Puget Sound Park Review- Sunnyside Beach, Steilacoom, WA

Park Reviews

Sunnyside Beach

Sunnyside Beach is located in the small town of Steilacoom off the Puget Sound.  We are so very lucky to live in this locale where we have so much water to play in.

If you’ve never been to Steilacoom, I recommend attending some of their small town celebrations like their Salmon Bake (held at Sunnyside Beach) or their Fourth of July parade and street dance. They have that small town feel where everyone probably knows everyone.   That’s a good thing, right?

Sunnyside Beach

So this park is small and has all the right things, such as:  

  • Sandy beach littered with driftwood
  • Two volleyball nets set up over a large sand covered court (super beachy!)
  • Cool outdoor shower to rinse the saltwater from your body or to remove the sand from your feet
  • Big grassy area with picnic tables and a couple trees to find shade (great for  frisbee games or watergun fights)
  • Small playground with a covered picnic area (think birthday parties or family reunions)
  • Bathrooms (no porta potties!)
  • Two water fountains (the one by the volleyball courts has a spigot near the ground for filling up dog bowls, rinsing off sandy feet or filling up water balloons)
  • Local scuba divers train here (fun to watch)
  • They have the BEST sunsets EVER!
  • The park is open until 10pm!
  • Trains pass by often if you have a train enthusiast

The not so cool things are:

  • Trains pass by often.  Notice this was also on the “pro” list.  This can be very dangerous for little ones, especially if they are prone to running off.  They do have a fence around most of the track, but you do have to cross over it from the parking lot to get to the actual park.  Over the years there have been several deaths (mostly teens and adults) that have been hit by a train…
  • You have to pay to park ($5) unless you are a resident of the town, in which you can then go to the Public Works building and get the hook-up.
  • Gets crowded in the summer

Train by Sunnyside Beach

Quinault Lake Lodge, Quinault, WASHINGTON (3 days/2 nights/Family of 4)- $368

Uncategorized

Quinault Lake Lodge

One of the most beautiful, peaceful and wet locations in Washington state is right here in Quinault.  Quinault is located on the south side of the Olympic Mountains, close to the mountains, the rain forests and even the ocean.  My husband and I came to the Lake Quinault Lodge for our honey moon and a few years later brought our little ones to enjoy the beauty.  Recently, I went with two of my girlfriends and we explored the forests looking for the Worlds Largest Spruce Tree and Bigfoot.  Trips like this don’t have to be expensive.  This is how we did it on a budget!

Where: Lake Quinualt Lodge, Quinault, WA

When: Fall and Winter months

Cost Breakdown: $79/night deal (Check here for current deals!) x2 + $60 for gas + $150 for food = $368 (plus tax) for 3 days, 2 nights for a family of four (or a group of 3 girls!)

Tricks and Tips: To get these awesome deals for the lodge, you should enter in your email here to get those email deals (look at the very top).  Aramark (company that owns some lodges and resorts on the Olympic Mountains) sends out exclusive deals to email subscribers.  This is how we got this super cheap deal to stay for under $100 at the lodge.  In the summer, the average cost of one night is over $200!  For gas, my usual go to is the Safeway gas rewards and the Fred Meyers gas rewards.  You can earn up to $1 off per gallon.  Thats a great savings! Food is dependent on what your family (or gal pals) like to eat and where you shop.  As a rule, I always plan on eating two meals a day that we brought, rather than eating out at the restaurant.  This ensures that we keep our costs low.  My girlfriends and I brought bagels, sandwich meat and snacks.  Bagels were good for breakfast AND for sandwiches later.  If you do decide to eat at the lodge’s restaurant, know that the prices can be a little high.  The french toast for breakfast is amazing, though!

Also, know before you go that there is hardly any cell service.  There was wi-fi but it was very weak and not worth the trouble.

Tips for each type of room:

Main Lodge– No TV’s or telephones.  A bit outdated, but great if you want to stay in the lodge where Roosevelt had lunch in 1937.  Historic and quaint!  My husband and I stayed in a room and found it to be a bit noisy.  You could hear people walking the halls and the walls seemed a bit thin.

Fireplace Rooms– Per their website, they have TV’s and mini fridges in these rooms.  No telephone.  We have never stayed in one of these rooms, but they look awesome!

Lakeside Rooms– This is where our family usually stays.  This is great for families, as they’re bigger, have a TV and mini fridge.  They are also more updated than the Main Lodge.  This is where the girls and I stayed as well.  Some of the rooms have great views of the lake.

Boathouse–  This is pet friendly! This is another family friendly room also and has a great view of the lake.  There is a wrap around porch which is perfect for relaxing and reading a book.  I have never stayed in the Boathouse, but my mother and her three dogs did.

Water Gauge

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE

  • Swim in their indoor pool and hang out in the sauna!
  • Look for Roosevelts signature in the lodge’s guest book.
  • Take a Lake Tour.
  • Sign up for a Rain Forest Tour.
  • Look for Mossquatch. (We found him!)
  • Take the mini hike to the Worlds Largest Spruce Tree.
  • Find the Worlds Largest Cedar Tree.
  • Kayak or row on Lake Quinault.
  • Sit by the huge fireplace in the main lodge and enjoy a glass of wine while playing chess.
  • Play frisbee on the large grassy lawn.
  • Read a book in the gazebo by the lake.
  • Choose a trail on the Lake Quinault grounds and explore!

Hiking Trail  Largest Spruce

LIGHTRAIL/WALKING DAY TRIP, TACOMA, WASHINGTON (1 DAY, 0 NIGHTS, FAMILY OF 2-6) FREE

Day Trips

Theater District

What?! Did you just read “FREE”?  Why, yes.  Yes you did.

If you live local to Tacoma, then you should be aware of the lightrail system downtown.  It is awesome.  It is free.  And it goes to all the best places downtown.

Where: Downtown Tacoma, WA

When: Anytime! Weekdays or weekends. Summer, winter, spring, fall….

Cost Breakdown: 0$ for gas, 0$ for food (unless you want to buy a coffee or lunch while downtown)

Tricks/What to do when you get there:  Here’s how my family does it.  We like to park at Freighthouse Square.  Its a historic building that was the westernmost destination for the Milwaukee Railroad back in the early 1900’s.  Inside you can see historical photo’s and news clippings from then and read more on how cool our area was when the railway was first introduced this far west.  You can read a little about the history before going here. Unfortunately I couldn’t find much info online.  By the way, you can park for free across the street from the Freighthouse building.

First stop is exploring the unique shops inside.  Our favorite is City Blocks.  Our very own famous Lego Man has a studio here and builds the coolest things.  You can build something cool or buy your own legos to take home.  Don’t forget to grab a snack if you didnt bring a sack lunch.  Check out the artwork or look for old framed pictures of the trains from last century.

Now its time to catch the Lightrail.  Cross the street from Freighthouse Square and you’ll see a “bus stop” in front of the parking garage.  This is Tacoma Lightrail‘s beginning location.  It runs every 24 minutes or so.  Hop on.  Its free.

When you see Union Station up ahead, you know you’re almost there.  Hop off.  Cross the street and head inside.  Union Station is filled with history as well.  Downstairs they have more pictures and stuff for the history buff in you.  When you first walk in, though, you should look up and see beautiful glass art from Chihuly himself. Meander around and take a gander.  Its gorgeous!  When you’re done here, go around to the right of Union Station and walk behind it.  You should see the famous Chihuly hothouse (the silver upside down ice cream cone) across the highway.  That’s your next stop.

Cross over The Bridge of Glass (there’s a tunnel with a ceiling of glass artwork) and take a peek around.  In the summer, there are outdoor exhibits for the public to view for free.  Sometimes there are street musicians as well.  There are certain time and days that you can actually visit the Museum of Glass, such as every third Thursday of the month from 5pm-8pm, for FREE.  Also if you are a student and its a Sunday, you can get in for FREE.  Visit their website for more information.

Next stop is the Antique District or Tacoma’s Antique Row.  Catch the lightrail again and get off on the corner of Broadway Ave.  There are several antique shops that are really fun to visit.  You can find anything from old post cards to beautiful antique figurines.  Read more about it here.  If you need more energy after all this walking you can always stop at my favorite Tully’s Coffee shop at the corner of 9th and Broadway.  I just like the shape of the building.

From here, you can walk up 9th to visit the Theater District.  Just follow 9th up the hill and cross over to Broadway Center for Performing Arts.  This is always my kids’ favorite part.  There are big rock sculptures, some that remind me of ancient Micronesian currency.  Go in search of face sculptures on the facade of the buildings and walls.  Walk past the Theater on the Square to the grassy area.  Take photos by the big mural.  In the Spring and Summer there are great things to see here, including the farmers market and musicians.  If you keep walking down Broadway to 11th St, you’ll come to a water fountain.  This has been a fun place to let the kids climb and balance.  Im not entirely sure that you’re allowed to be climbing on it, but I’ve seen tons of families letting their kids monkey around and no one’s ever come out to yell at them.  So, I let my kidlets explore it.  None have fallen in yet.

This is about the time we all get tuckered out and know that the fun filled day needs to be over.  Hop back on the lightrail and find your car.  Be thankful that yet again, you have tuckered your family out.  For free.

 

HunterMoney

 

Haunted Castle Day Trip, WASHINGTON (1 Day/ 0 Nights/ Family of 4) $25

Overnights

Alexander Castle

HOW WE DID IT

Where: Manresa Castle, Pt. Townsend, WA

Alexander Castle, Poulsbo, Ft. Worden, WA

Thornewood Castle, Tillicum, WA

When: Anytime! (We did it in November of 2012 and the weather was great.)

Cost Breakdown: $25 for gas

Tricks: As I always say, use those gas rewards from Fred Meyers or Safeway.  They can take off up to $1/gallon.  Eat breakfast at home and then pack your snacks and lunches to bring.  If you have older kids that are going with you, fun snack ideas could include a bag of bones, pretzel ghosts, or frozen banana ghosts.  To tour Manresa Castle, all you need to do is call ahead of time and let them know that you’re coming to take a peek inside.  Its a hotel, so they do have guests.  We didnt go inside Alexander Castle because it is also a lodging that can be rented by the night.  Thornewood Castle, unfortunately, has been the hardest to visit for our family.  I added it to the list of haunted castles, but in reality they keep it locked up pretty tight with a high gate.  Ive only been inside the grounds and building for a wedding, and there was a crochety old woman there that wouldnt allow us outside the “brides room” to get ready.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE

*Look for ghosts, silly!

*Scream periodically, just because.

*Take pictures to find ghostly orbs (or just because the castles are really pretty!)

*Check out other haunted locations in Pt. Townsend.

First things first, plan out your route.  We came from Tacoma, so we would stop at Thornewood Castle in Tillicum to get our first view of a haunted castle.  It really is haunted guys.  Its old, beautiful, and was the location for Stephen King’s mini series “Rose Red”.  If Stephen King thought it was a perfect location, then you know its cool. You can read about its history here and some reported hauntings here.

Second castle for us was Manresa Castle in Pt. Townsend.  This place was seriously creepy.  It is definately an older building and I would love to one day stay there and spook the heck out of myself (I doubt Id be able to sleep!).  We didnt call before we got there, thinking we would just take photo’s outside.  But it turned out to be a slow day and the front desk staff actually let us snoop around.  Later she brought out the keys to let us look in the most active haunted rooms (302 & 306) and then the attic where the old monk was said to have hung himself.  You must read all about Manresa Castle before you go.  There are two distinct stories about two seperate spirits that are said to haunt the castle. Read this, this, and this.  Note the video above.  That was my fun video of the castle.

Last, but not least is Alexander Castle on Ft. Worden State Park (also in Pt. Townsend).  Ft. Worden is an amazing gem that should get explored while you’re there checking out Alexander Castle.  The small castle perched on the hill was built by John B. Alexander.  You can read the sad story and check out some nice photos from another great Northwest blogger here.  Let her know I sent you!

While the bunkers at Ft. Worden State Park are not castles, some say they too are haunted.  They are very creepy to walk through, so bring a flashlight.

Noose in Manresa Castle

Kalaloch, WASHINGTON (3 Days/2 Nights/ Family of 4) $300

Overnights

Olympic Mountain Weekend 2010

HOW WE DID IT

Where: Kalaloch Lodge, Kalaloch, WA

When: All the time!  This is one of our ultimate favorite places to go…

Cost Breakdown: $125 Email deal for 2 nights + $100 for gas (lots of gas needed for our exploring, but you don’t have to!) + $75 for food & souvenirs = $300 (plus tax) for 3 days & 2 nights for a family of 4-6.

Tricks: You absolutely must sign up for emails with the National Park Lodges or specific lodges you want to stay at.  This assures that you will receive specials and deals before anyone else.  The usual cost at Kalaloch Lodge can get spendy, especially if you want to stay in a bluff cabin off the cliff (which I *do* recommend).  We spent $62.50 per night using an email deal.  You can also find great deals if you keep an eye on Livingsocial and Groupon.  You know my usual philosophy on gas.  Use Safeway or Fred Meyer gas rewards to get the most out of your money.  Now, here’s my super secret way to save on food.  At Kalaloch, you’re staying in a cabin with a mini fridge.  Make sure you call ahead and find out if they have microwaves.  If they do not, bring yours.  Not joking here.  I do this all the time.  When you’re planning your meals for the trip, remember that fresh is always best.  We bring fresh salad makings, fruit and veggies.  Along with that, we bring sandwich stuff, peanut butter and jelly, pre-made soup (or canned) to warm up in the microwave and frozen dinners.  Sometimes I bring pre-made pancakes that can be warmed up in the morning. These are all easy to pack in a cooler and can be transferred into the cabin’s mini fridge on arrival.

Also, the further away from the cliff you get the cheaper the rooms.  The Seacrest rooms are located in a building set up like a regular rustic hotel.  No internet, barely any cell service, no TV’s… There are pros to this, so don’t write this option off.  We’ve take our family and stayed in the Seacrest rooms before and it was great.  We prepared by bringing a laptop with DVD’s for the kids (think snuggly “movie night”) and board games.  During the day, we hiked and spent time on the beach and explored.  So the room wasn’t expected to be anything but a check-in location and for sleep.  The room there was also very large, so there was plenty of space for the kids to make a fort with the blankets and couch cushions.

You can stay in the lodge itself, but the rooms are not very big.  Although that may be cool if you’re going as a couple, with no kidlets.

Lastly are the cabins.  Which we love.  There are duplex style cabins and singles.  Both are great.  All are rustic.

And don’t forget you can camp at Kalaloch!  That’s the cheapest, by far. Click here to see a map of their property.  This will help you decide where to stay.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE

*Explore the Kalaloch Beach

*Visit the Hoh Rain Forest (we always see Roosevelt Elk here!)

*Go see Ruby Beach (so gorgeous!)

*And Rialto Beach

*Check out Flattery Rocks National Wildlife Refuge

*Eat at the lodge’s restaurant (super views)

*Watch the sunset (and the sunrise)
Olympic Mountain Weekend 2010

Ape Caves, WASHINGTON (1 Day/0 Nights/ Family of 4) $50

Day Trips

Ape Caves 2012

HOW WE DID IT

Where: Ape Caves, WA

When: June 2012

Cost Breakdown: $15 for a park pass + $35 for gas = $50 total for a family of 4 (or however many people you can fit in your car!)

Tricks: As always, bring your own food if you’re wanting to save the most money on your day trips.  You can eat a big breakfast at home, bring snacks and sandwiches to keep you full for lunch and dinner.  Gas can be minimized by using your gas rewards at either Safeway or Fred Meyers.  And as for the park pass, click here because you may qualify for a reduced fee or even a free one.  There are also certain days that you can get into the state and federal parks for free too.

Now remember, you’re going to need to bring a warm sweatshirt (it was 80*F outside, but in the caves it was 55*F).  Don’t forget the flashlights and headlamps.  Do not wear flip flops or any sort of non-sturdy footwear.  You can get really hurt.  If you have children under 3yrs old, I’d make sure that you had a hiking backpack carrier.  Our 3yr old boy loved the caves, but was prone to falling off rocky outcrops or tripping in holes.

 

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE

*You MUST check out Trail of Two Forests which is just before Ape Caves.  Here’s a great website that has lots of pictures.  If you’re not claustrophobic, you MUST climb through the little tunnels.  My kids wouldn’t do it, but my husband and I took turns.  The trail is now on a really nice “boardwalk” and takes you to different tunnels from the lava flows.  You can look around and see the difference in age from one forest to the other.  This could be a very educational experience for your kids as well.

*The Lower Ape Cave  is the caves you want if you have kids with you.  Its about 3/4 a mile one way.  Its super dark, but awesome.  This should take about an hour or so to go all the way to the end and back.  Bring a back-up light source.

These were the two hikes we did on our day trip.  Remember that you should only fit in your “staycation” as much as your family can tolerate without meltdowns.  We had a 3yr and a 6yr old.

Two hikes were plenty.

 

Ape Caves 2012

Long Beach, WASHINGTON (3 Days/2 Nights/Family of 4) $359

Overnights

Hunter in the brush.

HOW WE DID IT

Where: Adrift Hotel, Long Beach, WA

When: April 2013

Cost Breakdown: $99 Groupon for 2 nights (includes $10 food voucher at The Pickled Fish & Bonfire Wagon package) + $60 for gas + $200 for roadtrip snacks, souvenirs, and meals = $359 (plus tax) for 3 days & 2 nights for a family of FOUR

Tricks: Scour Groupon, Livingsocial and Amazon Local.  For real.  Normally, Adrift Hotel (and most in the area) run for $99-$150 depending on the season.  By utilizing Groupon, we paid $50 a night for a family of 4. Second trick is to save up your Safeway (or Fred Meyer) gas points.  Gas sucks nowadays.  So if you have done your work prior to your trip, you will be able to save upwards to $1 off a gallon.  That really pays off.  Third trick is to do like your mom used to do.  Pack easy to make meals for the road.  Sandwiches, homemade lunchables, baked goods to snack on.  And why not make a big jug of homemade lemonade and pour them into recycled waterbottles for the kids?  This beats stopping halfway there on a road trip to buy McD’s…

Adrift-Hotel-and-Spa-in-Long-Beach-Washington-98631

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE

FREE:

*Ride Bikes- Adrift Hotel supplies complimentary bikes.

*Visit the Kite Museum

*Check out the World Famous Alligator Man

*Shop at Marsh’s Free Museum (the employees give out free seashells sometimes)

*Fly kites (Buy one or two at the Dollar Tree near your home before your trip) where USA Today named one of the Top 10 places to fly a kite!

*Build sand castles

*Go Lighthouse Hunting (There are several in the area that are historic and gorgeous!)

*Visit Cape Disapointment State Park

*Enjoy Summerfest

*Walk the Discovery Trail

*Check out the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (my personal favorite!)

*Enjoy a concert on the beach

*Window shop in town

*Try to find the historical places in town, including the Train that Went Nowhere (or something like that…)

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