Thinking of taking your family to Seattle? Here’s what we did on our 4-Day Family Vacation in Seattle, plus more if you’re staying longer!
You’ve probably heard a ton about Seattle and you’d recognize the Skyline, but you might be wondering, is it safe to take your family there? Unfortunately, a lot of the big cities in the USA are becoming more & more dirty, dangerous, and overridden with homeless people. This might make you feel uneasy about taking your children to these famous places.
But, if you know how to navigate the city and where the safest, most family-friendly spots are, you don’t need to worry! The Seattle area has a lot to offer to the adventurous, outdoorsy, and curious traveler. It is the perfect combination of site seeing and outdoor activities!
When we flew in August 2021, we got direct flights through Alaskan Air from PHX to SEA for $104 per person. Once all the extra fees & taxes were added on it came to $140 per person. For summer flights to the PNW this is a great deal! You can definitely get cheap flights like this by booking at least 3 months in advance. But, we booked in June and still got a great deal! I was checking Google Flights every single day.
Now we also have the Southwest credit card that gives us benefits & helps us build points for free flights. Get your southwest credit card and start earning points today by following this link! www.southwest.com
Where to Stay in Seattle
Family Friendly Airbnbs in Seattle
Find family-friendly Airbnbs in the area by searching here: Family Friendly Airbnb
Most suggested Airbnbs for families in the Seattle area are about $200 a night. This can definitely add up, but if you are wanting something comfortable for your family where everyone will have their own space, this is a great option. Staying a little bit out of the city, in a suburb, will be a better family vibe as well as a little cheaper. Bellevue, Redmond, and Issaquah are all very nice areas with nearby family-friendly activities (as I mention below)! Here are a few great Airbnbs for around $200 per night:
It can be a challenge sleeping in a hotel with young kids because bedtime isn’t the same time for everyone. Mom & dad hardly get alone time and the kiddos can get thrown out of their routine. If you want to have a good base where the kids can take naps, you can cook meals, and you can enjoy more space, I suggest getting a condo or home through Airbnb or VRBO.
Family Hotels in Seattle
If you don’t mind sharing one room at a hotel, I always use Priceline to get the best deals. Not only is this the most cost-effective option for staying in the Seattle area, but if you book a hotel with free breakfast you are also eliminating the cost of 1 meal per day for the entire family. And you are still not the one cooking! The other perk is that many hotels have swimming pools and hot tubs that the whole family can enjoy at the end of a day out in the city.
Day 1: Downtown Seattle Attractions
Since the Seattle airport is only a 30-minute drive from the heart of downtown Seattle, we booked a flight that landed midday, had our TURO rental car delivered to us at the airport, and then we hit the sites immediately. Read our post about TURO & why we chose to rent through them rather than a traditional rental car company! You’ll be able to walk from place to place downtown, but you will want a car to venture out of the city. There is so much more to the Seattle area than just downtown.
As I said, we drove straight from the airport downtown. We parked near Pike Place since there are lots of things to see and do in that area! Parking downtown can be tricky. Pay close attention to the signs that outline the times of day you are allowed to park there. We got a nice ticket in LA for parallel parking during street cleaning hours. To avoid something dumb like that use paid lots or make sure the meters don’t have restricted hours! There are also many homeless people in this area, so just be mindful of this and prepare your kids for that experience.
Pike Place Market
Watch the fish throw, buy fresh flowers, get fresh produce, shop for other trinkets from local vendors, and eat amazing food at Pikes Place. Some of the bakeries nearby smell so good, you’ll want to track them down and get 1 of everything. Piroshky Piroshky was recommended to us and it looked so good, but we had already eaten by the time we passed it. You can also get a coffee from the original Starbucks or any of the other coffee shops around. There is almost always a long line for the Pikes Place Starbucks.
Keep your kids close by or in a stroller while you walk through Pike Place Market. It is busy, cars drive through, and there are lots of people. You don’t want to get separated from your children in a place like that! Everywhere is stroller accessible in the market.
Right below Pike Place Market is the famous Gum Wall. This unintentional, but now famous, Seattle landmark was started back in the 90’s. People attending the comedy shows at the Market Theater first stuck pennies on the wall with pieces of gum, but the pennies were later removed leaving the gum. After years of controversy of whether the gum should be there or not, it was deemed a tourist attraction in 1999 and allowed to continue. Some spots have gum coating that is several inches thick!
The alleyway is kind of dirty, but you can participate in this art piece and take some cute photos. If you forget to bring your own gum, you can grab some from the gumball ball machine at the end of the alley.
A short 5-minute drive or 20 minute walk from Pike Place Market is the iconic Space Needle. It is open daily from 9am-11pm. You will want to buy your tickets in advance because they have a limited capacity & are on a timed schedule to stagger the crowds. An adult ticket is $35 per person. If you have children over 5 years old, their tickets each cost $26 and $30 for senior citizens. https://sn.web.ticketing.siaticketing.com/?utm_source=sitefooter&utm_medium=website
This adds up quickly, so instead…
I suggest purchasing a CityPASS. This is the best way to make your money go the furthest on your family vacation to Seattle.
For $115 per adult & $87 per child, you will get entrance to the Space Needle, the Seattle Aquarium, and 2 other attractions of your choosing. This saves you a ton of money and gives you 1 to 2 more days of fun in the city! And if it’s bad weather, these attractions are all inside.
Day 2: Fun Outside of the City
Evans Creek Preserve
Outside of the city, you will find many beautiful places to explore with your family. Evan’s Creek Preserve is a free spot with great trails for beginner-level hikers or trail runners. If you are visiting during the summer, there are wild blackberries growing all over, right as you get out of the car! They are safe to eat, and honestly so delicious. It was a great free snack for our 1-year-old when we were out on the trail.
The moss-covered trees, slugs, and other wildlife you may see in the area make this a fun spot to take your family during your vacation to Seattle. You will enjoy the peace of nature, while still engaging your kids in an interesting activity.
Lake Sammamish State Park
Once you’ve gotten warm walking on the trails, you’ll drive to Lake Sammamish State Park right nearby. There are several beach areas where you can lay out, get some sun, and let the kids play in the calm water. There was a stand-up paddleboard or kayak rental vendor right on the beach, which we will be adding to our itinerary next time. It started drizzling so we had to quickly pack up before we got too drenched. Hopefully, you can go on a day with better weather! But know that Seattle weather is frequently cloudy and rainy, even during the summer.
A quick 20-minute drive from Lake Sammamish is Snoqualmie Falls. Parking is free. You walk the bridge from the parking lot to a short paved trail where you get an incredible view of the falls at the viewpoint.
If you want more of an adventure and a closer view of the falls, you can hike down on the 1.4 mile Snoqualmie Falls Trail. It is rated easy with only 335 ft of elevation change. This can be a busy trail on a nice day during the summer, but the views along the river are pretty amazing. This is a spot you do not want to miss on your family vacation in Seattle.
Day 3: Mt. Rainier Day Trip
If you are making the trip out to Seattle, you need to set aside a day or 2 to visit Mt. Rainier National Park. It is the 5th oldest National Park in the United States, with towering peaks, beautiful water features, and flourishing forest. Mt. Rainier National Park has activities for any adventurer, no matter how young or old.
Read my 1 Day Mt Rainier Hiking Guide for Families post.
Day 4: More Downtown Attractions
My original plan was that before heading to the airport, we’d spend one last day downtown! But since we were visiting my cousin, we just had a slow morning with them and let the kids play together. Depending on how much time you have will determine how many of these attractions you can visit. If you are staying longer than 4 days, I have more ideas listed below.
The Seattle Great Wheel
Park in one of the parking garages/lots near the waterfront. These are most likely going to be paid or metered spots. You can park in the garage right next to Pike Place Market, take the elevator to the bottom floor and walk out from there down to the waterfront. You can see the Great Wheel from some distance, so you will be able to find your way there pretty easily.
Right next to the Great Wheel is the Seattle Aquarium. You will pass by the Waterfront Park between the two where you can get beautiful pictures with the Bay behind you! You will most likely see ferry boats on the water, going to and from Bainbridge Island. (I will talk more about what there is to see on Bainbridge Island & why you would want to include that in your itinerary below.)
The Seattle Aquarium is highly rated and is a unique experience, seeing sealife right on the waterfront. See hundreds of fish, otters, birds, and other interesting species! As I mentioned above, if you get the CityPASS, you will have access to the Aquarium included in your ticket for $115 as well as the Space Needle and two other attractions of your choosing. It is a great deal if you have several days to spend in the city sightseeing. The pass is valid for 9 days after you purchase it, allowing you to spread out your activities or knock them all out in a couple days!
Fill the rest of your day by going to the other 2 attractions included in your CityPASS.
If you are traveling with young kids, I would definitely go to the Zoo as one of your attractions. The other 3 are a little more geared towards adults, but you can still find ways for it to be fun for the kids too.
We did not purchase the CityPASS because our trip was pretty short and we were visiting with family for some of the time we were there. Because of this, we are really looking forward to going back. Our main goal for this trip was to make it to Mt. Rainier which we got to do, but we know we only scratched the surface of fun family friendly things to do with in the Seattle area.
Staying for longer? Here are more things to do:
Get an elevated view of the cityscape at Kerry Park. Let the kids run around while you enjoy a picnic lunch and a glass of wine on a park bench. Occasionally, on a clear day, you will get a glimpse of Mt Rainier in the distance as a beautiful backdrop to the city.
Ferry to Bainbridge Island-
Take a day trip over to Bainbridge Island! If you don’t take your car on the ferry, grab lunch, or dessert, and walk around the town. There are a few museums within walking distance of the ferry terminal like the Kids Discovery Museum and the Bainbridge Museum of Art.
Olympic National Park–
If you do take your car on the ferry over to Bainbridge Island, you can explore the town and then wander through Olympic National Forest. You can drive the coast and stop at the beautiful rocky beaches, walk through the mystical woods, and find flowing rivers and waterfalls. Olympic National Park is on our Bucketlist and if you have the time, I think it should be on yours too!
Forks, where the Twilight series was filmed, is in this area! Make a stop, reminisce on the horrible acting in the movies, and even take a Twilight Tour! Just know that this is the “rainiest town in the contiguous U.S”, so go prepared with raincoats & umbrellas.
North Cascades National Park-
One of the lesser-known National Parks in Washington is North Cascades. A 2 hour drive from downtown Seattle lies this stunning park with towering mountains and beautiful glacier lakes. Think if Mt Rainier National Park & Glacier National Park had a baby… it would be North Cascades. Since this is a lesser known park, it is significantly less busy in the summer time than the other two National Parks I mentioned. Watch our friends- “Anyone Can Travel” vlog on YouTube about this incredible place! https://youtu.be/T4zEQlZueYU
Museum of Flight-
The largest independent air and space museum in the world is a short drive from downtown Seattle! Purchase tickets on their website here https://www.museumofflight.org/
Seattle Japanese Garden-
Open Tuesday- Sunday with seasonal hours. Visit their site to see current hours: https://www.seattlejapanesegarden.org/
It costs $8 per person for adults, $4 per child ages 6-17, and free admission for 0-5. This is an absolutely stunning place to go and admire.
For more Family Friendly Itineraries, read our other blog posts: www.theexplorlist.com/blog-posts