There’s so much to love about this city: It’s youthful, energetic and friendly. It has a Super Bowl champion’s swagger (yay, Seahawks!); gentle Puget Sound breezes that stave off the heat; the country’s heartiest coffee; and fresh seafood that will knock your socks off. And that famous rain? Seattle has less rainfall per year than either New York or Washington, D.C. (though it can get eternally gray in the winter).
But what’s especially great fun for little ones is that Seattle’s kid-friendly venues are absolutely top-notch destinations, and most are located close to one another. So it’s much less hassle trying to get from the Seattle Aquarium to the Space Needle to the Pacific Science Center. No matter what your kid is into – from art to animals to heights – Seattle has it. But before you get rolling, you’ll want to buy Seattle CityPASS ticket booklets for the entire family. At a cost of $64 for adults and $44 for kids ages 4–12, you save a bundle over regular admission prices, and you won’t have to wait in line at most places.
Start by herding the family onto an Argosy Harbor Cruise using your Seattle CityPASS ticket. There’s plenty of parking in the area, and it is just a five-minute walk from Pike’s Place Market. After boarding the boat at Pier 55, you’ll enjoy a one-hour narrated tour with great views of the Seattle skyline, the Great Ferris Wheel (be ready for some jumping up and down when the kids spot that towering wonder), the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier and the gorgeous Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. This will get everyone percolating nicely.
At the Seattle Aquarium (another CityPASS attraction located a short walk north of Pier 55), you won’t want to miss the Window on Washington Waters exhibit, featuring more than 800 fish and invertebrates native to the local waters, including salmon, wolf eels and coral. Three times a day, divers go into the mammoth tank among the creatures and answer questions from the audience. At noon and 4 p.m., you can watch a giant Pacific octopus being fed. There also are ocean oddities, a tropical coral reef, and a new harbor seal exhibit that can seat up to 100 people.
Don’t forget: You promised to take them on the Seattle Great Wheel. It’s been open less than two years, so there’s nothing rickety about it. Standing 175 feet tall, the wheel has fully enclosed gondolas and can hold 300 people at a time. The wheel itself extends 40 feet beyond the end of the pier, over Elliott Bay. Adult tickets (12 and older) are $13 and children (4-11) are $8.50. Tax is extra, naturally.
Kids don’t have to be science aces to enjoy the Pacific Science Center; just a smidgen of curiosity about the world around them will do. This Seattle CityPASS attraction features an IMAX theatre, planetarium shows, a laser dome and even a naked mole rat cam. If that’s not enough, you can always skip through the tropical butterfly house. To keep the enclosure stocked, the center imports about 500 tropical butterflies weekly from sustainable suppliers located in South and Central America, Africa and Asia. Don’t miss the expansive Professor Wellbody exhibit that explores how our health choices impact our bodies. There are interactive activities, gadgets and unforgettable displays that will do all your nagging about brushing teeth for you. You might even take home a few lifestyle tips.
If this is your first trip to Seattle, or your kids’, you’ll definitely want to zip to the top of the Seattle Space Needle. Its 520-foot-high observation deck allows a 360-degree view of the entire city and the surrounding mountain ranges. If you have a CityPASS booklet, you can go up twice in 24 hours for a daytime and nighttime view.
Take your hungry crew to Red Mill Burgers. Ranked the “best burgers in Seattle”, even Oprah said you have to try one before you die, and she should know. With two locations, one just three miles north of the Space Needle, it’s an easy way to be a hero. I heartily recommend the bacon deluxe with cheese, and the onion rings are memorable too. There are other selections for vegans or fussy little ones in your entourage, and there’s every kind of milkshake flavor you can imagine. You might have Professor Wellbody’s voice ringing in your ears, but you can always tell your conscience you’re on vacation.
Take everyone for a bike ride but not in Downtown Seattle because it’s not the place for families on two wheels. Instead, check out the Burke Gilman Bike Trail in the Ballard and Fremont neighborhoods. The mostly flat trail goes for about 20 miles, so watch out for the serious bikers going fast and wearing those funny, colorful skin-tight shorts. Contact Recycled Cycles, Montlake Bike Shop and Dutch Bike Co., which are on or near the Burke path, for bike rental information.