Are you looking for an amazing, kid-friendly PNW weekend getaway? Scroll to learn all about Winthrop, WA, a super cute, wild west town that you have to see to believe!
This post about things to do in Winthrop, WA was originally published June 18, 2018 and was updated August 1, 2020 and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Weekend Getaway to Winthrop, Washington
When I was little, we didn’t go on many vacations. But, one of the family vacations that sticks out is visiting Winthrop, WA. I remember our family driving into this quaint Western town and feeling like we had stepped back in time.
So, when I started planning our family travel for the summer, I knew I had to kick things off with a trip to Winthrop, Washington!
We decided to do a weekend trip to Winthrop, WA in June. We figured the weather would be sunny but not too hot.
Where is Winthrop, WA?
Winthrop, WA is on the North Cascades Scenic Byway (HWY 20) in Washington’s magnificent Methow Valley. This small town is located in the north central part of Washington State.
The drive from Seattle to Winthrop is about 3.75 hours. From Vancouver, BC, the drive takes just over 4 hours. From our home in Renton, it took about 4 hours with a few potty breaks.
NORTH CASCADES HIGHWAY (HWY 20)
This is one of the most scenic drives in Washington State. It goes through the North Cascades National Park.
I mean, we have a lot of gorgeous natural beauty, but my husband and I were blown away by the deep green water in Lake Diablo.
This video captures just how cool the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway is:
And you drive through the mountains, which still had snowy banks in June. This highway is closed in the winter, but it’s a stunning drive in the other months!
Winthrop, WA Hotels
So, there are several Winthrop, WA hotels and accommodations. It’s important to know what you are looking for hotels in Winthrop, WA. Are you looking for a mountain resort? Do you want to be close to town?
Here are my top picks:
If you are looking for a luxurious mountain resort, Sun Mountain Lodge is it! Located 3,000 acres above the town of Winthrop, this lodge features a large range of summer and winter activities.
Plus, they have luxurious guest rooms, a full service spa, an impressive wine collection, and a gourmet restaurant. It’s also a popular wedding location.
If you’d like to be right in town, Hotel Rio Vista is conveniently located on the end of the main street in downtown Winthrop. It features a hot tub and stunning views of the river.
Plus, there’s a kitchenette with a minifridge and a microwave. You can easily walk around town without needing a car.
If you’d rather be a little further from the western themed town of Winthrop, Mt. Gardner Inn is about half a mile from the main area.
So, it’s close enough to walk to for dinner, or you can walk 2 minutes to a pizza place. They offer an array of rooms at different price points.
Hotel Rio Vista
We chose to stay at the Hotel Rio Vista because it’s so family friendly. The owners have little kids themselves and they are plugged in to the family activities around town. And their staff are upbeat and friendly!
Hotel Rio Vista is located at the end of the main drag in Winthrop, WA.
This is awesome for families because we could just walk to awesome coffee shops, restaurants, an amazing bookstore, Shafer Museum, and basically anywhere in “downtown” Winthrop.
There’s even a park that’s within walking distance. Not having to get kids in and out of car seats is a HUGE plus for me.
And the rooms at Hotel Rio Vista are ideal for families. There was a large minifridge and microwave in the kitchenette.
Plus, they had a shelf with take out utensils. This came in handy when we brought leftovers back to our room. The bathrooms are also quite spacious. I’m pleased to report they have a full bathtub!
But the best thing about staying at the Hotel Rio Vista is that you can walk out on your deck and see the incredible river view!
When we arrived, the front desk employee told us that a deer just had babies that morning. We could see the Mama deer and her babies from our room!
Camping in Winthrop, WA
Another popular place to stay in Winthrop is at a local campground. They have ones for tent camping as well as RV hookups. Here are a few awesome campgrounds to choose from:
PEARRYGIN LAKE STATE PARK
This 1,186-acre campground is a great place to camp if you like hiking. They have 6.5 miles of hiking trails right at the park. Plus, it’s on 11,000 feet of gorgeous waterfront at Pearrygin Lake.
The campground is open May through October.
BIG TWIN LAKE CAMPGROUND
This campground is just 3 miles from Winthrop and it’s a great Methow Valley campground for families who love to fish. The lake is actually stocked with rainbow trout!
They have RV hookups, tent camp sites, a children’s play area, swim dock, and you can even rent rowboats and paddleboats!
PINE NEAR RV PARK
If you want to camp in Winthrop, it doesn’t get much closer than Pine Near RV Park. They are right next door to the Shafer Museum in town and have full hookups and pull-thru sites.
If you don’t have an RV, you can book one of their Tipis or Mining Shacks for an authentic Western experience. Or you can book one of their tent camping spots for just $20!
Another great option for Winthrop, WA camping is with Winthrop KOA. It’s near town and they have all kinds of campsites. They have tent spots with river views, large grassy spots for big groups, RV pull-thru sites, and more.
They even have covered wagons you can stay in!
Plus, they have a heated pool that is open from mid-May to mid-October that is sure to be a hit with your kids!
Things To Do in Winthrop WA in a Weekend
Wondering what to do in Winthrop WA? If you are outdoorsy, there are lots of active things to do in Winthrop and Methow Valley. We saw a lot of families decked out in outdoor gear. Hiking and camping top the list.
There’s also biking, hot air ballooning, rock climbing, fishing, boating, and the list goes on and on.
However, my family is decidedly NOT into most outdoor activities. But, we were thrilled to have so many fun options for family adventures. We did enjoy some outdoor adventures, but we mostly had a nice, easy paced weekend.
Here’s what we did in our weekend in Winthrop, WA:
When I researched things to do in Winthrop, WA Shafer Museum popped up. It’s an indoor/outdoor museum highlighting pioneer life. Lucky for us, it was across the street from our hotel.
We walked up the ramp and stairs to get to the museum. The first stop was the outdoor gold mining exhibit. It was basically rusty tools and machines used to mine for gold years ago.
They have several signs posted warning parents to keep an eye on their kids and make sure they don’t climb on any of the equipment.
After that, we headed to an area with lots of tiny buildings. These had indoor exhibits featuring a little school house, a mercantile, a general store, a living room, and more.
My son’s favorite spot was the general store. They had lots of cool things on display like vintage toys and food canisters.
But, the coolest this is that they had a working gumball machine in the style of the 1800s made from a glass jar and wood. The docent showed my son how it worked and let him keep the gumball (which was NOT from the 1800s!)
This was one of the most surprisingly cool Winthrop things to do!
Walk Through Winthrop, WA
After Shafer Museum, we decided to grab our stroller and walk around the town. Winthrop is surprisingly stroller-friendly. Most of the walkways are wooden, so we had no problem with our Bob stroller.
I wouldn’t recommend bringing an umbrella stroller, though.
Our favorite stop was the book store. It’s huge! And they have an extensive children’s section complete with a train table, lots of toys, cool puzzles, and books of course!
And they have really comfy couches if you want to rest a bit while your kids play at the train table.
Three Fingered Jacks Saloon
One of my memories from my childhood trips to Winthrop was eating at Three Fingered Jacks. It’s the oldest (legal) saloon in Washington State.
My dad and brother visited Winthrop last year, so I knew they no longer sold those amazing milkshakes. But, we decided to stop in for an early dinner. And by early, I mean 4:30pm!
They mostly serve burgers and pizza. Half of the space is a legit saloon and the rest is a family-friendly restaurant.
Their children’s menu offered four entrees. The kids split an order of chicken nuggets and were delighted that they arrived in animal shapes! Plus, they got smiley face french fries!
Three Fingered Jacks has highchairs. Their booths have wooden seats sturdy enough for kids to stand on.
The children’s menus aren’t coloring sheets, so if your kids like that, bring your own. Straw cups were available for my toddler’s milk.
Sherri’s Sweet Shoppe
When we checked into Hotel Rio Vista, I asked the woman at the front desk about her favorite spots in Winthrop. She told us we absolutely HAD to head to Sherri’s Sweet Shoppe.
She recommended their version of a frappuccino made with real ice cream. And she said she loves to get the chocolate covered gummy bears inside their candy shop.
So, after our dinner at Three Fingered Jacks, we headed to get ice cream and treats at Sherri’s Sweet Shoppe. Sherri’s is definitely a big hit for families.
They also have a bucket of chalk so kids can draw on the sidewalk. We loved the vintage fortune teller machine. Plus, they have putt putt golf downstairs.
Out of all the Winthrop activities, this one is a definitely hit with kids!
But, I think one of the coolest things about Sherri’s Sweet Shoppe is that customers can sit on real saddles to eat their treats!
My preschooler sat in about 4 different saddles while eating his ice cream cone. And my toddler begged to get out of the stroller so he could also sit on one.
And, you know I’m a sucker for a cute photo op! So, when I saw this wooden statue, I bribed my son to sit for a quick photo!
Since our toddler took a short nap on the drive to Winthrop from Seattle, we knew we were in the “countdown to beast mode” so we all headed back to our hotel to rest up for our Saturday adventures.
Horse Back Riding Near Winthrop, WA
One of the things my preschooler was most excited about our Winthrop weekend getaway was getting to ride a horse.
He’d ridden on a pony 2 years ago at Remlinger Farms, but this was his first time on a big horse.
So, we headed to ThunderFoot Riding for a private one-hour lesson. If you’re visiting the Methow Valley with kids, this is definitely one of the most memorable things to do near Winthrop WA.
Bethann greeted us warmly and talked about her life growing up on a ranch in the mid-west. She had family on Whidbey Island and they used to drive through Winthrop every summer to visit them.
She told us that she remembered thinking “Wow! This is like a ghost town, but PEOPLE live here!” I think that’s the best way to describe Winthrop!
Anyway, she introduced my 4 year old to Thunder, whose nickname is “Couch.” Apparently he doesn’t like to move! He was the perfect horse for my first-time rider, as he was very gentle.
Then, she fitted my son for his helmet and told him all about horse safety. She showed him horse shoes and how they get attached to the hooves. She also taught him about the saddle and the safest way for him to ride.
My son rode the horse by himself while she walked next to him.
After a few quick walks to get comfortable, they were ready for their first trail ride! We put our toddler in our BOB stroller and followed along. As my son was riding, she explained how to steer a horse with the reins.
Once he got the hang of it, they played “follow the leader” and he steered the horse all by himself!
When we got back to the stable, my son was ready to try trotting. He loves anything that goes fast, so he was really excited to trot along!
Then, he was ready to walk around the field. He kept warning Bethann about all the horse poop and he was so afraid she was going to step in it.
Apparently, that’s a really common worry among young riders, so she just laughed it off. She told him “That’s why I wear these boots!”
Our toddler kept a watchful eye on his brother. We tried putting our toddler on the horse for a minute, but he was very unhappy about it. So, he went back into the stroller to supervise.
My preschooler smiled the entire hour!
After our horseback riding lesson, we figured the kids might nap in the car. So, we decided to take a drive to let them rest.
We attempted to find Falls Creek Falls, a local paved path that’s easy for families to walk. However, we got turned around with our GPS and couldn’t find it.
But, my friend had suggested that we stop at Mazama Store. Since the kids were sound asleep, we headed over there.
I’m so glad we did! This may be the coolest store in a small town! They had fresh sandwiches and a full coffee bar. Plus, a large selection of Methow Valley products.
They even had an extensive freezer section with local foods.
We actually went back on our way home and bought a frozen lasagna and a frozen shepherd’s pie. Both were very tasty and made for easy dinners after our weekend in Winthrop!
Next time, we’re going to stay longer and explore all the things to do in Mazama WA!
Cowboy Dinner at Sun Mountain Lodge
The Cowboy Dinner rounded out our weekend in Winthrop, WA. It’s a special activity that runs during the summer months at Sun Mountain Lodge, located about 20 minutes from downtown Winthrop.
The 3-hour event consists of a horseback ride and dinner.
Since our kids were too young to ride horses, we loaded into the horse-pulled wagon along with other families. Mr. Bill welcomed everyone and then invited some of the kids to stand up front and help him steer the horses.
We started at Sun Mountain Lodge and rode about 45 minutes down to the camp on a trail with stunning views of Methow Valley.
As we arrived, a cowboy was sitting by a fire strumming his guitar and singing a country song. Two horses roamed around the field available for rides for kids who didn’t get to ride a horse down to the Cowboy Dinner. And the air smelled wonderful!
We hopped out of the wagon and made our way to the fire. It was nice to sit back and just soak up the ambiance. After a few minutes, a child rang the dinner bell and staff invited us to grab a plate a dig in!
There was green salad, baked beans, watermelon, corn bread, hot dogs, BBQ chicken and steak.
Plus, they had strawberry pie and apple crumble for dessert. And hot coffee, cold water, and lemonade.
It was BYOB and we saw a few small coolers of beer and a handful of wine bottles.
Throughout dinner, kids were running around the fields and trying to lasso a prop bull.
The highlight of my son’s evening was getting to roast marshmallows to make s’mores! He’d been begging us to take him camping so he could roast marshmallows.
We compromised and make some on our BBQ a few months ago, but it’s just not the same. Even my toddler wanted in on the action!
After our bellies were full, we loaded back into the wagon. It was “golden hour” so we got spectacular views of the valley. My son got a turn holding the reins and he steered us back up to Sun Mountain Lodge.
Other Amazing Winthrop, WA Adventures for Next Time
My kids keep asking us when we are going back to Winthrop, WA because they had such a fun time. We’re already planning our next trip because there are plenty of things we didn’t have time to do.
And now that they are getting older, they can actually do a lot more things!
North Cascade Smokejumper Base
We had several local families tell us to visit the North Cascades Smokejumper Base, but we ran out of time. Apparently the Methow Valley is where smokejumping began.
If you haven’t heard of this before, smokejumpers are specially trained fire fighters who jump out of aircraft in order to reach remote wildfires.
It’s been around since 1939 and it’s a big hit with local kids as well as tourists.
Winthrop National Fish Hatchery
Another place that local families suggested we check out is the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery. This is a great place for kids to see Coho Salmon.
But, the big draw is their kids fishing days. It’s an easy way for kids to learn how to fish without being in a boat.
Methow Valley Farmers Market
We tried to make the Methow Valley Farmers Market on our trip to Winthrop, but it’s only open from 9am-12pm on Saturdays and it’s in Twisp. Next time, we’ll manage our time better so we can go.
There’s also the Winthrop Market on Sundays from 10am-2pm at Winthrop Park. This seems like it would be easy to walk through, especially while eating ice cream cones!
Watch a Movie at Barnyard Cinema
Our family loves loves loves movie nights! I just found out about this independent movie house and I know we’d get a kick out of going (depending on what film is showing.)
Visit Pearrygin Lake State Park
We always love exploring state parks when we travel. This one is one of the most popular state parks in Washington and it’s only 4 miles outside of Winthrop.
They have swimming, fishing, boating and hiking. Plus, it’s a full-fledged campground.
Ride in a Hot Air Balloon
My youngest has been asking me when we’re going to ride in a hot air balloon (like it’s a thing most families do!) It’s actually been on my bucket list for years, and I think the Methow Valley would be a gorgeous spot to do it.
Morning Glory Balloon tours seems to be the best choice. They take kids ages 6 years old and older, so we have a few years before we can do this.
Hiking at Falls Creek Falls
We’re hoping to do this kid-friendly Methow Valley hike on our next trip to Winthrop. It’s just a quarter-mile to get to the first waterfall and it’s on a paved trail.
Then, if the kids are still on board, we can continue on to the scenic viewpoint where we can see the upper falls.
Winthrop Ice Rink
If we happen to visit Winthrop in winter, we’ll probably check out this award-winning ice rink in downtown Winthrop. It’s an outdoor ice skating rink and it sounds pretty magical in wintertime.
I’m actually not a huge fan of ice skating, but my kids love going at least once a year during the holidays.
Cool Events in Winthrop, WA
Winthrop Hot Air Balloon Festival
One of these years, we’re going to visit Winthrop in March so we can check out this 3-day hot air balloon festival. People travel from all over to fly their colorful hot air balloons around Winthrop and the North Cascades.
Winthrop Vintage Wheel Car Show
My youngest is obsessed with all kinds of vehicles and this sounds like the perfect event to take him to. It’s not just cars. People bring their vintage tractors, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and pretty much anything that has wheels and is considered an antique!
Methow Valley Rodeos
If we head to Winthrop during Memorial Day weekend or Labor Day weekend, we’ll probably try to attend the rodeo! It’s something we’ve never done before, but it sure seems like the place to do it!
Thanks to Hotel Rio Vista and Sun Mountain Lodge for hosting my family. All opinions are my own.
Hopefully you learned a lot about Winthrop Washington! It’s one of our favorite Pacific Northwest family vacation spots!
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