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When I first found out my family would be spending a week in Seattle, WA I was excited because I love exploring new cities. My husband had been traveling there for work often and would always come back to me and say, “I can’t wait to take you out to Seattle, I think you will really love it…”. “It” as in the food, the culture, the beer and the total city vibe. But now here I was preparing for a trip to Seattle with my two young daughters (ages 1 and 5) while my husband worked there during the week. At this point, all I knew of Seattle was rain and coffee. I proceeded with my routine search on “what to do in Seattle with kids” and made a general list of Seattle ‘must-sees’. Based on my list, I decided it was smart to purchase a Seattle CityPASS and only had to buy one for my older daughter and one myself as my younger daughter was still free. We decided not to rent a car for this trip and relied solely on public transportation, which was surprisingly easier than I had expected. Seattle is a somewhat walkable city so we did that mostly, however, I will say that there were some very steep hills included on those walks. I suggest bringing a sturdy, but not too heavy, stroller for little kids if you are going to be walking a lot. This was helpful on the big steep hills, as well as easy to fold to walk up flights of stairs or get on a bus. There were loads of family friendly things to do in the city of Seattle and we’d love to get back again soon to revisit.
Aquariums are always a mandatory attraction in any city when you have little kids in tow and luckily the Seattle Aquarium did not disappoint. This was the first place we visited with our CityPASS. We were able to check our stroller after we picked up our tickets, which was nice so I could easily chase after my younger daughter as she ran from tank to tank. There was an interactive area showcasing the Puget Sound tide pools where the kids could touch sea urchins and star fish. My girls love anything interactive like this and there was an aquarium employee stationed next to the exhibit to answer my daughters’ one hundred questions as well. The aquarium also had an octopus exhibit which was a little tricky for us to see as it had quite the crowd and he was curled up in a ball barely resembling an octopus anyway. After we explored the indoor tanks and exhibits we went outside to find the sea otters and seals. This was the highlight of the aquarium in our opinion, we could have watched them for hours. We probably spent a solid 2 hours at the aquarium, but of course another 30 minutes in the gift shop on the way out.
We chose to do the Argosy Harbor Cruise (another CityPASS ticket) on the same day as we did the aquarium as they were both located in a similar location on the water. If you had to waste time before the next cruise starts you could always squeeze in the Seattle Great Wheel, which gives you a great view of the skyline and the Puget Sound or grab a bite to eat. The cruise was about an hour long with a narrator giving information on the historic waterfront and Seattle’s skyline, the Puget Sound and surrounding mountain ranges. Most of the information wasn’t interesting to my two young daughters, but they just loved the fact that they were on a boat and there were tons of new things to look at. When they got sick of sitting in a chair on the top level we explored the two bottom levels of the boat. We spent the last 10 minutes before we docked on the bottom level of the boat where we were able to store the stroller during the cruise. This worked out well for us because we also got to be one of the first families off the boat when we were docked.
The iconic Seattle Space Needle was yet another “must-see” included in the Seattle CityPASS. There were really no big surprises here for this big tower soaring 520 feet into the air as it was very similar to going to the top of any skyscraper. Before we went up we had to exchange the CityPASS ticket for an actual ticket and then we had to park the stroller since they were not allowed at the top. We got there right when they opened because I read it was the best chance for a clear view, but we still had to wait about 30 minutes before we got in the elevator up. It was somewhat crowded at the top of the tower, but we took our time circling around the observation deck checking out the views. It was a little challenging for my daughters to see because they were too short, but when picked up higher than the railing they could see really well. My older daughter was in awe of the sight of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountain Range; it soon became her goal to always try to find the mountains in Seattle.
The Pacific Science Center (CityPASS admission) is located in Seattle Center within a quick walk from the Space Needle. As soon as you pass through the admission gates to the Pacific Science Center there are outdoor, water-based interactive exhibits. The museum inside and out was full of hands-on activities for the kids to experiment and play with. My older daughter loved to try out the water wheels outside, the periscope and the body works stations. There was a tot area for toddlers to play in, which my younger daughter had a great time exploring. They had a giant water table for the little kids to play in and plenty of things to climb all over. We could have spent even more time at the Pacific Science Center, but my two girls were exhausted after spending a couple of hours of non-stop exploring. Last thing we saw at the Pacific Science Center was a show in the Laser Dome. It was super relaxing and both of my girls sat for the entire show, which consisted of lasers beaming around a big dark dome coordinated to music – it was really neat.
The Woodland Park Zoo is located in Fremont – north of downtown Seattle – and was yet another visit from our CityPASS. I can’t speak on the parking because we took a bus there and made a VERY long but enjoyable walk back to our hotel. The zoo was much bigger than I was expecting and they had many different exhibits and animals we had never seen before. We spent most of the day there and still didn’t get to see it all. My daughter’s favorite part was seeing the snow leopards and the cheetahs. The zoo was very well laid out and easy to use the map to get around. If we were to go back I would pack a lunch for the family, as the food vendors were very busy around lunch time as expected.
The Museum of Flight is located south of Seattle and because we did not rent a car we took a public bus there, which was intimidating at first, but luckily a bunch of people on the bus were also going where we were. The museum was very spread out and had all different buildings and outdoor displays. My girls’ favorite part was the Aviation Pavilion, which gave them the opportunity to walk through actual airplanes. They loved to see the different styles of and sizes of each plane and how they compared with the planes we take to travel.
7. Fremont Troll (free)
My first thought about this giant troll creature was that trolls are awfully creepy, so what is the hype? He is located under a bridge in a mostly residential area and we walked to him using google maps. People who drove there were either finding a parking spot or pulling over and putting hazards on to jump out for a quick view. My younger daughter stayed in the stroller because it was easier, but my older daughter ran up and began to climb on the troll. This was a quick sight to see. We probably spent 15 minutes looking and climbing, got someone to take our picture in front of him and then we were on our way. But now these girls can say they saw a giant statue of a troll under a huge overpass bridge – just something unique you don’t see every day.
Our favorite part about Lake Union was the sea planes. You could see the sea planes from anywhere near the lake, but to watch them take off and land in the water was amazing. We found a few places to sit in the grass or on a bench to watch them. Also, there were a few great restaurants with outdoor seating on the south end where you could get a great meal and watch the planes too. The water was clean and there was a nice pebble beach where the girls were able to put their feet in and play with the smooth stones in the water. Also, on the southern end there as a small fountain park where my girls quickly turned it into a splash park as other kids were also running in and out of the fountains. It was a perfect way to spend an hour on a hot afternoon.
We visited the fish market and waited around for them to throw a whole fish across the open-air shop. Although it was quick to see, my older daughter got a kick out of it! We also made sure to put money in the giant brass pig, which was a donation piggy bank. All throughout this area there were bakeries, restaurants, local shops and even a farmer’s market. We got some amazing peaches at the farmer’s market, found some great croissants in a bakery and got some ice cream in this area. We also made a point to see the first Starbucks on the street outside the market, although we didn’t bother to go inside as it had a huge line and quite the crowd outside. The last thing we saw in Pike Place Market was the famous gum wall. Honestly the gum wall was pretty gross, but my 5-year-old daughter thought it was wild and was really excited to add a piece of chewed up gum to the collection.
These two free things to do are not exactly next to each other, but I coupled them together because they made the best combination of two free things to do within a day. We walked to Kerry Park, which was not an easy walk as the roads leading to the park were very steep in most sections. The walk was definitely worth it because we could see a breathtaking view of all of Seattle and Mount Rainier from this small park. Right down the hill from the park there was a small playground, which the kids spent some time at. From Kerry Park we walked one mile (all downhill) to the International Fountain, continuing to take in amazing views on the way down. I decided that the walk down was almost harder than up because the stroller kind of pulled us down faster. My advice is for two people to each put a hand on the stroller as backup.
The International Fountain was full of families and kids getting wet in the water. The fountain water was synced to music and was open for people to run through and get soaking wet. You could also sit on the sloped surrounding and just people watch like I did as my husband took the girls closer to get wet. The fountain was a perfect way to end the hike up and down from Kerry Park as we could all relax and cool off.
Final Thoughts on Family-Friendly Seattle
As you can see there are plenty of affordable and family-friendly things to do in Seattle, and we didn’t even begin to explore our options outside of the city. I look forward to going back when my girls are older and exploring all that we didn’t get to this trip. Until then, we love to look back on the photos and reminisce from our week spent exploring Seattle!
This is a guest post. All opinions above belong to the original writer.
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