Planning a trip Northwest? We share how to visit the Pacific Northwest with kids including where to go and what to see.
Why visit Pacific Northwest?
The Pacific Northwest is a region of the United States of America and Canada that incorporates southeastern Alaska, British Columbia, the state of Washington, eastern Idaho, and southern Oregon.
Home to roughly 13 million people, the Pacific Northwest is renowned for its rocky Pacific coastline, expansive forests, and excellent fishing. The vast Rocky Mountains, North America’s most extensive mountain range, form the natural eastern border, whereas the Cascade Range runs down the middle of the Pacific Northwest.
Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are the most significant metropolitan areas included in the region, though ample smaller towns and remote villages are well worth a visit. The history, geography, and outdoor activities on offer in the Pacific Northwest make this area an ideal adventure zone for kids of all ages.
Where to stay in the Pacific Northwest with kids
Staying central is ideal when exploring the Pacific Northwest with kids in tow. However, traveling by boat is undoubtedly the ideal way to explore the region. Mooring a boat near Seattle WA, Vancouver, or Victoria makes walking the city sites extremely straightforward.
If you prefer that the family remain on dry land, we recommend that you err on the side of location versus amenities at your choice of accommodation. Cities like Vancouver, Seattle, and Victoria are sprawling, so you don’t want to be spending all of your time stuck in traffic with bickering children.
The Pacific Northwest is teeming with campsites and excellent options for parking a recreational vehicle. However, in the summer months and school holidays, you may be hard-pressed to make a reservation at the last minute, so plan accordingly.
What to do in the Pacific Northwest with kids
If your children are happy, fed, and entertained, then the entire family will enjoy the day. Ensure that the pace and activities are in line with your child’s age and interests. Here are some of the great activities to do with kids in the Pacific Northwest, broken by which city you are in.
Kid-friendly things to do in Vancouver
Did you know that Vancouver’s Stanley Park is 10% larger than Central Park? The National Hockey League’s trophy also carries the famous name of Lord Stanley. Here are some other ways to keep the entire family buy-in British Columbia’s most populous city.
- Zip-around on the SkyTrain
- Granville Island Kids Market
- Science World
- Kitsilano Beach
- Vancouver Aquarium
- Explore Stanley Park
- Go for a walk on the Seawall
- Museum of Vancouver
- Head up to Grouse Mountain
- Dare yourself to cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Capilano Salmon Hatchery
- Go back in time at Fort Langley
Kid-friendly things to do in Victoria
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and is accessible by seaplane, BC ferries from Tsawwassen or The Clipper from America. The city has a notable British charm, with tourists flocking to the Empress Hotel for a traditional English High Tea every afternoon.
Victoria’s Inner Harbor is a delight for kids, especially in the warmer summer months when the area is a hive of activity. Entertaining street buskers, talented artists, and outdoor markets fill the area surrounding the parliament buildings. The view is postcard-perfect, and children will love seeing the boats come in and out and playing eye-spy with sea otters and other critters. Give your kids some pocket money and watch them meticulously calculate their purchases at the Old Tyme Candy Shoppe for an extra special treat.
Here are some additional family-friendly activities in Victoria to keep you busy:
- Royal British Columbia Museum and IMAX
- Gaze at totems at Thunderbird Park
- Take a tour of the Parliament Buildings
- Butchart Gardens
- Victoria Butterfly Gardens
- Craigdarroch Castle
- Walking Victoria’s Inner Harbor
- Seaplane tour
- Whale watching tour
- Victoria Escape Rooms
- Eat a beavertail
- Take a harbor ferry ride
- Check out Fisherman’s Wharf
- The Victoria Bug Zoo
- Miniature World
- Explore Chinatown
- Victoria Horse Carriage Rides
- Shaw Center for the Salish Sea (in Sydney, closer to the ferry terminal)
Kid-friendly things to do on Vancouver Island, BC
Kid-friendly things to do on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
There is so much to see and do in Victoria, but it is well worth touring the rest of Vancouver Island as well. Be sure to pack gumboots and rain jackets and have some travel games handy, but a road trip around Vancouver Island with family is hard to beat. Here are a few of our favorite town in which to stop and things to do, heading north from Victoria:
Duncan, British Columbia
- The Raptors
- ·Duncan Totem Poles
- Hand of Man – Museum of Natural History, Cultural Arts and Conservation
- BC Forest Discovery Center
- Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard
Nanaimo, British Columbia
- Eat a Nanaimo Bar (or a lot!)
- Visit Morrell Nature Sanctuary
- Walk the trails of Pipers Lagoon Park
- Head to the Nanaimo Museum
- Grab a bison burger for lunch at Morning Star Bison Ranch
- Go way back in time at Petroglyph Provincial Park
Comox Valley, British Columbia
- Go seining at Miracle Beach
- Swim at Nymph Falls
- Hike and walk the beach at Goose Spit
- Watch the planes take off at the Airpark
- Ski, snowboard, tube, hike, or mountain bike at Mt. Washington Alpine Resort
- Discover dinosaurs at the Courtenay & District Museum and Paleontology Center
- Learn about the lifecycle of salmon at the Fish Hatchery.
Tofino, British Columbia
- Explore Pacific Rim National Park and Long Beach
- Spend the day searching through tidal pools
- Rent surfboards and take a lesson
- Cathedral Grove
- Whale watching
- Go on a bear-watching tour
- Drive to the Ucluelet Aquarium
- Elk Falls Provincial Park
- Enjoy the Saturday Market (mid-May through mid-October)
Kid-friendly things to do in Seattle
The skyline of Seattle is nearing the iconic fame of New York or London. However, Seattle still has the laidback charm and cool easygoingness that nurtured bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. Here are just a few of Seattle’s attractions that are great to visit with kids:
- The Space Needle
- Pike Place Market
- The Museum of Flight
- Seattle Aquarium
- Ruby Beach
- Powell’s City of Books
- Woodland Park Zoo
Kid-friendly things to do in Portland, Oregon
Did you know that Portland was almost called Boston? It was only down to the luck of a simple coin flip that the name Portland stuck. You can still view the original copper penny at the Oregon Historical Society. Here are a few other fun things to do in Portland with kids:
- Cannon Beach
- Haystack Rock
- Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMS)
- Washington Park
- Oregon Zoo
- World Forestry Center
- Portland Aerial Tram
- Portland Farmers Market
What to pack for a trip to the Pacific Northwest with kids
You can buy pretty much whatever you need at most urban centers in the Pacific Northwest. However, you need to know that the weather in this region can change from bright and sunny to windy and raining and back to sunshine all in a single day. When traveling with kids, it is integral to have the following items packed and accessible:
- Long and short-sleeved shirts
- Fleece zipped sweater
- Baseball cap or sun hat
- Shoes that can get muddy
- Refillable water bottle
- Snack packs
- Tupperware for extra food
- Plastic bags for wet clothes
Watching your children as they search the rocky shores of the Pacific Northwest is a Kodak moment you’ll remember for a lifetime. Kids of all ages are thrilled to explore rock pools filled with starfish and limpets, while the city centers provide fantastic indoor and outdoor adventures. Traveling with children can be a challenging task, but it does not have to be if the right precautions are taken. Hiring a local car service in Portland can help to ensure that everything goes smoothly and that the trip is as stress-free as possible. With a reliable and experienced driver, parents can relax and enjoy the ride while their children are safely taken care of.
- We LOVE this camera for our travel photography.
- For a cheap, easy, and compact camera, we use this to vlog and take photographs.
- We use this travel drone (but make sure to check drone laws in your chosen destination first).
- This is our favorite travel insurance because it covers so many activities and travel situations that could arise on longer trips but also offer year coverage.
What to pack
- No matter where we travel, I always take these trusty hand sanitizers and a mini first aid kit.
- We love these toiletry bags (especially great for smaller bathrooms) and choose a laptop bag like this as our hand luggage.
- We keep our devices charged on long travel days with these lightweight battery packs and bring these worldwide travel adaptors on all our trips.
- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.