Winter getaway near Seattle, anyone? These 11 destinations go all out for families
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And there’s no better place to experience it than in the PNW. We have everything from storytime by the fireplace to storm watching, northern food festivals to mountain shushing, and from crafting gingerbread houses to sipping hot cocoa on a sleigh ride, depending on where you travel in Washington. Find something special for your family to do by taking a winter getaway near Seattle soon. So grab those skis, sleds, and mittens, and dive into powdery adventures at any of these eleven fairy tale destinations.
Winter is a great time to plan a family weekend getaway to a nearby destination
Bainbridge Island has something for everyone from tiny tots to the merry at heart. The magic begins with a ride on a Washington State Ferry, a unique escape unto itself. First stop, Pleasant Beach Village, with a glide around the winter wonderland skating rink. Mix in a Gingerbread House party, a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and sumptuous après skate fare from Joe’s Restaurant and your group will burst into “Deck The Halls” from holiday cheer. A complimentary shuttle runs from the ferry terminal to Pleasant Beach Village and back so families can bed in town or treat themselves to a luxurious stay at The Inn at Pleasant Beach (a real vacation within your vacation).
Bainbridge has wonderful parks, views, and inlets to explore. Bloedel Reserve is a peaceful place of solace and natural beauty. Take your group on the slow, easy one-hour walk through this serene garden, where you’ll spot the former home of the Bloedels, straight from a fairy tale, and the gorgeously groomed Japanese Garden. Dress warmly and participate in Bloedel's Winter of Wonder—meandering along the reserve’s illuminated trails.
Kids Discovery Museum hosts the Holidays at KiDiMu in December. Ditch the ice for sock skating and special winter and holiday-themed STEM activities from November 25 to January 1. Back by popular demand, ring in the new year by joining the KiDiMu Noon Year’s Eve Party from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Dec. 31. Don your finest and bring your tinies for a pre-2023 confetti and countdown soiree.
While on Bainbridge, visit book and record stores like Eagle Harbor Book Co. and Backstreet Beat as well as specialty stores like Dana’s Showhouse and the popular Calico Toy Shoppe. Wind down at Eagle Harbor Wine Co. at their winery (tastings available by appointment) or hop over to Bainbridge Brewing Alehouse. Winslow Way is a smorgasbord of indie shops, so pop in and support local during this season.
Where to Stay
Stay at The Marshall Suites, named after the juicy Marshall strawberries that used to cover the island. It’s perfectly placed near chic, walkable Winslow Way. The large, comfy suites are family-ready and the staff is very welcoming. As always, guests get 10% off at partner restaurants including the kiddo-tested Plate & Pint directly across the road.
Find out more: visitbainbridge.com
British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia is bigger than California, but Seattleites are ready for the challenge. It’s been some time since Washingtonians have been able to hop the border and enjoy some snow-filled, Canuck-style fun and there are wonderful winter wows awaiting families throughout the province. For the adventurous group head to Northern BC from November through March for a chance to see the aurora borealis and drive on parts of the historic Alaska Highway. Fancy a downhill shred? BC’s 13 major ski resorts are waiting along with snowshoeing routes, cross-country ski tracks, and trails for wintery walks. Tofino is known for surfing and in the winter its storm watching is truly epic. Haida Gwaii islands are a special place where kids can learn about the local culture and the people who have been stewards of the place since time immemorial. Engage with locals and explore the Haida Heritage Centre and Haida Gwaii Museum.
If your group loves food booths, entertainment, and mingling with merrymakers than check out these festivals and book your trip accordingly. The Rossland Winter Carnival January 27–29, 2023 is Canada’s longest running winter carnival. Learn to luge, sip a beverage at an ice palace, and watch the signature bobsled race. The High On Ice Winter Festival February 17-20, 2023 in Fort St. John boasts intricate ice carvings, winter sports (hello, hockey), and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Wine country calls. Okanagan’s oldest community hosts hundreds of events at the Vernon Winter Carnival February 3-12, 2023. Sip and taste, join a guided snowshoe tour, or have an aerial view from one of the many brightly-colored hot air balloons that float in the sky during the festival. For something brag-worthy, head to the Cariboo region for the annual Sled Dog Mail Run from February 24-26, 2023. These competing sled dog teams become official Canada Post mail carriers during the race. How cool is that?
Where to Stay
The SilverStar Mountain Resort is the hub for the Okanagan region’s winter entertainment. Skiiing, skating, tubing, dining, a spa, fireworks shows, snowcat tours, night skiing, comedy shows, and too much more to list are on the calendar. In Vancouver, stay at the coveted Fairmont Waterfront, a luxury hotel with children-specific perks like kids’ robes, babysitting services (advanced notice required), plus 5 year olds and younger eat for free off the kids menu. Granville Island Hotel is conveniently located on Granville Island surrounded by parks, and the colorful Aquabus provides fun transfers to downtown, Stanley Park, and Science World.
Find out more: hellobc.com
Consider a mystical and moody winter escape. The stormy waters off the coast of the Pacific Northwest have been called the Graveyard of the Pacific, and Ilwaco’s lighthouses still brave the night and fog to keep sailors safe. Ilwaco is rich in seafood, friendly locals, and untamed natural beauty along with fantasies of adventure on the high seas. The subtle charm of this harbor town draws visitors in and allows families to have quiet together time, while still having plenty to do. Stroll the waterway and check out the quaint shops. Start with an espresso and a sweet treat of baked goodness at Ilwaco Bakery & Cafe.
Time Enough Books is a well-stocked indie gift and bookstore, RiversZen fitness offers yoga (psst…Peggy can tailor private sessions for most ages), Don Nesbitt Art Gallery has lovely souvenirs, and Sportsmen’s Cannery II offers excellent canned Pacific albacore tuna, smoked oysters and more.
Take a picnic to Cape Disappointment, weather permitting. It’s one of the most impressive state parks in Washington. The site overlooks the confluence of the world’s largest ocean and the West’s largest river. Walk in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, see an installation, and gaze upon the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast. From there, active families can hike trails to another lighthouse, or bring bikes and ride the Discovery Trail. We recommend bundling up to watch the sunsets by the interpretive center. You just might see a bald eagle swoop overhead while the sun plunges into the Pacific. When the storm clouds roll in, head to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum. Both have hands-on displays and activities to engage young ones and oldsters alike.
Where to Stay
Stay at the Salt Hotel & Pub. Salt is delicious and offers little tummies grilled cheese and chicken strips while adults sip on craft cocktails. Adrift Hotel slightly further afield has a wonderful heated pool, beach views, and fabulous service. If your family happens to be 18-plus we can’t say enough about At The Helm, a boutique hotel with incredible food right on the marina of Ilwaco. Cue the New England setting and romantic movie score as soon as you check in.
Find out more: visitlongbeachpeninsula.com
Is it Suncadia or Snow-cadia? This family-favorite resort is a top spot for winter sports, and it’s just a short drive from Seattle. In fact, Suncadia has so many activities and fun there is no way a group can do it all. If you’re up to the challenge…better start checking off that list now. Rent a snowmobile or cross-country skis and hit the blustery trails. Nelson Farm is where you’ll find winter axe throwing for budding lumberjacks, winter archery, winter tie-dye classes, and more snow than your little city dwellers will know what to do with. It’s also the place to wow your kiddos when they see the elk herds passing through. For more traditional winter wonderland adventures Suncadia offers skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and sleigh rides. December hosts Santa’s Workshop with more arts and crafts than at the North Pole, and the Intro to Winter Fly Fishing class is one of a plethora of unique outdoor experiences.
Where to Stay
Stay at The Lodge at Suncadia or rent a condo or home. For a quieter experience, couples stay at the charming Inn at Suncadia. Dine with a view of the Cascades from Portals Restaurant or of the golf course from The Stovehouse. For an escape from your escape, visit the nearby City of Roslyn, a cute village with shops and restaurants.
Find out more: suncadiaresort.com
The iconic Mt. Rainier peeks out from behind the clouds on a few occasions to awe and inspire this region. Our area’s unofficial mascot, this mountain is more than just a pretty face. Winter is surprisingly great time to hit the National Park and Crystal Mountain’s ski slopes to take in the full majesty of the park and peaks. But wait, there’s more. Dine at the Summit House, Washington’s highest restaurant at 6872 feet, with fresh PNW ingredients and flavor plus a stunning view of Mt. Rainier. Cross-country skiing, elk feeding, horseback riding, sledding, snowshoe dinner tours and Mt. Rainier Winter Scenic Gondola rides round out your snow-filled weekend escape.
Where to Stay
Bring your gaggle of gigglers to the pet-friendly Alta Crystal Resort. The closest accommodation to the Sunrise entrance, this resort is ready for your group to frolic and explore. We recommend the spacious lofts with two private sleeping areas for families, or the cabins with a private hot tub on their deck. Evening bonfires with s’mores, free movie rentals, pool and hot tub, and a huge meadow for building snow people and igloos are all on the agenda at Alta Crystal Resort.
Find out more: altacrystalresort.com
Bellingham bursts with beauty—water views, food, beer, friendly locals, plus the main part of town is easily accessible and filled with shopping and sights. To get a taste of the town’s rich and colorful past we recommend taking a walking tour with The Good Time Girls. Kids love the enthusiastic costumed guides and their enthralling stories. Take a self-guided history tour, or embark on a Whatcom County Culture Crawl, a family-friendly adventure that promotes the region’s art and cultural venues. What’s new? Tweens and Teens will love the all ages music/art venue downtown called The Blue Room.
Stroll and peruse downtown Fairhaven where you’ll find Village Books, a fantastic general bookstore with a huge kids section, and the Old Independent Coffee House, a local legend. The new Farm to Table Trail pass is available and a fabulous way to savor and sip throughout the region. With 14 breweries for just 90,000 people, Bellingham has become a beer mecca. Boundary Bay was the first, and families can enjoy relaxed outdoor seating with individual fire pits that truly warm the entire table. Bellingham is for foodies, too. Whether you enjoy vegan food, have someone who is gluten-free, or just want a good deal, Bellingham has you covered.
Insider Tip: We recommend coming in or out of Bellingham by the Chuckanut Drive scenic byway for gorgeous, winding ocean views.
Where to Stay
Dine or stay at lovely The Chrysalis Inn & Spa, with views of the bay and easy access to Taylor Dock, the walking-on-water trail which connects Fairhaven to the Bellingham Farmer’s Market area, two miles north. A notable side trip? Washington's iconic Mt. Baker is a small and accessible ski resort with powder stats that make snow-lovers swoon.
Find out more: bellingham.org
Want a Western-style winter escape? Grab the little cow pokes and head to Winthrop for a snowy rodeo. The whole town is straight out of the movie, High Noon. Wooden sidewalks, saloon-style entrances, and old-timey fun make this destination unique. First stop: Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe for the small fry sweet tooth. Enjoy a scoop of ice cream or suck on old-fashioned candy. Locals love coffee and cinnamon rolls at Rocking Horse Bakery or a greasy spoon breakfast at Three Fingers Jack Saloon. Peruse the town, Trails End bookstore is a must. Then eat at Old Schoolhouse Brewery by the river or at the renowned East 20 Pizza. Afterwards, go ice skating at the Winthrop Ice Rink. The NHL regulation ice hosts a variety of events—like free skate, figure skating, and hockey—and the 6,000-square-foot changing room has rentals, hot showers, and even ping pong tables.
Where to Stay
Stay at Sun Mountain Lodge, the largest cross-country skiing resort in the country, with 60 kilometers of meticulously groomed trails just outside your resort room door. Their ski shop is open and there is snow. The Methow Valley Trails are groomed, and many are already open. Strap on those skinny skis (rentals available on-site) and get out there. After the snow angels are made, grab some hot cocoa and plan the day. Choose from snowshoeing, sledding, on-site sleigh rides, Alti Hok (a cool import from Northwest China), and downhill skiing at Loup Loup Ski Bowl. Don’t forget to check for Sun Mountain Lodge’s game room where you’ll find ping pong, foosball, and pool tables for indoor amusement. For an in-town experience, hunker down in a cozy cabin at Rivers Edge Resort.
Find out more: winthropwashington.com
Sleigh bells ring, are you listenin’? Leavenworth should be on every Seattle family’s winter travel list, with not one, but three different sleigh ride offerings. Leavenworth dazzles with half a million lights that will be turned on nightly through December 24th. Aptly named Christmastown, the village houses a Nutcracker Museum, themed gift stores, a gingerbread house exhibition, carolers, festive outdoor restaurants, and a litany of libations for Littles and their parents. Don’t forget the sweets. New to town, Crepe Café Sisters offers savory and sweet mouth-watering crepes, or celebrate the season with baked yummies at The Gingerbread Factory.
With an average of 89 inches of snow every year, you’re pretty much guaranteed to enjoy the white stuff during your visit. Snow permitting, the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club has a vast array of sports for your amusement, including the only ski jumping facility on the West Coast and the uber popular tubing hill. They also host snowshoeing, sledding, and snow biking. One notable excursion is the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, open year-round. The look on the children’s faces when they see a reindeer for the first time is pure wonder.
Where to Stay
After all the excitement, there is no better place to get your hygge vibe on than Sleeping Lady Resort. Dinner is a delicious seasonal chef’s menu with locally sourced ingredients, or grab quick snacks at O’Grady’s before taking a self-guided art walk around the property, listening to Icicle Creek gurgling nearby. For beds close to the twinkling lights of town, check into Bavarian Lodge or Icicle Village Resort.
Find out more: leavenworth.org
The best time to visit the San Juan Islands is whenever you can get there. This “off-season” destination is a quiet haven for families looking to connect with nature and each other. Hiking, mountain biking, storm watching, warm fireside drinks and games, and the “bustling” Eastsound are all a draw for families visiting the island. After a seaside drive, stop at family-friendly Orcas Island Winery set outdoors by a beautiful barn—it makes for a picturesque sip and savor. Take a hike up Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans, for mind-blowing views. The Madrona Bar & Grill has great fish options, Mijitas Mexican take-out is a delicious win-win for the fam, and Brown Bear Baking is a staple for a quick sweet treat or sandwich. New notable restaurants—Norbu’s in the Orcas Hotel and Monti, a Roman-inspired eatery in downtown Eastsound. Shipbay Inn and Restaurant is family-owned and run, a lovely option for food as well as a place to stay. They have cottage-style rooms with balconies on a bluff with a great view. Shopping highlights include Forest Ceramic Gallery, Wanderlust + Wildhearts, and Island Thyme, although any boutique is sure to please.
Where to Stay
Stay at the Outlook Inn on Orcas Island, overlooking the much-photographed Indian Island. Explore the secret garden in back for ball games and the private lawn deck across the street for sunset and avian viewing. Consider requesting the newer addition cabins across from the main hotel with unparalleled views. Another great option is Doe Bay Resort and Retreat, well-known for its eco-friendly ethos. Guests can partake in guided ecology hikes with general manager River Augenstein. Afterall, it’s never too early to get the kids interested in the environment and the outdoors.
Find out more: visitsanjuans.com
Sun Valley, ID
Olympic athletes, celeb sightings, and chic ski-style all help create of the mystique of Sun Valley. No wonder Seattle families have had a long love affair with this area. The snow-covered mountain provides breathless thrills with 3,400 vertical feet and over 2,000 acres of varied terrain, plus a recent 380-acre skiing expansion on Bald Mountain. The Cold Springs lift has been replaced by an express quad lift. Kids can mix it up with sledding, snowmobiling, ice biking, or cross-country skiing. Consider enrolling them in SnowSports School to improve those skills. Guests enjoy even more varied terrain this season with an additional 79 acres of gladed skiing made possible by the Bald Mountain Stewardship Project, part of the Healthy Forest Initiative.
For equipment rentals look no farther than Ski Butlers, the easiest ski and snowboard rental process in town. The ice skating rink is always a highlight, and afterwards head to Duchin Lounge for an après-ski adult bevvie.
Non-ski adventures abound as well. Try Dark Sky Watching at the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, take a stroll on the Wood River Trail, a 20-plus-mile paved, multi-use, year-round path. The Sun Valley Culinary institute offers year-round culinary classes and experiences for all palates and ages.
Insider Tip: Mark your calendar for February 4, 2023 for the Zion Bank Boulder Mountain Tour, and March 29–April 2, 2023 for the Sun Valley Film Festival. Both are great reasons to visit the area.
Where to Stay
Knob Hill Inn Sun Valley is an oasis within an oasis. Located in the heart of Ketchum, this boutique mini chalet is steps away from shops, dining and art, and Knob Hill Inn’s suites are well designed for families. Chocoholics will love the hotel’s hot cocoa station. Everyone will love the Mediterranean-style hot tub and pool with garage door walls. While you soak in the heat, the kiddos splash in the pool, as fresh air and snow swirl just outside.
Find out more: sunvalley.com
Lake Chelan is summer personified, but it’s during the winter when the heart of the community shows its festive spirit. Events and activities abound, and the crowds are gone. Lake Chelan’s deep, blue water is cradled by a semi-desert climate, hills and vines. This season join the locals for wine tastings, winter lights lit all season long, and the town’s annual Winterfest celebration. Running January 13-22, 2023 your tinies will be in awe as fireworks reflect off of snowy peaks during this celebration. After shopping, dining, and photographing the intricate ice sculptures around town, get your snow vibe on with cross-country skiing at the Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area, tubing at Echo Valley's Family Ski Area, snowmobiling, skiing, and snowboarding, all just a few miles away. When you’re ready to come in from the cold, it’s time to bowl at Chelan Lanes where families will find arcade games, billiards and J’s Lane Eleven restaurant.
Where to Stay
Stay at family-owned and operated since 1901, Campbell’s Resort, with guest rooms and dining right on the shores of the lake. The Lookout, which offers vacation homes for nightly rental, is another easy option for families, especially when you’ve got tots or babies in tow.
Find out more: lakechelan.com