The Best 15 Things To Do With Kids In Seattle
This is our hometown and I’ve picked the best places to eat, play, and explore with kids in Seattle. Here are the funnest family attractions in the city.
1. Museum of Flight
- Museum of Flight official website
- Reviews of the Museum of Flight on Tripadvisor
- Pictures and Tips from 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.
2. The Future of Flight Aviation Center (Boeing Factory Tour)
- Future of Flight official website
- A Tour of The Future of Flight – great pictures and tips from a travel blogger
- Reviews of the Future of Flight Tour on Tripadvisor
For a different take 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.
3. The Pacific Science Center at Seattle Center
- Pacific Science Center official website
- The Pacific Science Center with Kids – a blogger’s report
- Reviews of The Pacific Science Center on Tripadvisor
A museum full of hands on science fun. Best for kids over 4. (Toddlers might get a little bored.) There’s no denying the museum has become a bit rundown and the place is in desperate need of some updating, but the kids notice the engaging exhibits, not the cracking paint. The Tropical Butterfly House and IMAX theater are probably the highlights.
4. The Seattle Children’s Museum (in 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 – 10 years.
5. The Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum (in Seattle Center)
- Experience Music Project/ Science Fiction Museum official website
- EMP/SFM Visit Review
- Another EMP/SFM Visit Review
- Reviews of The EMP on Tripadvisor
There is just enough at this Rock N Roll museum to keep kids aged 5 to 10 occupied for about an hour. Older kids might stay engaged for another hour. If the EMP is something the adults in the family are excited to see you needn’t avoid it, but it could easily be scratched from a busy schedule. The Science Fiction Museum has 30 minutes worth of Star Trek souvenirs, Star Wars artifacts and scary scenes from numerous Sci Fi movies and books.
6. Rent a Boat
There are a number of different shops that rent boats, canoes and kayaks to paddle around Lake Union and Lake Washington and even little Greenlake. The best are the Center for Wooden Boats, Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club, UW Waterfront Activities Center and Greenlake Boat Rentals. They all supply life vests for young and old for a small fee.
7. Farmers Markets
Pike Place Market is where the tourists hang out, and I suppose you’re obligated to see the salmon being thrown around – but for a more low-keyed kid-friendly environment the Ballard Farmers’ Market (year round on Sundays) is a great spot to wander, shop and eat. Ballard is one of Seattle’s hippest neighborhoods and there are restaurants, cafes, and Ballard’s brand new library (with story hours for kids) within a short walk of the market.
8. The Seattle Aquarium (downtown on the waterfront)
- The Seattle Aquarium official website and blog
- Our First Trip To The Seattle Aquarium
- Reviews of The Seattle Aquarium at Tripadvisor
Recently updated and refurbished the aquarium is a good stop for 90 minutes to 2 hours, but don’t be expecting a full day outing. 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 wiith different sea life – are a hit with many kids.
9. The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (on the UW campus)
Not as hands on as the Science Museum at Seattle Center, this small but well laid out museum on the University of Washington campus has a more truly scientific bent.
10. Woodland Park Zoo
- Seattle Woodland Park Zoo official website and blog
- A Family Visit To The Woodland Park Zoo
- Reviews of The Woodland Park Zoo from Tripadvisor
This is a great zoo so be prepared to spend a good part of a day here. Pack a picnic if you want good food however as the fast food on offer leaves a lot to be desired. Elephants, monkeys, gorillas, Komodo dragons and giraffes are the big draws with my kids – but there’s so much here you could easily have a totally different greatest hits. There’s also a fun indoor climbing playground for ages babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.
11. Take A Duck Tour of The City
Yes, locals will laugh at you for riding an amphibious duck through the city. But so what! This is a lot of fun. The tour takes you around a collection of the city’s sightseeing highlights and the bus-boat does indeed enter the water and takes you across Lake Union.
12. Ride a Bike
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. Recycled Cycles, Montlake Bike Shop and Dutch Bike Co. – all on or near the Burke Gilman Bike Trail – are good options. Call ahead to see what’s available – it tends to change a fair bit – and reserve what you need.
The Burke itself should probably be your main destination – at least for your first ride. It winds its way from Ballard, through Fremont, Wallingford, the University District – keeping pretty close to Lake Union and Lake Washington – and heads north from there. 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.
The Fremont neighborhood is smack in the middle of the best stretch of the Burke Gilman Path – is a great place to stop for a bite to eat (numerous restaurants are sprinkled around the neighborhood) or shop for snacks and picnic supplies (PCC Natural Market) before an afternoon of cycling.
13. Walk Around Seattle Center
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 at music coordinated intervals – leaving visitors wondering where their day went.
14. Visit A Wading Pool or Swimming Pool
The city opens a number of wading pools that are a fun and relaxing way to cool off and play on one of Seattle’s 3 yearly hot days. My favorites are at: Volunteer Park, Greenlake, Wallingford Park, and the East Queen Anne Playground.
15. Jump Around At An Indoor Gym
The Academy in Ballard offers an open gym time to jump in the foam pit, bounce on the trampoline, run and swing and flop. Kids must be 5 and under. Runs from 12:00 to 1:00. (There is also a Lake City location if you’re looking for an activity in North Seattle.)
And … The Best Places To Eat
If you want to eat at some terrible chain restaurant like Olive Garden, Red Robin or The Old Spaghetti Factory these places abound. However Seattle has a ton of cool restaurants that serve great food. With a few accommodations and some adventurous parents the whole family will have a great time. (Remember: don’t blame it on the children – it’s usually timid parents that underestimate their kids and order boring food.)
Here are my favorite places to eat in Seattle:
Loud, rambunctious and fun, this First Hill institution serves the hands-down best pizza in the city. $3 gets you a heaping serving of spumoni to follow it all down.
A couple different locations at Interbay (between Queen Anne and Magnolia) and the original on Phinney Ridge (just north of the Woodland Park Zoo).
Funnest Family Restaurant
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: Stone Way (between Fremont and Wallingford), Columbia City, Issaquah and Westlake (between Downtown and Seattle Center).
Coolest Place You’re Still Allowed to Take Your Kids To
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 the happy hour food 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.
And regardless 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.
Locations all over the city (Upper Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Downtown Seattle, Wedgwood, Bellevue, Mill Creek and Qwest Field). Yummy!
If anyone tries to recommend Cupcake Royal in Ballard, 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’m going to split hairs and get 2 of my favorites in here. For the best ice cream shop visit Molly Moon’s (located in Wallingford and Capitol Hill). 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.