Route 2: Seattle Side Trip

Seattle’s back roads feature Boeing, ice cream and an albino alligator.


U.S. Route 2 is a historic east-west highway spanning 2,579 miles across the northern contiguous United States. The highway journeys through picturesque western Washington state, where natural wonders are punctuated by historic sites and mountain towns. Children can pick their own blueberries the traditional pioneer way using hand-held berry rakes, and enjoy mountain communities where artists sell chainsaw-carved grizzly bear sculptures.

Visitors generally begin this route eastbound, beginning north of Seattle in Everett. With an itinerary in hand, I set out from Seattle with the ultimate trip critics: my 7-year-old daughter, Abby; her 8-year-old cousin, Kelly; and their grandfather, Aaron.

The 120-mile segment of Route 2 we chose, part of what locals call “the Cascade Loop,” offers a host of options for families to explore. While some Seattle residents routinely make a day trip to visit only a few of its attractions at a time, the route is best enjoyed with an overnight at one of its many child-friendly hotels. Much of the landscape is as it was when settlers first arrived in the region in 1858, with jagged cliffs and serene cedars, which are snow-flecked in the autumn and winter—a perfect time to see this stretch of the route.

Everett’s Boeing Tour

The first stop along the route is Everett, where you can take a tour of Boeing’s commercial jet assembly plant, a fascinating experience for older kids and adults. In 2005, the plant became part of the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour, a new facility designed to provide visitors with an understanding and appreciation of technology and science of flight.

Kids can try out the next generation of in-flight entertainment systems, touch the high-tech “skin” of the new Boeing 787, and learn how technology and aviation can connect people of different cultures across the globe. Amateur engineers Kelly and Abby designed and took home souvenir images of their own jets, which scored better in artistic interpretation than in technical merit. Children must be at least 4 feet tall to go on the tour.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for seniors/military, $8 for children 15 and under. There is a $2.50 service charge to purchase tickets in advance, either online or on the phone. Visit for more information.

Snohomish’s Gourmet Treats

Continuing east to the Victorian-style town of Snohomish, Snoqualmie Gourmet offers a tasty and educational ice cream experience for families. Children will enjoy viewing the final steps of ice cream production and touring the garden where some of their favorite flavors come from. Abby enjoyed watching the fruits, nuts, candy and cookies blended in the ice cream as she pondered which variety to pick.

With 24 flavors of ice cream to choose from, everyone is sure to find at least one they love. Favorites for children include Mukilteo Mud and Skagit Valley Strawberry, while adults may prefer the Jack Daniels blend. Abby swapped her Danish Vanilla Bean with Kelly’s Cascade Mountain Blackberry.

Renowned for its antiquing, Snohomish also offers child-friendly restaurants including the legendary Oxford Saloon. Patrons claim that several ghosts, including that of a local policeman, haunt the establishment and some say they have witnessed fire extinguishers fly off their mounts. Members of the Washington State Ghost Society report that they heard their names being whispered when they investigated the premises.

Abby and Kelly enjoyed the saloon’s ghostly reputation along with the burgers and chicken fingers. Afterward, we strolled to Bears and Blossoms to look at the teddy bear and doll offerings, then to LB Games, a renowned local game store, to pick up some activities for the drive.

Monroe’s Reptiles

Five miles east of Snohomish is the kid magnet known for its “gross” factor—the Washington Serpentarium in Monroe, home of the only albino alligator in the Pacific Northwest. It has enough crawly, slithery, scary critters to send kids into absolute ecstasy. The Reptile Man, Scott Petersen, has collected 200 creatures including more than 50 snakes. Other caged critters include chameleons, lizards, scorpions and spiders; big tortoises amble around the yard. Kids can touch the scales of certain zoo inhabitants and feel them slither or observe as they take a meal. Kelly chose a West African bush viper as her favorite resident of the collection. Visit for more information.

Leavenworth’s Holidays

Nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains is Bavarian-themed Leavenworth. The annual Christmas Lighting, featuring an appearance by a German Santa, is a favorite for families.  Displaying well over 5,000 nutcrackers originating from more than 40 countries, the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum adds to the European family Christmas experience.

Children can sled in the park and ride in decked-out sleighs. At dusk, families witness the lighting of the village and park as each are transformed into a twinkling wonderland. Nearby, Icicle Village offers a miniature golf course, movie theater and arcade game room.

We checked in at the 104-room Enzian Inn, where family rooms start at $160 per night. At breakfast, Abby and Kelly playfully imitated a man in lederhosen playing a bellowing alpenhorn; their grandfather laughed. Visit for more information.

Our group of travelers enjoyed our adventures on the Cascade Loop. I'm sure that the girls will always remember their jet design attempts and the sound of that alpenhorn. 

Destinations: Leavenworth, Seattle, Everett, Monroe, Snohomish

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Eat, Shopping, Sightseeing, Sleep

User Comments

Great Article, Sarah! My husband and I came to visit Seattle, after I met you last January in Colorado Springs at the OTC. Loved your Emerald City, and hope to come back, soon. Are you writing about your adventures in Alaska, yet? Best, Michele

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