Seattle with Kids Tips from a Local (3-Day Itinerary)

Seattle is famous for music, airplanes, coffee, computers and rain. Though indeed wet much of the year, Seattle is a beautiful family-friendly metropolis surrounded by water, mountains and trees. Grab an umbrella and get on your way. Here’s how to spend a long weekend vacation in Seattle with kids.

Seattle with kids
Seattle with kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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Day 1 in Seattle with Kids

Pike Place Market

Kick off your Seattle tour by exploring one of the city’s best-loved spots: Pike Place Market. As one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the U.S., this ensemble of local vendors offers everything from organic fruits and vegetables to specialty cheeses, jams and bread. Beautifully arranged flowers line the stalls year-round. You’ll also find handmade crafts and shops selling anything from antiques to magic tricks.

Pike Place Fish Market at Pike Place ~ Seattle with Kids
Pike Place Fish Market at Pike Place (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Don’t miss Pike Place Fish Market, where throwing a 15-lb halibut has become famous. Be sure to seek out Rachel, the 550-pound bronze pig for a photo opp. Of course, you should order a latte at the original Starbucks here. And, for a delicious breakfast, head to Lowell’s Restaurant, a family-friendly market classic.

Next up, wander down Post Alley. This cobblestone alleyway looks straight from the 19th century. Here you’ll find more cafes, shops and wine tasting. There’s even a wall dedicated to gum where kids can leave their own sticky souvenir!

Original Starbucks ~ Seattle with Kids
A street performer serenades customers at the original Starbucks (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Seattle Waterfront

The Seattle Waterfront is situated just below Pike Place. Stretching between Piers 52 and 70, a pedestrian walkway overlooks the Puget Sound and boasts some pretty spectacular views of the Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier. Take a peek inside Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, where you’ll find odd curiosities like shrunken heads, an old mummy named Sylvester, and fleas all dressed up with nowhere to go. Then visit the Seattle Aquarium, which offers kids an exciting way to see the underwater life of the Puget Sound. Next, take a spin on the Great Wheel, a Ferris wheel featuring large enclosed, climate-controlled cabs for an amazing view of the city.

When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Ivar’s for some of the freshest fish you’ll find. If the weather is nice, grab a sourdough bowl of clam chowder or fish n’ chips at the order-out window and eat on one of the docks overlooking the water. Watching the ferries while listening to the cry of seagulls is a scene that is undeniably Seattle.

If you’ve still got steam, take the 35-minute ferry to Bainbridge Island. You’ll dock just steps away from downtown Winslow. Here you can window shop antique stores and art galleries. Before you sail back to Seattle, stop in to Mora Iced Creamery for a tasty frozen treat. It was voted one of the best ice cream shops in the U.S. by Food and Wine Magazine.

Bainbridge Island Harbor Dock ~ Seattle with Kids
Bainbridge Island Harbor Dock (Photo credit: billperry,

Day 2 Seattle with Kids

Madison Park

Drive to Madison Park to explore the Arboretum and Japanese Garden. Kids will love the opportunity to run along the garden paths, searching for turtles and koi ponds in this 3.5 acre park. Be sure to pick up fish food at the entrance gate. If visiting on a hot summer day, bring your swim gear and take a dip at the Madison Park Beach.

Woodland Park Zoo

Next, head to one of Seattle’s finest spots, the Woodland Park Zoo. This award-winning zoological garden has lots of walking paths, so if you’ve got smaller children rent a stroller or wagon (available at each entrance). Along with zoo classics like lions, gorillas and elephants, kids will love the Family Farm and petting zoo. The outdoor Habitat Discovery Loop is always a hit. If it’s a super wet day, the indoor Zoomazium provides the perfect place to dry off.

Ballard Neighborhood

After the zoo, explore one or two of Seattle’s most unique neighborhoods. Ballard, Seattle’s old Scandinavian community is home to coffee shops, cozy pubs, great shopping and all sorts of eateries.

Kids will enjoy watching big and small boats travel between the Puget Sound and Seattle’s lakes at Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. Make sure to check out the fish ladder and the viewing room, where you can get a closer look into the lives of salmon as these fish pass between fresh and salt water.

Freemont Neighborhood

Northeast of Ballard you’ll find Fremont, Seattle’s offbeat, artistic neighborhood. You’ll find fashionable restaurants and some great shopping here. Be on the lookout for the Freemont Troll under the bridge. Treat the kiddos (and yourself!) to some taste bud-pleasing goodies at Theo Chocolates, the organic chocolate factory famous for its truffles. Sign up for a Tour of Freemont to see all this quirky community has to offer.

Japanese Garden in Seattle ~ Seattle with Kids
Japanese Garden in Seattle (Photo credit: iriana88w,

Day 3 Seattle with Kids

Ride the Ducks Tour

The Seattle Duck Tour is a bit kitschy, but truly Seattle. Children will love riding this amphibious WWII vehicle through the city streets. The comically narrated tour hits up some great tourist attractions, including the historic Pioneer Square. Then it takes a dip in Lake Union for a beautiful view of the city skyline and Sleepless in Seattle houseboats.

Space Needle and Pacific Science Center

If you’re willing to shell out serious cash, views from the top of the Seattle Space Needle are spectacular. If not, take a photo from below.

Set in the shadow of the iconic Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center is an interactive oasis where kids can get up-close and personal with dinosaurs, insects and everything in between. Watch stars in the planetarium, spin a two-ton granite ball or see a film in the incredible IMAX Theater. For younger kids, the Children’s Museum is a fabulous choice, with lots of hands-on fun to be had.

Gasworks Park

Finish up your Seattle sightseeing with a visit to Gasworks Park along the north shore of Lake Union. On the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company, Gasworks is a massive public park. It’s famous for its impressive kite-flying hill, the remains of the old company plant, and stunning panoramic views of the city. The kids will love the play barn, where they can explore all of the brightly painted (and safe) old machinery.

Wallingford Neighborhood

For dinner, head to the nearby Wallingford neighborhood for a bite to eat at one of the many locally-owned eateries. For a good laugh, pop in to Archie McPhee, the independent novelty toy store, considered one of Seattle’s top ten weird destinations. Think inflatable turkeys, a yodeling pickle and all things bacon.

Seattle Space Needle ~ Seattle with Kids
The Seattle Space Needle (Photo credit: dbvirago,

More to See and Do in Seattle with Kids

If you want to explore downtown Seattle without a car (and parking meters), hop on the Monorail. The elevated, one-track train runs just under a mile, stopping at Westlake Center. Grab a snack at the food court or venture out to the grandiose shopping of downtown. From FAO Schwartz to the Flagship Nordstrom’s, there’s something for everyone in the family.

After shopping, take the Seattle Street Car to South Lake Union and stop by the Center for Wooden Boats, a hands-on museum showcasing historic vessels. Depending on what week you visit, activities rotate from pond boat sailing, tugboat story time and other events.

If you’re traveling with younger children or planning a longer stay, though, I recommend renting a car to make the most of your time in Seattle with kids. This way you’ll be able to drive from place to place on your own schedule.

Looking for a place to stay in Seattle with kids? If you want a hotel with quirky perks like in-room pet goldfish and borrowable bicycles plus hip decor, Hotel Monaco Seattle is for you. Read the full Travel Mamas review to learn more.

Get some rain gear for your Seattle vacation with kids
Get some rain gear for your Seattle vacation with kids (Photo credit: Hunter)

What to Buy Before You Visit Seattle with Kids

Although most Seattleites forgo umbrellas, pretty much everyone owns a good pair of rain boots in this city. Take a peek at the array of Hunter rain boots in a rainbow of colors available from Zappos before you go. And, remember, return shipping is always free with Zappos!

Your kids will be much happier about the potentially rainy Seattle weather if you get them a darling rain coat, too, like the fireman one The Travel Mama’s son sported during their trip. Take a peek at some darling options available from Amazon below.

Get young children excited for their upcoming trip with Larry Loves Seattle, a board book featuring many of Emerald City’s family-friendly attractions. Meanwhile, older kids will dig I Love Seattle Mad Libs. For parents, Seattle Family Adventures guide book will help you plan your visit. It’s always helpful to buy a paper map, too, like the laminated Streetwise Seattle Map.

Do you have any questions or suggestions for things to do in Seattle with kids? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Thank you so much for your wonderful itinerary to Seattle. We followed it to a T and had the best time. My daughters 11 and 14 loved every minute of this trip. Great recommendation for Hotel Monaco (although they do not offer a pet goldfish any longer, they do have a resident dog that made coming back to the hotel feel like coming home.)

    1. Aviva – Yay! So glad you and your family had a fabulous time in the Emerald City! And thank you for the heads-up about the pet goldfish. I’m glad to here they have a resident dog. My kids LOVE staying at hotels with ambassador dogs!

  2. I would love to visit Seattle. There are so many family friendly destinations to explore. I have seen so many beautiful pictures of the place and I really have to add this to our travel bucket list for 2018!

  3. I started to drool at the sight of those crabs! Yum. If I ever get the chance to visit Seattle, I’d like to check out the Space Needle first. That would be so awesome!

    1. Since my family’s visit to Seattle, my son has fallen in love with crab. We will need to go back so he can enjoy the tasty seafood!

  4. My husband and I have done Seattle, but the kids haven’t. It’s time for them to see the flying fish of Pike Market!

  5. I haven’t been to Seattle in long time. I think it’s nice that it’s a lovely place for the kids to have fun and enjoy. Loving your itinerary for the the three days that you’re there!

    1. Glad you like Allison’s itinerary – it makes planning a trip so much easier when an expert lays it all out for us!

  6. What a super fun way to spend 3 days, this is wonderful. I am so glad that you shared a short itinerary, it would make a great getaway for families during school break or even perhaps a weekend.

    1. Maureen – When my family visited Seattle a while back, we followed Allison’s suggestions and had such a wonderful time!

  7. Seattle is such an amazing city with so much to do and see! This would be an amazing vacation with the family. I haven’t been to Madison Park or Woodland Zoo. They both sound great for vacation with the little ones. I will have to consider this for our next family vacation.

  8. I love the itinerary! It’s fun filled but it’s also not very tiring! The kids will definitely love everything especially the zoo and the science center. I think I’ll have the time of my life in the market!