Update March 21, 2017
The 52 Best Things To Do With Kids In Seattle
From the Aquarium to the Zoo (and everywhere in between), this city is chock-full of great family adventures, just waiting to be had. Here are Seattle’s best places to eat, play, and explore with kids.
- Take a Tour Downtown
Guided tours make a good introduction to a city and are great for asking questions on where to eat, shop, and explore. If you’re local, they’re an awesome way to rediscover the city and find your next new favorite spots.
Here are a few Seattle tours that I especially recommend for kids:
Savor Seattle Chocolate Tour – I can’t recommend this enough. So much fun. Locals at Savor Seattle do a delicious and informative Chocolate Tour that usually includes stops at cupcake, cheesecake, and specialty chocolate shops in and around Pike Place Market. The guides are wonderful and give a good overview of where and how chocolate is made. Savor also does a Pike Place Market tour that’s very interesting – but if you have kids it’s hard to beat the chocolate tour.
Savor Seattle Website • Reviews
Seattle by Foot Kid’s Tour – A downtown walking tour created with a child’s interests and attention span in mind. Get a kid’s eye view of Pike Place Market and the Seattle Public Library, make art at the Seattle Art Museum, and learn about the skyscrapers and public art you’ll find along the way. Public tours run regularly in the summer months, though private tours can be booked in advance year-round.
Kid’s Tour Website • Reviews
- The Seattle Aquarium
Located on Seattle’s wonderful waterfront and recently refurbished, the aquarium is a good stop for 90 minutes to 2 hours. (Some visitors arrive expecting a lot and leave disappointed.) Kids can touch starfish and sea anemones and (with a bit of luck) see different animals during feeding time. The scuba divers that swim in a large tank – and do show and tell with different sea life – are a hit with many kids.
Aquarium Website • Reviews • Directions
- Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is a Seattle institution, and while it attracts a lot of tourists, it retains its charm. Locals still shop here, and the seafood, fruit, vegetables, and flowers are top-notch and fairly priced. The market is open from early morning until early evening but is at its best just before lunch. Stop by and pick up a map at the information booth at First and Pike – the volunteers who work there are really friendly, and can answer (just about) any Market-related question.
Pike Place Market Website • Reviews • Directions
Best bets for kids at Pike Place Market:
- Kids love the colorful (but disgusting) Gum Wall.
- The Giant Shoe Museum is inexpensive and delightful in a circus side-show sort of way.
- The clerks at Market Magic will do a trick for you, if you ask nicely.
- Golden Age Collectibles is a one stop shop for comic books, trading cards, and action figures.
- Sweetie’s Candy. It’s a candy shop – what’s not to like?
- The best kid-friendly snacks at Pike Place Market are: Daily Dozen Donut Co. • Shug’s Soda Fountain • Ellenos Greek Yogurt • Simply the Best Dried Fruit • Beecher’s mac’n’cheese.
- Best Market restaurants for a sit-down family lunch: Sound View Cafe (good) • Lowell’s (better) • Steelhead Diner (best).
Seattle used to be known as “Jet City,” and though that nickname isn’t used so much anymore, there are still no shortage of opportunities to get your airplane fix. On a nice day, pack a picnic lunch and head to Lake Union Park to watch the sea planes come and go. If you’ve got more time and are searching for something bigger, these next two spots are a must:
The Museum of Flight
A great museum for all ages, you’ll see airplanes spanning the first 100 plus years of flight. Get a look inside a Concorde, the first 747 ever built, the original Air Force One, fighters, bombers, and, well, pretty much anything that has wings or propellers. There’s a Kids Flight Zone, several flight simulators, and always changing featured exhibits. The museum is located 10 minutes by car south of downtown Seattle. There’s lots of free parking available. Bus #124 will also get you here from downtown. If you own your own plane there are 5 fly-in parking spots available. The museum is open from 10am to 5pm every day.
Museum of Flight Website • Reviews • Directions
The Future of Flight (Boeing Factory Tour)
For a different perspective on airplanes – focused on how they’re built rather than how they fly – visit the Boeing assembly plant 30 miles north of Seattle. The tour is geared towards adults (and you have to be over 48 inches) but anyone over the age of 7 that has an interest in airplanes should be thrilled. You see the assembly line where 747’s, 777’s and the new 787’s are constructed. Visit on weekdays to see the factory humming at full speed. Tours begin every hour from 9am to 3pm.
Future of Flight Website • Reviews • Directions
- Woodland Park Zoo
This is a great zoo within a relaxed and beautifully laid-out park, so be prepared to spend a good part of a day here. Monkeys, gorillas, Komodo dragons, and giraffes are the big draws for us – but there’s so much here your family could easily have a totally different greatest hits. Zoomazium is a fun indoor climbing playground for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, and a great place to burn off energy on a rainy day. Several restaurants within the zoo are decent, or bring your own food and have a picnic on one of many grassy areas. Bus #5 goes from downtown Seattle right by the zoo. The zoo is open 9:30am to 6pm from May 1 to September 30, and 9:30am to 4pm from October 1 to April 30.
Zoo Website • Reviews • Directions
- The Pacific Science Center at Seattle Center
A museum full of hands on science fun. Great for kids aged 3 and up. (There’s a special play area for toddlers.) The museum has become a bit rundown and in need of some updating, but kids notice the engaging exhibits, not the cracking paint. The Tropical Butterfly House and IMAX Theater are probably the highlights. Located on the grounds of Seattle Center where there are lots of places to eat. You can easily take the Monorail here from downtown Seattle. It’s closed Tuesdays, open from 10am to 5pm Monday, Wednesday to Friday, and 10am to 6pm Saturday, Sunday, and holidays.
Science Center Website • Reviews • Directions
- The Seattle Children’s Museum At Seattle Center
An absolutely wonderful place that is more an imaginative indoor playground than museum. Get there when the doors open and you can have the place to yourself for an hour or so – even on weekends. Superb for ages 10 months – 8 years. Located 2 minutes from the Pacific Science Center. It’s in the same building as the Seattle Center Armory and all its restaurants. Taking the Monorail here from downtown Seattle is a good option. The museum is open 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday.
Children’s Museum Website • Reviews • Directions
- The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
There is just enough at MoPOP to keep kids aged 5 to 10 occupied for about an hour. Older kids might stay engaged for another 90 minutes. If this museum is something the adults in the family are excited to see you need not avoid it, but it could easily be scratched from a busy schedule. Sci-fi fans will appreciate the Star Trek souvenirs, Star Wars artifacts, and scary scenes from numerous science fiction movies and books.
MoPOP Website • Reviews • Directions
- Take the Water Taxi to West Seattle
There’s no cheaper way to cruise Elliott Bay. $4.75 buys you a 15-minute ride from Pier 50 on the downtown waterfront to Seacrest Park in West Seattle. From there, relax on the patio with some shaved ice at Marination Ma Kai, or take one of two free shuttle buses offered: head up the hill to check out the shops and restaurants at the West Seattle Junction, or over to explore West Seattle’s beautiful Alki Beach. Alki has tons for kids to do – it’s 2.5 miles of sand and pebble beach, with plenty of restaurant options and great people-watching. Bike, kayak, and paddleboard rental, too. The Water taxi runs all week long from April through October, and on weekdays in the off-season. Kids 5 and under ride free.
Water Taxi Website • Reviews • Directions
- Tour the Seattle Underground
Tours of Seattle’s “underground” take visitors down beneath Pioneer Square, and through the maze of buried alleys and storefronts that were once Seattle’s surface streets. They’re a great crash (or refresher) course on Seattle history, and kids and adults both find them fascinating. You’ll want to buy your tickets in advance, as both companies routinely sell out. Finally, with steep wooden stairways and uneven surfaces, these tours can be a bit “rustic” – I don’t recommend them for people with mobility issues, very small kids, or strollers.
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
This is Seattle’s original and most famous underground tour. Groups are large, and guides are friendly and knowledgable, but lean heavily on the “schtick:” you may find this super fun or supremely irritating, depending on your personality. Tours run daily, year round, and last about 75 minutes. $19/adult, $9/child.
The Underground Tour Website • Reviews • Directions
Beneath the Streets
This is the more intimate underground tour option; groups are smaller and the vibe is less corporate, though the guides are just as knowledgable. (Rumor has it, many of them used to work for the other company.) Tours run daily, year round, and are about an hour long. $15/adult, $8/child.
Beneath the Streets Website • Reviews • Directions
- Go on a Stadium Tour
Seattle has two world class sports stadiums: Safeco Field is home to the Seattle Mariners, and the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders FC play at CenturyLink Field. Both stadiums are located just south of downtown, are easily accessible by bus and Link light rail, and offer tours year round.
Safeco Field Tours
Depart from the stadium’s Team Store on 1st Ave, and are about an hour long. Tickets can be purchased through their website in advance, or pick them up at the Team Store shortly before the tour is scheduled to depart. You’ll see private suites, the visitor’s clubhouse, the press box, the field, and both dugouts. Wheelchair/stroller accessible. $12/adult, $10/child.
Safeco Field Website • Reviews • Directions
CenturyLink Field Tours
Depart from the Stadium Pro Shop off Occidental Ave, and last about 90 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the Downtown Pro Shop (at 4th and Pike) and the NW Box Office (off Occidental) – they sell out quickly and cannot be purchased by phone or online, so it’s recommended that you get there at least a half hour before the tour is scheduled to start. It’s also a good idea to call ahead to confirm the tour schedule, as tours aren’t given on event days. You’ll see the field, visitor’s locker room, press box, private suites, and the famous 12th Man flagpole. Wheelchair/stroller accessible. $12/adult, $5/child.
CenturyLink Field Website • Reviews • Directions
- Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)
Recently relocated and completely refurbished, this is one of Seattle’s best museums and a fantastic destination for both kids and adults. The exhibits are hands-on, detail rich, and very well done. The museum charts the history of the region though the development of major companies and industries. It’s located next to Lake Union and easily accessible by the South Lake Union Trolley. There’s a decent restaurant within the museum, and children 14 and under are free. Open 10am to 5pm daily, open until 8pm on Thursdays.
MOHAI Website • Reviews • Directions
- Music, Food, and Cultural Festivals
Seattle’s got a lot to celebrate, and more festivals than you can shake a stick at. Check out this full list of festivals by month, and don’t miss these family-friendly favorites:
Bumbershoot • Northwest Folklife • SeaFair • and Maker Faire.
- Ride the Ferris Wheel on the Seattle Waterfront
There are amazing views of the Seattle waterfront and Elliott Bay from the Seattle Great Wheel. Don’t worry about the rain – gondolas are fully enclosed, and hold up to 8 people. Pro tip: skip the ticket queue by buying online. Tickets are good anytime, and have no expiration date. Be sure to arrive with paper tickets in hand, though. If you’ve only got a confirmation code, you’ll have to wait in line anyway.
Seattle Great Wheel Website • Reviews • Directions
- Seattle Public Library
This downtown modern architectural masterpiece is a great stop for kids of any age. Stop by the 1st floor visitor’s center and start a self-guided tour (available through podcast, MP3 download, and cell phone), or take the neon escalators up to the swoon-worthy views from the 10th floor reading room. There’s cool public art, a massive children’s center filled with books and computers, story time almost every day, and a café cart for snack time. The library is walkable from most points downtown, easily accessible by Metro bus, and has an underground parking garage. Library Hours are Monday to Thursday 10am-8pm, Friday & Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm. Visit their storytime and events page here.
Library Website • Reviews • Directions
- Rent a Boat or Kayak
There are a number of different shops that rent boats, canoes, and kayaks to paddle around Lake Union and Washington and even little Greenlake. All supply life vests for kids and adults. The best are: the Center for Wooden Boats • Moss Bay • Northwest Outdoor Center • Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club • UW Waterfront Activities Center • and Greenlake Boat Rentals.
- Play Pinball
Seattle Pinball Museum
Leave the quarters at home – the Pinball Museum has over 50 vintage and modern arcade games, and all are free to play after a single entrance fee. Sodas, snacks, and local craft beers available for purchase. Ages 7 and over. It’s located in Seattle’s International District, so there’s lots of great food nearby, and is accessible by Metro bus and link Light rail.
Hours: Thursday-Saturday 12pm-10pm; Sunday, Monday, Wednesday 12pm-5pm. Closed Tuesdays.
Seattle Pinball Museum Website • Reviews • Directions
Full Tilt Ice Cream
They’ve got classic pinball and arcade games, NW beer, and incredibly delicious all natural house-made ice cream. Flavors range from standard vanilla to the unique and exotic (Sriracha/peanut butter, anyone?), along with a good variety of vegan options. Large portion sizes and small prices for ice cream of this caliber. Four Seattle locations: Ballard, the University District, Ballard, and White Center.
Full Tilt Website • Reviews
- The Ballard Locks and Fish Ladder
Ballard’s Hiram M. Chittenden Locks help boats get from sea level up to the level of Lake Union. The Fish Ladder does the same thing for spawning salmon, allowing them to return to the lakes and rivers around Seattle. There’s a viewing area where you see the salmon swim by (it’s pretty neat to watch), and free one-hour Locks tours.
The Locks Website • The Fish Ladder • Reviews • Directions
- The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
It’s not as hands-on as the Science Museum at Seattle Center, but this small, well laid out museum on the University of Washington campus has a more truly scientific bent. The center of the U-District is just a few blocks away and is filled with great (and cheap) places to eat, or take the viaduct down to nearby University Village. The museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm.
The Burke Museum Website • Reviews • Directions
- Ballard and the Ballard Farmers Market
Pike Place Market is great, but if you really want to experience one of Seattle’s famous local markets then head to the Ballard Farmers’ Market. It’s every Sunday from 10-3, and is a great spot to wander, shop and eat. Ballard’s lots of fun on other days of the week, too – it’s home to the Locks and is one of Seattle’s hippest neighborhoods, with loads of restaurants, cafes, and a brand new library with story hours for kids.
- Hang Out at Seattle Center
Seattle Center is home to the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, Museum of Pop Culture, and the Children’s Museum and Theatre, but on a nice day there’s also at least an afternoon’s worth of fun there that doesn’t require an entrance fee:
The International Fountain
It looks so simple. The large half-ball of a fountain looks like something you’d walk by, glance at for a minute or two, say “neat” and continue on your way. But the fountain has a way of pulling you in and lulling you into an afternoon of watching water jets shoot into the air in tune with the blasting music – leaving visitors wondering where their day went. When it’s hot kids have a blast.
Artists at Play Playground
Located just west of MoPOP on Seattle Center grounds, this awesome music-themed playground is a hit with kids of all ages. Anchored by a massive 35-foot climbing tower and 50-foot tube slide, the park has cool musical play sculptures, ADA accessible swing and merry go round, and separate toddler play structure. A must-do if you’re out and about Seattle Center.
Restaurants at the Armory
Better than your average food court, The Armory has lots of great, locally-owned options for a quick snack or a sit-down lunch. My recommendations: Skillet Counter • Eltana Wood-Fired Bagels • Mod Pizza.
- Go Tidepooling
Puget Sound waters are great to explore at low tide – you don’t even have to leave the city to find sea anemones, hermit crabs, sea stars, urchins, and more. Constellation Park in West Seattle, Discovery Park in Magnolia, Ballard’s Golden Gardens Park, and Carkeek Park in North Seattle all have great tide pools when the water’s out. Check the tide schedules online or use a free phone app (Tides Near Me is a good one); any time you see the tides dip into the negative range is a good time to go. And keep an eye out for folks in red hats – at very low tides, the Seattle Aquarium sends out a fleet of friendly beach naturalists to educate and answer questions. Here are some great resources to get you started:
Washington Trails Association Guide to Tidepooling with Kids
Online Tidal Chart
Seattle Aquarium’s Beach Naturalist Program
- Gates Foundation Visitor Center
Just across the street from Seattle Center and MoPOP, the center explores the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, its philosophy, and the best ways to improve health and education around the world. The theme of exhibits often returns to two questions: What does it take to change the world? How can each of us make a difference? The center is a lot more fun than it might sound and there’s a fair bit of hands-on exploration. Plus, it’s free, so easy to drop in for as long or as little as you want.
Gates Foundation Visitor Center Website • Reviews • Directions & Parking
- Take an Argosy Locks Cruise
Seeing the city by boat is a not-to-be-missed experience, and Argosy corners the market on Seattle maritime tours. Their Locks Tour is especially fun: Seattle’s working harbor and Puget Sound, Ballard’s Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Fisherman’s Terminal, and the floating homes and sea planes on Lake Union are all included. It’s two hours long, but there’s more than enough to keep kids interested the entire time. All ships have bathrooms, and drinks and snacks are available for purchase. Argosy also offers a one-hour Harbor Cruise, and a “Christmas Ship” tour in December with caroling and Santa Claus. Argosy sails out of Pier 55, right on the downtown waterfront.
Argosy Website • Reviews • Directions & Parking
- The Center for Wooden Boats
If this gem of a museum on south Lake Union looks small, it’s because all the best bits are out on the water. It’s always free to walk the docks and explore, and there are sailboats, canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and pedal boats for rent. CWB hosts free public sails on Sundays (they’re really popular; you’ll want to get in line before 10am), and has a maritime-themed story hour (aboard a 100-year-old tugboat!) every Thursday from 11-12. Great paired with a visit to the Museum of History and Industry next door. CWB is easily accessible by bus and streetcar, and has a limited number of parking spots available. Boathouse and rental hours are abbreviated in the off season – be sure to check the website before you go.
Center for Wooden Boats Website • Reviews • Directions & Parking
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park
Actually a small museum in Pioneer Square, this national park has artifacts and exhibits highlighting Seattle’s role in the Klondike gold rush of the 1890’s. It’s open year-round, with twice-daily gold panning demonstrations and Pioneer Square walking tours from June through Labor Day. Park rangers are friendly, and give kids a “passport” to stamp along the way. Best part? It’s all free! Definitely worth popping in if it’s summer and you’re in the area. Hours: 10am-5pm daily, Labor day through May. 9am-5pm daily, June through Labor Day.
Klondike Museum Website • Reviews • Directions & Parking
- See a Play at the Seattle Children’s Theatre
The Seattle Children’s Theater in Seattle Center puts on wonderful performances that are (often) just as entertaining for adults as for kids. Located near the Seattle Children’s Museum, Pacific Science Center, Artists at Play Playground, and the Armory Building Food Court, it’s easy to pair a play with a museum trip or a casual lunch out.
Seattle Children’s Theater Website • Reviews • Directions & Parking
Seattle Children’s Theater 2016/17 Season:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: October 13 – December 11, 2016
Stellaluna: December 1, 2016 – January 8, 2017
The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats: January 19 – February 26, 2017
Into the West: February 23 – March 19, 2017
Seedfolks: March 23 – April 16, 2017
Fire Station 7: April 13 – May 21, 2017
- Go Camping
Seattle is blessed with dozens (maybe hundreds) of great camping spots within 2 or 3 hours of the city. Read a quick overview of camping options in Washington State.
- Go Cabin Camping
Not up for pitching a tent – or packing all the equpipment? The cabins at Cama Beach (pictured above) and Camp Long, or the yurts at Tolt MacDonald Park are great for families. But book early as these places fill many months in advance.
- Visit Soundbridge
Seattle Symphony’s Musical Discovery Center is like an instrument petting zoo housed within grand Benaroya Hall. Most days of the week, Soundbridge is reserved by school groups, but it’s open to the public on Fridays, and well worth checking out. All the instruments of the orchestra are available to try, there are musical-themed crafts, and a charming musical storytime. No need to worry about the germ factor – the friendly staff sanitizes mouthpieces after every guest. The Discovery Center also plays host to the Symphony’s First Concerts series, featuring short performances and hands-on Q&A for the juice-box set. Soundbridge is walkable from most points downtown, is easily bus accessible, and adjacent to Benaroya Hall’s underground parking garage. Hours: Fridays 10am-2pm, with musical storytime at 10:30.
Soundbridge Website • Reviews • Directions & Parking
- Argosy Tillicum Village Excursion
A fascinating introduction to Seattle’s Native People’s History. 4 hours in total, the trip begins with a beautiful 45-minute boat cruise to Blake Island. There you’re treated to a Pacific Northwest-inspired buffet (the alderwood-smoked salmon is amazing) and stories and dance from Coast Salish tribe members – all in a traditional Native longhouse. Afterward, stick around to poke around the museum and gift shop, or explore the trails of beautiful Blake Island State Park. The combination of boat cruise, meal, and entertainment make this a great deal for the price. Excursions run from April through September, though July onward is your best chance for pleasant weather. Book early – these tours sell out, and an early-booking discount is offered more than 28 days in advance. Tours begin and end at Pier 55 on Seattle’s downtown waterfront.
Argosy Website • Reviews • Directions & Parking
- Stroll Through The Sculpture Park
The Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park displays large pieces of sculptured art along the waterfront, halfway between Seattle Center and downtown with great views of the sound, mountains, and ferries. The museum’s main location is downtown (near Pike Place Market) and makes a good effort at being kid-friendly. TASTE Cafe in the park’s Paccar Pavilion is handy for snacks and beverages.
Olympic Sculpture Park Website • Reviews • Parking & Directions
- Go For A Hike
There are lots of great hikes in and near Seattle. Here are 10 of the best hikes in the Seattle area for families.
- Go to Bainbridge Island
Spend a day on Bainbridge Island – It’s a short ferry ride from downtown Seattle, and a perfect day trip for families. Here’s why you want to go:
Bainbridge Island Ferry
Departing from Pier 52 on Seattle’s downtown waterfront, this 35-minute ride offers unparalleled views of the mountains, Puget Sound, and the Seattle skyline. It operates on a first come, first served basis, and the car line can be quite long in the summer, so plan to arrive well ahead of time or, better yet, leave the car behind. (You’ll save money as a walk-on passenger and there’s plenty to do within foot distance from the ferry terminal.) All Bainbridge Island ferries have restrooms and food service on board.
Ferry Schedule and Rate Information • Ferry FAQs
Kids’ Discovery Museum (KiDiMu)
It’s not large, but this sweet indoor play center provides perfect wet-day entertainment for toddlers and preschoolers. Their hands-on exhibits and play spaces are well-designed and fun, with a miniature town, pirate tree house, STEM and art centers, and year-round outdoor climbing wall. Outside food and beverage is allowed, or pop out for nearby pizza or diner food – admission is good for the entire day. KiDiMu is easily walkable from the ferry terminal and has plenty of free parking.
KiDiMu Website • Reviews • Directions & Parking
It’s a short walk from the ferry terminal to Eagle Harbor’s 5-acre Waterfront Park. There’s a paved half-mile path along the shoreline, a playground, public restrooms and boat launch. There’s also an excellent grocery nearby, for easy snacks and picnicking.
Park Website • Town and Country Market
Back of Beyond Outfitters
See Bainbridge from the water – Back of Beyond offers kayak, canoe, and paddle board rental at reasonable rates and within walking distance from the ferry. Tours and classes, too. Their rental location is on the public dock at Waterfront Park.
Back of Beyond Website • Reviews
Bainbridge Island Historical Museum
Older kids will be fascinated by this excellent little museum, housed in a 1908 schoolhouse in downtown Winslow. Award-winning exhibits cover Native American beginnings, early exploration, logging and shipbuilding, and the Island’s history of Japanese-American internment during World War II. Staff is super friendly and knowledgeable, and the museum is a mere 10-minute walk from the ferry terminal. If you’ve got a car, pairing this museum with a visit to the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Memorial is particularly poignant.
Museum Website • Reviews • Directions
Bainbridge Aquatics Center
Clean and well-maintained, this community indoor swimming pool has just about everything a family could want – rope swings, diving boards, 180-foot slide, lazy river, toddler pool with water toys, lap lanes, sauna, hot tubs, and snacks for purchase at the front desk. Admission is $6/adults, $5/kids, and free for 2-and-unders. There’s lots of free parking and the Aquatics Center is an easy 5-minute drive from the ferry terminal.
Aquatics Center Website • Reviews • Directions
Island Rock Gym
Indoor climbing and bouldering, a ten-minute drive from the ferry. Drop in, or reserve a class and have a professional show you the ropes. Island Rock Gym is clean, competitively priced, and offers snacks, drinks, and free coffee. Kids under 5 climb free, and admission is good all day.
Island Rock Website • Reviews • Directions
Battle Point Park
The best park on Bainbridge Island – it’s got duck ponds and sports fields, and the playground is incredible. The 1.6-mile path around the park winds through grassy meadows and forests, and is paved and level. Follow the Fairy Dell trail down to the beach. Battle Point Park is a 15 to 20-minute drive from the ferry terminal and has plenty of free parking.
Battle Point Park Website • Reviews • Directions
The Bloedel Reserve
Once a private estate, this immaculately-maintained 150-acre public garden is a wooded wonderland of lush, landscaped trails. There’s a moss garden and Japanese garden, ponds and reflecting pool, estate house and sweeping Puget Sound views. The loop trail takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete, and while the terrain isn’t tough, it might be challenging with a stroller. The Bloedel Reserve is a 15 minute drive from the ferry. No food or pets allowed.
Bloedel Reserve Website • Reviews • Directions
Fay Bainbridge State Park
With sandy, driftwood-strewn beaches, this is a great park for exploring when the tide is out. Great tide pools, amazing views of Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountains and (on clear days) Mount Rainier. It’s on the northeast coast of the island, an easy 15-minute drive from the ferry.
Fay Bainbridge Park Website • Reviews • Reviews
- Take an Ice Cream Cruise
This fun and inexpensive Lake Union boat tour operates on Sundays year-round, and is a perfect activity for kids. There’s a chance to learn some Seattle history, watch sea planes take off and land, and see some floating homes and Dale Chihuly’s glass studio – but at only 45 minutes, it’s great for short attention spans. There are ice cream treats available for purchase on board (hot chocolate in colder months), and well-behaved dogs are welcome. Tickets are $12/adult, $5/ kids 5-13 years, $3/under 5, and are cannot be purchased in advance. Cash and check only. Departs Sundays from Lake Union Park, between 11am and 3pm, on the hour. Seattle street parking is free on Sundays, and the park is easily accessible by Metro bus and streetcar.
Ice Cream Cruise Website • Reviews • Directions
- Theo Chocolate Factory Tour
Kids 6 and older love touring this working chocolate factory in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, north of downtown. There’s an interesting 20-minute presentation on the bean-to-bar process, a walk through the manufacturing area, an amazing chocolate shop at the end of the tour, and plenty of free samples along the way. On weekends, Theo offers Chocolate Story Time for the smaller kids, complete with kid-friendly factory tour and samples. Tours are $10/person ($8 for Story Time), and fill up quickly – best to book in advance. Theo Chocolate has on-street parking, and is accessible by Metro Bus. Hours: 10am-6pm Daily.
Theo Chocolate Website • Reviews • Directions
- Go to an Indoor Climbing Gym
Whether you’re looking for a fun first foray into the rock climbing world, or have loads of experience under your harness, here are Seattle’s best indoor places to climb (with ropes) and boulder (no ropes) with kids:
Located in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood, Vertical World offers excellent climbing and bouldering routes under soaring 50-foot ceilings. Their experienced climbers will show you (and handle) the ropes during a one-hour Rock Climbing Experience Class (by reservation), or drop in to boulder at any time. This is a great experience to pair with a trip to Discovery Park or lunch at nearby Chinook’s at Fisherman’s Terminal. Child care is offered, with advance registration. Vertical World has both lot and street parking, with the nearest Metro bus stop a 5 to 10 minutes’ walk away. Hours: Weekdays 6am-11pm, Weekends 8am-8pm.
Vertical World Website • Reviews • Directions
Next door to the Ballard Locks, Stone Gardens is a fun indoor/outdoor climbing gym with two rooms dedicated to bouldering. Call in advance to book a Pro Belay (intro to rock climbing) class, or just stop by to scrabble around. Maximize the fun by combining this with a trip to the Locks and a to-die-for burger at nearby Red Mill Totem House. Stone Gardens has free on-site parking and is Metro bus accessible. Hours: Weekdays 6am-11pm, Weekends 9am-10pm.
Stone Gardens Seattle Website • Reviews • Directions
Seattle Bouldering Project
It’s a bit off the beaten path, but Seattle Bouldering Project in the Beacon Hill neighborhood is a great choice for those not interested in the ropes. They’ve got two full floors of bouldering, with cushy 2-foot thick floor mats, a children’s play area, and tons of natural light. Day pass prices are reasonable, and shoe rental is free on your first visit. Seattle Bouldering Project has ample on-site parking, and is accessible by Metro bus. Hours: Weekdays 6am-11pm, Weekends 9am-10pm.
Seattle Bouldering Project Website • Reviews • Directions
More than a store, REI’s flagship location in downtown Seattle has mini hiking trails, a waterfall, and a massive 65-foot indoor climbing pinnacle. Single climbs are available in 15 and 30 minute intervals, by advance reservation on weekends or on a drop-in basis from 1:30 to 6:30pm Fridays. Group climbs are available by reservation most weekdays. REI Flagship also features a children’s play area, a café for snacking and light meals, an underground parking garage (first hour free), and is easily accessible by Metro bus. Store Hours: Weekdays and Saturdays 9am-9pm, Sundays 10am-7pm.
REI Climbing Pinnacle Information
- Play Video Games at Gameworks
A huge 2-level arcade filled with old and new video games. Gameworks is located in downtown Seattle and a short walk from Pike Place Market, the Monorail, and Westlake Mall. Bonus: Adults can order beer (though it’s expensive). Food is served in the arcade, and there’s a Cheesecake Factory directly across the street. A multiplex movie theater is on the floors above.
Gameworks Website • Gameworks Reviews Directions
- Swim at a Beach
Seattle has several great beaches. My favorites are below. All have public restrooms.
Matthews Beach on Lake Washington
Located on the Burke Gilman bike trail. A nice swimming spot with life guards on duty during opening hours. (Like all beaches you can swim anytime at your own discretion.)
Madison Park Beach on Lake Washington
Located in the Madison Park neighborhood with a half-dozen restaurants, a Starbucks, and beautiful playground within 3 blocks of the beach. Life guards on duty and a raft with a diving board is moored 100 feet out into the lake.
Green Lake Beach
The warmest place to swim and a popular favorite. There are 2 different beaches on opposite sides of this small lake. A very popular walk/bike path (2.5 miles around) circles the lake. Life guards on duty and a raft with a diving board is moored 100 feet out into the lake. Lots of restaurants, a wading pool, and a playground are found at the north end of the lake. Rent boats, paddle boats, kayaks, and paddle boards at Green Lake Boat Rentals (on the sunniest weekend days there can be a 30+ minute wait for rentals but most of the time there’s plenty of stock).
Golden Gardens on Puget Sound
The water is cold here so not great for swimming but this is still one of Seattle’s most popular beaches. Barbecues are scattered along the beach and free for using (first come, first served). There’s a creek here that’s fun for kids to divert and dam. Located on the western end of the Burke Gilman bike and pedestrian path (about 1.5 miles from Ballard neighborhood). There aren’t any restaurants right at the beach (though there are 2 within a short bike ride).
- Go Geocaching
Geocaching is a free, GPS-based treasure hunt taking place all over the world. It’s a great activity for families, and a fun way to explore a new city. (Check out Geocaching 101 to get started.) Here are a few of Seattle’s best caching spots:
Geocaching Headquarters in Fremont [GCK25B]
The mothership. Schedule a hosted visit, or just pop in during their weekday drop-in hours to log the coveted HQ cache, get exclusive swag, and meet the Lackeys who make it all happen. It’s all free. After your visit, take the GeoTour, a fun 9-stop multi within walking distance of HQ.
Geocaching HQ Website • Reviews • Geocache Info
- Living Computer Museum
Take a walk through computer history and a hands-on exploration of dozens of restored machines with original software. Just for kids, there’s the LCM Bit Zone, with vintage video games to play, and cool interactive circuitry and binary exhibits. Admission is a steal at $6/adult, $2/youth, and includes a museum tour. LCM is located south of Safeco Field in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood, with free lot parking and easy access via Metro bus and Link light rail (SODO station). Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10am-5pm.
Living Computer Museum Website • Reviews • Directions & Parking
- Explore the Fremont Neighborhood
Quirky Fremont is one of Seattle’s most fun and unique neighborhoods. It’s smack-dab in the middle of the best stretch of the Burke Gilman path, and is a great place to walk around, grab a restaurant bite, or have a picnic. On Sunday there’s a huge market with lots of great food and flea-market style vendors. The Urban Beer Garden at the Fremont Brewery is family-friendly and a great place to have a couple pints of a local Seattle beer – you’re welcome to bring outside food into the brewery.
- Fly on a Trapeze
Seattle is home to two amazing circus schools, and both offer one-time introductory classes open to everyone 6 years and older.
Emerald City Trapeze Arts
Located in a beautiful wood-beamed warehouse space just south of downtown. They offer tons of beginning trapeze and arial arts classes and are super easy to get to – only a block away from the Link Light Rail SODO station. Plan ahead: advance registration is required, and it’s best to reserve a few weeks out.
Emerald City Trapeze Arts Website • Reviews • Directions
The School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) (SANCA)
The largest circus school in the US, SANCA is located south of downtown in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Most of their classes are series-based, but they do offer 2-hour single serve flying trapeze classes most days of the week. Preregistration and payment are required at least 48 hours in advance. SANCA has plenty of available parking, and is a few blocks from the nearest Metro bus stop.
SANCA Website • Reviews • Directions
- Visit A Swimming or Wading Pool
Seattle also opens a number of wading pools that are a fun and relaxing way for the littlest ones to cool off and play when the city gets hot. (And yes, that does happen.) You can find a comprehensive list here, but my favorites are those at: Volunteer Park • Greenlake • Wallingford Park • and East Queen Anne Playground.
- Last Resort Fire Museum
It’s not for everyone, but kids (and adults) with a fascination of fire trucks will enjoy stopping in at this free Pioneer Square museum. The super knowledgeable museum staff will tell you everything you’d like to know about the beautifully restored antique fire engines on display, and there are printed information sheets about each engine to take home. Pairing this with a stop at the nearby Klondike Gold Rush museum makes for a fun (and free) educational afternoon. Hours: Wednesdays and Thursdays 11am-3pm in summer, Wednesdays 11am-3pm in winter.
Last Resort Fire Department Website • Reviews • Directions
- Go for a Bike Ride
Seattle might not be Portland when it comes to bike friendly infrastructure but it has enough bike paths and bike lanes to give the casual bike visitor plenty of routes to enjoy the city. There are a couple of places to rent bikes and helmets. Downtown is not the best place for a ride, instead head to the Burke Gilman Bike Trail that runs through the popular Seattle neighborhoods of Ballard and Fremont – and continues out through the U-District and northeast Seattle for 20+ miles. It’s all relatively flat so it’s good for kids or parents pulling a trailer. Definitely keep a close eye on the kids and encourage them to keep to the right as some cyclists can ride the path at a pretty good clip. Recycled Cycles, Montlake Bike Shop and Ballard Bike Co. – all on or near the Burke path – are good options. Call ahead to see what’s available and reserve what you need.
- Traxx Indoor Kart Racing
This is a 30 minute drive north of Seattle, but a hands-down favorite with many kids. The big track and karts (which go pretty fast) are for kids 11 and older. There is a smaller track and cars for 3 to 10 year olds, and they can use the smaller karts on the big track at a couple of select times (check the website as it changes often). Video games, pool, pizza, and beer in the waiting area.
Traxx Racing Website • Reviews • Directions
- Jump Around At An Indoor Gym
Seattle Gymnastics Academy in Ballard (pictured above), Lake City, and Columbia City offers an open gym time to jump in the foam pit, bounce on the trampoline, run and swing and flop. It’s a lot of fun but only for kids 5 and under.
Seattle Gymnastics Academy Website • Reviews
PlayDate SEA is a perfect pit stop when adults need a break, but the kids have energy to spare. There’s 8,000 square feet of tunnels, slides, and climbing structures, with interactive dance floor and separate toddler play area for the kids. Adults chill in the attached lounge and café, enjoying the flat screen TVs and free WiFi access. Along with coffee, beer, and wine, the café offers snacks, kids’ meals, pizza, salad, and sandwiches. No outside food or beverage is allowed, and socks are required for kids and adults. Street parking is limited, but PlayDate SEA is easily accessed by Metro Bus.
PlayDate SEA Website • Reviews • Directions
- iFly Indoor Skydiving
Adults and kids (age 3 and up) can don a flight suit and fly in the wind tunnel here. It’s lots of fun, though there is a fair bit of preparation to get in the chamber – safety instructions and videos, getting dressed, waiting in line – so plan your visit for a few hours.
iFly Website • Reviews • Directions
- Go Zip Lining
Bellevue Zip Tour offers guided zip line and aerial challenge courses for kids and adults 9 years and older. They’ve got 6.5 lines (some up to 500 feet long and 85 feet high) through lush pine forest, super friendly and helpful guides, and great mountain views. They’re located in Bellevue’s Eastgate Park, a 20-minute drive from downtown Seattle, and operate from April through October.
Bellevue Zip Tour Website Reviews • Directions
If you’re open to a zip lining adventure further from the city, here are some other great courses in the area:
5 fun zip and challenge courses located within Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville, about a hour and a half drive from Seattle. Ages 5 and up. Operates in summer only.
Canopy Tours Northwest
6 thrilling zip lines in a beautiful farm and forest setting. Located on Camano Island, about an hour’s drive from Seattle. Operates year round. 65 lbs and over.
San Juan Island Zip Tour
8 line zip tour over forests and wetlands on Beautiful San Juan Island, about 3 1/2 hours from Seattle (including ferry). Operates April through October, 8 years old/80 lbs and up.
- SkyMania Trampolines
A very fun place for kids and never too busy. You can bounce around and do flips and spins and knee drops in a huge trampoline area or play a game of dodge ball (pictured above) in the smaller area. There are a handful of fun pinball, video, and foosball games to play afterwards. It’s in Kirkland, a 15 minute drive from downtown Seattle. Adults “can” jump too but few do and it’s pretty much all kids and teenagers on the trampolines.
SkyMania Trampolines Website • Reviews • Directions
- Hit A Trendy Cafe
Seattle is know for its awesome cafes and coffee. Most are kid friendly. Cafe Diablo on Queen Anne (pictured above) is one of our favorites. Caffe Ladro (Fremont, Capitol Hill, downtown, and near Seattle Center) and Macrina Bakery (Belltown, Queen Anne, SoDo) are also great.
Olympic Sculpture Park [GC1A2TN]
Downtown multicache with gorgeous Puget Sound views and incredible artwork from the Seattle Art Museum’s collection.
Olympic Sculpture Park Website • Reviews • Geocache Info
Kubota Gardens [GCM2C9]
South Seattle multicache in an historic landmark. Absolutely beautiful location, with waterfalls, streams, bridges, and landscaped trails.
Kubota Gardens Website • Reviews • Geocache Info
The Best Places To Eat with Kids in Seattle
If you want to eat at some boring chain restaurant like Olive Garden or Red Robin, there’s no shortage of these around. However Seattle has a ton of unique and locally-owned restaurants that serve great food, and are worth trying out. With a few accommodations and some adventurous parents the whole family will have a great time.
Here are some of my favorite places to eat in Seattle with kids:
Tutta Bella – They don’t serve a whole lot else beside their thin crust pizza – not even any pasta – but what they do offer is delicious. Great desserts: tiramisu and gelato, and good espresso. Four locations: Westlake (between Downtown and Seattle Center), Stone Way (between Fremont and Wallingford), Columbia City, and Issaquah.
Red Mill – A couple different locations at Interbay (between Queen Anne and Magnolia), the original on Phinney Ridge (just north of the Woodland Park Zoo), and the Totem House location next to the Ballard Locks. If you’re in Capitol Hill or Ballard, Li’l Woody’s is great, too.
SushiLand in Queen Anne is a delicious and cheap conveyor-belt sushi place. Seattle has some top notch (and very expensive) Japanese restaurants but for great sushi in a relaxed setting nothing beats this SushiLand. The seared salmon is incredible. It’s walking distance from Seattle Center and the Monorail.
Coolest Place You’re Still Allowed to Take Your Kids To
Alibi Room – OK, this is pushing the definition of Kid’s Restaurant to the absolute breaking point. The Alibi Room might also fall under the category of Singles Bar or Pick Up Joint, but it’s got great food and beer, and the happy hour specials are incredible. It’s loud enough to absorb any noise and it’s very dark, so other guests might just think you’re dining with some very short adult friends. Generally, it’s more an evening spot so if you visit at lunch or early afternoon you could be the only ones in the place.
It’s a little tricky to find but that keeps all the tourists away. To get there find the famous pig in Pike Place Market, descend the stairs just a few feet away to Pike Alley and walk down the lane about 100 feet. The Alibi Room will be on your right, directly opposite Gum Wall – a collection of gum that people have plastered on one of the alley’s walls. Kids love it. Parents of good taste and upbringing find it repulsive.
Top Pot Doughnuts – Locations all over the city (Upper Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Downtown Seattle, Wedgwood, Bellevue, Mill Creek and Qwest Field). Yummy! If you’re in Pike Place Market eat some of the freshly made donuts at Daily Dozen Doughnuts.
Trophy Cupcakes – If anyone tries to recommend Cupcake Royal to you, thank them politely and then remove them from your Christmas card list — Trophy is the indisputable cupcake champ. Locations in Wallingford, University Village, and Bellevue.
Best Ice Cream
I have a few favorites. For the hands-down best ice cream visit Molly Moon’s (eight locations around Seattle). The best ice cream parlor that also has adult treats like champagne sorbet floats is Shug’s in Pike Place Market. For the best ice cream truck, track down the roaming white truck of Parfait.
The best cookies (chocolate oat peanut butter chip is my fave), breads, cakes and scones can be found at Macrina Bakery in Upper Queen Anne, Belltown and Sodo.
Caffe Ladro serves the best espresso drinks in the city. (Locations in Upper and Lower Queen Anne, West Seattle, Fremont, Capitol Hill, Downtown and some suburban locations like Edmonds, Bellevue and Kirkland.) Caffe Fiore (Upper Queen Anne, Sunset Hill and Ballard) has the coolest vibe. And Irwins (Wallingford) has that laid back neighborhood vibe that Seattle has come to define.
Best Cafes with Playrooms
The best playroom/cafe combo in the city is at Mosaic Coffee House in Wallingford (just behind the Dick’s Drive-in). Their huge playroom is great for ages 6 months to 6 years. Don’t go out of your way to visit Firehouse Coffee in Ballard but if you’re in the area and need a latte, it does have a decent playroom for the kids. Wunderkind Cafe in Ravenna has cool Lego and Duplo rooms and serves food, coffee, and beer.