Grandparents, parents and kids can all find their bliss at a family getaway to the San Juan Islands
When you get families together, inevitably everyone has a different idea of fun. When the whole gang gets together in the San Juans, you'll find something to keep everyone busy and happy—and you get to enjoy fun activities together.
1. Horseback Riding in Moran State Park
Riding a gentle giant through old-growth Western Red Cedar and Douglas fir trees with Orcas Island Trail Rides at Moran State Park, or Horseshu Ranch on San Juan Island can take you back in time, and is a perfect activity for families. See waterfalls, fern-lined trails, thimbleberry bushes and serene lakes along the way in Moran State Park, Washington's 4th largest state park, or in the beautiful forests of San Juan Island. The horses are friendly (and so is the staff) and will take you on an unforgettable ride.
2. Farmers' Markets for snacks and staples
All three islands—Lopez Island, Orcas Island, San Juan Island—have wonderful seasonal farmers' markets each Saturday, where you can spend a morning or afternoon listening to music, nibbling on pastries, cookies, pizza, sushi and other homemade goodies. Pick up produce, meat, oysters, cheese, bread and other delicious local products for your family barbecue picnic. You'll also find handmade gifts, soaps, candles, jewelry, toys and all sorts of other cool artsy items—and you can talk to the artists that made them.
3. Hop onto a Whale Watching Boat
Orca whales are maternal family units, and move together to find salmon. Whale watch boats have naturalists aboard to educate and point out wildlife, not only orcas, but humpback and minke whales, harbor seals, California sea lions, bald eagles, cormorants and other sea birds. A day on the water is fun for everyone. To learn more about whales before or after you go out, visit The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, where you can see whale skeletons, hear recordings of whale song on a hydrophone, watch interesting videos, and learn about native people's legends about killer whales and how they interacted with people in fascinating folklore.
4. Go Kayaking Together
A kayaking trip is perfect for multi-generations because you all get to go in a group, and younger kids can paddle in tandem with more experienced members of the family. Paddle along beautiful shorelines, around rocky bluffs and to little islands for a lunch stop. You can take a professionally guided group tour out of Friday Harbor, San Juan County Park, Roche Harbor on San Juan Island; Rosario Resort, Doe Bay Resort, Cascade Lake on Orcas Island; several places on Lopez Island, and other stunning locations in the islands.
5. Entertainment, Plays & Music
The San Juan Islands have many offerings for fun family entertainment, including Music on the Lawn, drive-in movies, the San Juan County Fair, music on the Village Green, at the Port of Friday Harbor, and more. You can see plays and concerts at Orcas Center, San Juan Community Theatre and Lopez Center for Community and the Arts. Don't forget to visit the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park, with more than 125 sculptures in a 20-acre park, with a pond at its center near beautiful Westcott Bay. Take a picnic and explore!
6. See the Show at the Skate Parks
A new skate park on Lopez Island is a fun place for the family to hang out, too. Grab a snack at Blossom Grocery just across the road, and watch the kids burn off some energy while enjoying the sun. On Orcas Island, the Scott Stamnes Memorial Skatepark is in Buck Park just north of Eastsound. On San Juan Island, a small skate park is located at the San Juan County Fairgrounds on Argyle Avenue. Take a picnic and watch the fun!
For the younger kids, check out A Place to Play in Friday Harbor, just a half-block from the ferry.
7. Watch "The Colors" at Roche Harbor
A day at Roche Harbor Resort is full of opportunities for family fun. Start out with a kayaking or whale watching trip, then spend the afternoon teaching the grandkids how to play bocce ball, tennis or take a dip in the pool. Parents can stroll the art kiosks for handmade gifts, while kids get ice cream. Grownups will enjoy a tasting tour of nearby Westcott Bay Cider and San Juan Island Distillery to taste delicious cider, gin, vodka and bitters made with island apples and botanicals. At sunset, watch a very moving resort tradition when the "colors" (the American and the Canadian flags) are lowered to the sound of "Taps" being played by a single trumpet.
8. Glamping is Great for Groups
With "glamorous camping" or glamping, you get the luxury and comfort of a bed & breakfast and the rustic fun of camping. Just drive up to your glamping site, and your large canvas tent is already set up, complete with beds, tables, chairs and a firepit. Some glamping sites bring you a basket with fresh-baked muffins for breakfast, or fixin's for s'mores for late night fires. There are glamping sites on all three islands: Leanto in Moran State Park on Orcas Island, Lakedale Resort on San Juan Island, and Lopez Farm Cabins and Tent Camping.
9. Hike into History on Mt. Constitution
There are many ways to get to the top of Mt. Constitution—driving, biking or hiking—and so much to see. The vistas from the top offer an 180-degree view, and those willing to climb several flights of stairs get a 360-degree view from the stone tower modeled on a medieval stronghold. There's something for everyone, from having a picnic to reading the display of the fascinating history of the tower on the way up.
10. Give Back on a Volunteer Vacation
If you want your vacation to be a fun, educational experience for all generations, try creating a volunteer vacation. There are many ways to give back to these islands we love while creating memories your family will never forget, from beach cleanups to trail cleanups, to learning to be a naturalist or learning about whales so you can volunteer at the Lime Kiln Point State Park (a.k.a. Whale Watch Park).
Grandma, Grandpa and all the kids will love the islands, with lots of activities, dining and lodging options to choose from.