View of Lake Washington on Seattle's Eastside — Photo courtesy of Curt Smith
If you’re thinking of visiting Seattle with kids, then you may want to turn your attention east of the city. Seattle’s "Eastside" refers to a cluster of suburbs across Lake Washington, many of which are right in the thick of raw nature and towering mountains.
By getting out of Seattle and visiting the Eastside, you’ll still experience the gorgeous Pacific Northwest and culture of Seattle, but you’ll do it in a place that's known for its appeal to kids and families.
The Big City in Bellevue
You can still get a big city feel even if you’re not right in Seattle, thanks to Bellevue, which has skyscrapers and a flourishing downtown area complete with high-end malls, restaurants, parks and museums.
When it comes to museums in Bellevue, kids will especially love the KidsQuest Children’s Museum. A variety of exhibits teach kids about science, nature, writing and more through interactive activities and play stations.
Seattle is surrounded by water, which is one reason the city feels so special. You won’t be missing out on water by heading to the Eastside, though.
Kirkland, a vibrant city located north of Bellevue, is particularly known for its stunning Lake Washington waterfront, which has a small beach with an adjacent green belt.
The Seattle skyline can still be seen across the bay, and it’s a great place for a picnic.
Cascade Mountains — Photo courtesy of brewbooks
Hiking and Waterfalls
To experience the mountainous aspect of Seattle’s Eastside and really get into nature, head southeast from Bellevue to the smaller cities of Issaquah and Snoqualmie.
Issaquah is located at the base of the Cascade Mountains, and it's known for its abundance of hiking trails. Kid-friendly hikes through the woods include the Bus Trail and Around the Lake Trail by the High Point Trailhead entrance on Tiger Mountain.
Then there’s Snoqualmie Falls, a massive waterfall located 12 miles east of Issaquah that's so powerful on some days it creates a heavy mist around the viewing platform. Snoqualmie Falls is easily accessible from the road, and it has a visitor center, plus informational panels about the history and energy use of the waterfall.
There's also a sloping but fairly easy hiking trail that gets you closer to the base of Snoqualmie Falls.
Snoqualmie Falls — Photo courtesy of Wildcat Dunny
Snoqualmie has other sites to make it worth the drive, too, including the Northwest Railway Museum, where your family can learn about the history of railways in the area. This locomotive-focused museum is a hit with kids, thanks to its historic Victorian depot and train rides. Take notes that the trains only operate on weekends from April through October.
Salmon Hatchery and Farm Life (with Wine!)
You could brave the crowds at Pike Place while in Seattle to see some fish being thrown, or you could head to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. Your whole family will be enthralled by the story of the salmon that are hatched there and the ones who travel all the way to the ocean and back up the Issaquah Creek to lay their eggs in the fall.
Depending what time of year you visit, you also might see some salmon splashing around in the creek.
In addition to the hatchery, you can introduce your kids to more than just city life by visiting the farms of Seattle’s Eastside. Remlinger Farms in the rural town of Carnation is open April through October and has fruit fields you can pick from, plus farm animals to pet and wide open spaces to run around in.
Rides and other attractions are also set up at certain times of the year.
There’s another form of agriculture in the Eastside that parents will particularly enjoy: vineyards in Woodinville, a city in the northeast corner of Seattle’s Eastside.
If you think your days of wine tasting are over now that you have kids, think again. The winery that put Woodinville on the map in the wine tasting world, Chateau Ste. Michelle, has a huge grassy area where kids can hang out on a non-rainy day while adults enjoy a glass of wine from the on-site tasting room.
Next time you find yourself heading to Seattle with kids, save yourself the stress of navigating the big city and head to the Eastside. You’ll still find big city fun, plus an abundance of nature-filled activities in a mountain setting!