Not quite Disney: Theme park road trips from the Seattle area

I really enjoy amusement parks.  I know there are people who can’t stand them, and I understand that.  And I would never do only amusement parks for my vacations, but the occassional day of rides can be a lot of fun.  And kids, of course, love them.

The biggest problem for us here in the great Pacific Northwest is that there aren’t very many nearby.  We don’t live in one of those tourist meccas that are overrun with Disneyland and Legoland and Knott’s Berry Farm and… well, there are so many I can’t even name them.  To be honest, it is nice that our amusement parks are mountains and lakes and hiking trails.  But as I said, a day of rides can still be fun.

Fortunately, if you are up for a little bit of driving (which is much cheaper than flying to Southern California or Florida), there actually are a few options for us.  Mind you, none of them are as sophisticated as Disneyland, but they are frivolous and fun anyway.  Here are a few suggestions for some amusement park roadtrips from Seattle.

Wild Waves and Enchanted Village
Distance to drive from Seattle area: about 30 miles
Hours to drive from Seattle area: about 1 hour
Address: 36201 Enchanted Parkway South, Federal Way, WA  98003

This theme park got it’s start as just Enchanted Village, a fairytale-styled park in the woods.  With rides like the Enchanted Railway, it was a basic but charming park, one I remember fondly as my first “road trip” with my parents.  As the years went by, it expanded, building a waterslide park next door, one that is loads of fun.  Soon, that became the main attraction, but newer and more thrilling rides were added to the Enchanted Village section.  Later, the park was purchased and run by the Six Flags company, but it was sold in the last few years.  They no longer include “Enchanted Village” in the name, but that is what I always loved about it, so I’m keeping it myself.  This is a sweet theme park with plenty of thrills, the waterpark is tons of fun, and it is very close by.  This can be an easy daytrip.

Great Wolf Lodge
Distance to drive from Seattle area: about 85 miles
Hours to drive from Seattle area: about 1.5 hours
Address: 20500 Old Highway 99, SW, Grand Mound, WA 98531

This is a brand new water resort located near Olympia, but it has already gotten tons of buzz.  I have talked to families who have already gone three times since it opened, and they absolutely love it.  This is a weekend destination rather than a daytrip.  You pay for a hotel room decorated in a rustic cabin theme, and for as long as you stay, you get access to the giant waterpark attached to the hotel (you can’t use the waterpark if you aren’t staying at the resort).  There are many different waterslides and a little kids water play area.  This one is probably better for older kids, or more adventurous younger kids, as waterslides can be a little intimidating.  There are other forms of entertainment, as well, like storytime in the evening, the MagiQuest interactive adventure game throughout the resort, and spa treatments.

Playland at the PNE
Distance to drive from Seattle area:
about 140 miles
Hours to drive from Seattle area: about 3 hours
Address: 2901 E Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC V5K

Like Seattle Center, this amusement park has it’s origins in a major fair- this one the Pacific National Exposition of 1910 (PNE for short).  It has become a major amusement attraction, with all the standard thrills and chills you expect from an amusement park.   There are plenty of rides and carnival games, and in the late summer, it hosts a fair in the style of the Puyallup Fair, with animal demonstrations and specialty foods.  As a teenager, I enjoyed this amusement park several times on school trips.  Although it isn’t necessarily worth a trip just for this park, including it in a trip to Vancouver would certainly make sense.  You could even make the journey on the Amtrak Cascades train (about 4 hour ride and $30 per ticket) for a totally different experience

Dinotown UPDATE:  Closed
Distance to drive from Seattle area:
about 145 miles
Hours to drive from Seattle area: about 3 hours
Address: 53480 Bridal Falls Road Rosedale, BC, V0X 1X0

Have you said to yourself recently, “If only there was a theme park based around a cartoon dinosaur town nearby”?  Well, luck for us, there is!  Cross the border into British Columbia and head to Dinotown.  This used to be a “Bedrock City” theme park based on the Flintstones cartoon, but now that affiliation is gone, even though Barney Rubble is clearly still part of the parade.  I remember seeing television ads for the park when I was a kid watching Canadian channels, and I always had plans to get there someday.  Now, you can see a parade of dinosaur (and Flintstone’s) characters, go on rides, and see live shows, including a “Hannah Montana tribute show”, which, for the life of me, doesn’t make sense for a dinosaur world, but surely the kids enjoy it.  Anyway, this is a place more oriented to younger kids, as it is heavier on the gentle fun than the thrill rides.  Remember, if you are coming from the US, you need a passport for everyone in your party to cross the border easily.

Enchanted Forest
Distance to drive from Seattle area: about 230 miles
Hours to drive from Seattle area: about 4 hours
Address: 8462 Enchanted Way SE, Turner, OR 97392

Head down to the Salem, OR area for this theme park dressed up with fairytales.  You can walk through Storybook Lane to see a life-size Humpty Dumpty, check out the underground tunnels of Tofteville Western Town, and wander through a haunted house or English village.  And of course, there are roller coasters and bumper cars, too.  It even has the biggest log ride in the Northwest.  This one has a sweet vibe along with the thrills.

Silverwood Theme Park
Distance to drive from Seattle:
about 320 miles
Hours from Seattle area: about 5 hours
Address: 27843 North Highway 95, Athol, Idaho   83801-9900

This one is a farther than the others, but it bills itself as the “Northwest’s largest theme park”.  It has Garfield the cat as it’s mascot, which isn’t quite Mickey Mouse, but is at least something.  This park is not so much about being immersed in an experience as about riding crazy thrill rides.  With giant roller coasters, including the brand new “Aftershock,” you will find plenty of ways to get your heart racing.    There is also a waterpark for watersliding, and several rides for little kids.

Rock Candy Mountain
Distance to drive from Seattle area:
about 400 miles
Hours to drive from Seattle area: about 7 hours
Address: Box 997, Grand Forks, BC V0H 1H0

This destination is not actually a theme park, but it is worth exploring anyway.  Big Rock Candy Mountain is actually a mountain full of crystals.  When you get there, you get a tour, a bucket, and a hammer.  Then you scour the mountain trails for quartz crystal geodes, fluorite in green and purple, and barite crystals.  You get to keep what you find, which makes it a special adventure.  Remember, if you are coming from the US, you need a passport for everyone in your party to cross the border easily.

One Response to Not quite Disney: Theme park road trips from the Seattle area

  1. elana October 16, 2010 at 10:04 pm #

    dinotown closed in september

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