Fuel Up for These 11 Late Summer Road Trips

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Summer is flying by and before you know it, you’ll be gearing up for the back-to-school grind. Before that happens, why not make the most of these last hot, sunny days by planning an end of summer road trip. Whether it’s a last-minute weekend excursion to the mountains or an extended trip to a seaside town, there are many family destinations—within a few hours drive or less of the city—just waiting to be explored. So gas up the family roadster, scroll down and get ready to plan one last hurrah!

photo: Kristina Moy

Super easy to get to (assuming there isn't any major construction on Snoqualmie Pass), the city of Cle Elum offers lots of outdoor family fun including hikingbikinghorseback riding and water activities on Lake Cle Elum where you can rent boats, jet skis and more. The city of Rosyln (remember the TV show Northern Exposure?) is a great place to explore with kids and to grab a meal at The World Famous Brick SalonRoslyn Cafe or Roslyn Village Pizza.

Stay atSuncadia Resort, A Destination Hotel for a posh experience yet casual, kid-friendly and a bit adventurous. Families visiting Suncadia can enjoy golfing, biking, hiking trails and horseback riding as well as fab hotel amenities. Kids will love the ice cream socials in the lobby, s'mores around the campfire and the brand-new pool and Backyard BBQs at Suncadia's Nelson Farm. And everyone in your crew will love the Suncadia Club Swim & Fitness Center (with two indoor water slides, an indoor pool and a ginormous outdoor pool with poolside service) as well as the fine and casual dining options, outdoor amphitheater and spa services. Check Suncadia’s website for special end-of-summer packages.

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photo: Kristina Moy

If you’re looking for a road trip with options (like ferries vs. bridges), Hood Canal is the place to go. Located between the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas, this fantastic family destination will take you less than two-hours to get to (that is…if you don’t encounter road and ferry traffic). If you're planning a weekend visit, consider skipping town a day early and returning on Tuesday (cough, cough). Since you’ll be trading high-rise buildings and busy freeways for sea-creature filled tide flats and beautiful beaches, your kiddos will think they’re in a whole new world in Hood Canal.

Stay at: The totally kid-friendly Alderbrook Resort & Spa. Tucked away towards the south end of the Hood Canal, near a tiny little town called Union, Alderbrook is the true Hood Canal showstopper! Kids of all ages will think the hiking trails at Alderbrook are awesome and will love dining on the patio, roasting s'mores by the campfire, beach combing and playing lawn games near the cottages. Everyone will love the indoor pool with restaurant service (Margaritas poolside, anyone?), the complimentary daily activities, daily cruises aboard the Lady Alderbrookkayaks, boats, SUP boards, paddle boats and more at the marina and the Xbox Game Room. Psst! In addition to hotel rooms, the resort offers spacious cottages (pictured above), perfect for families who are looking to spread out a bit and take advantage of full kitchens.

photo: Kristina Moy

Located just south of Pacific Beach on the Washington coast, Seabrook offers an expansive Pacific Ocean shoreline to play all day. Beyond building sandcastles and splashing in the ocean surf, you’ll find plenty of wide-open spaces to fly a kite or watch others practice with their stunt kites and other wind-powered devices. If seafood is your thing, you can also clam on the beach for razors, depending on the season or take advantage of the rentals at Buck’s Bikes in town. Stop in before you hit the beach for bikes of every shape and size, including trailers for the tykes in tow. Buck’s also rents skimboards and Seabrook is a primo spot to check out this sport with your crew if you haven’t already.

Stay at: A beach cottage. It's the first step in planning your simple end of summer Seabrook vacay. And it couldn’t be easier than filling in filters to narrow the expansive rental options so what you end up with is exactly what you need. Seabrook’s got pet-friendly cottages, cottages with ocean views, cottages with a touch of farm life; and each one has different perks, like bicycles guests can use, hot tubs for soaking or gas grills for a summer BBQ, that make this an oh-so-easy place to stay with kids. Plus, each cottage’s distinct personality, with cheeky names to match like "Tide Together" or "When Pigs Fly," add that homey feel that’s comforting and familiar.

photo: Semiahmoo Resort

Craving a beach experience without the high surf? Consider a trip up North (less than two hours from Seattle, just prior to the Canadian border) to the Semiahmoo and Birch Bay areas. Semiahmoo (pronounced Semi-ah-moo) is located at the tip of a one-mile “spit” of land bordered by Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay with views of White Rock, BC. No roaring ocean surf here; just gentle waves from passing fishing boats lapping at the shore of the rocky beach. When the tide goes out at either Semiahmoo or nearby Birch Bay, you can explore the sand flats for miles. Bring your beach shoes for the rocky part and plan to go barefoot when the tide is low!

In addition to beach walking, shell-finding, clamming-digging, kite-flying and wildlife-watching (bald eagles, seals, and more), Semiahmoo has a paved trail, perfect for biking and walking, that runs the length of the spit (about a mile). The addition of Paddle and Pedal Adventures, which set up shop right next door to the hotel back in ’09, is the place to go if you don't want to haul your own bikes; they can rent you one along with kid trailers and kid-tandems, too. They also rent kayaks and sell an assortment of sand toys. (Hint: This little spot tucked behind the water tower by Semiahmoo Resort has the best sandy beach on the spit…great for sandcastles!). During the summer months, short rides around the bay are offered on a charming, vintage passenger ferry named Plover. Kids get to steer for part of the journey and will become honorary captains—taking home their own certificate. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Birch Bay Waterslides offers fun for all ages with advanced slides and a kiddie area with three tame slides. The nearby Miniature World Family Fun Center has an 18-hole mini golf course, go-karts and a miniature train ride through a quirky “Forest of Imagination.”

Stay atSemiahmoo Resort for an ideal beach weekend. You can literally park your car at the resort and not leave again for the whole stay. The hotel, reminiscent of a New England seaside resort, is welcoming to families. Kids love the outdoor swimming pool and the sprawling beachside lawns are fun for volleyball, croquet, horseshoes and just running around. The hotel offers G & PG-rated family movies along with evening bonfires with s’mores fixings and daily scavenger hunts. Grown-ups will like the fitness center and a fantastic full-service spa. Another option on Semiahmoo spit is to rent a condo at the adjacent Beachwalker Villas and purchase passes to use the hotel's pool and gym Nearby Birch Bay (more boisterous than Semiahmoo and not as self-contained) is home to numerous condo rentals of many vintages. Check out VacationvilleVRBO or even Craigslist for assistance. In Birch Bay, you’ll have to cross the road to get to the beach and will often find people “cruising the strip” in the summer months. Like Semiahmoo, low tides in Birch Bay provide plenty of beach fun.

— Kristina Moy, Allison Ellis, Katie Kavulla & Allison Sutcliffe

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