Last April we took a road trip to Walla Walla, Washington for a kid-friendly attempt at doing a bit of Wine Weekend. We have been saying for many years that we would love to go to Walla Walla to pick up wine and this year due to our Declaration of More Family Travel we just went ahead and did it. We left on a Saturday and came back Monday afternoon and it was quite a bit of driving but our kids did pretty well.
Our kids are pretty little still and there is not a whole lot to do in Walla Walla so I did a bunch of research and came up with a few frugal family friendly activities as well as made sure to book a hotel with a pool. We had such a great time swimming in the hotel pool (which we had all to ourselves by the way) that booking a hotel with a pool is now a requirement on family vacations. It was really easy to just pop down to the pool for a quick 30 min swim after dinner before heading back to our room for movie night and the swimming tired the kids out enough that they slept very well in strange beds. I highly recommend it!
Our main activity for Sunday morning was hiking the loop around the McNary Wildlife Refuge. The loop is about 2 miles long and includes a bird blind, many interpretive signs and several benches to rest on. There is an environmental education center at the refuge but it was not open when we were there although we did read many of the signs and learn a lot about the wildlife and plants that are in Eastern Washington.
We took a couple of hours to hike the loop around the ponds because we stopped very often to look at the many birds that were there. The kids learned a lot about what birds live in Eastern Washington, what the seasons were and how local farmers were helping feed wildlife in the winter. It was their first time in Eastern Washington so we also talked a lot about how different it was on the other side of the mountains. The little one was probably to small for a lot of this but it is really important to me that my kids appreciate nature from an early age. My parents took us out on hikes and to different areas of Washington when we were kids and I still remember a lot of what they taught us. I am also a firm believer in giving kids full, more “grown up” explanations to any questions kids ask about their world around them whenever possible. We rarely tell our kids they are too young to understand something and I am always surprised at how much they remember months or even years later.
For lunch we went to a BBQ place that Mr. Oscoey wanted to try called Porter’s Real BBQ. The food was really good! We were all hungry from our hike and the kids took a nap when we got back to the hotel. I am strictly gluten-free and was a little bit worried about finding places to eat since it is such a small town but we had pretty good luck. We also went to Red Robin for dinner the evening before and our hotel had free breakfast which included many gluten-free choices (even muffins!) so my worries were pretty unfounded and there was plenty to eat.
We had a swimming lesson that Monday night we had to get back for so on Monday morning we went for a quick early swim and headed back towards Seattle. I wanted to stop at the Ginko Petrified Forest in Vantage on the way back and do a little bit of hiking. Unfortunately the weather was super cold and windy and everyone was tired so we walked around the visitor center a little bit and headed back.
The kids were mildly impressed with the many petrified logs lying around and we tried reading the signs so they would learn at least a little bit but everyone was tired and just wanted to get back in the car since it was so cold. I definitely want to go back when it is warmer out and the visitor center is open. Since Vantage is so close to Seattle it would be an easy day trip to head back out there again and do some hiking. There are some fairly level hikes in the area that I think the kids could do at least part of and next time we head out we will try one.
One of the coolest things about our stop was looking at the Petroglyphs that were all around the visitor center. The kids really liked looking at them and we talked about how they got there and how old they were. Before we head back there we should probably check out some books on petroglyphs from the library or maybe do some online research. I love the idea of learning as much as you can about local history and visiting the places in person makes it so much more real for kids.
We had a great time on our trip to Walla Walla! We definitely need to head back to Eastern Washington again sometime to visit when the season is a little bit different. It might be cool to visit four times a year and create a nature journal or something like that where the kids do drawings and write about what they see. We could then compare it to previous visits and notice how things change with the seasons but I am getting a little bit ahead of myself since only one of them is able to write a little.
What local places have you visited with your family?
I don’t have any affiliations with any of the places listed below, they are just where we ended up visiting and had a great time.
In case you go: