Seattle Family Vacation Guide

Last updated 2nd July 2024

Why Go

Seattle, while nationally famous for its rainy weather, is a delightful destination for families, and even boasts some sunshine now and then. (Locals have told me that they exaggerate the raininess to keep too many people from moving there!) The rain that does fall makes this largest city in the Pacific Northwest verdant and constantly feeling refreshed. In addition to urban delights, your clan will find plenty of outdoor activities, miles of stunning coastline and some great mountain backdrops.

Where to Go

There’s probably a law out there somewhere that you aren’t allowed to visit Seattle without a stop at the Pike Place Market (pikeplacemarket.org). But if so, it’s a brilliant piece of legislation, because the multi-block market is full of character—and characters!—not to mention all kinds of fresh and prepared foods, crafts, and souvenirs. Of course, you should stop and watch some fish being thrown around—sometimes the tourists even become part of the act, as the workers have a few well-rehearsed gags up their sleeves. You can even cross the street and visit the first ever Starbucks location … just look for the long line! Our kids loved this and were amused by how different (and slightly risqué) the original logo was.

The Public Market Center also known worldwide as Pike Place Market.

What to Do

When you’re done with the pilgrimage to the market area, there’s plenty more to see and do … check out the CityPASS Seattle to save a good chunk of money if you’ll be visiting several museums or attractions.

  • Space Needle. What better place to get your bearings on the city than from 650 feet up? The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and has come to represent Seattle in many people’s minds, both here and around the world. There’s a monorail that connects the area with Westlake Center Mall in downtown, a unique option that the children will enjoy. You can buy a ticket up to the observation level, or if you decide to eat at SkyCity, a rotating restaurant at the top, no ticket is required. The food is pricey, but excellent, and the view cannot be beat—try their excellent brunch.
  • Pacific Science Center. Almost next door to the Space Needle, this throwback science center is better suited for the 12 and under crowd than teens, but their two IMAX theaters and tropical butterfly house will enchant the entire family.
  • Harbor Cruise. Give your feet a rest and check out one of Argosy Cruises Harbor Tours, a narrated expedition that gives you some great perspective on the extended city on one side and the magnificent Olympic Mountains to the other. The cruises are an hour in length, although longer, more extended excursions are available, as well.
  • Visit a National Park. The Seattle area boasts two nearby national parks, Mount Rainier and Olympic. Rainier, at more than 14,000 feet, is an active volcano located less than 60 miles from a major U.S. city! It offers plenty of hiking opportunities, with views of wildflowers, waterfalls, and more. Olympic, located on the Olympic peninsula west of the city, is a longer haul, and involves a drive (and maybe a ferry ride, depending on your preference). Olympic, with stunning mountain ranges and temperate rain forests, is enormous and probably deserves several days.

Seattle skyline at sunset, WA, USA

Getting Around

Seattle’s airport, SEA-TAC, is a short drive south of downtown. Check Vancouver, Canada fares as well, as sometimes one city is much cheaper than the other, making the 3.5 hour drive from the north worthwhile. (You can also check out Portland, equidistant to the south for fares.) Downtown Seattle is a hilly town (think San Francisco), but if you’re up to burn off some of those Starbucks calories, you can get around pretty easily via walking, Uber and the city’s monorail.