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Things to do in Seattle With Kids

I lived in Seattle for a brief time in my 20s when I did an internship during graduate school. However, despite my fondness of the city, I didn’t get the chance to return until this past month. My kids were eager to see the sites of this city, and there’s so many things to do in Seattle with kids.

Based on our experience, we felt that the summer was really the best time to visit the Emerald City. The weather is generally warm but not too hot, and the rain isn’t usually a problem. I felt that the weather we experienced in July was absolutely perfect for our visit. It was generally in the low 70s with almost no humidity.

CityPASS provided me with two complimentary passes for our trip. If these things to do in Seattle with kids are on your list, you may consider purchasing them for your trip. Although things are always subject to change, right now the passes include the following:

  • The Space Needle
  • The Seattle Aquarium
  • A one-hour Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour
  • A choice of either The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) or the Woodland Park Zoo
  • A choice of either the Chihuly Garden and Glass or the Pacific Science Center

If you are planning to do at least most of these included activities, the Seattle CityPASS can be a great deal. Once you purchase it, you’ll receive an email with a barcode on it that can be added to your iPhone’s wallet (or printed out). For some places with timed entry, like the harbor tour or the Space Needle, you’ll need to exchange these tickets for a timed ticket. It’s very easy to do this, and we had no issues at all.

Click here to purchase a Seattle CityPASS and click here to view our web story.

Things to do in Seattle with kids, including the Space Needle, Pike Place, Ballard Locks, Seattle Aquarium, boat cruise, and much more.

Disclosure: We’ve experienced some of these activities at no cost thanks to Seattle CityPASS. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.  All opinions are our own. We booked a JetBlue Vacation for our trip and paid for it on our own.

Things to Do in Seattle With Kids

The Space Needle from Seattle Center

Space Needle

This icon of Seattle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, is definitely a must visit during your Seattle family vacation. It went through a full renovation in 2018, and it offers amazing views of the city.

To visit the Space Needle, you’ll need to get a timed ticket. This will provide you with a 15 minute window where you’ll need to enter. Once you are in, however, you can stay as long as you’d like until close.

There are several different ticket options, including a day/night ticket where you can return in the evening, combo tickets with other attractions, and a standard ticket.

Your ticket will provide you access to the very top of the Space Needle. This open air area provides 360 degree views. There’s also the Loupe level, which has a rotating glass floor.

At the top of the Space Needle, you’ll find a cafe, and at the bottom, there’s a gift shop and VR experience (that is included in your ticket). It’s best to arrive early if possible, because the lines can get long. We arrived first thing in the morning at opening, and had no lines at all.

Sign advertising Public Market Center

Pike Place Market

This public market is one of the most popular places to visit in Seattle. Open daily, it’s located right in the center of town by the waterfront.

As you walk through the various stalls and shops, you’ll find produce, fish, meat, cheeses, honey, as well as non perishables like artwork, crafts, and souvenirs. If your room has a kitchen, you may want to pick up some items for dinner.

The gum wall in Seattle

Pike Place is also home to the famous gum wall. Whether you consider it gross or cool, you may want to walk by. The gum wall is a lot bigger than I expect it to be – it’s more of an alley than a single wall.

You’ll find the gum wall tucked away in the Post Alley, down the stairs to the left of the Public Market. There are several different parts to the Post Alley, but you’ll want them one down the stairs.

There are several parking garages right at Pike Place or in the vicinity. However, I would recommend walking from your hotel if you are staying nearby. It’s definitely much easier.

There’s currently a big construction project going on where the Alaskan Way viaduct between the market and the waterfront is coming down. As a result, the path to the waterfront changes a bit. Even during our brief visit, the route was slightly changed.

Fountains at the Pacific Science Center

Pacific Science Center

If your kids love science and interactive exhibits, you’ll definitely want to visit the Pacific Science Center right in Seattle Center. Adjacent to the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center is made up of several buildings offering so much for kids to enjoy.

When you purchase your ticket, you’ll have to option to add one or more shows. These include the IMAX theater as well as the planetarium. Choose the time of the show when you get the tickets. You’ll pay for IMAX tickets, but the planetarium shows are free. You just need to make sure that you get a reservation time.

Included in your Pacific Science Center ticket is a VR experience. Head right there when you arrive, because you’ll need to reserve a specific time. We went by on our way out, so we weren’t able to get a time for the experience before we left.

Highlights include the tropical butterfly garden, the tinker tank, the wellbody academy, and the living exhibits. There’s also a fun outdoor area with water features. We spent about an hour and a half there, but you may want more time if you plan to attend one of the shows and/or do the VR experience.

If you are hungry during your visit, there’s a cafe on site, or you can walk over to the armory at Seattle Center after your visit.

Ballard Locks

Hiram M Chittenden Locks

For a unique Puget Sound experience, drive to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks), located in nearby Ballard. Entry is free, although you will have to pay for parking.

The Ballard Locks were created by the US Army Corp of Engineers in 1971 and are located where the salt water of the Puget Sound meets the freshwater of Lake Washington and Lake Union. The locks manage the water levels.

There’s a visitor center where you can learn more about the locks. There’s also a botanical garden that you can walk through. In the summer months, you may want to visit the salmon ladder to see the salmon swimming. It’s best to visit during high tide – we were there during low tide and didn’t see them.

The exterior of the Seattle Aquarium

Seattle Aquarium

Located on the Seattle waterfront on Alaskan Way, the Seattle aquarium is a fun place to visit with kids. Little kids will definitely love it, although my teens really enjoyed the visit as well.

The aquarium offers interactive exhibits, feedings, and more. As you walk in, you’ll be able to see an aquarium filled with fish of the Puget Sound. There are other exhibits within the building, including several touch tanks, an underwater dome, and a tropical fish aquarium.

Head outside, and you can see birds, harbor seals, river otters, fur seals, and sea otters. My teens especially loved seeing these interactive animals.

The aquarium does have some daily activities including a diver show, story time, and an opportunity to meet some of the animals.

We spent about an hour and a half in the aquarium. It was busy but not too crowded. If you are planning to see one of the shows or programs, you may spend a little more time.

Tour boat at dock with ferris wheel in the background

Argosy Cruises

I love spending time on the water in the summer, so I was thrilled to see Argosy Cruises on the CityPASS list of attractions. While I’d done many of the things to do in Seattle in the past before I had kids, I had never been on a boat tour in the city.

With the CityPASS, you’ll get the 60 minute tour, which was perfect for our family. You can also upgrade to one of the longer tours that go beyond the waterfront. You’ll need to make a reservation for one of the times at the waterfront kiosk.

As you board the boat, you’ll take a family picture that you can then purchase. Then, you can choose where to sit. For the best views, I’d recommend the top level.

There’s a restroom and snack bar on the boat, and waiter service is available if you don’t want to get up. During the hour journey, you’ll get some narration about the waterfront and history of Seattle. We really enjoyed the trip and definitely recommend it.

Argosy Cruises board right by the kid friendly Seattle Aquarium, so you can definitely combine a trip when you are at the waterfront. We started our morning with the cruise, had lunch, and then went to the aquarium.

The entrance of the Museum of Pop Culture

One of the newest things to do in Seattle with kids is the Museum of Pop Culture, located at Seattle Center by the Space Needle. MoPOP, as it’s now known, was originally the Experience Music Project (EMP). It was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and features exhibits filled with memorabilia of popular culture.

The music roots of the museum are still apparent as you visit the various exhibits. These include Prince, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana exhibits, as well as a Sound Lab that older kids will really enjoy.

There’s also a horror film exhibit with memorabilia from some of the most popular horror movies, as well as a science fiction exhibit with memorabilia from those movies.

I think MoPOP is probably most enjoyed by older kids and adults. My teens loved it, but it may be a little boring for little kids. While you are there, you can dine at the Culture Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, which offers a variety of different items for adults and kids.

The exterior of the Funko HQ building

Funko HQ

During our visit, we decided to drive about 40 minutes outside of Seattle in Everett, Washington. This northern Seattle suburb is home to Funko HQ, the headquarters for Funko.

If your kids collect Funko Pops, you’ll definitely want to make the short excursion. Funko HQ offers a store filled with various Funko Pops, including some exclusives and the opportunity to make your own Pop (either a monster or Freddie Funko – the Funko mascot).

The store isn’t open on Mondays, and you’ll want to check the website for hours during your visit. See this post for everything you need to know about visiting Funko HQ.

Museum of Flight and Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center

Seattle is home of Boeing, and in the area, you’ll find two different experiences that aviation lovers will enjoy.

The Museum of Flight is located in Seattle, but outside of the downtown area. This non profit air and space museum offers a pilot experience, flight simulator, movie theater, and more.

There’s also the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center, located outside of Seattle in Mukilteo. The aviation center also includes a tour of the commercial jet assembly plant.

We tried to visit the Future of Flight Aviation Center during our visit, but the tickets were all sold out for the day. I’d definitely recommend booking them in advance because it’s a popular place, despite the location outside the city. If you visit Funko HQ, you can combine it with a trip to the Future of Flight Aviation Center for a fun day trip.

Climb on structure

Gas Works Park

If you are looking for a place to get your kids’ energy out, you’ll definitely want to visit Gas Works Park. This free public park is located on the waterfront and is in the former home of a Seattle Gas Light Company plant. It’s not located right in downtown – you’ll need to drive there.

The park features a number of structures that kids can climb on, including some large swings. The facility has picnic tables that you can reserve in advance, as well as restrooms. Complimentary parking is available right near the park.

As you drive through this area, you may also want to visit Fremont. There’s a statue of a troll under a bridge in Fremont that kids may enjoy seeing.

The Seattle Great Wheel ferris wheel along a pier

Seattle Waterfront

During your trip to Seattle, you’ll definitely want to visit the Seattle waterfront. It’s located downstairs from Pike Place, although elevators and a shuttle bus are available.

On the waterfront, you’ll find lots of fun things, including shops and restaurants. The waterfront is also where you will find the Seattle Aquarium and dock for the Argosy Cruises.

There’s also the Seattle Ferris Wheel, called the Seattle Great Wheel. We didn’t go on the wheel during our visit, but I was surprised at how affordable it was relative to other wheels we’ve visited on vacation.

Although it is a bit of a walk down the stairs, we visited the waterfront a bunch of times during our vacation. It was good exercise, and we really enjoyed shopping and eating down there.

Chihuly sculptures outside of Space Needle

Chihuly Garden and Glass

This exhibition hall, garden, and glasshouse is one of the newer attractions in Seattle Center. It’s best for oldest kids – younger kids won’t appreciate the exhibits and will definitely need to be watched around all of the glass.

My teens, my husband, and I absolutely loved it, however. Chihuly’s work is gorgeous and unique, and this museum does a fantastic job showcasing everything among the beauty of Seattle. It takes about an hour to go through. In addition to the exhibits, Chihuly Garden and Glass also offers a gift shop and cafe.

There are plenty of other things to do in Seattle that we weren’t able to get to, including visiting Mercer Island and going to the original Starbucks.

Where to Stay in Seattle

Seattle is filled with lots of family friendly hotels. During our visit, we stayed at the Hotel FIVE – a Staypineapple Hotel. It’s located between Pike Place and Seattle Center, so it was easy for us to walk between the two locations.

Other well-rated hotels in the area include the following:

Top Pot Donuts

What to Eat in Seattle

There’s no shortage of restaurants in the Seattle area, and you will certainly find lots of great options. As you’d expect, seafood, especially salmon, is a popular meal choice.

Surprisingly, the restaurants in the touristy areas, like Pike Place and the Seattle Waterfront, are actually really good. During our Seattle vacation, we enjoyed eating at both Ivar’s and Elliott’s. Both have kids’ menus as well.

We also enjoyed visiting Top Pot donuts, which has several locations in Seattle. There was one a block from our hotel, and we stopped several times for coffee and donuts.

Frequently Asked Questions About Traveling to Seattle

Do you need a car for a Seattle vacation?

We had a car, and it was useful for getting back and forth to the airport and to Everett, Mukilteo, and Ballard. However, parking at our hotel was expensive.

Seattle is very walkable, so you could also choose to forgo the rental car, and take ride sharing services to and from the airport. Zipcar is also available in the area, so you could use that for a day trip.

How far is the Seattle airport from Seattle?

SeaTac airport is located about 25 minutes sound of Seattle. With traffic, the ride could be a little longer.

If renting a car, you’ll need to take a rental car shuttle to the off-site rental car location. There, you’ll find a building with counters for each rental car company. It took us a little while to wait for the shuttle and for the car.

More resources: Planning a Seattle vacation? Read our Seattle travel tips and reviews, including itineraries, road trips, and more.

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