As the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle with kids is a treasure trove of family friendly activities. And it goes far beyond the (very cool) tours of the Boeing plant says Seattle blogger Terumi Pong of An Emerald City Life. Terumi lives in Seattle, Washington, USA and is mum to twin 6-year-old boys. She tells suitcases&strollers her city secrets to all the things to do in Seattle with kids (brace yourselves, it is a VERY long list!).
Why should parents plan a family holiday in Seattle with kids?
Seattle is a vibrant city that has so much to see and although we’re famous for our rain, I think we have a pretty comfortable climate and you can visit many of our highlights all year round. We have cool kid-friendly restaurants, lots of bakeries and coffee, mountains to hike and ski, islands to boat to and forests to explore. And when you want to eat and drink and see more things, Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia Canada are both within driving distance too.
Where is your favourite place to take kids in Seattle?
If I could only take kids to one place in Seattle or if Seattle was a one-day event for you and your family, I’d take you to Seattle Center because it showcases some neat Seattle landmarks like the Space Needle, the International Fountain and the Monorail. We’d eat at the Armory there because it’s pretty much a food court of many local restaurants that started out as food trucks in Seattle; our favourite stops are Skillet, Mod Pizza and Big Food – if you wanted something fancier we’d eat next door at Chihuly Garden and Glass museum or up in the Space Needle. Then we’d hang out at the Science Center or the Children’s Museum so the kids can play and just be kids.
Where are your kids’ favourite places in Seattle to hang out?
My guys really like visiting the Seattle Aquarium. It is not flashy by any means, but it shows a lot of marine animals that are native to the Pacific Northwest. We can hang out at the touch pools there for a really long time and the boys love when they get to help feed kelp to the little sea urchins. The sea otters are really cute and we often bring snacks and sit under a big underwater dome and look for rockfish and sea stars.
What is the best free activity to do in Seattle with kids?
The Olympic Sculpture Park is great because it will take you a little while to walk through the sculptures and its PACCAR Pavilion has an indoor area where you can eat a snack (make sure to pack one because the coffee shop isn’t always open and the Pavilion has variable hours too) and there is a small kids area with toys and things to draw on. You can get really cool pictures here of your family and my kids love to watch the trains when they go by. The Old Spaghetti Factory (a popular chain that has great kid's meals) is also across the street if you want to make it a whole outing.
[For more travel tips on other free activities for kids available in most cities, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Where is the best place to take kids in Seattle when the weather is bad?
I like going to the Woodland Park Zoo on a rainy day. It is so much emptier than it is when the weather is nice and on really stormy days it feels like you have the whole place to yourself. There are many undercover areas and we love to go in the Tropical Rainforest building because it’s perfectly warm and dry and we love to watch the poison dart frogs.
We also like going to the Seattle Art Museum when it’s rainy because it isn’t as crowded as other more popular kid-friendly places but it has a few kids’ areas where kids can read, draw and build things. My guys and I like to go and check out the art exhibits together – we try to focus on a different section every time. We also like to grab a coffee afterwards at Fonte across the street and we always stop in a nearby Fran's for chocolates too.
What are some of the city secrets that tourists might not know about but shouldn’t miss on a family holiday in Seattle?
The beach parks are beautiful in Seattle and they’re not exactly destinations that you might make a trip to Seattle for, but places like Discovery Park, Golden Gardens or Carkeek Park give you a sense of what we like to do here in the Pacific Northwest. All of these parks have neat playgrounds and places to walk around and I make sure I stop at a nearby coffee shop before I go so I can have a latte in hand to keep me warm. (For coffee you can't go wrong with Slate, Milstead, or Cafe Umbria.)
We also like to take the ferry to Bainbridge Island. You can walk or drive on and it’s only a 30-minute ride each way. Bainbridge Island has a small but fantastic kids’ museum and a really delicious ice cream shop called Mora.
What’s the best way for children to have an authentic Seattle experience?
It’s fun to rent bikes at Alki Beach and ride on the boardwalk and stop for fish and chips or get a kid’s cocoa or
steamed milk at Café Vivace in South Lake Café Union and sit at their kid’s table. Then wander over to the
flagship REI (a giant
outdoor store that has an indoor playground too). Bring rain jackets and
rain boots so it’s okay to jump in puddles and make sure to eat the samples at Pike Place Market when you pass through.
We recently stayed at a place called Kalaloch the Olympic Peninsula, about a 3-hour drive (or you can combine a half-an-hour ferry and 2-hour drive) from Seattle (near where the Twilight book and movie series took place; [you can visit Forks where much of the Twilight series is set]) and I think this experience was uniquely Seattle. We hiked through the forest, we threw rocks into the ocean and built a fire on the beach and then we came back home to the city. I think this is the type of experience that you’d want to have if you came here.
[For more travel tips on camping with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Where are your top 3 places for family-friendly restaurants for kids in Seattle?
Tutta Bella on Stoneway is our favourite pizza place but all their restaurants have high chairs enough for everybody. The kids like their Bambino pizza and always save room for ice cream.
The Portage Bay Café has an amazing breakfast and the kids always get the pancake so they can load it with fruit and whip cream at the toppings bar.
Din Tai Fung delicious dumplings and both the Seattle location and the Bellevue location are attached to fun shopping malls so if you want to shop and eat, Din Tai Fung is a great place to stop so you can do both.
What are your tips for kids' shops in Seattle?
I do so much shopping online, so when I shop in real life I like to have a fun experience. I love University Village it’s an outdoor mall with lots of kids’ shops in the same place with good food to eat and an outdoor playground for when the kids need to climb. I also like Nordstrom Bellevue because they have a nice café and they give my kids balloons.
Which is the best place to find family friendly accommodation in Seattle if you are on family vacation with kids?
I’m a big fan of suite-style rooms and Airbnb. If you want to stay car-free I’d stay downtown, but I think I would rent a car if I visited so I could see more things.
[Does Airbnb really have family friendly accommodation for kids? Check out the candid views of some suitcases&strollers mums here.]
What is the ideal time frame for a family holiday in Seattle with kids?
It depends on what you want to see. You could probably see all the regular highlights that people usually see when they get off the cruise ships here in a few days, but if you want to go to the Olympic Peninsula or feel like you’ve really seen the city you might stay here a week or longer.
[Thinking about cruising with kids but not sure if cruises make for good family friendly holidays? Then check out our suitcases&strollers story on Cruises For Families.]
When is the best time of year to visit Seattle with kids?
I love summers here because the days are long and there is more chance of having a pretty sunny stretch. On warm summer days we like to picnic at the beach or go hiking in the nearby mountains and those are some of my favourite Seattle days. Wintertime is always pretty festive and there are many holiday events around the city that we love too.
What is the best way to move around Seattle with kids?
I’m always a fan of renting a car when traveling with kids. There are lots of public transit options here – we always take the light rail to the airport or bus downtown when there are big events happening in the city, but I do like having a car when we travel so that it is easy to get back to our hotel when kids have a meltdown.
What are your top 3 tips for families travelling to Seattle with kids?
I’d bring rainboots, a rain jacket and a sense of adventure and we’ll definitely provide the coffee.
Images: Howard Frisk, Terumi Pong of An Emerald City Life, Seattle Southside, Tim Thompson