Family Vacations to Seattle, Washington

Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington
Pike Place Market (courtesy, Seattle CVB-Tim Thompson)

Seattle Highlights

  • Go on an underground city tour.
  • Discover American music's roots at the Experience Music Project.
  • Ride to the top of the Space Needle.
  • Browse Pike Place Market (and dodge flying fish!)
  • Cheer on the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

Ideally located in the green enclave of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is surrounded by mountains, evergreen forests, Lake Washington, and the Puget Sound. An outdoorsman's gateway, in other words. In recent years, however, Seattle has become one of the more popular metropolitan areas in the U.S., so load up on caffeine—Starbucks is headquartered here—and get ready to enjoy a city buzzing with family delights.

On the rare sunny day, take in the panorama from the observation deck of the Space Needle or board an Argosy Harbor cruise for a water-level view of the city and surrounding scenery. Two other popular city stalwarts: Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square Historic District. People have been flocking to Pike Place's flower, vegetable, cheese, and other food stalls since 1907. Don't miss Pike Place Fish, near the market clock, where staff put on a show by hurling huge fish over customers' heads. Pioneer Square is a 90-acre historic district of art galleries, shops, eateries, and small parks. The Tlingit totem pole and the waterfall garden make the square a favorite city hangout.

Seattle served as a gateway for those seeking their fortunes in the Yukon Gold Rush in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Although small, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park's museum displays artifacts, photographs, and the big pile of tools, food, and gear that the daring dreamers needed to haul into the hills. For a lighthearted look at Seattle's Gold Rush past, take Bill Speidel's Underground Tour through the subterranean passages that were once the city's main roadways. The good-natured bawdiness and bathroom humor make the history slide down easily for gradeschoolers and teens.

The Pacific Science Center keeps kids engaged with hands-on science exhibits, educational programs, a planetarium, and IMAX screen 3-D theaters. Large-scale robotic insects mix with real bugs at the Insect Village, hundreds of butterflies inhabit the walkthrough Tropical Butterfly House, and budding meteorologists can report the weather on camera at Kids Works.

Gradeschoolers and teens especially like the Experience Music Project, an interactive music museum detailing the roots, legends, and trends in American popular music. Listen to and learn about blues, gospel, jazz, teen pop, hip-hop, funk, punk, and other contemporary sounds. Located at the same site is the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, which honors this genre's writers and explores how their visions of space and the future affect our culture. In Brave New Worlds, view computer generated images of futuristic cities found in The Jetsons, Blade Runner, and The Matrix.

You and your family can root for the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. If you can't get game tickets, the one-hour stadium tour takes you to the press box, the dugout, and the visitor's clubhouse. In nearby Everett, at the Future of Flight Aviation Center, opened in December 2005, you can design your own aircraft on a computer and tour Boeing's production plant, reputedly the largest building in the world.

Tip: If the kids are tired, hop aboard the vintage streetcars that traverse the historic district and also stop at Pike Place Market and the waterfront.

Recommended Side Trips: San Juan Islands, Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada)'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 6 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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