Summer is almost here! For many Seattleites , this means entertaining not just the kiddies but out-of-town guests as well. How to please a multi-age crowd? Two words: guided tour. Even if you don’t have the in-laws sleeping on a rollaway in the family room, it’s fun to play tourist in your own town. Here are a few great tours in Seattle to take your family and friends on.
Theo and the Chocolate Factory
This might be the most decadent tour ever. Theo is one of the few “bean to bar” chocolate producers in the country, and they are located right in the heart of Fremont. Their fair trade and organic status gives them true bragging rights. The aroma of chocolate is everywhere, as you go from watching the cacao bean sacks being opened, all the way to bars being molded and wrappers wrapped. Tours are small, guides are enthusiastic, and chocolate samples are plentiful. The popularity of this tour makes dates fill up 3-4 weeks in advance. Reservations are taken online. (For kid visitors: recommended for ages 7 and up– it is loud and hot in the factory!)
Here’s a way to get the kids interested in what goes on in Seattle’s premier symphonic music performance hall. Take one of the (free!) public tours given every Tuesday and Friday at noon and 1:00 pm. Dedicated docents will walk you through this architectural gem of a building and answer questions from young and old alike. Kids are particularly interested in the 4,490-pipe Watjen Concert Organ, and on certain Mondays there is a free recital-demonstration that can be part of the tour. Afterward, hit Soundbridge, the Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center, which boasts a whole host of kid-centric musical activities.
Safeco and Qwest Field Tours
Got a sports fan, big or small, at your house? Take ‘em on a tour of Seattle’s famed sports venues. It’s a far different scene than on game days, when you’re steering kids through a crowd of thousands. Plus, you’ll get to see things that you’d never see otherwise, like the press box, dugouts, suites, visitor’s clubhouses. Best of all, your favorite baseball/soccer/football player will get to step on to the field where their professional heroes play and imagine themselves in front of thousands of screaming fans.
Want a chance to tour the world’s biggest (by volume) building? At the same time, you’ll get a history lesson and insight in the Puget Sound economy. Tour Boeing’s Future of Flight Aviation Center and see where they build all those 747s. This one isn’t for the shorties: kids must be 4 feet tall to go on the tour.
Ride the Ducks Seattle
Admit it, you’ve seen the ubiquitous amphibious vehicles cruising about town and wished you were onboard when those tourists blew their duck whistles at you. It’s simply the best way to see our city’s rich land and water topography. Tour guides double as comedians, and will have you and the kids yelling, “Grande!” every time you see a Starbucks.
Since 1949, Argosy has been ferrying people about Seattle’s harbor, lakes, and other salt and fresh waterways. The company, best known to locals for the annual Christmas ship schedule, has a small fleet of family-friendly boats to satisfy any interest and attention span. Take the popular 1-hour harbor tour that cruises Elliott Bay, or for a longer ride, go through the Ballard Locks and Lake Union. Those with more time can do the full meal deal to Tillicum Village on Blakely Island, where guests will feast on salmon cooked in the traditional manner of the Northwest Coastal Salish tribe. Tour guides will share a wealth of information about Seattle, covering everything from skyline, geography, economy and history. Snacks and beverages are available aboard all the ships.
Most Seattleites have forgotten the hoopla surrounding the 2004 opening of the Rem Koolhaus-designed jewel in the crown of our library system, and now just come to check out books or use the free wi-fi. However, the rest of the world hasn’t – it still offers daily tours of the architectural feat, which fill up on a first-come, first-served basis. Kids will enjoy the bright colors and fun-house style furniture, particularly in the unique and innovative children’s space. Everyone will enjoy hearing about the 9,994 pieces of glass that clad the building and could cover 5 ½ football fields. Come learn why the New Yorker called it, “the most important new library to be built in a generation, and the most exhilarating.”
The Underground Tour
No listing of Seattle tours would be complete without a mention of one of the oldest tourist attractions in town: The Underground Tour. This view of old Seattle is what remains from prior to the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. The city opted to rebuild their metropolis out of brick and stone – and one level up from the old streetfront. The tour enters at Pioneer Square, and there is a lot of walking involved. However, there is a reason this one is a staple in the elementary school field trip repertoire: kids love the tour guides’ cheesy humor, especially the talk of turn-of-the-century toilet malfunctions. It’s a great place to get some Seattle history, interspersed with humor and a few rats.