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

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

 

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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