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 viewing decks 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 Experience Music Project both educates and entertains, allowing visitors to play the drums or guitars–putting musical talents to the test in soundproof booths.

Down at the Seattle Waterfront, families will enjoy wandering the piers, watching the cruise ships and smaller sailing vessels, taking a spin on the recently-added Ferris wheel, 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, 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.


Pike Place Market
Photo courtesy of Magic in the Market/Richmond Public Relations

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. To help visitors find their way, the Market Foundation offers fun and informational tours Wednesdays through Saturdays, starting at the Market Heritage Center at 1531 Western Avenue. 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.

Sometimes parents need to take a break, too! Fremont Brewing is a small, family-owned microbrewery founded in 2008 to brew small-batch artisan beers "made with the best local ingredients." The all-ages space even stocks toys for youngsters, and dogs are welcome, too. Brew masters use barley from Washington State, hops from a fourth-generation, hop-growing family in the Yakima Valley and water from the Cedar River Watershed in the Cascade Mountains. Located in Seattle's funky Fremont, guests can enjoy beer at the "Urban Beer Garden" (think long communal tables inside and out). Beer lovers will also find this company's gems on draft at many Seattle bars and restaurants as well as at neighborhood bottle shops or grocery stores. Looking for a larger quantity of Fremont Brewing's fine beer? Pick up a keg or growler to go.

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.

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. To reserve their 200-seat picnic shelter for special occasions, call 206-684-4081 for reservations. BUS: 26

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.

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 locks and – following a series of mechanical adjustments – 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. Operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

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. Over 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: As of early 2015, Artists at Play opened just outside the museum. This imaginative, artists-created playground 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.

Pacific Science 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, computers and 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 watch animals 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 butterflies, who often land on those wearing bright colors and standing very still.

Wild Waves Theme Park
Photo courtesy of Ethan.K

A combination water park and theme park, Wild Waves truly has something for everyone, from wee youngsters and tricky-to-entertain teens to thrill-seeking older folks. Wild Waves features 70 acres of slides and rides for the whole family, now including the kid-friendly Mountain Dew Slide Complex. The new triple slide showcases three dynamic tube slides that offer riders a range of heights and adrenaline-pumping experiences through the twists and turns of Slide Alley. Other attractions include crazy fun splash coasters and corkscrew coasters, a great big wave pool, a lazy river ride, leisurely train and boat rides ensure a fun time for the whole family. Also new this summer season, guests can go cashless while at the park, thanks to a new season pass and MoneyBands, an individual day cashless wristband. Tickets are available online or at the Wild Waves Theme Park front gate.


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 anytime you have a craving.


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