We were hosted by the Lake Chelan Visitors Center, so we could share about Lake Chelan with Thrifty NW Mom readers. All opinions are 100% my own.
Lake Chelan Family Guide – Where to Stay, What to Do & Where to Eat!
The Lake Chelan area is beautiful and has some great activities for families, particularly in the summer, as well as some snow activities in the winter. The rest of the year it will act mostly as a quiet and relaxing getaway, if that is what you are looking for. It can make a wonderful family getaway year round, and we share lots of ideas for what to do for families in the area.
The downtown area of Lake Chelan is comprised of a quaint street full of shops and eateries. There is also a riverfront walk that you can enjoy and direct lake access from this area. There are a number of other spots you can drive to and enjoy, so there is plenty to do for the entire family.
Summer is the high season for the Lake Chelan area. The weather is beautiful, lots of water play for families, and it makes a memorable lake summer getaway your kids will treasure for years. Winters will offer many snow activities, and also be on the busier side. The shoulder seasons (fall and spring) are when Chelan is the quietest – but you will also find more affordable deals if you want to visit (many of the attractions listed will be closed during these seasons, so check those dates carefully), but it is still beautiful to visit.
We recommend that your first stop once you are settled into where you are staying, is the Chelan Chamber Of Commerce. It is easily located in the downtown area, and packed full of great info that will help you make your Chelan getaway the best it can be.
Family Fun in Lake Chelan – What to Do?
Here is a list of things family can do in the Lake Chelan area.
High Trek Adventure Park –
High Trek has now added a new Adventure Park in Chelan! They currently have one in Everett (you can read our review from when we visited the High Trek Everett Ariel Park – it is super fun for adventure seekers).
The Chelan course has about 60 obstacles and extend over 40′ in the air and you will also find Axe Throwing at our venue. It is located on Waterslide Drive above Lakeside Surf by Slidewaters.
Lakeside Surf – Citywaves Largest Wave Machine / Surf Rider in the World!
Another new adventure you will find in Chelan this year, is the worlds largest wavepool, surf rider! It sits next to the waterpark, and aerial adventure park, so you can make it a full day of fun in this area. My kids love these machines, such a fun way to surf and stay warm in Washington.
Slidewaters Water Park in Lake Chelan
Slidewaters is a popular waterpark in the area, open in the summers, that has eleven waterslides, lazy river, splash pads and so much more. If you like water fun, be sure to check this spot out.
As we get closer to the summer months we often see discount tickets pop up for Slidewaters on Groupon.
If your kids love Go-Karts, be sure to check out Rally Valley in Chelan as well, for lots of driving fun. You can do single rides, or buy a ride coupon booklet, making it fairly affordable for this kind of adventure.
Enjoy shopping and eating in Historic Downtown Chelan
The Historic Downtown Chelan area, is so cute, and really easy to navigate. It is a great walking city, set up with nice sidewalks and cross-walks, etc. When you think of one of those magical “Main Streets” like you see in old movies, this is one of those – full of lots of charm.
We found a handful of great spots to eat in this area, as well as fun shops to explore for a little retail therapy. If you are looking for easy walking access to lots of things that Chelan has to offer, this is a great spot to stay. A new store to Chelan in the last year is the Chelan Toys & Sweet Shop – this will most definitely be a hit with the kids & teens! We loved this shop as they had such fun & unique (& silly) specialty soda flavors & candies, as well as a great variety of board games, fun novelty toys & more.
Just a few blocks from Main Street is this Variety Shop, that sits next to Safeway, and it had just about everything you might need on your vacation – from river floats to swimwear and much more! My kids spent a good half hour in here, exploring row after row of merchandise.
Chelan Lanes – Bowling and Arcade Games
If you are looking to get out in the evening (or day) Chelan Lanes is a local bowling alley that is just a short drive from the Historic Downtown Chelan area. This spot fills up in the evenings, so come prepared to get on a waiting list (it went fast while we were there). We noticed many people where getting dinner there while they played too, so you can make it a combo dinner/entertainment outing as well.
Be sure to check their list of events for the days you will be visiting Chelan. While we were there we found some great deal nights, where bowling was super affordable.
There were even a few arcade games (3 or 4) for the kids to play with quarters, as well as a pool table if you want to enjoy some games. My kids enjoyed shooting some hoops while we were on the waiting list, waiting for a lane to open up.
Ruby Theater in Chelan – Enjoy a Movie in an Old Fashioned Movie Theater
Right in the historic downtown area, you will find this historic movie theater called the Ruby Theater, which is over 100 years old. They do run on a limited schedule during off seasons, but should have a full schedule of showings in the summer. Check out what will be playing during your visit here.
Enjoy the Outdoors – Walking, Biking & Hiking!
The Chelan area is full of outdoor biking and hiking adventures, but you will not have to go far to experience some great walking trails. There is a paved walkway right along the river front, and across bridges, that make for a great stroll anytime of the day. We loved getting up in the morning and grabbing a cup of coffee, and enjoying the riverfront walk that way.
If you are interested in biking, be sure to bring your bikes with you (or during the summer you can rent electric bikes). You will also want to make a stop into the Chelan Chamber Of Commerce to get some great resources and maps for where to find biking and hiking trails in the area. It is right in the downtown area, so an easy spot to check out and get all the resources you need to direct you to the things your family will enjoy. We picked up this biking trail booklet in person, but you can also request it be sent to you ahead of time here as well.
Castle Vineyards & Zip Lines Tours
You will likely drive right by the Castle Vineyards & Ziplines Tours on the side of the highway on your way into Chelan. They open for ZipLine experiences Memorial Day Weekend and could be a fun outing for the adventurous at heart. You can even combine it with a little wine tasting!
Image Credit: Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce
Paddle Boarding, Kayaking and Other Water Sports
Water sports are a big part of summer fun in Lake Chelan. Some of the resorts will provide rental opportunities right on-site (we stayed at Campbells and you can rent paddle boards and kayaks at their private beach). If you are staying at a location that does not offer them on-site, there are rental spots in the area you can access equipment from too.
Miniature golf is one of my family’s favorite ways to enjoy beautiful summer days or early warm summer evenings. There are a couple of spots in the area (one in Chelan, one in Leavenworth if you take a day trip) and putting green opportunities. Find all of the spots your family can enjoy some form of golf in the area here.
Image Credit: Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce
Enjoy the Chelan Evening Farmers Market
Be sure to stop in and check out the Thursday Evening Farmers Market, from 4-7pm. It is a great spot to grab some local food and more. It runs from Memorial Day through first week in October.
Rent an Electric Bike, Enjoy Go Karts and so much more!
Be sure to check out LakeChelan.com here for more ideas for family fun, like renting an electric bike, enjoying go-karts and so much more.
Winters in Chelan:
Winter is a slower season than summer, but there is still plenty of family fun to be had for all.
Snow Tubing & Skiing at the Echo Valley Ski Area
Tubing is a fun and affordable way to spend a winter day, during a visit to Chelan. Head up to the Echo Valley Ski & Tubing Area, there is a public tube hill to enjoy. It is one of the best deals I have seen for tubing, at $15 for an all day pass (tubes are supplied). Children 5 and under are free, and they offer military discounts too. Open weekends and holidays (the season is typically mid December to mid February, so make sure to check the dates before you go on their website).
They also offer some great deals on skiing and children 5 and under ski free too. If you get tickets to ski for a day, you’ll also get free tubing too. We found the ski area is such a great area for beginners wanting to learn how to ski or snowboard. They have 3 rope tows & a poma lift (no chair lifts), so it’s a great place for younger kids and more hesitant kids to start off on the rope tows. We also found that their instructors were very affordable for lessons & we were impressed with the lessons for our girls on their first day there. Check out their website for more details here.
Image Credit: Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce
Plan a stay during the Winter Festival
The Winter Festival is packed full of fun for families. It runs in January, and you will want to check in on the specific dates when you travel (and reserve where you want to stay early). It includes horse-drawn carriages, ice sculptures, live music, activities for kids of all age, fireworks show and more.
Favorite Spots to Eat in Lake Chelan for Families
We enjoyed some great food and drink right in Downtown Chelan and the surrounding area. Here are some highlights (including great happy hour deals the entire family can enjoy)!
The Vogue, a Liquid Lounge
If you are looking for a great cup of coffee, be sure to check out The Vogue, a Liquid Lounge, right in the heart of historic downtown Chelan. They serve all kinds of options, including regular lattes, soy and oat milk, and more. I love a great oat milk latte, so would start my morning at The Vogue to grab one of those and head to the waterfront for a walk with my coffee. It was the perfect way to start the day.
Campbells Pub & Veranda
Campbells Resort on Lake Chelan has a popular local restaurant called Campbells Pub & Veranda. We checked out their Happy Hour specials, and loved the Flat Breads (both adults and kids enjoyed that). They were my favorite, but there was nothing we tried here that we did not enjoy. The setting is quaint, as the restaurant is located in what was the original hotel and creates a beautiful ambiance to enjoy your meal in too.
Marcela’s Cocina Mexicana
Marcela’s Cocina Mexicana is also located right downtown, and they are well known for making their own tortillas in house. They also happen to have a super affordable (and delicious) happy hour menu that the entire family can enjoy. We got two of the flautas shown above for $5.50, and tacos start at under $2 during happy hour!
Blueberry Hills in Manson, WA
My number one restaurant location if you are visiting Lake Chelan area is to head to the smaller town of Manson, just about 15 minutes from Chelan & visit Blueberry Hills for breakfast/brunch/lunch. This location is nestled in the valley with all the apple orchards and blueberry fields. It’s a down-home, farmhouse style restaurant with huge portions & the most delicious, mouthwatering food! In the summer, you can also stay and u-pick blueberries on their farm.
They have a big outdoor deck for eating outside or eat indoors, where the decor is an eclectic collection of antiquess from “grandpa’s farm garage/shed” and it’s so fun to walk around & look at all the things on the walls & hanging from the ceiling. Breakfast is our favorite meal there & I’d recommend a blueberry cinnamon roll (this is a good one to split as it’s HUGE!), waffles with berries/peaches or both, or blueberry cheese blintzes. And you won’t regret taking home a slice of blueberry pie (we brought a whole pie home with us after our trip in December & had it for a non-traditional dessert on Christmas day! Yum!)
Local Myth Pizza
Local Myth Pizza is located right downtown Chelan and they have delicious pizza with fresh ingredients, house-made sauces & homemade dough. There is a tiny seating area inside & a little bit of patio seating out front, too, or it’s a great one to bring takeout back to your hotel or bring it to a beach or park by the lake.
Wapato Point Cellars
If you are looking for something a bit fancier, the Wapato Point Cellars offers wine tasting as well as the Winemaker’s Grill for a fun night out. We visited here in the winter & didn’t go for dinner, but just went for wine tasting & their charcuterie plate. This year, they had both indoor & outdoor seating & even s’mores to roast on the fire pit for a fun, little extra!
In addition to restaurants, here are a couple of places we found great food options to bring back to our hotel to eat:
The Safeway Deli
A grocery store deli might seem a little odd to include, but honestly – we loved the Safeway deli. It was not like the deli options we find at home, and we were able to stock our hotel fridge with goodies that we could enjoy on our deck with a beautiful water view.
Bear Foods Natural Market
I loved this spot. There were so many goodies in Bear Foods Natural Market that I was spinning, trying to decide how much I could carry back to the hotel. Their local blackberry honey and natural peanut butter were so good. Both the adults and kids loved the PB & Honey sandwiches we could make with this. They carry fresh produce, specialty teas and everything in between. There is even a Crepe restaurant attached, that is a fun spot to stop for breakfast or lunch (they have savory and sweet options available). I highly recommend a stop in here.
The Meat Shop
The Meat Shop is at the end of town and is packed full of high quality meat cuts you can grill up or grab gourmet salads that are already prepared and you can take back to eat. If you love a great meat, cheese and cracker platter this is the spot to check out. They have wonderful cheese options, specialty spreads and cracker options galore.
Lake Chelan Winery & Cheese Shop
The Lake Chelan Winery & Cheese shop is on the road between Chelan & Manson, just a few minutes outside of town. This winery was the start of the first commercial winery in the Lake Chelan area and now offers winery tours, wine tasting, BBQ you can eat in the vineyards in the summer (in the winter, they had outside seating with heaters), and more. The shop has some cute home items & they also have a Cheese shop with a selection of gourmet cheeses to choose from to take home with you.
Rocky Pond Winery Tasting Room – Chelan
If what you are looking for is a great wine tasting, the Chelan area is full of those. Again, stopping in at the Chamber of Commerce for recommendations or resources is a great idea for this.
Lake Chelan Hotels & Camping – Where to Stay?
We stayed at the Campbell’s Resort on our recent trip, and loved it there. The ambiance of the resort is beautiful (it is right there as you drive into town over the bridge), and boasts all view rooms! There is a restaurant on site, seasonal pools, year round hot tubs, and grocery stores and restaurants and shops all within walking distance.
The hotel has a magical feel from the minute you drive in. It is large and surrounds a private lakefront beach area, and has pools, hot tubs, a restaurant on site and is in easy walking distance to everything in the historic downtown Chelan area.
We stayed in a deluxe two queen room, and it had great space for a family. My favorite part was the huge deck overlooking the lake! We ate out there, we relaxed in the morning and evening, and it has great views of the beach as well as the water.
This is the private beach at Campbells Resort that is only open to their guests. We visited during the winter, so it was not swimming season, but it would be a wonderful convenience if you are staying in the summer time. You are able to rent Kayaks and Paddle Boards right on site, and there are multiple pools to access as well. This resort offers plenty of amenities and is great options for families.
Wapato Point Resort in Manson
If you are looking for a type of all-inclusive location for families, Wapato Point is located in Manson, about 20 minutes from Chelan & it’s a favorite for families due to the wide variety of activities for both summer & winter. In the summer, they offer everything from miniature golf, boat rentals (paddle boats, kayaks, jet skis, & more), fishing, bicycle rentals, indoor & outdoor pools & more.
In the winter, they set up an ice rink that is only available for guests of Wapato Point. The views are incredible from all of the condos you can rent & you could really enjoy your time of relaxation without ever leaving the resort. The condos can be a bit more dated, but they are very spacious & they are also working on updating them more, too. My family has been going here for years since I was a kid and it’s one of my favorites for the amount of fun activities right on the grounds.
Grandview on the Lake
If you want a hotel with a central location & a suite or condo space for your family with amazing views, we love the Grandview on the Lake condos. They are located just across the bridge & water from Campbell’s Resort & they offer both mountain/lake views as well as views of the town. They have a beautiful waterfront pool & hot tub, which is so pretty to gaze out at the lake from the view of the pool. We stayed in a condo with a full kitchen (fridge & stove/oven), along with the balcony. While the condos are not as spacious as most of the ones at Wapato Point, the location can’t be beat for ease of walking into town.
Wapato Lake Retreat Vacation Home
If you are visiting Lake Chelan with a big family or you want to visit with another family or several couples, you might want to think about staying in a vacation rental like the Wapato Lake Retreat vacation home. We had the opportunity to stay at the Wapato Lake Retreat vacation rental and it was located on a smaller lake up in the hills of Manson. It sleeps 10 & has 3 bedrooms – the kids’ room sleeps 6 with large bunk beds. It is ideal when staying with another family as you have more space to spread out & hang out & cook meals & relax. Plus there was a separate living area downstairs so the kids & teens could hang out and play games, etc while the adults relaxed upstairs.
More Lodging/Camping Options:
There are a number of camping options in Lake Chelan, including two state parks, such as the popular Lake Chelan State Park. Find lots of resources for camping in the area here
If you are looking for something in between a resort, and camping, be sure to check out LakeChelan.com here, with lots of additional ideas on cabins, hotels and more resorts in the area.
Lake Chelan Washington – How to Get There & Fun Stops On The Way
I find the trip to Chelan to be an easy one, with fun stops along the way if you want to turn it into a road trip adventure. There are a couple of routes you can take from the Puget Sound area, depending on if you live North or South of Seattle. We were coming from the South Sound area so took 1-90 to hwy 97, and then you end up on hwy 2 towards Wenatchee. If you are coming from the North Sound area you can take hwy 2 to 97A. From there, here are some fun spots you can enjoy along the way.
You will go through this beautiful tunnel to get to Chelan this way.
Not too far outside of Chelan you will find these Fire Towers at the Chelan Butte Lookout, that are so cool. You can stop for pictures, and there are trails to explore too if you want to get out and stretch your feet. It is only a few miles from Chelan.
The 59ers Diner in Cashmere is a favorite stop for my kids. It is not cheap for a burger place, but it is fun and delicious (and portions are big enough that we share).
If you want to take a bit of a longer break, this antique mall is attached to the restaurant, and you could spend a short while, or a few hours exploring this spot for treasures!