Family-friendly suggestions for what to do, where to stay, and where to eat in the Emerald City
This kid-centric tour of Seattle is brought to you by Debbie Dubrow, who blogs about traveling with her three children at Delicious Baby. The helpful tips were first published on Expedia in 2012 as part of the Kids in the City summer travel campaign highlighting family-friendly urban destinations throughout the U.S.
Your image of Seattle might include nonstop rain, but during the summer months you are more likely to see clear skies, green trees, and views of snow-capped mountains in the distance. Seattle's relaxed attitude makes it an easy place to travel with kids, when you can intersperse visits to cultural attractions with time outdoors. Family-friendly restaurants feature our freshest local seafood and produce.
Here are just a few of my highlights for visiting families, as well as some suggestions on where to stay and where to eat when you're in town. For even more ideas, check out my Seattle with Kids guide, which has more than 100 recommendations for local kid-friendly activities, shopping, and restaurants.
What to do with kids in Seattle
Pike Place Market: This historic public market has been in operation since 1907. Today it's a colorful destination filled with fresh produce, seafood and food items, flowers, and local crafts, all sold by the people who produce them. Street performers dot the landscape, adding a soundtrack to go along with the colorful displays. Start at the main entrance and pick up snacks to enjoy at Waterfront Park at the north end of the market.
Viewfinder Tip: For great views of planes taking off and landing at Boeing Field, head to the top of the Control Tower at the Seattle Museum of Flight.
Seattle Center: The 74-acre Seattle Center is easily reached by Monorail from downtown. Here you'll find the iconic Space Needle, tons of open space, a huge splash fountain and a wide variety of cultural, educational, sports, and entertainment options. Popular summer festivals include Bite of Seattle, which showcases food from 50+ area restaurants, and Bumbershoot, an annual music and arts festival that features both big-name acts and local bands all covered by a single admission charge.
Seattle Museum of Flight: If your kids love planes, they won't be disappointed at the Museum of Flight; it's one of the largest air and space museums in the world, with more than 150 air- and spacecraft, as well as the chance to tour the Red Barn (the original manufacturing facility of the Boeing Company). A small kids' zone is a place for young children to explore, and there are kid-friendly exhibits throughout the museum. The Control Tower provides a great view of planes taking off and landing at the adjacent Boeing Field.
Woodland Park Zoo: Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo is a 10-minute drive north of Downtown. Known for its natural animal enclosures, the zoo gives kids a chance to imagine the animals in their native habitats. Highlights include the African Savanna, where kids can watch giraffes, zebras, lions, wild dogs, and hippos. Kids of any age can feed a giraffe (don't worry, they don't bite) at twice-daily giraffe feedings. After you're done viewing the animals, head to the Zoomasium for a puppet show and a chance to climb and slide on the indoor playground. Food choices here are limited, but do cover the kid-friendly basics – hot dogs, pizza, and hamburgers.
Seattle Public Library: The Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library is one of our favorite places to explore on a rainy day. Secret spaces, fascinating materials, and unexpected design choices, like grass-patterned carpets or glossy red hallways, make this a fun place to investigate or cuddle up with a book. As part of its summer reading program, the library hosts a series of free concerts, puppet shows, and other events for kids.
Seattle Art Museum: Cars suspended from the ceiling and bursting with flashing lights fill the Seattle Art Museum's lobby. It's an attraction that my kids want to stop and see every time we're nearby. Inside you'll also find two free spaces (one in the lobby and one midway up the grand stairway) where children can create their own artwork. The galleries themselves include art glass, sculptures, and dramatic artwork that kids may enjoy, as well as a children's play area where kids can try on costumes or play with toys.
Ballard Locks: A trip to the Ballard Locks is a chance to see real locks moving boats up or down between Lake Union and Puget Sound. A viewing gallery provides windows onto a fish ladder built to allow salmon to pass between fresh and salt water, and to navigate the locks (sockeye salmon are active here in June and July). Use this as a launching point to explore the fun Ballard neighborhood with its cute shops and great restaurants.
Where to stay with kids in Seattle
Four Seasons Seattle: The warm and inviting Four Seasons Seattle welcomes children with amenities that make traveling with kids easier, like babyproofing, pint-sized robes, and even bedtime stories available for checkout from the hotel concierge. The outdoor pool, with views of Elliott Bay, is a great place to unwind after a day of sightseeing. At mealtime, the hotel's Art Restaurant features a kids' menu and activity book based on the children's book, Larry Gets Lost in Seattle, while the grown-up menu features fresh local ingredients.
The Maxwell Hotel: Located near the Seattle Center, The Maxwell Hotel has a small indoor pool, complimentary water bottles, large bathrooms, and free Wi-Fi, making it a good choice for families on a budget. Rooms have a modern feeling and a comfortable urban feel. If you don't have a car, a complimentary hotel shuttle will take you to popular destinations within a three-mile radius.
Grand Hyatt Seattle: In the heart of the downtown shopping district, the modern Grand Hyatt Seattle has spacious rooms with even more spacious bathrooms, great views of the city, and many nearby dining options. For early risers, the hotel's art collection is fun to check out while family members sleep in.
Where to eat with kids in Seattle
Etta's: Tom Douglas, Seattle's most famous chef, started his restaurant empire with this location just north of Pike Place Market. It's a comfortable upscale restaurant featuring local seafood and produce. Kids can feast on fish and chips made with the freshest cod, shrimp, or oysters, while Mom and Dad enjoy Dungeness crab, Alaskan halibut, or troll-caught rockfish.
Viewfinder Tip: Forget fast food burgers. Head to Blue C Sushi for sushi served via conveyor belt – speedy and fun!
Blue C Sushi: Conveyor-belt sushi is one of my family's favorite “fast dining” options. Long tables accommodate even larger families with ease, and children can begin serving themselves from the conveyor belt from the moment they sit down. Special orders are also available. (Chicken Katsu with sauce on the side is a great kid pleaser.)
Red Mill Burgers: “Best Burger in Seattle” is a hotly debated title, but my personal favorite is Red Mill, nearby the Woodland Park Zoo. The menu is simple, featuring just hamburgers, chicken burgers, and veggie burgers (plus fries, onion rings, and milkshakes) It's the toppings, like Red Mill's special sauce, caramelized red onions, and “double bacon” that makes these burgers shine. Expect a line during popular meal hours.
Vios: This family-run Greek restaurant, located on Seattle's Capitol Hill, is a casual neighborhood spot with a gated kids area great for ages 1 to 4. Try the uber-juicy lamb or chicken souvlaki and one of the excellent side salads. On the kids' menu, the best bet is the meze plate, which features a chicken souvlaki skewer, hummus, pita, and fresh fruit.
What do you like to do with children in Seattle?
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