From whale watching to dodging flying fish to trolling for, well, trolls, you’ll find a wide variety of great things to do in Seattle, Washington for the entire family. (Just be sure to pack your raincoat.)
Things to Do in Seattle with Kids
Spring break travel typically skips our family. When I grew heirloom plants to sell at our local farmers’ market, I couldn’t abandon the greenhouse in April, when temperatures in South Carolina often soar to scorching in a heartbeat. Then, when our daughter decided to attended high school at a local university, her spring break arrived a month earlier than her brother’s, making family travel impossible.
Instead of venturing to the beach to savor the sun and surf, we spend spring break sleeping and watching movies. But not this year. This year, we broke the rules, pulled our youngest son out of school during our daughter’s spring break, made a list of things to do in Seattle, Washington, and flew to the west coast.
After all, we needed to meet our first granddaughter.
14 Things to Do in Seattle, Washington in One Week.
March in Seattle will not find you basking in the sun, reapplying SPF 50 every hour, and drinking umbrella-garnished cocktails on the beach. Instead, we arrived to freezing rain, slushy snow, and chilly temperatures.
Still, what’s a little foul weather when you’re about to meet your first grandbaby?
Plus, Seattle offers fabulous sites to entertain families, regardless of the weather. As my husband, Peter, said to me on our first date, when I thought rain would interrupt our planned hike: “There’s no bad weather—just bad clothing choices.”
Huh. Interesting philosophy.
A little rain, snow, and wind can’t hinder our fun!
Seattle for Spring Break
Our spring break goal: help with baby detail, while not crowding the new parents. After all, Peter and I remember well how too much company with a newborn can be worse than too few hands.
So, in the spirit of balancing our grandparenting duties with entertaining our younger kids, we decided to explore the Seattle sites during the day, heading to our son and daughter-in-law’s house in the late afternoon to play with baby Maya—and give the new parents a break.
Who knew we’d find so many things to entertain us in Seattle besides baby toes?
1. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Island Adventures Whale Watching
Washington is well known for whale watching. With my animal-obsessed family, the first priority for sightseeing involved finding whales. My sailor husband anxiously anticipated boat time and quickly searched for a harbor. (His entire attitude lightens as soon as he spots a marina.)
On our first day in Seattle, we ventured north of the city to the town of Everett, where Peter spotted access to water—and boats. As we walked around the harbor for a bit, something in the water caught my eye.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing near the boat ramp.
“It looks like the Loch Ness Monster!” our imaginative daughter exclaimed.
We walked out onto the pier, searching the water, and found the most darling harbor seals.
After much happy squealing and photo ops, we drove further into the harbor area, looking for lunch—and found Island Adventures.
See Whales, Guaranteed: Cruise for Free Until You Do!
Really, it sounds too good to be true, right? Island Adventures lives up to its promise. We know.
We excitedly booked a whale watching excursion for the next day.
Here’s the thing: While Island Adventures offered whale watching tours, we knew the season had just began. In fact, the company opened for the season the weekend we arrived. From the website, I saw that the crew spotted a gray whale during the opening weekend, but it was too early in the year for us to anticipate orcas, minke whales, or humpbacks. Gray whales do migrate from March to May, traveling around the south end of Whidbey Island and the Saratoga Passage.
We decided to take a chance. After all, what did we have to lose?
We arrived at the boat 30 minutes prior to departure time, bundled in many layers. While the Island Adventure boat offers inside seating, we knew we’d spend time exploring along the decks during our three-hour tour.
Our crew consisted of Carl, the captain, Erin, the naturalist, and Eric, who helped search for wildlife while also serving snacks and hot drinks. The knowledgeable crew told us about the area, as well as the wildlife that resided in the waters off Everett.
Right away, we spotted a bald eagle. Nice! (Too bad I didn’t pack my telephoto lens.)
We searched valiantly, the kids sipping hot chocolate to stay warm, while Peter enjoyed the stinging cold spray and rain as only a true sailor can. The crew provided binoculars free of charge to assist in our whale spotting efforts.
In a flurry of excitement, Erin told us to look to the left of the boat, where another guest reported splashing. We braved the elements and ventured out on the deck to find a sea lion, angrily battling sea gulls trying to steal his meal. While not a whale, we loved seeing the sea lion, thrashing about with a four-foot skate, trying to fend off the swooping sea gulls, who felt entitled to bites of his lunch.
Sadly, the sea lion’s appearance provided the highlight of the trip. Even after extending the tour an additional hour, our guides couldn’t find whales.
True to its promise, the company invited us back anytime to try our luck finding whales—for free. While Island Adventures doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee, guests can return for a complimentary whale watching adventure until they finally see whales. Erin explained that we could return to any of the five locations for our next whale watching adventure: Anacortes, La Conner, Port Angeles, Seattle, or Everett. Each location offers trips at different times of the year, as well as trips of various durations: three hours, five hours, and full day adventures.
While disappointed that we didn’t spot a whale, we all agreed that we enjoyed the time on the boat—although we needed to thaw a bit afterwards!
Island Adventures | Address: Everett tours depart from 1726 W. Marine View Drive, Everett, WA 98201. For other locations, consult the website. | Phone: 360.293.2428 | Price: Adults $69; Seniors and Students $59; Children 3-17 $49; Children under 3 $1.00. (However, look for coupons on the brochures offered at Seattle Tourist Attraction displays. We saved $20 on each ticket using a coupon code.) | Reservations encouraged, especially during summer. Check-in 30 minutes prior to departure. | Website: Island-adventures.com
2. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Howarth Park Beach
There’s something about a beach in the winter that I love. Maybe it’s the absence of crowds, or the lack of pressure to fit into a swimsuit. Whatever the reason, we looked for beach access near our son and daughter-in-law’s house, hoping to explore for a bit before playing with Maya. After all, our kids Kristen and Michael never previously visited the “Left Coast,” as we teasingly call it, and they adore a good beach trek.
And a trek it was. We parked easily in the small, empty lot, as not many other people seemed interested in braving the chilly beach. To access the waterfront, we wandered along a trail, which led us to flights of stairs—crossing a bridge that passes over railroad tracks is the only access to the beach.
The weather turned, and we enjoyed a gorgeous view. Signs on the bridge warned of harbor seal activity, encouraging a respectful distance from any seals on the beach. Sadly, we didn’t spot any wildlife, but the kids enjoyed climbing on fallen mossy trees, looking for shells and rocks, and basking in the rare sunshine.
The sun, while lovely, quickly disappeared. In the distance, Peter and I saw the next round of rain moving inland. We headed back to the car.
We excitedly reported to the new parents that the nearby beach offers a perfect place for their two pooches to romp—it’s secluded and contained, offering a leash-free playground for pups. By summer, baby Maya might also enjoy the beach.
Howarth Park Beach | Address: 1127 Olympic Blvd., Everett, WA 98203 | Hours: 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. | Price: Free
3. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Seattle Aquarium
We’re suckers for aquariums. Seriously. No matter where we travel, whether it’s Charleston’s South Carolina Aquarium, Germany’s Sea Life Center, or the Malta National Aquarium, we always visit the local aquariums.
After all, is there anything more peaceful than watching sea creatures at play? Plus, we love learning about the local marine life where we travel.
Seattle Aquarium is a perfect introduction to the wildlife in the Puget Sound.
From the giant Pacific octopus, which enthralled the kids as it unfurled its tentacles and glided around the tank to the lessons about salmon migration to the adorable marine mammals (the sea otters provide plenty of entertainment), each exhibit offered great information.
In addition to the local marine life, the aquarium also features displays of fish from the tropical Pacific regions. Of course, all Nemo fans will be happy to see the resident clown fish, hiding in the anemones.
Personally, I found the jellyfish tunnel mesmerizing.
4. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Miner’s Landing
After our visit to the Seattle Aquarium, we wandered a bit, looking for a place to eat lunch. Miner’s Landing looked promising, so we strolled through the building.
Rich with history, Miner’s Landing on Pier 57 is the site where the steamship Portland docked in 1897, weighed down with the first load of gold from the Klondike. As the 68 miners began unloading their gold in front of the crowd of 5,000 residents—the Klondike Gold Rush was born. Gold fever swept through the region. Today, Miner’s Landing offers family-friendly shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.
However, as we wandered the facility, it seemed that renovations temporarily closed some of the attractions and shops. I’m not sure if it was due to the time of day when we looked for lunch—it was close to 2:30 p.m.—but we wandered aimlessly through Miner’s Landing, not finding an open restaurant. If you go, perhaps choose to check it out during a weekend. We ventured elsewhere for lunch.
5. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: The Seattle Great Wheel
Opened in 2012, the Great Wheel graces many photo ops of the Seattle waterfront, rising 200 feet above Elliott Bay. Located at Miner’s Landing, the attraction offers great views of Puget Sound, the Olympic mountains, and downtown Seattle, and the enclosed gondolas protect guests from inclement weather.
We planned to soar above the sound and check out the sites from high above the city—but after lunch, the weather prohibited our plans, reducing visibility and offering a view of clouds and rain instead. Still, I wanted to include the Seattle Great Wheel here, because it is considered one of those iconic things to do in Seattle—and we will definitely go back on a return trip (weather permitting!)
6. Things to Do in Seattle: Space Needle
Built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the Space Needle began as a drawing on a napkin, inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany. After many design iterations, architects Edward Carlson, Victor Steinbrueck, and John Graham Jr. created the iconic building that soars 605 feet above the city, offering 360 degree views of Seattle and making it one of the most recognized attractions in the country.
OK—again, the weather thwarted our plans to visit the Space Needle, but I feel that it’s one of those things that MUST be done in Seattle, weather permitting. I was disappointed, particularly because it was in such close proximity to one of our favorite outings—the Museum of Pop Culture. Still, it’s on our to-do list for when we return for future grandbaby visits. I’ll admit—I’m cheesy enough to want to dine in the rotating Skycity Restaurant!
Because I hope YOU experience beautiful, clear skies when you visit Seattle, I’ve added it to my list. If you go, please leave me a comment below and tell me what you think!
7. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Pike Place Market
When we planned our trip to Seattle, one of my most-anticipated destinations (besides baby Maya’s house, of course) was Pike Place Market. After all, as a former farmers’ market vendor and board member for our Spartanburg, SC market, as well as a local food lover, visiting Pike Place Market for me is like an artist visiting the Louvre for the first time.
Really. I’m that enamored with farmers’ markets.
Founded in 1907 in response to wholesalers price gouging produce sold to consumers —and farmers not receiving fair compensation–Seattle City Councilman Thomas Revell proposed a public market where farmers and consumers could meet directly, bypassing the wholesalers. Pike Place Market grew into a community of producers directly serving the public, with bakeries, produce stands, fish markets, butcher shops, specialty foods, spices, flower farmers, and every imaginable type of goods available.
Today, Pike Place Market includes more than 200 owner-operated shops, as well as 80 restaurants.
It’s magical—and completely overwhelming for a first-time visitor, even those of us armed with a map!
Pike Place Market welcomed us with an onslaught of smells, colors, and sounds as soon as we entered. Rows and rows of bright, locally grown tulips beckoned to me, while the seafood vendors displayed a glittering array of every imaginable fish—including a whole octopus. Funky fruits and organic vegetables added to my excitement, making me want to grab a basket and buy one of everything. Sadly, though, our daughter-in-law is adverse to fish in any form, and while I’m a major seafood lover, I didn’t think it would be wise to ask if I could cook a pot of bouillabaisse in her kitchen. (Next time, I think we need to rent a condo with a kitchen so that I can get my fresh seafood fix.)
If you’re looking for souvenirs, you’ll find them at the market. While craftspeople offer their work for sale at the booths, we also discovered many permanent shops within the nine-acre market, with everything from comics to Asian goods to jewelry.
We wandered throughout the market, but in the hour we spent there, I felt like I barely scratched the surface of Pike Place. While I could happily explore the market for an entire day, my family’s tolerance of all things market began to dissolve after a bit. The kids wanted to be fed, and they weren’t excited about seafood. (What is wrong with my children?!) If only I’d read this first, we could have stayed at the market longer.
As we headed out to find a non-fishy restaurant, I turned just in time to see the thing Pike Place Market might be most famous for: the fish vendors threw an entire, huge fish to a customer!
Happily satisfied with my local food foray, we set off for our next adventure.
8. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: The Gum Wall
No visit to Pike Place Market is complete without stopping by the Gum Wall, just outside the market. Yes, the Gum Wall. With the dubious distinction of being named one of the top five germiest tourist attractions (just after the Blarney Stone), the gum wall boasts, well, chewed up gum stuck on a wall.
Located in Post Alley under Pike Place Market, the gum wall began in 1993, with patrons of the Market Theater leaving quarters stuck to the wall with their gum outside of the box office. The trend spread, with tourists soon began leaving just the gum on the wall—many making artful design with the wads of gum.
However, the sugar in the gum caused the bricks to deteriorate. In November 2015, crews began the task of cleaning the wall, removing 2,350 pounds of gum over the course of 130 hours. Immediately after cleaning, a flash mob appeared. In a tribute to Paris, which had just experienced a terrorist attack, peace signs made from gum and other gum art reappeared on the wall.
I’ll admit—I didn’t linger to inspect the gum art. We peeked down the alley, I warned the kids to watch where they stepped (gum also finds its way to the ground), and we headed off to find lunch.
The Gum Wall | Address: 1428 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101 |Hours: Open Always | Price: Free
9. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
So, while we searched for lunch, we suddenly realized that it was late afternoon. Since we planned an early dinner, as the reviews of the restaurant I wanted to try recommended showing up at opening to get a table, we decided to skip lunch and eat chocolate instead.
That’s my idea of a happy lunch!
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company isn’t unique to Seattle. In fact, we’ve visited the Asheville location on our many outings. Still, it’s located near Pike Place Market, and the displays will entice anyone to forgo diets and eat for pure happiness.
I chose a salted caramel wrapped in delicious chocolate, as well as a milk chocolate with an orange cream filling, while Kristen, who couldn’t decide, finally selected a huge hunk of fudge. (Lucky girl—she taunted us with her fudge for several days!)
10. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Husky Clipper
Peter and I each proclaimed one thing that we absolutely wanted do on our trip to Seattle. I, being the ultimate geeky Fan Girl, wanted to visit Delancey, the restaurant founded by one of my favorite food writers, Molly Wizenberg. My wish didn’t work out due to a surly hostess who squelched my romanticized image of Delancey forever, giving my rain-soaked children and me a once-over as we dripped on the floor while Peter searched for parking. After a full assessment, she proclaimed there was “no seating available for at least 1-1/2 hours.” I knew the few pieces of chocolate we ate for lunch wouldn’t last 1-1/2 hours, so we abandoned my food dream.
Fortunately, Peter’s wish to see the 1936 Olympic Gold Medal Winning Husky Clipper worked out much better than my restaurant plans. After all, there wasn’t a 1-1/2 hour wait, or a pretentious hostess granting admission to see the boat.
Famously lionized in the book, Boys in the Boat, the Husky Clipper is the shell used by the nine-man crew from University of Washington to win an Olympic gold medal against Italy and Nazi Germany in 1936. Peter, lover of all things boat, read the book several years ago and wanted to see the shell in person.
It’s quite a story. After qualifying during the Olympic trials, the Olympic Committee notified the team that it needed $5000 to travel to the Olympics. The community pulled together, with Seattle newspapers asking for donations, while Chambers of Commerce throughout the state and the American Legion also donated to the fund.
With Hitler in the audience, an ill crew member, and a shaky start, the team suddenly found a reserve of power to come from behind to win the gold medal. The finish was so close, in fact, that just one second separated the three boats. The final times: USA 6:25.4, Italy 6:26.0, Germany 6:26.4.
The Olympic shell, along with other memorabilia, is displayed in the Windermere Cup Dining Hall. (Look up. The boat hangs from the ceiling.)
The Husky Clipper | Address: University of Washington, Conibear Shellhouse, 3896 Wall Walla Road, Seattle, WA 98195 | Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday | Price: Free
11. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Museum of Pop Culture
As an art lover, I debated between the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Pop Culture. Boy, did I pick a winner for our kids—and us, too.
Since we live in South Carolina, I try to get my art nerd fix whenever I visit a big city. I love art museums and can spend all day in one, but not everyone in my family feels the same about gazing at Impressionists or avant-garde sculptures.
The Museum of Pop Culture, however, offered something for everyone in our crew. It’s truly one of the best Seattle attractions we experienced.
From the Dalek displayed for our Dr. Who fans to the showcased swords of Lord of the Rings to the Dorothy’s dress from the Wizard of Oz, each display entertained both kids and adults.
The museum offers a wide range of exhibits, both permanent and temporary. From Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix to Star Trek and Rube Goldberg, we found ourselves spending far more time in the museum than we planned.
We loved the “Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction,” as well as the “Fantasy Hall of Fame,” where the kids gushed over the handwritten notes of Christopher Paolini, author of one of their favorite book series, Eragon.
However, the “Indie Game Revolution” exhibit found our family playing video games—even Peter! (I tried. I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve never been a gamer. I constantly crash when we play Mario Kart.) Besides the games, the exhibit shows how independent gamers create their games. It’s pretty interesting—and inspiring. Plus, not only can visitors play more than 20 games at the museum, they can play games at home online, too.
Besides the Indie Game exhibit, our kids loved the Sound Lab—a place they could explore the “tools of rock ‘n’ roll.” Visitors can try out electric guitars, drums, samplers, mixing consoles, and jam in one of the 12 sound-proof rooms. Personally, I realized my 11 years of piano lessons wouldn’t help me a bit in the Sound Lab.
Plan to spend at least half a day at the Museum of Pop Culture. (I’ll write more about it in a separate post, because there’s a lot to explore.)
12. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Woodland Park Zoo
If there’s a zoo, then our family must go. We waited until later in the week to head to the Woodland Park Zoo, because we found a day with only a little rain in the forecast.
A few sprinkles can’t keep away true animal lovers!
We thought we’d spend a few hours exploring the zoo. Instead, we found ourselves exhausted after traipsing through most of the 92 acres! (Wear good shoes. Really.)
From the animals indigenous to the Pacific Northwest to wallaroos, lions, tigers, penguins, lemurs, and gorillas, the diversity of animals provided great education and entertainment. Divided into bioclimatic zones, the habitats range from temperate rain forests found in the Pacific Northwest to humid tropical rainforests and coastal deserts.
The best part: the habitats offer beautifully landscaped, spacious homes for the animals. We all agreed that the Woodland Park Zoo may be one of the nicest zoos we’ve experienced.
Our favorite exhibits included the gray wolves, where we agreed that our dog, Chloe, probably shares DNA with the pack; the bears, where the kids came nose-to-nose with one of the furry residents through a glass partition; and toddler Yola and her gorilla family, where she played with us while her mother napped. Really, we could have spent all day watching Yola.
13. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Fremont Troll
Yes, there’s a troll lurking under a bridge in the town of Fremont, just north of Seattle, and you must visit. It’s less than three miles away from Woodland Park Zoo, so you may want to save a few minutes after the zoo to meet the troll.
In an effort to rehabilitate the Fremont area under the Aurora bridge, which was a dumping ground for trash and haven for drug users, the Fremont Art Council launched an art competition in the 1990s. Led by sculptor Steve Badanes, his team (calling themselves the Jersey Devils) submitted a model, drawing inspiration from the Scandinavian folktale, The Three Billy Goats Gruff. The team won the competition. Created with rebar steel, wire, and two tons of ferroconcrete, the team completed the troll in seven weeks.
Today, the troll is a favorite photo op spot, with visitors sitting on its arm or climbing on its head for the most interesting shots. While we waited to take photos, one visitor climbed the troll with her dog.
Fremont Troll | Address: Troll Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98103 | Hours: 24 hours/Always open | Price: Free
14. Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Kerry Park
Two miles south of the Fremont Troll, Kerry Park offers the most picturesque views of Seattle’s skyline. We almost missed the beautiful view, because the crew (including me) was tired and hungry. Still, with its close proximity, I convinced the family to wage on—and I’m so glad we did.
We luckily found parking on the street right by the park. It’s a small park, but even with less than ideal conditions, quite a crowd gathered to take selfies and skyline photos.
With fabulous views of Elliott Bay and the city, photographers strive for the ultimate, iconic postcard perfect picture. On clear days, Mount Rainier makes an appearance, too. Of course, the Space Needle adds the quintessential Seattle stamp on the skyline.
It’s a quick visit but worth the stop.
Kerry Park | Address: 211 W Highland Drive, Seattle, WA 98119 | Hours: 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. | Phone: 206.684.4075 | Price: Free
So, now you’re ready to explore Seattle! Enjoy your adventure–and don’t forget your raincoat!