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Highway 5 Road Trip Pit Stops for Families to Cure Any Case of “Are We There Yet?!”

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Embarking on a West Coast road trip with kids and looking for pitstops to please the family? Interstate 5 stretches between the Washington/Canada border and the California/Mexico border. I-5 has no shortage of exciting cities, beautiful scenery, and roadside attractions to keep your crew entertained. The question is, which are worth a stop and which are simply a waste of valuable travel time and cash? Making my home in an I-5 town, I’m well acquainted with this particular interstate, as are my kids. Below you’ll find our five favorite Highway 5 attractions that won’t break the bank or ruin your carefully planned schedule. Best of all, they’re all located directly off an I-5 exit!

Highway 5 attractions for families

Families find lots of fun attractions on Highway 5 (Photo credit: karenr, Depositphotos.com)

1. Enchanted Forest Theme Park

Salem, Oregon

This small-scale outdoor amusement park is a Northwest institution. Past the Enchanted Forest entrance, you’ll find winding paths amid lush scenery that instantly transport you to a fairytale world. Little ones will love Storybook Lane. Meanwhile, older kids could spend hours in the English Village and Indian Caves. My family loves the interactive and exploratory nature of these attractions. Plus, there are no long lines, which means no waiting! There are traditional rides as well, such as a log flume and mini roller coaster. Families can explore the entire park within a few hours. Admission is a reasonable price, with some attractions requiring an extra paid ticket to ride. Children under age 2 enter for free.

Humpty Dumpty attraction at the Enchanted Forest Theme Park

Humpty Dumpty attraction at the Enchanted Forest Theme Park in Salem, Oregon (Photo from EnchantedForest.com)

2. Lithia Park

Ashland, Oregon

If you’re not yet acquainted with Ashland, then you’re about to fall in love. This small Highway 5 university town is home to the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which takes place at the fabulous Lithia Park. This park stretches over 93 acres just past the main downtown shopping district. Beautifully landscaped to create a true garden setting at any time of year, Lithia features several duck ponds, hiking trails, and an excellent playground. There are also green open areas, oak and aspen groves, and river bridges. If you stop by in winter, then check out Centennial Ice Rink. This is Lithia’s outdoor ice skating pavilion on Wilburn right past the Plaza.

Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon (Photo credit: AlessandraRC, Depositphotos.com)

3. Turtle Bay Exploration Park

Redding, California

Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a sprawling center of river walks, outdoor exhibits, indoor museums, and stunning views. This make it the perfect pitstop when everyone’s about to go crazy in the car. First up, run across the glass-bottomed Sundial Bridge. Then learn about local wildlife and forestation at Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp. Finally, head indoors for multiple exhibits and displays. Everything at Turtle Bay is hands-on, and there’s a great onsite café.

Sundial Bridge in Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, California

Sundial Bridge in Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, California (Photo credit: photoquest7, Depositphotos.com)

4. Old Sacramento and the California State Railroad Museum

Sacramento, California

Before tackling the drive through California’s Central Valley, stop in Old Sacramento. As you exit I-5, you’ll suddenly find yourself in an Old West town. Expect false store fronts, one-room schoolhouses, saloons, and the best railroad museum we’ve ever seen. The California State Railroad Museum is well worth two to three hours of your time. Kids can walk through trains and learn about the history of the California railroad through life-sized displays. Families will also enjoy the museum's IMAX film.

Historic wooden storefronts in Old Sacramento

Historic wooden storefronts in Old Sacramento (Photo credit: friday, Depositphotos.com)

5. Pretend City Children's Museum

Irvine, California

If you're traveling with young children itching for a chance to get out of the car and play, then Pretend City is for you. This huge indoor play space has been ingeniously laid out into a mock city for kids. Here, children “drive” on city streets with streetlamps and pedal cars. They can also visit the grocery store, where they take turns as clerk or shopper. Then children can head to the post office, where they'll be put to work sorting envelopes. Everything is designed to teach kids about how their communities run. At first glance, it seems Pretend City is geared for the under 8 set, but our older kids (aged 10 and 12 at the time) also loved this attraction. In fact, they may have enjoyed handling pretend money, working make-believe jobs, and making pretend telephone calls even more than the preschoolers around them!

Pretend City Children's Museum in Irvine, California

Pretend City Children's Museum in Irvine, California (Photo credit: Pretend City)

Explore More of the West Coast

The West Coast of the United States overflows with fun activities. Take a look at our picks for the best California destinations for kids.

Along the Pacific Coast in Oregon, you'll love our family-friendly things to do in Cannon Beach.

In Washington State, follow these tips for exploring Seattle with kids.

The Best Highway 5 Attractions for Families

Save these Highway 5 Attractions

For future travels, be sure to save this list of the best Highway 5 attractions to visit during a West Coast road trip with kids. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Have you ever embarked on a West Coast road trip? What are your favorite Highway 5 attractions? Let us know in the comments below!

Amy Whitley is the editor and administrator of Pit Stops for Kids. This family travel review site is dedicated to finding the best resorts, attractions, restaurants, and experiences for traveling families. 

Comments
  1. The Railroad Park Resort in Dunsmuir is a great place to spend the night. You can sleep in an old caboose and swim in the pool or the pond. Also, about an hour to the west of Grant’s Pass is the unforgettable Tresort–spend the night in the treehouse of your dreams.
    Also, I spend the night at a pull-off called Westley: the motels are right-priced, and then you’re a quick hour’s drive over the hill to San Francisco & all the great stuff to do with kids there!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      What wonderful tips, Helen! Thanks for sharing. My kids would love to spend the night in a treehouse!!!

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