Go fly a kite. Seriously. You'll be among lots of friends at the Washington State International Kite Festival, and then you can have a good time exploring, relaxing and playing along the Pacific shore.
And everything you need to know to turn it into a vacation trip is available on the Web.
The weeklong festival draws spectators and fliers from all over to the town of Long Beach on Washington's southwest coast to watch colorful stunt kites, graceful kites, fighting kites, complex kites and whimsical kites. You and your kids can learn how to construct and fly your own. And you might want to take extra batteries and memory chips for your camera; look for "Photos" for a preview of how varied and colorful these kites can be. If you have a broadband Internet connection, venture over to YouTube and type the name of the festival into the search field for several spectacular videos of past festivals. The festival Web page also has links for the World Kite Museum.
It all takes places on a stretch of oceanfront land called the Long Beach Peninsula less than three hours northwest of Portland, Ore., or less than four hours southwest of Seattle. When you're not watching (or flying) kites, you can go to sea on a fishing charter, hike miles of beach, watch migrating birds, ride horses along the shore or just chill out. Look for the link to Cape Disappointment State Park, a scenic chunk of coast that the Lewis & Clark expedition reached the Pacific in 1805. And there are several Web cams to show you what you're missing.
Under "Attractions" you'll find links for "inquisitive mind," for the Lewis & Clark center and Cranberry Museum, and "adventurous spirit" for links to boat charter services, golf courses and horse outfitters.
And they like festivals. If you can't be there for the kite shindig, try Jazz and Oysters in Oysterville, or the Wild Mushroom Celebration. Click on "Our Towns" in the upper left corner for an interactive map and links to communities on the peninsula and surrounding area, and try "Lodging" for motels, campgrounds, rental homes and bed & breakfast inns like the relaxed China Beach Retreat or the Shelburne Inn, established in 1896.
Visit the Washington state tourism Web site's Long Beach page for more information, a great shot of the Long Beach boardwalk (click on the tiny camera in the upper right corner for a link to the photographer) and a long list of links to information about nearby attractions.
Circle back to the mainland and take U.S. 101 up through the Willapa Harbor region full of more places to fish, hunt, take out a canoe or kayak, dig clams and hike. Click on "Seafood" to see where you can find the local specialties, including the mollusks they say give them the right to call Willapa Bay the Oyster Capital of the World.
North of Willapa Harbor, visit some of the communities around Grays Harbor with a wide variety of everything from galleries and antique shops to rain forest to casinos and resorts.
The area's location along the coast gives it a rich avian population. Along with the Long Beach Peninsula, bird watchers can hook up with the Southwest Loop of the Great Washington State Birding Trail to explore habitats ranging from the shore to the mountains.
Finally, if you're heading east from Long Beach rather than up the coast, save time to visit Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to see the mountain that erupted on May 18, 1980.