Though the city is best known for its very adult technology industry and cloudy weather, Seattle with kids is also a lot of fun–as long as you all like to explore, play, and get dirty.
Stay at the Hotel Monaco or Hotel Ballard, which have adult style but less bustle, or the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, which has a glassed-in swimming pool that kids will love.
The entire Seattle Center complex is perfect for children, starting with—of course—the Seattle Children’s Museum. The other attractions are ideal for kids, like the IMAX theater and hands-on exhibits at Pacific Science Center, which teach everything from global climate to parts of the human body. Be sure to toss a coin into the pools that sit between the buildings—it’s good luck.
The Space Needle will thrill all the way from the elevator ride to the 360-degree revolving restaurant on top, and even Chihuly Garden and Glass, where the outdoor glass sculptures look like a scene from Alice in Wonderland, is surprisingly family friendly. Every kind of dining preference can be catered to at the Armory, with its food court of local favorites, and the International Fountain outside was made to be played in.
Down on the waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium has giant tanks of fish, a wily octopus, and feeding shows with harbor seals. Check up front for details on the day’s events. Next door, the Seattle Great Wheel thrills the child in all of us, especially when it dips over the dark Elliott Bay water.
Most restaurants in Seattle are somewhat family friendly, save the most formal. Get the whole family to try oysters at Elliott’s Oyster House, or rely on tried-and-true fried treats at Ivar’s Acres of Clams on the waterfront.
As stuffy as the name sounds, the Museum of History and Industry was made for young explorers. Just venture upstairs to the working periscope, or try the interactive history exhibits that explain how nature, calamity, and ingenuity built the city. Plus, the Center for Wooden Boats next door rents toy sailboats for use on the pond next to the museum, and the grass outside is perfect for watching seaplanes take off from Lake Union.
Over in Ballard, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks combines a botanical garden with a working nautical operation. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon watching the engineering feat that moves boats up and down, passing them into the Ship Canal that links the city’s lakes to Puget Sound. Across the locks, an underground fish ladder allows salmon to make their annual move to fresh water.
For dinner, make your way toward Fremont, to the Frelard Pizza Company. Located on the border of Ballard and Fremont, this thin-crust pizza joint has a play area for kids.
Get breakfast at Macrina Bakery in SoDo. A block south, the Living Computers: Museum + Labs has working computers on display, some hundreds of times bigger than the cell phones kids are used to using. Ask about which ones have working computer games from the past. Meanwhile, the Seattle Pinball Museum is much more low-tech. The playable machines, which are included in the cost of admission, range from decades old to brand new, but the goal is the same—keep hitting buttons and prevent the little ball from disappearing.
End your day with dinner in the International District. Shanghai Garden is a good choice for families.