It’s family day, the grandparents are in town, and you’re in charge of the plans. Throw in visiting aunts, uncles and an age range from tots to teens and you’ve got a multi-generational party. How can you keep everyone happy and also cater to the older and younger crowd? Scroll down for 12 kid- and grandparent-friendly excursions everyone will enjoy.
Get Out on the Water & Look for Whales
Getting out on the water and fully experiencing our amazingly aquatic city is an absolute must for visiting grandparents. A simple ferry ride to Bremerton or Vashon Island couldn't be easier, especially if you choose to walk on the ferry. If you want to add lunch or dinner to your aquatic excursion, consider taking the water taxi from downtown Seattle to Marination Ma Kai on Alki Beach. The views of downtown Seattle, Mount Rainier and Puget Sound can't be beat!
If you're looking for something even better, consider a whale watching excursion. The only half-day, guaranteed whale watching trip near Seattle, the Puget Sound Express in Edmonds, is a fantastic way to bond with family and experience the joy of being on the water. Plus, there's whales! The excitement of spotting the first majestic whale is always a major thrill, but seeing the smiles on your family's faces will be priceless. The state-of-the-art boat is extremely comfortable, specifically designed for whale watching and provides indoor seats for everyone. Psst! We recommend pre-ordering lunch with your ticket purchase, so that no one gets hangry. And be sure to save room for the delicious Blueberry Buckle, made fresh daily.
Good to know: Puget Sound Express is a family run business with three generations of experience. The Puget Sound is their environment and they know and love these waters like their backyard. As members of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, their sound-proofed, hydrofoil jet boats have no propellers, making them the quietest vessels in the fleet. While they also offer bird-watching and photography cruises, the Seattle Whale Watching Tour is a truly iconic Pacific Northwest experience.
Puget Sound Express
459 Admiral Way
Edmonds, WA 98020
Rediscover Pike Place Market: Market to Table Tours
Chef Traci Calderon runs Atrium Kitchen, an absolute delight tucked inside Pike Place Market. After spending just a few minutes with her, she will feel like part of the family. Atrium Kitchen offers many options to entertain budding chefs and gourmets alike. Join in a regularly scheduled cooking class or take the Market to Table Tour, a scavenger hunt of ingredients that ends in tasty perfection. Chef Traci will tailor the tour to your family's dietary and mobility needs and her Pike Place Market stories, which draw on decades of local lore, are fun for even seasoned visitors of the Market. Families can also book the space for customized cooking lessons and activities like the Chopped mystery basket competition, fresh pasta making or cookie decorating and eating!
Good to know: Besides cooking classes, Atrium Kitchen has a wonderful calendar of events from guest chef speakers to cheese tastings. And Chef Traci's love for food and people is infectious and inspiring. Psst! Be sure to ask her about Nourished Neighborhood, and her Kindness in the Kitchen pay it forward pop-up breakfast.
Market extra: After picking up all those great cooking tips, let the grands stock up on local delicacies at DeLaurenti Food & Wine. Need some tasty treats? The brand-new Barque Brontes Bakery Cafe serves up delicious baked goods all made on-site, and caffeinated consumables from Queen Anne Roasters served from swanky Modbar espresso machines. And if the grands are looking for an authentic Seattle beer experience (with a spectacular view of Elliott Bay), beeline it to Old Stove Brewing Co. and let them enjoy 16 taps in the MarketFront on Western Ave.
93 Pike St.
Seattle, WA 98101
Say Yes to Seattle Center!
Most visitors will want to check the Space Needle off their to-do lists, and we can't blame them. Just remember that the Seattle Center has so many other exciting things to do once your feet are back on solid ground. And each of these entertaining options can be easily accessed by foot or wheelchair; it's your one stop shop for Seattle fun!
Chihuly Garden and Glass is arguably the most unique and spectacular exhibit of any kind in the city. If you haven't been, it's time to use those visitors to your advantage and make it happen! MoPOP is similarly special to Seattle. Take in the Museum's latest exhibits and listen to the grandparents go on about owning Jimi Hendrix records on vinyl back in the day. After a trip through the two museums, let the kids burn off some energy at the nearby Artists at Play Playground while the grandparents rest at the nearby tables and benches. If the weather is warm, everyone will enjoy cooling off by the International Fountain which presents water shows choreographed to special music selections throughout the day. And don't forget about the variety of food and beverage selections found in the Armory. It's the perfect place to enjoy a great meal, take a load off and if you're lucky, catch live stage entertainment. If the grandparents are feeling flush, consider adding on a visit to the Pacific Science Center, Seattle Children’s Museum or even a ride on the Seattle Center Monorail.
Good to know: Street parking (if you can find any) is usually cheaper than the parking garages around the Seattle Center. Better yet, go on a Sunday when street parking is free.
305 Harrison St.
Seattle, WA 98109
Enjoy Seafood With a View
Water surrounds Seattle, with green trees hugging the shores and boats scattered like autumn leaves. Where to show off this visual splendor while dining out as a group? Here are a few excellent choices:
Duke's is a Seattle gem. Their new location in South Lake Union opens September 2019 and will have the best views of Lake Union in the city. Duke's is family owned and their love for multi-generational gatherings shows through their service and commitment to sustainability. Duke Moscrip himself takes pride in his menu, with zero chemicals in the ingredients or dishes of any kind. The kid's menu has the same health qualities that the regular menu offers, and both are 100% sustainable. Don't miss the chowder sampler or the clam strips!
For sunsets it's hard to beat Ray's Boathouse, with epic views of the Olympic Mountains and non-stop opportunities for bird and wildlife spotting, making it a great spot for both the kids and the grands. Ivar's Salmon House has a very entertaining patio, with boats, kayaks and paddle boards sailing by. And a fantastic Native American art collection inside. Psst! If you ask, a host will be happy to go over the impressive carvings with you.
Duke's Seafood & Chowder
901 Fairview Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109
6049 Seaview Ave. N.W.
Seattle, WA 98107
Ivar's Salmon House
401 N.E. Northlake Way
Seattle, WA 98105
Wine Down With a Quick Trip to Woodinville
Feel like getting out of town? Seattle is perfectly situated for impromptu escapes into the countryside, and Woodinville has something for everyone. The Woodhouse Wine Estates is a laid-back option with happy hour every Wednesday from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. on the patio; dogs and kids are welcome. The melodic and well-chosen live music pleases all musical tastes and their rotating food platters are happily gobbled up. We recommend sipping the dry reisling or the tempranillo which has been aptly described as "a warm, cozy hug."
Chateau Ste. Michelle is an obvious stop as it is one of the biggest wineries in Woodinville and has wonderful activities for kids and adults. While the adults sip delicious wine, the kids can enjoy feeding the ducks and running among the gardens. There are also movies shown at various times in the amphitheater. Psst! Kids get in for a lower price, plus there's wine and food truck snacks available for purchase.
If the fam happens to end up staying into the dinner hour, there are many dinner choices for families. Purple Cafe and Wine Bar has an excellent kid's menu, a Monday through Thursday happy hour, free parking and group dining options. Pre-meal wine tasting should be enjoyed at Tinte Cellars next door, where with every sip and purchase a percentage goes right off the top to notable charities.
The Woodhouse Wine Estates
15500 Redmond-Woodinville Rd. N.E., C600
Woodinville, WA 98072
Be Pirates for a Day
If the grands have always wanted to get in touch with their inner pirate, Emerald City Pirates offers swashbuckler adventures on Lake Union 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. Psst! The ship does not offer alcoholic beverages during their cruises, but they do sell soda and concessions during both their family cruises and adult cruises.
Good to know: Boarding activities last approximately 20 minutes; the cruise lasts approximately 60 minutes, with ten minutes of disembarkation time. A total experience of one hour and 30 minutes. Outside food and drink is not allowed.
Emerald City Pirates
860 Terry Ave. N.
Seattle WA 98109
Hours: Varies. Check the website
Cost: $29 Salty Dogs (14-64); $25 Scallywags (1.5-14) and Senior Salts (54 & up); $10 Wee Pirates (0-1.5)
Visit Bill and Melinda Gates (Sort Of)
You might not have considered this spot for a grandparents outing, but think again. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center’s goal is to both motivate and inspire visitors (young and old) through displays, interactive exhibits and programs of the foundation’s most recent works. It is "a place where people can share ideas, explore their interests, and experience the power of optimism about the world’s future.” And it's a perfect place to explore with kids and grandparents in tow. At the Center, you'll see innovations and inventions used right now to help others around the world, galleries explaining why the Gates created the foundation, who the foundation’s partners are and short videos giving in-depth views of the some of their more important projects. Kids will get a kick out of the man who is reinventing the toilet and everyone will enjoy the guided tours (about 60-90 minutes in length) and the hands-on, interactive exhibits.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center
440 Fifth Ave. N.
Seattle, Wa 98109
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays & Mondays
Take a Flight Over Seattle
One of Seattle’s coolest attractions is the Wings Over Washington “flying theater” found on Pier 57. Built with the same technology as Disney theme park’s "Soarin’” attractions, Wings Over Washington takes guests on a virtual tour of the Pacific Northwest aboard the wings of a giant eagle. During the full sensory experience, you will fly over a packed Husky football game, glide over Snoqualmie Falls (and feel a gentle spray of mist), zoom over area forests and take in the scent of pine trees as you travel through the Cascade Mountains.
Good to know: Wings Over Washington is located right next to Seattle’s Great Wheel which offers another unique view of the Emerald City. Ticket prices include three trips around the wheel and spectacular views of the downtown waterfront, West Seattle, Magnolia, Pike Place Market, the Port of Seattle and much more. Wings Over Washington is also nestled among many local shops and eateries, including The Fisherman's Restaurant & Bar which offers fantastic food and a view to match, plus the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, Pirate's Plunder and Seattle Aquarium.
Wings Over Washington
1301 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA 98101
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.-midnight; Sat., 10 a.m.-midnight; Sun., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: $17/Adults (12-64); $13/Youth (11 & under); $15/Seniors (65 & up). With the exception of seniors, tickets can be purchased online prior to your ride.
Cruise to Blake Island
Want to immerse your visitors in the history, culture and traditions of Northwest Native American tribes? Book a trip to Blake Island and we guarantee the grandparents and the kids in your crew will be talking about it long after your visit. The four-hour Tillicum Excursion includes a boat cruise from Argosy's Pier 55 location to the 475-acre island (with peek-a-boo views of Seattle and Mount Rainier along the way). Once on Blake Island, everyone will enjoy a Northwest-inspired buffet with roasted fish prepared in the traditional style of Northwest Native Americans, stage performances with live dances and 3-D projection, viewing of native American artwork and walking trails for those wanting to work off their large meal.
Good to know: Discount tickets can sometimes be found on Groupon, Living Social and other digital coupon websites. Complimentary language translation headsets are available to reserve in either Japanese or Chinese if needed.
1101 Alaskan Way, Pier 55
Seattle, WA 98101
Cost: $92/Adults (13 & up); $83/Seniors (65 & up); $36/Youth (4-12); 3 & under Free
Take a Ride on the Wild Side
Unlike any other zoos in the state, Northwest Trek is a like a safari for viewing Northwestern animals. Your entry includes a 50-minute Discovery Tram Tour that will take you up close and personal to moose, bison, elk and many others in their natural habitat. After the tour, wander the grounds on the paved path (that is both wheelchair and stroller-friendly) through the forest to find other animal exhibits like bears, wolves and cougars all in naturalistic exhibits. Psst! Don't miss the brand-new Eagle Passage exhibit. And before heading home, allow the kids to run off steam at Kid's Trek, the park's huge, nature-inspired playground.
Good to know: If the grandparents are animal lovers, other great zoos and petting farms can be found around Seattle. Click here for a list of our favorites.
11610 Trek Dr. E.
Eatonville, WA 98328
Hours: Sun.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. or 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (depending on the season)
Cost: $22/Adults (13-64); $20/Seniors (65 & up); $14/Youth (5-12); $10/Kids (3-4); 2 & under Free
Be Pinball Wizards for a Night
So, Grandpa may not be too good at video games, but pinball is another story altogether. And, the Seattle Pinball Museum may not be first on your list of Seattle sights to see, but it is truly unique with 50 plus pinball machines from 1960 all the way up this year. A few other classic arcade video games are on hand as well (just in case the tot lot can't figure out how to make those pinball flippers work). And unlike other museums, this one is completely hands on. And you can play for as long as you like–no quarters needed. Psst! This is a great place for families with older kids since you need to be at least 7 years old to play.
Good to know: Admission price is good for as long as you stay in the facility. If you plan to come and go, add $5 more. No outside food or drink is allowed, but there are snacks, sodas and beer available for purchase. Parking can be tricky. Try the lot at the end of the block on Maynard to avoid parking headaches.
Seattle Pinball Museum
508 Maynard Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98104
Hours: Sun., Mon. & Thurs., noon-6 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., noon-8 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays & Wednesdays.
Cost: $18/Adults; $15/Kids (7-12)
Hotel Ideas: Boutique Finds for All Ages
If there's just no room at the Inn, putting the grandparents in classy, welcoming lodging is a treat for them and a big win for you.
The Hotel Sorrento is a blissful oasis in the middle of the city. Upon stepping inside, grandparents will instantly feel calm and cared for, while the friendly staff assist with check in. The fireside room offers a hosted wine hour every day from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. and pours multiple glasses of Washington reds and whites for guests. And being the oldest boutique hotel in Seattle means the rooms are loaded with charm and comfort.
Another excellent option for the grands is the Mayflower Park Hotel, the longest continuously operating hotel in Seattle. A member of the Historic Hotels of America, the antique collection in the lobby is museum-worthy, while the rooms feel modern and decadent. Oliver's Lounge is a classic hangout, kid-friendly and boasts the "Best International Classic Martini," just ask your server! The ground level bar's floor to ceiling windows also provide that city buzz while relaxing indoors. And Andaluca Restaurant serves Northwest specialties with a Mediterranean twist.
900 Madison St.
Seattle, WA 98104
Mayflower Park Hotel
405 Olive Way
Seattle, WA 98101
—Natalie Compagno & Jeffrey Totey