Road Tripping: Baby Style. Northern California/Oregon Edition
September 12, 2016 11:55 AM   Subscribe

We're going to be driving from the SF East Bay to the Oregon Coast (around Lincoln City). In our Younger Days we would do this in one go, but there's a baby in tow now and I don't think she'd appreciate an 10+ hour day in the car. The question is: should we do it in 2 days or 3 days, and where are fun or interesting or pretty or whatever places we stop along the way?

We need to be in Lincoln City around 2pm on a Sunday, so we could leave Saturday morning and drive up halfway, or we could leave on Friday and do 2 shorter days. If we do that we'll definitely want some activities/small hikes/pretty things to see on the way. On a non-holiday weekend, are there any traffic traps as long as we miss rush hour? It won't be during the snowy season or anything, so not worried about road closures, chains, etc.

We've done Redding/Sundial Bridge and Crater Lake on other trips, so other interesting things in northern California/southern Oregon would be appreciated, as would good towns to spend a night (even specific hotel recommendations if you have them). The baby's around 18 months, so walking and whatnot but we need to work around her nap schedule and, you know, baby life.

We'll also need to do the drive back south a week later, so we could take a separate route up and back and hit things in two directions (5 one way, 1 the other maybe?). Again we could do the south-bound route in either 2 or 3 days.

Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks!
posted by brainmouse to Travel & Transportation around Oregon (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Avenue of the Giants
Devils Punchbowl
posted by 445supermag at 12:41 PM on September 12, 2016

In Depoe Bay, OR, you can stop at the Whale Watching Center. There's whales year-round in that area, although, the last few times I was there I didn't really see them. But the town is cute and there's some decent food and shops and I think wine too if IIRC.

Seconding Devil's Punchbowl - it's a quick stop and is pretty neat.

In Newport, OR is the Oregon Coast Aquarium which I liked last time I visited.

There's also the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area that has some beautiful spots, hikes, lakes, etc. There's also some lighthouses and stuff near there.
posted by FireFountain at 1:17 PM on September 12, 2016

Best answer: Our toddler was 22 months for our road trip this summer to a destination 9 hours away. We split each leg into two days, so we had to do 4+ hours each of four days. (Three days would have been overkill, I think.) We planned the drive so that we had a break or a stop every 2 hours to run around. Kiddo couldn't do longer than that in the car without getting out.
Our best strategy was timing the drive around our kid's regular nap. We would wear him out with an activity (a playground), then feed him and pack him into the car. He would go down for his nap pretty quickly. Then we would stop again immediately after he woke up (if we didn't, he would melt down).
Overall, he managed to sleep through about half of the total drive, which meant we only had to entertain him or listen to Wiggles albums for about half of the total drive. I know people suggest doing more driving at night to play into this even more, but our kid won't sleep more than 2+ hours in the car so it's been a no-go trying to do the whole drive overnight.

Sorry I can't speak to specific destinations for you enroute, but all you really need are playgrounds, and you'll find good ones at state parks and city parks as you drive. We were driving through rural Iowa, and parks are one thing every little town has, no matter how tiny the town. You can ask at restaurants for a playground recommendation. Also, I recommend hotels with indoor pools to work out more energy right before bed.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:18 PM on September 12, 2016

I just drove from Humboldt to Coos bay via the coast. It was so clear and sunny that I kept wanting to stop at every beach. I loved Port Orford and the little harbor. Great place to stop for a romp (weather permitting) and lunch.

I found the traffic to be pretty bad in the afternoon.. Took me almost 7 hours to get to Eureka going down in the afternoon. Coming back I left at 6:30 am and it took 4.5 hours.

The coast right now is gorgeous. I hope it lasts for your trip.
posted by cairnoflore at 1:19 PM on September 12, 2016

Best answer: The best western in harbor in Brookings has a spectacular views and is about 4 1/2 hours or so from Lincoln city-decent halfway point point. We also like gold beach resort in gold beach, about 20 miles farther down the road. Gold beach is about 14 miles from prehistoric gardens-fabulous old school roadside attraction with huge cement dinosaurs. Easy to walk around and get some wiggles out if your kiddo would be into that. Newport is way too close-it's about 30min from Lincoln city.
posted by purenitrous at 8:04 PM on September 12, 2016

also, I heartily recommend the iExit app for evaluating which exit in the next ten minutes has the best options for food or diversions when you have to stop the car ASAP. (n.b., not all restaurants and such have precise geolocation beyond the exit, so beware using the driving directions feature without checking signs). no relation to app beyond being a happy parent/user.
posted by zachxman at 10:14 AM on September 14, 2016

To add on to my earlier comment, we have a different strategy for our semi-regular shorter drives to see grandparents (5 hours each way). We want to do these drives all in one shot, and leaving in the morning and driving all day makes the day feel interminable.
So what we do now is leave later in the afternoon (3pm) then drive about halfway before we stop for dinner. After dinner, we change kiddo into pajamas and try to make a big show of putting him to bed in the car seat, hoping he'll get the message and go to sleep. We've had the most success with this if it's dark outside. (We had no success with this in July.)
The big mistake we made was trying to do the bedtime trick too early in the drive, as (like I said above) he maxes out at 2 hours sleeping in the car. But maybe your kid will be ok with it?
posted by aabbbiee at 1:30 PM on September 14, 2016

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