Top Family-Friendly Activities in Seattle

Photo of Seatle Great Wheel

From toddlers to teens, the Seattle area offers a myriad of indoor and outdoor family-friendly activities – including many free or inexpensive options.

Woodland Park Zoo

Located only a few miles north of downtown, the 92-acre Woodland Park Zoo, founded in 1899, offers a wide range of animal exhibits. The popular Zoomazium, which offers kids a chance to climb, crawl and generally burn off energy, is primarily geared toward age 8 and younger. The zoo strongly advocates taking mass transit and offers a $2 discount to those who take a bus to the zoo. Bike racks are available at both entrances, with covered, secure bike parking available at the West Entrance. The Woodland Park Zoo is an optional choice on the multi-attraction discount CityPass.

Discovery Park

Along the Puget Sound shoreline in the Magnolia neighborhood, Discovery Park is the city's largest with almost 12 miles of walking trails winding through its 534 acres on the former grounds of historic Fort Lawton. The West Point Lighthouse, which began operation in 1881, is about a mile and half from the visitor's center. The Park, home to numerous species of birds, also includes about two miles of protected tidal beaches, sea cliffs and open meadows. It also is home to the United Indians of All Tribes' Daybreak Star Cultural Center.

Seattle Aquarium

Located on Pier 59 on the city's scenic waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium is the ninth largest aquarium in the U.S. in terms of attendance. Six major exhibits house the aquarium's collection: Window on Washington Waters, Life on the Edge, Pacific Coral Reef, Birds & Shores, the Underwater Dome, and Marine Mammals. From an attention span standpoint, viewing all exhibits can be done in about two hours. The aquarium is included on the multi-attraction discount CityPass.

Seattle Great Wheel

The Seattle Great Wheel, located at Pier 57 on the waterfront, is a 175-foot tall Ferris wheel offering an amazing view out across Elliott Bay. The wheel, which actually extends almost 40 feet beyond the end of the pier, has 41 fully-enclosed gondolas that seat up to eight adults each, and one VIP cabin for four with leather bucket seats, a glass floor and stereo system. Each ride consists of three full revolutions of the wheel, though the ride time is based on crowd size and how many stops are needed to load passengers.

The Center for Wooden Boats

Although listed as a museum that preserves and exhibits historic wooden boats, the Center for Wooden Boats actually allows visitors to get out onto Lake Union. Each Sunday, volunteer skippers and crews take passengers out on the free Sunday Public Sail in a wide range of vessels, including steamboats, electric boats, sailboats and powerboats. The center also offers several rental options. No experience is necessary to rent a rowboat or pedal boat, previous experience is required for canoes or kayaks, and renting a sailboat requires passing a short sailing checkout. Classes, lectures and workshops also are offered, including boat and kayak building and sailing instructions.

Walking Tours

Whether with a tour guide or self-guided, walking around Seattle usually is limited only by time and energy. There is an option for almost everyone and every interest. Seattle by Foot offers the Seattle Kid's Tour, which takes about two hours; and the Seattle Coffee Crawl. Participants on the guided Seattle Underground Tour explore the subterranean passages of Pioneer Square and what once was  first-floor storefronts of old downtown. If building exteriors are more your interest, the Seattle Architecture Foundation (SAF) offers guided walking tours and a look at the unique architectural history. There also are a variety of food-related tours, including the Pike Place Market area, and a Chocolate Indulgence Tour. Several publications and websites also offer guides to walking tours of the many historic neighborhoods.

Seattle Pinball Museum

Kids of all ages will enjoy the retro vibe of the Seattle Pinball Museum. Located in the Chinatown/International District, the museum offers more than 50 vintage and classic machines, primarily from the early '60s and on. And, you don't need a pocketful of quarters; the admission price includes unlimited play on all machines. Perfect for breaking those all-time records you set back in college - or showing the kids how it was done. Listed for ages 7 and older – no upper age limit. You never outgrow cool.

Other Recommendations

Sports

  • Mariners game or tour of Safeco Field

  • Family affordable Seattle Reign, women’s pro soccer

  • A home race featuring the legendary U. of Washington rowing team of “Boys in the Boat” fame.

Aviation

  • Boeing production plant tour

  • Museum of Flight

  • Lake Union seaplane bases

  • Flying Heritage Collection

Scenic Hiking

  • Mount Rainier

  • Wallace Falls State Park

  • Snoqualmie Falls

  • Soaring Eagle Regional Park

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