Stress-Free in Seattle
Don’t dismiss Seattle as a family reunion because of its rainy reputation. Built on seven hills that slant towards Puget Sound, Seattle is surrounded by bodies of fresh and salt water, mountain ranges and vast forests. The rain not only keeps the landscape lush and healthy, but also cultivates a unique culture that makes the Emerald City an unforgettable reunion destination.
The Space Needle was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair. Located in the Seattle Center and rising to a height of 605 feet, the futuristic tower defines the Seattle skyline and offers the best sightseeing opportunity in the city. SkyCity restaurant at the top rotates one turn every 47 minutes and gives diners unmatched views. If you’re looking for a cheaper sightseeing alternative, take the family up Queen Anne’s Hill to Kerry Park. Like the Space Needle, it provides postcard-like views of the bay, skyline and 14,000-foot, snow-capped Mount Rainier.
The Seattle Center’s Experience Music Project, or EMP, is a modern structure that houses the world’s largest collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia. Though some of the museum is devoted to Hendrix, who was born in Seattle, it also celebrates rock music in general. Create music in the Sound Lab or explore the music glorified throughout the chambers of rock history that make up the EMP. Also in the Seattle Center is the Pacific Science Center, which has hands-on exhibits on dinosaurs and interactive displays of Puget Sound, and the Seattle Children’s Museum.
Discover world-famous Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle on a hill overlooking Elliott Bay. Explore over 400 indoor and outdoor shops and stalls. Allow the symphony of shop owners’ shouted sales pitches, street performers’ music and babbles of conversation to wash over you. Family members who drink coffee will appreciate the first ever Starbucks located in the market. You don’t need to like fish to marvel at the men working for Pike Place Fish. Whenever a fish is purchased, it soars through the air—tossed from its on-ice display to be weighed, wrapped and then lobbed back. Crowds gather to snap pictures of the flying fish, but be more than a spectator and purchase some fish, which can be wrapped so it’s safe for travel. The nearby Seattle Aquarium, with its 120,000-gallon tank full of native marine life is a good option for families with young children. Also embark on one of the many harbor tours of Elliott Bay and Puget Sound, or take a Washington State Ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island.
Reunions Fit for a God at Olympic National Park
Enormous Sitka spruce and Douglas firs dominate the inland coniferous forests while craggy headlands protrude over the coast of the Pacific Ocean on the Olympic Peninsula. The main attraction may be the 922,000 acres of Olympic National Park, but the peninsula also offers a rich heritage waiting to be unearthed.
Described as “three parks in one,” Olympic National Park consists of 875,000 acres of wilderness, 73 miles of coast and 60 glaciers. There are over 600 miles of trails in the park, many of which are extremely difficult, but all of which are undoubtedly rewarding. If your family is not interested in trekking up and down mountains, make the drive up to Hurricane Ridge. With views of expansive meadows, deeply wooded forests, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and glaciered peaks of the Olympic Mountains, Hurricane Ridge has one of the best lookouts in the park. Uncover the gem of Lake Crescent, where the lack of nitrogen in the water limits the growth of algae and makes the lake one of the clearest you will ever see. Boating, fishing, swimming and hiking are all popular activities at Lake Crescent. Nestled between rounded foothills, the vast turquoise lake will highlight your family’s trip.
Authentic Native American heritage accompanies the never-ending wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula. Neah Bay is the most northwestern point of the continental U.S. and home to the Makah Tribe. Visit the Makah Cultural and Research Center, which showcases Makah history and culture, or the Makah Museum, where you will be able to peruse 300-to-500-year-old artifacts. Make sure to take the Cape Flattery trail, which will bring you to the farthest northwestern cliff in the U.S.
Special Sites in Spokane
Planted on the east side of the state, Spokane is the second biggest city in Washington. The Spokane River defines the vibrant city, which boasts a variety of activities that make Spokane family reunions appealing for groups that love the outdoors.
Enjoy Riverfront Park, located on the banks of the Spokane River where a series of rapids crash over Spokane Falls. Highlights include a hand-carved antique carousel built in 1909, the five-story IMAX theater and Spokane Falls Skyride, a gondola ride over Spokane Falls.
The Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture contains exhibits displaying regional history, art and Native American culture. Descend into the five underground galleries that make up the museum to discover why it is a Smithsonian affiliate. Also visit the Mobius Kids Museum, where children will discover Earth’s geographical wonders through interactive exhibits such as Geotopia.
Don’t miss the Northwest’s largest amusement park. Silverwood Theme Park & Boulder Beach Water Park is a Spokane family reunion favorite, featuring over 65 rides and attractions. Tremors, one of the top-rated wooden roller coasters in the country, twists, turns and finally makes a 103-foot drop into a pitch-black tunnel. If you need to cool off, bring the family to Boulder Beach, where parents can relax on the lazy river as kids slip down towering waterslides.
Model Ts and Museums in Tacoma
Mount Rainier’s prominent peak presides as a backdrop for Tacoma family reunions, and at 14,412 feet, its presence accentuates the city’s many family-friendly attractions.
Tacoma is home to the Museum of Glass. Inspired by Tacoma native and world-famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, this contemporary art museum features hundreds of glass pieces. Highlights include the Hot Shop Amphitheater, where visitors can watch artists at work, and three glass reflecting pools that bend the rays of an inconsistent Tacoma sun into a kaleidoscopic array. Take the Chihuly Bridge of Glass from the museum to Union Station. Not actually constructed of glass, the bridge showcases a collection of Dale Chihuly’s work.
LeMay—America’s Car Museum is a popular family attraction. Automobiles from the last century are displayed for their cultural significance, power, speed and individuality; kids will marvel at the Flinstones car imitation and classic car-lovers will relish beauties such as a 1921 Ford Model T. Visit the Washington State History Museum; browse interactive exhibits, replications of Washington’s nature and multimedia storytelling displays.
Point Defiance Park is a 700-acre peninsula with old-growth forests, gardens, picnic areas, a zoo and an aquarium. The miles of trails snaking through forests, past landscaped gardens and along coastlines make this park an excellent place to spend the day with your family. The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is the only combined zoo and aquarium in the Northwest and features animals such as polar bears, sharks and wolves.