by Allen Cox | Photo © John Froschauer
The kids will be on spring break soon and no one wants to spend it sitting around the house playing video games. Especially the kids, right? It’s time to muster the troops for some quality family time. But before those little voices have a chance to emit groans at the thought, deploy your secret weapon: a family outing, or, even better, a Northwest vacation. Whether for a day or a longer excursion, who could turn down a chance to visit one of these cures for spring break blahs?
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Eatonville, Washington
Near Eatonville—an easy day trip from Seattle/Tacoma—Northwest Trek is just made for filling a day with enough smiles to last a week. This is one of the country’s premier wildlife parks and features fauna, large and small, native to the region. Ride the tram and let your guide introduce the kids to herds of bison, elk and more in their natural habitat, and then walk the paved path to view animals of the predatory sort in their enclosures. In the process, the kids will have fun learning why they should care about conservation. There’s never a dull moment in this wild animal kingdom. nwtrek.org, traveltacoma.com
Travel tip: An easy day trip from Seattle.
A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village, Salem, Oregon
Any museum where children can learn without realizing they’re learning is a treasure. Downtown Salem’s Riverfront Park is home to a complex of three historic homes that have been turned into one of the best children’s museums in the Northwest, A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village. (Gilbert, who resided in one of the homes, was the inventor of the Erector Set.) At A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, kids build on the Gilbert legacy of hands-on learning by engaging with fun, interactive exhibits in the sciences, arts and humanities—more than a dozen exhibits, such as Imagination Playground, Nano (all about nanoscience) and Go Figure! (where kids learn math skills and parents might pick up a few tips on helping with math homework). acgilbert.org, travelsalem.com
Travel tip: An easy day trip from Portland.
World Center for Birds of Prey, Boise, Idaho
Children always marvel at birds bigger than they are, and World Center for Birds of Prey will have little jaws dropping. Harpy eagles, falcons, vultures and many more species from around the world occupy this center at the forefront of conservation, research and education. You can tour the exhibits to view the birds, or, even better, attend one of the daily live presentations in the theater or take a behind the scenes tour. peregrinefund.org/world-center, boise.org
Travel tip: Located on the outskirts of Boise, an easy day trip from the city.
World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, Portland, Oregon
This museum, in the heart of Portland’s Washington Park, claims one visit “will change the way you look at trees.” It’s only fitting that this museum is located in a region dominated by forests. But the exhibits aren’t confined to Northwest forests; they take visitors to the forests of Asia, Africa and South America as well. In this 20,000-square foot museum, you can take a wet-free raft ride, view the forest from a bird’s-eye view, learn all about different forestry occupations and much more. worldforestry.org/
Travel tip: This is an in-city activity, accessible by car or public transportation.
Cama Beach State Park, Camano Island, Washington
At Cama Beach, the family can vacation like it’s 1939. True, the kids might scoff at the notion, but once they arrive, you’ll hear protests when it’s time to pack up and leave. The magic is the combination of a ‘30s-era fishing resort with rustic cedar cabins, a pristine beach on the Salish Sea’s Saratoga Passage, a seemingly endless forest of towering conifers and the resident Center for Wooden Boats, where you can rent a boat and might even get acquainted with a real boat builder. Cama Beach is popular with families and groups so make reservations well in advance. parks.wa.gov/camabeach, cwb.org/locations/cama-beach, whidbeycamanoislands.com
Travel tip: Overnight in a cabin at Cama Beach, an easy drive from Seattle.
Silver Rapids Indoor Waterpark Resort, Kellogg, Idaho
For some families a wild frolic in a vast indoor water park is the stuff spring break dreams are made of. A vacation stay at Silver Mountain Resort’s Morning Star Lodge makes those dreams come true. The youngest in the family will love Pollywog Pond, while the oldest kids (like dad) will race to Gold Rush and Prospector Plunge. With 10 separate water features, Silver Rapids Indoor Waterpark Resort has fun in store for every member of the family. When reserving, check out the Splash & Stay package to keep some cash in your wallet. silvermt.com, visitidaho.org/regions/northern
Travel tip: Overnight at Silver Mountain Resort’s Morning Star Lodge.
Wildlife Safari, Winston, Oregon
More than 600 animals from around the world in hundreds of acres of drive-through habitat is what you’ll find at Wildlife Safari near Roseburg. Wildlife Safari is an acclaimed conservation and education facility, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and is renowned for its successful cheetah breeding program. Pile the kids in the car and go on your very own safari, then treat the family to their choice of an up-close animal encounter, maybe strolling with cheetahs or helping feed the bears and lions. wildlifesafari.net, southernoregon.org
Travel tip: Nearby family lodging at Windmill Inn of Roseburg (windmillinnroseburg.com).
Victoria Bug Zoo, Victoria, British Columbia
Who doesn’t love creepy crawlers? At Victoria Bug Zoo these many-legged creatures are much more than mere insects and spiders. Bring in the family to watch exotic bugs in action, most not native to the Northwest. Become friends with a scorpion or a giant Sonoran centipede. Test your bravery by handling a tarantula or millipede as long as your forearm. Watch the industrious residents of Canada’s largest ant farm go about their highly organized workaday lives. Once you visit the 40 species at the Victoria Bug Zoo, you’ll think twice about ever stepping on a bug again. bugzoo.com, tourismvictoria.com
Travel tip: Kid-friendly lodging at Royal Scot Hotel & Suites (royalscot.com).