Famous for its iconic Space Needle, Seattle is a family-friendly city with lots on offer to entertain all ages. We’re lucky enough to have family in Seattle and have visited several times over the last few years, so here are our picks for 10 Simply Splendid Things to Do in Seattle with Kids:
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See the dinosaurs, find a troll, ride the giant wheel or check out the flying fish! There are so many things to do in Seattle that are suitable for kids of all ages.
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Family-Friendly Things To Do in Seattle
#1. Find Cute Otters at the Seattle Aquarium
Offering hands-on marine experiences and conservation education, the Seattle Aquarium aims to help you discover more about Puget Sound and marine life. The Aquarium’s animal collection is housed within six major exhibits:
- Window on Washington Waters
- Life on the Edge
- Pacific Coral Reef
- Birds & Shores
- The Underwater Dome
- Marine Mammals
Our absolutely favourite animals to meet at the Aquarium are the sea otters. At time of writing, there are 4 northern sea otters at Seattle Aquarium – male Adaa, females Lootas and Aniak (mother and daughter), and female Mishka.
We also loved the touch tanks and there are daily events to enjoy, such as Meet the Marine Animals or Meet an Octopus, or enjoy Story Time at weekends.
#2. Ride The Monorail (Twice)
Along with going up the Space Needle, one of THE things to do in Seattle is to ride the Monorail. The Seattle Center Monorail is a fun, quick, and historic link between Westlake Center and Seattle Center. Built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the Monorail has been a Seattle icon ever since then.
The Monorail travels directly between Westlake Center Mall (5th Avenue and Pine Street) and Seattle Center (adjacent to the Space Needle and MoPOP). Trains depart every 10 minutes, there is only one stop so you won’t get lost, and it’s a short ride lasting only 2 minutes one way. So you might want to pay for a round trip and ride it twice to extend the fun.
There’s lots of fun things to see and do at Seattle Center, including the Pacific Science Center and International Fountain. And, at the other end of the line, Westlake Mall has shops and restaurants to enjoy.
#3. See The Flying Fish at Pike Place Market
Another “must-visit” place when you are in Seattle is the world-famous Pike Place Market, it’s one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the United States, established in 1907. It is still a daily working market – you’ll find the marketplace on the top (street) level with stalls stuffed with seafood, fruit, veg, and other delicious local products. Lower levels of the Market house restaurants, bars and quirky shops.
If you make sure to enter at the main entrance on First Avenue you can’t fail to miss the Flying Fish Guys, a popular market stall selling fresh fish for decades, and well-known for its employees who shout and playfully throw fish around. According to Wikipedia, fish throwing at the market actually started as a prank with one of the employees at Pike Place Fish Market. The crowd enjoyed the yelling and throwing so much that it became a regular thing.
After you’ve watched the fish fly, and browsed some of the shops, do look out for the World’s Largest Shoe Museum and also the Gum Wall, a brick wall covered in used chewing gum, located in an alleyway in Post Alley under Pike Place Market. For once you can happily encourage your kids to chew gum then take it out their mouths to stick on the wall! (Just be sure to wash or sanitise hands afterwards!)
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#4. Go Underground in Seattle’s Hidden City
Bill Spiedel’s Underground Tour is another thing not to be missed. You will get to go underground on a tour of Seattle’s original city streets, which now lie underneath street level. Each tour is led by fun guides who tell interesting stories as they take you down underground. You’ll see original storefronts and sidewalks which were covered over when the city rebuilt on top of itself after the Great Fire of 1889.
The 75-minute guided walking tour begins beneath Doc Maynard’s Public House, then heads out into historic Pioneer Square, birthplace of Seattle, before you get to go underground for an exclusive, time-capsule view of the buried city.
Tours take place every hour, every day. You can buy tickets at the door, or skip the line and save $2 per ticket by purchasing online. In my experience this would be more suited to older kids (over 8s).
#5. Find a Troll in Fremont
In the funky neighbourhood of Fremont there’s a troll! Yes, an actual troll! Visit the 18-foot troll tucked away beneath the Aurora Bridge (NB not under the Fremont Bridge).
The troll was apparently inspired by the folk tale Billy Goats Gruff, and neither kids nor adults can resist snapping a photo on top of the Troll’s head or (kids) picking his nose!
After saying farewell to Mr Troll, if you are there on a Saturday, there’s an outdoor cinema in the evenings during summer time.
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#6. Visit a Red Panda at Woodland Park Zoo
Seattle’s zoo is called Woodland Park Zoo. It covers 92 acres, divided into bioclimatic zones, each featuring a different natural habitat, from coastal deserts to temperate rainforests. You can get close to more than 1,100 animals and 300 species, including some of the world’s most critically endangered.
In the Temperate Forest zone you’ll find red pandas, Asian cranes and maned wolves in the Wildlife Survival Zone. Also in this area are Chilean flamingos and Temperate Wetlands. Then stop by Bug World, playing host to all the wee life that crawls around us, and pet some animals at the popular Family Farm, home to mini-cows, sheep, chickens and goats.
If you’re visiting near Christmas be sure to book in for Wild Lights, Seattle’s wildest holiday lights festival complete with up close animal encounters, amazing light displays, faux snowball fights, and more.
#7. Ride the Seattle Great Wheel
Take a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel, covered in over 500,000 LED lights, and see the city of Seattle like never before. The Wheel is located on Pier 57. Each gondola can fit 8 people and provide an amazing ride that lights up the sky at night. Typical ride times last 12-20 minutes during summer and 10-15 minutes in winter time, depending on amount of people riding. Every ride is three full revolutions of the wheel.
They also run colourful light show displays every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening. On holidays and game days watch out for special themed light shows. You can buy tickets to ride on the Wheel at the ticket booth on the pier or online.
#8. See Salmon Climb the Fish Ladder
Ballard Locks, officially known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, are one of Seattle’s most popular attractions. You can watch salmon migrate up the fish ladder at the Chittenden Locks in Ballard mid-June through October, with the best viewing through September.
Afterwards stop by the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden, a perfect spot for a picnic. They also hold summer events like outdoor theatre so check before you go.
#9. View Giant Sculptures at Olympic Sculpture Park
The award-winning Olympic Sculpture Park is open 365 days a year and is free to visit. It is downtown Seattle’s largest green space where you can experience art and, at the same time, enjoy some of the natural beauty of the Northwest.
Wander the park to discover sculptures among native plants, dip your toes in Elliott Bay, or bike along the waterfront, taking in stunning views over Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains. Or enjoy a stroll along the 2,200-ft Z-shaped path that zigzags from the pavilion to the water’s edge to tour the park and its surroundings.
For those with an interest in nature and plants, stop by The Neukom Vivarium, where you’ll find a most unusual item – it’s a 60-foot-long nurse log, with its ongoing cycles of decay and renewal, represents the complex processes of a natural ecosystem. You can observe life forms within the log using microscopes and magnifying glasses supplied in a cabinet designed by the artist. Illustrations of potential log inhabitants—bacteria, fungi, lichen, plants, and insects—decorate blue and white tiles that function as a field guide.
During winter time, SAM Lights and Winter Weekends offer events as part of the fun and free art-related programming in the pavilion for children and adults alike to enjoy.
#10. See Dinos at The Burke Museum
The newly renovated Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington is well worth a visit.
You may not know it to look at them, but did you know that your average chicken is related to a T. Rex?! We know birds are living dinosaurs, thanks to paleontologists like the ones who work at the Burke.
On the third floor of the New Burke, nestled among the tree tops, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the neighbourhood, see new discoveries as they happen in paleontology labs, and dig in to the Northwest’s deep past, the powerful geologic forces that shaped the region around Seattle, and the plants and animals that populated the world millions of years ago.
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