Things to do in Seattle with Kids
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The Pacific Northwest’s largest city, Seattle, is usually on most peoples’ itineraries when visiting this part of the U.S. It has that great combination of being an urban city surrounded by natural beauty, including the Puget Sound, mountain ranges and lakes. For those that live in the Emerald city, it’s the best of both worlds.
Seattle has long been known as its own kind of city, from the birth of grunge to its .com roots to its overall edginess. It’s a lot of fun to visit, especially as a single something. But is it a good place to take a family vacation? Definitely. We happened to be visiting my brother and his family for a long weekend, but even if we didn’t have siblings and cousins to visit, we’d still go.
What makes Seattle particularly fun for a family vacation is its setting – there is the hustle and bustle of city life, but also lots of lush, green land and parks, water, even beaches for the kids to run around in. Our time in Seattle was part of a larger Pacific Northwest trip, and it was made up of tourist must-sees in Downtown, followed by swims in Lake Washington, dining out in local neighborhood restaurants, and a hike in the Snoqualmie Valley. It is all about the outdoors in Seattle, making it just as much as an adventurous get-away as a city site seeing trip.
Below is a list of things to do in Seattle with kids. It’s important to know that Seattle is one of those cities that has a few major must-see attractions, but apart from that it really is just a city where you want to chill and take in the vibe and the beauty of the area. There’s no need to feel like you have to tick everything off the list, the way many families feel when visiting a city like New York. It’s more about soaking up the atmosphere, and picking out things to do which you think will appeal to your family.
Things to do in Seattle with Kids
Walk around Pike Place Market
We took the light rail down to the Westlake stop, where the famous Pike Place market is located on the waterfront. You can’t miss the big sign in front. An enormous farmer’s market in business since the early 1900’s, this multi-level market is fabulous for all ages to walk around. Locals as much as tourists go, as this is the spot to find produce, cheeses, fish, meats, sweets, flowers, artisan crafts, the list goes on. My girls loved trying all the samples, and buying some treats of their own.
Make sure to watch the “flying fish” – usually giant halibut being thrown around by the workers. They put on quite a show that’s hard to tear the littles away from. Also make sure to go first thing in the morning, in my opinion. Naturally, the market gets very crowded by mid-day so best to go in the early hours. Pike Place market is vibrant and unique, and the heart of downtown Seattle.
Get a Drink from the Original Starbucks
Located across the street from Pike Place Market is the first Starbucks ever. Normally I wouldn’t include this in a list of things to do in Seattle (I don’t even drink coffee), as it’s waaaaay too touristy, but in our everlasting teen and tween era of Starbucks obsession, this was a must-see for my girls. They couldn’t decide between ordering a “refresher” or a “Frappuccino” but in the end made out pretty well..just look at their little happy faces. They loved telling their friends they visited the first Starbucks ever, it was pretty major. Ha.
Note: definitely hit the Starbucks before the market, as the line grows very long very quickly. You will want to go first thing in the morning.
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Stroll the Gum Wall on Post Alley
One of the more disgusting, yet fascinating, sites we’ve seen, is Seattle’s “gum wall”, located on Post Alley below Pike Place Market. Thousands of pieces of already chewed gum have been put here, and the wall – or gum – keeps on expanding. Rumor has it the city tried to once remove it, but nope, the next day people were leaving their gum again, and this time it “stuck”.
It’s an alley full of gum, so be prepared to laugh or gag, or both. Note – remember to buy a pack of gum beforehand! I forgot and my girls were so upset that they couldn’t leave their own gum, and mark, on the wall. Big parenting fail!
Visit Seattle Center
The Seattle Center is an arts and cultural center, attracting all ages, particularly families. This is where the Space Needle is located, as well as the Science Center, Children’s Museum, Museum of Pop Culture (MOPOP), Olympic Sculpture Park, the International Fountain and the beloved Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. If it’s raining, as it often is, this is a great spot to visit.
We, however, only visited the Chihuly museum. I’m sure most families will want to go to the top of the Space Needle – and it is rewarding, with phenomenal views and a restaurant as well – but we didn’t feel the need. No one wanted to wait in line and frankly that saved me some money. But we did love seeing the Space Needle from the ground, so if you want the best place to see it from below, head to Seattle Center.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
The Chihuly Garden and Glass museum is quite simply amazing. It was high on my list of places to see, as I love the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly. A local artist, the museum is dedicated to his incredible glass sculptures. There are several rooms, many of them dark to show off the vibrant colors he uses; an atrium; and a garden directly below the Space Needle. The positioning of the sculptures with the backdrop of the Space Needle is stunning. And actually, the view in the atrium is quite fantastic too. Gorgeous delicate glass flowers fall above you, with the Space Needle right behind them in a glowy, airy sort of way.
This being a glass museum, is it appropriate for kids? For the younger ones, especially toddlers, I might say no. It is glass, after all. But for older kids or those not wanting to touch the glass, it’s great fun. Chihuly’s work is so whimsical, fun and inspiring, it’s hard for anyone – adults and children alike – to not get excited about it.
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Take the Monorail
Located right in Seattle Center is a monorail! Obviously the kids wanted to do it, so we did. It’s fairly short, taking you to Westlake, or vice versa. The kids loved it, and actually it helped us as we were going in the same direction anyways. At the time of writing this, the cost was $3 for adults and $1.50 for kids.
Spend an afternoon at Lake Washington
It would not be a vaca in Seattle without some time spent in nature. Lake Washington is a beautiful and fun spot to do it. The University of Washington has a boat rental facility where you can rent canoes and rowboats by the hour, and Seward Park, in the southern part of the lake, has several swimming spots and little beaches, and kayak launches. That’s what we did – spent time by the park and beach. We went swimming, rafting, paddle boarding and in general just soaked up the lake life vibe. It’s an awesome part of Seattle. Lake Washington is the state’s second largest fresh water lake, and it’s the perfect spot to spend on a nice day.
Take a Day Trip
You will definitely want to explore a bit outside of Seattle, to really see the surrounding area of the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Seattle is close to so many cool and breathtaking adventures, and that’s a big reason why so many people love living in the city.
Mount Rainier is a popular day trip – Seattle’s crowning jewel as some people like to refer to it. This fifth tallest mountain outside of Alaska can be seen from many vantage points in the city on a clear day. It’s a gorgeous spot to go for a hike and enjoy its national park. The drive from Seattle is about 2/12 – 3 hours, depending on where you are.
Taking the ferry to Bainbridge island is a popular thing to do, especially with kids because of the ferry factor. You can see the city and area from a unique perspective – the water – and enjoy the island, which is almost like a suburb, when you’re there, then take the ferry back.
We chose to go for a hike in the Snoqualmie Valley, which is just a 45-minute drive from Seattle. It was my brother’s idea, and the trail he took us on, Snow Lake in the Alpine Lakes region, was pretty amazing. It was a strenuous hike (kudos to the kids), but once to the top you’re rewarded with this view of the lake (see above).
Those are just a few examples of day trips.
For more ideas of things to do in Seattle with kids, consider the popular Woodland Park Zoo, the Seattle Great Wheel (ferry wheel in the Waterfront), and Seattle’s majestic Discovery Park. If you have a child into airplanes and flying, the Museum of Flight is supposed to be fabulous.
Have anything you’d like to add? Please leave in the comments below.