Three Days: Seattle with Kids

10 fun things to see and do during a long weekend in Seattle

Seattle may be best known for coffee and its music scene, but what we appreciated best of all during our recent visit is how rich this city is with nature and kid-friendly opportunities for outdoor exploration. Below are our ten, fun experiences with young children during a long weekend in Seattle.

Fish can’t climb ladders, can they? Visit Ballard Locks to see them in action

A visit to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (better known as Ballard Locks) is sure to mesmerize as well as provide a learning opportunity. This is a national historic site and is the busiest locks in the nation. The locks connect the fresh water shipping canal with the saltwater Puget Sound, kids (and adults) get a kick out of watching the boats come in and out of the locks. The water and the boats rise and drop as the locks open and close.

A fish ladder was developed to help Chinook salmon and steelhead navigate the locks and access their spawning grounds between June to September. The most fishy activity is typically in August, but even in September we saw fish using the ladder.

There is an underwater view of the ladder with interpretive graphics explaining what the ladder is and how it works, and frequently there are docents or park rangers there to answer questions and provide insights.

Look closely and you might also spot some crafty sea lions and seals waiting on the other side of the ladder for a tasty treat.

The Ballard park area has sculpture and gardens and is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors with the family.

Discovery Park

Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest park spanning more than 500 acres of stunning landscape, miles of protected beaches overlooking the Olympic mountain range. It offers miles of hiking and biking trails, and even a playground. Discover totem poles, and comb the beaches for exciting driftwood finds.

Travel TIP: Getting to the lighthouse can be a bit of a trek with young children, and parking near the beach is very limited. Stop by the Visitor’s Center and request a free parking pass that allows families with young children and people with limited mobility an opportunity to park by the beach.

The park also has a terrific playground with a fun zip line for the kids.

This fun zip line at the Discovery Park playground offered endless amounts of fun.

Totem Poles

Go on a scavenger hunt throughout Seattle to see how many totem poles you can find. Along the way, kids can learn about the people and cultures of those who call the Pacific Northwest home.

Take a Ferry Ride

Enjoying Starbucks hot chocolate while riding the ferry to Bainbridge Island

Seattle has the most extensive ferry system of any city in the entire country. Our kids were fascinated by the idea of driving our car onto a boat.

Departing from a ferry terminal in downtown Seattle, the ferry to Bainbridge Island takes about 35 minutes to cross Puget Sound. Not overly populated, Bainbridge has a small town feel, with restaurants and shops.  

Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

The 150-acre Bloedel Reserve botanical garden offers extraordinary natural variety and blissful nature therapy. It’s large enough to provide incredible landscapes and natural variety, while being compact enough to be an easy place to hike with young kids. Enjoy sweeping meadows and redwood forest, moss gardens and marshes to meticulously manicured Japanese gardens. There is no place like it. Be sure to pick up the scavenger hunt map at the visitor’s center. The kids enjoying finding all the clues along the way.

Seattle’s many parks offer wonderful variety of outdoor experiences, and we found this reserve to be a perfect, relaxing and enjoyable outdoor experience with young children.

“Nature can do without man, but man cannot do without nature,” Prentice Bloedel.

Woodland Park Zoo

Opportunities for up close encounters with wildlife abound at Woodland Park Zoo

A wonderful woodland, the Woodland Park Zoo offers expansive opportunities to enjoy wildlife amidst the natural Pacific Northwest nature. Be sure to check out the special animal encounters opportunities including meeting a rhino up close and personal, feeding elephants and giraffe all for as little as $5, and hand feed lorikeets and other species in a walk-through aviary for $2.

Space Needle

The Space Needle recently underwent a makeover, and now provides visitors with an incredible Seahawk eye view of the entire city. Gather your courage and step out on the glass floors to look down and around for a most incredible room with a view.

Artists at Play at Seattle Center

Located in the shadow of the Space Needle, next to Seattle Center Armory and the Museum of Pop Culture the Artists at Play playground is a large, dynamic and artistic free play area designed for children ages 5 to 12 years old. It’s a perfect space to let the littles run wild and burn off some energy while you await your timed entry to the Space Needle.

Take the Monorail Train – it’s a very quick ride!

Few kids can resist a train ride, and the Seattle Center Monorail grabs their attention as it glides into Seattle Center. Don’t expect to get very far on this ride though as it only has one stop: Westlake City Center to Seattle Center. The train departs every 10 minutes, and the ride lasts about 5 minutes, but if you grab the front seat, it is a kid-pleaser.

Pike Place

Flying fish! If for no other reason, stroll through Pike Place Market to smell the flowers – rows and rows and rows – of flowers, and see fish fly!

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