If you’ve had a fourth grader in a local public school, then you've probably heard a great deal about the historic journey of Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea, their Native American interpreter. Here are three areas with a Lewis and Clark-related historic site or museum that you might want to visit, along with great places nearby to stay and fun things to do on a family vacation.
Sacajawea State Park and Interpretive Center and the Tri-Cities
My family recently visited the Tri-Cities, and the Sacajawea State Park and Interpretive Center. The Tri-Cities consist of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco, located in the heart of Eastern Washington wine country. The area enjoys an average of over 300 days of sun a year.
Sacajawea State Park and Interpretive Center is located in Pasco, at a historic Lewis and Clark campsite where the Snake and Columbia rivers meet. It is part of the state park system, so make sure you have your Discover Pass displayed when you visit or pay the $10 fee for the one-day pass at the park. Note that the day use only park is closed Nov. 1 through March 14 every year.
The highlight of the park is the Sacajawea Interpretive Center. People can visit the center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the months the park is open. This museum tells the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition through the viewpoint of the members of the Corps of Discovery, Sacagawea and the Native Americans they met along the way, without whose help they would not have survived the difficult journey. Admission is free but a donation of a $1 a visitor is suggested. My kids loved this museum and as they moved through it, frequently connected what they had learned in school, to the museums displays of historic artifacts and many hands-on displays. Sacagawea Heritage Days are coming up at the park Sept. 23 to 25, where local tribe members are among the “re-enactors” who demonstrate in person the skills needed to survive in Sacagawea’s day. More information can be found online.
While you are in the Tri-Cities area, there are many other great family-friendly activities to enjoy. In downtown Richland, you can stay at the riverfront Red Lion where kids love the outdoor pool. From there you can walk to the nearby Friday Farmers Market, go kayaking with Columbia Kayak Adventures, rent bikes from Greenies and and visit the CREST - Columbia River Exhibition of History, Science and Technology museum, which features hands-on science and history exhibits. Also within walking distance is the Atomic Ale Brew Pub and Eatery which offers family-friendly dining with incredible pizza, delicious chocolate cake and hand-crafted ales brewed in house. Visit the Country Mercantile in nearby Pasco for family fun and watch their chocolate candy being made. Many delicious locally-made and grown items also are for sale, including salsa and fresh produce. In October, Country Mercantile will host their Fall Harvest Festival featuring rides, a pumpkin patch, a petting zoo, hay pyramid and maze, corn maze and great food. For an incredible view of the landscape over which the Lewis and Clark party traveled, book a hot air balloon ride for your family with Wine Country Balloon Tours. The owners are very accommodating of kids of all ages. You can learn more about all the outdoor activities this area offers and plan ahead for your trip by visiting the area’s website.
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Long Beach
Another great museum to visit with your kids is the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Cape Disappointment State Park on the Washington coast, located off Highway 101, four miles southwest of Illwaco.
This museum is open all year round. Admission to the Center is $5 per adult and $2.50 per child ages seven to 17. There's free admission for kids ages six and under. This interpretive center features a series of mural-sized panels that guide visitors through the westward journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition using sketches, paintings, photographs and the words of the company’s members themselves. The center also features short film presentations, a gift shop and a glassed-in observation deck with beautiful views of the river and ocean.
Nearby Long Beach is a great place to stay with your family for the weekend. The kid friendly Breakers resort has a playground and indoor pool and is located within an easy walk to the beach. Nearby the town of Long Beach offers great food and fun. The Cottage Bakery is a favorite of both locals and tourists with its huge glass display case of every type of pastry and dessert imaginable. If your kids enjoy flying kites, they will love Long Beach, home to the annual Washington State International Kite Festival, held the third week of every August. Older kids might enjoy a horseback ride along the beach with Back Country Wilderness Outfitters or Skipper’s Equestrian Center. You can also rent bikes and mopeds from Long Beach Mopeds, Surrey and Bicycle Rentals or enjoy a spin at Long Beach Go Kart. The area also offers several fishing charters, eco tours and kayak adventures. More information on all the attractions in the area is available online.
Fort Clatsop, Seaside and Cannon Beach in Oregon
Just over the Columbia River in Oregon, in Astoria, is where Fort Clatsop is located, another great, hands-on learning center. Here the Lewis and Clark party wintered over in 1805. The park includes a visitor center with exhibits, a bookstore, theater and historic canoe landing. Admission is $3 per adult, free for kids under age 16. Opened year round except Dec. 25.
You will enjoy staying with your kids at nearby Seaside where the Funland Arcade draws kids of all ages, along with many dining options including the Pig ‘N Pancake. The new Holiday Inn Express in Seaside offers a free hot breakfast and an indoor pool and is walking distance into town and to the beach.
Just a few minutes south on U.S. Highway 101 from Seaside, popular Cannon Beach is a charming town of galleries and shops with a gorgeous beach. Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals can connect your family with your own beach house for the weekend or a whole week, including places that welcome dogs. Be sure to stop by the Local Grill and Scoop in town for a “family size” hot fudge sundae and the Cannon Beach Book Company for a great assortment of books for toddlers to teens. If you forgot your bucket and shovel, you’ll find one at Geppettos Toy Shoppe, along with sock monkeys and all sorts of other great toys. More information is available online to plan your visit to Seaside or Cannon Beach.