Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, and the perfect place for a family vacation. There is so much to see and do in Seattle, with iconic buildings, engaging museums, eclectic markets, and a beautiful waterfront. While the area is known for its trendy cafes and restaurants, family friendly dining options are widely available. We have visited the area several times, and always look forward to our trips. While there are many fun things to do here, we certainly have our favorites, so check out the best things to do in Seattle with kids.
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Things to Do with Kids in Seattle
There’s a reason Seattle is known as the Emerald City. Its lush greenery helps the city remain in color all months of the year, and yes, the wet climate contributes to that. But don’t let the thought of rain scare you away. With temperatures that are moderate most months of the year, Seattle is a fabulous city to explore. Here are a few of our local favorite family friendly things to do in Seattle.
1. Ferry to Bainbridge
After moving out to Seattle and discovering ferry transportation, it soon became our must-do for visiting guests. The Washington State Ferry system serves as a vital transportation system for residents, but it’s also a great activity for tourists.
I recommend planning a ride aboard the Seattle to Bainbridge ferry. Try to do it as foot passengers to save money. You’ll get some great skyline shots of the city on your 35-minute ride across the sound, and you’ll have some fun wineries and shops to visit near the terminal on Bainbridge Island. Another great Seattle weekend getaway is the ferry to Victoria.
2. Pacific Science Center
Both of my girls love exploring the Pacific Science Center. The center has many hands-on activities and learning opportunities. My girls always love visiting the butterflies in the pollination garden. The Pacific Science Center is also next door to the Space Needle and Experience Music Project, so it’s perfect to see them all if you visit.
3. Woodland Park Zoo
This 65 acre zoo is one of our favorite things to do in Seattle. Voted as one of the very best zoos in the United States, the zoo is certainly world class, with over 1,000 animals. The enclosures mimic the natural habitats of the animals, and the zoo has even won awards for their presentations.
Note there are also many indoor exhibits and viewing shelters, so the zoo is an excellent place to visit on a rainy day in Seattle.
4. Seattle Aquarium
While I hesitate to recommend something many would consider “touristy”, I put forth the Seattle Aquarium for two important reasons. The Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean are important symbols for many in Seattle. The aquarium does an excellent job of showcasing what amazing creatures can be found just over the side of the aquarium building.
The fact that it sits on the Seattle waterfront makes it supremely fitting for getting a taste of the Pacific Northwest sea life. Another important reason I recommend the aquarium is because it’s just down from Pike Place Market, a hugely popular tourist attraction. While the market isn’t necessarily for kids, it’s a great spot for adults to explore while promising the kids that the aquarium awaits.
5. Seattle Space Needle
This is easily Seattle’s most recognized tourist attraction. A trip to the top is well worth the trek; from 520 feet above the ground, you can see panoramic views of the surrounding area below. Consider going at night to see the city lights or at sunset for some amazing views. Be sure to allow some time to explore the adjacent Chihuly Garden and Glass museum where everyone can admire the talent of Dale Chihuly.
6. Pike Place Market
No family trip to Seattle is complete without a trip to the city’s original farmer’s market, Pike Place. Aside from watching enthusiastic fishmongers toss salmon back and forth, you can browse a wide variety of toy shops, food stands, and book stores. We are a family of fruit fanatics, and loved touring through the colorful stalls of towering fruit. This is a great place to visit around lunch time, as there are many delicious delicacies available to choose from, with many kid-friendly options.
Located right next to Pike Place Market, you can visit the very first Starbucks. Starbucks opened its first store here in 1971; because the building is located in the historic district, it still retains its original sign and charm. While the little ones may not be as excited about coffee, it is a great place for mom and dad to grab a pick me up.
7. MoPOP – Museum of Pop Culture
Formerly known as the Experience Music Project, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) promotes pop culture and the roots of different music genres. This family friendly museum is anything but ordinary, kids can mix their own music, practice their DJ skills, and view a wide variety of music and movie memorabilia.
8. Catch a game
For sports loving families, it’s important to mention that Seattle is a city that loves it’s sports teams. With the Mariners, Seahawks, and Sounders competing in their signature bright green and navy colors, locals will wear their colors with pride as well. Keep in mind that attending one of these pro-level games will set you back quite a few dollars. Families looking to save money might consider attending one of the local minor league baseball or hockey games.
9. Seattle Underground Tour
In this not-to-miss tour, an enthusiastic guide leads you on a three block adventure underneath the sidewalks and streets of Seattle. After the downtown area burned down in the 1800s, the city was lifted and rebuilt on top of the existing city below. Kids will love learning about the history of the area, and discovering that these subterranean passages were once the main roadways and first-floor storefronts of downtown Seattle. This is a great tour for families, with enough education and adventure to keep both adults and little ones entertained.
10. Ballard Locks
Heading out of the downtown area is my final family friendly Seattle recommendations. The Hiram M. Chittenden (aka Ballard) Locks are an engineering marvel, and the busiest locks in the nation. They work to raise and lower boats between the higher interior fresh water and the lower level Puget Sound.
Another big draw for the locks is the salmon ladders that you’ll often see filled with migrating salmon in the summer months. It’s a fun way to see these fish up close as they work their way from the lower level ocean up into fresh water to spawn.
The list could go on and on with more family-friendly activities in Seattle and beyond. Hopefully your travel plans will allow you a visit to this lovely city on the sea. Looking for more city getaways for families? Don’t miss the best staycations in the US.
Kimberly Tate is the founder and content creator of Stuffed Suitcase, a family travel & lifestyle website. She’s inspired by her own family vacations and home life with her husband and two daughters. Her blog is packed full of tips for family travel and life between trips, to help encourage others to create lasting family memories. In addition to Stuffed Suitcase, Kimberly also co-produces Vacation Mavens, a family travel podcast.