75 Must Have Road Trip Snacks

best road trip snacks for kids
Hitting the road on the Great American Road Trip then you need some snacks. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Great American Road Trip, it’s part of our culture. We yearn to discover our country much like the first explorers.

We pack up the SUV and hit the road nearly every school break. So what’s the best road trip snack for kids?

Road trip snacks are just as important as the map. My kids, 10, 13 and 15, have road trip snack opinions so I take them shopping. That’s when it gets fun. I say yes to most things. Since it’s just for our road trip.

best road trip snacks for kids
Pack the SUV and don’t forget to pack the snack bag. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Best Road Trip Snacks for Kids

I could tell you I pack the most nutrient-rich, organic items that I can find. But Mom needs a break. I want to be the Fun Mom for our road trip. So I’m packing all the fun snacks, just for vacation. We’ll go back on the nutritious wagon when we get home. Promise.

The Classic Road Trip Snacks

  • Beef Jerky
  • Pringles
  • Cheez-Its
  • Moon pie
  • Twizzlers
  • Cracker Jack
  • Corn nuts
  • Slurpees

Road Tripping Protein 

Sometimes I’m in the middle of a desert and there’s not a place to stop for a meal.

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Yogurt. Don’t forget the spoons or get the tubes.
  • Breakfast in a Pouch, a combination of nuts and fruit in a single-serve pouch
  • Flavored almonds, sweet or salty
  • Hummus
  • Nut butter, peanut, almond or cashew
  • Pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

Best Bars for Road Trips

Bars are a must for any car. Stash a few in console compartment, just in case.

  • Protein bars
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal bars
  • Fig Newtons
  • Date Bars

Fruit Snacks for Road Trips 

My kids love their fruit but most fresh fruit doesn’t travel well. It really needs a cooler or to be eaten on the first day.

  • A banana or two. Not too many because they bruise.
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Apples
  • Fresh Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Fruit leather
  • Freeze-dried fruit– Apples and pears seem to be the winners here.
  • Applesauce pouches
  • Yogurt-covered raisins
  • Dried cherries or apricots
  • Bagged fruit snacks

Got the Ultimate List of Road Trips Snacks. Got something for everyone, including the road tripping purists.


A good source of protein and travels well if individually wrapped. Put it in a cooler during the summer.

  • String cheese
  • Babybel
  • Laughing Cow
  • Individually packaged pieces of cheddar or Colby.

Salty Snacks

I stay away from any snacks that will cover my car in cheesy fingerprints.

  • Cracker sandwiches. I get the variety pack to keep everyone happy.
  • Gold Fish. My kids still love these.
  • Pretzels
  • Popped popcorn
  • Chex Mix
  • Bagel chips
  • Potato chips
  • Pita chips

Just for Fun Sweet Treats

  • Cookies, a couple of varieties. I even buy the kind I usually say No to, except chocolate-coated for melty mess reasons.
  • Rice Crispy Treats
  • Graham crackers
  • Gummy anything
  • Animal crackers
  • Marshmallows
  • Trail Mix
  • Muddy Buddies Mix

Road Trip Snack Bag Must Haves 

  • Paper towels
  • Wet wipes
  • Disposable silverware
  • Ziploc bags, quarts and gallon size
  • Clothes pins or Chip Clips
  • Refillable water bottles

Snacks for Mom

I do the majority of the driving on our road trips so I have my own snacks in the front seat since my kids will eat everything within their reach.

  • Sweet and salty nuts
  • Good crackers
  • Edamame
  • Bean Chips, like the SnapPeas Crisps
  • Good Cheese
  • Bottled cold coffee drinks
  • Canned sparkling water
  • Gum
  • Sweet tarts or other really tart candy

I also pack treats that wake up my mouth so I can stay alert. After a few hours on the road I like to chew gum. I have a roll of Sweet Tarts or other candy that’s really tart. I alternate unsweet ice tea or iced coffee and sparkling water.

What About Dad?

Dads want a break from the daily obligations of parenting too. So let him eat junk, just for the trip.

  • Pork Rinds
  • Bugles
  • Pistachios, just give him something for the shells
  • Sunflower seeds, same
  • Gas station hotdog
  • Slim Jim
  • Hot Fries
  • Hostess Cupcakes
  • Twinkies
  • Fried Pies
  • Antacid
best road trip snacks for kids
Grab a reusable bag and pack it full of your favorites. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Tips for Road Trip Snacking

First off, I make it easy and fun. I forget about the cute little containers I saw on Pinterest. Let’s get real for a minute, what am I supposed to do with all those containers on the second day of our trip?

I skip the plastic containers and especially the glass Mason jars. I buy individual serving sizes so I grab all the trash from the back seat when I stop for gas. Don’t think I’m the only one with messy kids.

Then I load everything up in one of my reusable shopping bags. Since it’s soft-sided, I can stash the bag in another place if needed.

Since it’s vacation my kids get what they want, except for chocolate, a giant barrel of cheez balls and Capri Suns. The chocolate and the cheez balls for obvious messy reasons.

Let me tell you a story from the summer of 2010, a Capri Sun gunfight broke out in the backseat of my Toyota 4 Runner. I didn’t know that my boys could turn drink pouches into sticky sweet weapons. They did and they had a great time. Now Capri Suns are permanently banned from my SUV.

The snack bag is another passenger and has its own spot in the the back seat. My 15-year-old daughter is in charge of the snack bag in route. As the driver I need to stay focused on driving. That and I don’t have time for any snack squabbles that break out.

I really have two snack bags. One with the kids and one hidden in the back of the SUV. I use as it as back stock. If if give all the snacks to my kids at once, they would eat everything like a pack of puppies.

Did I miss your favorite? Let me know in the comments.




16 Ways to Apres at Squaw Valley Village with Kids


Enjoy Squaw Valley with kids where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe.
Squaw Valley offers families the place to ski big  plus a village full of family fun. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Squaw Valley–More than a Ski Resort

Taking the entire family skiing requires more than a few lift tickets. Squaw Valley Ski Resort offers a village packed full of fun for everyone on a family ski getaway, not just the skiers.

When I’m planning my family’s annual winter getaway, I look for fun activities for everyone. I want shopping, dining, and winter activities like sledding and skating all within walking distance. I found all that in Squaw Valley’s Village on a recent visit. 

Top Family Fun at Squaw Valley

  • Snow Tubing
  • Mini Snow Mobiles
  • Sledding
  • Indoor rock wall
  • Outdoor trampoline
  • Roasting s’mores
  • Take the aerial tram to High Camp
  • Tour the Olympic Museum
  • Snow shoeing
  • Dog sledding
  • Cross country skiing
  • Shopping
  • Spa treatments
  • Yoga
  • Fireworks on select nights
  • Live music on select nights
  • Horse-drawn sleigh rides on select nights
  • Plus lots of holiday fun during December

What I loved about The Village at Squaw Valley

  • Everything is right in the Village so you don’t have to leave the resort.
  • Even in the busiest time of the year it never felt crowded.

What I wanted from The Village at Squaw Valley

  • A skating rink in the Village.
  • Better labeling in the parking lots since it tends to be a sea of cars.
family fun at Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
I found lots of family fun at Squaw Valley that doesn’t require a lift ticket. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Family Fun without a Lift Ticket

My kids could ski or snowboard everyday but Mom can’t. I need a break after a few days or my legs will fall off or worse.

Sure, my kids would love to explore on their own but I’m not comfortable letting my kids, 10, 13 and 15-years-old run wild on the mountain. So I add a rest day into our family ski getaway.

I might get to sleep in an extra hour but I’ve got to keep the kids moving. And that means heading outdoors for winter family fun.

What to do at Squaw Valley Village with Kids

In a corner of the Squaw Valley Ski Resort, I found the SnoVentures area packed with winter fun. Located next to Squaw Kids, the ski and snowboarding school, SnoVentures offers a day’s worth of fun.

For kids of all ages, snow tubing gives families a fun outlet for competition. Grab a tube and use the covered surface lift for more fun with less work.

A free sledding area, located next to the snow tubing area, offers all-day fun for free if you bring-your-own equipment. Or pick up a sled in Tahoe City, just 10 miles away.

For the kids, mini snowmobiles offer thrills and a taste of the adrenaline sport with just-the-right-size option for kids. Limited to kids 6 to 12.

The Village at Squaw Valley also features an indoor rock wall. Outside I found a Sky Jump Trampoline for the kids.

More than a ski resort, Squaw Valley Village offers family fun off the slopes with outdoor sports along with indoor activities as well. See a full list to plan your winter getaway.

For the winter athlete, the Nordic Center at the Resort of Squaw Creek at Squaw Valley offers 18km of groomed trails, located close by. Winding through the meadows in Squaw Valley offers postcard-perfect scenery.

Too much of a workout for a vacation? Try snow shoeing and pull the kids in a toboggan for fun with the littles.

Families looking for an Arctic-inspired adventure can find it at Squaw Valley. Imagine a team of Alaskan Huskies pulling the family through the snow-covered meadow on a dog sled.

Don’t forget that Squaw Valley offers horse-drawn sleigh rides and live entertainment during December. Santa skies into Squaw too. And remember to try one fo the festive meals for the holiday season.

Squaw Valley’s Aerial Tram

The aerial tram offers spectacular views of Squaw Valley and Lake Tahoe beyond. A scenic ride aboard a large tram car offers a fun outing to High Camp, the terminus for the tram.

With a couple of restaurants at High Camp, take the family on a ride for lunch or dinner. Don’t forget to tour the Olympic Museum. Tickets are required.

Olympic Museum where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Learn a little ski history at the Olympic Museum at Squaw Valley’s High Camp and remember to grab a gold win selfie. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Squaw Valley’s Olympic History

Squaw Valley’s skiing is not the only thing that’s legendary. Their successful 1960 Olympic bid is as legendary as the games themselves.

In 1955 Alex Cushing, the chairman of Squaw Valley, saw a newspaper article announcing Reno as the possible site for the 1960 Olympic Games. He threw his resort in the mix, boasting only a single chairlift and a couple of rope tows at the time.

The place to beat—Innsbruck, Austria, an international favorite.

Against all odds, Cushing secured the vote in France. With the help of the State of California and Walt Disney, the infrastructure grew out of the valley virtually overnight.

Days before the opening, Squaw Valley lacked the snow it needed. Then a fierce snowstorm blew in from the West and dumped the much needed snow.

As if orchestrated by Walt Disney himself, the head of pageantry, the clouds cleared moments before the official the start of the Olympic Games. Moments later Walt Disney released 2,000 doves into the air signaling the start of the 10-day long games.

Be sure to walk through the Olympic Museum at High Camp. My kids loved standing on the Olympic podium.

Indoor Winter Escapes

Need an escape? Sneak out to the Trilogy Spa located in The Village at Squaw Valley. Don’t forget that massages can work out the mountain kinks.

The Wanderlust Yoga Studio, located in The Village, offers drop-in classes.

The Village is packed with shopping and offers more than winter gear. Shop at the Squaw Valley Logo Company or any of the shops featuring home, kids or toy shopping.

The kids can even craft on their winter getaway.

Après-Ski Fun

Every Saturday evening, the Village at Squaw Valley offers live music. Then at 6 p.m., the night sky lights up with fireworks.

Squaw Valley also features a film series selected nights throughout the winter season for free movies at the Olympic Village Lodge.

For adults looking to unwind, the Auld Dubliner Irish Pub draws a crowd along with several other bars in the Village area. 

Rocker Where to take kids Skiing in Lake Tahoe
My kids ate big after a day on the slopes at Rocker in the Squaw Valley Village. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Eat in The Village

The Village at Squaw Valley offers lots of options for families.

During my visit, we ate at Rocker, steps from the lifts. It features a patio to watch the fireworks and a casual environment for families.

My kids dominated a plate of nachos as big as the state of California. With a little kids’ menu, big kid pleasing hamburgers, a choice of farm fresh salads, the whole table left full and happy.

Snacks for kids where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
We love crepes and I found lots of tasty treats across Squaw Valley Ski Resort for families. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For snacking during the day, I stopped by the Euro Snack trailer for savory and sweet crepes. Of course, I ran into Starbucks for coffee and hot chocolate. I also found pizza, sushi and grill options.

For the Skiers and Snowboarders

Squaw Valley Ski Resort is more than a ski resort, it’s a bucket list destination and an international favorite for over 50 years. And it was recently voted Best Ski Resort in North America by the readers of USA Today.

Any day on the mountain can’t be beat, and a day at Squaw is epic. It’s more than the world-class runs, it’s a the feeling seeps in and takes hold. It’s the kind a day that you remember for decades.

Family Skiing at Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Heading up the First Venture lift right after we get to the SnoVentures area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Squaw Valley by-the-Numbers

Base Elevation: 6,200 ft. Summit Elevation: 9,050 ft.
Vertical Drop: 2,850 ft. Skiable Acres: 3,600
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 25%
Blue 45%
Black 30%
Total Named Runs: 170
Lifts: 29 total:

1 aerial tram, 1 funitel, 1 high speed 6-pack, 3 high-speed quads, 1 quad, 9 triples, 3 doubles and 5 surface lifts

Squaw Valley Ski School

Squaw Valley offers programs divided by age. For the youngest skiers, ages 3 to 4 (potty-trained kids only), the Pioneers program focuses on fun with first time, full-day and half-day programs available.

For the 5 to 7-year-olds, kids can choose from skiing or snowboarding. The Explorers Ski and Grommets Snowboard Program is for more active kids and broken down by ability–green, blue or black-level runs.

Kids 8 to 13-years-old explore the mountain trying lots of runs along side similarly-skilled kids. The Mountaineers Ski and Jibbers Snowboard program will be on the snow the majority of the day.

All kids’ programs (ages 3 to 13) feature an afternoon first time package. Teen group lessons are available though they meet in the adult lesson area.

Is it Your First Family Ski Trip?

What do you need to pack for family ski trip? I’ve been there and pulled together a list to help you out.

Need some advice on picking a ski school for your kids? I’ve got some tips for families to find the best program. 

More Lake Tahoe Fun for Families

Looking for more places to discover in Lake Tahoe? Got a couple of my favorite spots to share.

Mt Rose Meadows for sledding 

Spooner Lake for sledding 

Granlibakken Tahoe  

Northstar Ski

Mt Rose Ski Tahoe 

Then discover a quaint town to spend an afternoon, like Tahoe City.

Where’s Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Squaw Valley Ski Resort is located at 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, California. Squaw Valley is 12 miles south of Truckee, California, along California Highway 89. Tahoe City, California, a quaint mountain town on the western shores of Lake Tahoe is 10 miles away.

If flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) to visit Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley is 48 miles from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) via Interstate 80.

Parking Available

General Parking Free
Premier Parking $20
Valet Garage Parking $30 or $40 holiday


My family was hosted by Squaw Valley Ski Resort though I have skied at Squaw Valley for years.

Know Before You Go

  • Pack a bag of marshmallows and a couple of roasting sticks, I found several fire pits, perfect for an après-ski
  • Squaw Valley Ski Resort’s partner resort, Alpine Meadows is a short complimentary shuttle ride away.
  • Before heading out check out road conditions at NVroads.com for tire chain requirements. I use Nevada’s website for the Lake Tahoe region since it’s easier to use on a mobile device than California’s website.







9 Things To Do in Tahoe City with Kids this Winter

Watson Cabin, Where to go in Tahoe City with Kids.
Walk by the Watson Cabin along the shores of Lake Tahoe. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

What to do in Tahoe City with Kids

A day on the mountain can’t be beat, but Mom needs a break after a couple of days. That’s why I plan a day to sled and ice skate with the kids. Tahoe City offers 9 activities perfect for families that scream fun like sledding, ice skating and snowshoeing, all within walking distance. Then answer the question, what to do in Tahoe City with kids.

Tops for Sledding Granlibakken Tahoe

Granlibakken features the fastest sled hill in Lake Tahoe
My 12-year-old needs a sturdy ride and Granlibakken features MH sleds.

Nestled in the evergreens, Granlibakken Tahoe offers lodging and a small ski operation, although my kids love their crazy fast sledding hill. For nearly half what other ski resorts charge for an hour of snow tubing, Granlibakken offers a full day of sledding fun.

For $16 per person ($17 during holidays), kids get unlimited rides down their monitored hill and a saucer sled for the day. Kids can climb Granlibakken’s hill over and over, racing each other and even Mom.

Tahoe City where to sled at Lake Tahoe
My kids discuss strategy as they figure out how to beat Mom down the hill. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After a few sledding runs, time for s’mores! The ski hut at Granlibakken sells s’mores packages with enough chocolate, grahams, and marshmallows for a family of four to toast at the fire pit. Or bring your own in your snack bag. The ski hut also features hot drinks, soups and Mexican favorites in an authentic log cabin with a pot belly stove.

Find Granlibakken Tahoe at 725 Granlibakken Road. It features a small ski hill with a rope tow and inexpensive lift tickets ($30 – $35 per person for a full day).

Tahoe City Winter Sports Park

First on my kids list, the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park, to ice skate. All the winter sports activities are conveniently located next to each other and rental equipment is available.

Go ice skating in Tahoe City
Take the kids ice skating in Tahoe City. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker


Tahoe City features an ice rink with jamming tunes and festive lights, perfect for kids of all ages. Located in the center of town (251 North Lake Blvd), this rink offers families a place to strap on their skates for some outdoor fun.

We laced up our skates and hit the ice under a canopy of twinkling lights. My kids grabbed the seals that beginners use to push around the ice for confidence and stability.

Rental skates are available or bring your own. Admission for skaters and tables for non-skaters.


For outdoor enthusiasts, Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers 4 km of groomed trails. Meander through a meadow in the center of Tahoe City enjoying the sights and scents of the season.

The Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers ski rental. And trail passes required.

Tip: Teens enjoy cross-country skiing though not suited for the youngest kids.


Looking for more outdoor kid fun? Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers a small sledding hill steps away from the ice skating rink. Admission based on age.


Snowshoeing requires no new skills, just strap on snowshoes and walk with a couple of poles. I found a snowshoe loop that’s dog-friendly at the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park. Grab a toboggan and pull the littles for family fun.

Special shoes aren’t required and the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers snowshoe rental.  I just strap them to my snow boots. Admission for the snowshoe loop pass.


Tip: Want to do it all? Buy a Sports Park All Day Fun Pass.


Tahoe City where to sled at Lake Tahoe
I sampled the mac-and-cheese along with the fries at Cafe Zenon after skating for a while in Tahoe City. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After a couple of hours on the ice, we needed to eat. Steps away from the ice rink at Tahoe City Winter Sport Park I found Café Zenon. With a large menu of upscale comfort food offerings, I found entrees that satisfied my palate and the kids.

The mac-and-cheese is not just for the kids. Adults can order it with pride. The chicken tenders with fries are cheat-worthy. Don’t tell the kids! But the fries are really frites–yummy.

Café Zenon offers a full bar with inventive and signature cocktails. For the kids, order a hot chocolate.


See a Movie, what to do in Tahoe City with Kids
Baby it’s cold outside so grab a seat and see a movie. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Evening comes early in the winter so escape to the movies. Sit in the cozy couch seating or rock away in a leather seat, the Tahoe Art Haus Cinema shows latest blockbusters.

As Lake Tahoe’s only cinema draft house, order a local draft beer or coffee drink. Don’t miss the popcorn spice bar and I found hotdogs and cheese pizza too.


Visit the Playground, What to do in Tahoe City with Kids.
Kids have lots of choices at the Commons Beach playground. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

If the snow isn’t too deep then let the kids play along one of most picturesque walking paths at Lake Tahoe. The Common Beach Park features open spaces for running, a walking path and a playground.

The divided path offers a lane for cyclists and walkers along with interpretive signs. My kids found playground gold at Commons Beach Park. Even my 14-year-old scrambled over the climbing wall.

Since I found plenty of seating, a few picnic tables and a restroom located next to the playground, families congregate here year-round. Even the little kids have a separate play structure. Free

Along the shore of Lake Tahoe, the quaint hamlet of Tahoe City offers families winter fun, minutes from the area's best ski resorts.

Where to Shop in Tahoe City 

Quaint, locally owned shops line the streets of Tahoe City. As a bonus, you can walk between all the shopping in Tahoe City.

Skiing and Sledding Near Tahoe City

Enjoy Squaw Valley with kids where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe offers families the place to ski big with lots of family friendly runs and terrain parks. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Lake Tahoe offers world-class skiing for families, including some of the best ski schools around. And Tahoe City is minutes from several top resorts.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort offers families Olympic skiing and history with lots of mountaintop green runs served by a large gondola.

Northstar Ski Resort offers families a luxury ski getaway with a premier kids learning center.

Diamond Peak Ski Resort has been a locals favorite for years.

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe boasts lots of green runs just for kids along in the Enchanted Forest.

Then I’ve got a couple of FREE sledding hills nearby too.

Tahoe Meadows

Spooner Summit

First Time Skiing? 

Need help packing for a family ski getaway. I’ve pulled together a list of must haves for the whole family. 

Finding the perfect resort for your family requires research. I’ve got a list of the features I look for in a family friendly ski resort.


My family was hosted for part of our visit to Tahoe City. Consideration for locations listed.

Know Before You Go:

  • The ice rink is open everyday throughout the winter season though check after a heavy snowfall when snow removal temporarily closes the rink.
  • Outdoor ice skating rinks have faster ice than indoor rinks. Bring a helmet for kids learning since falls are common.
  • Park at the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park and walk to the park, movie theatre and shopping.
  • Before heading out check out road conditions at NVroads.com for tire chain requirements. I use Nevada’s website for the Lake Tahoe region since it’s easier to use on a mobile device than California’s website.













12 Haunted Cave Tours to Get Your Brood in the Mood this October

Take a Haunted cave tour.
Take your crew to a haunted cave this season for bone shivering scares. Photo Credit: Pixaby

Need a real scare this season? I’ve got 12 haunted cave tours across the U.S. to get your brood in the mood this October.

What about clumsily climbing through a cave so dark you close your eyes to get away from the suffocating darkness. How about knowing a thousand tiny, blind bats hang inches above your head with only an old-fashioned lantern to protect you?

Your skin crawling? Do you feel the goosebumps as a mysterious breeze crawls through a cave without wind? Have a facial twitch you can’t explain?

How about watching the lights of your EMF only to hear a researcher whisper, I haven’t see that phenomenon before.

Grand Canyon Caverns in Arizona

Take a hour tour outfitted with a lantern and a K2 an EMF meter to register disturbances in the electromagnetic field.


Every day in October at 6 p.m.

Located at mile marker 115 along Route 66, that’s 63 miles northeast of Kingman, Arizona. Admission for adults is $22.95 and kids 6 to 12 is $16.95 with kids under 6 enter for free.

Cave of the Winds in Colorado

Take an adventurous lantern tour of Manitou Gran Caverns while listening to ghost stories with a little history thrown in.


Every day in October at 11:00 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

Located at 100 Cave of the Winds Rd., Manitou Springs, that’s miles 8 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Explore a haunted cave this October.
Lights are optional on haunted cave tours, most use lanterns. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Spook Cave in Iowa

Take a tour with a Halloweeny name, Spook Cave. After the cave tour, kids can trick-or-treat.


Every day 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Trick-or-Treating Friday October 20, Saturday, October 21, Sunday, October 22 and Saturday, October 28 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. only.

Located at 13299 Spook Cave Rd. McGregor, Iowa that’s 110 miles from Madison, Wisconsin.

Wabasha Street Caves in Minnesota

Would you let a lost soul guide your candlelit tour? Take an hour tour and hear the stories of the Lost Souls. Two different tours offered.


Lost Souls Tours on Sundays October 8, October 15, October 22 and October 29 at 12:30 p.m. Admission is $10 per person, cash only.

Spirited History Cave Tour on Mondays, October 16, October 23 and October 30 at 4:00 p.m. Admission is $8 per person, cash only.

Located at 215 Wabasha Street South, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Your crew over the neighborhood haunted house? How about clumsily climbing through a cave so dark you can't remember if your eyes are open? What if the cave was full of bats? And a legendary ghost. Check out my list of 12 Haunted Cave Tours through the U.S.

Lockport Cave in Lockport, New York

Take an hour-and-half candlelit tour while walking along the Erie Canel then touring the Lockport Cave.


Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21 at 7:00, 7:20 and 7:40 p.m.

Every day from Wednesday, October 25 to Tuesday, October 31 at 7:00, 7:20 and 7:40 p.m.

Tour starts at 5 Gooding St. in Lockport, that’s about 30 miles northeast from Buffalo, New York. Admission is $17.50 per person and kids must be 8 years to take tour.

Lewisburg Haunted Cave in Ohio

Who wants to tour a limestone cave 80 feet below ground with 30,000 live bats?


Fridays: October 6,  October 13, October 20,  and October 27 from 7:00 p.m. to Midnight.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21, and October 28 from 7:00 p.m. to Midnight.

Located at 4392 Swisher Mill Road, Lewisburg, that’s 25 miles west of Dayton, Ohio. Admission Adults $17 and Children 10 and under $8.

Crystal Cave Park in Pennsylvania

Take lantern tour with guides dressed in Victorian clothing as they recount the hauntings in the 1800s.


Fridays: October 13,  October 20, and October 27 at 6:00 p.m.

Saturdays: October 14, Saturday, October 21, and October 28 at 5:30 p.m.

Located at 963 Crystal Cave Road, Kutztown, that’s 65 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Admission for Adults is $20 and kids 8 to 11 is $12. Not recommended for children under 8.

Haunted Cave tours across the U.S.
With haunted caves from across the U.S. find a tour near you. Photo Credit: Pixaby

Lincoln Caverns in Pennsylvania

Take the kids on a haunted cavern tour followed by a haunted hayride.


Fridays: October 6, October 13, October 20, and October 27 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21, and October 28 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Located at 7703 William Penn, Huntingdon, that’s 95 miles west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Admission $22.98 for adults and $13.98 for kids.

Appalachian Caverns in Tennessee

Take a haunted Halloween tour of the Appalachian Caverns.


Fridays: October 6, October 13, October 20 and October 27 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21 and October 28 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Located at 420 Cave Hill Road, Blountville, that’s about 100 miles from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee

A cave so haunted it terrorized generations of locals. One man even died.


Fridays: October 20 and October 27 from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Saturdays: October 7 and October 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 21 and October 28 from noon to midnight.

Sundays: October 8 and October 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 22 and October 29 from noon to 6 p.m.

Located at 430 Keysburg Road, Adams, that’s 42 miles north of Nashville, Tennessee. Admission $12 per person. No Children under 2, under 18 must have parental consent.

Cave of the Mounds in Wisconsin

Take a tour through a candlelit cave while trick-or-treating for gemstones. A family-friendly cave tour where costumes are encouraged.


Thursday, October 26 and Friday, October 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday, October 28 and Sunday, October 29 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Located at 2975 Cave of the Mounds Rd, Blue Mounds, that’s 25 miles west of Madison, Wisconsin. Admission for adults $17.95 Children 4 to 12 $9.95 and children under 3 free.

Ledge View Nature Center in Wisconsin

A family-friendly candlelight cave tour, packed with fun and facts.


Friday, October 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 21 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Located at W2348 Short Road, Chilton, that’s 76 miles north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Admission: $8 for adults and $6 for 17 and under, minimum age 5.






Zoom into Zion for Family Fun in Utah

Explore Zion National Park with kids
Take a hike over the Virgin River when you explore Zion National Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Standing in the shadow of the Court of the Patriarchs, the Navajo Sandstone peaks mesmerize me. As I hike through Zion National Park, it dominates my senses with its bold rock formations. Looking over the edge of the bridge, I realize the tame-looking Virgin River carved and molded it all.

The summer monsoon season shapes and erodes the rock. An afternoon storm turns a tickle of water into a torrent of debris and rushing water that shapes Zion’s landscape.

See goats while exploring Zion National Park with kids.
The goats of Zion National Park frolic alongside the road. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Zion is a part of the Grand Staircase, a geologic survey where over 500 million years can be studied in rock layers. The Grand Canyon represents the bottom layer, Zion represents the middle layer and Bryce Canyon National Park represents the top layer.

Zion National Park Must-Dos

Don’t have a ton of time? I explored Zion National Park with kids in just a few hours. Visit the following if limited on time.

Checkerboard Mesa

Just inside of the eastern entrance along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, the Checkerboard Mesa offers an example of stone fracturing and Zion’s ancient sand dunes.

 Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel

Drive through the Mt Carmel Tunnel when touring Zion National Park with kids.
Catching a photo from the windows of the Mt. Carmel Window is part of the fun. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel is a favorite with kids, unless your kiddo is afraid of the dark. As a one-mile long tunnel with several windows bored through the walls, I wish I could stop the car to savor the beauty framed by the tunnel’s windows.

Enter or Exit through the East Entrance of Zion National Park along Zion Mount Carmel Highway to drive through the Zion Mount Carmel Tunnel.

The Watchmen and West Temple

At the southern entrance, the Watchmen and West Temple offer inspiring peaks close to the Zion Human History Museum.

The Zion Lodge

The historic Zion Lodge offers a lunch break and a couple of family-friendly trails. I hiked the Emerald Pools Trail. Located right across the bridge and the Virgin River, it’s a 1.2-mile round trip hike with a paved, mostly flat trail.

The Grotto Trail, a 1.0-mile round trip hike, ends at the hanging gardens. And can be combined with the Emerald Pools Trail for a longer hike for kids up for more hiking.

The Temple of Sinawava

Take the Riverside Walk, a 2.2-mile round trip trail that’s accessible with assistance, along the Virgin River. An option for families with older kids looking for longer hikes. Take this trail to reach The Narrows, the all-day, strenuous hike along the Virgin River.

Zion National Park Family Fun

Hiking is on my kids, 13, 12 and 8, must-do list for every park we explore as a family. I choose popular trails less that two miles long for my 8-year old.

Hike in Zion National Park with kids.
Hike the Lower Emerald Pools Trail for a desert oasis and a waterfall. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Lower Emerald Pool Trail offers families with school-age kids a semi-shaded 1.2-mile paved round-trip trail to a 100-foot water fall. The trail slips under the rim and the water tumbles down from above.

Tilting my head up, a drop of the waterfall lands on my cheek as I absorb my surroundings. The indigo sky draws my eyes upward while the red sandstone walls radiates warmth and the emerald moss clinging to rock fills me with a sense of vitality. Only a hike under a waterfall can transform a moment into a memory.

Explore the rock formations when exploring Zion National Park with kids.
The sandstone rock formations come in all sizes. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For families with strollers, try the Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop. I found an accessible 2.2-mile roundtrip trail from the Virgin River to the Narrows.

To explore Zion National Park at a slower pace, try a guided scenic tour aboard a bus to see all the photo-worthy sights and maybe some of the Zion’s mountain goats too. Afternoon tours depart from Zion Lodge, three times a week.

For the adventurous families, Zion National Park offers guided horseback rides. With a one-hour and three-hour tour to choose from, families ride in the shadow of the peaks.

Zion National Park with Kids

The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about Zion National Park. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the patches that the Rangers present them after completing their booklets.

Explore Zion National Park with kids.
My kids were fascinated by the windows in the Zion Mt Carmel Tunnel. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For kids who yearn for more, Zion National Park offers a seasonal resource for families. Zion Nature Center (open 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Memorial Day to Labor Day) offers families a chance to play games, look at exhibits and read books. Located north of the South Campground, it’s minutes from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.

Zion National Park offers the Junior Paleontologist Program as well.

Cool Facts about  Zion National Park

It all began as a windswept desert 180-million-years ago. Time slowly compressed the sand into the Navajo Sandstone that rises up 2000 feet today. With the reoccurring floods of the region, water sculpted the canyon with the eye of an artist.

Archaeologists excavated evidence of human existence from 7,000-years ago. The Ancestral Puebloans cultivated corn and squash in the area.

Explore Zion National Park in half a day with five must-dos during your trip. Got all the details to plan a trip with kids.


The Mormons settled in Utah during the 1850s and Isaac Behunin named the area Zion, or Kingdom of Heaven. Though a Methodist minister, Frederick Fisher, named the Three Patriarchs, the Great White Throne, Angels Landing and the Organ rock features and continued with the religious theme.

Zion National Park earned its national park status in 1919. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) constructed the Mount Carmel Tunnel in the 1920s and the switchbacks of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.

Where to Stay in Zion National Park 

Stay in a cabin in Zion National Park
Kids love cabins so reserved a Western Cabin in Zion National Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Inside of the park, Zion Lodge offers a main building that sits on the spot of the original lodge that burned in the 1960s. Modern hotel rooms and historic western cabins from the 1930s flank the lodge building that houses a restaurant, a café, a coffee bar, a gift shop and an outdoor patio.

The cottonwood trees shade the lawn in front of the lodge is a favorite gathering place. Situated next to the Virgin River, guests are steps away from hiking.

Where’s Zion National Park

Zion National Park is located 160 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada, the closest international airport. Springdale, Utah, Zion’s gateway town to the South Entrance, offers services for travelers.

Utah’s Route 9 is the Zion National Park Scenic Byway from the Interstate 15 turnoff. If continuing to Bryce Canyon National Park, exit through Zion Mount Carmel Highway for a stunning drive.

Zion National Park is part of the Grand Staircase and included in many national park itineraries. It’s located 85 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is 122 miles away.

Zion National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a 7-day pass for $30 per private vehicle.

Zion National Park offers a free seasonal shuttle bus (Spring through Fall) that departs from the visitor center stopping all the major destinations along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive like, Canyon Junction, Zion Lodge, The Grotto and Temple of Sinawava.

Know Before You Go: 

  • Temperatures in the summer can reach 100F, carry water at all times. I stop and make my kids toast the mountains so we remember to drink water.
  • Wear a hat and apply the sunscreen.
  • Monsoon season is late June through September where flash flooding can occur with little warning.
  • Consult a Park Ranger before hiking The Narrows Trail to see if flash flooding is predicted.
  • Cell service is weak within the park.

Oregon Goes Boom at Newberry Volcano in Bend

What to do in Bend with kids, walk on a volcano.
Kids love volcanoes so add Newberry National Volcanic Monument to your Oregon road trip. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

What to do in Bend with Kids

In-between Crater Lake and Columbia River Gorge, I found Bend, Oregon, located where the ponderosa pine forest transitions to the high desert. I did a little research and found Bend is a favorite outdoor destination throughout the seasons. Then I found a national park site where my kids could climb a volcano. Sold!

After we arrived in Bend, we spent the day at the Newberry Volcanic National Monument. With two different locations, it features lakes, hot springs, lava flows, a lava cave and a cinder cone in the middle of the Deschutes National Forest.

What to do at the Newberry Volcano

The Newberry National Volcanic Monument is divided into two areas, each with it’s own visitor center with seasonal hours and staffed with U.S. Forest Rangers.

Lava Lands Visitor Center

If limited on time start at the Lava Lands Visitor Center, located at the northern end of the monument closest to Bend. Conveniently located of U.S Route 97. It features a 3-D topographic map and introductory movie.

What to do in Bend with kids, hike to the Newberry Fire lookout.
Hike to the Newberry Fire Lookout when exploring the volcano. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During our visit, we hopped the shuttle bus ($2 per person, round trip) to the top of Lava Butte, a 500-foot tall cinder cone volcano. A must-do for the family, we hiked up to the Lava Butte Lookout, an historic and active U.S. Forest Service fire lookout since 1913.

Staffed by an official fire lookout that scans the forest for tiny columns of smoke before they turn into raging infernos. During our visit, a volunteer Forest Ranger told us about the eruption 7,000 years ago that formed the butte and its crater. On the way back to the shuttle bus stop, we hiked the easy .25-mile hike along the Lava Butte Rim.

Climb a Volcano with your kids when you explore Oregon. Got all the family fun in the outdoors conveniently located between major destinations.

If visiting the Newberry National Volcanic Monument during the summer season (May 1 to Labor Day), explore the Lava River Cave, Oregon’s longest lava tube. An unguided tour that descends 55 steps into an unlit one-mile long cavity created by a massive lava flow.

Lava River Cave requires a 2-mile roundtrip hike and you must carry two light sources. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the season. A ranger-led tour starts at 3 p.m. and reservations are made day of the tour.

Newberry Caldera

Located in a historic Forest Service guard station, Paulina Visitor Center is at the southern end of the monument, off Paulina Lake Road or County Road 21. During the summer season a forest ranger hands out maps and Junior Forest Ranger booklets. Staffed weekends only during the spring and fall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and during the summer most days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

What to do in Bend with kids, visit Paulina Cabin.
Stop off at Paulina Cabin for more information when you visit. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During our visit, we hiked to the Big Obsidian Flow, a 1-mile loop moderate trail with a 500-foot elevation gain. The obsidian, or Black Glass, was formed 1,300 years ago and is the youngest lava flow in Oregon. This area has a vault toilet and picnic tables along with seasonal (summer) interpretive rangers.

Another hike for families, and especially waterfall-loving Moms, is the Paulina Falls trail. A .25-mile easy trail leads to an 80-foot twin falls. Both hikes have parking areas.

Within the the Newberry caldera, I found two lakes with hot springs, Paulina Lake and East Lake. Boating is permitted though both lakes have a 10-mph speed limit. Kayaks and paddle boards can be rented nearby.

What to do in Bend with kids, hike the big obsidian flow.
Hike a big pile of obsidian at Newberry Volcanic National Monument. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Newberry National Volcanic Monument with Kids

Since the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is managed by the United States Forest Service, kids can earn a Junior Forest Ranger badge. Pick up a booklet at the Lava Lands Visitor Center or the Paulina Visitor Center. The booklet focuses on activities for kids 7 to 12, though I always help my younger kids.

The Junior Forest Ranger badge is rather painless, with a few easy to complete activities. Most kids (my two boys 8 and 12 did it with no real complaints) should finish it under an hour. It doesn’t require attending a ranger program but kids have to interview a ranger.

Cool Facts about Newberry 

Located on the eastern edge of the Cascade mountain range and known for its volcanic activity, the Newberry Caldera is a 1,200 square mile volcano. About the size of Rhode Island, the Newberry Caldera is still active with seismic and geothermal activity. Ordinarily kids would snooze through this but mention seismic anything when standing next to a volcano and they start to listen.

The Newberry Caldera is thought to be 500,000 years old when the top layer of the earth collapsed and formed the crater. Subsequent eruptions formed cinder cones and lava flows.

Named after John Newberry, who explored the area in 1855 for the Pacific Railroad, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument was dedicated in 1990. Astronauts trained at Newberry during NASA’s Apollo program.

Where to Stay in Bend

I found lots of options in dining, lodging and camping in Bend. During my visit, I stayed at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes ($$-$$$), located at 3075 N. Business 97 in Bend.

Stay at Riverhouse on the Deschutes and what to do in Bend with kids.
During our visit we stayed at Riverhouse on the Deschutes. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Riverhouse on the Deschutes offers the ultimate base. The newly renovated rooms feature sophisticated, modern details with a convenient location perfect for family travelers. Centrally located, the Riverhouse on the Deschutes offers quick access to enjoy Bend’s outdoor adventures.

I found six campgrounds in the Deschutes National Forest, some of the sites are reservable.

Where’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Located 95 miles east from Crater Lake National Park and 140 miles south from Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Lava Lands Visitor Center is 12 miles south of Bend, Oregon. During my visit, I stayed in Bend, with the largest selection of lodging and dining in central Oregon.

Newberry National Volcanic is open year-round though the visitor centers are open seasonally from May 1 to October 31. The monument requires admission, use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a day use pass for $5 per vehicle, good at all designated parking lots.

Bats and White-Nose Syndrome

If you plan on exploring Lava River Cave, the lava tube, you will be asked if you have visited a cave, like Oregon Caves National Monument in southern Oregon. You can not wear any clothing, including shoes, that’s been in another cave due to White-Nose Syndrome.

White-Nose Syndrome kills hibernating bat colonies across the U.S. and Canada. A fungus that thrives in low temperatures and high humidity that’s killed 6 million bats since it’s discovery in 2006. Since the fungus can survive in the soil for years, rangers forbid visitors from entering the cave with the same clothing or shoes from another cave.

Know Before You Go:

  • Wear appropriate shoes for hiking on the lava flows, like hiking or athletic shoes. I slipped a couple of times even with hiking sandals.
  • The lava flows offer little in shade. Wear a hat, light-colored clothing and bring plenty of water if hiking in the summer.
  • The shuttle bus to the top of Lava Butte takes exact change only and kids under 2 ride for free.
  • Kids under 6 earn a Smokey Bear pin by completing the Smokey’s Helper Booklet.


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Discover Utah’s Bryce Canyon to Share Fun and Adventure

Discover Utah's Bryce Canyon with kids
Discover the pink spires at Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo Credit: National Park Service

Discover Utah’s technicolor show where the delicate pink of a sunrise pops into vermillion red then rusts into a sunset orange. Bryce Canyon National Park offers expansive views at every turn in the trail. The Paunsaugunt Plateau’s dramatic scenery is a hiker’s dream and draws visitors from around the world.

History of Bryce Canyon National Park

What started as an inland sea approximately 40 million years ago until 20 million years ago when the Colorado Plateau began to rise and dry out. Bryce Canyon’s rainbow-colored limestone layers actually represent different eras of time.

Explore the Bryce Canyon River when you explore Bryce Canyon with kids.
Catch the Bryce Canyon River as it snakes through the firs at the bottom of the canyon. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Bryce Canyon is located on the top portion of the Grand Staircase, a sequence of sedimentary rock layers in northern Arizona and southern Utah. It offers a geologic survey of 525 million years displayed in exposed rock. Where Grand Canyon National Park represents the bottom of the Grand Staircase, Zion National Park offers a glimpse of the center.

Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon Pioneer and Bryce Canyon’s namesake, settled in the area and at times seemed obvious to its haunting beauty. Bryce Canyon National Park earned its national park designation in 1928.

What to do in 2 hours

On my first visit, I had limited time so after grabbing a map at the Visitor Center I hopped a complimentary park shuttle. At the Sunrise Point stop, I headed to the Rim Trail, a paved path running next to the edge. To walk from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point is an easy 1.0-mile hike.

NOTE: This path doesn’t feature a fence next to the canyon but is approximately 10 feet off the rim’s edge.

Walk through Bryce Canyon Lodge when you explore Bryce Canyon with kids.
The historic Bryce Canyon Lodge offers guests rooms steps away from the rim of the canyon. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For more adventurous families, the Navajo Trail offers an up-close look at Bryce’s rock formations as the trail takes hikers into Bryce Amphitheater’s slot canyon. It starts at Sunset Point and is a 1.3-mile moderate trail.

I walked over to the Bryce Canyon Lodge to tour the historic park building. Inside I found restrooms along with a large gift shop, a restaurant and a ballroom that hosts ranger programs.

Explore Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park for family fun and adventure. With cabins, hikes and horseback rides, families can make memories together as they discover the pink spires of Utah.

After exploring from Sunrise to Sunset Points, I headed for Inspiration Point. Close but yet another vantage point of the Bryce Amphitheater then boarded the shuttle bus for the roundtrip ride back to the visitor center.

Family Fun in Bryce Canyon National Park

For older kids who love adventure, explore Bryce Canyon by horseback with a one-and-half hour guided tour that takes small groups to Fairy Castle and back. A three-hour tour explores the Peek-a-Boo Loop by horseback as well.

Take a hike when you explore Bryce Canyon with kids.
Kids love to hike and Bryce Canyon National Park offers several family hiking trails. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Bryce Canyon National Park hosts two summer festivals. An Annual Astronomy Festival in June and an Annual Geology Festival in July for visitors looking for specialized programming.

Bryce Canyon National Park features night sky programming. The park’s dark rangers, who specialize in the night sky, host programs to see a world beyond the naked eye.

Outfitted with high-powered telescopes, dark rangers point viewfinders on the Milky Way and nursery nebulae. On full moons, dark sky rangers guide visitors through Bryce Canyon on moonlit hikes.

Bryce Canyon with Kids

The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the patches that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.

Lodging in Bryce Canyon National Park

Stay in a historic cabin when you explore Bryce Canyon with kids.
Reserve a cabin steps from Bryce Canyon’s rim to make memories with your kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For lodging in the park, the rustic Bryce Canyon Lodge offers rooms in the 1925 historic lodge listed on the Register of Historic Places. The Bryce Canyon Lodge features a restaurant, a pizzeria along with lodge rooms and a few suites.

For guests looking for more space, western cabins are located steps from the canyon’s edge and the lodge. They offer rustic elegance in a more private setting.

Where’s Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is located approximately 270 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada, to the south and 270 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah, to the north. Both cities offer international airports.

Bryce Canyon National Park offers a difference landscape and included in national park itineraries. It’s located 85 miles from Zion National Park. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is 158 miles away.

Bryce Canyon National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a 7-day pass for $30 per private vehicle.

Bryce Canyon National Park offers a free seasonal shuttle bus from the visitor center every 15 minutes and stops at the lodge, the campgrounds and Sunset, Bryce, Inspiration and Sunset Points.

Know Before You Go:

  • Bryce Canyon has frequent thunderstorms during Monsoon season, June through August. For your safety, when thunder roars, head indoors.
  • Bryce Canyon doesn’t have a partial fence around the canyon like Grand Canyon. Hike with the kids within arm’s reach.
  • Take it easy at Bryce Canyon, elevations range from 6,600 to 9,100 ft
  • Seasonal road closure can occur during the winter.

Take Your Kids to Prison for Family Fun

Alcatraz with Kids
On a clear day, Alcatraz doesn’t look that creepy but of course looks can be deceiving. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Why would you visit Alcatraz with kids? Well, Alcatraz topped the San Francisco to-do list for my kids, 9, 13 and 14. ALL DAY they asked, when are we going to Alcatraz. Seriously. And it was their favorite national park site of the summer after stopping at most of the national park sites on the West Coast, like Redwoods, Death Valley, Olympic, Mount St. Helens, Oregon Caves, Lassen Volcanic and Mt. Rainier.

A Prison with Kids?

I have boys and my boys are fascinated by prisons, along with a list of other things that most Moms don’t want to talk about. So I decided to tour the prison that defines hard-core prison life.

Explore Alcatraz with kids.
A walk through Alcatraz at twilight defines creepy for me. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

As a kid of the 80s, I’m all about scaring a couple of kids straight.  A walk through Alcatraz at twilight is creepy and borderline scary.But tweens and teens love to walk the line of scary and creepy so it’s perfect for them.

Though it’s not all creepy. The views of downtown San Francisco can’t be beat, really stunning. I booked the evening tour and the ferry ride along with the sunset were top-notch. Though I think we were lucky, remember that San Francisco fog!

Take a ferry to Alcatraz with kids.
On a clear afternoon, the view of downtown San Francisco can’t be beat. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I had to see it for myself. Alcatraz is one of the places you have to visit to understand. Pictures can be haunting but walking through the cell block as the dabbled light casts a ghostly glow is eerie.

Alcatraz–What’s behind the name

Derived from the Spanish word alcatraces, or seabirds, the birds have called the island home for generations. In the 1850s, the island became a military fortress due to its strategic positioning in the San Francisco Bay.

Since the shipping traffic increased from San Francisco after the gold rush, a lighthouse was needed. In 1854 the Alacatraz Island Light became the first lighthouse on the West Coast.

During the Civil War, Alcatraz Island housed 400 soldiers and numerous cannons to protect the port. However, in 1907 the U.S. Army decommissioned Alcatraz.

The island always housed prisoners from the early days as a military fort. And soon after its decommission as a fort, military guards built a cellhouse.

Explore Alcatraz with kids and walk through the cell block.
A few of the cells on the tour feature personal belongings of the prisoners. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

In 1915, Alcatraz was renamed the United States Disciplinary Barracks, Pacific Branch, a military prison. During the Great Depression, Alcatraz transferred from the War Department to the Department of Justice. Soon after, it became a high-profile, maximum-security federal penitentiary.

Home to the worst of the worst, infamous inmates like Al Capone, along with others with nicknames like Creepy, Doc, Machine Gun, and Birdman of Alcatraz were all incarcerated on The Rock. Inmates that caused problems in other prisons, came to Alcatraz too.

Explore Alcatraz with kids during your trip to San Francisco.
Alcatraz offers few windows so the light is dim and spooky. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After the prison closed in 1963, Native Americans occupied the island in effort to claim it for all tribes. Support dwindled and in 1972, Alcatraz became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Explore Alcatraz with Kids

Alcatraz is creepy and eerie in the evening so the younger kids might be frightened by the night tour. My kids, 9, 13 and 14, loved this tour but tweens and teens love to be freaked out a bit. Actually Alcatraz was their favorite national park site from the entire summer.

Explore Alcatraz with Kids when you visit San Francisco.
My kids, 9, 13 and 14, loved this tour because its was equal parts eery and creepy. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Hard to believe, yet kids lived on Alcatraz as prison guards lived on the island and brought their families with them. The kids of Alcatraz played in the gardens and Moms rarely locked their doors.

Stop by the Ranger Station at the dock and pick up a Junior Ranger booklet. Take the tour, finish the booklet and turn it back in to the park ranger for a special badge.

Night Tour

Tour Alcatraz with kids during your trip to San Francisco.
The hospital ward creeps out adults and younger kids might want to skip it. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

We explored Alcatraz during the twilight hours for the Night Tour. A special feature of this tour is the cell house lock-down where a Park Ranger unlocks then locks all the cell doors on the cell block at once. A must if you take the Night Tour.

This tour is especially creepy since the setting sun casts deep shadows throughout the prison. The lighting is limited and the hospital ward is particularly eery in the evening. It might be too scary for younger kids, my 9-year-old decided to skip this portion of the tour.

Lock the kids up when you tour Alcatraz with kids.
Sometimes good kids go bad. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Birds of Alcatraz

The birds came first, though moved on after humans occupied the island in the 1850s. When the prison closed in the 1963, the birds returned to the protected location that lacked natural predators.

The island offers refuge for over 5,000 birds today. The waterbirds include Pigeon Guillemots, Snowy Egrets, Western Gulls, Black-crowned Night-Herons and Brandt’s Cormorants. Some areas of the island may close to protect nesting birds that will abandon their nest if humans come too close.

Is a tour of Alcatraz Prison right for your kids? Find out the best time to visit and what to except for one of the most popular tours in San Francisco.

Birders, remember your binoculars and grab the brochure, Waterbirds of Alcatraz, at the kiosk after disembarking the ferry.

The Gardens of Alcatraz

The gardens that still bloom off the most surprising feature of the former high-security prison. Sprinkled throughout the property, residents first planted the gardens in the late 1800s.

Visit the gardens when you explore Alcatraz with kids.
Gardens sprinkle Alcatraz Island, planted and maintained by former inmates. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

With the help of reclaimed water, green houses and specially-trained inmates, the gardens flourished until 1963, when the prison closed. Over 230 species of ornamental plants still flourish on Alcatraz, including roses, calla lilies, bearded irises, agapanthus and hydrangeas.

Garden lovers, grab the brochure, The Gardens of Alcatraz, at the kiosk after disembarking the ferry for more information.

Get the App!

The National Park Service developed an NPS Golden Gate App, covering Alcatraz Island among other NPS sites around San Francisco. The app includes an interactive map, hidden stories and up-to-date ranger information.

Where to eat at Alcatraz

Got hungry kids? The Landing at Alcatraz, the ticketing and boarding area off The Embarcadero, offers a cafeteria with options for families along with rain ponchos and souvenirs. Food service is not available on Alcatraz Island.

Picnics are allowed near the docks when you disembark the ferry. Only bottled water is permitted on the tour.

Getting to Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay and reached by ferry only. The Alcatraz Ferry Terminal is located at Pier 33 on The Embarcadero.

Parking is an issue while visiting Downtown San Francisco. During my trip, I used public transportation and left my car at my hotel.

Alcatraz Cruises 2017 Tickets

Ages Day Tours Night Tour
Adult 18 to 61 37.25 44.25
Senior 62 + 35.25 41.25
Junior 12 to 17 37.25 43.25
Child 5 to 11 23.00 26.50
Toddler 0 to 4 Free Free
Family Pack 2 Adults + 2 Kids 112.75 Not Available


The Behind-the-Scenes Tour is 4 to 5 hours long and not available for kids under 12-years-old.

More Information about Alcatraz and San Francisco:

If you need more information about Alcatraz or San Francisco with kids, I recommend the Lonely Planet Guides, like the following.



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Know Before You Go:

  • Tickets go on sale 90 days in advance.
  • Parking is an issue for San Francisco. I used public transportation during my visit.
  • Alcatraz Island, or ‘The Rock”, is hilly and requires climbing. Motorized transportation is limited.
  • Luggage larger than a standard backpack is not allowed.
  • Photo ID required for the purchaser of the tickets.
  • Give yourself at least 2-and-a-half hours for the tour.
  • Bring a jacket and rain gear since the weather is unpredictable.
  • Make reservations for this popular tour months in advance, especially for the evening tour.
  • In Mid-August flies that hatch from the bird colonies and swarm.
  • The Self-Guided booklet, Discover Alcatraz – A Tour of the Rock, costs $1.
  • The cost of the tour includes an audio tour headset.


Discover a Land of Destruction at Mount St. Helens


Explore Mount St. Helens with kids.
Explore Mount St. Helens with kids to learn about the 1980 eruption that blew off a mountaintop. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Mount St. Helens, once a recreational playground for Washington, until one quiet Sunday morning in 1980 when the snowcapped mountain vaporized. A mudslide decimated a forest and a crater remained where a peak once stood. A scar in the landscape recovers and a trip to Mount St. Helens with kids is a must for your Washington road trip.

What happened at Mount St. Helens 

In 1792 British explorer Captain George Vancouver officially named Mount St. Helens after Baron St. Helens, an ambassador. Though the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and Yakama Nation’s name translates into the smoker, suggesting a history of volcanic activity.

Explore Mount St. Helens with kids while in Washington.
A one-mile wide crater dominates the landscape at Mount St. Helens. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

On March 20, 1980, a 4.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Mount St. Helens and jumpstarted the volcanic activity. The next week, steam started to vent. Volcanologists flew in from around the world to watch Mount St. Helens from every vantage point. By the end of April, a bulge appeared on the north side of the mountain.

After weeks intense monitoring, Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, in a fury that geologists compared to Mount Vesuvius. Another earthquake, a 5.1-magnitude, melted the snowpack into a violent mudslide and pulverized the top of the stratovolcano into a cloud of black ash.

Explore Mount St. Helens with kids and learn about the 1980 eruption.
During our visit, we attended a ranger program to learn about the fateful day in May 1980. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For the next 9 hours, a plume of ash soared 12 to 16 miles into the atmosphere that turned day into night. The eruption generated 3.9 million cubic yards of material, like ash, pumice, trees and boulders, that rushed 17 miles downstream.

In all, the eruption of Mount St. Helens killed 57 people. In its wrath, it destroyed 47 bridges, 15 miles of railroad, 185 miles of highway and 250 homes. It was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in U.S. history.

Explore Washington's Mount St. Helens with your kids to learn about the 1980 eruption along with the continued volcanic activity that rocks the area. Top of your adventure with a stay in a cozy off-the-grid cabin to ignite the imagination of your kids.

After the eruption, Mount St. Helens went from a 9,677-foot snow-capped peak to a 8,363-foot mountain with a one-mile wide, horseshoe-shaped crater. Since the 1980 eruption, Mount St. Helens continues to rumble, with intermittent episodes of venting steam and erupting lava domes. The majority of the area is closed to visitors so scientists can continue to monitor the volcanic activity.

What to do in 3 hours at Mount St. Helens 

Drive to the Johnston Ridge Observatory’s visitor center, at the end of State Route 504 (Spirit Lake Highway) and walk through the exhibits detailing the eruption. Watch one of the dramatic films and attend a ranger program, if available. Our program offered amazing historic photos of the eruption.

Explore Mount St. Helens with kids.
Take a hike and see how the landscape recovers at Mount St. Helens. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Kids need to move so we hiked the Eruption Trail, a .5-mile trail from the Visitor Center. See the lava dome and the crater along with a pumice plain and landslide deposit. If time permits, stop at the Loowit Viewpoint, just west of the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Mount St. Helens with Kids

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is a must for school-age kids with geologic exhibits and live seismographs. The visitor center offers two different films, perfect for school-age kids. Though the movies might be intense for preschoolers and too loud for babies.

Explore Mount St. Helens with kids during your vacation to Washington.
My kids earned a Junior Ranger badge during our visit to Mount St. Helens with special Junior Ranger programming. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During our visit to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, my kids attended a Junior Ranger program that explained the eruption in a way a kid could understand. The program took less than an hour and parents are welcome to stay or explore the monument on their own.

Family Fun at Mount St. Helens 

Due to the delicate nature of the recovering landscape and the continued seismic activity, I found limited recreational activities at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument’s Johnston Ridge Observatory. Visit other nearby locations.

  • Coldwater Lake Recreation Area offers a picnic area, an interpretive trail and a boat launch.
  • Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake is a Washington State Park that offers exhibits on the 1980 eruption. Located 6 miles from Castle Rock along State Route 504, it’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer season.
  • Try the eastside or southside of Mount St. Helens for more recreational activities, like Lava Canyon, Ape Cave or Spirit Lake viewpoints.
  • Eco Park Resorts offers horseback tours, the closest to Mount St. Helens, that ride through the blast zone.

Camping near Mount St. Helens 

For my visit to Mount St. Helens, I decided to stay as close as possible. At Eco Park Resort, just 25 miles west from the Johnston Ridge Observatory, I found several cozy, off-the-grid cabins along with tent and RV camping that unplugged my kids and recharged my spirit.

Visit Mount St. Helens with kids and stay in a nearby cabin.
We stayed in an off-the-grid cabin, minutes from the Johnston Visitor Center. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

With a flicker of the gas-powered lights, my kids, 9, 13 and 14, and I settled in for the night under our cozy patchwork quilts. Set in a pristine landscape in the shadow of Mount St. Helens, it’s hard to believe the destruction that happened here 37 years ago.

Our cabin featured a pair of bunk beds that’s my boys fought over (in a good way) and a full-sized bed, each dressed with a cozy quilts for the brisk Washington nights. Since the cabins lack electricity, two gas-powered, wall-mounted lamps lighted our cabin. The flickering glow ignited my boys’ pioneering imaginations.

Explore Mount St. Helens with kids and stay in a cozy cabin.
Inside our cabin, I found a pair of bunk beds along with a full-size bed, dressed with cozy quilts. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Inside our cabin, I found a table with four chairs, perfect for games after dinner. The long counter on one side of the cabin offered amble space for organizing camping equipment.

Outside our cabin, I made dinner on my gas camp stove, while my daughter swung on the cabin’s back porch swing. As we looked across the grassy meadow, we saw the first flickers of the nightly fire in Eco Park’s fire pit while my boys played in the late summer sun.

Explore Mount St. Helens with kids and stay at a cabin.
Steps from our cabin, the newly renovated bathroom had lots of hot water with a locking door and a flushing toilet. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The owners of Eco Park Resort, Dawn and Mark Smith, offer their personal experiences of the day that Mount St. Helens erupted. The Smith family resort, Spirit Lake Lodge fell victim to 500-feet of ash that day. As the land recovered, the Smith family returned and opened Eco Park Resort in 1995 at 14000 Spirit Lake Highway.

Where’s Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is located 52 miles east of Castle Rock, Washington, along State Route 504 (Spirit Lake Highway). It’s located 110 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon, and 150 miles southeast of Seattle, Washington.

Both cities offer international airports. The closest towns with traveler’s services are Castle Rock or Kelso, both along Interstate 5. Public transportation is not available to the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area offers a scenic drive, just 165 miles away. Astoria and the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks offers more national park fun, 120 miles west.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is open 7 days a week from mid-May until the end of October, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase an adult admission for $8 per person, kids 15 and under enter for free.

Know Before You Go: 

  • Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument’s Johnston Ridge Observatory is closed from the end of October until mid-May.
  • Mount St. Helens includes levels of restricted areas for the safety and protection of the recovering landscape.
  • Pets, bikes and horses are prohibited to protect the recovering landscape. Though a few bike trails are open.
  • Camping is prohibited at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
  • Eco Park Resort is open from May until November and reservations are required.
  • Bring a battery-operated lantern for your stay at Eco Park Resort for additional lighting in the cabin and making after-dark runs to the potty.
  • Individual ground fires aren’t allowed at Eco Park Resort, though they light a fire pit that guests can enjoy. Remember the marshmallows!
  • Due to the remote location, Wi-Fi is not available at Eco Park Resort, though I had reliable cell service.
  • Since the cabin is off-grid, no electrical outlets are available in the cabin. Remember to charge the phone before arriving.
  • The cabins are heated though I didn’t turn of the heat for my stay.
  • The hot water is on a timer and the bathrooms contain showers only. The doors lock and if you have little kids, I recommend staying with them.

Explore like a Kid in the Columbia River Gorge

Explore Timberline Lodge when you visit Columbia River Gorge with kids.
The Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood is one of Oregon’s seven natural wonders and a quick drive from the Columbia River Gorge. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Oregon boasts seven natural wonders, like Crater Lake and the Oregon Coast. Two of those destinations lie within miles of each other, a few hours from Portland.

Topping my list of scenic drives, the Columbia River Gorge protects over 80 river along Interstate 84. Along the majestic river, I found unbelievable waterfalls steps from the road. And what can be better than fresh fruit from the miles of Oregon orchards along the Fruit Loop.

Mount Hood stands tall as a beacon in northern Oregon. It offers season-to-season skiing and boarding along with the historic Timberline Lodge for national park lodge lovers.

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Discover the Columbia River Gorge with Kids.
Climb high above the river to see how mighty the Columbia River is. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The ice age 15,000 years ago created the Columbia River Gorge with its distinctive V-shape. With uncontrolled flooding and seasons of freeze-and-thaw, the Columbia River Gorge features a high concentration of waterfalls to the delight of waterfall chasers, like me.

The Native Americans used the Columbia River for transportation and trade, using wooden canoes to navigate the untamed river. In 1805 Lewis and Clark’s Expedition explored along the Columbia on their way to the Pacific.

Explore Fort Clatsop with kids and earn a Junior Ranger badge.
Explore Lewis and Clark sites in Oregon and Washington to earn a Junior Ranger patch. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Army Corps of Engineers tamed the Columbia River falls in 1957 when it constructed the Bonneville Dam and The Dalles Dam. In 1986, Congress established the Columbia River Gorge as a national scenic area. 

Family Fun along the Columbia River

The Dalles

I started in The Dalles on the eastern edge the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Up first, the official interpretive center at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum where my kids, 9, 13 and 14, went to work on the museum’s scavenger hunts learning about the pioneers and Lewis and Clark.

The Columbia River Gorge tops my list for family fun in the Pacific Northwest. With something for everyone, my family found outdoor sports for every season, waterfalls, fields of fruit and flowers along with local shops and restaurants. Got all the details to plan your trip.

During our visit, we learned about the Oregon Trail pioneers and the natural resources of the Columbia River. The Lewis and Clark Expedition and Oregon canning industry get equal attention.

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $9, kids from 6 to 16 are $5 and kids 5 and under are free, located at 5000 Discovery Drive.

Explore the Columbia River Gorge with kids.
The Army Corps of Engineers built and operates the dams along the Columbia River. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Since the Army Corps of Engineers tamed the wild Columbia River, we visited The Dalles Lock and Dam. With a visitor center and a Junior Ranger activity booklet, my kids learned about the importance of dams, water safety and how fish use fish ladders.

Free and open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Tour the dam with scheduled tours on summer weekends. The visitor center is located at 3545 Bret Clodfelter Way.

Hood River with Kids

Just 22 miles west of The Dalles, our next destination offers lots of agritourism. Hood River, bulges with wineries, orchards, farm stands and lavender fields.

Explore the Fruit Loop when you visit the Columbia River Gorge with kids.
Columbia River’s Fruit Loop offers endless fruit stands, like several cherry varieties you can only sample in Oregon. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Fruit Loop starts in Hood River, a town along the Columbia River’s Interstate 84. With over 35 miles of country roads to meander, we spent an afternoon sampling endless fruit stands. Since it was cherry season we sampled every local variety, many too delicate to ship outside of the region.

I adore lavender so a stop at Hood River Lavender Farms (3801 Straight Hill Road) to pick my own lavender bouquets was mandatory. The gift shop offers lavender infused products and the bees seemed friendly.

Pick lavender at the lavender farm when you explore Columbia River Gorge with kids.
Stop and smell the lavender during the summer. I picked several bunches. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Kids love animals so we stopped at Cascade Alpacas and Foothills Yarn and Fiber (4207 Sylvester Drive). With spinning demonstrations, my kids learned how alpaca fur turns into yarn.

Waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge 

The Columbia River Gorge’s waterfalls offer spectacular hikes and envy-worthy photo opportunities. The most well-known waterfall, Multnomah Falls, is just the beginning. As a ribbon of water plummets 620 feet, it’s the second highest year-round waterfall in the U.S.

Visit Multnomah Falls when you explore the Columbia River Gorge with kids.
Multnomah Falls is a must, if the parking lot is full, come back in the late afternoon. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Located at exit 31, the U.S. Forest Service Rangers hand out Columbia River Gorge Junior Ranger booklets for the kids and award niffy patches at the visitor center. I walked through Multnomah Falls Lodge next to the falls, with a regionally-inspired menu along with a separate bar. Restrooms, a snack bar and a gift shop offer the necessities.

Hike to the Benson Bridge, a .25-mile hike from the visitor center, an option for most visitors. Or take the 1.2-mile hike to the top of the falls, don’t forget the water bottle.

Explore the waterfalls when you visit Columbia River Gorge with kids.
Latourell Falls offers fewer crowds and a convenient parking lot a few miles from Multnomah Falls. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Don’t skip the other waterfalls along the Columbia River Scenic Highway (Hwy. 30), the crowds diminish and scenery increases.

Latourell Falls, located in Guy W. Talbot State Park, features a 249-foot plunge fall a short hike from the parking lot.

Bridal Veil Falls also requires a short hike, one mile west of exit 28 off Interstate 84. Visitors gaze at the tiered waterfall set in a mossy forest.

Visit Horsetail Falls when you explore Columbia River Gorge with kids.
Horsetail Falls is another waterfall to visit along the Columbia River Gorge. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Wah-kee-na Falls, .5 miles west of Multnomah Falls, translates into most beautiful from the Yakama language. A 242-foot tiered waterfall awaits with a nearby picnic area.

Horsetail Falls, 2.5 miles east of Multnomah Falls, offers a 176-foot waterfall steps from the highway.

Best Places to Watch the Sunset

Might not be the Oregon coast though I found a couple of spots to catch the sunset. Stop by the Vista House at Crown Point, a memorial dedicated to the Oregon pioneers and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1918, it’s perched 733 feet above the Columbia River and the setting sun casts an amber glow in its windows.

Mount Hood stands as a beacon along the Columbia River Gorge, rising up from the evergreen landscape with glaciers and year-round skiing. An easy drive allows families to explore the area, a quick drive from the Columbia River Gorge.

Explore Timberline Lodge when you visit Columbia River Gorge with kids.
The Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood is a historic national park lodge. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

While on Mount Hood, walk through Timberline Lodge. The historic national park lodge is a must lovers of the parkitecture, Timberline Lodge offers its guests rustic elegance. With six sides, the four-story building features a central fireplace, handmade furnishings and wood carvings throughout the lobby.

Lodging along the Columbia River Gorge 

During my visit, I stayed at the Cousins Country Inn in The Dalles. The conveniently located  off Interstate 84, it offers all the necessities a Mom needs, like self-service laundry and a pool for the kids.

With a restaurant located onsite, I appreciated the convenience of home-style meals. My kids couldn’t be over their cinnamon rolls as big as a plate.

Hood River, Oregon, is another option for lodging, located about halfway through the Columbia River Gorge. Close to the western edge of the gorge is Portland, Oregon, with numerous lodging and dining options.

Where’s the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Columbia River Gorge starts 30 miles east of Portland, Oregon, along Interstate 84. Portland offers the closest international airport.

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. The National Park site is a fee-free area.

Interstate 84 runs the length of the scenic area though I recommend exiting and driving the Columbia River Scenic Highway.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is a quick 80 miles north along Interstate 5. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park gives kids a further understanding of the 1805 expedition with numerous sites at the mouth of the Columbia River, 120 miles west. Oregon Caves National Monument and Crater Lake National Park offer more national park sites to explore.

Know Before You Go: 

  • Grab your fresh fruit first before passing it to the back seat. Kids can vacuum pounds of fresh fruit in minutes.
  • Lavender can give some people headaches in high concentrations, like the car ride home.
  • If parking is unavailable at Multnomah Falls, tour nearby Bridal Veil Falls and circle back around.
  • Look out for banana slugs near the waterfalls, slugs the size and color of a banana.

More Information:

I recommend the Moon Guides for more information. I own several and use them to research my trips.


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