A road trip from Seattle, WA to Missoula, MT is a great way to spend some quality time with the family. Starting in Seattle, this trip covers two mountain ranges, the plains of Washington and some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States. Seattle is an exceptionally diverse city with a broad range of family friendly cultural and entertainment options. Some great family friendly attractions are the The Space Needle, Pike Place Market, The Gum Wall, and the Seattle Aquarium/waterfront walk. If you have older kids consider taking Bill Speidel's Underground Tour. It takes you beneath the city's streets to the original street level and explains the history of how and why the city was raised up from its original setting. Also with older kids, Chihuly Garden and Glass has some amazing displays of blown glass art.
If you'd like to get some great city skyline views on the cheap then take one of the many ferries to one of the other ferry terminals. Roundtrip tickets are cheap and in many cases, there are great activities around the other terminals as well. The ferries have very spacious decks which provide great panoramic views of the city skyline as they arrive and depart the city terminal.
The road trip from Seattle to Missoula couldn't be easier. All you have to do is hop on I-90 east in Seattle and start driving. The route does involve crossing the Cascade Mountains and climbing into the Western Rocky Mountains before arriving in Missoula. If your vehicle is in good repair with properly functioning brakes you should be all set. Just be careful and mind your speed on the steeper downhill sections.
If you plan to do this trip during the winter months, be mindful that these northern states have tire chain laws in place. Most require that you carry tire chains in your vehicle at all times during certain winter months. Make sure you check and follow these laws as they apply to your trip.
The Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center is an excellent place to bring the family to learn about the production of renewable energy. Located on a hilltop just outside of Ellensburg, WA., the facility is an active energy production center with 149 wind turbines and solar energy arrays. There are a number of educational displays available to visitors as well as guided tours. Guided tours are free, last about 60 minutes and bring you up close to one of the largest solar arrays in the Northwest, wind turbine blades, and an actual turbine generator and gearbox.
While you are up there make sure you soak in the views of surrounding mountains and the Columbia River Basin.
This scenic viewpoint is just off of I-90 just east of the magnificent bridge crossing the Columbia River. It provides a great quick stop to take in beautiful panoramic views of the Columbia River Valley. And taking in this awe-inspiring view gives you a great photo opportunity without taking too much time from your trip.
If you want to spend more time in the area, then stop at the Wanapum Recreation area or the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Parks just across the river on the west bank. Washington State Parks do require a paid Discover Pass, but the activities available in the parks make the nominal fee well worth it.
River Front Park is located on the shores of the Spokane River in downtown Spokane, Wa. This is a beautiful park which offers a lot to do on a family road trip. One of the key attractions here is the Spokane Falls which are the second-longest series of urban waterfalls in the United States. While you can enjoy the falls from the shore, the best way to see them is via the Numerica SkyRide which is an enclosed gondola cable ride that carries passengers up and over the falls. There are many other family-friendly activities within the park as well including the Numerica Skate Ribbon and the Looff Carousel.
The best RV Park in the area is Coeur d'Alene RV resort. This RV park is just a short distance away just over the border in Idaho. In addition to the great amenities, the park offers a perfect location for visiting the sights in both Spokane and Coeur d'Alene.
Coeur d'Alene, ID is a great small city in beautiful Northwest Idaho. Lake Coeur d'Alene is the centerpiece and major attraction for visitors to this area. The lake offers many activities including boating, paddling, swimming, fishing, waterskiing/tubing, and parasailing. In fact, parasailing is one of the best ways to get an amazing view of the lake, surrounding city, and mountains. To set up a parasailing trip try Coeur d'Alene Parasail. They offer amazing single and tandem flights at affordable prices.
One thing to note. If you want to bring your own watercraft to the lake there is a mandatory watercraft inspection required to prevent the spread of invasive species to the waters here. The inspection stations are off of I-90 and all vehicles traveling with watercraft have to go through the inspection stations. You will want to make sure that your watercraft is completely drained and dry inside before getting inspected.
The St. Regis Flea Market is the largest flea market held in the state of Montana. It is held annually on Memorial Day weekend at the St Regis Community park. To get there, take Montana exit 33 off of I-90 and follow the signs. The market is open from daylight to dusk on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. You'll find a wide variety of things for sale including crafts, tools, furniture and other miscellaneous items. There are also food vendors on site.
St Regis is a great small mountain town to stop at while passing through Western Montana. They have a great golf course, antique shopping and access to the Hiawatha Mountain Bike Trail. Campground St Regis is a great place to stay in the area. It is a beautiful, well-run campground conveniently located just outside of town.
I-90 passes right through the heart of Missoula, Montana which is the largest city in Western Montana. It is considered by many to be the cultural hub of the state. While you are here, try visiting the Farmers Market which operates on Saturday mornings from May – October and Tuesday evenings from June – September. Keep an eye out for huckleberries during the summer. Huckleberries grow wild here and they make a treat that is fairly unique to the area.
The Montana Museum of Art & Culture is a University of Montana facility which houses the largest collection of Montana cultural artifacts anywhere. To explore history first hand you can explore Montana's most intact ghost town. Garnet is located just 30 miles east of Missoula and exploring it will paint a vivid picture of what life was like in Montana around 1900.
Finally, Missoula is the gateway to Glacier National Park. The west entrance/Apgar Ranger Station is about a two and a half hour drive north. Take I-90 to the Rt-93 North exit to get on your way. While this is a significant side trip it is worth every second. Glacier National Park is in undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parks in the United States and should not be missed if you have the chance to visit. If you are there between July and mid-October then the Going to the Sun Road should be open.
As one of the most beautiful mountain roads in the world, this is a must-drive. If you fear driving narrow high mountain roads you can grab a free shuttle at the Apgar Ranger Station which will take you to the top of the mountain at Logan's pass.