4 Pacific Northwest Family Getaways for Winter Fun, Outdoor Adventure


While cooler days and gray skies make it tempting to escape to sunny beach destinations, there are plenty of sunny winter days ahead that are ideal for snowy adventure.

Lake Chelan prides itself on its 300 sunny days a year, while Yakima Valley has its share of blue skies during the winter months. Even Mount Hood gets its fair share of sunshine, and all three of these destinations offer incredible adventure opportunities to hit the slopes or enjoy the trails.

If your idea of ​​the perfect winter getaway is chasing the Northern Lights, getting ready for an Alaskan vacation may be on the family travel wish list.

Ready to plan your next adventure? Secure your mountain pass and consider these four family-friendly outdoor adventures in the Pacific Northwest.

Aurora Borealis over Lake Chena, just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska

Courtesy of Explorer Fairbanks / Photo by Andy Witteman

Aurora Adventure in Fairbanks, Alaska

It is the season of the dawns in Fairbanks, which usually runs between late August and late April, as the sky remains dark enough for viewing. Fairbanks has long been considered an exceptional viewing destination because it sits below the Auroral Oval, a ring-shaped area where aurora activity is concentrated.

To have the best chance of seeing the awe-inspiring natural light show, guests will want to be outside in the late evening. Local guides offer aurora watching tours, but visitors can also find their own way to popular viewing areas to catch the aurora. Just be sure to take some flashlights or headlamps for the dark night hikes.

Find several short winter trails at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, just two miles from downtown Fairbanks. If you are staying outside of the city, the Lake Chena Recreation Area also offers winter trails on and around the lake, perfect for viewing the nocturnal auroras.

In addition to chasing the aurora, winter visitors to Fairbanks will find outdoor recreation in nearby Denali National Park, Chena Hot Springs, the North Pole, and even downtown. Winter in Fairbanks is a prime time for wildlife viewing, snow hikes, bird watching, skiing and ice skating. When looking to try something new, guests can also try ice carving, dog mushing, or mingling with reindeer.

A sunny day of snowboarding

A sunny day of snowboarding

Daniel Milchev / Getty Images

Winter activities in Yakima Valley, Washington

Whatever your sense of adventure, you’ll have fun with your family in Yakima Valley This winter. From snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to wine tastings and fresh farm meals, the valley region caters to a wide range of interests.

For outdoor enthusiasts, White Pass offers new Nordic ski trails for the whole family. Across from the White Pass ski area on Highway 12, the new Nordic center offers cross-country skiing adventures on over 11 miles of groomed trails. Beginner-friendly options are available alongside expert trail options, with on-site rentals of cross-country skis, skates, snowshoes, and fat bikes.

In the Washington State Park System, visitors will also find 112 miles of groomed snowmobile trails between Pyramid Creek and Little Naches. The Chinook Pass is also a popular location for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

If you are visiting while on vacation, Yakima Valley is home to many festive lighting events. Until January 2, visit the Festival of Lights at Prosser Municipal Park for a park full of Christmas lights and decorations. Then, from December 7-18, the Yakima Valley Museum is hosting a Holiday Lights Extravaganza where local charities decorate the museum’s galleries with Christmas trees and festive decor.

While visiting the valley to sip and savor the local flavor, Yakima’s bar for Bale Breaker Brewing Company offers Hoppy Hours mid-week this winter, Tuesday through Thursday. These Hoppy Hours offer 5 pints of pints and feature limited releases, including a winter IPA. For wine lovers, the new educational cellar and tasting room of Winemakers of the Yakima Valley offers in-flight grape-by-glass tasting alongside a selection of meats and cheeses to bring out the flavors of featured wines.

Tubes for children in winter

Tubes for children in winter

FatCamera / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Family fun in Lake Chelan, Washington

Lake Chélan may be a favorite summer destination, but with an average of 300 sunny days a year, this lakeside town offers plenty of clear days for outdoor adventures, even during the winter months.

Just minutes from town, families can enjoy 25 miles of groomed trails and backcountry at Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area, ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Daily ski passes cost $ 15 per person, although children 17 and under ski for free. The trails are open 24 hours a day and rentals are available nearby at downtown Lake Chelan Sports and Lakeland Ski Rental.

For family fun, Echo Valley is the perfect destination for snow tubing and snowboarding. Echo Valley Ski and Slide Resort is open on weekends and holidays, and it is also a less populated resort for beginner skiers and snowboarders to test their feet while having fun with the family.

Do you prefer to stay on solid ground? Take a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk Park Loop Trail on a 1.5-mile excursion with lake views. Or try the Little Bear Trail Loop in Lake Chelan State Park for a longer hike.

For couples or friends enjoying an adventure on Lake Chelan, adding a wine tasting or two is a sure-fire way to stay warm on cooler days. There are over 30 wineries in the area with several tasting rooms offering free tastings. At some wineries, customers can even find festive hands-on classes, like making Christmas wreaths at Tipsy Canyon Winery.

For practical and comfortable accommodation, Campbell’s Resort – located right on the waterfront – offers easy access to downtown restaurants and shopping. Staying here provides immediate access to the Riverwalk Park Loop Trail, while area snow trails and backcountry trails are only a short drive away.

Two children hurtle down a snowy hill in Mount Hood, Oregon.

Two children hurtle down a snowy hill in Mount Hood, Oregon.

thinair28 / Getty Images

Winter getaway in Hood River, Oregon

Winter is a great time to visit Hood River, with powdery slopes near Mount Hood providing adrenaline-filled days, while staying closer to town offers brisk walks and hikes along the Columbia River.

The ski season will start soon, depending on the arrival of the snow, but this is a great time to plan the packages in advance so that you can head straight to the ski lifts when the time comes. Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area has a limited-time sale on Seasonal Experiences with significant discounts available through December 12. Activities here range from downhill and Nordic skiing to snowshoeing and snowboarding.

Just southeast of Mount Hood is Nordic’s tea cup groomed cross-country ski trails with programs for all ages. Day passes are also available, and children 17 and under ski for free.

For passionate and frequent skiers, Hood River Hotel has an unbeatable offer for the season. Guests can book a season pass at the hotel, including unlimited stays from Sunday through Thursday through March. For the casual adventurer, the hotel also offers a free third night package until February.

The Hood River Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is Hood River’s oldest hotel, though there are contemporary touches throughout ensuring a comfortable stay at this vintage property. Breakfast and lunch are served all day on-site and Scandinavian dishes are the focal point here with Danish pancakes and Swedish meatballs.


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