Whether you are just planning your first trip to Seattle or you have visited many times, you will no doubt find many new experiences here. To help you plan a vacation of a lifetime, we rounded up our 30 favorite things to do in Seattle with a family. Let’s get started!
1. Soar to the Top of the Space Needle
The Space Needle was built for 1962 World’s Fair and today attracts up to 2.3 million visitors a year.
As one of the tallest structures west of the Mississippi River, the needle is 605 ft high, 138 ft wide and weighs 9,550 tons.
The Space Needle was built to withstand winds of up to 200 mph and earthquakes of up to 9 magnitudes and equipped with 25 lightning rods.
Today, the Space Needle is perhaps the best known Seattle landmark.
When visiting the Space Needle, you can explore a museum inside before you take an elevator to the top.
At the top, check out telescopes installations where you can see a spectacular 360-degree view of the Pacific Northwest.
2. Catch a Glimpse of Local Life at Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market got its name after the central street, Pike Place. This street runs northwest from Pike Street to Virginia Street.
As one of the oldest public markets in the United States, the market opened on August 17, 1907, and today more than 10 million people visit annually.
The market was built on the edge of a steep hill and consists of several lower levels located below the main. Each level features a variety of unique shops: comic books, collectibles, antique dealers, family-owned restaurants. In addition here you’ll find one of the oldest hat shops in Seattle.
One well-known attraction at Pike Place Market is the “flying fish.” Spot local vendors work in perfect synchrony as they toss produce to each other over visitor’s heads.
Free parking is available but limited while the main street that runs through the market is usually overflowing with pedestrians. Therefore, it’s best to walk or take public transport when you visit this famous Seattle attraction.
3. Enjoy a Glass Escapade at Chihuly Garden and Glass
A must-see exhibit in the Seattle Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass opened in May 2012. Here, you can enjoy a series of stunning glass installations. The project features three primary components – the Garden, the Glasshouse, and the Interior Exhibits.
The garden is dispersed with glass sculptures that mimic alien plants growing among the familiar trees.
Within the Glasshouse, you will find a100-foot long ceiling installation. This is one of Chihuly’s largest sculptures in existence.
When you visit, check out the short videos to see the craft behind the creations. There is also a glass blowing demonstration on the hour every hour, which is unique and fun for all ages.
4. Take a Peek at Contemporary Art at the Museum of Pop Culture
The Museum of Pop Culture is a nonprofit venue dedicated to contemporary popular culture and founded by Paul Allen in the year 2000.
This museum went by many names. known as Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame and later EMP Museum.
The museum is home to dozens of exhibits, including the Experience Music Project, Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.
Inside, will enjoy a variety of interactive exhibits that span the range from popular music to science fiction.
One of the most popular areas in the museum is a video game and musical instrument area.
5. Unwind and Learn at the Seattle Center
As an educational, art, tourism, and entertainment center of Seattle, the center is a great place to explore during your first visit to Seattle.
You’ll find the center just north of Belltown. The 605-foot tall Space Needle is the marks the middle of the Seattle Center. Around here you’ll find no shortage of restaurants, museums and shops to explore.
The Seattle Center spans an area of 74 acres, some of which was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair.
A great place for souvenir shopping, you may find local artists that peddle leather bracelets, ponchos, and other souvenirs. On weekends you might encounter a school band and or street musicians in Seattle’s Center.
6. A Different Perspective at the Gum Wall
The Gum Wall was named one of the top 5 germiest tourist attractions in the world. The gum wall is exactly what it sounds like – a brick wall covered in used chewing gum.
You’ll find this gross attraction in Post Alley, under Pike Place Market in Downtown Seattle.
The location is pleasantly hipster-esque with two sides of bizarre and just downright gross.
Gum wall tradition began around 1993 when patrons of Unexpected Productions’ Seattle Theatresports stuck gum to the wall and placed coins in the gum blobs. A scene in a 2009 film Love Happens starring Jennifer Aniston was shot at the wall.
If you are going to visit The Gum Wall, simply take some gum and go stick it on the wall.
This area is a fun spot to create unique pictures. The corridor does have a unique gum smell. Some find it disgusting, but others think it’s charming.
7. Go on a Wildlife Escapade at Woodland Park Zoo
The Woodland Park Zoo originated as a small menagerie on the estate of a Canadian-born lumber mill owner and real estate developer, Guy C. Phinney.
On December 28, 1899, Phinney’s wife sold the 188-acre Woodland Park to the city for $5,000 in cash and the assumption of a $95,000 mortgage.
Today the zoo is located in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle, and receives more than a million visitors a year.
Here you’ll find 92 acres of exhibits and public spaces.
Today the zoo is home to more than one thousand animals including bears, Asian elephants and big cats.
8. Explore the Gas Works Park
Gas Works Park is a 19.1-acre public park that contains remnants of the sole remaining coal gasification plant in the United States.
The plant operated from 1906 to 1956 and was bought by the city of Seattle for park purposes in 1962.
The park was designed by Seattle landscape architect Richard Haag and opened to the public in 1975.
On January 2, 2013, the park was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The old gasworks station is a unique spot and great for photography.
The park offers picnic tables, playground equipment, and public restrooms. There is sufficient parking space on premises.
9. Learn the History of Aviation at the Museum of Flight
As the largest private air and space museum in the world, The Museum of Flight attracts over 500,000 visitors every year.
The museum was established in 1965 – the golden age of airplane travel.
Popular with local schools, the museum serves more than 140,000 students every year through its onsite programs. These include a Challenger Learning Center, an Aviation Learning Center, and a summer camp (ACE). In addition, the museum offers outreach programs that travel throughout Washington and Oregon.
When visiting The Museum of Flight, you will find four different buildings. The most popular structure is a 3-acre covered lot packed with planes and jets from all ages.
In addition, you can enjoy the interactive flight simulations, a movie theater, a kid’s corner, and multiple planes you can sit in.
Do not forget to drop by at the gift shop and café as well as the wonderful section dedicated to the space program.
10. Discover Something New at the Pacific Science Center
As an independent, non-profit science center in Seattle, the Pacific Science Center serves more than 1 million people each year. Its mission is to ignite curiosity and fuel a passion for discovery, experimentation, and critical thinking.
The center sits on 7.1 acres of land at the southwest corner of Seattle Center.
At the Pacific Science Center, you’ll find year-round youth, teen, family, and adult programs.
One of the most popular activities at the center are the practical science shows.
When you visit, do not forget to check out the butterfly exhibit.
In addition, the laser show s not to be missed. The laser show features popular music and is a coordinated, colorful affair.
11. Take a Ride on the Seattle Great Wheel
The Seattle Great Wheel is a giant Ferris wheel at Pier 57 on Elliott Bay in Seattle.
It was the tallest Ferris wheel on the West Coast of the United States when it opened on June 29, 2012.
Around 200 people lined up for the first ride on the wheel which has an overall height of 175 feet.
The Seattle wheel is only one of the three to be built over water. If you are planning to visit The Seattle Great Wheel, it will give you unbeatable views of the city, the mountains in the distance, and the water.
The line moves pretty quickly after you get your tickets. Although the cost is a bit much, you can get drinks and take them on the ride and you need to finish them before you can leave the area.
12. Enjoy the Picturesque Views at Kerry Park
This is a small public park and viewpoint on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill in Seattle.
In 1927, Albert S. Kerry and Catherine donated the land to the city so everyone can stop by and enjoy the view.
The park encompasses 1.26 acres and includes a railing and several benches facing south towards the skyline.
It is considered as the most iconic views of the city skyline and offers the best views of the city.
The park was named after the couple lumberman and business magnate Albert S. Kerry and his wife Catherine.
While visiting the park, there are a few benches to sit on and a telescope to enjoy the view. Parking availability can be tight since there are just a handful of spaces designated for the park.
If possible, it is best to take a ride or walk to the park.
13. Go on a Trail at Discovery Park
As the city’s largest public park that contains 11.81 miles of walking trails, it sits on a 534-acre park on the shores of Puget Sound.
In 1975, the Discovery Park Loop Trail designated a National Recreation Trail that runs 2.8 miles through the park, connecting to other trails.
There is a lighthouse located on West Point and a sewage treatment plant on the south side of the North Beach strip.
Remember that both the Fort Lawton Historic District and the lighthouse are on the National Register of Historic Places.
You will surely enjoy the stunning views of Puget Sound and you can see Mt. Rainier rising in the distance on the south beach.
You can also view ships, mountains, and even a Great American Bald Eagle and hawks flying around on a huge bluff or cliff.
During your visit, there are clean bathrooms, abundant parking space, and a children’s activity room at the Visitors Center and several hikes/trails to choose from.
14. Spend Time at Ballard Locks
Ballard Locks is a complex of locks situated at the west end of Salmon Bay which is one of the busiest locks in the country.
It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks.
The construction of the locks profoundly reshaped the topography of Seattle and the surrounding area.
The locks carry more boat traffic than any other lock in the U.S. They can also elevate a 760-foot by 80-foot wide vessel 26 feet from the level of Puget Sound to the level of Salmon Bay in 10-15 minutes.
Check out how everything was created by watching the video show in the visitor’s center.
Do not forget the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens which attracts millions of visitors annually, making it one of Seattle’s top tourist attractions.
15. Take a Break Outdoors at Washington Park Arboretum UW Botanic Gardens
This public park in Seattle includes a playfield and the Seattle Japanese Garden.
Most of the park is taken up by the Washington Park Arboretum, a joint project of the University of Washington, the Seattle Park and Recreation, and the nonprofit Arboretum Foundation.
The entire length of Arboretum Creek is within the park while all the trails and routes are marked with distance.
You will enjoy a great variety of flora, some of them within the beautiful park.
If you want a paved and quiet bike path in Seattle, the Loop trail is a great option. Do forget to drop by at the visitor center and gift shop in the middle of the park.
16. Enjoy a Great Rooftop Experience at the Smith Tower
Smith Tower is among the tallest skyscrapers outside New York City at the time of its completion.
The 38-story, 484 ft tower is the oldest skyscraper in the city that was completed in 1914 and named after its builder, the firearm and typewriter magnate, Lyman Cornelius.
It remained the tallest building on the West Coast for nearly half a century until the Space Needle overtook it in 1962.
Smith Tower is located in Pioneer Square in Seattle and filled with amazing history stories, historical artifacts from the roaring ’20s, a cool old fashioned elevator, and an awesome rooftop experience.
Check out the short exhibit that provides some history on the building before taking the elevator up.
During Happy Hour, you can enjoy drinks and deals for their Rum Runner.
17. Drop by at the Fremont Troll
This public sculpture in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle has been sculpted by four local artists – Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead.
The idea of a troll living under a bridge is derived from the Scandinavian (Norwegian) folklore.
The artists have the copyright to the Fremont Troll images and sued businesses that use its image commercially without written permission.
If you are going to drop by, expect street parking only on the same block as the troll but there is paid parking within the neighborhood.
Just within a half-mile radius of the Fremont Troll, there are great restaurants and gift shops. There is not much distance between the market and the troll and you can see
The Statue of Lenin along the way. Postcards, beer, and other products approved by the artists are commercially available, and use is free to non-profit organizations.
18. Relax and Enjoy at Golden Gardens Park
The Golden Gardens Park includes one of the best wedding venues in Seattle.
The bathhouse of the park was designated a historic landmark by the City of Seattle in 2005.
The public park is bisected by the BNSP Scenic Subdivision railway line and includes wetlands, beaches, hiking trails, and picnic and playground areas.
The park is well-known for the birds that live or migrate there like Mallard ducks, Eagles, Seagulls, Wood ducks, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Canada geese, and Red-winged blackbirds.
You can enjoy kitesurfing, sailboarding, and other wind-driven sports while sailing, kayaking, and canoeing are popular in this park.
When visiting Golden Gardens Park, they have food and other amenities as well as enough space to chill, play games, get some shade, and enjoy the weather.
Remember that the parking lot fills up fast while the beach is crowded on weekends. It is best to drop by during a weekday if you want fewer people and cars.
19. Take a Ride on the Elevator to the Top of Columbia Center Office Building, Food Hall and Observatory
As the tallest building in Seattle, this 76-story skyscraper reaches a height of 933 ft.
The construction began in 1982 and was developed by Martin Selig while the design was by Chester L. Lindsey Architects.
It was completed in 1985 and was formerly named the Bank of America Tower and Columbia Seafirst Center.
The center was the tallest structure on the West Coast at the time of its completion.
In 2017, it was the fourth-tallest, behind buildings in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Once you reach the 76th floor of the building, you can see the breathtaking views of Seattle and experience a long ride on the elevator and pleasant service.
The historical information is presented on the wall below the viewing windows and also available through a touch screen monitor.
You can also stop by on the 73rd floor which requires you to buy a ticket to access a nice café, Wi-Fi, restaurant, and an observation deck.
20. Enjoy Outdoor Art at Olympic Sculpture Park
The Olympic Sculpture Park is a free public park that consists of a 9-acre outdoor sculpture museum and beach that opened on January 20, 2007.
The idea of green space for a large, monumental sculpture in Seattle was first discussed between Virginia and Bagley Wright, Mary and Jon Shirley, and then Seattle Art Museum director Mimi Gardner Gates.
The lead designer of the park was Weiss/Manfredi Architects, who collaborated with Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, and other consultants.
It is a great place to take a stroll through some stunning art and up along the coast.
If you want to skip some stones or let your puppy go for a swim, check out the micro beach. When hunger strikes, there are some nice restaurants right next to it that are worth checking out.
21. Spend Time at the Seattle Art Museum
The Seattle Art Museum opened on January 20, 2007, with a growing collection from 1,926 pieces in 1933 to nearly 25,000 as of 2008.
The original museum provided an area of 25,000 square feet and the present facilities provide 312,000 square feet plus a 9-acre park.
In 1983-1984, the museum received a donation of half of a downtown city block, the former J.C. Penney department store on the west side of Second Avenue between Union and Pike Streets.
The museum library has grown from approximately 1,400 books to 33,252.
You will enjoy a lot of modern and contemporary art when you visit the museum along with educational talks and walks.
The art on display covers a broad section of cultures and periods that you will surely learn a lot from.
22. Unwind at the Downtown Park
This is a 20-acre park consisting of a circular ring with a large central green space surrounded by a moat and walking trails.
Downtown Park is located in downtown Bellevue. In the early 1980s, economic forces were rapidly influencing the character of downtown Bellevue where its center was emerging as a hub for commercial and business activity, and the city as a desirable residential community.
The idea for the park was created from civic and private leadership.
The park was designed for passive and unstructured use and as a “respite” from the activities of busy urban life.
You can find several benches for sitting and a fountain at the north end near the mall.
The interior of the park is a large field of grass with trees in the middle and a play area for children. If you want to grab a bite, there are several good places within walking distance.
23. Take a Break at Alki Beach Park
For a weekend getaway, Alki Beach Park is an ideal spot that consists of the Elliott Bay beach between Alki Point and Duwamish Head and has 0.5 miles of beachfront.
This 135.9-acre park located in West Seattle was the first public salt-water bathing beach on the west coast of the U.S. In 1952, the replica of the Statue of Liberty was installed.
On June 27, 1959, the beach was closed while police evacuated 1,000 people due to reports of an unexploded naval mine.
During your stay, you can find nice local restaurants and a well-cared-for boardwalk.
There are picnic tables and volleyball courts and places to put in kayaks and paddleboards.
Do not forget to check out the bikes and 4-wheeled carts to rent across the street.
24. Spend Time at the International Fountain
This concrete fountain and sculpture was installed in Seattle Center. It was designed by Tokyo-based architects Kazuyuki Matsushita and Hideki Shimizu during 1961-1962 for the Century 21 Exposition.
The fountain was built on the site of the former Mercer Playground in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood which had stood in that location since the 1910s.
The fountain was rebuilt in 1995 by WET Design as part of a $6.5 million project including landscape and design by Kenichi Nakano.
The fountain is contained in a bowl of 220 feet in diameter and the dome was rebuilt in stainless steel.
If you are going to visit, the fountain is pretty big and designed in a way to encourage people to hang out down at the base of the bowl.
The fountain has numerous water jets spraying fantastic volumes of water in the same areas but occasionally in others.
When visiting, there is plenty of parking space to park your car close by.
25. Visit the Gardens at Bellevue Botanical Garden
For a walk across nature, the Bellevue Botanical Garden is a 53-acre public park with multiple gardens.
In 1981, the Shorts family’s decision to donate 7.5 acres of their home to the City of Bellevue began the idea for a public space in the city.
It is located east of downtown Bellevue and officially opened on June 27, 1992.
You can stroll through several gardens and trails – Fuchsia Garden, Lost Meadow Trail, Native Discovery Garden, Perennial Border, Rhododendron Glen, The Urban Meadow, Waterwise Garden, Yao Garden, and Dahlia Display.
In each garden, it is marked with a unique QR code that will tell you which plant varieties live in that particular garden.
You can enjoy a bunch of trails with many benches that provide scenic resting places.
You can drop by at a nice coffee shop and gift shop. The garden also boasts clean restrooms and plenty of parking areas.
Remember that no dogs allowed in the garden though.
26. Admire the Sights and Views at Lake Union Park
Lake Union Park is a 12-acre park located at the south end of Lake Union in Seattle.
It is owned by the City of Seattle and operated by Seattle Parks and Recreation. On July 1, 2000, the park property was gradually acquired by the City and the final 5 acres were transferred from the United States Navy to the City of Seattle.
The current park space officially opened on September 25, 2010, after renovation.
If you are going to visit Lake Union Park, it is a great park for walks and enjoying the great sights and views of South Lake Union.
The park includes Historic Ships Wharf housing several historic vessels including the tug Arthur Foss, the fireboat Duwamish, the lightship Swiftsure, the steamer Virginia V and several other large historic vessels that visit the wharf.
The park also has a super convenient Seattle Streetcar stop while children can enjoy the water play area.
27. Drop by at Westlake Park
Westlake Park is a 0.1-acre public plaza located in downtown Seattle.
It was designed by Robert Mitchell Hanna and situated across Pine Street from the Westlake Center shopping mall and Westlake station, a major monorail, and light rail hub.
The city first proposed a pedestrian mall in 1959 between Pike and Stewart streets. The park and mall are named for Westlake Avenue.
If you are going to visit the park, there are plenty of shopping choices and eateries around the area.
There are also games in the park and nice patio chairs and tables.
28. Walk Through the Trees at Saint Edward State Park
This 316-acre park is located in Kenmore and Kirkland, Washington. The park surrounds the Saint Thomas Center which houses Bastyr University.
Before becoming a Catholic seminary and later a state park, the area was logged in the 19th century and again in the 1920s.
For a nature trek, the forest canopy is primarily made up of the Coast Douglas-fir, Western Redcedar, Bigleaf Maple, Pacific Madrone, and Western Hemlock while its dense carpet includes many varieties of fern, shrub, and moss.
During your visit, enjoy the wide-open grassy areas to run and play at the top of the hill around the historic seminary building with tons of picnic tables and a wooden fort play area for children to explore.
There are also short trails about half a mile that leads down to the Lake Washington shore.
29. Time to Learn at Kidsquest Children’s Museum
KidsQuest Children’s Museum is a hands-on, interactive children’s museum that encourages learning through play with exhibits and programs geared towards children 0-10 and their families.
The museum is located in Bellevue, Washington. The museum is a 501 non-profit organization that encourages cognitive, physical, and emotional development through play.
There are over 650 programs throughout the year including early learning classes, summer camps, drop-off and whole-family science workshops, free art programs, and many special events including concerts and holiday programs.
For toddlers, there is a gated toddler room with a farm theme.
There is a water room that offers different water-related activities and a story time area with a treehouse for children to climb and hang out.
30. Enjoy Great Views at Carkeek Park
Carkeek Park is a 216-acre park located in the Broadview neighborhood of Seattle.
It contains Piper Orchard, Pipers Creek, along with the play and picnic areas, picnic shelters, and hiking trails.
The first park in Seattle to be called “Carkeek Park” was on Pontiac Bay, Lake Washington.
The original was a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Morgan J. Carkeek which was soon displaced by a Naval Air Station, so Morgan Carkeek offered the proceeds of his sale to the City for another park.
A pedestrian bridge across the main lines of the BNSF Railway connects to the Carkeek Park sand beach on Puget Sound.
The park offers a great view of the entire beach from the park area and when standing on the steel green bridge way.
You can find a couple of trails that lead to the creek, park, bench area, and the beach.
There is no parking inside the park but street parking is not difficult on weekdays outside the main entrance from Carkeek Park.
We hope you have enjoyed this roundup of 30 best things to do in Seattle. There is certainly no shortage of attractions or activities in this big city. From the Space Needle to the Gum Wall, it would be hard to cover all these attractions even if you had a month. So, don’t stop at just one trip to Seattle – consider coming back soon!
For even more Seattle travel ideas, check out The 7 Day Pacific Northwest Itinerary.