Best activities for adventure-loving families visiting this Pacific Northwest city
In a city surrounded by water, mountains, forests, and parks, Seattle is an outdoor-loving family’s dream. Add a little art and history, a couple of iconic landmarks, and of course, some high-flying fun, and you’ll quickly learn that one visit here is simply not enough.
KidTripster Tip: Seattle offers a CityPASS, providing 45% savings on admission to five of Seattle’s top attractions: Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, Pacific Science Center or Chihuly Garden & Glass, and MoPOP or Woodland Park Zoo. The pass is valid for 9 days.
Photo courtesy: Pacific Science Center
1/Argosy Locks Cruise
1101 Alaskan Way, Pier 55
Take in the city and all its sights as you travel between salt water and fresh water aboard an Argosy Locks Cruise. This 2-1/2-hour, narrated tour features Elliott Bay, Lake Washington, and Lake Union. No locks cruise is complete without a trip through the Chittenden Locks, where you’ll experience firsthand the rise or fall - depending on the tide - of the Puget Sound. With a full-service snack bar on board, you and your family can sit back and enjoy. Cost: Youth (3 & under) Free; Youth (4-12) $20; Adult $44; reserve a boat tour at least one day in advance online and get a discount.
2/Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
614 1st Ave., Pioneer Square
There’s more to Seattle than meets the eye - literally. So it’s best we start at the beginning or in this case, underground. The Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour is 75-minutes of entertainment and a little lesson in Seattle history, as you explore storefronts and sidewalks buried when the city rebuilt following the Great Fire of 1889. Cost: Youth (6 & under) Free; Youth (7-12) $9; Youth (13-17) $17; Adult $20.
KidTripster Tip: While kids under 6 years old are free, the guided tour may challenging for little ones’ short attention spans.
3/Safeco Field Tour
1250 1st Ave. S, SoDo (south of downtown)
Get a behind the scenes - or as they say, “behind the seams,” look at one of the premier baseball facilities ever built - Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. Visitors get access to areas not usually open to the public, including the press box, owner’s suite, visitors’ clubhouse, dugouts, and more. The ballpark features a retractable roof and real grass field. Tours usually last a little more than an hour; strollers are welcome. Cost: Youth $10; Adult $12.
KidTripster Tip: Directly across from Safeco Field is Pyramid Alehouse, a great place to catch a pregame appetizer and beer.
Photo courtesy: MLB/Seattle Mariners
4/Wings Over Washington
1301 Alaskan Way, Pier 57
From Olympic National Park to Mt. Rainer, the San Juan Islands, and Snoqualmie Falls, there’s no easier way to take in the state’s most scenic sights than with a seat on Wings Over Washington. This “flying theater” takes you and your family on an aerial adventure. The ride is among the most state-of-the-art theaters in the world! The whole experience lasts about 15 minutes. While reservations are not accepted, the average wait time is usually only 10 to 15 minutes. In order to ride, kids must be 40-inches tall. There is a slight roller coaster-feel to the ride – something to consider, especially with younger children. Cost: Youth (11 & under) $13; Adult $17.
Right next to Wings Over Washington, you’ll find the Seattle Great Wheel. The 12-minute ride extends 40 feet over Elliott Bay, providing amazing views of the Seattle waterfront and skyline. Cost: Youth (2 & under) Free; Youth (3-11) $9; Adult $14.
5/Future of Flight Aviation Center
8415 Paine Field Blvd., Mukilteo
About 25 minutes north of downtown Seattle, you’ll find the Future of Flight Aviation Center, which is the starting point of the 90-minute Boeing Factory Tour. This is the only place in North America where you can see jets being assembled. After you take this tour, you’ll never look at air travel in the same way! It’s truly fascinating. Kids need to be at least 4-feet tall to take the tour; parents aren’t allowed to carry kids. Tour and Aerospace Gallery cost: Youth (15 & under) $15; Adult $25; book in advance online.
KidTripster Tip: To see the most action on the factory floor, I’d recommend reserving the first tour at 9 a.m.
If you have a child who’s really into aviation, you also may want to check out the Museum of Flight, home of one of the largest air and space collections in the USA, near Boeing Field.
Troll Ave. N, under the Aurora Bridge, Fremont Neighborhood
It’s true, not all trolls have rainbow hair and love to sing and dance, especially the one that you’ll find sitting underneath the Aurora Bridge. The Fremont Troll is a must-see sculpture for kids and kids-at-heart. It’s hard not to pose for a picture with this stone-cold statue. The 18-foot-tall troll is made from steel, wire, and two tons of concrete. Inspired by the Norwegian fairytale Three Billy Goats Gruff, it took four local artists about seven weeks to complete. Don’t fret, this troll won’t “gobble you up.” Cost: Free.
7/iFly Indoor Skydiving Seattle
349 Tukwila Pkwy., Tukwila
Yes, you can fly! Head to iFly Indoor Skydiving in Tukwila, just south of Seattle. The whole family (ages 3 and up) can don flight suits, helmets, and goggles. After a brief orientation, you’ll step one at a time into a wind tunnel with a professional instructor. Yes, it’s a bit pricey for two, 1-minute flights, but it’s cheaper than real skydiving! Cost: $69.95/person; family package (10 flights between 5 people, plus video) $299.95; reserve times online in advance.
8/Savor Seattle Food & Cultural Tour
Pike Place Market
It’s all in the name! The Savor Seattle Food & Cultural Tour offers visitors a great way to see the popular market and taste test some delicious local fare, all while learning about the Pike Place’s fascinating history. The tour starts at Seattle’s infamous Gum Wall in Post Alley. The entertaining tour guide leads you through the market, stopping to eat at seven hot spots. Be sure to come hungry! The official tour is 2-hours long. Strollers aren’t recommended due to tight spaces and cobblestone walkways; it’s better suited to older kids who don’t mind walking. Following the tour, Savor Seattle provides a discount card, good for a number of restaurants and shops in the market. Cost: Starts at $41.99/person; children (2 & under) who won’t be eating don’t need a ticket.
Explore all the wonders and interactive exhibits that the Museum of History and Industry has to offer. Situated on the water in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, MOHAI maintains a collection of nearly four million artifacts, photographs, and materials focused on the history of Seattle and the greater Puget Sound Region. Cost: Youth (14 & under) Free; Adult $19.95.
Directly in front of MOHAI, you'll see the Center for Wooden Boats, a museum dedicated to preserving and documenting the maritime history of the Pacific Northwest. CWB also provides sail, paddle, and rowboat rentals to get out and enjoy Lake Union.
Photo courtesy: MOHAI/Daniel Sheeha
350 Harrison St., Downtown
A family could easily spend a day or two exploring all that the Seattle Center has to offer. From downtown, just hop on the easy-to-use monorail to get here.
A place where kids can be kids, the Pacific Science Center offers hands-on fun for all ages. Among the main attractions, you’ll find the Tropical Butterfly House and IMAX Theater. Cost: Youth (2 & under) Free; Youth (3-5) $11.75; Youth (6-15) $15.75; Adult $19.75.
Right next door, you’ll find Seattle’s most iconic landmark, the Space Needle. Take the 41-second ride up 520 feet to the observation deck, where you’ll enjoy 360-views. Cost: Youth (5 & under) Free; Youth (5-12) $14; Adult $22.
KidTripster Tip: Alternatively, make a reservation for lunch at SkyCity at the Needle, the revolving restaurant just below the observation deck. Granted, this place is pricey, but when you eat here, your elevator ride to the top is free. Order the Lunar Orbiter for dessert! (There’s a fun surprise!)
Near the Space Needle, explore Artists at Play, an imaginative playground created by artists, offering free outdoor climbing, swinging, and sliding fun.
One of my favorite art museums, Chihuly Garden and Glass is situated at the base of the Space Needle. Despite its breakable-sounding name, it’s a fantastic spot for kids. Home to the largest collection of glass art by Washington native Dale Chihuly, the eye-popping galleries are absolutely stunning, especially the 40-foot tall Glasshouse with its suspended flower blossoms. Cost: Youth (4 & under) Free; Youth (5-12) $14; Adult $22.
KidTripster Tip: The Glasshouse is sometimes closed for special events. Check the website in advance, as it’s something that you won’t want to miss.
For families looking to take in a little theater while visiting the city, look no further than the Seattle Children’s Theatre. Performances are every Friday through Sunday in both the afternoons and evenings. SCT usually has two plays happening at the same time to accommodate various ages. The main stage season runs from September through June. Cost: Tickets start at $22/person.
Nothing says Seattle quite like a ferryboat. So when Kiersten Throndsen and her fiancé found out that you could get married on a permanently moored ferry with the Seattle skyline as the backdrop, they both said “I do!” Now they live in the area with their two daughters.
This writer received some complimentary activities for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.