Best Things to Do with Kids in Seattle

No Kidding Here: Seattle Opens Its Arms to Visitors of All Ages

It turns out, Seattle is a spectacular destination for visitors young and old. Potentially, an entire day could be spent sticking to one zone and leisurely exploring Seattle Center and all its family-friendly wonders. For example, begin with a trip to the top of the Space Needle, where a rotating glass floor and glass windows offer spectacular 360-degree views on the city and its surrounding beauty. The nearby Pacific Science Center offers hands-on activities to keep wee ones entertained, and the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) both educates and entertains, allowing visitors to play the drums or guitars–putting musical talents to the test in soundproof booths.

Down at the ever-evolving Seattle Waterfront, families enjoy wandering the piers, taking a spin on the Great Wheel at Pier 57, watching the cruise ships and smaller sailing vessels, eating fresh seafood from vendors like Ivar's or befriending the sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium. Of course, Pike Place Market is a must-see on any Seattle visitor's list. Kids will love Rachel the Pig (and newer addition cousin Billie), the market's famous fish-throwers and talented buskers who line the street. Other ideas covered in this list range from Discovery Park and the Bainbridge Island ferry to Gas Works Park near Fremont. Needing a breather after all these activities? Head to Fremont Brewing, where adults can enjoy local brews while the kids are kept entertained by on-site toys and dog patrons.


Situated on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, this expansive urban park (the largest in Seattle) offers two miles of beach trails and nine miles of winding footpaths. Ostensibly a bluff-top reserve, Discovery Park protects a remarkable urban wilderness and is a great place for nature-watching. The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, which features art and cultural exhibits, is also located at the park, as is a marine reserve. An 1881 lighthouse, the oldest in the area, can also be found here. Offering breathtaking views of both the Cascade and the Olympic mountain ranges, the park's remote site includes two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves, active sand dunes, thickets and streams. Kids will love the park's brand-new playground, too.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Discovery Park gives kids free reign to roam around an enormous urban space where a beach and lighthouse are the main attraction.

Corinne's expert tip: The park occupies the grounds of the former Fort Lawton military base, and there is interesting interpretive history here about the park's past. Kids will love the recently-added playground, perfect for those wanting to zip, slide, swing, climb and get the wiggles out before or after a nature hike.

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About 15 miles south of downtown, Tukwila's iFLY is an exhilarating indoor skydiving experience that allows participants (kids, too!) to experience free-fall conditions without having to leap from an airplane. iFLY Seattle's vertical wind tunnel generates air current speeds of up to 160 mph, creating a wall-to-wall cushion upon which flyers safely float. The entire experience (from the intro and prep session to flight time) takes about an hour and a half, and visitors will no doubt leave on an adrenaline high, hungry for more air time sometime soon. On-site cameras catch high-flying footage (still photos and video), meaning you can relive your adventure any time you have a craving.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: iFLY is a safe, family-friendly activity that allows adventure junkies of all levels to try something exhilarating and new: indoor skydiving.

Corinne's expert tip: Invite your friends and family to come watch you "fly," even if they're not keen to try themselves.

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From Seattle's downtown waterfront, it takes only 35 minutes to arrive at Bainbridge Island. Along the way, you can enjoy all the wonderful sights that make Seattle such a unique city (the ferry ride itself is worth the journey!). The snowcapped Olympic Mountains, Seattle's skyline and the eastern view of Mount Rainier are all points of interest along the way. (It's also fun to watch all the car and bike commuters onboard.) Peak season is early May through mid-October. Once on Bainbridge Island, it's easy to walk to a quaint "downtown" strip that features some shops, eateries and coffee spots. The island also features wineries, an organic distillery, museums and galleries, beaches, plus other popular destinations.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: From Seattle's downtown waterfront, it takes only 35 minutes to arrive at Bainbridge Island, and the ferry ride over and back is half the fun.

Corinne's expert tip: Once on Bainbridge Island, kids may enjoy attractions like Fay Bainbridge Park and the Kids Discovery Museum (walkable from the ferry terminal).

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Chittenden Locks & Carl English Botanical Gardens

Originally built in 1911, these locks offer a fascinating lesson in technology from days gone by. Observe ships and sailing vessels as they enter the Ballard locks and â€" following a series of mechanical adjustments â€" depart into either the sound or the lake at a completely different water level. You can learn all about the locks' history in the visitor center; from March to November, guided tours are also offered. In addition, visitors may look through a viewing glass to see salmon run from fresh to salt water in season (June through October and March through April). Also, be sure not to miss the seven-acre Carl English Botanical Gardens, which present nearly 2,000 varieties of plant life.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Chittenden Locks captivate spectators of all ages; watch the boats rise and fall as they make their way to new bodies of water.

Corinne's expert tip: Don't miss seeing the salmon run the fish ladder in certain seasons (June through October and March through April).

Read more about Chittenden Locks & Carl English Botanical Gardens →

Gas Works Park

On the north end of Lake Union, you'll find what may be the most unique park in the area. The 21-acre industrial area, formerly the site of a gas plant, was transformed in the 1975 into a recreational complex (a worldwide first). You'll find that there's plenty to do in the park, including kayaking, sailing, picnicking and bicycling. From atop the park's 60-foot hill, visitors have one of Seattle's best views, and the park is a favorite place to view the city's Fourth of July fireworks display. Kids flock to the brand-new playground, while parents enjoy soaking up the surrounding vistas.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Gas Works Park offers gorgeous water and city views. Families will enjoy picnicking, climbing the man-made hill and flying colorful kites.

Corinne's expert tip: The extensive urban Burke-Gilman Trail runs past Gas Works parking lot and follows the Burlington-Northern Railroad 12.5 miles north to Kirkland Log Boom Park.

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Pike Place Market

Sights, smells and sounds make Pike Place a head-spinning whirlwind for first-time visitors. Fishmongers near the main entrance entice buyers with loud hawking and dexterous salmon-throwing antics, the briny smell of fresh seafood filling the air. Countering that are the rows of vibrantly colorful flower stalls, which emit their pleasing perfumed aromas to passersby. Farm-fresh produce is mounded high along the aisles, and local artisans display their art and wares unique to the Northwest. Restaurants, a brewery and specialty shops for everything from antiques to movie ephemera fill the multi-level maze. Once you have your bearings, pick out a favorite spot and enjoy some of the best people-watching around in this eclectic and progressive environment.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Pike Place Market catches kids' attention with gems like Rachel the Pig (sit atop this local darling for a photo op!) and the market's famous fish-throwers.

Corinne's expert tip: Find a bit of quiet among the chaos at Pike Place Market Urban Gardenâ€"a hidden rooftop garden that might be a great place to pause with the kids (and some snacks).

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If you're ever going to visit a venue dedicated to the magic of music, Seattle is THE place to do so. This intriguing museum celebrates the history of rock and roll. More than 80,000 American music mementos are showcased in the ultra-modern Frank Gehry-designed building, which resembles a smashed guitar. Among the displays are Janis Joplin's floral bell-bottoms and a leather jacket once worn by Elvis Presley. Sky Church, a performance arena erected to host concerts by world-renowned musicians, is also part of the complex. Added bonus: Artists at Play, located just outside the museum is an imaginative, artist-created playground that's been designed for kids of all ages with a 35-foot high climbing tower and kid-centric musical instruments, listening stations and sound swings.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The funkily-shaped Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) offers unique hands-on exhibits that allow visitors to learn music history and to try out instruments themselves.

Corinne's expert tip: Warm up those music-playing hands; interactive exhibits here at MoPOP allow patrons to practice their own tunes in mock studios and even on a simulated concert stage. Also check out: Artists at Play, located just outside the museum--an imaginative, artists-created playground that has been designed for kids of all ages with a 35-foot high climbing tower and kid-centric musical instruments, listening stations and sound swings.

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Pacific Science Center

Located in downtown's Seattle Center, the Pacific Science Center is a great place for the entire family to learn about the natural world in an entertaining way. Children love games and demonstrations about physical science; exhibits displaying dinosaurs, insects, robots and the human body will bring science and natural history to life right before your eyes. Animal exhibits, which tend to be everyone's favorite, let visitors examine creatures such as the naked mole rat, which is the only known cold-blooded mammal. In the butterfly house, museum-goers are surrounded by thousands of fluttering beauties, which often land on those wearing bright colors who stand very still. Look out for special events for adults, tooâ€"from themed happy hours to art installations.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Pacific Science Center offers hands-on activities plus an Insect Zoo and IMAX films that will delight visitors of all ages.

Corinne's expert tip: Calling all film buffs! The Pacific Science Center is a great spot to catch IMAX films (arrive early, though; the Center has a no-late-seating policy for both theaters). Be sure not miss current showings of "Great Bear Rainforest"â€"a beautifully-crafted movie that transports viewers to stunning British Columbia to meet grizzlies, coastal wolves, sea otters and the all-white Spirit bear (the rarest bear on earth).

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Woodland Park Zoo
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park, known for its exceptional zoo, has a lot of other things going for it. Located on approximately 90 acres, the multipurpose park and recreation space is just southwest of Green Lake and north of the Fremont district. Separated into two parts by Aurora Avenue, the part on the west of Aurora is largely occupied by the Woodland Park Zoo, but it also has picnic space, a formal rose garden, open space, and a play area for children. East of Aurora is an ideal spot for picnicking, and areas can be reserved. This area features barbecues, woods, grassy hills and trails. Woodland Park also offers walking paths, several playfields, tennis courts, lawn bowling, horseshoe pits, a skatepark and a large, wooded off-leash dog area. Be sure to check out their Zoo Tunes summertime concert seriesâ€"perfect for families and large groups of friends of all ages.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Woodland Park Zoo shows off cute, furry creatures and their larger cousins in lovely a setting that replicates natural habitats.

Corinne's expert tip: If you're visiting during summer months, be sure to check out the concert line-up planned for the popular Zoo Tunes series. This past year's roster includes talents from the B-52s and Feist to The Wood Brothers and John Prine.

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Seattle Aquarium

Seattle Aquarium shelters a host of marine life, highlighting creatures found in the Pacific Northwest. One of the facility's most intriguing features is an underwater dome where visitors can watch fish and sea mammals swim around them. A kid-friendly touch tank lets children handle sea creatures and learn to treat them gently. Other attractions concentrate on spawning salmon and the antics of several adorable sea otters, who really earn their keep at feeding time. Check out activities ranging from story time (every day at 11 a.m.) to diver shows that happen several times daily.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Seattle Aquarium, which shelters a host of marine life, highlights creatures found in the Pacific Northwest and offers shows and demos to help kids learn.

Corinne's expert tip: While Seattle's downtown waterfront remains under constructions, it might be best to avoid driving down to this attraction. Walk along the area's piers to stop at other waterfront highlights, from delicious seafood eateries to the Great Wheel.

Read more about Seattle Aquarium →


Meet Corinne Whiting

Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's...  More About Corinne