If you’re not a natural historian, you might not know of the hidden treasures in Pioneer Square. But believe it or not, this historic neighborhood is the only place in town where you can pan for gold, view old fire department antiques and go underground to explore the city’s original streets. Sound like fun? Scroll down to find out how you and your crew can get in touch with your inner pioneer in downtown Seattle as well as for a list of Pioneer Square restaurants to refuel your brood during your adventure.

photo: Crystal Grace G. via Yelp

Can’t-Miss Attractions

Smith Tower
Head to the top of what was once the tallest building west of the Missippippi in a historic Otis elevator, hand-operated by a conductor. Once there, you and your kids can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city from the open-air viewing deck. Built in 1914, Smith Tower was one of the first skyscrapers in the world. It may not be the tallest in the west, or even in Seattle any more, but it’s an amazing historic building with an amazing visitor experience to match. To make your journey even more historical, plan to take the Legends of Smith Tower tour before your ride to top. This awesome 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.

photo: Kristina Moy

Good to Know: On the 35th floor is where you will find the Observatory and Bar—a speakeasy-inspired hangout that pays homeage to the Smith Tower’s rum-running roots and Chinese Room history by serving Prohibition Era–inspired craft cocktails and bites inspired by the roaring 1920s. The best part? It’s open to all ages, so you can sip on a craft cocktail while your kids enjoy Shirley Temples.

506 Second Ave.
Seattle, WA 98104
206-624-0414
Online: smithtower.com

Observatory and Bar Hours: Sun.-Wed. from 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. from 10 a.m.-midnight and Sunday from 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

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Cost:
Legends of Smith Tower Tour Cost: $19/Adults; $15/Kids (5-12), Seniors (over 65) & Military; 4 & under Free.

Straight Up Tickets: $12/person; under 5 Free. Available every ten minutes beginning at 9 a.m., with ticket sales ending at 5:30 p.m. Note: Save 10% when you purchase tickets online.

photo: Sherill Y. via Yelp

Last Resort Fire Department 
Calling all firefighter wannabes! There’s a four-alarm attraction at the Seattle Fire Department Headquarters that you don’t want to miss. This museum, dedicated to local firefighting history and heroes, includes a collection of one-of-a-kind antique fire trucks. It’s not a hands-on museum, but it’s still a thrill for both big and small firefighters wannabes. Psst…be sure to pick up a treasure hunt map when you enter, so your little fire captain can have fun spotting vintage fire hoses, oxygen masks and more.

301 Second Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98104
206-783-4474
Online: lastresortfd.org

Hours: Thursdays from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. (except holidays)
Cost: Free

photo: Lara L. via Yelp

Bill Spediel’s Underground Tour
As most Seattleites know, pioneers built the city on tidelands and then realized this wasn’t a very good idea. After a boy drowned in a puddle, and flushing the toilet at high tide became perilous, streets were built up a level – creating a hidden subterranean city below. Many of these old buildings and passageways still exist and you can go below to see the original front doors and store fronts. 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!

Good to Know: This is a walking tour that covers approximately three blocks at a leisurely pace. The entire tour, including introduction, takes about 75 minutes. Kids under 6 may find the tour challenging. Grownups and kids 13 & older can get an Underground Paranormal Experience upgrade. Descend if you dare!

608 First Ave.
Seattle, WA 98104
206-682-4646
Online: undergroundtour.com

Hours: Tours start on the half-hour during the summer; on the hour during the off-season.

Cost: $22/Adults; $20/Seniors (60+); $20/Youth (13-17 & students with valid college ID); $10/Kids (7-12); 6 & under Free. Underground Tour and Paranormal Experience Combo Ticket: $50.

klondike-goldrush-national-park-seattle

photo: Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Beginning in 1897, thousands stampeded to the Yukon gold fields in Canada hoping to find their fortune. The Klondike Gold Rush was on and Seattle was the last stop in civilization for prospectors heading north on steamers. At this museum, which houses the only national park in a building, you’ll learn all about the men, women and children who headed for the Klondike. Psst…kids can take part in Junior Ranger activities and learn how to pan for gold.

319 Second Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98104
206-220-4240
Online: nps.gov/klse

Winter HoursDaily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thanksgiving Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Summer Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.

Cost: Free

photo: Ron M. via Yelp

Shops to Peruse

Magic Mouse Toys
With two floors and over 6,000-square feet chock-full of toys and games, Magic Mouse Toys is, of course, a magnet for kids. Here, you’ll find all kinds of unique toys along with dolls, puzzles and art projects with the promise that this shop carries, “only the classiest brands of toys that have withstood the test of time.”

603 First Ave.
Seattle, WA 98104
206-682-8097
Online: magicmousetoys.com

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Agate Designs
So much more than just a jewelry shop, Agate Designs is like a museum full of geological wonders. Although not recommended for tiny tots, kids who can look-but-not-touch will be wowed as they discover Agate Designs’ handpicked crystals, gems and minerals, plus 500-million-year-old fossils.

120 First Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98104
206-621-3063
Online: agatedesigns.com

HoursMon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m; Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

photo: Steve Z. via Yelp

The Globe Bookstore
This inviting new and used bookstore is a perfect pit stop for you and your little book worms. Rest your feet and cozy up with a good read in the children’s area, and be sure to browse the other sections including literature, history and cooking.

218 First Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98104
206-682-6882
Online: pioneersquare.org/the-neighborhood/retail/the-globe-bookstore

Hours: Varies. Call for hours.

photo: Denise K. via Yelp

Parks for Playing & Picnicking

Waterfall Garden Park
A waterfall in the middle of the city? This hidden pocket park is a great spot to relax with your crew, read a book or simply rest your tired feet. Pack a picnic and listen to the gentle sound of the 22 ft. waterfall as it washes out the bustle of city life.

219 Second Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98104
Online: pioneersquare.org/experiences/waterfall-garden-park

Occidental Square Park
Play a game of chess, bocce, foosball or table tennis in this leafy cobblestone park in the heart of Pioneer Square. Occidental Square Park is a great place to seek some shade on a hot day or catch an outdoor concert during the summer months. Plan to stop for coffee or lunch at one of the many eateries surrounding the park or try one of the local food trucks near the park and enjoy plenty of outdoor tables to sit at.

117 S. Washington St.
Seattle, WA 98104
Online: seattle.gov/parks/occidental-square

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photo: Rebeka Acosta
 

Pioneer Square Park
This popular park sits on the site of Henry Yesler’s mill and is home to the ornate Iron Pergola, built over the finest underground restroom in the United States (sadly, the restroom closed its doors in the 1920s). Pioneer Square Park is also home to an Alaskan Tlingit totem pole with an interesting backstory and a Chief Seattle drinking fountain. Psst…Pioneer Square Park is a great vantage point for people watching and a good spot for a photo opp to commemorate your day in Pioneer Square.

100 Yesler Way
Seattle, WA 98104
Online: seattle.gov/parks/pioneer-square

Places for Sips & Snacks

Cow Chip Cookies
What’s that on your boot? It’s not a cow chip, is it? Don’t fear, Seattle parents. You and your crew are going to love these kind of cow chips. 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. Psst..Cow Chip cookies pair best with a cold glass of milk or a cup o’ Joe.

102A First Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98104
206-292-9808
Online: cowchipcookies.com

Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Closed on Sundays

photo: Wendy C. via Yelp 

Grand Central Bakery and Cafe
Follow the aroma of fresh-baked treats to this bakery 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 the kiddies. On sunny days, take your sweet eats out to the cobblestone patio.

214 First Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98104
206-622-3644
Online: grandcentralbakery.com/find-us/seattle/pioneer-square

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.–4 p.m.

The London Plane
Fresh sustainably sourced ingredients and flavors from around the world make this bakeshop and floral shop a great place to stop for brunch or any time of day. Try their toasted sourdough with hazelnut butter, sea salt and honey or their quiche with ham, asparagus and aged cheddar. Delish! Psst…the bakeshop’s name was inspired by the London Plane trees that dot Pioneer Square.

300 Occidental Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98104
206-624-1374
Online: thelondonplaneseattle.com

photo: Marina K. via Yelp

General Porpoise
In the heart of Pioneer Square is where you’ll find General Porpoise, one of the latest contenders to arrive at Seattle’s growing doughnut scene. (Other locations include Capitol Hill, Amazon Spheres and Laurelhurst.) Since General Porpoise opened its doors in 2016 on Capitol Hill, the eatery has held the number one spot for custard filled doughnuts. Put aside those “eat healthier” resolutions (if you haven’t already) and indulge in delicate clouds of fried dough slathered with sugar and filled with jams, creams, custards and curds made fresh with LFdA farm eggs. The vanilla custard (one of our favorites!), chocolate marshmallow and lemon curd are mainstays along with a couple of rotating seasonal fillings (think peaches and cream, plum jam and white nectarine jam), depending on the day and what local purveyors provide.

401 1st Ave. South
Seattle, WA 98104
Online: gpdoughnuts.com/locations/pioneer-square

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

—Jeffrey Totey & Helen Walker Green

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