Whether the grandparents are in town for a visit or they live close by, you can still make every day Grandparent’s Day with some of these exciting activities that are truly “all ages.” From animals and museums, to theater and chocolate factory tours, we’ve got plenty of skip gen ideas for having fun, from 1-101. Read on!
If there’s a Viking in your family, check out the National Nordic Museum in Ballard. The Nordic Journeys exhibit which is a hands-on, kid-friendly display about the immigration story from the "old country” to the United States, then Seattle and to Ballard. Or for your preschooler, he or she will delight in the free Nordic Stories programs which involves a Nordic story and a related craft. Check out more fun events here.
The exhibits and programs at the Northwest African American Museum feature the visual arts, music, crafts, literature and history of African Americans in the Northwest. Together with the community, the museum presents and preserves the connections between the Pacific Northwest and people of African descent, and investigates and celebrates Black experiences in America through exhibitions, programs and events.
At the fantastic Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (which is quite a mouthful) you can explore Pacific American history, art and culture. Be sure to check out KidPlace, the Museum's dedicated gallery to kids and families. Located in the International District, most of the kids' exhibits feature interactive elements such as videos, sounds and games.
Check this out for more ideas and money-saving tips.
Take in a Show
TVs, cell phones and computers—kids are surrounded with screen time these days. Regardless what some people will say, there is nothing like watching a live performance just mere feet from your face. The two best theaters geared for children in the Seattle area are Storybook Theatre and Seattle Children’s Theatre. However, there secret weapon is that their shows having been entertaining adults as well.
This year, Storybook Theatre is presenting Little Red, Beauty and the Beast and The Frog Prince and will be “on the road” all year long performing at the Kirkland Performance Center, the Renton Carco Theatre, the Everett PUD Auditorium, the Shoreline Conference Center and Halle’s Palladium in Fremont.
Housed within the beautiful theatre found on the grounds of the Seattle Center, this year’s list of shows to be presented at Seattle Children’s Theatre include Snow White, The Best Summer Ever!, and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bust: The Musical!
Enjoy Sweets with the Sweets
Just about every day of the week, you can find a chocolate factory tour or class highlighting the entire manufacturing process—from start to finish—in kid-friendly lingo. At Seattle Chocolates, you can take in a 50-minute tour, tasting treats along the way. In Issaquah, you’ll find another unique chocolate tour held within the Hansel and Gretel-theme building. You’ll get up close and personal during Bohem's Candies 40-minute tour. For those with a more refined palette, consider taking in the Theo Chocolates tour. They even feature a Kids Chocolate Story Time Tour. You can read more about them and other chocolate finds here.
See Trains, Planes & Automobiles
Find the grandkid that shares your love of these and make plans now. Enjoy trips down memory lane looking at classic Cadillacs, Chevrolets and the current cars of NASCAR. While you are enjoy seeing your old car you were in your twenties at LeMay’s America’s Car Museum, your grandkids will love the new hands on Learning Lab.
The Museum of Flight on Boeing Field has recently brought in a veteran U.S. Army Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopter which is a sight to see. “The Old Lady” was the oldest flyable Chinook in the world-wide Army inventory when it was taken off of flight status in 2017 after 54 years of service. When the ooh’s and aah’s run out from the younger crowd, take the kids to the Flight Zone where they can check out the hang gliding simulators, send an air balloon to the ceiling, play with aircraft instrumentation and even sit in cockpits.
In Snoqualmie, the Northwest Railway Museum features a restored depot back to its 1890s appearance giving kids a better idea on what travel was like for people like their grandparent or maybe their great grandparents. If you want to go for a ride, Scenic Train Rides take place during special events in July, October and December and on weekends April through October. Free train rides (with a paying kid) occur for moms, dads and grandparents on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparent's Day weekends. View the special events calendar.
For more transportation-themed museums, check this out.
Get Tee’d Off
Another tried and true tradition is good ol’ miniature golf. Everyone (except for maybe the really small set) can play, it isn’t strenuous and it doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day. As one of the newest and more beautiful courses out there, we recommend King Mini Golf in Puyallup. Not cool enough for your older grandkids? Bring them for a game of Glow Golf after 8 p.m. during the summer where you can play with glow-in-the-dark balls.
If you would like to mix meal time with a great game, consider Flat Stick Pub at South Lake Union or Rhein Haus Tacoma. Both locations feature a beer-theme, amazingly original courses and a great food menul. Better than Chuck E. Cheese any day!
Family Fun Center also features fun golf courses, but your grandkids will no doubt be more interested in playing the arcade games inside and unless you’re up for that, you might want to avoid them.
Still looking for the perfect place to putt? We've got you covered.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
Who doesn’t love the zoo? They are crowd-pleasers for people of any age and we’ve got some of the best in the country.
The Woodland Park Zoo is divided in many sections featuring different animals from various parts of the world. These sections include the African Savanna (with lions, giraffes and zebra), the Temperate Forest (which features an extensive petting zoo area during the summer months), the Humboldt Penguin Exhibit (love the penguins!), the Northern Trail (with bears and otters) and a lot more. When you need a rest, take the kids to the indoor Zoomazium to let them burn off some steam before getting back in the car.
The Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium are boasting about their new virtual reality experience at the Pacific Seas Aquarium, where you can stay dry while you swim with the sharks. (Who’s the cool grandma now?) Of course, there’s plenty of real animals and sea-life to see here as well, and it’s great that you get the experience of two worlds at the same time!
The 45-year-old “new” animal park, Northwest Trek still looks great for her age by adding a brand new Eagle’s Passage attraction where you and the gang can walk through an open tunnel to look up and see the piercing yellow eyes of the mighty eagle looking back at you. Of course, the tram ride is always a hit and comes with the price of admission. And Kid's Trek is always a great spot for the kids to play while you sit for a bit.
Finally, if your little Ariel would like to go back to the sea, may we suggest the Seattle Aquarium? Located on Pier 59, this “window on Washington waters” features over 800 fish and invertebrates native to the Pacific Northwest, underwater divers, a giant octopus and super cute otters. Everyone will enjoy poking their fingers at the sea urchins in the two large touch pools or walking around “under the sea” in the Underwater Dome.
Need more animal inspiration? Check out our guide to petting farms.
If you are up for a (mild) hike and don’t mind the weather, consider taking the kids Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park. Located near the waterfront, this “museum” is free for everyone. Follow the trail through this nine-acre park to find some amazing sculptures, giant art and fun, interactive beauty. The trail is equipped with ADA accessible ramps and wide paths. The only caution here is that unlike children’s museums, kids cannot climb on any of the structures. However, from January through March 7, take advantage of Kids Saturdays where the Seattle Art Museum hosts free craft programs from 10 a.m. to noon.
The Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park features a Free First Saturday program with Sammy the camel who invites families to get inspired in the new galleries and make their own masterpieces in the studio. The monthly three-hour event starts up again on March 7, and you need to reserve tickets ahead of time.
The Frye Art Museum on First Hill is a fun place to visit during their Small Frye: Storytelling + Art events held on the first Friday of each month from 10:30-11:45 a.m. The museum brings in actors, musicians and storytellers as well as preparing a variety of activities. Admission is always free.
Still looking to save on some green at museums? Check out our guide to free and cheap museum days.
One of the newest water adventures in Seattle is the Seattle Donut Boat Company. Open from March to October the donut boats are the most unique and easy way to travel across Lake Union. No skipper is required and the donut crew will get you up and on your way in less than 10 minutes. These little guys seat up to six people quite comfortably. Traveling at a top speed of four miles per hour, don’t expect to get anywhere fast (it will take you about 45 minutes to get from the dock to Gas Works Park) but the electric motor is super quiet. Each “donut” comes with a wide umbrella on top that can be opened or shut depending on your preference. And on chilly days, the Donut crew will even offer you a blanket or two before you go.
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, you might want to treat the kids to pirate cruise aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Together, on a fully interactive pirate experience, you’ll search for treasure, play games, learn to talk like a pirate and even fire a (water) cannon. Each guest will also get to wear a pirate vest for the cruise and receive pirate tattoos and face painting, if desired. Every kid will receive a treasure from the ship’s treasure chest, too.
If you’ve got the stamina, we recommend these 17 places to kayak including Lake Union, Lake Washington, Moss Lake, Alki Beach and Juanita Beach, to name a few. We’ve got the scoop on where to go, when to go and what to bring.
Go Back in Time
Depending on how far back in time you’d like to go, there’s a museum for you. The White River Valley Museum in Auburn is a favorite of grandparents who grew up in the area. Here they’ve recreated streets and neighborhoods that you can walk through and visit including the Japanese American Farmhouse of 1915, the Auburn Depot of 1924 and Downtown Auburn during the 1920s. Admission is steal too! Just $2 for both kids and seniors.
The Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) is also a great trip with exhibits like Maritime Seattle that explores Seattle’s maritime history, and True Northwest: The Seattle Journey that explains how our environment, diverse population and inventive spirit have shaped our history. Little kids will enjoy the Kid-Struction Zone where they can learn while they play (and you get a break). Seniors get in for $17.95 and anyone age 14 or under gets in free.
Of course, if really want to go back in time, check out the “new and improved” Burke Museum featuring 113,000 square-feet of interesting finds from dinosaurs to tide pools. Plus, you can eavesdrop on the scientists working there cataloging everything. When it time for a snack, check out the Off the Rez restaurant serving up handmade fry bread, Indian tacos and espresso beverages. Admission is $20 for seniors and $14 for kids 17 and under.
Good to know: Many of the Seattle museums are free to visit the first Thursday of the month and Klondyke Gold Rush Museum is always free. Find other free and cheap museum days here.
Check Out Seattle’s Mini Disneyland
You’ve seen Seattle’s Great Wheel miles away, but have you ever ridden it? Invite the kids on your bucket list adventure on the 175-foot tall, mother-of-all-ferris-wheels. Located at Pier 57, this contraption holds 42 fully-enclosed gondolas that will give you breathtaking views of Puget Sound rain or shine, day or night.
Right across from the Great Wheel is one of Seattle’s best kept secrets the “flying theater” known as Wings Over Washington. Inspired by Disney’s “Soarin’” attractions at their theme parks, WOW features a similar experience with the sights, sounds and smells (literally) of Washington State. The entire experience is one that everyone will remember for years to come.
Inside Pier 57 you’ll find the historic-looking indoor carousel, the Waterfront Arcade and a variety of places to eat everything from a simple pizza lunch to a full multi-course dinner.
Be a Kid Again
Seeing the world through the eyes of little ones is priceless and can bring back all kinds of memories you didn’t even know you forgot! The Puget Sound is chock full of children’s museums where the kids can touch everything, making your job a lot easier.
Our recommendations include Kids Discovery Museum on Bainbridge Island that features a giant Lite Brite, indoor “sand” box and a kid-sized grocery store; Seattle Children’s Museum at the Seattle Center, with its 22,000-feet of play space, education programs and art activities; the award-winning Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, with it’s amazing indoor treehouse and rooftop playground; the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia, featuring over 150 exhibits; and Children’s Museum of Tacoma, with an incredible and clean water table, a fantastic art studio and the Café Play area.
Good to know: Most of these places offer special discounts. Be in the know before you go!
featured image iStock