With so many things to do with kids in the Emerald City, planning the ultimate Seattle family adventure can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t despair, parents! We’ve mapped out three amazing days in the city that will take you from the streets of downtown Seattle, to the shores of Lake Washington, to the trails of King County’s largest and most popular park. The best part? We’ve thrown in a few seasonal activities if your visit happens to fall during the holiday season. Scroll down for your ultimate Seattle itinerary.

photo: Kristina Moy

Day One

Kick off your first day in the Emerald City by visiting Seattle’s most iconic sight, the Space Needle. Standing at 605 feet tall, the Space Needle is a spectacular sight for both visitors and Seattleites alike, but its latest $100 million renovation makes it look better than ever! Make your way to the 520-foot level where you’ll find open-air glass walls that provide uninhibited 360-degree views as well as 24 glass Skyriser benches that give you a unique view of what it’s like to be floating high above the ground. If you need a quick pick-me-up after this adrenaline rush, pop into the Atmos Café on the 520-foot level for an array of beverages and light bites and a view you won’t find at any other café in the city.

photo: Space Needle

Once your feet are safely back on the ground, head over to the Artists at Play Playground to work out the wiggles. This imaginative, artist-created outdoor playground, designed for kids of all ages, includes a 35-foot high climbing tower, kid-inspired musical instruments, listening stations, sound swings and a plethora of space where kids (and grownups) can engage their senses through play.

If you’ve got a crew of curious kids, you’ll want to make some time to visit the Pacific Science Center (also located on the grounds of the Seattle Center) where kids can ignite their curiosity through hands-on learning. The Seattle Children’s Museum and Seattle Children’s Theatre are also two more places that should not be missed while visiting the Seattle Center. And if all this exploring has left you and your crew famished, head inside the Armory (located next to the International Fountain) to indulge in a variety of fresh, local foods and beverages. In addition to kid faves like burgers, pizza, sandwiches and noodles, the Armory has several sweet offerings as well as cultural celebrations that take place year-round and a 60-foot outdoor deck overlooking the grounds.

Time to check into your hotel! We recommend a Marriott International hotel, with over 20 properties and 10 brands to choose from just in the Seattle area, there is something for everyone. Click here to learn more and save this holiday season.

photo: Seattle Children’s Museum

If art and culture is your family’s thing, head to the Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM) located in the heart of downtown Bellevue. BAM is one of the few museums nationwide that focuses on art, craft and design, working with artists and audiences to build and enhance community. Regardless of the current exhibit on display, BAM hosts daily free Imagination Stations that are strategically located throughout the facility for all ages to enjoy. Psst…if your visit in Seattle happens to fall on a Saturday, take advantage of Get Crafty Saturdays where your budding artist can channel his or her creative energy into a fun project. Just down the street from BAM is where you’ll find KidsQuest Children’s Museum. At this awesome hands-on museum, you and your kids can explore and experience over a dozen exhibits that encourage creativity, problem solving and learning through play with an emphasis on STEAM. Be sure to check their online calendar for monthly programs and special events taking place during your visit.

photo: KidsQuest Children’s Museum

For lunch or dinner, the possibilities are endless in Bellevue as there are dozens (and dozens!) of family restaurants within a few blocks of each other. If you’ve got a crew of pizza lovers, head to Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria. Tutta Bella’s wood-fired pizza pies taste like a slice of Italian heaven and their Bellevue restaurant is just as kid-friendly as it is delicious. From the Wikki Stix that are passed out to keep hangry kiddos busy to the open kitchen that allows kids to watch as their pizzas are being made, Tutta Bella makes dining with kids a snap. Psst…if your kids aren’t feeling like pizza, Tutta Bella also offers an extensive kid’s menu with favorites like Pasta al Burro or Neapolitan Meatballs. Don’t forget the gelato for dessert!

photo: Kristina Moy 

If shopping with a side of energy burnin’ fun is what you’re looking for on your first day in Seattle, head over to Redmond Town Center. Located just 15 miles east of downtown Seattle (approximately a 30-minute drive over the 520 bridge), this popular Eastside outdoor shopping center and resort-style center features an array of retail shops, family dining options, a theater, performing arts and year-round events. It also boasts Giggle Jungle, the newest offering in the mall’s “kid corner” (along with Gymboree Play & Music and the mall’s outdoor sensory garden). Offering the ever-popular pink, green, blue and white motorized toys, Giggle Jungle is the perfect place for kids under 48 inches to play the afternoon away.

After all this activity, you’ll be ready to head back to your Marriott hotel for some chill time and super comfy beds before you start it up on day two!

photo: Redmond Town Center

Day Two

For a truly Seattle adventure on day two, head to the waterfront to ride The Seattle Great Wheel. Located at Miner’s Landing at Pier 57, the Seattle Great Wheel is composed of 42 gondolas that pack in one heck of an ah-mazing view of Seattle’s skyscrapers, Puget Sound, Cascade Mountains and Mount Rainier as well as the city’s neighboring islands. The entire trip will take you approximately 20 minutes and will include three full rotations (or sometimes four–depending on where you boarded in the cycle) 17 stories above the ground. Once your feet are safely back on Pier 57, head next door to Wings Over Washington to take a ride on Seattle’s only state-of-the-art flying theater where you can get a bird’s-eye view of Washington’s most scenic attractions.

photo: Kristina Moy

When you’re done flying and soaring at Pier 57, walk down the Seattle waterfront and visit the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop where you can view 1001 curious things. Then, stop by the Seattle Aquarium to get a first-hand glimpse at some of the most colorful and eccentric animals that call Puget Sound home. If your kids love boat rides, purchase walk-on ferry tickets to Bainbridge Island at Coleman Dock. Bainbridge hosts a variety of spur of the moment, family friendly and easily walkable goodies along Winslow Way that will keep you and your crew entertained from the moment you step off the ferry. A quick walk up the street will also take you to the Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu) where your kids can spark their imaginations with a giant Lite Brite, learn about physics with golf balls or get their hands dirty with themed events. Looking to learn more about the Puget Sound’s rich Native American heritage? Argosy Cruises, located on Pier 55, offers daily cruises to Tillicum Village on Blake Island (pictured below) as well as harbor cruises and dining cruises around the Sound.

photo: Kristina Moy

If you’re feeling famished after soaring over the city and taking in the sights and sounds of the waterfront, head over to Ivar’s Acres of Clams on Pier 54 to enjoy wild Alaska salmon, deep-water halibut, Alaska King crab, Dungeness crab, jumbo prawns, Manila clams or Ivar’s award-winning fish and chips. Along with delicious menu selections, you’ll also get fantastic views of Puget Sound, passing Washington state ferries and fireboats from historic Fire Station #3. Or cross the street at the Seattle Aquarium and take the steps up to Pike Place Market. Inside and around the Market you will find a variety of restaurants (Beecher’s Handmade Cheese serves a wicked mac ‘n cheese both kids and adults love!), vendors (hot mini donuts, anyone?) and local purveyors who sell their goods at the Market seven days a week. Psst…head to the fish market below the Public Market Center sign to try your hand at fish throwing. Just don’t forget to wash your hands before you eat!

photo: Kristina Moy

If beautiful parks, farm animals and open green spaces are more of what you’re looking for on day two, then head to the Eastside where both Bellevue and Redmond offer a variety of fun activities for nature-loving families. Plan to make your first stop at Kelsey Creek Farm Park  located just a few miles from downtown Bellevue. Kelsey Creek has been entertaining kids and their parents for generations (really, since the 1930s) and it’s where you’ll find tons of free farm fun along with farm animals, a playground, walking trails and places to picnic. When you’re done exploring Kelsey Creek, hop in the car and head over to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens. With 53 acres of cultivated gardens, restored woodlands, natural wetlands and an awesome (and super educational) Visitor Center, there’s plenty for you and your little explorers to see, do and discover. If your crew still has some steam to burn off, make your way to the Downtown Bellevue Park and Inspiration Playground. This awesome park in the middle of Bellevue’s shopping district features a play area for both younger and older kids, a splash pad (perfect for hot summer days), a rockin’ music area and interactive elements that engage the senses, create inclusiveness and accommodate children of all abilities.

photo: Jennifer B. Davis

When you’re done exploring Bellevue’s beautiful parks and playgrounds, get back in the car and head to Marymoor Park in Redmond. This park located on the north end of Lake Sammamish, is King County’s most popular park and offers 640 acres of recreational activities. From a 35-foot climbing structure and trails for hiking, biking and walking, to a large playground, a cycling velodrome and facilities for picnics, baseball, soccer, tennis, softball, even cricket, this park provides plenty of room for pets and people to play the day away. If your little animal lover is dying for some furry fun, plan to make one more stop in Redmond at Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park. The awesome park boasts hikeable trails that run through the lush forest on the property, barns to see favorite barnyard friends (think: goats, sheep, horses, pigs) and even a riding school that offers classes to kids as young as two-and-a-half years old.

Now go grab a delicious burger and fries at either Redmond’s Tipsy Cow Burger Bar  or Bellevue’s LunchBox Laboratory

photo: Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park

Day Three

Get started early on your third day in Seattle by heading to Pioneer Square to experience an Underground Seattle Tour. This fun guided tour will begin inside Doc Maynard’s Public House where you’ll learn about Doc and the colorful history of the pioneers, then descend into the darkness. Young urban explorers can imagine what it was like to have to climb a ladder to get up to the sidewalk or walk through tunnels to visit friends—not to mention checking the tide table before flushing the toilet. When your trek below the city is done, head over to the Smith Tower to experience Seattle’s rich history told through the eyes of the Smith Tower. The “Legends of Smith Tower” tour combines interesting facts and lore, through the past 100 years of the tower’s existence, with bits of humor and intrigue, making it a great experience for any age. And once you’ve finished the ground level tour, you’ll take a 40-second trip up to the 35th floor (aboard a historic Otis elevator) to the re-branded Smith Tower Observatory, formerly known as the Chinese Room. Here, you can enjoy the Tower’s stunning wrap-around, open-air viewing deck with gorgeous views of the city, Puget Sound and Cascade Mountains as well as historic exhibits, comfy spots to sit back and relax and light bites and drinks.

photo: Crystal G. via Yelp

Make your way back down to the bottom of the Smith Tower, walk over to Cow Chip Cookies in Pioneer Square for a little pick-me-up. An institution in Pioneer Square since 1982 (although the recipe dates from 1883), Cow Chip Cookies serves “the original drop cookie,” a delicious sweet treat baked to perfection from a secret recipe from Butter Creek Farm. If cookies aren’t what you’re looking for, follow the aroma of fresh-baked treats to the Grand Central Bakery and Cafe located in the Grand Central Arcade. On chilly days, perch by the fireplace and enjoy handmade sticky buns with espresso for you and hot chocolate for your petite travelers. After you’ve refueled, head towards Seattle’s Chinatown-International District (just a short walk from Pioneer Square) where you will find cultural experiences, more good eats (dim sum, anyone?) and unique gifts around every corner. The best part? No passports are needed for this adventure.

photo: Natalia Dotto Photography

If the Seattle skies are unforgiving, and the kids are going stir-crazy, head over to Bellevue to let them work the wiggles out at Funtastic Playtorium. This awesome play space is perfect for the climby-est, slidey-est adventurers. Within a huge meshed-in structure, kids up to age 10 can tunnel, side, bounce, creep, climb and ride. Psst…the structure is sturdy enough for adults should you want or need to venture in. Funtastic Playtorium also features a dedicated and larger-than-usual toddler area with soft climbers, blocks and even a slow-moving climb-through wheel. Another option for energy burning indoor fun can be found at WiggleWorks kids inside Bellevue’s Crossroads Mall. Here, kids can enjoy soft moving structures, a balloon room, inflatable slide and bright colors designed for kids under 48 inches.

Psst…admission allows in and out privileges, so you can also do some shopping or grab a bite to eat while you’re there.

photo: Jennifer B. Davis

If you’ve always wanted to give an escape room a try, load your kid crew into the car and head over to Redmond to experience a Quest Factor Escape Room. Choose between Pirates of the Caribbean or Mission Impossible: Bank Heist. In Pirates of the Caribbean, you and your kids will be locked in the bottom of a jail cell in a great ship. Both of these rooms have different difficulty ratings, but they can be adjusted depending on the ages of your group.

Holiday Extras

If you happen be planning your visit to Seattle during the holiday season, be sure to check out the Seattle Center’s Winterfest celebration. Taking place in the shadow of the Space Needle from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, Winterfest includes a covered ice arena, a miniature locomotive display that runs through a turn-of-the-century village inside the Armory, ice sculpting demonstrations, Dicken’s Carolers and performances by more than 100 different student groups, plus a fireworks show and concert on New Year’s Eve. During the holiday season, downtown Seattle also pulls out all the stops when it comes to spreading holiday cheer. From a spectacular holiday parade, tree lighting ceremony with fireworks and an old-fashioned carousel, to giant gingerbread displays, a Teddy Bear Suite, indoor snow showers and holiday market, whatever level of merriment you and your little elves are looking for during the holiday season, downtown Seattle has you covered!

photo: Downtown Seattle Association

On the Eastside, the holiday season brings a plethora of holiday hoopla to both Bellevue and Redmond. Starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through Christmas Eve, Snowflake Lane in downtown Bellevue is where kids and grownups can experience a nighttime parade with all their fave holiday characters along with falling snow, beautiful lights, delightful holiday music and a visit by Santa. The Bellevue Magic Arena Ice Arena, Seattle’s largest open-air holiday ice rink, is open daily from the day after Thanksgiving until mid-January. In addition to skate rentals, concessions and rockin’ holiday tunes, this arena also offers a variety of special events throughout the season, including learn to skate nights, free lessons, family skating, private parties, Stroller Skate Thursdays and Free Skate Mondays. And for those families looking to be dazzled with lights during the holiday season, Garden d’Lights in Bellevue’s Botanical Garden features over a half a million twinkly, sparking, wow-worthy lights from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.

photo: The Bellevue Collection

During November and December, you and your crew of elves can ring in the holiday season Redmond-style with spirited rides aboard Redmond Town Center’s holiday train or mini horse carousel or take a twirl around the RTC’s outdoor synthetic ice skating rink. Got a list to share with Santa? Make a special visit to Santa, located inside his warming hut, for holiday photos and take in the sounds of the season with festive community performances throughout the month of December. Psst…your little elves can even search for Stripes, the sneaky Candy Cane, and once found, report his whereabouts to Guest Services to receive a special prize!

In early December, Redmond Lights celebrates the city of Redmond’s diverse holiday traditions, cultures and faiths. Experience this three-part progressive event by starting at the City Hall Campus Tree Lighting, then stroll down the Redmond Central Connector Luminary Walk and end your evening at Redmond Town Center. Warm beverages, crafts and entertainment, a fireworks show, holiday music and a tree lighting ceremony make this a not-to-miss holiday event in Redmond.

—Kristina Moy

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