Seattle Interational Fountain
International Fountain, Seattle by MIchael Hanscom

Seattle is one of those quirky, off-beat cities that you don’t really think of when you think “let’s take a family vacation!” — but you should.  Not only is the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest and one of the greenest cities in the USA, but it’s full of fun, kid-friendly things to do.

Arriving in Seattle

You can get to Seattle by any of the major modes of transportation. The highway system offers several direct shots to Seattle from other major hubs of US life including Los Angeles (I-5) and Chicago (I-90). Sea-Tac International Airport will be your destination by plane; the Port of Seattle if you’re traveling by boat. The Port of Seattle also operates as an official border with Canada, as its the access point of a regular ferry from the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island. If you are coming in from another country, don’t worry.

Settling In

Seattle offers the typical array of hotels and motels, and a few other kinds of places you might not otherwise think to look for. Some Old World-style hostels have crept into the nooks and crannies of Seattle, even right next to the Port. Also, Seattle is one of the few cities that offers a campground with rental cabins for overnight stays right there within the city limits. Finally, for people looking for a cheap place to stay that’s not too far away, a half-hour ferry ride from Seattle to Bremerton or Bainbridge Island can put you up in a motel at as little as half the cost of a stay downtown.

Things to Do in Seattle

Seattle has no shortage of family-friendly activities. The biggest draw for kids is probably the Seattle Center.  Kids love to coll off by running through the waterfalls at the International Fountain. Eat lunch at — or just stare down from — the famous Space Needle. Have an ear-opening time at the Experience Music Center. Tour the strange and tacky Museum of Science Fiction.  And of course learn endlessly at the magical Seattle Science Center and nearby Seattle Children’s Museum.  All this combines with a year-round mini-carnival with the usual assortment of games and rides to make for three or four days that your kids will never forget.

Outside of the Seattle Center, there’s the Seattle Bug Safari. This is a miniature zoo filled with bugs of all varieties for the enjoyment of the less squeamish. There is also the Woodland Park Zoo and the Seattle Aquarium for those who prefer their wildlife a bit larger. Kids who are more into pixels than pandas will love GameWorks, a massive two-story arcade that keeps up-to-date with the latest, most innovative arcade games (and doesn’t require you to carry around pocketfuls of quarters!).

And the kids will even love the famous Pike Place Market. Generally touted as a more mature place to hang out, it’s secretly a kid’s dream come true. The lower floors of the Market have hidden amongst them a comics-and-collectibles shop, a magic store, a stuffed-animal zoo, and of course the main concourse up top is a constant medley of samples and sweets as well.

Family fun workshops are held every weekend at the Museum of Flight which features more than 150 historic air and spacecraft and related artifacts in unique and inspiring exhibits.

Joan McCray

Joan McCray is a travel writer living in NYC. Her work has appeared in the NewYorker,Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Wine,and many local publications.She has published travel anthologies in and Lonely Planet. McCrayAre we there Yet?Family TravelSeattle is one of those quirky, off-beat cities that you don't really think of when you think 'let's take a family vacation!' -- but you should.  Not only is the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest and one of the greenest cities in the USA, but...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids