As you’d probably expect by the name, Seattle Center is the cultural center of the city. Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, Seattle Center has grown in recent years to include several family-friendly attractions that you’ll want to visit during your vacation.
Not to be confused with the Seattle Waterfront (where you’ll find the famous Pike’s Place Market), Seattle Center is located near the Belltown section of town. It’s all still in downtown Seattle, and the city itself is very walkable.
Disclosure: We received two complimentary Seattle CityPASSES, which included admission to some of the Seattle Center attractions. We purchased two additional tickets for the attractions we visited. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us.
Visiting Seattle Center With Kids
The highlight of Seattle Center is the Space Needle, which is completely iconic in the Seattle skyline. The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, but was recently renovated.
Although you can go right up to the base of the Space Needle, I’d recommend going up to the top. The views of the city are gorgeous from that vantage point.
Timed tickets are offered to the Space Needle, so you’ll want to arrive early to get the time you prefer. These tickets will provide you with a 15 minute window to arrive in.
A variety of different ticket options are offered for the Space Needle, including day/night tickets, a standard ticket, and combo tickets with other Seattle Center attractions. Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll get access to the top level of the Space Needle as well as the Loupe level (with a rotating glass floor).
The top of the Space Needle offers a cafe, and there’s also a gift shop and a VR experience, which is included in your ticket.
Pacific Science Center
Kids who love science will enjoy the Pacific Science Center. Located right in the Pacific Science Center near the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center offers interactive exhibits across several different buildings.
Tickets to the Pacific Science Center include admission to the exhibit halls as well as complimentary planetarium shows. They do have to be reserved in advance, however, when you buy your tickets. There’s also an IMAX theater, but those tickets are offered at an additional cost.
Tickets also include a VR experience, but that too needs to be booked in advance. Go there right when you arrive so that you can sign up for a time.
My son and I loved visited the Pacific Science Center. We especially enjoyed the tropical butterfly garden, living exhibits, and the wellbody academy. Overall, we spent about 90 minutes there, but plan for more time if you are going to attend a show.
Museum of Pop Culture
It’s gone through a few different names (most recently the Experience Music Project – EMP), but the Museum of Pop Culture now features a broader array of exhibits focused on pop culture. Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the museum is fun to visit with slightly older kids. My teens loved it.
Although the museum is now focused on all aspects of popular culture, the music roots are still very obvious. There are Prince, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam exhibits. My kids also really enjoyed the Sound Lab where they were able to make their own music.
In addition to the exhibits, there’s also the Culture Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck and a museum shop.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
One of the newest exhibits is the Chihuly Garden and Glass. It includes an outdoor garden exhibit, a glasshouse, and more traditional museum. Among the backdrop of the Space Needle, the glass sculptures look absolutely beautiful.
I’d definitely recommend visiting with older kids, as younger children probably won’t appreciate the artwork. My teens really loved it though. It doesn’t take too long to go through all of the exhibits, so you can definitely combine your visit with other Seattle Center attractions.
Seattle Center Monorail
The Seattle Center monorail connects Seattle Center with downtown Seattle. The short ride will take you between the Westlake Center station and the Seattle Center station. It operates about every ten minutes, and costs $2.50 each way (with a discount for children and seniors).
Although there are cafes and restaurants at most of the Seattle Center attractions, you may consider heading to the Armory to eat. In the center of the Armory, you’ll find a food court with lots of different options.
These include Eltana Wood-Fired Bagels, Mod Pizza, Blue Water Taco, and the Bubble Tea Shop. On the day that we visited MoPop, we headed to the Armory for lunch. It was nice for everyone to be able to choose exactly what they wanted to eat.
Events at Seattle Center
Until recently, Seattle Center was home to KeyArena, which housed the former Seattle Supersonics as well as the Seattle Storm WNBA team. It’s currently undergoing a major renovation and is closed to all events.
Many events and festivals are hosted at Seattle Center throughout the year. One of my favorites is Bumbershoot, a music and arts festival featuring many famous artists.
There’s also the Northwest Folklife Festival, the Seattle International Film Festival, Movies at the Mural, and Concerts at the Mural. Check their website for a listing of specific dates and details.
Parking at Seattle Center
While it’s definitely possible to walk to Seattle Center (depending on where you are staying) or to take the monorail, you may need to drive. Parking is available in several parking garages. In addition, valet parking is offered at the Space Needle.
Hotels Near Seattle Center
You definitely don’t need to stay right in Seattle Center to enjoy the attractions and events there. But, if you are looking for a hotel in the area, there are several.
Hotels near Seattle Center include the following:
For our vacation, we stayed at the Hotel FIVE – A Staypineapple Hotel. The location was so convenient for both the waterfront and Seattle Center.
Tickets to the Seattle Center Attractions
Tickets are available to these attractions individually. In some cases you may also be able to get a combination of several different attractions. For instance, when we bought our Space Needle tickets, we were also able to get tickets the Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Another option is the CityPASS. It includes several of these attractions and can be a great deal if you plan to do most of the included activities. 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 Space Needle, you’ll need to exchange these tickets for a timed ticket.
Click here to purchase a CityPASS.