Seattle with Kids: A Perfect Family Day
Seattle, Washington, a city with a booming, family-friendly population, is an urban playground that is a great spot for a family vacation. Kids can run free in the many public parks, some of which have beaches and hiking trails, and there are plenty of easy, free opportunities to work off excess energy. Indeed, visiting Seattle with kids will often give adults a very different -- often more fun! -- perspective on the city.
Family vacations are greatly affected by the weather, so check forecasts before packing. Seattle's climate is warm yet refreshing from July through September. You may need a light jacket or sweater for the cool evenings, but most days, humidity-free temperatures range from the 50s to the low 90s. November marks the beginning of the cooler rainy season. During the winter months, dusk arrives in the mid-afternoon, so plan your schedule accordingly and take plenty of layers. Oh! And take comfortable shoes for the steep hills that stand in the center of Seattle. With kids, you don't want to be getting blisters and moans halfway through your vacation.
Thankfully for families who travel light, most restaurants and bars in Seattle have a casual atmosphere and dressy attire is not required.
Some of Seattle's best attractions for kids are clustered at Seattle Center, a 74-acre downtown venue which holds the Space Needle, Children's Museum, Children's Theater, Pacific Science Center, Experience Music Project and an indoor-outdoor amusement park.
Here goes a suggested itinerary for your best family vacation day in Seattle:
Exploring Seattle with kids is best done on a full stomach, so start the day off right with a hearty breakfast. Often referred to as the heart and soul of Seattle, Pike Place Market, located at the corner of First Avenue and Pike Street, is a great place to kick off your family vacation. Kids will tuck into the yummy breakfast options which waft their tempting buttery smells through the air, while parents can pick up a cup of coffee at the original Starbucks, which opened in 1971.
If a sit-down breakfast is more your style, the three-story Lowell's (1519 Pike Place, 206-622-2036) is a fun breakfast venue that opens at 7AM daily. If you're lucky, you can grab a table with a great water view while enjoying Dungeness crab eggs benedict. Try to get your children to taste it by persuading them it's part of the vacation! Kids can often be more daring than you might think.
After breakfast, stroll through the century-old Pike Place Market for an hour or two -- a must-see as part of any family vacation in Seattle -- and savor the plethora of food, local art and souvenirs. It's not just any old market, but a National Historic District containing more than 250 businesses, 100 farm stalls and about 200 craftsmen.
Open daily, the market also showcases the Pacific Northwest's abundant fresh seafood: clams, crabs and salmon prevail, as well as organic and Asian-fused ingredients. Homemade breads, baked goods, delicious lattes, jams, handmade artisan cheeses and exotic, colorful fruits are fascinating for kids and adults alike.
Without a bunch of silly photos, you can't call it a family vacation. Kids love to have their pictures taken making faces next to the bronze pig named Rachel -- but get there early before crowds gather and block the camera lens. You can find Rachel near the Market Clock, by the Pike Place Fish Stall, where singing fishmongers throw fish and chat with customers.
Insider tips: Arrive by 10AM to beat summer crowds. Mondays and Tuesdays are best for crafts; on Wednesdays through Sundays, stallholders showcase amazing fresh produce.
After you've thoroughly perused the market and picked up some snacks for the rest of your day, take a five-minute walk to the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park (2901 Western Avenue, 206-654-3100). It's a great spot from which to view Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains, and a nice thing to do with kids if they enjoy outdoor activities. A walking path meanders through the permanent and changing sculptures.
Next up on your Seattle family vacation itinerary is the iconic Space Needle (400 Broad Street, 206-905-2100). Hail a taxi or take a 30-minute walk to the towering structure, Seattle's symbol of the 1962 World's Fair. At the 520-foot-high observation tower ("O Deck"), kids will love viewing Seattle and scoping out local attractions through free telescopes.
The interactive experience, complete with five touch-screen kiosks, is sure to entertain the whole family. An often crowded gift shop sells souvenirs crafted in the Seattle area, such as paperweights made with ash from Mount St. Helens, the active volcano that lies less than 100 miles from the city center.
Reserve a late lunch at the Space Needle's Sky City. The rotating restaurant offers 360-degree views of the city, Puget Sound and the snow-capped Olympic and Cascade mountains. Save room for dessert -- the Lunar Orbiter has been a local favorite since 1962. Lunch is pricey, but worth it for the views and memorable family vacation photos.
Insider tip: Lunch at Sky City is more affordable than dinner and offers greater visibility for panoramic city views.
After lunch, stroll to the Pacific Science Center (200 2nd Avenue N., 206-443-2001), a six-acre, hands-on science and learning facility which is great for kids -- even on vacation! The center is perfect for elementary-aged children, and features interactive exhibits, live science demonstrations and plenty of other engaging things to do that will keep your family occupied for hours. A tropical butterfly area is particularly popular with families. There are two IMAX theaters showing multiple films. Kids three and under are admitted free to the museum.
If you have the extra time and energy, hail a taxi and head to the city's quirky Fremont neighborhood. Kids can climb on the Fremont Troll, a whimsical, 18-foot-tall statue under the Aurora Bridge. On Sundays, there's a nearby neighborhood flea market.
When evening approaches and hunger sets in, head back downtown to Seattle's scenic waterfront. Here you'll find the Crab Pot Restaurant and Bar, a popular Seattle restaurant where kids can whack crabs with mallets while parents chow down alongside them. The "Seafest" special, which is so large it has to be heaved onto tables, includes crab, clams, mussels, shrimp, salmon, halibut, oysters, potatoes, corn and Andouille sausage. Expect a wait at this busy restaurant, but occupy your time by watching the ferries on the water.
A last insider tip: if your family vacation in Seattle lasts longer than a day, consider purchasing a Seattle City Pass for discounted admission to multiple attractions. There are too many things to do in Seattle with kids to spend only one day in the city.
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- Overview:Seattle Travel Guide