The prospect of taking a trip with the kids to Seattle Center can be overwhelming. You might have images of driving around for ages to find parking, fighting festival crowds, and having to drag a tired toddler miles to a bathroom right now. But, with a little planning, it can be a great way to spend a day. The perfect place to explore with kids is Seattle’s Pacific Science Center. Here are few tips for your adventure:

Pacific Science Center

The Pacific Science Center is guaranteed to get you and your kids excited about science! The problem you’ll find with this place is that there are too many amazing exhibits to play with in one visit. Come early to beat the crowds and grab a parking spot in the lot on the corner of Denny Way and 2nd Avenue North. It connects via elevator and covered walkway to the Denny Way entrance of the Museum. Once you’re in, grab a map and decide where to go first.

•       There is a special preschool program at the Willard Smith Planetarium at 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. each day. These are the only shows that allow children under four years of age. If it is busy, they offer two ten minute shows per slot so everyone can get a chance to dance under the stars.

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•       If you are taking a small child into the Tropical Butterfly House, coach him or her in advance. Butterflies are flapping all around and might land on you. However, there is no touching of butterflies or plants, which is hard for even the most conscientious of budding scientists. And parents – be prepared to leave all gear (strollers, snacks and sippies) outside of the exhibit. Fashion tip: You are more likely to have a butterfly land on you if you are wearing red or yellow.

•       Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time combines the classic favorites of dinosaurs with robots. Yep, they move. They also roar. If your child is timid, you can observe the robots from a distance before approaching. And, once you get up close, there are many parts of this exhibit where touching is encouraged. You can even drive one of the robots yourself.

•       The Boeing IMAX Theatre is one of the best places in Seattle to take young kids to a movie. There is generally a short documentary playing that is filled with bright colors and mesmerizing images. And, best of all, the documentaries are short and won’t outlast a little one’s attention span, or take up the whole day. Seating is sloped steeply enough that everyone can see.

•       Don’t forgo the tried-and-true Kids Works Exhibit. The stream table is a great water-play area, and bibs are provided to keep kids (somewhat) dry. There is also a separate play area reserved for the littlest visitors with a variety of fun exhibits – musical instruments, puppets and a variety of things to climb in and on.

PS:  If it is a hot day, bring a bathing suit for the young ones and leave some time to play in Seattle Center’s International Fountain. And, don’t worry about the potty. On non-festival weekends, there is always a stall open in one of the many large bathrooms on the main level of the Center House.

-Karen McHegg