Big Winter Fun in Small Town Wenatchee Washington
I have three boys. Yup. Three of them. A seven year old and twin four year olds. And… we are not a family who skis. I used to go with my church youth group once a year but I really never learned to love it. If you didn’t guess already, I am not a fan of having my feet attached to something and going at speeds I can’t control.
Also, I dislocated my knee (for the second time) this past November dancing to Katy Perry’s Roar with the kids in our living room. Yes, we rock the house regularly. You know you do too! The other time I screwed up my knew I was nervously wakeboarding about 12 years ago. Did I mention that I do not like having my feet attached to things? My husband, Josh, had been skiing once before about 10 years ago and loved it. As you can see, he is the ying to my yang.
Not wanting to let my own fears get in the way of a little winter fun for my family, we headed up in Wenatchee, WA, just outside of Seattle, for a winter weekend getaway that would include skiing and snow tubing. I’m not going to lie. I was nervous.
Winter Packing Stress
Packing is what caused me the most anxiety leading up to the trip. Since this was mostly new to us, we didn’t have all of the gear we needed and we didn’t want to break the bank. I had ski bibs, hats, and mittens for the boys for regular snow days. I’d bought myself snow pants and boots sometime in the last few years.
I headed out to our local second-hand shops to round out our wardrobes. Happily, I scored snow boots for all three boys, and coats for three of the five of us. I also snagged a train table for $15 for my little train lover but that’s beside the point. Josh borrowed a ski bib and we were ready to go… at least as far as outerwear was concerned.
I still had to decide what the kids needed to wear under all of those bulky coats and ski pants to make sure the kids were warm enough. We all know how it goes when fingers and toes get too cold.
Thankfully, my boys were fine with one pair of regular socks and regular clothes under all that snow gear. We got lucky with a sunny day on the mountain. Playing in the snow generally builds up a sweat too.
Getting to Wenatchee from Seattle
Our drive to Wenatchee took only about three hours from Seattle. We made it there and back on the same tank of gas. We borrowed snow chains for the mini van tires just in case. The roads were clear so we drove up with no problems.
To say that the drive was absolutely beautiful would be an understatement. Mountains are always impressive. When they’re covered in snow, they’re just plain breathtaking.
We arrived at Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel just before dark. The lobby invited us in with a warm fire to cozy up next to while we checked in. I think this was the first time the boys had ever stayed in a hotel. They were quite excited.
We were pleasantly surprised to have a suite, which was perfect for our larger family. The main room had a sitting area with a pullout couch, a mini fridge, microwave and table with four chairs. The bedroom had a king-size bed and full bath. The boys aren’t used to sleeping in the same bed, but we turned them all sideways and asked for an extra blanket. They fit perfectly on the pullout couch. Want more bed ideas? Read How to Create More Beds in a Hotel Room now!
NOTE: It was a special treat to have the BNSF Railway, formerly known as the Great Northern Railway, directly behind us. The boys just couldn’t get enough of the action on the tracks.
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McGlinn’s Public House
It had been a long day, so we grabbed dinner at McGlinn’s Public House. It’s just a couple of blocks from the hotel in the downtown area.
Wenatchee’s downtown area reminds me of my hometown in South Carolina with the store fronts and cars parked diagonally out front. We didn’t make it to the soda fountain (the boys were definitely bummed!), but that’s on my list for next time. The food at McGlinn’s was great. They also provided crayons and play dough, which was very helpful for three boys who had been sitting in the van all afternoon.
I noticed as we waited for our table at McGlinn’s that the folks who were coming and going were chatting back and forth and yelling out greetings. I think I expected most of the people to be tourists like us but it is a small town full of people who know each other.
Ski Lessons at Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort
My boys get up early. My husband and I most certainly do not. Since we were scheduled to meet for ski lessons at 9:15 Saturday morning, we ordered breakfast through room service to make things easier. The drive to Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort on the East side of the Cascade mountains took under 30 minutes from our hotel. Easy peasy.
My 7-year-old was very anxious, though. He was under the impression that we were going to put him at the top of a mountain and send him straight down right from the start. So for the entire drive over, we tried to explain what he could expect. Meanwhile, I was mentally holding my breath that this would all turn out OK.
Soon after we arrived, we met Jody, one of the many talent staffers at Mission Ridge. She got my fellas all set up in the system and passed us off to get fitted for boots and skis. The staff was unbelievably friendly and down to earth. They even provided us with helmets and goggles!
Josh went off to his private lesson, while I stayed with the boys for their lesson. Sadly, my boys did not instantly fall in love with skiing. I made my oldest stick it out, but the younger two had had enough after about 45 minutes. They mostly just stood there, scared to move. There were tears. The entire lesson was two hours long.
Josh’s instructor said that age four is right on the line of being ready. So, we’ll try again with the twins in another year or so. While it was a shock to his system, Josh enjoyed relearning to ski. His instructor also said that private lessons, as opposed to group lessons, are the way to go for anyone just starting out.
I have only been in quick group lessons before. I can see how private lessons could make a huge difference when you are first starting out. It is also important to find an instructor that matches your child’s personality and/or specific needs. My oldest tends to be anxious and sensitive, so he needed someone a little more experienced with motivating children of that nature. The Mission Ridge staff was so accommodating. I don’t think it would be a big stretch for them to be able to find someone to fit my boys’ personalities in the future.
TIP: Mission Ridge has a child care service available if Mom and Dad want to ski together without keeping up with the kids. They provide lunch and a ski lesson if you choose to do so. You can pay for all day or they have an hourly rate.
Skiing lessons wrapped up, we headed over to Pybus Public Market, which is also an easy walk from the Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel. You guys, I love a good market! Don’t you?
I met with Steve Robinson, who is the executive director there. He joined us in his ski clothes and we soon learned that he also gives ski lessons at Mission Ridge on the weekends. Wenatchee really does have such a warm, small town vibe.
I was lucky enough to get a personal tour of the market plus a little history of how it came to be what it is today and how it stands out from other local businesses. In 2013, the building was renovated. It used to be Pybus Steel Company, a steel fabrication plant but is now fully enclosed. They succeeded in preserving much of the industrial feel of the building. This is yet another nugget of Wenatchee that reminds me of the tobacco warehouses from my hometown in South Carolina. Pybus Market is now one of the favorite local meet-ups. The market prides itself on choosing vendors that provide specialty, high quality, local foods and gifts.
Steve and I got to sample several of the merchants’ products as we walked. I found that while I don’t like coconut, I do in fact like coconut cheese from The Cheesemonger’s Shop. After sampling at D’Olivo, I was not leaving without a bottle of Peach White Balsamic Vinegar and a bottle of the Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil. Chicken has never tasted so good in my house! The market also provides cooking classes and bike rentals to ride along the Columbia River. If you’re lucky enough to be around on a Saturday morning or Wednesday afternoon, the Wenatchee Valley Farmer’s Market will be set up outside. It’s an event all on its own.
While Steve and I wandered, the boys enjoyed gelato and crepes from Ice with their dad. We’d had a long, exciting day, so we opted to head back to the hotel so the boys could jump into the pool. Before we left Pybus, we grabbed some takeaway pizza from Fire and a bottle of wine from Jones of Washington to enjoy for dinner that night. What a blessing. After a little aqua fun we crashed for the evening, satisfied with a winter day in Wenatchee.
On Sunday morning, we dressed for another day in the snow, packed up the van, and checked out of the hotel. We’d already filled our bellies with French toast and eggs at The River Top Bar and Grill. We were officially ready for our afternoon snow tubing adventure.
The Leavenworth Winter Sports Club is about 30 minutes from the hotel and on our way home. It’s tucked in the back of a neighborhood, and hard to miss if you don’t know to look for it. I heard someone say that it’s practically their backyard. I imagined all of the local kids telling stories about spending their winters there, skiing, snowboarding, and tubing and then making it home in time for dinner.
This activity was a bit more our speed, or at least the twins. It was a slow and very relaxing day. The boys loved tubing and surprise, surprise, so did I.
NOTE: Snow tubes are available for use. If you need ski equipment, you’ll need to rent from a local rental shop in town before heading over if you don’t already own gear.
Snow Tubing in Leavenworth
The park is very compact with two ski hills and one tubing hill. All three end right in the middle so it is easy to split up and still keep up with your party. Even I was ready to try skiing there. It didn’t feel overwhelming at all.
The boys had plenty of room at the bottom of the hills to play in the snow without being in the way of skiers. The girl at the ticket booth said that peak season is around December so I imagine it does get a bit busier and the line for tubing is much longer unlike our experience here at the end of February.
Having twins made traveling and a lot of other things a bit more challenging. Aside from traveling home to South Carolina to see family, and moving across the country a couple of times, we haven’t done it a whole lot. This short trip was the beginning of what I hope to be many adventures in the near future.
Wenatchee Washington was a great starting place for us. It’s very laid back and quiet. When we were at Mission Ridge, I asked where we needed to put the snow boots while everyone skied. They said to just leave them anywhere and they’ll be right there when you get back. Nothing ever walks away. What a comforting feeling! I almost felt that I could leave the kids anywhere too, but I didn’t try it. You know, just in case.
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We are already planning our trip back. During the warmer months, mountain biking is the thing to do. I’m not a skier yet, but I love mountain biking. My knee better be ready by then!
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Many thanks to Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel and Visit Wenatchee for hosting my family for the weekend. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t, you will be the first to know. Wenatchee snow via ShutterStock.com