets at Heavenly aren’t cheap, but the season pass is an incredible value. See our comparison of Tahoe ski passes below.

Additional Activities for Non-Skiers

Ice Skating at Heavely
Ice Skating in Heavenly Village | Photo by Flickr/NSObject

But, that’s not all! Heavenly Village and Adventure Peak offer lots of non-skiing activities from an extreme tubing hill, snowshoeing, and ice-skating. These activities are accessible via a scenic gondola ride offering panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. Trekaroo families rave about the friendly and attentive staff at Heavenly who are eager to help families find their way around, stay safe and have an unforgettably happy day.

See more of the Golden State. Here are the best things to do in California with kids

Accommodation Options

Although Heavenly does not offer their own accommodations, there are a variety of family-friendly accommodations in South Lake Tahoe.

Here’s our list of Kid-friendly Hotels Near Heavenly Ski Resorts in South Lake Tahoe. 

Check for hotel availability in Lake Tahoe

2. Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows- Lake Tahoe’s Best “All-in-One” Ski Resort for Families

Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Tahoe
Squaw Valley Ski Resort | Photo by Flickr/RenoTahoe

Squaw Valley / Alpine Meadows is another favorite ski resort with Trekaroo families. There is so much to do in Squaw Valley, you could easily spend the entire weekend here and not leave.

Squaw’s lodging is luxury all the way. Upscale stores and restaurants abound in the village and a shuttle runs between the two ski areas. The staff at Squaw and their partner establishments located in Squaw Village sure seem to understand how to welcome their guests. We have reviews of  Lodge at Squaw and Village at Squaw. 

The ski school is fully equipped to accommodate kids ages three and up at all levels of skiing, and the facilities have fun play areas. For a quieter experience, head to the Alpine Meadows ski school instead. Check out our review of the Alpine Meadows Kids Camp Ski School.

The cable car ride up to High Camp is a big hit, offering stunning views of Squaw Valley as well as ice-skating, hot tubs, and a heated pool. There is lots of space for little ones to build a snow man while down at the base of the Gondola, as well as a climbing wall and other amusements. Squaw also boasts a popular tubing hill and throws disco tubing events featuring DJs and lasers. All in all, Trekaroo families agree that for the premium you pay to stay and ski at Squaw/Alpine, you’ll won’t be wanting for much.

3. Northstar- Lake Tahoe Ski Resort with the Best On-Site Childcare

Northstar Tahoe View
View of Lake Tahoe from Northstar | Photo by Flickr/ Kwilms

Northstar is Heavenly’s sister resort on the North Shore, offering luxury accommodations and amenities. While there are lots of family-friendly touches at Northstar, their Minor’s Camp gets big kudos from Trekaroo families.

There are just a handful of ski resorts at Lake Tahoe that offer on-site child care. Minor’s Camp accepts children ages two to six years old. Located at the golf course base, the large and spacious facility is cheerful and filled with fun activities. Your child will perk up the moment you enter.

This is a CA state licensed facility with a low adult to child ratio of 1:5. The set up and staff were so welcoming that even little ones who usually have difficulty separating will feel very comfortable at Minor’s Camp.

In addition to great downhill skiing and snowboarding, Northstar also offers cross country skiing and tubing. 

lake-tahoe-hotel-deals

4. Sierra-at-Tahoe- Best Value Ski Resort for Families in Lake Tahoe

Sierra at Tahoe Snowboarding
Catching Air at Sierra-at-Tahoe | Photo by Flickr/HowISeeLife

What kid doesn’t want to learn to snowboard using Star Wars props? At family-friendly Sierra-at-Tahoe, that’s what they get in the Burton Star Wars Experience. Plus, you’ll find great instructors in a low-key environment.

Sierra-at-Tahoe is closer to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area via Hwy 50, and vacation homes and motels in the area are generally less expensive. This ski resort is a popular ‘commuter’ mountain. There are fewer crowds, less night life, and more focus on what people actually come for: the snow.

Sierra’s lessons are more affordable starting at $189/ full day, but an even better deal if you get a 3-pack ($133/day) or 10-pack ($95/day). The instructors here know that the best way for kids to learn is to come often. Older kids who are accomplished skiers and riders will love Sierra’s chutes, and as parents, we love that all runs funnel into a single bowl making it easier for everyone to find their way down at the end of the day.

This resort does offer childcare as well as a tubing hill. 

Which Lake Tahoe Season Pass Should Families Get?

(Updated for 2018/2019 ski and snowboard season.)

best-tahoe-season-pass-for-families

Every year, the season pass wars wage fiercer, but the competition is great for skiing families. There are basically two top contenders.

The Epic Local Pass for Tahoe gives you access to the three Vail Resort’s Tahoe mountains – Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood.

The Ikon Pass for Lake Tahoe Resorts gives you access to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

Sierra-at-Tahoe also offers a season pass of exceptional value for families with kids 12 and under.

Furthermore, each of these passes differentiates by restrictions and benefits at different price points. In order to make a proper comparison, you’ve got to read the fine print and take into consideration what’s most important to your family in deciding which season pass is right for your family.

The below comparison takes into account some of the most important factors families will consider – value, blackout dates and restrictions, and quality of skiable terrain.

Value Comparison of Season Passes for a family of 4 (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 kid)

Keep in mind that if you plan to have your children take lessons most of the season, purchasing a season pass for them may not be the best option. Lift tickets bundled with full day group lessons are often a better deal. If you are buying season passes for children under 13, both the Epic Tahoe Value Pass and Epic Tahoe Local Pass definitely offer the best value of any season pass. For individual season pass ticket prices, check the respective websites. Kids 4 and under will cost even less.

 

Epic Pass
Tahoe Value Pass *Top Recommended
Epic Pass
Tahoe Local Pass
Ikon Base Pass Ikon Pass Sierra-at-Tahoe Unlimited Season Pass
$1756 $2026 $2655 $3516 $1556
11 blackout dates 11 blackout dates 10 blackout dates No blackout dates No blackout dates
Saturday skiing only at Heavenly. No access on Saturday to Kirkwood, Northstar Unlimited weekend access to Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood Unlimited weekend access Unlimited weekend access Unlimited weekend access

Number of Blackout Dates and Restricted Days

The blackout dates for both passes are mostly during the holidays (between Christmas and New Years, MLK weekend, and President’s Day Weekend). If you plan on skiing during these times, both offer the option of purchasing discounted tickets during blackout dates. If skiing on Saturdays is important to you, you’ll get the most value from the Tahoe Value Pass because you can still ski at Heavenly. The Ikon passes have unlimited weekend access to both Squaw and Alpine.

Recommended Unlimited Access Season Pass

If you are looking for unlimited skiing everyday especially during the holidays, the Vail Resorts Epic Pass is comparable to the Ikon Pass for Squaw / Alpine. Both offer unrestricted access to all their Tahoe resorts. Both passes this year offer additional access and perks at resorts outside Tahoe in the United States and internationally.

Quality of Skiing Offered

Combined, Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood have almost double the skiable terrain of Squaw and Alpine. 

Considering that snow fall can be variable around the Lake Tahoe area, it’s important to consider that Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood are in very different locations. You have the luxury of choosing where you want to ski depending on snow conditions.

On the other hand, it’s nice that Alpine Meadows and Squaw are so close together you can easily ski at both in a single day if you choose to.

Additional Things for Families to Consider

Will your children learn to ski? Do you prefer full or half day lessons? Your answers to these questions should factor in which season pass is the right purchase for your family. The cost of lessons add up quickly for families.

Keep in mind that at Heavenly and Northstar they only offer full day lessons, and they are the most expensive ski schools in Lake Tahoe. Kirkwood offers half day lessons. Kids ski lessons start at $115/half day. At Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, you have a variety of choices for lessons including an option starting at $189 for a half day beginner lesson for ages 3+.

Now, go forth and shred the gnar!

Look for the best hotel prices in Lake Tahoe.

Visiting Lake Tahoe in summer? Check out these 24 spectacular things to do in Lake Tahoe this summer.

Featured photo by: Shutterstock

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Big Bear Snow Play: Things to do in Big Bear in Winter https://blog.trekaroo.com/big-bear-snow-play-winter/ Thu, 12 Dec 2019 08:43:42 +0000 https://blog.trekaroo.com/?p=67004 Believe it or not, it does snow in Southern California! Located just 2 hours from Los Angeles, Big Bear is Southern California’s alpine winter wonderland. Every year, thousands journey “up the hill” to enjoy some Big Bear snow play. What is there to do in Big Bear? Of course, there is skiing, but there are […]

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Believe it or not, it does snow in Southern California! Located just 2 hours from Los Angeles, Big Bear is Southern California’s alpine winter wonderland. Every year, thousands journey “up the hill” to enjoy some Big Bear snow play.

What is there to do in Big Bear? Of course, there is skiing, but there are actually so many more things to do in Big Bear in winter! From snow tubing and snowshoeing to a relaxing massage in your cabin, discover why your family should spend a wintry weekend in the mountain resort town of Big Bear.

Big Bear Snow Play | Things to do in Big Bear in Winter

Ski and Snowboard at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit

Kids snowboarding Bear Mountain Resort
Snowboarding at Bear Mountain | Photo by Bear Mountain Resort

Big Bear is home to two major ski resorts, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, both operated by Mammoth Mountain Resorts and both included with a single lift ticket (a shuttle runs between the peaks). Between the two mountains, a single lift ticket includes 200 acres of terrain park, 63 trails, more than 50 skiable miles, 26 lifts, 18 bars and coffee stands, 16 restaurants, 4 half pipes, and more than 100 jumps!

What I love about Snow Summit and Bear Mountain is that both resorts are incredibly family friendly. They recognize that a good portion of their skiers are beginners or experienced skiers with children, and really take extra effort to make sure that everyone has a great day on the slopes. 

The Bear Mountain Resort Adventure Academy is designed to make the whole “getting on the slopes” process easier for families. Here, children can be quickly fitted for their skis or snowboards. This is also where kids age 4-12 can take lessons with their peers. The academy offers full and half day lessons, with a focus on fun. 

See more of the Golden State. Here are the best things to do in California with kids

Night Tubing at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain

night tubing Big Bear
Big Bear Snow Play on the Magic Mountain Alpine Slide | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

If your family’s idea of snow play isn’t skiing and boarding, rest assured that there many things to do in Big Bear with kids. With three tubing locations, including the Alpine Slide, Big Bear Snow Play, and Grizzly Ridge Tubing Park at Snow Summit Ski Resort, kids can enjoy a rush of adrenaline with little to no learning curve. Night tubing at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain is an experience you definitely don’t want to miss. 

After battling the Los Angeles traffic and making our way up the mountain into Big Bear Lake, some time in the fresh mountain air was just what we needed. After 7pm on a Friday, there were very few people at the park. We could easily grab a tube, ride the magic carpet up the hill, and then slide down over and over again. It was so much fun!  The atmosphere was casual and mellow, a stark contrast to the long lines that visitors can often experience during the day. Note: the Soaring Eagle will open up at night, you just have to ask

Related: Read these tips on snow play with kids

Daytime Fun at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain

Alpine Slide Big Bear
Scenic Lift and Alpine Slide | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

Big Bear’s Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain is a family fun park filled with several different activities. One of the most popular activities is the alpine slide, which is part outdoor slide, part coaster. Riders take a ski lift up the mountain and then climb aboard their sleds (one or two people per sled) and the ride is down the mountain on a track. The speed can be controlled by the rider, making it fun for speed demons or slowpokes.

The Soaring Eagle is another fun attraction at the park. It is similar to a zip line, except the riders sit in chairs. Riders can sit side by side as they fly along the 500-foot track at 28mph. Other attractions include a small go-kart track and a small mini-golf course. Daytime tubing is offered on a manicured tube hill with a magic carpet.  

Important note: We went to Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain twice. Once on a Friday night and once on a Sunday at midday. The crowds on Sunday were massive. There was a 30-minute wait just to sign a waiver to go on any of the rides. The evening was far less crowded and much more fun, but the alpine slide was closed. If you do want to visit during the day on busy weekends, definitely arrive when the park opens.

Snowshoe Tour at the Big Bear Discovery Center

Snowshoe tour Big Bear
Snowshoe Tour | Photo by Big Bear Discovery Center

Don’t ski but looking for something fun and outdoorsy to do? Try a snowshoe tour at the Big Bear Discovery Center! These tours take place December through the beginning of March (winter weather permitting) on Saturdays and Sundays from 9-12 and from 1-4. These tours are for snowshoers ages 8 and up and beginners are welcome. A naturalist will lead the tour through the pine forests of San Bernardino National Forest. Advance reservations are needed and the cost is $30 for adults and $20 for kids 8-12. 

Beyond snowshoeing, the center services as a visitor center for Big Bear and offers several other fun activities year round. There are nature walks, nature crafts, and educational interpretive programs. There is also a Nature Discovery Zone, geared towards kids 2-7,  with 9 interactive play areas.

Visit the Animals of  Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Big Bear Alpine Zoo snowy owl
Snowy Owl | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

Located across the street from Bear Mountain Resort, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a great place to spend some time with rescued wildlife. The zoo is small but is well known for treating and releasing sick, injured, and orphaned animals from across the region. Those that are too injured to be returned to the wild are given a permanent home in the zoo.

Besides California natives such as bobcats, coyotes, black bears, and mountain lions, the zoo is also home to exotic species like Snow Leopards and gray wolves. There are several birds of prey housed at the zoo, including snowy owls, vultures, and the iconic bald eagles. 

Find amazing deals on family-friendly hotels in Big Bear.

Hit the Trail

big bear snow hiking with kids
Snowy Trail | Photo by Bigstock

Hiking opportunities abound in Big Bear, making this one of the great winter activities in the region. There are plenty of family-friendly hikes that kids can venture on, even in the winter time when conditions are right. The Woodland Trail is a must for families. Its 1 1/2 mile loop is lined with interpretive markers that teach kids about the botany, wildlife, and geology of the area. The Nature Discovery Trail behind the Big Bear Discovery Center is even easier. At .5 miles and little elevation gain, the trail features beautiful views of Big Bear Lake and Mt. San Gorgonio.

Enjoy Some Time by Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake Boulder Bay
Boulder Bay in Big Bear | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

Big Bear’s beautiful lake is not to be missed. Winter in Big Bear means icy shores and Instagrammable views. There are several places to play at a park along the shore or simply walk along the shore. Boulder Bay Park is an ideal place for a picnic. Kids love climbing on the boulders and the waterfront location is perfect for pictures. 

Get a Massage

Massage in Big Bear
Photo by: Bigstock

Some of us don’t ski or snowboard. I stopped skiing after back surgery, but my husband and kids still love the sport. I do love watching them come down the slopes but sometimes, Momma wants a treat. Cindy of Longevity Massage in Big Bear will come to your cabin and melt away all the stress and tension you have been carrying. Her rates are very reasonable and she offers a variety of massage treatments. She brings massage equipment, music, and essential oils. 

Stroll Big Bear Village

things to do in Big Bear Village
Big Bear Village | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

For a more relaxing adventure through Big Bear, don’t miss a stroll through Big Bear Village, filled with row after row of unique specialty shops, candy stores, bakeries, coffee houses, and great eats.  There are also horse-drawn carriage rides through this charming, Bavarian-style village. The stores in the Village offer everything from ski apparel and clothing to must-visit gift shops. Our favorite retail options include:

  • Superhero Toys N More, where every comic book and video game character come alive
  • The Toy Galley, where you are certain to find unique games and activities for all ages
  • The Village Sweet Shoppe, home to every type of candy and sweet treat imaginable!!
  • Craft To Treasure, where you can pop in for a crafting/art class year-round
  • Ben & Jerry’s, because there is no such thing as “ice cream weather”!
  • Stupidiotic, the original silly store of laughs & gaffs that are so dumb they are hilarious (so popular that two locations have branched out to Vegas!). Note, some items in here aren’t appropriate for kids, so use your judgment with littles. Most will go over their head if it is questionable.
  • North Pole Fudge & Ice Cream, an obvious choice for a vacay treat!

For more winter-fun in Big Bear, consider horseback riding (kids will love the ponies and petting zoos!) at Baldwin Lake Stables & Petting Zoo or Big Bear Equestrian Center. Craving an adrenaline rush? A year-round zipline course is offered at Action Zipline Tours. Indoor activities, including bowling, movie theaters, ice skating, and laser tag, keep families having fun together even when the temps get too cold for little ones.

Where to Stay in Big Bear Lake

Cabins are one of the best options for families. Destination Big Bear rents cabins in all different sizes and prices points. They have great hours for registration and rental packet pick up (because we all know that sometimes Southern California traffic gets us to places later than we would like), and their rental location is right in the heart Big Bear.

We found our 4 bedroom rental to be spacious and comfortable, the perfect size for our family. The kitchen supplies were a bit bare bones so check with the rental office ahead to get a clear idea of what your cabin offers and what you will need to bring. 

Big Bear boasts an assortment of hotels, motels, and lodges as well. Trekaroo Editor, Katie Bodell, stayed at Big Bear Frontier and loved its central location (they were able to walk to both the Village and the lake), the chance to spread out in three bedrooms, the full-size kitchen, the outdoor BBQ, and the opportunity to warm up each evening by the fire.

Read her full review of Big Bear Frontier

Where to eat in Big Bear Lake

Big Bear food
Photo by: Sharlene Earnshaw

Visitors to Big Bear won’t want for a great meal. Dining options, from quick bites to artisan eats to fine dining, are offered throughout the region.

Nottinghams Tavern is a great option for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Breakfast highlights include a variety of benedicts, omelets, waffles, and french toast. Later in the day, the restaurant serves up steaks, pasta, burgers, and salads in a casual and family-friendly atmosphere. Definitely, don’t miss the pickle fries which are some of the best we have ever had. When the weather is nice, bring your pooch and let him order something off the doggie menu. 

Fans of Big Bear’s local favorite, Peppercorn Grille, will be excited to dine at Oakside, a new restaurant by the same owners Mike & Julie Hastings. Oakside features delicious California cuisine in an upscale setting. Be sure to make reservations or use your wait time to explore the Village; the wait can nearly two hours for a Saturday night table.

Also located in the village are two hip eateries worth a visit: 572 SOCIAL and Big Bear Lake Brewing Company, both featuring trendy menus, live entertainment, and delicious eats. We loved the small plate offerings at 572 SOCIAL, which allowed our group to taste and share small bites as a family. The kids’ menu, filled with regular offerings like mac n’ cheese, burgers, chicken, and pizza, made our littles quite happy.

Big Bear Lake Brewing Company is a great option for moms and dads looking for unique craft beer to supplement a meal. They don’t have a dedicated kid’s menu, but kid-friendly favorites, including burgers, wings, and fries, will likely suit your family well.

Breakfast lovers shouldn’t miss a meal at Grizzly Manor Cafe. The lines outside and Travel Channel awards are legit. And you’ll love the laid-back, funky vibe inside just as much as the menu.

Related: Visiting Big Bear Lake, California with kids in the Summer

Beat the Heat in San Bernardino MountainsBeat the heat in the San Bernardino Mountains

Disclosure: I was hosted by the Big Bear Visitors Bureau for the purpose of this review. I appreciate the hospitality but all opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Lead image by: Big Bear Visitors Bureau

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The Best Time to Visit Yosemite | Tips to Avoid the Crowds https://blog.trekaroo.com/yosemite-without-the-crowds/ Sat, 23 Nov 2019 08:29:01 +0000 http://blog.trekaroo.com/?p=32750 Yosemite National Park is 1,169 square miles in size and while most visitors are cramming the Valley during the summer months, there are still many opportunities to enjoy Yosemite without the crowds; you just have to know both when to go and where to go.

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Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. It can also be one of the most crowded places during peak season. When is the best time to visit Yosemite National Park? That ultimately depends on what you want to see and do.

Spring is best for waterfalls and wildflowers. Fall can be a great time for hikes. Winter is absolutely magical after a fresh snowfall. Summer is the best time to explore the high country. Here are our tips for avoiding the crowds no matter when you visit.

The Best Time to Visit Yosemite and Avoid Crowds

Skip Holiday Weekends

Yosemite in Fall
No Crowds in Yosemite in the Fall | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

The first moment I laid eyes on the Yosemite Valley my jaw literally dropped. My heart pounded. Little butterflies bounced around my stomach like pin balls. I was a living, breathing stereotype of excitement. The Valley was far more beautiful than any glossy picture inside a magazine could have ever captured.

Unfortunately, soon as we drove into its heart, I quickly discovered that Yosemite Valley was also very crowded. My roommate’s idea to head to Yosemite National Park on Memorial Day Weekend was shared with thousands of other like-minded individuals who were clogging the roadways and trails. When is peak season for Yosemite? Summer, from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.

Yosemite Valley, in all of its mind-boggling beauty, is actually quite small. At just eight miles long by one mile wide, it does not leave much room for its four million annual visitors to spread out. The good news? Yosemite National Park is 1,169 square miles in size and while most visitors are cramming the Valley during the summer months, there are still many opportunities to enjoy Yosemite without the crowds. You just have to know both when to go and where to go.

The Best Time to Visit Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Biking in the Fall one of the best time to visit Yosemite
Biking in Yosemite in October | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

Each season brings something different to the Yosemite Valley. The best time to visit Yosemite for waterfalls, like the towering and thunderous Yosemite Falls, is late spring and early summer.

Early May, which sits between Spring Break season and summer, is a great time to enjoy the waterfalls with far fewer people. The only real drawback to visiting during this time of year is that some trails and most of the high country will still be inaccessible due to snow.

The crowds can be a bit suffocating for those of us yearning to enjoy a less human-populated nature experience after Memorial Day. Summer crowds, especially in July and August, turn Yosemite Valley into a traffic snarled city. 

On the other side of summer, September and early October are typically snow free, making it a prime time to take to the hiking trails and enjoy fall color-tinged version of the Valley without the crowds. My family visited in late October and at many times, I felt like we had Yosemite Valley to ourselves. Plus the cooler temperatures made hiking more enjoyable.  The downside is that the waterfalls are either gone or slowed to a trickle.

Winter in Yosemite Valley brings snow and even an ice rink, making for a picture-perfect cold weather getaway. It is important to pack tire chains because mountain driving can become treacherous without them and you never know when the weatherman might be wrong about a sunny forecast.

So which season do you ultimately choose?  It depends on your priorities. My suggestion is to see Yosemite Valley in all of her seasons, rediscovering the park over and over.

Look for current hotel deals nearby Yosemite

Tips for Visiting Yosemite Valley During Peak Season

See a video of Yosemite without crowds 

Here are a few tips on how to be less impacted by the crowds:

  • Stay inside the Valley to take advantage of crowd-free (and infinitely beautiful) sunrises or the quiet pleasure of a moonlit stroll. Wildlife viewing is at its peak during dawn and dusk. Accommodations range from the elegant opulence of the Ahwahnee Hotel to the rustic pleasures of tent camping. Trekaroo has great advice on how to score a campsite in Yosemite during the busy season.
  • Avoid driving once you arrive in the valley. Shuttles are a nice alternative but they can be very crowded during the high season. Bring bikes from home to make your way around the flat valley or rent them from the bike stand at Yosemite Lodge. The more you pedal from the main village areas, the more opportunity you have to enjoy a quieter slice of the valley.
  • Take a hike. The further you walk from the main road, the less people you will encounter. If you have little ones, here is a list of the best stroller-friendly strolls in Yosemite.
  • Go for a swim. There are plenty of great places to swim in Yosemite Valley. Yes, you will share the water with fellow park-goers but at least you will be feeling cool and having fun!
  • Leave the Valley! Only about 5% of park visitors leave Yosemite Valley to explore what the rest of the park has to offer. That means 95% of visitors are missing out on some of the park’s greatest (and less crowded) treasures.

Find more fun! Here are the top 10 Things to do in Yosemite with kids!

Avoid the Crowds and Visit High Sierra Country

Yosemite's Sentinel Dome
No crowds on Yosemite’s Sentinel Dome | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

Glacier Point Road Area

If you decide to brave the masses and visit Yosemite during the summer but find a couple of days in Yosemite Valley have left you craving a less populated but equally scenic version of the park, try heading up! Glacier Point is easily the most popular high elevation spot in the park, due to its sublime views of Yosemite Valley and the Sierras beyond, but easy access from the parking lot makes Glacier Point very popular with the park’s numerous visitors.

Equally beautiful (and remarkably similar) views can be found atop Sentinel Dome, located about a mile before the Glacier Point parking lot. The 2.2 mile roundtrip hike will reward you with incredible views shared with far fewer people. Taft Point is another great option but be especially careful of the steep ledges with little ones.

Explore more of the state. Here are the best things to do in California with kids

Tioga Pass

Yosemite’s High Country is easily accessed during the summer and early fall via Tioga Pass. Consider a stop at Tuolumne Grove before heading up the pass. This impressive grove of sequoia trees is much less crowded than Mariposa Grove which sits near the southern park entrance.

Once up in the high country, Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya Lake are easily accessible spots to enjoy the alpine splendor. Climb to the top of Lembert Dome for a special view of Tuolumne Meadows from above.

Day hikes to the regions numerous alpine lakes, such as Elizabeth Lake and the Cathedral Lakes, are also great ways to enjoy the high country, just be aware of the altitude and drink plenty of water. Note: Tioga Pass does close for the season around the beginning of November and does not reopen until sometime in May.

Discover Southern Yosemite

Mairposa Grove in Yosemite Best time to visit Yosemite
Mariposa Grove Sequoias | Photo by by Flickr/Kittell

Southern Yosemite offers a distinctly different version of the park than the Valley and High Country. It is a great all-season destination and several vacation rental cabins can be found in this portion of the park, making it an ideal place for multi-generational getaways.

Winter sees the fewest visitors, but is actually a lovely time for a visit. Cozy cabins, fresh snowfall, and nearby skiing at Badger Pass make South Yosemite a nice cold weather getaway.

During the warmer months, the biggest crowds are found in Mariposa Grove, a popular and easily accessible grove of Sequoias but the trails in the area, such as the one to Chilnualna Falls, are significantly quieter than those in Yosemite Valley. Horseback riding, a ride on the Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad, and a visit to the Pioneer Yosemite History Center are all fun things to experience in this portion of the park.

 

 

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Best Southeast Ski Resorts Near DC for Families https://blog.trekaroo.com/family-friendly-skiing-virginia-west-virginia-north-carolina/ Tue, 29 Oct 2019 07:03:24 +0000 http://blog.trekaroo.com/?p=28034 Skiing with the family in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina is easy, fun, and economical. Southeastern ski resorts are smaller than those you find on the west coast, but they are still a delight for the entire family. A smaller resort is more affordable, making them ideal for once-per-season ski trip families.

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If you live in the Mid-Atlantic or Southeast, you might not experience much snowfall at home each winter. However, some of the best skiing in the Southeast is only a relatively short 3-4 hour drive away.  The Southeast ski resorts near DC tend to be smaller than you’ll find in New England or the West. But, they are perfect for families offering easy greens and fun snow tubing runs.

Smaller ski areas are also more affordable, making them ideal for a once-per-season ski and snowboard trip for families. What are the best ski resorts in the Southeast for families? Here are our picks for the best Southeast ski resorts near DC for families.

Don’t miss Trekaroo’s Ultimate Family Ski Vacation Guide for even more tips and ski-related content. 

Best Southeast Ski Resorts Near DC 

Looking for the ski resorts closest to DC? Liberty Mountain Resort and Whitetail Resorts in Pennsylvania are actually only an hour or two drive from Washington DC. Lift tickets at these resorts tend to be more expensive than some of the ski resorts and terrain parks further from DC. These resorts also are notoriously crowded on weekends with prime conditions.  

West Virginia Ski Resorts 

The slopes in the Mountain State are some of the most remote in the Southeast. Families who make the trek to these mountains are rewarded with some of the best snow conditions and vertical drops in the region.

Canaan Valley Resort – 3 Hour Drive from Washington DC

Best Ski area West Virginia
Canaan Valley | Photo by Melissa Moore

Canaan Valley Resort is actually part of a West Virginia state park. It’s nestled in a beautiful valley surrounded by central West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains. It’s only a three hour drive from Washington DC. The ski area features 47 trails and slopes.

The Critters Crawl beginner area is serviced by its own magic carpet. Half day and full day ski school options are available. Children ages 5-8 year old can learn how to ski. Youth ages 9-12 have the option to either ski or snowboard in the Mountain Adventure program.

Families that find the thrills of downhill skiing a bit overwhelming can enjoy the area’s numerous cross country and snowshoeing trails. No lessons are necessary for families to experience the thrills of snow tubing; at 1200 feet long, the tubing runs at Canaan Valley are the longest in the Mid-Atlantic.

Skiing Together with the Family at Canaan Valley

When my family arrived at Canaan Valley for a two day family getaway from Washington DC, the ski slopes and the trees were frosted over in a fine, glittery layer of new snow. Being deeper in the mountains, the Canaan Valley ski area has chillier temperatures and gets more snow than most Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern ski areas.

My kids and I had so much fun together on the 1.25-mile long green Timber Run trail at Canaan Valley. It begins all the way at the top of the mountain, and is one of the longest green trails we’ve experienced in the region! The ski lodge at Canaan Valley is classic and no frills, but instructors at the ski school quickly won over my kids with their laid-back, casual and friendly demeanor. We love that Canaan Valley is a fun place to ski near DC.

Check out Trekaroo reviews of  lodging at Canaan Valley Resort and all the activities available at Canaan Valley State Park.

Snowshoe Mountain Resort – West Virginia Ski Resort

Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia
Snowshoe Mountain Resort | Photo by Flickr/OkiGator

West Virginia is known as a premier adventure destination in the Southeast. Alongside its three impressive ski areas, Snowshoe Mountain Resort offers snowmobile tours, the Coca-Cola Tube Park, and off-road adventure experiences. 

Sound like too much adventure for your family? There’s plenty to do for the kids — even those who are not quite so adventurous. Kid’s World Ski and Snowboard Lessons are available for children ages 4-12. These group lessons offer both morning and afternoon skiing opportunities to some of the youngest skiers.  Off the slopes, there is an indoor play area full of fun inflatables for the kids to bounce on as well as an indoor swimming pool featuring a water slide.  Of course, there are also plenty of hot tubs!

Check out the Top 10 Things to do in West Virginia with kids

Wisp Resort, Maryland  – 3 Hour Drive from DC

Best Ski Resorts Near DC Wisp
Wisp Resort | Photo Courtesy of Wisp Resort

Wisp Resort is Maryland’s only ski area. Being only 20 miles from West Virginia, it’s closer to Morgantown and Pittsburgh than Washington DC and Baltimore. Still it’s only a three hour drive from Washington DC.

The Lodge at Wisp has recently undergone renovations, and there is a beautiful view of Deep Creek Lake from the slopes. Wisp Kids offers full day and half day programs for children ages 3 -14 years old. Children ages eight and up can participate in regular group lessons outside the kids’ program.

Wisp has a nice beginner’s hill that my son and I enjoyed when we took our first ever snowboard lesson during Wisp’s beginning of the season promotion for brand new skiers and snowboarders. It also has an adventure center featuring tubing, its mountain coaster, and ice skating during the winter months. Wisp is certainly one of the most convenient ski resorts near DC.

Discover the 10 Best Things to do in Maryland with kids

Ski Resorts in Virginia – Best Ski Resorts in the Southeast

With mountaintop ski resorts that are true vacation destinations in their own right, Virginia has many of the best ski resorts in the Southeast. It’s one of the top places to combine skiing and relaxation in the South. Here are the best best ski resorts in Virginia for families

Massanutten Resort –  2.5 Hours from Washington DC

Best Ski resort Virginia Massanutten
Skiing at Massanutten | Photo by Melissa Moore

With a large water park featuring dozens of slides, Massanutten Resort is a favorite Mid-Atlantic family vacation destination in any season. It’s best season might just be winter when its ski slopes and tube park are open for families to enjoy.

Children ages 4-12 years can learn to ski with the Mountain Cruisers program. The program includes group instruction from 9:30AM-2PM, an 8-hour slope ticket, equipment rental and lunch. There is also a snowboarding program for ages 7-12. If your little ones, ages 4-6, would like to learn to snowboard, Massanutten now has a half-day Mountain Riders program too.

Massanutten is a ski resort near DC. It is less than three hours from Washington DC and only two hours from Richmond. Thus, it is one of the easiest ski resorts in Virginia for families to reach by car.

Learning to Ski near DC at Massanutten Resort

Massanutten Resort will always be a special place for me. After several attempts at learning how to ski, it finally clicked for me on Massanutten’s ski slopes. Alongside my children, I skied the resort’s easy, beginner slope until I could confidently reach the bottom without fear of falling. Later we even skied some of the more challenging green slopes together as a family at this Virginia ski resort. I highly recommend the green slopes at Massanutten for families looking for the easiest possible beginning ski terrain in the Mid-Atlantic for their young skiers. 

For more information on planning a winter weekend getaway to Massanutten Resort, check out Trekaroo’s complete guide to A Family Vacation at Massanutten Resort in the Shenandoah Valley.

Wintergreen Resort- Ski Resorts in Virginia

Best Skiing in the Southeast for families Wintergreen Resort
Skiing at Wintergreen Resort | Photo by Melissa Moore

Wintergreen Resort just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia offers some of the best mountaintop views of any Virginia ski resort. It is also known for its children’s programs. The Treehouse Kids Club offers a variety of ski school programs for children ages 4 and up. Childcare and snow play options are also available for tots and younger children not ready for the slopes at this Virginia ski resort.  

At ages four and five, my kids tried out skiing for the very first time at Wintergreen Resort’s Ridgely’s Ripper’s beginner program for ages 4-12. Every winter since, they’ve been excited to get back out on slopes to ski.

Ridgely’s Fun Park

Best Ski Resorts in Southeast for Families Wintergreen Resort
Ridgely’s Fun Park | Photo courtesy of Wintergreen Resort

Wintergreen Resort also offers snow tubing both for young children at Ridgely’s Fun Park and anyone over 42 inches at The Plunge, Virginia’s largest snow tubing park. Sessions at The Plunge are 90 minutes and should be reserved in advance due to popularity.

Ridgely’s Fun Park has its own miniature tubing hill with a magic carpet so little ones don’t have to pull their tubes to the top of the hill. There’s also a mini-tubing carousel, bear paw snow shoes, tunnels, and fun toys to enjoy. There are generally one hour sessions available on weekends and holidays.

Read kid friendly tips for Wintergreen Resort.

Omni Homestead Resort – Ski Resorts in Virginia

Homestead Ski SLopes
Homestead Ski Slopes | Photo courtesy Omni Resorts

Trekaroo families have found that the Omni Homstead Resort, a luxury resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, is far from stuffy and is perfect for a family getaway. In the wintertime, families love both the resort’s heated pool and the ski slopes.  The resort’s Little Penguins Program provides the perfect introduction to skiing for ages 5-11. Ages four and up can also learn to ski at the Sepp Kober Ski School. Together the family can ski or snowboard at this Virginia ski resort.

If you are not really a skier or you just need a break then try ice skating, the Penguin Slides tubing park, or mini snowmobiles for ages 6-12. Do not forget: you’re in Hot Springs, Virginia. Two major springs flow into the Homestead Resort property.

Adventurous families will take a dip in the two-acre outdoor pool, open year round. The indoor Jefferson Pools are open to families in the morning hours. Built in 1761, this is where Thomas Jefferson found respite during his 22-day visit to the property, calling them the best in America.

See more of the state! Here are the Top 10 Things to do in Virginia with kids

North Carolina Ski Resorts for Families

These North Carolina ski resorts are where Southerners from nearby Georgia and Tennessee often have their very first ski experience up in the familiar Blue Ridge Mountains. These are the most southern of the best ski resorts in Southeast.

Beech Mountain Resort – North Carolina Ski Resorts

Beech Mountain Ski Resort
Beech Mountain Ski Resort | Photo by Jordyn Coffin

Beech Mountain Ski Resort is the highest elevation North Carolina ski resort. This ski resort is a favorite with Trekaroo families in Georgia and Tennessee. That’s because it’s often where they strapped on their first pair of skis. The ski school offers both private lessons and group lessons for children. Children ages 3-8 can participate in private lessons while children ages 8 and up can participate in group lessons. There is also a nursery available for little ones ages 6 months to 3 years old.

This North Carolina ski resort is nestled in the town of Beech Mountain with plenty of activities for kids. After tackling the skiing and ice-skating up at the resort, families can head 10 minutes back into town to the popular sledding hill built exclusively for kids ages 12 and under. Children from all around the Southeast rent sleds to enjoy the thrill of sliding down the hill.

Read all the details of a Trekaroo writer’s North Carolina ski resort experience in  Winter Fun in Beech Mountain, NC.

Sugar Mountain 

Best Ski Resorts in the Southeast for Families Sugar Mountain
Sugar Mountain |Photo Courtesy of Sugar Mountain and www.bushphot.com

With cute bear mascots, Sugar Mountain is a fun place for families to teach their children to ski at a North Carolina ski resort. The Sugar Bear Ski School is open to children ages 5-10. However, those underage tots wanting to try out the slopes are eligible for free lift ticket so they can join their parents on the slopes. Children over age 7 that are interested in snowboarding can enroll in the Polar Bear Snow Board School.

Sugar Mountain also offers tubing for ages three and up, and preschoolers (ages 3-4) can even participate for free!  (Though all young thrill-seekers age 6 and under must ride with an adult.) The 700 foot long runs are often open twelve hours a day from 10AM-10PM.

Cataloochee Ski Area 

The Cataloochee Ski Area is the most southern North Carolina ski resort on this list. It is the closest to both Atlanta and Chattanooga. The Cataloochee Kidz Ski & Ride Center provides ski and snowboard instruction for kids ages 4-12; full day and half day programs are available. Just down the hill in Maggie Valley is Tube World. This snow tubing hill provides six lanes of fun for the family.

If you’re looking for more information on North Carolina ski resorts, check out our list of Family Skiing and Snow Tubing in North Carolina

Disclosure: In many cases, Trekaroo writers, including the author, have received complimentary lift tickets, lessons and lodging at some of these ski resorts for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own.

Many Thanks to Lesli Peterson from 365 Atlanta Family who wrote the original version of this article.

Lead image by: Shutterstock/Gorilla-images

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Top 10 FUN Things to do in Washington State [with kids]! https://blog.trekaroo.com/top-10-things-for-families-to-do-in-washington-state/ Tue, 01 Oct 2019 07:40:22 +0000 http://blog.trekaroo.com/?p=25048 Wherever you go in Washington State, there’s something interesting to experience. Thinking about making your own journey west with your family? Here are our top ten things for families to do in Washington State!

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Tucked up in the northwest corner of the Lower 48, Washington State is filled with great places for families to visit. From the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, to the remote reaches of the Olympic Peninsula, we can’t help but fall in love with the Evergreen State. Don’t know what to do in Washington State? We do! Here are our picks for the top 10 fun things to do in Washington State with kids, from the mountains to the sea and the big cities in between.  

Visit Washington and book your hotel here!

Fun Things to do in Washington State with Kids

10. Take a Journey on a Boat to Explore Fun New Places!

things to do in Washington State on Puget Sound
Puget Sound | Photo by: Flickr/Mountain_Hermit

Washington State boasts the nation’s largest ferry system. The ferry serves as a great way to travel around the Puget Sound region. Ferries will take you out of your ordinary day and deliver you to something spectacular. Your family will enjoy both the journey and the destination in the Puget Sound.

Eat delicious food and stroll along the waterfront on Bainbridge Island. Learn about the history of the navy at a free and family-friendly museum in Bremerton. On Whidbey Island, take in breathtaking scenery on one of the island’s hiking trails.

If you’re interested in catching a glimpse of a whale, board a Clipper vessel in Seattle to head out for a whale-watching adventure. If you are seeking adventure, head to the San Juan Islands and kayak alongside a resident pod of oracas!

Exciting ferry adventures aren’t just found in the Puget Sound. In Central Washington, ride the Lady of the Lake boat down the length of gorgeous Lake Chelan to the tiny town of Stehekin, just south of North Cascades National Park. Stehekin is only accessible by boat or float plane, and is full of outdoor adventures that any family will love.

Stay at these family friendly hotels in Washington!

9. See Something Fishy

Washington State fish ladder
Ballard Locks | Photo by: Flickr/JCWinkler

Washington State is home to five species of Pacific Salmon as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout. These big fish spawn and rear in local streams and rivers. They migrate to the sea to feed and grow. Then, they return home to the very same stream in which they were born!  Most species spawn in the fall, making it the best time to go salmon-viewing.

One of the classic things to do in Washington State on a family vacation is visit a salmon hatchery. At the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery you’ll get a close up view as salmon cram and leap their way up a fish ladder into the hatchery.

To see salmon spawning in the wild, head to the Cedar River. During peak season, visit information booths at prime salmon viewing locations, or bike along the Cedar River Trail to spy salmon on your own.

At the Ballard Locks in Seattle, you can get a great view of adult salmon migrating upstream through underground viewing windows. From the path, you can sometimes even glimpse a fish leaping all the way out of the water or a sea lion waiting for dinner!

For year-round no-fail salmon viewing, visit Seattle’s Pike Place Market  to view whole fish of every species displayed on ice.  If your timing is right, you might even see a flying fish as fish mongers torpedo-toss salmon through the air while the crowd cheers in approval of every slippery catch.

8. Fruit! Flowers! Fun!

Washington State tulip fields are a great place to visit
Skagit Valley Tulip Fields | Photo by:Flickr/P.M.Graham

Do your kids think that fruit grows in the grocery store? Opportunities abound in Washington to get your family outside and learning about agriculture.

During April, head to the amazing Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, where gorgeous flowers and Instagram-worthy photo opportunities are everywhere you look. In the summer, how about picking apples at local orchards or raspberries and strawberries at Remlinger Farms?

If you’re a fan of beautiful, fragrant fields of lavender, be sure not to miss the Lavender Festival in sunny Sequim, not far from Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. The state of Washington is also home to scads of wineries, which offer beautiful grounds for kids to play and tasting rooms for the grown-ups! Want to spend even more time learning about farm life? Consider a farm stay or a farm tour.

7. Go East!

things to do in Washington State
Charming Leavenworth | Photo by: Flickr/Doug_Pieper

Beyond the Cascade Mountains, Eastern Washington is a sunny playground waiting to be explored.

Visit the wild-west town of Winthrop where kids can enjoy ice cream outside on bar stools hitched with real horse saddles! On Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, don’t miss the local rodeo! This event is sure to keep all kids riveted to the grassy spectator’s hill. The kids will also love participating in the stick horse race or the chicken catch.

Further south is Leavenworth, a Bavarian village boasting summer art fairs, liederhosen-clad musicians, in-town goats, a putting course, and Bavarian-themed miniature golf. In the summer, Leavenworth is a great place for whitewater excursions on the Wenatchee River.

In fall, Leavenworth hosts OktoberFest, a family-friendly festival featuring good food, beer, and music. Check out the late September Prosser Balloon Rally in the town of Prosser. Enjoy a local craft fair by day, Nite Glow (anchored balloons lit from inside) just after dusk on Saturday night, and sunrise balloon launches every morning. Spectacular!

In the city of Spokane, your family can float past the Spokane Falls in SkyRide, voted one of the top 12 scenic cable rides in the world! After, enjoy a kid-friendly afternoon of miniature golf and riding amusement rides in Riverfront Park. Eastern Washington has fun waiting for your whole family!

6. Explore the Diversity of the Olympic Peninsula

things to do in Washington State
Olympic National Park Coastline | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

One of the jewels of Washington State is the beautiful and diverse Olympic Peninsula. From beaches to rain forests to snow-capped mountains, this wild and diverse locale shouldn’t be missed. 

The heart of the peninsula is the Olympic National Park. This national park covers almost one million acres and includes three separate ecosystems! Your family can stare in awe at snow-capped alpine peaks and glaciers near Hurricane Ridge which is an easy day trip from Port Angeles.

The peninsula is home to charming towns like historic Port Townsend which has a lovely downtown area, sweeping views of the water, and historic Fort Worden. Sunny Sequim sits in the rain shadow of the Olympic mountain range, and offers great opportunities for family exploration. Read more about exploring Washington’s Upper Olympic Peninsula

Head into the wild by experiencing the park’s rainforests, including a memorable hike to Sol Duc Falls. Trekaroo has a great guide to Olympic National Park’s rain forests.  

The region’s beaches are definitely worth a visit as well. Here you can visit tide pools brimming with life, windswept beaches dotted with driftwood, and even the northwestern corner of the continental US! Here is a guide to visiting the Olympic Coast

5. Awesome Animal Encounters

visiting the fun things to do in Peru is visit the Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

Ride, pat, and feed the animals!  Olympic Game Farm in Sequim is sure to make every kid (and most adults) scream and squirm with delight. Feed bread to antelope, zebra, llamas, and even retired Hollywood bears! Then, drive slowly through the field filled with huge bison and elk­- expect to visit the car wash to remove bison drool on your windows after your visit.

To see native animals in wild habitats, visit Northwest Trek, about an hour southeast of Seattle. Take a walking tour of native animal exhibits including otters, badger, grizzly bear, wolves, and cougars. Then, jump on a tram to get close-up views of bison, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats roaming across the 435 acre facility.

Are birds more your family’s speed? Feeding parrots at the Willawong Bird Feeding Station in the Woodland Park Zoo can be quite a thrill. The little birds land gently on a seeded stick for a treat. And, don’t miss the chance to ride a camel at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma.

4. See Seattle

Things to do in Washington State
Pikes Place Market | Photo by: Flickr Scott_McCracken

Seattle has so much to offer visitors and residents alike. Begin your tour with a stop at Seattle Center, home to the iconic Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center, Museum of Pop Culture, Pacific Science Center, and Seattle Childrens Museum. 

Of course, you can’t visit Seattle without heading downtown to wander through iconic Pike Place Market. In addition to watching salmon fly through the air, check out fresh produce and gifts, and take photos of the stalls filled with beautiful flower bouquets. Don’t miss the original Starbucks just across the street!

Seattle is also home to Woodland Park Zoo and the fantastic Seattle Aquarium.  After your trip to the Aquarium, ride the Great Wheel and eat lunch at Ivar’s Fish Bar along Seattle’s waterfront!

You also don’t want to miss Gasworks Park. It is one of the most unique parks in Seattle. Here you can fly a kite, admire the Seattle skyline, sit along the water, or play among the former gasworks!

Interested in an afternoon at the beach? Check out Alki Beach (where the first settlers landed in Seattle), Golden Gardens or Carkeek Park. And, for a truly unique view, head to Pioneer Square for the quirky Underground Tour, where your family will learn about Seattle’s history while exploring its underground neighborhoods!

Read more about the Emerald City in our article on the Top 10 Things to do in Seattle with Kids

Find the best hotel deals in Seattle!

3. Explore Native American Culture

traditional native american dancer
Photo by: Flickr/Sea_turtle

Who hasn’t wanted to sleep in a teepee? The Yakama Nation RV Park offers genuine teepee camping as well as wi-fi, an outdoor heated pool, a hot tub, and two saunas! Just bring your pillow, sleeping bag, PJs, and a bedtime story about Native American history.

A short walk up the road, the Yakama Nation Museum and Cultural Center is a perfect spot to engage your family in a deeper exploration of the history of the Yakama people.

At the Makah Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay, you can examine hundreds of artifacts recovered from archaeological excavation of a Makah village, as well as see full size replicas of canoes and a long-house.

In Suquamish, visit the Suquamish Museum designed to reflect the traditional Big House architecture of the area. Closer to Seattle, you can visit a traditional longhouse overlooking the Duwamish Valley. 

In late July, your family can experience modern day Native American culture at the SeaFair Pow Wow in Seattle. Witness vibrant dancing and drumming, and browse the vendors selling art and jewelry. Don’t forget to enjoy the delicious, traditional salmon dinner!

2. Explore Washington’s Volcanoes

Mt Rainier in Washington State
Photo by: Flickr/LisaDElliott

Washington is home to the northern Cascade Mountain range and its volcanoes. The best known is Mount St. Helens , which dramatically blew off its top in 1980. There’s still lots to do and see at Mount St. Helens National Monument. Make time to enjoy hiking, learning about volcanoes in the park’s visitor center, and of course gawking at the mountain and its impressive crater!

Mount Rainier, the large mountain featured on Washington’s license plates, also offers tons of activities for families. Hiking, nature walks, admiring meadows full of wildflowers, camping, and snowshoeing are all possible at Mount Rainier National Park. We have visited in early July and encountered summer snow for the kids to play in!

Up in the northern part of the state, Mount Baker towers over the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest. Families can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, camping, horseback rides, swimming, and boating. In the winter, Mount Baker sports a popular ski/snowboarding area.

1. Let your Imagination take Flight!

Things to do in Washington State aviation museum
Photo by: Flickr/Chris_Devers

Washington takes great pride in its aviation history. Families will adore the Museum of Flight, located just south of downtown Seattle. It has huge galleries filled with planes of every shape and size.

There are many displays to educate families about the role of aviation in military history. You can walk through a retired Air Force One jet, gaze at a Concorde jet, and even get up close and personal with the Space Shuttle trainer!

Up north in Everett, families can take part in the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour. During a 90-minute tour, your family will learn about Boeing and see jets being assembled on the assembly line! Tip: Visitors must be four feet tall to participate in the tour and there is a lot of walking involved.

Special thanks to E. Ashley Steel for her contributions to this article. E. Ashley Steel is a long-time Washington resident and mother of two, is co-author of “Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids” and co-curator of www.familyontheloose.com.

Lead image by: Bigstock/Andrushko Galyna

 

Top 10 50 states seriesFind the Top 10 things to do with kids near you! Trekaroo has hundreds of guides for locations all over the United States and Canada.

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