When we were scouting locations for relocation, we also took our very first big family adventure. It was a super fun trip and now I’m sharing the 7 day Oregon Washington road trip itinerary with kids that we took! We were a little nervous to visit the PNW in October but the fall foliage against the evergreen trees was breathtaking and we had a fantastic time exploring the PNW with kids. We squeezed in the beach, hiking, museums, and animal adventures; it’s an amazing area to visit!
While you’re here, you might check out these posts too:
- 7 steps to plan a family vacation
- 40+ Gift Ideas for Nature Loving Kids
- Our road trip favorite; tips for using audiobooks with kids
We usually check out books to read before we visit an area, here are some options for Oregon & Washington:
- O is for Oregon: Written by Kids for Kids
- Larry Gets Lost in Seattle
- Three Bears of the Pacific Northwest
- Curious Kids Nature Guide: Explore the Amazing Outdoors of the Pacific Northwest
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Oregon Washington road trip itinerary with kids
Before I share the details of our family PNW road trip, check out these colors! Aren’t they striking? We flew in & out of Portland’s airport for this trip.
We started off by visiting Silver Falls State Park! I hadn’t read much about this park in my trip research but our airbnb host recommended it since the Columbia River Gorge trails hadn’t recovered from a forest fire. We followed the Five Falls trail that takes you to Winter Falls, Middle North Falls, Lower North Falls, Drake Falls, and Double Falls. The trails were well marked and easy to follow.
Coming from a dry, brown Iowa fall, we couldn’t get over the lush moss and greenery! We spent a full day exploring, and had lunch in the on site cafe. It was very kid friendly, with easy food options and a big room with coloring sheets, games, and things to look at while you wait (and while you eat). There was also a gift shop on site, if you show up and forget anything or want to grab a souvenir.
(Drive 2.5 hours)
The next day took us to the quaint, charming town of Seaside, Oregon! We started off at Seaside Aquarium, which is very small but fun. They have harbor seals up front (don’t worry, they have a larger private space as well), you can buy fish to feed them from the tiny front gift shop/ticket area. They also have a touch tank, which is great for young kids, and some tanks on exhibit.
Within walking distance is this beautiful public beach! My kids were beyond delighted to discover swings on the sand and probably could’ve stayed here all day. The whole town feels small and sleepy in the off season, it was nice to walk along the shoreline and had several restaurants with an oceanview.
(Drive 15 minutes)
One of the highlights of the trip was just a touch south of downtown Seaside, Ecola State Park. We hiked the lighthouse trail off of Indian Beach, which was beautiful. Walking near towering trees with the coast in the background was a treat! We saw colorful banana slugs and lots of pretty greenery.
The rest of the day we spent simply playing on the beach. The water was freezing cold and pretty rough but there were lots of low, quiet pools and streams further up in the sand. We even saw some brave surfers going out, which was fun.
(Drive 1.5 hours)
[2022 update, unfortunately this children’s musem closed :(]After lots of outdoor time, we broke up the hiking days with a trip to the Portland Children’s Museum. My kids were running too quickly for me to take a ton of pictures, but this is probably our favorite kid’s museum in the US that we’ve visited! They had a ton of pretend play and makerspace options along with the coolest outdoor areas we’ve ever seen. There were loads of loose parts to build with, a climbing tree, water play areas, and open space to run around in.
Discover We then walked over to the Discovery Museum, a part of the World Forestry Center. This wasn’t specifically for kids but had a few fun hands on opportunities to explore! My favorite was the huge log slice, my kids loved the big steam train outside that you can climb on.
(Drive 2.5 hours)
Next up was exploring the small Point Defiance Aquarium & Zoo. Our favorite part of this zoo was the playground! It was big and had a lot to do, with a soft foamy floor. All of the animals looks happy and healthy, the highlight was the sharks on exhibit in the aquarium! I wouldn’t go out of my way to go back here, but it was a great stopping point and my kids had fun.
Next up, we explored Mt Baker Snoqualomie National Forest, hiking the 1 mile gold creek pond trail. As you can see from these pictures, the area lives up to its reputation for being rainy! I highly recommend waterproof hiking shoes and rain gear; we love our Oakiwear suits. This was a very easy trail with beautiful views.
(Drive 1 hour)
We tacked on a stop at Snoqualmie Falls. This is the first “urban” feeling waterfall I’d seen, it was exciting to hear and see such a powerful waterfall from the paved viewpoint nearby. It’s very crowded and stuck in the middle of the city, so don’t expect solitude or wooded trails.
(Drive 40 minutes)
We headed back into the big city, spending most of the day at the Pacific Science Center. This is a great science museum for all ages with a planetarium. There are lots of rotating exhibits; my kids’ favorites were the tot town and touch tank shown above.
Thanks to a light rain, we had the beautiful Artists at Play playground all to ourselves! One of the coolest playgrounds we’ve been to (see more of the best playgrounds in the world here) with a view of the space needle, you need to stop here with kids!
(Drive 1.25 hours)
Last but not least, we spent a morning exploring the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park! With PNW animals in large, lush exhibits, I preferred this to the zoo. They had a neat, open air bus ride through wildlife enclosures in addition to more zoo-like stationery exhibits. The playground was huge and really fun, and the food was surprisingly good at the neighboring cafe!
(Drive 2.5 hours back to the Portland airport!)
That was our first big trip, bombing around the PNW coast! We’re itching to get back to Olympic National Park and spend more time on the Oregon coast, we loved the area.