Folks who live on the west side of the Cascade Mountain Range often find themselves driving along Interstate 5 between Seattle and Portland. Anyone driving between California and Seattle or Vancouver BC will undoubtedly follow this route. Fortunately, there are lots of fun places to stop along the way to break up your trip, all of them right off the freeway.
Here are some recommendations for fun things to do along Interstate 5 between Seattle/Tacoma and Portland.
The gorgeous domed structure of the Washington State Legislature building is a standout landmark, easy to see from I-5 whether you're heading north or south. It's well worth the time to actually stop and walk around the lovely structure as well as the surrounding buildings and park-like grounds.
Spend Some Time Outdoors
There are several wildlife refuges and big parks located right off of I-5. They're great places to get out and stretch your legs, let the dog and the kids burn off some energy, and sneak in a little nature time. Here are some of your options:
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Renamed in 2015 in honor of late Nisqually tribe leader Billy Frank, Jr., this preserve on the banks of the Nisqually River was established in 1974 to protect migratory birds of the area. It's a beautiful spot for birdwatching and hiking.
This 101-acre park at the confluence of the Chehalis and Skookumchuck rivers is home to several historic buildings, including the Borst homestead, schoolhouse, arboretum and Fort Borst Blockhouse. It has fields for all manner of sports, facilities for camping and concession stands.
Mount St. Helens
The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake, part of Seaquest State Park, is one of the best and most informative of the several visitor centers in the area.
Located five miles east of the Castle Rock exit, the Silver Lake Visitor Center offers an extraordinary film about the 1981 eruption of Mount St. Helens, fascinating exhibits and artifacts, a bookshop, and an outdoor boardwalk trail. On clear days you will see a view of the volcano in the distance. This visitor center is approximately 45 miles from Mount St. Helens.
This indoor-water-park-resort is a family-friendly destination located just north of Centralia. While you have to be an overnight guest to take advantage of the water park, during a short stop you can check out the facilities, grab a snack or meal in one of Great Wolf's eateries, or shop in the gift or swim shops.
Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens
If you're traveling I-5 between Seattle and Portland from mid-April to mid-May, be sure to take the time to stop at the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens. This National Historic Site preserves the Victorian home and garden, where you can walk among a large variety of glorious, fragrant lilacs. You'll see not only the typical lavender, white, or purple lilacs blooming, but also yellow, pink, and blue. Lilac plants are available for purchase during their annual Lilac Days Festival.