The Emerald City (Pt2)

In this first of four posts exploring all of the Seattle-ish places I want to take my kids, I'm starting in the southwestern corner of the state of Washington working my way North to the east of Seattle. Some of these places are great family get-aways. If you go and anyone asks - just say you got the idea from nic. Many of these locations are a treasured part of my memories. Some of the best times I had while growing up were spent in one of the following destinations.

Long Beach. Situated on the southern end of the peninsula that protects Willapa Bay, Long Beach is the main destination for a week along the southern Washington coast. Miles of beaches and scenery stretches from Cape Disappointment to Leadbetter Point. From lighthouses to wildlife, there is plenty to keep the kids busy, including a boardwalk on the Pacific Ocean and two museums in town (World Kite Museum and the Cranberry Museum). If time allows, the historic city of Astoria is just a short drive away, along the 101.

Ocean Shores. Further north, but not much further, is the town of Ocean Shores. Not only are there several great parks there, but they also have one of the best go-kart tracks in the nation. Much like Long Beach, Ocean Shores is home to great beaches, but it is also apart of Grays Harbor. While in Ocean Shores, we can visit other Grays Harbor towns: the old logging towns of Hoquiam and Aberdeen. History lesson: Aberdeen is were Kurt Cobain was born and raised. I also helped paint and remodel a church next door to the YMCA in Hoquiam; it would be nice to go back and visit sometime.

Mt. Rainier. This mountain is somewhat of an icon in western Washington. I once heard a joke about using Mt Rainier to forecast the weather: if the mountain is visible - it will be sunny, if the mountain is not visible - it will rain. Other Cascade mountains have more significance and attraction in my life, but Rainier is one of the most majestic and recognizable peaks anywhere in the world. It would be a disservice to my kids if I never take them to Mt Rainier. Let them wander the trails around Paradise, hike to the glaciers near Sunrise, and chase any manor of furry woodland creatures from marmots to mountain goats.

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Granted, this zoo is far inferior to the zoo in Seattle, and there is a foul aroma that hovers over the city of Tacoma, but I like zoos (even crappy little zoos like the ones in Boise or Sioux Falls). And as an added bonus, the zoo and aquarium are in the same location; you get the best of both worlds. And they have beluga whales. How cool is that?

Tacoma Narrows. Galloping Gurdy is legendary. It was impossible to grow up in the Seattle area without hearing about Galloping Gurdy. The footage showing the bridge's collapse is equally captivating and horrifying. The rebuilt bridge is beautiful; it is a wondrous display of engineering genius.

Wild Waves. Roller coasters, water slides, thrill rides, concerts. It's like Silverwood, but better.

Mount Si. Rising straight up from the valley floor above North Bend, the top of Mount Si holds some of the most stunning panoramic views I've ever seen. And it is only a short drive east of Seattle. The final rise (lovingly nicknamed the"haystack") is a challenging near vertical scramble, but well worth the effort.

Snoqualmie Falls. When I go hiking, I generally prefer to hike up first, then down. Snoqualmie Falls is one of the few exceptions to that rule. The trail begins near the lodge and goes straight down into a canyon carved away by the river. As you hike along the river, you get showered by mist from the falls - perfect for a hot summer day. There is plenty of boulder hopping both in and out of the river to keep any kid (young or old) entertained for a day. Granted, one can enjoy Snoqualmie Falls without the hike; there is a lodge and a phenomenal viewpoint at the top of the falls. But to truly experience Snoqualmie Falls, you have to get wet. And if you're particularly brave, you can hike right up to the base of the falls.

Feel free to take these ideas for your next family trip. Provided you are travelling in that direction.

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