Long time residents of Seattle and visitors alike all love the Seattle waterfront – there’s something about it that is a bit magical and reminiscent of the old days in Seattle with the weathered docks and salty air. Families can spend an entire day exploring the waterfront – the hardest part will be choosing which end (north or south) of the waterfront to start your adventure!
Go: Of course, the best time to check out the Seattle waterfront is when the weather is nice or at least not pouring down rain and blowing wind. However, it’s certainly possible to enjoy the waterfront in the Seattle drizzle or under overcast skies.
Get there: There are countless ways to get started exploring the waterfront – the entire area is along Alaskan Way, with the Olympic Sculpture Park on the north end and the Washington State Ferry Terminal on the south end. If you’re driving to the area, try parking near the north end – you can typically find more open parking and the kids will love exploring the park as a kick-off to the day! Coming from West Seattle? Take the Water Taxi from Alki for about $4, which will take you to the south end of Alaskan Way on Pier 50. Once you’ve reached the other end of the waterfront, jump on the trolley that runs the length of the 1.3 mile strip, which will take you right back to where you started.
What to bring: Although there are many little shops along the waterfront, there isn’t anywhere for basic supplies, so pack up the stroller or a backpack with water bottles and snacks (to avoid having to pay crazy tourist prices for both!), sunscreen for sunny days, extra diapers and something to lay down to change a little one on, hand sanitizer for after the aquarium and your camera! A stroller is recommended for this outing, especially if you have little ones that might want to take a break from walking.
How to dress: Just like most Seattle adventures, dressing in layers is the best idea. Plus, throw a lightweight coat or sweatshirt in because as the sun starts to go down along the waterfront, the wind can pick up and be chilly, even on warm days. Shoes that are made for walking (and even running!) are necessary for the entire family and hats to keep the sunshine off of little faces would be a good idea.
What to do: After running around at the Olympic Sculpture Park on the north end, start walking south. Mom and dad might want to grab a coffee at Uptown Espresso and Bakery at Pier 70 to give them a kick start as well – it’s one of the first places you’ll see.
The next big stop will be at the Seattle Aquarium on Pier 59, but in between, there is a lot to check out – walk down on the floating docks to see where the cruise ships come in and check out some cool boats or explore the area around the Bell Harbor International Convention Center.
If you want to get a lovely Seattle-esque family photo, head down to Piers 62/63 – they are the former site of Concerts on the Pier, but now can only hold smaller events. Lucky for you because they offer the most incredible view of the sound and mountains and the cool old pier is super fun to explore – kids will love peeking down through the planks at the water below!
The Seattle Aquarium should certainly be on your Seattle waterfront to-do list – it’s the perfect size for exploring within a couple of hours and a reasonable activity for even the littlest kids. Don’t miss the gigantic octopus, the adorable otters (both sea and river!) and the underwater dome.
Next up along the waterfront are all of the fun shops and touristy spots that kids will eat up! The Pirate’s Plunder is always popular and although it’s a wallet-emptier, the entire family will love playing some old school arcade games at Seattle Waterfront Arcade (skee-ball, anyone?). Be sure to cram the entire family into one of the many photo booths scattered around this area of the waterfront for a special memory.
On the next pier, there is even more shopping and interesting places to check out – Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe is a classic on Pier 54 and there are a couple of little spots for fudge and salt water taffy to satisfy your sweet tooth – we mean, your kid’s sweet tooth!
Possible lunch spots: There is certainly no shortage of places to grab lunch along the Seattle waterfront. Families who love fish won’t be disappointed – some of Seattle’s most well-known fish spots are along this strip and most are welcoming to families for casual dining. If you’d like to sit down for a meal, Anthony’s Bell Street Diner or Ivar’s Acres of Clams are both great options for dining with the kids. You can also grab fish n’ chips to go from one of the walk-up fish bars along the waterfront and eat lunch under the sunshine at an outdoor table. Not fish lovers? There’s also a Red Robin that has super quick service for hungry kids.
Need to know: The waterfront can be busy on the weekends, so if you’re a Seattle local, plan your trip during the week. Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days for an adventure on the Seattle waterfront because the cruise ships are typically out of port these days (subject to change, naturally!).
Bonus: Expand your visit to the Seattle Waterfront with a trip up the stairs into Pike Place Market!
Cost of trip: More likely than not, you’ll have to pay for parking on your trip to the waterfront, but besides that the cost is dependent on what you choose to do! It’s certainly reasonable to pack a lunch for the family and enjoy it while sitting on one of the piers – just watch out for hungry seagulls.
Do you love taking your family to the Seattle waterfront? What are your favorite places to explore with your kids?
— Katie Kavulla