Two Days in Seattle, Endless Family Fun

04/04/2014  | 

Seattle attracts more than 10 million visitors per year and is known world-wide for its stunning setting and urban sophistication. But, many first-time visitors are surprised to also find a rich array of family attractions that make for an ideal getaway for kids and adults alike.

Many of the city’s top visitor attractions are within the compact and easily walkable downtown district.

In the heart of downtown Seattle — and often referred to by Seattle locals as the “soul” of the city — the Pike Place Market is the oldest continuously operated farmers market in North America. Here you’ll find the world-famous low-flying salmon (Pike Place Fish Company), loads of colorful produce stands, arts and crafts, collectibles and affordable bites to fit big and small appetites.

Just a few blocks down First Avenue is Pioneer Square, Seattle’s historic district. Home to beautifully preserved Victorian Romanesque architecture, Pioneer Square also features the historic Smith Tower which has a public observation deck, as well as the Underground Tour which takes visitors beneath the streets for a glimpse of Seattle’s pioneer past. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park commemorates Seattle’s role as a gateway to the gold rush in the 1890s when the young town provided provisions and transportation to some 70,000 prospectors.

The Seattle Waterfront showcases Seattle’s natural deep-water harbor, Elliott Bay, which teems with trade — ferry boats, luxury cruise liners, sightseeing tour boats and myriad pleasure craft. The waterfront and its piers are home to many souvenir shops and fresh seafood restaurants. Attractions and tours include the Seattle Aquarium; Argosy Cruises which offers harbor cruises and trips to Tillicum Village, an authentic Native American cultural center off shore; and the Seattle Great Wheel which offers scenic rides 275 feet above Pier 57 and the bay.

Next door, the 44-block Chinatown-International District Chinese blends the history, culture and commerce of Seattle’s diverse populations of Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Vietnamese and Southeast Asians. Chinatown Discovery Tours offers guided walks through the district. Don’t miss Uwajimaya, one of the largest Asian grocery and gift stores in the United States at Fifth and Weller.

Seattle Center

The crown jewel of Seattle’s attractions is the Seattle Center, the 74-acre legacy of the 1962 World’s Fair. Its distinctive 605-foot Space Needle is the city’s iconic landmark. From its observation deck, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city and Puget Sound, back-dropped by the snowcapped Cascade Range to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the west. Travel time from the central business district is just two minutes aboard the Seattle Center Monorail which departs the downtown shopping district from Fifth and Pine.

While at the Seattle Center, kids of all ages will enjoy the EMP Museum, Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Pacific Science Center.

Learn to play the electric guitar or record your own rock tune at the EMP Museum. The colorful Frank Gehry-designed building houses an array of interactive music exhibits and traveling exhibitions.

The Pacific Science Center is a hands-on learning center for kids and families offering permanent and traveling exhibits. Permanent exhibits feature Professor Wellbody’s Academy of Health and Wellness, an interactive dinosaur display, Tropical Butterfly House and a popular Puget Sound Model and Saltwater Tide Pool. The Boeing IMAX Theatre boasts a screen six stories high and 80 feet wide, with 12,000 watts of stereo sound.

The Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition showcases the most comprehensive collection of Washington-native Dale Chihuly’s artwork ever assembled, with glass, sculpture, gardens and a 40-foot Glass House with glass chandeliers flowing from the ceiling.


Just beyond downtown Seattle, a number of other superb family attractions await exploration. The Emerald City Trolley makes them easy with three loop tours, both north and south. Experienced guides narrate the tours and guests can hop on and off as they like. Optional two- and three-day passes are available.

Or, tour the city by land and sea with Ride the Ducks, which deploys vintage DUKW vehicles (“Ducks”) — amphibious landing craft developed by the United States Army during World War II. The Seattle tour encompasses downtown Seattle by land and Lake Union by water.

The Museum of Flight, just south of downtown at Boeing Field, recently opened a new Space Shuttle Trainer exhibit which features a full-sized NASA mock orbiter which trained all shuttle astronaut crews for space travel. The museum also has an antique Lockheed Model 10-E aircraft like the one Amelia Earhart flew during her attempt to fly around the world in 1937.

The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in South Lake Union features thousands of artifacts and images of the region’s history and culture, as well as the newly opened Bezos Center for Innovation which showcases the city’s role in innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in the Ballard neighborhood raise or lower ships between six and 26 feet with the tides and they’re one of the city’s top visitor attractions. You can reach them via an Argosy Cruises tour from the Seattle Waterfront or via land by the Emerald City Trolley.

Nearby, the Woodland Park Zoo is often ranked among the top zoos in the country, famed for setting international standards for animal care and its realistic landscape exhibits that allow animals to thrive and be seen in naturalistic environments. Popular exhibits include an African Savanna, Northern Trail, Tropical Rain Forest, Bug World, Temperate Forest Zone, Willawong Station and Australasia Zone.

Gateway to the Pacific Northwest

Seattle is surrounded by salt water Puget Sound and fresh water lakes, two mountain ranges and three national parks. Day and night skiing are just an hour east in the Cascade Mountains. Consider a guided sea kayaking tour in the heart of the city or jump aboard a seaplane for a quick “flightseeing” trip. Victoria, B.C. and Washington’s scenic and unspoiled San Juan Islands are quickly reached by catamaran and seaplane. Vancouver and mainland British Columbia are easily reached by train, automobile and motor coach.

Three national parks lie within a two-hour drive of Seattle. Mt. Rainier National Park features the snow-capped 14,411-foot mountain which backdrops the city’s skyline. The Olympic National Park features the only temperate rain forests in the continental U.S. and the North Cascades National Park offers winter downhill and cross-country skiing and summer hiking amid stunning views of jagged peaks and glacial lakes.


Getting There

Visit to learn more or plan your trip to Seattle.

Need personal assistance?

The Seattle Visitor Center is a complimentary, state-of-the-art, full-service concierge and visitor information facility, offering bookings and reservations for dining, tours and transportation, along with detailed information on sports, cultural and local events, personal services and more. It’s located in the upper Pike Street lobby of the Washington State Convention Center at Seventh Avenue and Pike Street in the heart of downtown Seattle and is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and summer weekends 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Call 866-732-2695 or 206-461-5840.

The Market Information Center is a companion location of the Seattle Visitor Center, located in the heart of the Pike Place Market at First Avenue and Pike Street, open daily 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Call 866-732-2695 or 206-461-5840.


Visitor information packets may be requested by mail, e-mail or via the request submission form on Visit Seattle’s web site. The web site also features a comprehensive, searchable calendar of events that is updated twice monthly and is a useful trip planning tool. For more travel information or questions, consumers may call, e-mail or write to:

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