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Seattle: Pure Gold for Families

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Photo by Julie Fanselow

Fun for all ages in the outdoor-loving big city of Seattle

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Seattle, the Pacific Northwest’s biggest metropolis, is pure gold for families, whether for a spring break getaway, a long weekend or full vacation anytime of year. Seattle has abundant kid-friendly attractions both indoors and out, and they’re grouped close together for easy planning. And with plenty of nonstop flights serving Seattle Tacoma International Airport, the region is easy to reach. The ideas below are organized by day and location, for up to four days of family fun.


Day 1: The Downtown Waterfront

Since morning is the best time to visit Pike Place Market, you might start your day there. (You know your kids are going to want to see–and maybe add to–the gross-but-cool Gum Wall. Might as well get it over with!) Stairs lead from the market to the waterfront, where you’ll notice the Seattle Aquarium just ahead. You’ll want about two hours there, and many fun programs take place in the afternoon. So now (before lunch!) might be a good time to take a spin on the Seattle Great Wheel or the Wings Over Washington indoor “flying” ride (the latter is OK for kids 40 inches and taller).

Ivar’s Acres of Clams on Pier 54 is a classic waterfront lunch choice, close to the aquarium, where you’ll head next. Enjoy meeting the fish and marine mammals, then get out on the water yourselves–on an Argosy Cruise, a sea kayak tour or the Washington State Ferry.


Day 2: Seattle Center

Seattle Center is home to another key cluster of kid-friendly activities, starting with the Seattle Monorail you can ride to get there if you’re staying downtown. The Pacific Science Center is a hands-on museum packed with family-friendly activities plus an IMAX theater. For smaller kids, the Seattle Children’s Museum has creative play areas galore. It’s located in the Seattle Center Armory, which also has many food options and frequent special events.

Note that the ever-popular Space Needle is under renovation in 2018, so check its website for any closures. A trip to MoPOP or Chihuly Garden and Glass can round out a day for families with teens. And if it’s a nice day (or you want more budget-friendly options), be sure to break up the indoor fun with time outside. The International Fountain is a fun place to frolic in warm weather, as is the playground near the MoPOP entrance.


Bonus Day: Outdoor Seattle

If the weather is good, spend your third day exploring some fun areas near downtown. Gasworks Park on the north side of Lake Union is a favorite play area. From there, it’s less than a mile to see the Fremont Troll and have lunch in Fremont. Spend the afternoon at the Woodland Park Zoo or bicycling or boating at Green Lake.

Later in the day, see boats and fish travel through the Ballard Locks. Spend sunset at Golden Gardens Park, a locally beloved park with a beach, play area and fire pits. The two spots are linked by a 2-mile section of the Burke-Gilman Trail.


Bonus Day: Indoor Seattle

Don’t let rain spoil your plans. The Museum of History & Industry is a good place to while away a few hours on a rainy day. Start your day there, then take a bus or hail a ride to Fremont, where you can see the Fremont Troll, have lunch and browse at the Fremont Vintage Mall (best for teens) and other fun shops. Theo Chocolate offers tours and tastings at its Fremont factory, too.

If the weather looks better by evening, return downtown and take a trip to the Sky View Observatory atop Seattle’s tallest building. Or catch a Seattle Mariners baseball game at Safeco Field, where kids enjoy several themed play areas and maybe meeting the Mariner Moose mascot. The ballpark’s unique rolling roof ensures the game will go on even if it rains.


Budget Tips

Like all big cities, Seattle has plenty of attractions that can blow through a vacation budget in no time. Families staying for two or more days may want to consider buying a CityPass, which includes admission to the Seattle Aquarium, the Space Needle and a one-hour Argosy harbor cruise plus your choice of the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) or the Woodland Park Zoo and the Pacific Science Center or Chihuly Garden and Glass. The passes are available online and at the attractions, and they’ll save you about 50 percent.


Where to Stay

Although they can be expensive, downtown Seattle hotels put you close to the action–and you can save on a car rental since it’s easy to get to and around downtown and to and from Seattle Center without a car. Seattle Center also has plenty of motel and hotel options nearby, with more moderate prices than downtown (unless it’s a big event weekend, when everything will be expensive).


Explore another Seattle Itinerary

Seattle Romantic Getaway: Loving the Emerald City … Treat your sweetheart to a good time in the Emerald City
Seattle When It’s Soggy … How and where to laugh at the rain in Seattle
Seattle: Fuel Up for a Perfect Day … From the Space Needle to Pike Place Market, plus some Northwest cuisine in Seattle
Settle into Seattle: What to do in a Week … Your guide to a fun extended stay in Seattle, a booming destination


At A Glance

Price Range:
budget
midrange
Most Suited to:
families
Season:
winter
spring
summer
fall
Length:
day
weekend
longer

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