Trip Time – 2 of the best days of your life
Essentials – Picnic basket and blanket, beach toys & swim attire, bicycles & helmets, camera, curiosity & thrist for adventure
Washington’s Playground is a great place to take the kids for summer time fun in the sun. The drive along the Highway 2 Corridor past mossy-groves, jagged mountain peaks, massive orchards, and roaring rivers is sure to leave their imaginations wandering and their curiosity in full force. From rugged wilderness and arid plains, to pristine lakes and winding rivers, take a drive through Washington’s Playground to reconnect with Mother Nature and enjoy all that she has to offer. With so much to see and do, planning a multi-day trip is best.
Our journey begins on Highway 2, traveling east over Stevens Pass. As you ride down through the mountains, admire the steep slopes with waterfalls and winding creeks that meander towards the valley floor, surrounded by massive pine forests. Twice, you’ll pass underneath the still-active railroad tracks which carry the Empire Builder passenger train operated by Amtrak. This daily train service carries travelers as far west as Seattle and as far east as Chicago. As you approach the intersection with WA-207 on your left, keep an eye out for 59’er Diner on your right. Make a note of this location; we’ll make a quick stop there shortly.
Just after you pass the 59’er Diner on your right, turn left onto WA-207 at Coles Corner and head to Lake Wenatchee State Park only a 10-minute drive from the intersection. There, you’ll find a picturesque beach with sandy shores that’s perfect for afternoon picnics and play. This is a popular swimming destination in the summer months and offers plenty of sand for even the largest of sandcastle creations. There are several picnic tables and covered seating areas around the beach, as well as swing sets and playgrounds that’ll add even more excitement and smiles.
Once everyone is full of food and lake-time fun, head back down WA-207 to the intersection with Highway 2. Thirsty? Want to satisfy a sweet tooth or two? Turn right on Highway 2 (yes, the way you came) and almost immediately turn left to the 59’er Diner. This local hotspot makes amazing milkshakes the old-fashioned way, and they’re so popular, they sell tens-of-thousands of them every year! Take a few minutes to tour the diner’s lot which includes pens with live chickens where they get their eggs and gardens where they grow their own fresh veggies.
Now, let’s continue our journey down to the valley. Turn right out of the parking lot at the 59’er Diner to continue east on Highway 2 towards Leavenworth. Admire the towering mountain peaks and raging whitewater of the Wenatchee River as you drive through Tumwater Canyon. Keep an eye out for osprey and eagles soaring high above and nesting in the trees along the canyon walls.
As you enter Leavenworth, notice the Bavarian-themed charm that resonates throughout helping to make this one of the most visited tourist destinations in all of Washington State. Watch for the giant suit of armor standing watch outside the Der Ritterhof Hotel on the left, then the resident mountain goats on the right behind the wrought-iron fence just before reaching downtown. Walk around downtown Leavenworth for an afternoon and evening full of live music, arts & crafts, great food & treats, and activities for kids of all ages to enjoy. Leavenworth has festivals that occur almost every weekend throughout the summer. Check the Events Calendar to see what special events and festivals are taking place during your trip. To reconnect with nature, walk or bike down 9th St. to Waterfront Park along the Wenatchee River. From the parking lot, head left a short distance towards Barn’s Beach, or right and follow the trail across a bridge to Blackbird Island. Explore this trail system and learn about the history of Leavenworth’s once-booming lumber industry, the importance part played by the Wenatchee River, and the plants and animals that have come to call this area home.
Leavenworth is a great place to stay the night on your multi-day excursion with numerous hotels, motels, cabins, and camping locations all within short walking or driving distance of downtown. The Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for area information and can even help recommend the best accommodations based on your needs.
When you’re ready to continue your adventure, continue east on Highway 2 for another fun-filled day of spending time outdoors with the kids. As you leave Leavenworth, stop by one of the several small farms or fruit stands to pick up some fresh local fare for snacks. About 10 miles east of Leavenworth, you’ll reach Cashmere. Take the exit on the right towards the Cashmere Historic Museum and Pioneer Village. The museum holds collections of local Native American and Pioneer artifacts including basketry, beadwork, jewelry, hunting, fishing, and mining artifacts, and native food and medicines. Older artifacts from the area include objects that date back 9,000 years including tools, personal items, and art forms like petroglyphs and pictographs. After perusing the museum, walk through the old-fashioned village that consists of 20 original structures brought in from the local area including a one-room schoolhouse, a post office, jail and sheriff’s office, a blacksmith shop, and even a Mine Portal built with original timbers, track, and ore cars. You and the kids will enjoy stepping back in time while learning about life in the pioneer days.
From Cashmere, continue east on Highway 2 which will take you right into the city of Wenatchee, the Apple Capital of the World! Make your way through town to the Pybus Public Market along the mighty Columbia River. Stroll through the market where you’ll find a variety of crafts, gifts, and locally grown and prepared edibles. We suggest fuelling up on food here because the next leg of the trip requires work from both of yours.
Just behind the Pybus Public Market, the Apple Capital Loop Trail takes you over the Columbia River twice and provides amazing views from both sides of the river of the surrounding hillsides and mountains. This 11 mile long loop trail is a paved trail with flat sections and rolling grades and is used by those on two feet or two wheels, non-motorized of course. Once you’re ready, hop on those bikes and let the wind blow through your hair!
Following your bike ride, take time to relax on the soft green grass in the shade along the river. Once rested, hop back in the car for the last stretch of your journey through Washington’s Playground. Last but not least, it’s fun in the sun with a healthy dose of water play thrown in! From Wenatchee, head north towards Lake Chelan on Highway 97. No, you’re not going to another beach, though you’ll want the bathing suits handy. Take this drive time to recharge. Snack on some of those road treats you picked up earlier in the day, the kids are going to need the energy.
The last stop on this epic journey is Slidewaters Water Park, complete with water slides for the little ones and those that will thrill even the most adventurous, a lazy river, tube rides, an aqua zoo, and more. Follow the road signs to the park and don’t worry, even if the kids are tired after all the fun they’ve had already, they’ll perk right up when they see the water slides from the car windows.
We hope you enjoy your vacation and have a better understanding of why this area is called Washington’s Playground. There are many more things to see and do in Washington’s Playground, but this travel itinerary for a two day getaway with the kids is sure to leave them with smiles for days and memories for years. We look forward to seeing you soon in Washington’s Playground!