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We live a short car ride away from Seattle, and love heading down for a small dose of big city life and all the amazing attractions that come with it. And Seattle has a ton! What I love about Seattle is that this city is truly unique. There are so many great attractions in Seattle that you simply cannot experience elsewhere.
The Seattle Center is a great example, with the Space Needle, and the beautiful, sprawling, park-city area of Seattle Center. Also, unlike downtown Seattle, which is bustling and can feel a bit overwhelming for families with kids, the Seattle Center is truly relaxing, with lots of space for kids to explore and run around. Plus, you can get away with not driving, which is a HUGE benefit when you have two kiddos in car seats.
The Seattle Center is our favorite place to stay when we visit Seattle with our kids. Here our some of our favorite activities while we are there.
Where to stay
What makes Seattle Center great is that you can do SO MUCH without driving. So when we want to hang out at the Seattle Center, we prefer to stay within walking distance. And there really is no better place for families than the Hyatt House. The Hyatt hotel chain is a favorite of ours, with reliably great rooms, QUIET rooms and excellent service.
The Hyatt House at Seattle Center is extra amazing for a few reasons. First, it’s RIGHT there- overlooking the Space Needle, and right in the action. Secondly, the rooms are much more spacious than a ‘standard’ room in most hotels. And for a surprisingly reasonable price, you can upgrade to a suite! Suites are either studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom, and all have a beautiful kitchen. They are roomy with a sleeping area and a separate living room area, nicely updated, and comfortable. And even if you don’t plan on cooking in your room, it’s so nice to have a space to eat take out, or a fridge to store leftovers or snacks.
What to do
One of the reasons I love the Seattle Center is that it’s just a beautifully designed area. Simply strolling around the area, taking in the views, enjoying the public art, the open grassy areas, and, if you are lucky, the amazing Seattle sunshine (trust us – Seattle summers are EPIC – perfect weather and almost NO rain). So take your time getting your bearings at the Seattle Center.
At the center of the Seattle Center – the main attraction – maybe the reason you came to Seattle – the SPACE NEEDLE! By the time you’ve made it to the bottom of the Space Needle, you’ve probably been checking it out from every view on your way over. And as you get closer, there are all kinds of great photo ops that you will certainly enjoy.
Now I’m probably going to get a little controversial here. Going up to the top of the Space Needle IS cool. But it’s not mandatory. The lines are long, the ticket price is high, and it just might be a disappointment, especially if you are traveling with young children who are just not going to care. So, if it’s on your bucket list, go for it. But if you just aren’t excited to pay that ticket price, skip it. Looking at it from the ground is good enough!
Do NOT miss the Pacific Science Center if you are traveling with kids. Absolutely do not miss it. It’s an amazing hands-on museum with tons of really fun activities for toddlers through adults. The museum is divided up into sections by topic. Exhibits include some very cool water play, human body, butterflies and other insects, the Earth, space, dinosaurs and more. Every exhibit is literally packed full of hands-on activities, and they are all really engaging and fun.
The International Fountain is ENORMOUS and quite a sight to see. You can easily just sit on the edge and enjoy the views for quite some time. It has 5 water and music synchronized shows and and dazzles in the sunlight. The mist cools you off on hot summer days, but is totally avoidable on chillier days.
If you and your kids are a bit more adventurous (and the weather allows), climb right down and play in the bowl of the fountain. You can get soaked, or just a gentle mist and will have tons of fun running around down in this beautiful fountain.
My kids and I LOVE children’s museums and make sure to visit one everywhere we go. Of course Seattle is no exception. This one has a great, HUGE construction area complete with kids construction hats and gear, a Global village where you can ‘visit’ three cities, a large and well-stocked market complete with grocery carts and cash registers and more.
This museum is on the smallish side, and you probably won’t spend an entire day here, but the space is well used so every space feels large enough to explore, and exhibits are obviously well thought out and will be enjoyed!
This playground might just be the most amazing playground I’ve ever seen. That said, it’s really only for older children and even adults. In order to get up to the HUGE swirly slide, you must first climb up a tall, and extremely complex net ladder. It’s probably 20 feet up before you get into any kind of structure, so it’s possible (though unlikely) for younger, smaller kids to fall quite far. The slide is also perhaps a bit TOO epic for younger children.
Daring and athletic kids will absolutely adore this playground. It’ll probably be the most challenging and fun playground they’ll ever play on. Plus, the playground is just stunning. They’ll be dying to get out and climb on it.
For younger families, there are a couple of smaller playground pieces off to the side. One is sort of a miniature version of the main playground. While we appreciated the effort of the park to include all ages, my kids know that they aren’t at the ‘main attraction’, and aren’t as interested. Even for my littles, the playground is fun to check out, and test their growing skills.
Things we Skip with Younger Kids
There are some really great Chihuly pieces that can be enjoyed from outside the museum, sparkling in the sunshine. And we recommend just enjoying those pieces with your kiddos. The colors and the pieces are truly amazing, but my kids just really don’t enjoy checking out museums where you can’t touch anything.
MoPop has some great kid-friendly exhibits for sure, but MOST of it is designed for more mature visitors. There is a lot of history of rock music stuff, movie making, and more that kids, especially younger kids, just aren’t going to care about.
Where to Eat
Another huge plus of the Seattle Center is the numerous super convenient food options. During busy summer days, the Seattle Center is filled with food trucks and carts offering treats and snacks. Restaurants from quick to fine-dining are within walking distance, and so many of them are simply delicious.
Right in the middle of the Seattle Center, the Armory provides an elevated food court style experience. Everyone in your family will find what they are looking for at the Armory with choices ranging from sweet treats, to burgers, meat pies to vegan specialties.
The area can get pretty crowded and a bit loud. So we recommend grabbing your food, then heading outside to the wonderful grass area right out the door for a picnic. The wide-open spaces at the Seattle Center means you easily find yourself a nice area to stretch out and relax.
Other Dining Options On-Site
For more upscale tastes, and parents who aren’t afraid to take their kids to nicer restaurants, there are a couple of amazing options. At the Chihuly Museum, the Collections Cafe offers casual dining with a more local, Pacific northwestern feel.
At MoPop, Culture Kitchen by Wolfgant Puck offers another mouth-watering option. Again the meals are casual, but with an upscale ambiance and truly delicious food. They do have a children’s menu, which is always comforting to me- indicates they are at least somewhat OK with me bringing my kids.
At both Culture Kitchen and the Collections Cafe, you’ll want to plan ahead and make reservations if you’d like to visit.
Off-site But Close By
If you are willing to take a bit of a walk, check out Coba on the northwest side of the Seattle Center for excellent Vietnamese dishes, with takeout offered (since eating out with kids isn’t the MOST fun).
Closer to the Hyatt House, we love Mantra Thai and Zeeks Pizza. Both have really great, kid-friendly food, that you can take to go. If you are staying at the Hyatt House, you’ll be able to spread out and eat in comfort in your hotel room.
Other Things to do
Another reason that the Seattle Center is a great place to stay – the monorail. You can take the monorail from the Seattle Center to downtown Seattle, just a couple of blocks from Pike Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Waterfront Park, Seattle Wheel, and more. This gives you easy access to many of the major attractions in Seattle withOUT driving!
The monorail is easy to ride, and fun for kids. In fact, for my family, it’s a bit of an attraction on its own! Plus it’s stroller-friendly. And because the area near Pike Place is full of big hills, and it’s a bit of a walk down to the Aquarium, you will probably want that stroller.
If you are heading to Seattle, check out some of our other Seattle posts, including perhaps our FAVORITE Seattle attraction.