In Our View: Closer to Home

Don’t let the economy ruin your vacation; here are some inexpensive alternatives

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Given that gas is dancing around the $4-a-gallon mark, this might not be the summer for taking the family to the Grand Canyon.

Or Yellowstone National Park.

Or Disneyland.

It might not be the summer for taking the family on a plane trip — considering rising prices there, as well — or partaking of any other industry that is impacted by fuel prices. But while a vacation might be out of bounds for the family budget, a “staycation” might be just what the doctor ordered. You know, because it’s good for your health.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions for staying close to home but getting away from it all — on a budget:

• Go camping. You can’t claim to be a Washingtonian if you don’t occasionally sleep outdoors.

• Turn your family into amphibians. There are water parks near Centralia and Federal Way in Washington, plus McMinnville, Ore.

• Speaking of McMinnville, the water park there is adjacent to the Evergreen Air & Space Museum. Or you can head north to the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle.

• Prepare for the possible arrival of Single-A baseball in Vancouver and take in a Northwest League game in Keizer, Ore.; Eugene; or Yakima. Or see a Triple-A game in Tacoma. It’s not the major leagues, but it’s not major-league prices, either.

• Both Washington and Oregon have burgeoning wine industries with accompanying tours. Visit both regions and compare. You can even turn it into a multi-day excursion for more of that vacation feel.

• Ride the older rails. Harken back to an earlier age of transportation with a ride on the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad out of Yacolt. Or enjoy the splendors of the Columbia River Gorge on the Mount Hood Railroad.

• Have a fishy outing: The Seattle Aquarium is about a 2-minute walk from the city’s legendary Pike Place Market, where you need to beware of the “flying” salmon. Or there’s always the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport and its underwater walkways, “Passages of the Deep.”

• If you opt for Newport, keep in mind that all of Oregon’s beaches are publicly owned. The vistas are yours for the sharing.

• Now that sunny days are becoming more plentiful, hit the beach. It won’t quite be Hawaii, but if you pick the right day, you might not notice the difference.

• Who needs the Grand Canyon? Washington has three national parks — Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic — while Oregon has majestic Crater Lake.

• Get out and exercise, even if it’s at a leisurely pace. Countless scenic hiking trails are available within an easy drive of Clark County.

• It might not be New York or San Francisco, but there is a major city across the river from Vancouver. Take in a museum or the kind of nightlife that is available only in a metropolis. And there’s always Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland. Not even New York has one of those.

• Take a tour of waterfalls, throughout the Columbia River Gorge or at Silver Falls State Park, east of Salem, Ore. There you’ll find a nine-mile trail that features 10 waterfalls, four of which you walk behind.

• Get a sense of the pioneering spirit that helped build the Northwest with a visit to Fort Clatsop, near Astoria, Ore. This is where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-06, and now it even has electricity and running water.

• And finally, here’s an idea for strengthening your marriage: One spouse plays golf at one of the courses in the Centralia-Chehalis area, while the other breaks par at the outlet mall. Then meet for dinner in the area.

Because isn’t that what vacations, or staycations, are all about? Sharing fun at moderate prices?