The city of Seattle is a perfect vacation destination for families. Situated in the Pacific Northwest, the city is the perfect combination of city living and outdoor fun. There are literally hundreds of activities in Seattle for families!
We lived in Seattle off and on for a total of fourteen years, and we loved it! Though the city has undoubtedly changed since the first time we lived there (Amazon has literally brought in thousands of transplants into the city!) there are still many things to love about Seattle.
This post was updated on May 5, 2020.
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The best time of year to visit Seattle
Seattle is known for its rain. For about nine months out of the year, Seattle lives under an almost perpetual cloud of grey, interspersed with showers and drizzles.
Occasionally, though, the city get days during the winter and spring months when the sun makes an appearance. But the bulk of the sunny days are in the months of mid-June to mid-September, when the rains take a break and the sun takes the stage. That’s when most Seattleites spend their time enjoying water activities in Seattle.
Despite some dreary weather during the winter months, Seattle is actually a great city to visit any time of the year. And for families looking to supplement their visit with some Seattle day trips, there are options all throughout the year as well.
You can buy one of these Seattle guides to get inspiration for things to do in Seattle.
Getting to know Seattle with a tour
Finding activities in Seattle for families from a guidebook is a decent way to get to know Seattle. However, the best way to experience Seattle, in my opinion, is to get a tour from a local.
To kick off your visit to Seattle, book one of these tours and get a unique perspective of the city.
Chef Guided Food Tour of Pike Place Market (Eat Seattle)
Seattle Locks Cruise (Argosy Cruises)
20-Minute Greater Seattle Scenic Airplane Tour (Seaplane Scenics)
Emerald City Bike Tour (Seattle Bicycle Tours)
Seattle Neighborhoods 101 Tour (Seattle Under The Radar Tours)
Read here for my tips on how to incorporate learning into your travel experiences.
Our favorite activities in Seattle for families
Once you’ve dipped your feet into getting to know Seattle, it’s time to dive deeper. My many years in the city has given me a chance to fall in love with it in various ways.
As a way to share my love of Seattle with others, I want to share with you some of our favorite activities in Seattle for families. Although these activities are great to do in the summer, you can pretty much do them any time of the year.
These activities vary in cost between affordable and slightly on the pricey end. But they all are great for families with young kids, and with older kids too. If you’re slow traveling and have more time on your hands, be sure to take advantage of each of these Seattle activities for families while you’re in the city.
1. See animals at Woodland Park Zoo
Seattle locals are lucky to have a zoo right in the city. Open daily, except on Christmas, the Woodland Park Zoo offers families a chance to learn about animals from all over the world. The zoo has gorillas, rhinos, elephants, lions, bears, and even flamingos!
Summer time events at Woodland Park Zoo include live concerts, wine tastings, and private tours. And in the winter, the zoo grounds come alive with holiday lights to get zoo visitors in the festive spirit. Tickets are $20.95 for adults aged 13-64, and $12.95 for children aged 3-12. Toddlers aged 2 and under are free.
If you have a membership to another city’s zoo that participates in the Reciprocal Zoos and Aquariums program, you can get half-price admission to Woodland Park Zoo!
2. Admire the city skyline from the Seattle Great Wheel
Located on Seattle’s Pier 57, the Seattle Great Wheel captures the eye of almost every passerby driving through Seattle’s waterfront. We love taking a ride in the wheel, which can fit up to eight people in each gondola.
The Seattle Great Wheel reaches 175 feet tall. It offers views of Seattle’s downtown skyline, as well as the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains, as it cycles through three revolutions.
In the evening, the colorful lights on the wheel create dazzling patterns. This usually happens whenever there is a University of Washington football game, or a Seattle Seahawks football game in nearby Lumen Field.
Tickets to the Seattle Great Wheel are $14 for adults aged 12 and older, and $9 for kids aged 3-11. Toddlers 2 and under are free. The Seattle Great Wheel is open every day of the week, and is one of the most scenic activities in Seattle for families.
3. Take an urban hike while exploring activities to do in Seattle
We love going on hikes. It’s a great way to get kids to learn about nature and to be active at the same time.
Seattle is blessed to have so many beautiful city parks. Many of these parks are filled with trails for hiking. They make for some fun outdoors activities in Seattle for families.
Our favorite parks with hikes within the Seattle city limits include Discovery Park, Washington Park Arboretum, and Lincoln Park. We also like Camp Long, Schmitz Prezerve, and Carkeek Park. All of these parks are free and open to the public. They are usually open during daylight hours.
4. Learn about Seattle history on the Underground Tour
My husband’s cousin used to work as a tour guide in Seattle’s quirky Underground Tour. We love going on this tour because it gives us a glimpse of Seattle’s history, back when it was just starting out in the 1800’s.
Located in the historic area known as Pioneer Square, this walking tour of Seattle takes visitors under Seattle’s streets. You can actually see where the original downtown Seattle was located. There is even a chance to see one of Seattle’s oldest toilets (I told you it was quirky)!
Tickets to the Underground Tour are $22 for adults aged 18-59, $20 for students aged 13-17, and $10 for children aged 7-12. This type of tour is geared towards older kids and adults, as the tour involves walking and standing for approximately 75 minutes. Make sure your kids are able to do that (or you’re willing to carry your kids).
5. Experience activities in Seattle at the National Nordic Museum
Seattle has a strong Scandinavian cultural heritage. In the 1800’s, Scandinavians from Norway came to Seattle and created communities around the coastal parts of the city. They worked as loggers, farmers, engineers, entrepreneurs, boat builders, and fishermen.
While the influence of Norwegians in Seattle is not as strong today, you can still see Nordic traditions celebrated in Seattle, especially on May 17, when the city celebrates Syttende Mai.
The National Nordic Museum showcases exhibits illustrating Scandinavian culture’s contributions to Seattle’s history. Admission to the museum is $18 for adults, and $10 for children between the ages of 5 and 18. Children aged 4 and under are free.
6. Observe sea life at the Aquarium
Another one of our favorite activities in Seattle for families is the Seattle Aquarium. We love learning about the marine life in our area, and especially seeing the famous octopus!
The Seattle Aquarium is located in Seattle’s waterfront, near the popular Pike Place Market. Entrance into the aquarium is $19.95 for kids aged 4-12, and $29.95 for adults aged 13 and older. Kids 3 and under are free. Aquarium hours are 9:30am to 5pm daily.
7. Climb aboard an airplane at the Museum of Flight
Before Amazon came along, Seattle was known for its aeronautical industry. We love learning about aeronautical history at the Museum of Flight, located in Tukwila, just south of Seattle. If you’re looking for plane-themed activities in Seattle for families, this is it!
The Museum of Flight houses more than 175 aircrafts, and some of them you can actually go into! The hours are 10am to 5pm daily, with extended (and free) hours on the first Thursday of each month from 5pm – 9pm. Admission is $15 for kids aged 5-17, and $24 for adults aged 18 and older. Kids 4 and under are always free.
8. Play with computers at the Living Computers Museum + Labs
When it comes to unique activities in Seattle, another one of our favorites is visiting the Living Computers Museum + Labs. We’re a pretty tech-loving family (my husband is a web developer, after all!) so this museum is right up our alley, with a floor full of robots and computers that our kids can interact with and learn.
The second level of the museum houses computers dating back to the 60’s and 70’s, many of them still functional! Hours of operation are Wednesday to Sunday from 10am – 5pm, with free admission and extended hours on the first Thursday of each month. Admission for regular hours are $16 for the general public, aged 6 and over. Kids 5 and under are free.
9. Take in a 360 degree view of downtown from Smith Tower
Most tourists go to the Space Needle to get views of the city, but for us locals, we know that the better city views are at the historic Smith Tower. Built in 1914, Smith Tower used to be the tallest building in Seattle, and even the tallest building west of the Mississipi!
These days, the building is a dwarf compared to nearby Columbia Tower, but you can still get beautiful 360 degree views of the city from its observatory. Tickets are $19 for adults aged 13 and over, and $15 for kids aged 5 to 12, but locals with a valid Washington state ID can get in for just $12. The observatory is open daily from 10am to 9pm.
10. Explore activities in Seattle at the Northwest African American Museum
The contributions of Seattle’s African American community can not be expressed enough. There were African Americans among the early settlers in Seattle. And during the Civil Rights Movement, Seattle African Americans played a role in making their voices heard. Seattle African Americans even made great contributions in music history!
The Northwest African American Museum showcases the achievements of the African American community in Seattle, and tells the story of African Americans in Seattle throughout the years. Admission into the museum is $7 for adults, and $5 for kids aged 4 to 12. Kids aged 3 and under are free.
Want more activities in Seattle for families? Check out my other Seattle posts.
Honoring our favorite city
We can’t help but think fondly on all the memories we made while doing these fun activities in Seattle for families over the years. We truly were lucky to be able to live in such a great city with so many things available for families. Seattle is truly a unique city!
If you’re planning a visit, we hope you’ll check out these activities in Seattle and see for yourself why we love this city so much. It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit, there are so many things you can do with your family in Seattle.
Do you have some favorite activities in Seattle for families that I missed? Share them in the comments!
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