Regardless of the ages you travel with, hip Seattle, Washington offers an abundance of entertainment options for all members of your family. Considered the belle of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle’s museums, world-class baseball stadium, traditional green markets, beautiful harbor, airplane factory tour and other activities make it a great family vacation destination at any time of year.
To take advantage of the savings available to families who want to take in all the sights, note that Seattle is a participant in the CityPASS Program. Their ticket booklet includes admission to the following popular attractions: the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center (includes IMAX) OR the beautiful Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, EMP Museum OR Woodland Park Zoo, with substantial savings off — up to 40% off individual tickets — for visitors ages 4+. For more information on the city, visit the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website, Visit Seattle.
Great Fun for the Kids
(Toddler to Age 8)
305 Harrison Street (at Seattle Center)
Seattle, WA 98109
Bring the little ones here for hands-on adventure. Kids can shop in the child-size Grocery Store, much like their own, or discover other cultures in the Global Village. Imagination Studio is a fabulous place to explore art – it’s a wonderful drop-in workshop staffed with a professional artist. Kids can perform in the Theatre or put on a hard hat and build in the Construction Zone. Discovery Bay is the area specially designed for toddlers. As veteran of many children’s museums around the country, I choose this as my favorite!
1483 Alaskan Way
Pier 59, Waterfront Park
Seattle, WA 98101
Learn about the world beneath Puget Sound and meet sea otters, harbor seals and 400 other species of marine life. You’ll feel as if you are underwater as you walk through “The Dome” and you can touch sea creatures in the Discovery Lab. The only aquarium-based salmon ladder demonstrates the life cycle of Pacific salmon, the region’s most famous fish.
Woodland Park Zoo
601 North 59th Street
Seattle, WA 98103
Come face-to-face with Komodo Dragons and over 300 other animal species at this award-winning zoo. Located in a 92-acre botanical garden, you can explore the Tropical Rain Forest, Tropical Asia, Australasia, the Northern Trail and the African Savanna to discover indigenous animals and plants throughout the world. Your family can visit with Humboldt penguins and Sumatran tigers, and take a ride on a hand-carved carousel.
Gas Works Park
2101 North Northlake Way
Seattle, WA 98103
Located across Lake Union from downtown, this green area was built around the former Seattle Gas Light Company, the processing plant which once supplied Seattle’s power. The park provides picnic areas, kite flying and great views, and some of the machinery in the plant has been cleaned up and painted, providing great climbing adventures for the little ones.
Note: The park is currently undergoing some construction, some parts may be restricted to visitors.
Fun for Older Children
(Up to Age 18)
Pacific Science Center
200 Second Avenue North (at Seattle Center)
Seattle, Washington 98109
Adventures galore for budding scientists: lots of hands-on exhibits, robotic dinosaurs, a planetarium, and an IMAX theatre with a 6-story-tall screen. There is something for everyone here: The Wellbody Academy teaches visitors about keeping the human body healthy through exercise, cleanliness and food, and the Portal to Current Research explores advances in research through digital media, graphics, interactive displays and other programs. Check out the Insect Village to meet giant robotic insects, and, if you wonder how 3-D movies are made, check out Adventures in 3 Dimensions.
Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Factory Tour
8415 Paine Field Blvd
Mukilteo, WA 98275
The Everett, Washington facility, about 25 minutes north of Seattle, is where Boeing 747, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner aricraft are produced. Families may join a 90-minute tour of the facility and watch how aircraft are made, though all visitors must be over 48″ tall, and there is a lot of walking and stair-climbing. Special accommodations can be made for the mobility-impaired with advance notice. Allow enough time prior to the tour to check out the center’s exhibits. Kids can learn about the future of powered, winged flight; digitally design and test a jet, and even ride the XJ5 Flight Simulator and “fly” at supersonic speeds. It’s quite an experience.
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
3015 NW 54th Street
Seattle, WA 98107
Completed in 1917 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and located in the neighborhood of Ballard (and commonly referred to as the Ballard Locks), this is a kid-friendly place for interesting lessons in engineering and biology. Watch the movement of small boats and large barges as they make their way from Lake Washington, Lake Union, Salmon Bay and Portage Bay to Puget Sound through a series of locks in which water levels are adjusted to allow passage of the vessels. On busy days, there’s an impressive parade of sailboats, motorboats, tugs, barges and yachts waiting to go through.
This complex is also home to the region’s largest fish ladder, built to allow salmon to pass between the fresh and salt water. Visitors can view the fish through glass panels and watch as they adjust to the varying salt level at each step, and learn about the various stages in the reproduction of this important feature of Seattle’s ecosystem. After growing in the waters of Lake Washington and rivers and streams near Seattle, the salmon seek salty waters in which to mature before returning to the rivers to spawn. You may even see fish jumping out of the water as they struggle upstream! Ballard Locks offers an entertaining and unique Pacific Northwest experience, is open daily from 7am to 9pm, and is free to visitors.
325 5th Avenue North (at Seattle Center)
Seattle, WA 98109
The “Experience Music Project” premiered in June, 2000, as an exciting, interactive museum exploring the roots of American popular music. Designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry, the unusual building mirrors the spirit of rock’n’roll. It uses technology and hands-on exhibits to describe the influences of jazz and blues and to tell the stories of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the punk movement and the hip-hop explosion. Highlights include an extensive display of artifacts including musical instruments, handwritten lyrics, clothing and memorabilia and the Sound Lab where visitors can experiment with instruments and interact with recorded music. It has broadened it’s reach and is currently dedicated to the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary pop-culture, including sci-fi and film. Fans of science fiction and fantasy will love the “Icons of Science Fiction” and “Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic” exhibits, which explore the worlds of sci-fi and fantasy in popular film, television, and literature.
Be sure to stop by Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic to visit Adalinda, the museum’s very own animatronic dragon who guards the gallery’s gate and interacts with guests.
The Underground Tour
608 First Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
Did you know that Seattle is rebuilt atop its own ruins? Poor city planning and an unusual plumbing problem (which is described on the tour) created this subterranean city, devastated by the Great Fire of 1889. The 1½ hour guided tour takes you to the underground town, abandoned in 1907, to view its streets and storefronts before it was rebuilt on higher ground. Younger kids enjoy the “spookiness” while older kids enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor of the seamier side of Seattle history.
Fun for the Whole Family
Seattle Center & Monorail
Terminals located at the 3rd Floor of Westlake Center, and across from the Space Needle
Seattle, WA 98109
206/905-2620, call 206/684-7200 for recorded events
Hop aboard for a short but exciting ride on this unique mode of transportation between downtown Seattle and the fun-filled Seattle Center. Linking the downtown area (shops and hotels) to the site of the 1962 World’s Fair in 90 seconds, the monorail runs on a schedule, every 10 minutes in each direction. The Seattle Center is a 74-acre cultural center that is home to many of the city’s best-known landmarks and attractions. The Space Needle, Seattle’s most recognizable structure is here, along with the Children’s Museum, the Pacific Science Center, the Experience Music Project, the Opera House and the International Fountain amongst other cultural institutions and sports arenas.
400 Broad St
Seattle, WA 98109
206/905-2100 or 800/937-9582
That weird structure that looks like a flying saucer on a pole was also built for the World’s Fair and continues to be one of Seattle’s favorite attractions. During the day, or at night, a 41-second journey in a glass-encased elevator takes you 520 feet above ground where you will experience a fabulous 360 degree panorama of downtown, Puget Sound, Lake Union and Mt. Rainier. You can enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner at SkyCity Restaurant while observing the view as well as the boat and seaplane activity. This is a great place to orient yourself.
Washington State Ferry System
As a city known for its wet weather (not always true), water plays another important role as it nearly surrounds Seattle. Not surprisingly, Washington’s number one tourist attraction is its ferry system with 13 routes throughout Puget Sound and the nearby San Juan Islands. Ferries take passengers with or without automobiles. Call for departure schedules from Piers 50 and 52 to such locations as Bainbridge Island (30 minutes), Bremerton (1 hr.) and Kitsap Peninsula and enjoy great skyline views of Seattle, the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier.
1101 Alaskan Way, Pier 55
Seattle, WA 98101
Choose from a wide variety of 1 to 2-1/2 hour narrated cruises of Lake Union and Lake Washington, including lunch and dinner cruises on Elliott Bay.
Ride the “Ducks” of Seattle
Experience a unique tour of Seattle by land and sea in an authentic World War II amphibious landing craft or “ducw.” Purchase tickets and board your duck at one of two locations: At Seattle Center (516 Broad Street) between the Space Needle and EMP, or downtown at Westlake Center at 4th Avenue and Pine. Board your heated duck for a 90-minute narrated tour of the city’s highlights before splashing into Lake Union for a seaside view of this city surrounded by water. Great for a view of Seattle’s famous houseboats.
Museum of Flight
9404 East Marginal Way South (Exit 158 from I-5)
South, Seattle, WA 98108
If you’re still amazed by the notion of flight, or if any of your kids dream of becoming pilots, this museum is a must-see. After traveling 10 minutes from downtown to Boeing Field, visitors can sit in the original Air Force One as well as an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. More than 20 full size aircraft “fly” six stories above you in the Great Gallery and dozens of restored vintage aircraft and spacecraft are on display. Future astronauts will want to take the Space Shuttle Trainer tour.
Pike Place Market
1531 Western Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
In case there aren’t enough Starbucks in your home town, you can visit the original one in this Seattle landmark. Now a National Historic District, Pike’s Place has become more than a farmer’s market and is currently a charming shopping and browsing public center where you can choose from among 100 farmers and fishmongers’ selections, or crafts created by 190 local artists right at the edge of the waterfront. If you get hungry looking at all baked goods, cheeses and jams, there are many cafes and restaurants featuring local specialties, or stop at the fresh crepe stand, the do-nut booth or the Crumpet Shop for a tasty treat. And, most items, even the salmon, can be packed for travel. Check the schedule for live jazz, Dixieland and opera performances. Pike Place is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9am to 6pm and on Sundays from 9am to 5pm.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.