The Emerald City is filled with family-friendly unique experiences. From famous markets and buildings to top-notch museums and an iconic waterfront, Seattle will surely capture your family’s heart. There is so much to do and see, it can be challenge to know where to start- but we do! Here are the 10 of the best things to do in Seattle with kids.
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Fun Things to do in Seattle with Kids
1. Go Wild at the Woodland Park Zoo
The Woodland Park Zoo is among the nation’s finest. Your family will love walking the trails through the heavily wooded property and meeting animals of all shapes and sizes. Favorites include the penguins, butterfly house, and the opportunity to feed giraffes.
Wander the African Safari path and visit the lions. hippos, zebras, ostriches, and more. The Habitat Discovery Loop and the Family Farm are geared towards the younger crowd. Both have playground equipment that also have educational value as your little one grows. Don’t miss the chance to ride on the historic carousel as well!
Trekaroo Tip: If it begins to rain, the indoor Zoomazium is a lot of fun for kids.
Check out our list of the best zoos in the United States! How many have you visited?
Be sure to take advantage of the Seattle CityPass, which offers about a 47% savings on admissions to Seattle’s top attractions, including the Woodland Park Zoo! Trekaroo is a trusted CityPass affiliate.
2. Head to the Aquarium and Explore the Seattle Waterfront
The Seattle Aquarium is a great, mid-sized aquarium located on the Seattle waterfront, in downtown Seattle, just a few blocks from the famous Pike Place Market. The wow factor begins when you first walk in and are greeted by the gigantic Window on Washington Waters.
One of our favorite things to do at the aquarium is watch the Pacific octopuses maneuver their way around their tank, grab food, and even occasionally change colors! We also like the harbor seal exhibit which lets you get really close to the seals as they swim and play and the sea otters are always adorable to watch, too.
The underwater dome exhibit is another highlight. This gigantic dome offers a 360 degree views of a 400,000 gallon tank filled with fish. the tide pool and coral reef are not to be missed either.
When you need a break from all the sea life, there’s a nice coffee shop-type eating area upstairs, where you can sit and relax.
After your time at the aquarium, be sure to explore the Seattle waterfront. The entire waterfront area is currently being rebuilt and will surely become one of the city’s most popular destinations for families once complete.
In the meantime, take a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel, the tallest Ferris wheel on the West Coast. It is 175 feet tall and offers great views of the Puget Sound and Seattle.
Also consider catching a ferry to Bremerton or Bainbridge Island, located in the middle of Puget Sound, for an afternoon of exploring. Puget Sound is an integral part of Seattle’s identity and getting out on the water is an important part of the Seattle experience.
Explore more of the state! Check out our top 10 things to do in Washington State with kids!
3. Go Underground at Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square is where the city of Seattle really got its start. It’s home to Smith Tower, once the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Visit the beautiful Chinese Room on the 38th floor and take in marvelous views of Seattle and beyond.
If you elementary-aged kids and older, take the educational and hysterically funny Underground Tour and visit the city under the city! This quirky little tour actually takes you under the streets of Seattle to see some of Seattle’s lesser known history.
The tour starts out with a very funny introduction to Seattle history, done while you sit in a restored saloon. Then you are split off into groups of about 20 people and led through a small part of Pioneer Square before heading underground to see the hidden part of the city. The tour guides are hilarious and the underground itself is fascinating.
You also don’t want to miss the (free) Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, which has great kid-friendly exhibits that teach all about Seattle’s Role in the Alaskan Gold Rush.
4. Spend Time at the Seattle Public Library
The Seattle Public Library is housed in a very unusual-looking building that was designed by the architect Rem Koolhaas. It really must be seen to be believed!
Families will appreciate that the Seattle Public Library is home to a great kids’ area with lots of books, toys, and seating (WiFi available). It is a great place to sit and rest up during a busy day of exploring the city. Be sure to wander the floors and check out all the unusual colors and architectural features and enjoy views of the city from the top floor.
5. Embrace Seattle’s Avionic Roots at the Museum of Flight and Boeing Factory
Since the Seattle area is home to Boeing, it is no surprise that the Museum of Flight is housed here. The main exhibition hall boasts hundreds of airplanes hanging from the sky. Multiple flight simulators, including the hard-core flips & turns kind, dot the exhibit space.
A massive WWI and WWII exhibition space houses information and planes from both wars, and a replica space shuttle (used for training purposes) can be explored in the final exhibit space. Kids can climb in the cockpits of many of the aircraft. Outdoors, you can climb up and in numerous planes, including a retired Air Force One, last used in the Clinton administration.
Little kids will love the Kid’s Zone which has little planes to climb on and under. There is hands-on interaction that teaches kids the ins and outs of flying a plane as well as how flight works.
Don’t miss the air traffic control simulation. It will make you feel especially thankful for those who keep a watchful eye on all of us travelers while we are in the sky!
Airplane enthusiasts will also want to make time to go to the Boeing Factory which is located 25 miles north of Seattle. The factory is housed in the largest building in the world! Tours are open to children four feet tall and taller. During the tour you will have a chance to view 747, 767, 777, and 787 Dreamliners on the assembly line.
6. Enjoy 5 Fabulous Attractions at Seattle Center
Seattle Center is basically the hub of tourism for the city. It is home to several fabulous museums as well as the iconic Space Needle. Here is a snapshot of what this amazing campus has to offer:
1. Space Needle
Ascend 520 feet in the air to the Observation Deck (the top of the needles stands at 605 feet!) near the top of the Space Needle. The elevators to the top are part of the thrill! The 43-second ride in a glass enclosed elevator takes you to the top where you can enjoy the SkyCity (revolving) Restaurant, 360 degree views of the Seattle skyline and harbor, and interactive SkyQ kiosks to play and discover on.
2. Pacific Science Center
The Pacific Science Center is heaven for the curious child. With room after room of hands-on science exhibits to touch, bang, listen, observe and walk right into. You will literally be tearing your child away at the end of your visit. Budding paleontologist will be in awe of the huge replicas of dinosaurs while aspiring astronauts can even sit in the cockpit of a space shuttle.
Beyond general admission, you can tack on a visit to the planetarium, IMAX theatre, or Tropical Butterfly House. When the weather is nice, spend time outdoors in the science playground. Toddlers will love splashing at the Waterworks.
3. Seattle Children’s Museum
For little ones who are on the move, the Children’s Museums is a wonderful play-based museum. Cog City is a series of pipe mazes, levers and a water wall teaching cause and effect. Discovery Bay allows toddlers to walk through an aquarium.
Global Village takes kids on an adventure through different countries. Imagination Studio has clay waiting to be molded, and art waiting to be created. Go Figure! is an area for early literacy. Mountain Forest allows kids to transform themselves into mountain animals.
4. Museum of Pop Culture
The Museum of Pop Culture has over 100,000 pop culture objects, making it one of the biggest collections in the world. Exhibits change regularly (like pop culture) but examples include exhibitions dedicated Minecraft, science fiction, and Seattle-based artists like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Jimi Hendrix.
5. Chihuly Garden & Glass Exhibition
The Chihuly Garden & Glass Exhibition at the base of the Space Needle, is an inspiring place to take your kids. Although the museum is almost exclusively glass sculptures from renowned artist Dale Chihuly, kids will delight in exploring the museum.
Start your visit in the theater and see exactly how these glass statues are made. Be sure to pick up a Kid’s Activity Guide, available for free at the ticket counter. This guide keeps your kids as you walk the galleries.
Inside, kids especially love the Sealife Room, the Float Boats, and Macchia Forest. Outdoors, you can explore the glasshouse and garden in a larger, more relaxed setting. The garden blends together natural plants and flowers with Chihuly creations of the same muse, creating a unique and interesting juxtaposition of glass and plant life. The large Pacific Sun sculpture beautifully crowns the garden.
The glasshouse pulls inspiration from two of Dale’s favorite buildings, the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the Crystal Palace in London. It features a beautiful red, orange, and yellow suspended flower sculpture that spans over 100 feet and features 1,340 individual pieces.
Hungry after all the Seattle Center exploration? Grab a bite to eat at the Armory, which is home to lots of great food, including many from local restaurants. And don’t miss the International Fountain with water shows synchronized to music!
The Space Needle, Chihuly Gardens, and the Museum of Pop Culture are all part of the Seattle CityPass package. Book your tickets and save big!
7. Explore the Seattle Art Museum & Olympic Sculpture Park
The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is home to a diverse collection of art, great traveling exhibitions, and two play/learning areas for children! Best of all, admission is always free for kids 12 and under. The museums has several collections covering genres such modern art, American art, European art, and Islamic art.
The Olympic Sculpture Park is SAM’s 9-acre outdoor gallery and park. There are several huge sculptures to view, as well as beautiful views of the Puget Sound and mountains.
On a budget? Explore family fun for free in Seattle.
8. Ballard Locks
Officially named the Hiram Chittenden Locks (but never actually called that), the Ballard Locks are a fun place to watch boats move from the freshwater Lake Union out to the saltwater of Puget Sound or the other way around.
These locks have been operating for 100 years! Check out the fish ladder to see salmon swim upstream. The best time to see salmon is between July and September. When you’re done watching boats, wander the paths around the park and enjoy the beautiful gardens and views.
9. South Lake Union
South Lake Union is home to the fabulous and very kid-friendly Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), where you can get up close and personal with Seattle’s history and innovations. The museum offers Exploration Packs that are filled with puzzles, crafts and books to go along with what you’re seeing in the museum.
Just outside MOHAI is a collection of historic ships from various parts of Seattle’s history. Also in South Lake Union is the fun (and free) Center for Wooden Boats, as well as a park with lots of walking trails, float planes taking off and landing, and great restaurants nearby.
10. Pike Place Market
It wouldn’t be a trip to Seattle without a visit to the iconic Pike Place Market in the heart of the city. Watch salmon fly through the air, sample local produce, admire bundles of fresh flowers, shop for local crafts, and admire views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountain Range.
This is a great place to eat, purchase gifts, and enjoy a cup of coffee- the original Starbucks is located across the street!
Where to Stay in Seattle with Kids
Seattle has a number of well-located family-friendly hotels. Here are some of our favorites! Since Trekaroo is a Booking.com affiliate, you can book your hotel with us and know you are getting the lowest rates guaranteed.
Watertown Hotel: Located just out of downtown in the University District, the Watertown Hotel features free shuttle service to popular tourist destinations in Seattle, free bike rental, free laundry facilities, free parking, comfortable rooms, and pineapple cupcakes in the lobby!
Sheraton Seattle: The Sheraton is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Seattle, within walking distance to many popular attractions. Trekaroo families especially love the Sheraton’s pool on the 35th floor!
The Westin Seattle: The Westin is one of the easiest buildings to identify in Seattle- the twin towers are circular! This hotel is located near the monorail, which runs to Seattle Center, and is close to shopping, Pike Place Market, and more.
Fairmont Olympic: The Fairmont Olympic is a grand, historic hotel, located right in the heart of downtown Seattle. Families love the luxurious atmosphere and attention to detail. The hotel even provides kid-sized bathrobes!
Where to Eat in Seattle with Kids
Pike Place Market: If you are craving a particular type of ethnic food, chances are good that you will find it in the market. Everyone in your family will definitely be able to find something that pleases their palate from one of the many food stalls and restaurants lining the market. Be sure to grab some fresh fruit and flowers while you are there.
Ivar’s Fish and Chips: Ivar’s is a Seattle institution. Do not miss the chance to grab a cup of chowder or a basket of fish and chips! There are location in Ballard as well as the Seattle Waterfront.
Red Mill Burgers: Craving a good burger? Red Mill Burgers has some of the best in the area! You won’t regret adding fries and root beer to your order as well. Classic burgers are known for being served with their signature Mill sauce but the red onion jam burger shouldn’t be missed either.
Top Pot Donut: Top Pot is the go-to place for great donuts. Even President Obama dropped by when he was in town! Top Pot has lots of yummy donuts to choose from, but a local favorite is the classic maple bar.
Look for the best hotel prices in Seattle
Day Trips from Seattle with Kids
Whidbey Island: Hop on a ferry or make the drive to Whidbey Island to enjoy amazing views of mountains and water, taste incredible local foods, and explore quaint towns! There are great tide pools at Double Bluff and Fort Casey and the Rhododendron Gardens are highlights as well.
Snoqualmie: Located just about 30 minutes outside of Seattle, Snoqualmie is home to both the beautiful Snoqualmie Falls and the historic Northwest Railway Museum. Admire the falls, check out the old trains at the museum, and explore the little shops and restaurants in town.
Tacoma: Drive the short distance south from Seattle to nearby Tacoma, Washington, which is home to lots of great museums and family-friendly outdoor activities.Highlights include the Point Defiance Zoo, Children’s Museum of Tacoma, and the Museum of Glass.
Check out these three family-friendly day trips from Seattle.