Seattle Washington can be a popular family vacation destination – especially in the summer. The Emerald City located on the Puget Sound is popular as the birthplace of Starbucks and the grunge music movement, but there is so much more to experience there and it can be a really fun place to visit with kids.
Seattle is known for rainy weather, but you can also experience some gorgeous sunny days. In my opinion, the summer is the best time of year to visit, because you are most likely to experience some beautiful weather, along with full days of daylight. Keep in mind that it may be a bit cloudy – even when it’s not raining.
The average high temperature in the summer is in the low 70s, while the average low temperature is in the high 50s. It can be great weather to walk around, but be sure to pack some sweatshirts or sweaters for the evenings.
Planning around the weather can be tricky. If you know there is a rainy day or two during your visit, you’ll want to shift your Seattle itinerary to do indoor activities on those days. But everyone else will do that too, so you’ll want to arrive early.
Outdoor activities, including the Space Needle, are best done when the weather is clear. Check the weather forecast close to your trip so you can plan accordingly.
Disclosure: We received two free CityPASS passes during our trip to Seattle. This post contains affiliate links and a purchase through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.
Seattle Itinerary With Kids
You may want to purchase a Seattle CityPASS for each member of your family if you are planning to visit most of the attractions listed below. These passes allow you to visit a selection of popular activities and attractions for one discounted price. It can be worth the price if you plan to visit all or most of these activities. Here’s what is currently included (note that these can change at any time, check their website for the latest):
- The Space Needle
- The Seattle Aquarium
You’ll also be able to choose three from the following:
- Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour
- Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
- Woodland Park Zoo
- Chihuly Garden and Glass
How Many Days in Seattle?
If you are planning a visit to the Pacific Northwest area, you may wonder how many days in Seattle is enough? While you can definitely fill the days no matter how many you plan, my recommendation is that you include four days in your Seattle itinerary.
You can always add more or fewer days depending on your availability and interest in the various activities in the area. We have optional activities in Seattle and the surrounding area listed at the bottom. Choose these depending on how many long days you want to have.
Here’s our recommended Seattle itinerary with kids – for a four day trip. Depending on the weather forecast, you may want to switch these days around.
Day 1 in Seattle
Day one can either start when you arrive, or your first full day. Because we fly in from the East Coast, we are typically in Seattle pretty early in the morning. But, if you arrive in the later afternoon or later, you may want to start day one after a good night sleep.
You’ll probably want to begin your Seattle itinerary with some of the more iconic activities in the area. A great place to start is at Pike Place Market. Here, you can see the Pike Place Fish Market, pick up some food for lunch or for your room, and check out the gum wall. The original Starbucks is also nearby.
After walking through Pike Place, head through the back and down the stairs to Alaskan Way, a road along the waterfront. There are some fun shops and restaurants in that area. You can also visit the Seattle Aquarium.
The Seattle Aquarium is located right on the water, and offers both indoor and outdoor exhibits. It doesn’t take too long to explore, but definitely take your time checking out the various animal exhibits. We especially love the otters and seals.
Right now, the Seattle Aquarium is open 9:30-6pm. You’ll want to visit their website in advance to reserve a ticket with your timed entry.
Alaskan Way is also where you’ll find the Seattle Great Wheel, a ferris wheel located on Pier 57. These wheels can be fun if you want to see the area from above. It’s not a must-do, but can be fun for families.
There are many restaurants along Alaskan Way and near Pike Place, so you’ll have plenty of options for lunch and dinner. Our favorite is Elliott’s Oyster House, located right on the waterfront. They also have outdoor seating which can be a great option if it’s a nice day.
Day 2 in Seattle
Almost every Seattle vacation plan will include a trip to the iconic Space Needle. Located in Seattle Center, the Space Needle is an extremely popular destination. It was completely renovated several years ago, and now includes The Loupe, a rotating glass floor.
Planning the exact timing of your Space Needle visit is important. For a daytime visit, morning is great because the lines are shorter. The evenings are also great for a completely different view and experience.
Although we’ve put the Space Needle on day two, it’s important to visit on a clear day. You’ll get the best views of the city when the cloud cover is minimal.
If you think that you’ll want to visit both in the morning and then later in the day, there is an option to purchase a day/night pass. You’ll be able to visit in the morning and then come back later in the day for less money than buying two tickets. You can spend a much time as you need exploring.
Make sure you have enough time to explore the Space Needle before moving on to the next attraction. Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum is located next door to the Space Needle in Seattle Center. It’s a beautiful glass museum with both indoor and outdoor Chihuly sculptures.
While my kids (a teen and a preteen) loved walking around the Chihuly Garden and Glass, I probably wouldn’t take very young kids. It’s definitely appropriate for older kids and adults.
During our visit to Seattle, we visited the Space Needle when it opened and then headed over to the Chihuly. We finished there right around lunchtime.
There are lots of lunch options near Seattle Center. For something casual, there’s the Armory Food & Event Hall – a food court with something for everyone.
With these two activities, you’ll have the afternoon free to get in your car and explore the Seattle area. We’ve listed some options for afternoon trips below.
Day 3 in Seattle
The Museum of Popular Culture (MoPop), opened its doors in 2000 as the Experience Music Project. It’s since expanded to more than music. The unique museum is one of my favorites to visit – it’s a really fun place for people of all ages.
Permanent exhibits at the museum include the following:
- Pearl Jam: Home and Away
- Sound Lab (currently closed)
- Hendrix: Wild Blue Angel
- Indie Game Revolution
- Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses
- Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic
- Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction
- Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame
We absolutely loved exploring the MoPop and my kids enjoyed learning about some of the popular bands from my college years. Expect to spend a few hours here.
Like with day 2, you’ll have some time in the afternoon to shop or do some of the afternoon trips we recommend. See the list below for some ideas.
Day 4 in Seattle
If you’ve purchased a CityPASS, you may want to take a boat tour on the Argosy Harbor Cruise. Included in the pass is the 60-minute tour, and you also have the option to upgrade to a longer tour. The boat leaves from the dock located right on Alaskan Way.
You can make a reservation for the boat in advance, to make sure you get the time that you want. They’ll tell you what time to board, and at that time you can get in line. Arrive early so you can be among the first to board. The top-level is best for good views.
The cruise is great for the guided narration about the history of Seattle and the waterfront. It’s also nice to get out on the water and see the city from a different perspective.
If you go on the cruise in the morning, you’ll have the afternoon free. We went right before lunch, and had a few snacks on the ship before dining on Alaskan Way.
Afternoon Seattle Activities
Here are some optional activities that you could add in to the afternoons. Or, if you are going to spend more than four days in Seattle, these are some fun things to do.
Pioneer Square – this historic district is located near CenturyLink Field and T-Mobile Park. Here, you’ll find shops, restaurants, bars, and more. There’s also a fun 75-minute underground tour you can take to explore the original storefronts of the area before the Great Fire.
Woodland Park Zoo – this optional activity on the CityPASS is located in North Seattle and offers some great exhibits for kids.
Capitol Hill – mostly known as a residential area, Capitol Hill offers beautiful views of downtown Seattle. It’s also home to the Washington Park Arboretum (where you’ll find the Japanese Garden), the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
Gas Works Park – this city park is the original home of the Seattle Gas Light Company. Original structures from the gas plant have been repurposed as play structures for kids. It’s such a unique place to check out.
Fremont Troll – as you drive through the Fremont neighborhood area, look under the George Washington Memorial Bridge (N. 36th Street at Troll Avenue N). There, you’ll see a huge public sculpture of a troll. Fremont is also a fun neighborhood with shops and restaurants.
Seattle Mariners Baseball Game – when I briefly lived in Seattle, I loved watching the Seattle Mariners play. If they are in town during your visit, it may be worth watching a game.
Boeing Future of Flight Museum and Boeing Factory Tour – located in the Northern suburb of Mukilteo, this museum is extremely popular. You’ll need to book in advance – when we tried to visit, there was no availability.
The Pacific Science Center – my son and I loved visiting this science museum in Seattle Center.
Funko HQ – fans of Funko pops will definitely want to travel north to Everett Washington, home of Funko HQ. This huge store offers a big selection of Funko Pops including some limited-edition options. There are also gigantic Funko Pop statues located throughout the store.
Ballard Locks – the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks)are located in nearby Ballard. Created by the US Army Corp of Engineers in 1971, the locks are located where the saltwater of the Puget Sound meets the freshwater of Lake Washington and Lake Union. The locks manage the water levels.
Mt Rainier – about 60 miles from Seattle is the majestic Mount Rainier. The national park is an extremely popular tourist destination in the summer.
Seattle Art Museum – if you have art lovers in your family, the Seattle Art Museum is located near Downtown Seattle.
Bainbridge Island – want to ride on those ferry boats shown on Grey’s Anatomy? Take a trip on the Bainbridge Island Ferry to Bainbridge Island, which offers shops, restaurants, and more things to do.
San Juan Islands – the San Juan Islands are not located in the Caribbean, as the name may suggest. Instead, they are several hours from Seattle. This isn’t a day or afternoon trip, but you could add on to your Seattle trip for a couple of days or a long weekend.
Do you need to rent a car in Seattle?
We rented a car on our Seattle vacation and had mixed feelings about it. Because our hotel (the Staypineapple Hotel FIVE) was located within walking distance of Pike Place and Seattle Center, we didn’t really use our car. We did use it to and from the airport, as well as one day when we drove to Everett, Mukilteo, Fremont, and Ballard.
If you do stay in the downtown area, you may be able to rent a car for the day, and use rideshare. Parking can be expensive in some areas. However, if you plan to leave downtown Seattle regularly, it could be a good idea to rent a car at the airport and keep it for the whole vacation.
More resources: Planning a Seattle vacation? Read our Seattle travel tips and reviews, including itineraries, road trips, and more.