Seattle is one of my favorite family travel destinations. This beautiful Pacific Northwest city offers fun activities, unique museums, and a gorgeous landscape. It’s so different from my home in New England, which makes it a really interesting place to explore and see. Known as the Emerald City, Seattle always showcases its natural beauty with green everywhere.
There are so many fantastic things to do right in the city of Seattle with kids. However, if you are there for an extended trip, you may want to venture out beyond the Space Needle and the city limits. There are also some great family road trips from Seattle – both within the United States and outside the US borders.
We generally recommend a four-day Seattle itinerary. However, if you want to add on any of these road trips from Seattle, you’ll probably want to add some additional days to your trip. You can choose to stay in Seattle, or for longer road trips, switch hotels for more convenience.
When flying into Seattle, you’ll probably want to rent a car right at the airport to take you to your hotel. That way, you’ll be able to drive around wherever and whenever you want. You will likely pay for parking at your hotel, so be sure to budget for that.
Otherwise, you could choose to take a cab or ride-share to your Seattle hotel, and then rent a car for a day or two in the city. Zip Cars may also be available and are a great option for a road trip – especially a short one.
Remember that you’ll need your passport if you are traveling into Canada. Be sure to apply well in advance.
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Family Road Trips From Seattle
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is located about 2 1/2 hours west of Seattle. This national park offers almost a million acres, including mountains, rain forests, hiking trails, and coastline.
There are so many activities families can enjoy at the Olympic National Park. These include hiking, camping, boating, fishing, and viewing wildlife native to Washington State.
There are several visitors and ranger stations located throughout the park. While you could definitely take a day trip to Olympic National Park from Seattle, you may want to stay overnight.
Several lodging options are offered. The park offers several campsites as well as campsites associated with a few of the park lodges.
There are also a few lodges and resorts in the park. These include the following:
For more information and reservations, visit the Olympic National Park website.
Snoqualmie Falls, located in Snoqualmie, Washington, was always one of my favorite places to visit when I lived in the Seattle suburbs. It’s a short drive about a 30-minute drive west of Seattle and is definitely worth the trip.
There, you’ll find a 270-foot waterfall, a gift shop, a small park, and the Salish Lodge. Parking is free, as is access to the viewing platform which is a short walk away.
You could easily visit Snoqualmie Falls for an afternoon. It isn’t a very long drive, and you probably won’t spend too much time there.
However, if you want to do something really special, the Salish Lodge is a luxurious resort and spa overlooking the falls. It’s somewhere that I’ve always wanted to stay – it looks like such a unique spot. If you do book the lodge, you could probably just spend the night. It’s also one of the best weekend getaways from the city.
Everett, Washington is located about 40 minutes north of Seattle, on the Puget Sound. There, you’ll find Funko HQ, the international headquarters of Funko, a company offering pop culture collectibles. One of our best day trips during our vacation was our trip to Funko HQ.
If your kids enjoy collecting Funko Pops, you’ll definitely want to take the drive up to Everett. It’s an easy road trip for a morning or afternoon. Funko HQ is typically closed on Mondays, so you’ll want to check on the store hours before heading up.
Funko HQ is a really fun place to visit, even if you aren’t looking for any specific collectibles. There are lots of different life-sized Funko figures, in themed rooms including Disney, Harry Potter, and Marvel. You can also design your own Funko Pop, for a completely unique souvenir of your trip.
Expect to spend about 30-60 minutes at Funko HQ. Beyond the shop, there aren’t any other facilities for tourists.
Located about 30 minutes from Downtown Seattle is the town of Mukilteo, a seaside small town located along the Puget Sound. If you are planning a trip to Everett, Mukilteo is one of the best places to stop.
There are a few points of interest in the town, including the Boeing Future of Flight Museum and Boeing Factory Tour. During our visit, we stopped for a tour but they were sold out for the day. You’ll definitely want to plan ahead and make advance reservations for a tour. It apparently includes quite a bit of walking, so you’ll want to make sure you have comfortable walking shoes.
If the weather is nice, you may also want to stop at the Mukilteo Lighthouse Park. Find a spot in the vast parking lot and walk along the water’s edge to the lighthouse. You’ll want to check operating hours before visiting.
Even if the lighthouse isn’t open to visitors, it’s still nice to see the sites along the Sound. You can also watch the ferryboats leaving from the terminal and can enjoy sitting in the waterfront park.
A delicious seafood restaurant, Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing, is located adjacent to the park. You can either eat in the restaurant or visit the takeout windows to get food to eat outdoors while watching the boats.
San Juan Islands
Despite the similar-sounding name, the San Juan Islands are not located in Puerto Rico. Instead, they are located North West of Seattle. You can access the islands by ferry, plane, or private boat.
Most guests choose to take the Washington State Ferry, which departs from the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. It’s located about 2-3 hours from Seattle, and reservations are recommended. There are vehicle ferries if you choose to take your car.
The total ferry ride is a little over an hour. Because of that, and the ride time to Anacortes, we’d recommend staying at least a few days in the San Juan Islands.
There are three islands that are served by ferry service. These include San Juan Island, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island. These three offer different types of activities, so you’ll want to do research in advance to make sure you stay in the location with the best activities for your family.
The San Juan Islands Visitor’s Bureau website is the best spot to start your research and decide where to stay.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver is one of my favorite cities to visit in North America. The biggest city in British Columbia offers everything – mountains, green space, and an urban environment.
It’s located a little more than two and a half hours north of Seattle (although you’ll also want to account for the time it takes to cross the Canadian border). In my opinion, it’s one of the best road trips from Seattle.
I’d recommend spending at least a few days in Vancouver. There’s so much to see, so you’ll definitely want more than a day. When we visited, we’d usually spend a long weekend, and then head back down to Seattle. Three days is a good amount of time there unless you have specific things you want to do.
One of the most popular attractions in the area is Stanley Park. This urban park offers a botanical garden, hiking, beaches, sports, a train, an aquarium, and so much more. You could definitely spend more than an afternoon there, depending on your interests. It’s located right in the city, so it’s very convenient.
Other popular attractions in Vancouver include Granville Island, as well as Grouse Mountain, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It gets chilly on top of Grouse Mountain, even in the summer, so be prepared.
In my option, the best time to visit Vancouver is in the summer. But, if you are a skier, you may want to visit during the winter months.
If you are staying in Vancouver, some of the most popular hotels are:
Mount Rainier is one of the most identifiable elements of the greater Seattle landscape, along the Cascade Mountain range. This gorgeous mountain, which is also an active volcano, can be seen from Seattle on a clear day (which doesn’t happen as much as I’d like).
To get a closer look, and to explore nature in the Seattle area, consider a visit to Mount Rainier National Park, located less than two hours away from the city. The park is accessible via roads open from May to October, and offers lots of fun outdoor activities for families.
It does get busy in the peak summer months, so you’ll want to arrive early and visit on a weekday, if possible. Family activities including hiking, biking, fishing, and boating. There are more adventurous camp/hikes available that require a permit and aren’t great for families.
The park has three drive-in campgrounds as well as one campground available for tents. Two of these are available for advance reservation. If you’d prefer not to camp, you could definitely visit the National Park for a day trip from Seattle.
In addition to these longer day trips listed above, there are a few fun Seattle suburbs that you can visit in just a few hours. If you have a car on your trip, you can definitely combine a visit to several of these locations.
Take a quick drive past Bellevue Washington into Redmond, the home of Microsoft. While Redmond is actually a small town without too much to do, it’s still fun to see all of the buildings on the Microsoft campus. It’s pretty impressive.
Drive to nearby Ballard, Washington, about twenty-five minutes from the city center, to visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (generally known as the Ballard Locks). Entry to the visitor center and to view the locks is free, however, parking is not.
The Ballard Locks are located where the saltwater of the Puget Sound meets the freshwater of Lake Washington and Lake Union. They were created by the US Army Core of Engineers to manage the different water levels. It’s a fun area to walk around, and a unique experience if you haven’t seen locks before.
Another fun place to visit with kids is Fremont. It’s a small town with shops and restaurants. As you drive through, be sure to see the Fremont Troll, a stone sculpture that lurks under the George Washington Memorial Bridge on N. 36th Street.
Other Popular Destinations
There are plenty of other popular road trip destinations in Seattle and the surrounding area. These include Leavenworth (a Bavarian village), Vancouver Island, Long Beach, Whidbey Island, and North Cascades National Park.
Hotels in Seattle
Whether you are planning to stay a few nights in the city and then venture to a new location, or keep your home base as Seattle, there are plenty of great Seattle hotels for your vacation. While it’s a small city, you’ll definitely want to think about which specific area you want to stay in.
When we visited Seattle with our family, we chose to stay at the Hotel FIVE – Staypineapple Seattle. This unique boutique hotel is centrally located, so we were able to walk to both Pike Place Market and Seattle Center.
We booked our trip through JetBlue vacation, and while there were several great hotel options available, the Hotel FIVE looked best for our plans and budget.
There are other family hotel options in Seattle as well. Some of the most popular Seattle hotels include: