10 Must-Do Activities in Seattle for Families

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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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museum of glass at seattle center, one of many activities in Seattle for families
A view of the Space Needle from the Chihuly Garden of Glass

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.

Lonely Planet Seattle guide

Fodor’s Seattle guide

Moon Seattle guide

Playing together in downtown Seattle (July 2018)

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.

Pioneer Square in Seattle (July 2018)

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.

Visiting the Gum Wall at Pike Place Market (April 2016)

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!

A Komodo dragon

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.

A large white ferris wheel sits on a dock, with a city skyline in the background. This is the Seattle Great Wheel, one of the activities in Seattle for families and tourists.
The Seattle Great Wheel along the waterfront

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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.

Having fun at Kubota Gardens (January 2018)

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).

A totem pole in downtown Seattle, WA, U.S.A. in front of the entrance to  the Underground Tour, one of the activities in Seattle for families
The Underground Tour in Pioneer Square (February 2015)

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.

Exploring the exhibit at the National Nordic Museum. (May 2018)

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.

Having fun at the Seattle Aquarium (May 2016)

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.

Climbing into an old plane at the Museum of Flight (January 2015)

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.

A view of Seattle from the Smith Tower (November 2017)

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.

An exhibit at the Northwest African American Museum, one of many activities in Seattle for families
A timeline exhibit at the Northwest African American Museum

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!

Ten Must Do Activities In Seattle For Families | The Wandering Daughter

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20 Responses

  1. This is a really nice post, I am still grossed out by the gum wall though. Great pictures and I think it would be really nice to visit Seattle one day. Thanks for sharing

    1. I’ve actually been to the Experience Music Project several times, but since they renamed it to MoPop (Museum of Pop Culture), I haven’t had a chance to visit.

  2. Seattle has been on my list of cities to visit for a long time! The area is so beautiful. It’s great to know what spots are the best from an insider’s point of view! I’d definitely prefer to get the less-touristy view from Smith Tower. And that Underground Tour sounds quirky but very entertaining!

    1. Yes, you should definitely visit Smith Tower and the Underground Tour. Those are great places to learn about Seattle’s history!

  3. Great list! I didn’t know about the Smith Tower. It really does sound like the best spot for a great view of the city. And, next time I am there, I’m going to have to take the Underground Tour to see the city’s oldest toilet. Quirky, but amusing!

    1. I hope you get to go someday, Sarah. We had a lot of fun exploring the city in the time that we lived there.

  4. I didn’t know there were so many urban hikes in Seattle, I would love that! And that ferris wheel looks like a blast too. I’ve never been to Washington or any of the PNW for that matter, but it’s definitely high up on my list!

    1. I hope you get to visit some time, Erika. What parts of the United States have you had a chance to see so far?

  5. Seattle looks like such a great place to visit! I have an aunt who lives out there, but have never taken a trip there myself. Your post has definitely inspired me to plan something there soon!!

  6. I’ve been to Seattle lots of times and have done pretty much everything on this list! I didn’t know about Smith tower though! I’d love to give that a try.

  7. Seattle is on my bucket list…It is such an awesome post.. I would like to visit Seattle for Northwest Flower & Garden Show….You have summarise it really nicely :)..I would refer it when I go to Seattle 🙂

    1. Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to check out the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, but I hear that it’s a pretty nice turnout each year.

  8. Seattle looks like such a fun city to visit. I don’t have kids but we are big kids at heart and I know we would love to do most of these things. I have always wanted to visit Seattle as we are big grunge fans too.

    1. Ooh, then you should definitely check out MoPop (previously known as the EMP). I didn’t list it in my post, but it has a lot of cool music artifacts. I would also suggest visiting some of the record stores, like Easy Street and Bop Street records.

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