We lived in Seattle for four years before settling back home in Austin. Seattle will always have a special place in our hearts because it’s where we first “made it on our own” as a married couple and where our son, Foster, was born. Although we were far from friends and family, we had a steady stream of visitors the entire four years we were there. Who could blame them? Seattle is (in my opinion) the most beautiful city in the USA.
I mean, seriously! Look at the snow-capped Mount Rainer, the water, and the skyline. Absolutely gorgeous!
Now that we’re back in Texas and close to family and friends, I bet I get asked on a monthly basis about where I recommend friends should visit if they’re having a quick getaway to Seattle. Even more specifically, I often get asked whether it’s a good trip for families with kids. The answer is yes! I can spend hours telling my friends about how to spend a long weekend in Seattle with kids, and today I decided to share my recommendations with you. Warning – some of these photos contain a VERY pregnant me. VERY. PREGNANT. I have no idea how I was able to move around at all looking back at these photos – ha!
Pike Place Market
Okay, so Pike Place Market is hands-down the most touristy place in Seattle, but you HAVE to experience it.
Pike Place Market is Seattle’s original farmers market, containing more than 80 (!) restaurants, dozens of farmers, crafts vendors, and more than 200 owner-operated shops. You might have heard about this quaint little coffee store that started here back in 1971.
The original Starbucks is where everyone wants to go when visiting Seattle. I stopped in with my cousin, Madison, her friend Katy, and my Aunt Marcy when they visited me one time. Expect to wait in a long line, especially if you don’t arrive early.
If you’re of my generation, you may also remember the Pike Place Fish Market featured in the opening of Real World Seattle. (Yeah, I dated myself didn’t I?) Well, this fish market is world renown and you MUST stop by. The seafood is fresh out of the water (often from Alaska boats like those on Deadliest Catch), and they will even ship it overnight to your home. Plus, the prices are great!
Just last week my friend Britt took her daughter to Seattle, and she made some friends here. She’s now obsessed with crabs apparently which I’m not surprised because her momma loves all things seafood-related. 😉
While walking through the market, you will find some of the most beautiful flower arrangements. And you will likely want to cry at how cheap they are compared to what you pay back home.
Many mornings I started my day with a coffee and trip to buy flowers at the market.
You’ll also want to stop by the gum wall at Pike Place Market.
Yeah, that’s a wall of chewed up gum. It’s gross. But your kiddos will love it. Bring a package of Bubble Yum and you’ll make their day when you say “now chew this gum and then stick it to the wall!”
If you walk a bit north of the market, you’ll find a little park/ overlook area that’s a popular photo spot. Victor Steinbrueck Park is a great place to eat the little treats you’ve picked up along the way, listen to musicians and people watch.
Additional shops I recommend in the Pike Place Market area are … I hope you’re not watching your weight:
- Piroshky Piroshky Bakery – Here you will find delicious Russian pastries. Yum.
- The Crumpet Shop – This is my husband’s favorite Pike Place Market shop. Crumpets are a British breakfast treat (kinda like a mix between an English muffin, bagel and pancake). This shop makes them fresh and you can add some of the most amazing jams and butters for a sweet breakfast or eggs, bacon, or ham for a savory breakfast. My mouth is watering as I write this …
- Beecher’s Seattle – If walking through the market after breakfast, you should check out Beecher’s handmade cheeses. You can watch them making it right from the window. And you can treat yourself to some mac and cheese.
Before You Go: Beat the crowds and start your day at Pike Place Market, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend. As you can see, many of my favorite shops are breakfast-related so you’ll be there at the perfect time. If you get there before 10 am, you might avoid being in a mass crowd that reminds you of the exodus following a concert or sporting event. Seriously.
Location Tips: Located a few (very steep) blocks up the hill from the Puget Sound, Pike Place Market is between the Downtown and Belltown areas. If you’re staying in a hotel in any of these areas, you can pretty easily walk there.
You’ll have several options of ferries and boat tours, but I think the best bet for your money (and use of time) is simply walking on to the Bainbridge Ferry for a quick round-trip excursion.
The Bainbridge Ferry leaves from downtown Seattle and takes you across the Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island, a short 30-minute trip. If you’re a Grey’s Anatomy fan, you may remember McDreamy heading to his property out there. Again, I’m aging myself …
Look at these views! You have the city on one side and the Olympic Mountain Range on the other. You’ll probably take some of the best photos from your trip on the ferry. You can buy snacks on board, and the kids will enjoy feeding the birds from the top deck. Watch your fingers though! We’ve been bitten before.
Once you get to Bainbridge, take a 5-minute walk to the downtown area and you’ll be in a picturesque town.
You can have lunch out on one of the many restaurants’ patios enjoying the nice weather (depending on the day of course).
Plus, you’ll find plenty of unique shops. Your kids will enjoy the toy shop, you’ll want to meander through the various antique shops, and don’t miss the really cool bookstore. Plus, treat the kiddos to ice cream from Mora. You won’t be disappointed.
We usually spend a couple hours on the island before heading back to Seattle. The ferries run about every hour or so, according to the schedule. Kids under 6 ride free, those between 6 and 18 ride round-trip for a bit over $4 and adults are about $8 round trip.
You’ll hear about several other ferries and boat tours, but they are going to be much more expensive and take up more time. When traveling with kids, I think your best bet is to stick with the Bainbridge Ferry to get the experience and avoid trying to entertain your kids for hours on a boat.
Before You Go: Dress in layers! It can get quite chilly out on the water. Plus, a sunny morning might turn into a cloudy, wet afternoon. Don’t get stranded in Bainbridge without a coat or you might end up paying an arm and a leg for an overpriced coat (because it is a touristy town with touristy prices).
Location Tips: If you’re really hungry and wanting to grab lunch on the island, try to be one of the first off the ferry. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting a while for a table as everyone else likely has the same idea when getting off the ferry. 🙂
Space Needle and Queen Anne Area
Of course you need to check out the Space Needle during your visit! This is an iconic slice of the city – you can’t miss it.
Now, I do want to let you know that I don’t necessarily recommend everyone go to the top. That completely depends on the weather. If you’re there when it’s wet and very cloudy, you won’t see a thing off the deck and it would be a waste of your money (in my opinion). Here we are on a sunny day enjoying the view.
If it’s sunny or not too cloudy, then I recommend you go up for lunch.
Why lunch? Well, to get to the top you either have to buy a ticket (which is currently $22 for adults and $14 for kids) to get to the observation deck or you make reservations for lunch or dinner at the Sky City Restaurant (at the top). The restaurant is really good, but very pricey for dinner (think $50-plus per person). The lunch, though, is reasonably-priced. I remember eating a great amazing burger and fries for about $15 total. It’s cool to eat at the top of the Space Needle and then you even get to visit the observation deck afterwards.
The Space Needle is part of the larger Seattle Center where you will also find the Pacific Science Center and Museum of Pop Culture. You could easily spend the greater part of a day in this area. Plus, if you’re wanting to head to the shopping district afterwards, you can jump on the monorail that connects the Seattle Center to Westlake Center.
The Space Needle is located in Lower Queen Anne which is just down the hill from Queen Anne, my absolute favorite neighborhood in Seattle. If you head up the hill to Queen Anne, you will find Kerry Park which is my go-to photo spot of the city. This is where Jarrod and I took a photo when visiting Seattle, trying to decide if we wanted to move there for his residency.
And here my super preggo belly is a few years later. 🙂
Kerry Park is a tiny little park with a killer view, as you can see. Plus, I mentioned earlier that Queen Anne is my favorite neighborhood. Spend some time walking around the streets of Queen Anne and you’ll see some of the most gorgeous homes. You’ll see a mixture of tudor and Victorian homes, some old and some new, some big and some small. All out of my price range!
Before You Go: Grab a camera (or at least make sure your phone is charged – ha). You’ll want photos at all of these places. If you’re like me and your phone battery’s life is slowly waning, make sure you take along a back-up battery charger. We bought this back-up portable charger before our Europe trip last spring and it saved me several times! I just made sure I charged it each night and threw it in my bag for the day. When my phone started telling me I only had 20% battery remaining, I’d plug it in and it would shortly be fully charged again!
Location Tips: The trek from Seattle Center to Kerry Park is VERY steep. You might want to jump on a city bus (which are actually amazing in Seattle) or take a car if you’re with kids. The buses are free within a large defined area in downtown, so grab a bus map at some point. It will save you headache later!
Along the Burke-Gilman Trail
The Burke-Gilman Trail replaced an unused, old railroad track many years ago, and today it is a beautiful walking, jogging, and biking trail spanning nearly 20 miles from nearby suburb, Bothell, to the Ballard neighborhood’s Golden Gardens Park. Our Seattle house backed up to the Burke-Gilman Trail and that was truly one of my favorite features of our cute little house there. If a steep hike isn’t your thing, then the mostly flat trail will be perfect for you.
Along the trail you’ll find several cute neighborhoods, the University of Washington campus, shopping, and parks. During one of my in-law’s trips to visit us, they rented bikes and we all biked from our house (near the Laurelhurst neighborhood) all the way to Golden Gardens in Ballard.
It was SO much fun! You can even rent an electric bike if you want a little assistance. 🙂
If you’re there in the spring, you MUST check out the cherry blossom trees on the UW campus.
Don’t forget to stop and look at the Fremont Troll. (It’s a couple blocks north of the trail in Fremont.)
And swing by Gas Works Park, which you might remember from the paintball scene in 10 Things I Hate About You.
If you’re in the mood for shopping, stop by University Village. There is even a nice little (covered) playground for your kids to get the wriggles out. Plus, you’lll find several kids shops and even a Land of Nod (which we don’t have down here in Texas).
Don’t worry – you’ll find plenty of shopping and restaurants for yourself too. Look at the U Village website to see just how much fun you can have.
Alki Beach is located in what is considered West Seattle by locals.
Alki Beach reminds me of the Southern California beach scene. There are beach-y restaurants and shops along the waterfront streets, people are rollerblading and cycling down the sidewalks, and you’ll find groups of friends grilling and playing volleyball on the beach.
Plus, the views aren’t too shabby either!
REI’s Flagship Store
Your kids will LOVE REI’s original and flagship store. As you walk up to the store, you’ll have to get through a (simulated) forest of meandering trails that will leave you thinking your on one of the area’s mountainous hikes. Inside, the kids will enjoy a treehouse-themed playground and a rock climbing wall. This is a great spot to check out if it’s raining.
Woodland Park Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo is a wonderful zoo with over 300 animals in naturalistic enclosures. I just remember walking through the zoo thinking how beautiful everything was and how it didn’t feel like a zoo at all. During our last year in Seattle, we had a membership to the zoo and Foster loved being pushed through the zoo in his stroller, taking it all in. If you’re traveling with kids (or if you LOVE animals) and are in Seattle for more than a couple days, I highly recommend spending a morning or afternoon at the zoo. It’s close to downtown and it’s in a really cute neighborhood (Phinney Ridge) too.
The zoo has lions, tigers, bears, hippos, monkeys, zebras, giraffes (even a new baby giraffe), and the list goes on. And, by the way, Jarrod actually took the photo above during a visit!
General Seattle Tips
Yes, it really does rain as often as they say. However, it often rains for a short while and then stops. It is usually cloudy and overcast. You’ll want to dress in layers with a rain resistant jacket and hood. You’ll notice that most people in Seattle do not carry umbrellas. I usually wore something like this lightweight jacket in the spring and fall. You’ll want something that isn’t busy or heavy so you can easily fold it up and throw it in your bag if you get too warm and don’t need it. In the winter, you’ll want something heavier like this down jacket.
If you’re visiting between July and September, you will likely have amazing weather. It’s usually sunny but not too hot. I spent these months thinking why would anyone live anywhere else. But I do know why … if you’re traveling any other time, you really can’t expect to see the sun that often. When it does come out, though, that is when you need to make a beeline to the Space Needle or Kerry Park. I lived in Seattle for months before I ever saw Mount Rainier. No joke!
If you’re staying downtown, check to see if your hotel is near a Link Light Rail station. This is Seattle’s relatively new train (that goes above and underground) and gets you downtown super fast with no traffic. Your kids will love the ride too. If you need a car for part of your trip but plan to spend a couple days in the city, this is a great way to avoid paying for a rental car those extra unnecessary days PLUS the likely ridiculous hotel parking charges. Rent your car later!
Map of These Greater Seattle Spots
This is Just Part 1
In writing this post, I realized there are truly so many places to see in Seattle. I didn’t even talk about the Museum of Flight, Capitol Hill, or catching a football, soccer, or baseball game. I didn’t mention any of the AMAZING restaurants. And, most importantly, I didn’t tell you all about the many hikes within an hour or two of the city. So, I’ve decided I’ll be back with more posts. And don’t forget to let me know if you have any questions!