The reason we came to the US was predominantly to visit the national parks close to the West Coast. We were doing a road trip down highway 101 with detours for some of the fantastic parks and cities along the way. In honesty, we were trying to avoid the cities since they’re not so much ‘our thing’.
So when we spent 48 hours in Seattle we were completely taken by surprise when we enjoyed it so much. There were so many fun things to do in Seattle with kids!
At first it was a little shock to the system after spending three weeks in the mountains. Once we hit up some of the vibrant lively places, we were right back into the swing of things. After all, we lived in London just a few weeks ago!
We’ve had a little help from our friends to put this itinerary together due to our limited time in Seattle, we didn’t want you to miss out on any of the best activities! So if you are wondering what to do in Seattle with kids, we’ve got you covered. In our usual format, here is our play, sleep and eat guide to a Seattle family vacation.
The Best Things to do in Seattle with Kids
Museum of Flight – Fun things for kids to do in Seattle
I am a little bit of an aeroplane geek and as a frequent flying family we loved the Seattle kids museum, the Museum of Flight. The kids area was amazing with lots of mini planes, a helicopter, a hot air balloon and a paragliding simulation experience.
The Kidsport (a mini airport) was so cool. The kids can pretend to check you in, put your bags through security and load you onto the plane. Its such a good way for them to learn about the process.
It wasn’t all about the kids. The museum also has lots of different aircraft, from an old Concorde to an Airbus that visitors can go onboard and have a look around. I’ve always wanted to see a Concorde plane.
You can buy tickets to the museum of flight here.
Discovery Center of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
We visited several family friendly attractions in Seattle with our as part of our family around the world trip. The most memorable attraction for our family was our visit to the Discovery Center of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
We did not expect to spend much time in the center due to the short concentration span of our children but we ended up staying for several hours.
The Discovery Center charts the history of the Gates Foundation and highlights the complex challenges faced by our world and humanity today. Educational and interactive exhibits depict current projects funded, or run by, the Gates Foundation. Other exhibits showcased potential ideas for further projects.
The Center and the Gates Foundation place a heavy emphasis on the importance of education and how people can, and should be, helped to help themselves. The Center is expertly pitched to engage, inform and ignite curiosity in children. Our children took away the important message that is not a failure not to succeed – it is a failure not to try in the first place.
I would highly recommend the Gates Foundation Discovery Center for any aged visitor to Seattle; it a thought provoking and challenging exhibition that will stay with you long after you have left it. Entry is free.
Seattle Center – Kids Activities Seattle
One of the top family things to do in Seattle is explore Seattle Center. There are a multitude of cultural festivals held here throughout the year. It’s also home to the iconic Space Needle, which recently had its first full renovation since it open for the 1962 World’s Fair.
The Pacific Science Center is a great stop for families with kids of all ages. From their IMAX theater and planetarium to their butterfly garden and toddler play area, there’s something for everyone. You can buy tickets for the Pacific Science Center here.
The Chihuly Garden & Glass Museum is a stunning stop for families who love the arts. You can read more about the museum below. You can buy combo entry tickets to the Space Needle and Garden and Glass here.
Be sure to find out which production is playing at the Seattle Children’s Theatre. They offer amazing shows for younger kids and they have one of the best gift shops.
The Experience Music Project rebranded itself a few years ago and it’s now the Museum of Pop Culture. This is where families with older kids will have fun testing out indie video games, playing instruments, seeing famous science fiction memorabilia, and learning more about the Seattle music scene.
The newest addition to Seattle Center is the Artists at Play playground, located just outside MoPOP. This playground is designed for older kids and includes epic slides. To add a bit of extra adventure, take the Seattle Monorail from Westlake Center to Seattle Center! You can also read more about the Artists at Play playground below.
A fun way to explore the Seattle center with kids is by doing this fun scavenger hunt of the area. Check it out here.
Chihuly Garden and Glass – Family Activities in Seattle
Chihuly Garden and Glass is a whimsical, kid-friendly museum filled with vibrantly-colored glass sculptures sure to be a highlight of any family vacation to Seattle. Start in the eight indoor galleries where you’ll find brightly-hued works of all sizes and shapes. Your kids can use their imaginations to figure out what each sculpture looks like to them.
From the galleries, move on to the Glasshouse. Children (and adults) will be awed by famed glassblower Dale Chihuly’s massive red, orange and yellow flower-like sculpture hanging overhead. Go outside to see an array of delightful sculptures that line the paths. In spring and summer, the sculptures are interspersed with cheery flowers.
Got hungry kids? The Collections Café inside the museum is a lunchtime favorite (you can even reserve a table ahead of time with OpenTable – a must with kids). Colorful interiors are reflective of the overall museum space.
Look for delicious Northwest fare, like cod fish & chips and dungeness crab and bay shrimp rolls. Kids will love the mac & cheese too.
Situated next to the Space Needle, Seattle’s most popular attraction, it’s an absolute must to explore Chihuly Garden and Glass. As an added bonus, the Chihuly museum is also adjacent to the Museum of Pop Culture, which boasts loads of hands-on, kid-friendly exhibits.
Artists at Play Playground – Seattle Things to do with Kids
Downtown Seattle is bustling with neat little shops, fresh restaurants, and interesting buildings but it can be difficult to find places for kids to roam free and burn off some steam.
In between museums, the artists at play playground is a hidden gem in Seattle that is perfect for all ages, and it’s completely free!
It has several unique features and focuses on inclusivity, with an ADA approved carousel and adaptive swing. The design is completely custom, with beautiful details and impressive challenges for older kids who might otherwise be bored at a traditional playground.
The exciting climbing features are the most obvious highlight but there are also several musical elements that blend sound and making music in throughout the playground. A smaller scale version of the giant climber will keep younger siblings happy without any of the risk.
The ground is covered in soft pavement or AstroTurf throughout the space, making it so kids don’t end up with awful scrapes or pockets full of wood chips once they’re done playing.
Benches all around provide easy vantage points for parents to supervise without hovering. The playground is right near where the monorail lets off for public transportation and has free bathrooms nearby, making it easy to get to and easy to stay at for hours.
Seattle Children’s Museum
The Seattle Children’s museum is also located within the Seattle center. This museum is ton’s of hands-on fun for kids who are between the ages if 6 months and 8 years. With 11 exhibits, your kids will be able to explore the mountains, the market, an eye clinic and more!
One of the latest exhibits will even teach them about native American cultures. Created in collaboration with native American artists from Pacific Northwest tribes, this section of the museum explores storytelling through a showcase of Indigenous art and culture.
Green Lake – Places to Visit in Seattle
Green Lake is probably a favorite city park for residents of Seattle. It has a lot to offer to every visitor and is very easy to get to. This rather small but picturesque spot in the northern part of the city between two major roads has activities for every season but it’s most popular in the summertime.
First of all, there is a 2-mile path around the lake which is good for biking, jogging or walking. The eastern side of the lake has a beautiful beach with a coffee shop, tennis courts and a play area for children. If the weather is warm, paddleboards are available for rent.
The southern part that connects with Woodland Park and North Meadow has a few walking trails, Historic Carousel, and Education Center. Benches and picnic areas along the path provide an opportunity to relax and take it slowly. Motorized vessels of any kind are prohibited which means a safe and leisurely experience for everyone.
The main beaches – East Green Lake Beach and West Green Lake Beach – have seasonal lifeguards, swimming rafts, diving boards, sandy beaches, children’s playgrounds, bathrooms, and basketball courts. Underwater, on both beaches, the algae are cut off and the bottom is well maintained.
Center for Wooden Boats
At the Center for Wooden boats you and your kids can experience maritime heritage in this living museum. The center “promotes northwest maritime heritage through education, interpretation and hands-on experience in building, maintaining and using historic small craft.”
In other words, you and your kids will get to learn and even get hands on experience building wooden boats. You also can check out their fleet of boats and even take one out for a sail.
With loads of exciting exhibits for your kids to explore, the whole family will enjoy this activity! Plus, admission is free.
Elliot Bay Book Company
Though a bookstore may not seem like a child friendly, or even touristy spot, this book store is well worth a visit. With over 500 book readings a year, they’ve got something on the schedule every day including performances, song and story time and more for kids.
Especially if you catch a rainy day and are looking for a place to spend an hour until the sky clears a bit, this is a great stop. In their Children’s section they also have a castle for kids to explore and enjoy while you do your book shopping.
Browse through their huge catalog of new and gently used books and soak in some of the local vibe.
Check out their events calendar here to see if there will be anything of interest going on during your trip.
Seattle Bouldering Project
In Seattle, hiking is a basic. With the close proximity to the mountains, most locals go hiking regularly from a young age.
Get your kids started at the Seattle Bouldering project, where they have rock climbing walls and activities for kids as young as 4 years old. This is an especially great activity for high energy kids to burn off some steam so that you can drag them along to some quieter activities next.
You can also challenge your bouldering skills, it’s not just for the little ones! Once you are done, kick back and relax with a coffee or craft beer from their cafe.
Things to do in Downtown Seattle
Pike Market – Seattle Attractions
We took the ferry from West Seattle across to the city. Just a short walk from the waterfront is the infamous and vibrant Pike Market, one of the top things to see in Seattle.
At over a hundred years old, the market is full of history, customs and traditions. With several long corridors and levels, it houses everything from florists and fishmongers to craftsmen and organic farm food stands.
One famous stand is the fishmongers. There are quite a few guys working and its something of a theatrical performance. If you decide to buy a fish, no matter the size it will be flung across the market whilst all of the men chant something, I’m not quite sure what, but it’s entertaining to say the least!
Both our kids were so quiet (for a change) going through the market. They were just taking it all in! It’s such a sensory experience, everything is stimulating, colourful flowers, food cooking and the hustle of the market.
There are plenty of tours of the market if you are interested in exploring further. With options of tours lead by a Chef, a local, or even a donut tour. Check them all out here.
Seattle Waterfront – Seattle Sightseeing
Seattle waterfront really took me by surprise. It wasn’t at all what I expected. Behind the Ferris wheel there was a band playing, people were lazing around on giant bean bags, punters were soaking the sun drinking craft beer in the many establishments along the waterfront. The sky was clear, it was sunny and the views were gorgeous back to West Seattle.
You can also head out on a short sightseeing cruise from the waterfront. Some of the cruises explore the city and some go further out visiting nearby Islands. You can check out all the options here.
It was surprising to find out how many islands are just a stone’s throw from Seattle. Many of them are easy to get to from the ferry terminal. One of the most popular is San Juan Island. There are plenty of things to do on San Juan Island, it is worth the trip.
Indoor Playground – Seattle
Seattle is known as the rainiest city for good reason. Luckily, the city is well equipped with indoor play areas for when the weather doesn’t allow city exploration.
To find the best toddler indoor playgrounds around Seattle, the city has a handy map with all the best play areas marked. You can find it here.
Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour
If you are hoping to hit all the great sites in Seattle, a great way to do it is on a hop on, hop off tour. We find these to be great with kids because you get to take in a lot in a short amount of time without your kids getting bored and cranky. You can check out what is included on the tour and prices here.
Saving Money with a City Pass
If you are packing a lot of fun into only a few days, it may be worth your while to invest in a city pass. The Seattle city pass covers a lot of the main attraction you’ll want to hit on your trip. Find out more about what it covers and prices here.
Things to do Near Seattle
If your family loves pop culture, you might consider driving up north to Everett (about 30 minutes from Seattle.) This is where you’ll find the Funko Headquarters.
As soon as you drive up, you’ll notice the oversized Funko POP! characters on the skybridge and surrounding the building.
Inside, you’ll experience a store unlike any other. It’s sectioned off into themed areas including: DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Disney and more. Plus, there’s an exclusive line of Wetmore Forest collectibles named for the street in which the headquarters resides. It’s a mix between a pop culture museum and the coolest gift shop ever.
They did an awesome job placing giant Funko characters all over the store. Kids and adults will have fun sitting in a 1960s style Batmobile, walking through a Disney castle, exploring Hogsmeade, posing with Elsa and Olaf from Frozen, and meeting Stan Lee at a comic book stand.
One of the most unique things to do at the Funko Headquarters is creating your own custom Funko at the POP! Factory! Here, you’ll choose from an array of pieces to come up with a one-of-a-kind creation! Funko Headquarters is perfect for families with kids of all ages (even teens!)
Wild Waves Theme Park
If you are headed to Seattle in summer, a visit to Wild Waves theme park is a ton of fun. The park has over 40 rides, attractions and water activities.
With plenty of ride options for every age and fear level, everyone will find something fun. They have rides as tame as the lazy river and as scary as log flume rides that plunge you 50 feet in the water. They also have some classic roller coasters for those who don’t feel like getting wet.
Mount Rainier is a truly iconic place to visit near Seattle. You don’t have to be scared off visiting with kids, there are plenty of easy trails where you will still get to take in loads of beauty, tall trees, wildflowers, viewpoints and more.
Two of the best spots for families would be Ohanapecosh and Paradise. From Ohanapecosh there are plenty of easy trails that will take you past canyons, lakes, rivers, between sky the sky high trees, and even to some nice hot springs. Ohanapecosh also has a great visitors center with lots of hands on exhibits.
Paradise is best known for it’s killer views and fields of wildflowers. If you are visiting in winter, it’s also the best area for winter activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and tubing.
If you’d like to take a prearranged tour of the national park you can check out some of these guided tour options. Most come including pick up and drop off at your hotel. If you prefer to have a car and take yourself, find the best prices on rental cars here.
San Juan Island and Whale Watching Tour
Seattle is a fantastic place to spot wildlife, and you can see whales in their native environment if you visit and the right time. With this tour you will hop on a ferry, where you will get to see birds, seals, porpoises, sea lions and more!
At the end of the ferry ride you get to explore Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Once you are at San Juan Island you can go wine tasting at some vineyards, visit a lavender farm, hike, explore the beaches and more.
You will also get the chance to visit Lime Kiln State Park and try and spot some Orca whales. Even if you don’t succeed in spotting the whales, you will be able to appreciate the dramatic views across the Haro Strait towards Vancouver Island and the Olympic Mountains.
Find out more about the tour, including prices and availability here.
Best Hotels in Seattle for Families
Southcenter Courtyard Marriott
The room was massive, it was like a suite connected with a second bedroom. It was perfect for us because we could chill out in the evenings whilst both kids were asleep in separate rooms.
The hotel is based around a garden courtyard and also has a swimming pool and hot tub.
In the lobby they had a bistro style cafe. Meals can be ordered at the counter, its all quite simple foods like sandwiches and burgers. In the morning they had cereal, freshly chopped fruits and yoghurt pots.
I haven’t been to a hotel before where they use this style of service. It was simple but perfect for what we needed, especially as we could take breakfast away when we had a busy day of sightseeing planned.
There is a Westfields shopping centre less than a three minute walk from the hotel. It has lots of shops and restaurants which was really helpful. The Mexican restaurant at the entry is really good if you are looking for somewhere nearby to eat.
Find prices and availability for the Southcenter Courtyard hotel here.
Executive Inn by the Space Needle
If you are looking for a decently priced hotel smack in the center of things, the Executive in is definitely a hotel to consider. It’s only a five minute walk from the Space Needle and many of the rooms boast stunning views of it.
Because of the great location you won’t need a car with public transportation conveniently located right near by and most attractions walking distance. However if you do come with a car, it’s worth noting the parking at the hotel is paid and on the expensive side.
The rooms all come with microwaves and refrigerators, which we find immensely helpful for feeding little ones at odd hours and keeping travel costs low.
The Executive Inn also is highly rated by families. You can read reviews here.
Four Seasons Hotel – Seattle
If you are looking for a more high end option to stay in, the Four Seasons provides stunning, family friendly accommodation. Located in Downtown Seattle, it’s less then a five minute walk to both Pike Market and the Art Museum.
Get the most beauty out of your stay by enjoying the four seasons rooftop infinity pool overlooking the water and their outdoor fireplace. They also have a baby sitting service on hand if you want to spent some time in the hot tub or spa to get some relaxing in.
The hotel tries to stay true to the location by bringing pacific northwest design into the rooms and pacific northwest ingredients and cooking techniques to your plate.
With high reviews and ratings from guests, this hotel will meet your every need and go above and beyond with personalized service and attention to detail.
Besides from picking up bites to eat in Pike Market and near our hotel, we had an amazing lunch at Marination Ma Kai. Its a restaurant right next to the West Seattle ferry port and it serves a fusion of Hawaiian and Korean food.
It seems to be quite a hit with locals. Marination started off serving from a truck a few years back and has since added the restaurant to its brand due its success.
The ‘Aloha’ pork sliders are so good and a ‘must’ try. They have an outside area with some colourful umbrellas for shade. The views to the city are incredible!
Peddler Brewing Company
Kids are more then welcome at this beer garden. Sit and enjoy all the awesome brews made by Peddler, while your kids play with the games they have on hand to keep your little ones entertained.
Every first Sunday of the month, they even host a Babies in Arms Happy Hour. On offer are $1 off pints from 3-7pm if you order a pint while holding a baby- this includes beer, cider, kombucha & fizzy water!
They also have plenty of nonalcoholic options for those under 21 or folks who are expecting, including an assortment of Jones Soda, apple juice, house-made fizzy water, and locally-made kombucha.
If you get hungry, grab some food from the vegan food truck (Cycle Dogs) in the bear garden beer garden or at the sandwich spot next door (Mean Sandwich).They also allow you to bring your own food in which is great for those travelling on a budget or with picky eaters.
Have you found Seattle with kids useful? Leave a comment, I love hearing from you.
Disclaimer: We worked in partnership with the local tourism board to promote Seattle as a destination to families. As always, all views expressed our entirely our own.
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