At the Seattle Aquarium, kids tickle starfish — Photo courtesy Seattle Aquarium
Explore the saltier side of Seattle down on the waterfront. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, on Pier 54, is as wacky as it gets with carnival-like oddities, including shrunken heads, a two-headed lamb, and his-and-hers mummies named Sylvia and Sylvester. Wander next door for lunch at Ivar’s, where you can grab an outdoor table and fi ght the seagulls over a basket of classic fish and chips.
Nearby, visit the living sea creatures at the Seattle Aquarium. Kids can stroke a starfish and tickle a sea anemone at the interactive tide pool, then proceed to Pier 57 to ride the oldfashioned carousel and play arcade games. Finally, head outside to the Great Wheel—a 175-foot-tall Ferris wheel with 42 fully enclosed gondolas—to take in the views.
Located on the Olympic Peninsula, Dungeness Spit is one of the longest natural spits in the world. Hike 10 miles round-trip to the New Dungeness Lighthouse for the full experience. If you have more than one day, reward your tween’s hiking prowess and become the coolest parent—like, ever—with a Twilight tour of Forks, about 75 miles down the road.
Start your tour on Lopez Island at Lopez Bicycle Works, where you can rent by the hour, day, or week. Cruise to Spencer Spit to see forts built out of driftwood. On Orcas Island, hike, bike, or drive the 2,409 feet to the top of Mount Constitution (p. 70) at Moran State Park. The observation tower looks like a medieval castle. Visit the English and American Camps on San Juan Island for a fun history lesson, and learn how the death of a pig almost triggered a war. Parents will love the views.
Go prehistoric at the Columbia River Gorge, where the spectacular striped cliffs are evidence of lava fl ow millions of years ago. At the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park Interpretive Center, rock hounds can gawk at the displays of petrified wood and crystals. Outside, large sections of petrifi ed trees and petroglyphs invite closer inspection. Don’t miss the gem shop a few hundred yards down the road.
In northeastern Washington give your kids a lesson in hydroelectricity with a visit to the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. This mammoth concrete structure provides more electricity than any other source in the United States— and on summer nights, it hosts one of the world’s most unusually located laser light shows.
For kids who love animal spotting, take a detour to Eatonville’s Northwest Trek, a 725-acre wildlife reserve featuring everything from bison and moose to bears and beavers—and four different zip-line courses.
Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma will thrill kids with native and exotic animals. The Wolf Haven sanctuary in Tenino has more than 40 wolves in residence and offers summer Howl-Ins, when families gather around a campfire and howl along.
And just north of Spokane is Cat Tales Zoological Park and its Zoological Training Center, where visitors can see big cats up close.