You know it as a bustling summer destination where families can boat and beach till they’ve had their fill. But it turns out, spring is a surprisingly great time to visit Lake Chelan with your crew. It’s got all the perks without the crowds, and you’ll find plenty of things to do. From wine tastings and river walks, to beach combing and bike trails, here’s how to make the most of a weekend in Chelan.
Spring in Lake Chelan is all about getting outside with the kids, and with fewer people, finding parking and staying socially distant are a breeze.
Playgrounds, Skate Parks & Beaches
Start your day at a Chelan’s one-stop play spot, Don Morse Park. Between the playground, skate park, sandy beach and picnic tables you can settle in for a morning or afternoon play sesh and never get bored. The playground equipment works for kids of any age, and with benches along the perimeter, parents can take a breather and still keep an eye on everyone while they do. The skate park is great for skateboards, scooters and even BMX bikes. Kids can navigate the roller coaster ramps, rails and fun boxes whenever the park is open.
When they’ve had their fill of playground antics, head down to the sandy beach where kids will find interesting rocks and plenty of sandy shoreline for trench digging and sandcastle building. During spring, the water level is significantly lower so you’ll find lots of new beach treasures this time of year. Remember to bring your beach toys and a blanket to this normally crowded summer spot so you can stay a while.
If you need a change of scenery, Lakeside Park on the opposite shore is another sandy spot where families can pitch a sunshade and spend the better part of the day. Beebe Bridge Park, just outside Chelan, boasts plenty of shoreline too. Here you can enjoy the view as you walk along the path and play at the playground when you're done.
Good to know: The mini golf course at Don Morse and nearby Rally Alley Go Karts open later in the spring, around Memorial Day. Sometimes Rally Alley is open over spring break, if the weather’s good.
City Walks & Trails
The normally packed downtown streets of Lake Chelan are thinned out in the spring. Taking a casual stroll on the Riverwalk Loop Trail is always a win with kids. The mile-long paved walkway crosses two bridges and passes by the Riverwalk Pavilion. It’s like it was made for strollers. Kids can watch ducks and see clear down to the bottom of the river as they scoop the loop. If you want to add distance to your journey, continue along the Reach 1 Trail that passes by the dam and eventually becomes a gravel path. All in all these two city trails clock in around three-miles, so be sure to wear your walking shoes, and bring snacks for the tots.
Good to know: If you’re looking for a little more wilderness on your hike, try Echo Ridge. These mostly cross-country ski trails are still snowy in the spring, but depending on when you travel, you may be able to hike the Snowshoe Trail, mostly snow-free. It’s one of the only trails in the park designated for hikers. There’s a $10 day use fee to hike here.
While you’re in town pop into a few shops and turn local outdoor art installations into a scavenger hunt for the kids. Families will find sculptures and colorful murals painted on buildings along the main shopping drag and the alley behind. Stop by the Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center to pick up a map and read about each piece. It’s another easy way to take in the city sights.
Spring is the perfect time to add a winery visit to your weekend itinerary. Local wineries release their new vintages in spring, and tents, firepits and outdoor seating make this activity both pandemic and family friendly.
Put the 2020 Washington Winery of the Year on your to-visit list, and not just because of their great wines. The outdoor seating (you’ll feel like you’re on a patio in Italy) is the big draw for families. Tables line the restaurant in a shady spot overlooking the Koi pond and firepit. Keeping an eye on kiddos (or joining in) as they look for fish, marvel at the waterfalls and gleefully cross bridges is easy to do. Add in food from on-site Sorrento’s Ristorante (they can cook up just about anything your kiddos want) and you’ve got a relaxing afternoon planned.
Insider tip: In April, fish food cups will be available so kids can feed the fish.
Hours: Thurs.-Sat., noon-8 p.m.; Sun.-Weds., noon-5 p.m.
3875 Highway 97A
Lake Chelan Winery
Be sure to visit this Chelan original during your trip. A cute shop, lovely wines and heated outdoor seating (they’ve got blankets to borrow, too) mean you can take it easy with the kids in tow during your spring getaway. Inside you’ll find Lake Chelan Cheese for tasting, a sure hit for kids to nosh on while you pair your choices with a red, white or rosé.
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
3519 Hwy. 150
Right across the street is family-owned Cairdeas Winery. Parents will enjoy the flights, while kids will love the special perks that let them know they’re a welcome addition to the day. Add a kid snack pack or s’mores kit (they’ve got firepits to use) to your purchase to keep the kids happy. They’ll also love the sweet dogs who come over to say "hi." Tented, heated outdoor seating makes this a warm place to park yourself for an hour or so on a spring afternoon.
Hours: Daily, noon-5 p.m., reservations needed
31 Winesap Ave.
If cider is more your speed, book a fire table ($10/75 min., applied to your tab) at this Mason-area orchard, owned by three sisters. Warm up in the late afternoon with a bottle of one of Rootwood’s exciting cider flavors. The new golden russet and rosé flavors taste great on a spring afternoon. While you sip, the kids can play nearby. Limited blankets are available here, so dress for the weather.
Hours: Weds.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m., reservations needed
1731 Totem Pole Rd.
Where to Dine In or Take Out
Chelan’s restaurant scene is slowing coming back to life. Families can dine in, eat outside or grab food to-go from these favorite local spots.
Kave Roaster & Bakery
If a decadent Sunday morning breakfast is one of your family’s vacation pleasures, take advantage of Kave’s Sunday waffles. Ready to go 15 minutes after you order them, they made in-house using organic flours and mixed grains, and one is enough to fill you up. Enjoy it with butter and maple syrup or add seasonal toppings for a special treat. They’ve recently opened for indoor dining, but it’s just as easy to carry these out too.
806 W. Manson Hwy.
Lake Chelan Artisan Bakery
If homemade maple cinnamon rolls, breakfast burritos and freshly brewed cups of coffee make your world go around in the morning, you’ll want to grab breakfast at the Lake Chelan Artisan Bakery. You’ll often find a line outside the door at this popular spot (even in the off season) on weekend mornings, and once you dig into one of their pastries you’ll see why. You’ll find a few tables just outside the door here, or bring your bites to nearby Don Morse Park.
246 W. Manson Hwy.
Local Myth Pizza
Whether you need a quick lunch after completing the Riverwalk Loop, or you want to grab an easy family dinner, Local Myth Pizza has something for everyone. It’s hard to go wrong with a basic pizza for kids, but parents will enjoy the gourmet-style creations that add a little pop to your typical cheese pie, like Chrome or Firecracker pizzas. Add a freshly made salad and you’ve got yourself a meal. Grab yours to-go, dine in or pull up a stool at the outdoor counter. Gluten-free crusts are available.
122 S. Emerson St.
Apple Cup Café
Local favorite Apple Cup Café recently re-opened. Sort of an “everything” café, whatever your crew’s in the mood for, they’re sure to have, including breakfast served all day. From soups and salads, to burgers, baskets and pastas, you can eat your fill and still have some left over with these generous portions.
804 E. Woodin Ave.
Lake Chelan Brewery
Brew food and a reliable kid’s menu is what you’ll find at this area pub that makes feeding your lot easy. Grab lunch or dinner to-go when hunger strikes. Sink your teeth into piled-high burgers, try a specialty sandwich or share an order of loaded poutine. It’s a place where those who love beer and those who don’t can enjoy a meal together.
50 Wapato Way
Stay at The Lookout
When it comes to traveling with kids, it doesn’t get easier (or better) than finding a vacation home that mirrors your own comfy quarters. In Chelan, The Lookout is that place.
Your Home Away From Home
You’ll find this vacation community perched high atop a north shore hillside overlooking the lake. When you rent a cottage here, everything you need is at your fingertips. From the fully stocked kitchens (they’ve got kid’s cups, plates and bowls so you don’t have to bring them) and game cupboard, to the gaming consoles and WiFi that lets you work and play remotely, you can settle in for a quick weekend or a longer stay without packing too much from home. In some cottages families will find high chairs, pack ‘n’ plays and other baby basics.
While each vacation home has its own personality, many share basic amenities that truly make your stay. A private hot tub on the deck is standard at these homes, and grills, outdoor dining sets and fire pits are also common perks. The same is true of oversized porches where you can sit with the kids and watch the sunset. Cottages sleep anywhere from four (in a two-bedroom) to more than 10 people (the largest home has six bedrooms). Sort through pet-friendly options and houses with masters on the main as you look for the just-right place for your fam.
Places to Play
Venture out beyond your rental oasis to take advantage of the community’s many activities and amenities. You’ll find a playground next to the sports court (remember to bring your own equipment), and more than one grassy field that’s perfect for playing Frisbee, soccer or catch. If you're curious about bocce ball, give it a try on the neighborhood court. With very little traffic in the area, it’s easy for families to pull out scooters and bikes to safely explore. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the mountain bike track just off Bighorn Way.
Pools & Beaches
Even in spring, when the temps push beyond 65 degrees, your kids will want to take to the water. It’s easy to do just that at The Lookout with two outdoor pools (the Vineyard pool is open year-round). If your kiddos prefer a beach with their water play, head down to Beach Cove, The Lookout’s private stretch. It’s got a safe swim area for kids, and it’s where you’ll find water sports rentals during the peak season.
Good to know: Contactless check-in is just one more perk of renting at The Lookout. Everything you need to access your home is sent via text or email; no in-person anything!
101 Jackrabbit Ln.
Spring events to look forward to:
Spring Fling, March 27, 2021
Manson Apple Blossom Festival, May 7 & 8, 2021
Wine & Jazz Festival, May 20-23, 2021
Cruisin’ Classic Car Festival, Jun. 4 & 5, 2021
—Allison Sutcliffe (all photos courtesy the writer, unless noted)
A portion of this trip was paid for by the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.