A seaside city that is far from sleepy, Seattle’s maritime history, friendly locals and scrumptious food are just some of the magnetic attractions that will draw your family in during your visit. This Washington State gem at America’s north-western tip is a great multi-day stopover en route to Canada’s ski fields. Whether a pit-stop or a destination in its own right, you’ll want to spend several sleeps in Seattle to see all the sights as a family.
Before you begin, snag a City Pass to make your sightseeing easier and cheaper. Knock 50% off entry to five out of a list of seven famous Seattle attractions. You’ll visit the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Harbor Cruises, and your choice of either the Museum of Pop Culture or Woodland Park Zoo, and either Chihuly Glass or the Pacific Science Centre. City Passes are also available in some other metropolises in America, including Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and New York City.
With so much to discover, where should you start?
The Family Travel top pick was the Pike Place Market. Situated on the waterfront since 1907, you’ll find everything here from fresh produce and crafts, to book stores and a shopfront entirely of Hot Wheels matchbox cars! But that’s not all… Something very fishy happens at Pike Place. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the famous fish-throwing tradition between mongers!
Across the road, Mum and Dad can grab a coffee from the original Starbucks if they’re prepared to wait in a hefty queue. Or flash a cheesy grin and sample some of the flagship cheddar at Beecher’s Handmade Cheeses. We got to see the cheesemakers stirring huge vats of liquid cheese while we were there, and learned loads about how the scrumptious dairy ends up in our sandwiches. Around the corner, wander down the sticky, colourful alleyway known as the ‘Gum Wall.’ This bizarre attraction consists of thousands of pieces of chewing gum stuck on the bricks – so many that the wall has to be regularly cleaned with a high-pressure hose.
Nearby, you’ll be able to start making the most of your City Pass on the Argosy Harbour Cruise tour, which is perhaps better suited to teen travellers with patience and a penchant for history. There is an especially funny story about an unusual shipping accident that occured in 1992. Shiploads of yellow rubber duckies spilled into the ocean and began to pop up in ports and beaches around the world months later.
More stories of the ocean are found at the brilliant Seattle Aquarium, in the same neighbourhood. The Aquarium has done a great job making your visit super easy for kids – touch-friendly rock pools are at ideal reaching-height, creatures are at eye level, pram access is prime and there are steps up to the sink in the bathrooms. Walk through a jellyfish donut, meet some puffins and otters, and watch the journey of salmon as they hatch and learn to swim upstream.
Move away from downtown, waterfront Seattle and head to the town centre to go up into the sky. The Space Needle has nice views over the city, although it won’t take you long to explore. In view of the towering needle is the Chihuly Glass gallery full of bright colours, sculptures that light up, and interesting oddities to spot in the garden. The fragile artworks make this a tricky attraction for little legs that like to run around. An alternative is the fantastic Pacific Science Centre which is also a great wet weather option. Teens and tweens will go mad over the Museum of Pop Culture which covers everything from Star Wars to David Bowie and fairy-tale costumes and has super-interactive programming and gaming exhibits.
There is plenty to be done out of central Seattle. On your way back to the airport, touchdown at the Museum of Flight. Eager aviators will take off and explore the Kids Flight Zone, 3D movies and Apollo exhibit of the world’s largest independent air and space museum, which can hold your baggage while you wander. If you have a car during your stay, be sure to drive out to the Woodland Park Zoo and the great hiking trails in the other parklands around Seattle. In snow season, you can ski at Mt Rainier or Crystal Mountain. For the rest of the year, be sure to bring your rain jacket as you can guarantee it will sprinkle at some stage during your stay.