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June getting cozy at the Kids Trek at NW Trek. She's an animal person, obviously. (Image: Oona Copperhill)

A Guide to Traveling with a Baby (and Still Having Fun): Part 2

We know a lot of you are parents - and parents of young kids at that. One of the worst things our writer Kate Neidigh was told when she was pregnant was that she'd "never travel again" once baby was born. Well guess what - that doesn't fly with us! There are plenty of places that are baby-friendly around these parts, and we've sent Kate and her ten-month-old baby June on a series of family-friendly adventures to prove it to us. She'll help you navigate your way around must see (baby friendly) spots in the state. It's all about how to satisfy your wanderlust with kids in tow. This is Part Two: Mothers and Nature at Mt. Rainier. Happy travels!

Did you like our Part One trip to Whidbey Island? This time our travels took us to Mt. Rainier National Park and the surrounding area. The reasons were simple: 1) It's completely gorgeous, and 2) I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't been there since I was a child. It's literally one of the most majestic places in Washington, I encourage all of you to get there and not wait 15 years like I did!

This was a generation trip. Along with my 10-month-old baby June, my mom joined us. All three of us spent two nights and three days exploring. From Seattle we took Highway Loop #1 to Ashford where we spent the afternoon and overnight at Wellspring Spa. I have NEVER seen a place like this in my entire life. The grounds are full of cabins with different themes; we stayed in the 3 Bears Cottage...the bear decor was in full force. Bear everything! Bear statues, bear bedding, stuffed bears and the bathroom has a giant Jacuzzi tub that's surrounded by (you guessed it) BEARS! It's unlike anything I've ever laid my eyes on (in a quirky, unique, good way). The cabin was MADE for kids. There's a play area full of toys, a kitchen and dining room table for family meals and a highchair is provided. We met the owner, Sunny, who gave us a tour of multiple cabins as well as a nature walk great for a little family. I can totally envision going there for family reunions.

It's only a twenty-minute drive from Wellspring to Mt. Rainier National Park, just enough time for your baby to fall asleep and leave you trapped in the car for fear of waking them (or is that just me)? But good thing the drive is gorgeous, stunning, breathtaking...you get my drift. We drove around for a bit before making a stop at Narada Falls (this is a must see)! We ventured on to the top of Paradise, where there is just the right amount of snow to play in. Locals tell me the BEST time to visit is in August and September because the flowers are in full bloom and the weather is ideal. Don't miss photo ops and taking in the sights of Reflection Lakes before heading down Steven’s Canyon to the Grove of the Patriarchs. The Grove of the Patriarchs trail is a nice 40-minute round trip hike, perfect for putting your little on in a front back or backpack. It's one of the easiest hikes the park has to offer. There's so much family friendly hiking at the park. We saw tons of parents lugging their little ones on their backs. There are too many good hikes to mention, just visit www.visitrainier.com to pick your adventure.

We then headed to Enumclaw where we had dinner at Kelly's Mercantile and had the pleasure of dining with Chef Ky Loop. Let me just gush a little here. Dressed in his flannel button-down, passionately hunting and foraging what nature has to offer, he's the essence of a true NWer. He forages for food and then brings it back to the restaurant to make fresh rustic-inspired meals. He said to me "My favorite day is any day in the woods," and I believe it! He's been foraging for food since he was a kid and his dad taught him and showed him the best spots. Chef Ky actually offers foraging tours now! He's a dad to three kiddos who he takes out foraging regularly. Besides the back story, the finished food at Kelly's was delicious. Everything tasted so fresh and satisfying, but that could be just because I had the whole backstory from Chef as to where it came from. I could live off the charcuterie and cheese board, no joke. The seasonal salad was full of hand-picked mushrooms and rich cheese. Everything that's on your plate is so well thought out. I get the idea that Chef Ky knows basically everything about the woods and how to survive off the land, so I call dibs that he's on my team if there's ever a zombie apocalypse (just saying).

We satisfied our sweet tooth with chocolate salted caramels from Sweet Necessities, they also have an entire wall display devoted to teas if that's your vice.

Our third and final day we went to Northwest Trek. The wildlife park is such a great place to take kids of all ages. There're tons of exhibits to explore: my favorite part was riding the trolley snuggled up with June and my mom. There were so many animals to see and June was almost as interested in the animal sighting as much as the kid sightings (she loves big kids, and she's not shy about it). We saw moose, bison, elk, deer, sheep and lots of different bird species. A new addition to the park is the Kids Trek area. Lots of play toys to climb and explore for the bigger kids.

My favorite part of the getaway (other than laying in bed in the morning with my mom and daughter laughing) was satisfying my daughter's curiosity. Washington state is basically killing it in the Awesome Department. There is so much to explore and experience. I used to think of it like "There are so many places I want to see", but now I think of it like "There are so many places I want to show my child".

***Next stop, Orcas Island!


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