Seattle Guide

We've only lived in Seattle for three years, so our bucket list is still quite expansive. We've had babies and toddlers the entire time we've lived here, so the following activities are small children tested and approved.

Downtown:

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market. If you're arriving by car, our favorite parking garage is on Lenora Street, right past Western Avenue. Once you've walked into the market (not the place to bring your double stroller!) stop for some donuts at Daily Dozen (cash only). They're right by the famous fish-throwing mongers. Wander through the various stalls, pausing particularly to peruse all the gorgeous flower bouquets. For lunch, grab some mac & cheese at Beecher's for the little folks and then head to Pike Place Chowder. Not only is their soup and sourdough bread simply heavenly, but they're the only spot in the market where we've found high chairs. If you've still got room for dessert, grab a mini cheesecake at The Confectional or a pastry at Le Panier. Trust me, the original Starbucks is absolutely not worth the long line, especially with toddlers. One more thing: the market is so, so much less crowded on Sundays than on Saturdays. Go to 10:00 Mass at the beautiful St. James Cathedral first and then head on over!

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Seattle Aquarium. It's not the largest of it's kind and adults may not be spectacularly blown away, but it's perfect for toddlers. The seals and otters outside are our favorite part. Afterwards, walk down the waterfront to Ivar's Acres of Clams for a casual lunch.

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The Great Wheel. On the waterfront, sandwiched between the aquarium and Ivar's. The pods are completely enclosed, so it's safe for children of all ages. It also makes a perfect after-dinner activity.

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Seattle Public Library. A beautifully designed work of modern architecture. It's all glass with eerie lime green elevators and a bright red floor of meeting rooms modeled after the human heart. The children's section on the main floor is great. Besides books galore, of course, they have a puppet theater and plenty of puzzles. Combine it with a trip to Tom Douglass' Serious Pie for a pizza lunch or at least stop at his Dahlia Bakery for a treat. You can't go wrong with the triple coconut cream pie.

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Columbia Tower. The actual tallest building in Seattle, with a significantly cheaper admission price than the iconic Space Needle. If you're afraid of heights like me, you'll also appreciate that the observation deck is completely enclosed, because it's just the top floor of an office building.

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Seattle Sounders Game. The soccer team plays once a week from March through October. Tickets are relatively inexpensive (compared to the Seahawks who also play at Century Link Field) and the games are only ninety minutes long, much better suited to the toddler attention span.

Queen Anne:

Space Needle

Space Needle. The admission price is pretty steep and you can get similarly spectacular views at other locations throughout the city, like the nearby Kerry Park. But if you want the iconic experience, be my guest. Toddlers would get a kick out of taking the monorail here from downtown.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Museum. I'd rather save my pennies for admission to this museum at the base of the Space Needle, exhibiting the work of local glass artist, Dale Chihuly. This is one that I would bring my double stroller into! After browsing the museum and gardens, have lunch at the Skillet Counter in the Armory Building's food court.

Kerry Park

Kerry Park. A tiny patch of green space perched on a hill with sweeping views of the skyline. You might enjoy walking around the ritzy neighborhood and admiring the million-dollar homes while you're here, before stopping for ice cream at Molly Moon's.

Ballard:

Allie's Visit

Golden Gardens Park.  Beautiful views of the Puget Sound and the Olympics. It's perfect for picnics on the beach, but they have a great playground too for wearing out your little ones.

Salmon at the Locks

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. You'll see how ships get out to the sound, salmon swimming up the ladder, and if you're lucky maybe a sea lion or two. You'll stroll through the Carl S. English botanical gardens on your way to the water. If you didn't pack a picnic, Ray's Boathouse is nearby. Their cafe on the upper level is more reasonably-priced and family friendly.

Fremont:

Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo. The zoo is supposedly one of the best in the country and apparently makes a lot of effort to create immersion exhibits. It's got everything you could ask for in a zoo. Even a carousel. Instead of an overpriced lunch inside, head a mile away to Uneeda Burger. It's tasty, fast, inexpensive, and there are plenty of high chairs.

U District:

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung. This is a dim sum chain all over Asia (my parents had one in their building in Shanghai) but it only has U.S. locations in Seattle and Los Angeles. It's located in University Village, a super nice outdoor mall. Put your name in at the restaurant (they'll text you when you're table is ready) and while you're waiting browse at one of the very rare Land of Nod store locations. Make sure to stop into Fran's Chocolates for the to-die-for dark chocolate salted caramels while you're there. Across Lake Washington, there's another location in the Bellevue Square mall. While you're waiting for a table this time, head to the Tesla showroom and the well-kept kid's play space on the third floor. (There's a Fran's Chocolates a few blocks away on Main Street in Bellevue too.)

Georgetown:

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Museum of Flight. Learn all about the history of flight and the Boeing company, which is headquartered here in Seattle. There's an interactive kid's section on the second floor. Outside, you can walk through a Concorde Jet and an Air Force One. They also have little toys airplanes for kids to pedal around in - our girls' favorite part! They have a pretty decent cafeteria onsite.

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Fran's Chocolate Factory. Watch the caramels and truffles being made by hand at the viewing station, try some of their deliciously rich sipping chocolate, and carefully contemplate which chocolates to take home at their display counter. If you're still hungry, head to Jack's BBQ for lunch. 

Farther Afield:

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Alki Beach. Walk onto the passenger-only water taxi (only operating in the summer months) for a ten-minute ride to West Seattle. If you're short on time, eat at Marination Ma Kai right on the dock and catch the boat back downtown. Worth it for the views of the skyline from the water and the delicious Asian food. If you're got time to spare, walk the mile to Alki Beach, eat at Cactus, discover the significance of the Statue of Liberty replica, and tip your toes in the chilly water before catching the free shuttle back to the dock.

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Bainbridge Island. Take the ferry from downtown Seattle and you'll set foot on this idyllic island thirty minutes later. If you're on foot (definitely recommended during the busy summer months) you'll keep plenty busy exploring charming downtown Winslow. A stop at Mora Iced Creamery is an absolute must. There's also a children's museum and an art museum along main street, so don't let weather keep you down. If you drove your car on board, venture farther afield to Via Rosa 11, a little Italian deli, for lunch and head to Fay Bainbridge Park for beautiful views of Puget Sound. Again, if you're faced with rainy weather but you have your car, you could visit the Bainbridge Aquatic Center.

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Whidbey Island. Take the ferry from Mulkiteo, half an hour north of Seattle, and in a quick fifteen minutes you'll find yourself on the island. Drive up to Fort Casey State Park for a picnic lunch, incredible views of the sound, and the general awesomeness of exploring an old army base. From there, you could drive into nearby historic Coupeville for a treat at Kapaw's Iskreme before turning around and catching the ferry back. If you've got time to spare, continue onto Deception Pass State Park to hang out on the beach before driving over Deception Pass Bridge. You'll end up in the Skagit Valley, home to the famed tulip festival and another delicious ice cream opportunity at the Snow Goose Produce farm stand.

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Snoqualmie Falls. Take in the spectacular views of the waterfall from the top and then hike down the trail to see it from the bottom. If you don't feel up to the hike with little ones, you can also drive and park in a lot down there. The Salish Lodge at the top of the falls has two dining options. The main dining room does a fantastic brunch but you'll want to make a reservation. The Attic, on the second floor, has excellent sandwiches, salads, and brick-oven pizza.

Snoqualmie

Northwest Train Museum. Venture into the town of Snoqualmie and take an old-fashioned steam train ride up to the top of the falls. It's open on the weekends in April through the end of October. Your little train-enthusiast will love it. If you want to grab lunch after your ride, the Woodman Lodge, right behind the train depot, will hit the spot.

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Remlinger Farms. In the little town of Carnation at the base of the Cascades, this u-pick berry farm is a perfect city escape. You can pick strawberries in June, raspberries in July, and blueberries in August. They also have a "Family Fun Park" with rides perfect for the under-five crowd. There are plenty of picnic tables for your packed lunch, but don't forget to stop by their country store for a fresh berry pie on your way home.

The Greater Pacific Northwest:

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Mount Rainier. A nearly three-hour drive from Seattle, but a doable day trip. We left early in the morning, stopped for breakfast at Panera in Puyullap, drove into the national park and did the one-mile Nisqually Vista hike in Paradise, ate our picnic lunch at the visitor's center, drove to the Grove of the Patriarchs for another one-mile loop, and stopped for dinner halfway home at Chipotle in Kent. 
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Olympic Peninsula. Another three-hour drive, but more more suitable for a long weekend. We left in the morning, had a picnic lunch at the Lake Quinault Lodge, did the one-mile loop in the Quinault Rainforest, saw the world's largest Western Cedar in the Valley of the Giants, and continued onto the charming town of Seabrook on the Olympic Coast. 

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The Cascades. An under-two hour drive from the city. Spend the day in Leavenworth, a quaint Bavarian town known for it's annual Christmas festival and summer Sound of Music performances. Or stay in one of the beautiful resorts nestled into the mountains, like Suncadia.
  
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Portland. Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Tillamook Factory, Oregon Coast, Powell's Books, Ken's Artisan Pizza, Salt & Straw Ice Cream,  Por Que No Taqueria, St. Honore Boulangerie, Blue Star Donuts, Mass at the Grotto.

Vancouver Trip

Vancouver. Stanley Park. Queen Elizabeth Park. Spanish Banks Beach. The Best Western Ch√Ęteau Granville is an awesome hotel for families. Suite-style rooms, with the bathroom in the living area, not the bedroom. Right next to a play ground and a grocery store. Within walking distance to all sorts of restaurants and attractions.

Victoria Trip

Victoria. Take the passenger ferry, the Victoria Clipper, from downtown Seattle. See the BC parliament, the Royal BC Museum. Walk around Chinatown and Antique Row. Don't miss afternoon tea (well, reserve at lunchtime because there's more than enough food for a meal) at the historic Fairmont Empress hotel.

Better with a Babysitter:

MOHAI Visit

Delancey. If you don't get there right when they open at five, you'll be waiting an hour for a table. They only take reservations if you're a party of six or more. But the pizza is totally worth it! Don't leave without out a chocolate chip cookie for dessert, even if you have to get it to go.
Le Pichet. A charming French bistro right near Pike's Place Market. Amazing food and really reasonably priced. The roast chicken is cooked to order, so it takes an hour, but you have to try it.  
Museum of History and Industry. You'll learn so much about the history of the city, but if your kids can't read but are too old to baby wear without complaint, they won't get much out of it. The Great Fire of 1889 video was a highlight for us.  
Savor Seattle Tours. Guided food tours on chocolate, gourmet food, Pike's Place Market, and Capitol Hill. Lots of delicious samples along the way. Children under three are free, so they could tag along and it would still be enjoyable, but you'll have more fun on your own.
Rattlesnake Ledge. Right at the base of the Cascades near Snoqualmie Falls, this moderate two-mile each way hike will reward you with some absolutely fantastic views of the mountains and Rattlesnake Lake from the aforementioned ledge at the top.

Seasonal Opportunities:

Tulip Festival

- All of our tips for enjoying the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, held all through April in Mount Vernon, about an hour north of Seattle.
- My favorite indoor playgrounds on Seattle's east side for rainy weekday mornings with little ones.

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