Walkable, likable and boasting its own particular brand of quirkiness, Seattle makes for a terrific urban escape with kids. While icons like the Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Ballard Locks and the Museum of Pop Culture are no doubt on your radar, the city has lots more to offer families who dig a little deeper. Here are five of our favorite spots and activities to check out next time you’re in town.
5 Offbeat Things to Do in Seattle
Olympic Sculpture Park
One of Seattle’s underrated delights, this open-air branch of the Seattle Art Museum winds along a sloping path down the hillside toward Elliott Bay. Kids who get bored and restless in traditional museums will likely be intrigued by the sculpture park’s three-dimensional nature, plus the room to run around and the ability to explore the arresting works from every side. Its manageable scale and mod aesthetic appeal to the younger set as well. Docents offer free hourlong tours to the public on certain days — check the museum’s website for the schedule.
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Pike Place Market Food Tour
No Seattle trip is complete without a visit to Pike Place Market, but the sheer volume and the hectic pace can be overwhelming even for older kids. The solution? A food tour! We love the 2-hour Signature Food Tour from Savor Seattle, which includes stops at seven Pike Place vendors (and at least twice as many samples) plus a wealth of fascinating tidbits about the market and its history. Bring an appetite — the tasting portions are generous. Ultra-creamy mac and cheese, artisanal Greek yogurt, sweet and savory Russian pastries, mini crab cakes, cinnamon-scented donuts, cups of steaming goodness from Pike Place Chowder, and more … don’t plan on lunch afterward.
TIP: The meeting point for the tour is on Post Alley, home to the infamous Gum Wall (a fun photo op and a germaphobe’s nightmare). Arrive a little early and let your kids add their own sticky contribution.
Exploring Capitol Hill
Just northeast of Pike Place, Capitol Hill is among Seattle’s hippest and liveliest neighborhoods as well as the center of its LGBTQ scene. Shoppers will love perusing the area’s indie boutiques; bookworms can happily get lost inside the wonderful Elliott Bay Book Co. Volunteer Park is home to an old water tower that you can climb for views over the skyline. Capitol Hill is also one of the best spots in town for diverse dining: Middle Eastern at Mamnoon; Korean-style barbecue at Trove; global bites at Nue; Italian at Spinasse. And don’t pass up the coffee and pastries at Oddfellows Cafe, which has a lovely open-air courtyard tucked away in back.
Museum of Flight
Located in Tukwila, just south of Seattle proper, the Museum of Flight is a first-rate excursion for kids who are interested in all things airborne. Plan on spending several hours here — the collection is enormous, spanning early aircraft of all sorts, fighter planes from World Wars I and II, space exploration, commercial airliners such as the first Boeing 747, and much, much more. Among the highlights is the 3-acre Aviation Pavilion outside, where you can step aboard planes like the original Air Force One jet, the Concorde and the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. There’s even a play area just for little ones.
West Seattle and Alki Beach Park
Yes, Seattle has a beach! A quick water taxi ride from downtown takes you to West Seattle, home to Alki Beach Park — a long stretch of sand that hums with activity in the warm, dry summer months. Kids can build sandcastles, sprawl out to soak up a little sun, break out their rollerblades, join a pickup volleyball game or brave boogie boarding in the chilly water. When hunger strikes, make a beeline for Marination Ma Kai, a local favorite with an inventive Hawaiian-inspired menu. Afterward, head back to the beach to try and claim a spot at one of the fire pits for a waterfront bonfire.
TIP: Alki Beach Park is more than 2 miles’ walk from the water taxi dock. While there are buses that shuttle passengers back and forth, it’s more fun to take advantage of the bikeshares that are available at the dock for a fee. Or rent bikes in Seattle and bring them with you on the boat.
Editor’s Note: Photos by Lisa Frederick.