When it comes to gaming, your kids can’t wait to compete. Whether they’re looking to break out board games that take hours to play, want to drop some quarters on retro arcade games (and pinball) or can’t wait to be transported into a virtual reality, we’ve scoped Seattle’s best spots for families. Find yours from our picks below.
photo: courtesy The Strong
Virtual Reality Experiences
Ocean Explorer VR
The newest VR experience to hit the kid scene, this educational underwater dive has four different experiences to choose from. Maybe swimming alongside humpback whales as they migrate from Antarctica is up your alley. How about diving off a mythical beach in the Bahamas where you can hand-feed large sharks (watch out behind you!)? Or maybe Drift is more your kid’s speed. This animated rescue experience lets kids help a sea turtle and explore an ocean cave all from the comfort of the VR chair. Whatever option you choose, plan to spend between 6-8 minutes immersed and learning when you visit. The experience is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends and holidays. $8/member; $6/non-member.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
5400 N. Pearl St.
4th Dimension VR
Whether you’re looking for a fully immersive VR experience or you simply want your kids to test the VR waters, Pacific Science Center has got what you need. They’re on a mission to demystify virtual and augmented realities, and make both easy and accessible for kids and their caregivers. Letting patrons play is the first step. Engaging them in convos about where these futuristic tools will take us is the next level. Experience VR in one of two ways:
Intro to VR: Visit this permanent location next to Titan that allows kids 6 & up to explore different themes like art, ocean and nature, virtually. You’ll find a different VR menu each day, and reserving a spot is as easy as putting your name in at a restaurant. They’ll call you when it’s your turn; you and the kids explore the science center while you’re waiting. Included with admission or membership.
Expedition Titan: Sign up to Beta test this location-based VR that’s a total blast. It’s a free-roam experience for kids ages 10 & up that gives them the chance to travel to Saturn and explore its largest moon, Titan. Along the way they’ll run into an asteroid field, stop at an outer space visitor’s center and descend into a cryovolcano. This 4D experience augments reality with rumbles, wind and scents that make it a more-than-memorable flight. Edutainment at its scientific best! $15/non-member; $12/member.
Pacific Science Center
200 Second Ave. N.
Seattle’s original VR lounge, Portal boasts all the bells and whistles. Not only do they host an extensive game library, with more than 30 family-friendly options, but they rock booth play for the full VR experience, too. With 10 booths at their Seattle location and 12 in Bellevue, players can either walk-in to play for 15 or 30 minutes, or book online for longer 60- and 90-minute sessions. While you’re waiting, you can watch others play through booth windows or on the oversized HD TV’s scattered throughout the lounge. Remember to read up on the important deets to make the most of this VR experience. Ages 8 & up.
Good to know: There are two special attractions that serve as a great gateway to VR gaming. Plank Experience is a quick 2-3 minute game that costs just $4.99. Or try Glide Simulator for $4.99/5 mins., or $9.99/10 mins.
2601 N.W. Market St.
2105 140th Ave. N.E.
Their name says it all. This family-friendly spot is a “come for the games, stay for the VR” hot spot downtown. With so many arcade games to choose from, families might forget GameWorks has a VR experience. But it’s definitely one that’s family friendly, and at 20 game credits, 5 minutes on Beat Saber is a welcomed addition to your time on the town. Add it to your must-play list when you load up your game cards for the night.
Good to know: Although most video games here don’t give out tickets, about 30% do. That means kids can trade tickets for prizes at the end of the night.
1511 7th Ave.
When you need a solid play window so you and the kids can really dig in to arcade and VR games, Arena Sports in Mill Creek is the place to go. Purchase any of their two upper tier play packages ($29.95-$39.95/person) and families can get unlimited gaming in the arcade for up to 3 hours, plus two VR experiences that last about 5 minutes each. The Hologate dishes up family-friendly gaming and kids as young as 5 are welcome to participate, as long as they can wear the gear. In the arcade you’ll find all your faves, likes Pac Man, Mario Kart and Big Bass Wheel (a definite kid favorite!).
Good to know: Summer play packages are dropping soon; keep an eye on the website for details.
13500 Bothell Everett Hwy.
Mill Creek, WA
Arcade & Pinball
Another Castle—Arcade Edition
Pack plenty of quarters before making your way to Edmonds only all ages, all the time gaming spot. This old-school shop that shares space with a classic video game store (make sure to take a peek there, too) is a great way for parents to turn back the clock while kids play on any number of the more than 20 pinball and myriad arcade machines. Introduce your kids to classics like Tetris, Donkey Kong and Frogger (just .50 a pop!). In turn, they’ll school you on Mario Kart and Jurassic Park, but that’s probably fair. As for eats, they serve up bottles and cans of beer for parents and have plenty of snacks and sodas available for purchase.
Good to know: Sundays from 3-4 p.m. Another Castle Arcade hosts a Kid’s Pinball Tourney (ages 13 & under) with a $5 buy in and a cash prize for the winner. Psst..it pairs nicely with the $1 off beer Happy Hour deal that runs all day. Be sure to call ahead if you’re thinking about checking out the tournament, as they’re in the process of changing it up a bit.
23303 Highway 99, Suite C
There are few things that pair as well as pinball and ice cream, and that’s why Full Tilt has long been a favorite of Seattle families. Whether you hit up the original location in White Center or try out their latest flavors in Ballard, the clink of quarters and ringing bells of the pinball machines can be heard. So grab a cone and relax… the kids are honing their pinball skills right where you can see them. You can join in once you’ve finished your sweet treat.
Good to know: You won’t find many games at the U-District location. If you’re looking for beer to go with your cone and games, White Center and Ballard have it on tap, while Columbia City serves it bottled.
9629 16th Ave. S.W.
5041 Rainier Ave. S.
4759 Brooklyn Ave. N.E.
5453 Leary Ave. N.W.
Ice Box Arcade
If you’re looking to game in Frelard, make like Dorothy and follow the green AstroTurf. You won’t find cowardly lions or heartless tin men, but you will find vintage arcade games and pinball machines that will delight kids of all ages. The laid back vibe and the air hockey table make it a great spot to spend an hour or two with the kids in tow. It’s all ages until 9 p.m.
615 N.W. Bright St.
This laid-back, throwback is a favorite of south end families. Maybe they love the pizza box artwork on the walls. Or the face that arcade games only cost a quarter and pinball costs two. It’s truly an all-ages destination where everyone can get in on the fun. Bring your quarter roll to spend time playing Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Galaga with the kids. Five bucks goes pretty far to keep the kids busy. The best part? 8-Bit’s size makes it an easy spot for parents to keep an eye on their little players while they sit back, relax and reminisce.
Good to know: Parking is tricky so give yourself plenty of time to navigate the one-ways and find street parking.
916 S. 3rd St.
Seattle Pinball Museum
If pinball is what you crave, the Seattle Pinball Museum won’t do you wrong. The museum has over 50 pinball machines and a few old-school video arcades, with titles ranging from long-ago generic games to contemporary sports, movie and rock ’n’ roll themed machines that are totally recognizable. Visitors play a flat fee for either one entrance (stay and play) or multiple (come and go as you please on the same day), to free play many of the machines. The best part? You and the kids can learn about pinball history while you’re there. Look for posted placards that explain the lineage and development of each pinball game throughout the museum, or scan QR codes with your smart phone for awesome in-depth descriptions to totally geek out. Ages 7 & up.
Good to know: If you’re looking for quieter play times at this popular spot, try Sundays (especially when the Seahawks play) and Mondays.
508 Maynard Ave. S.
Marry your family’s love of arcade games with board games at the Raygun Lounge. This Capitol Hill gamer’s paradise is always family (and dog!) friendly. So bring the kids and sit down to a carefully curated collection of pinball and arcade machines, lined up nicely waiting to be played. Board games and plenty of seating are available if you need some time away from all the bells and whistles.
Good to know: If board games are on your radar, plan to buy at least a drink or a cookie to borrow them without a charge.
501 E. Pine St.
Since its opening in 2014, Meeples Games has become a favorite for Seattle gamers. In part because of its casual welcoming vibe that makes everyone, from the most experienced gamers all the way through to the game-curious, feel included. The store is stocked with popular and obscure board games so there’s always something new to find. And the onsite café means families can shop, eat and play all in one spot. Get the full game scoop to make the most of your playing time.
Good to know: Family Game Day takes place weekly on Sat. from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Come try a new game with the kids or bring your favorite from home to play in the Thunderdome.
3727 California Ave. S.W., Suite 2B
Blue Highway Games
If you’ve got your heart set on a family game time, but your own game closet lacks luster, head to Blue Highway Games on Queen Anne. Over half of their game closet is dedicated to games for kids and families so there’s a good chance you’ll find something that piques your interest. Although there isn’t a specific play time set aside for families, that just means you can play whenever the store is open, with the exception of Saturday mornings, from 10 a.m.-noon and Friday nights, from 7 p.m. on, as both are reserved gaming times. If hunger strikes during game time, you can grab some snacks as well as sodas and waters to fuel your competition.
Good to know: Blue Highway buys and sells used board games. So whether you’re looking to offload games your kids have outgrown, or looking for a good price on a new-to-you game, this is the place to make it happen.
2203 Queen Anne Ave. N.
Mox Boarding House
With a café serving a full menu, tournament game rooms and rental rooms for parties big and small, Mox Boarding House is a hole-up-and-game kind of place. A place where rainy afternoons pass quickly because families are focused on good food (they serve salads) and great games in this cozy store. Mox’s gaming library is first come first serve, and families can check out up to two games at a time. If you’re having trouble deciding on a game, reach out to the talented staff who take pride in matching games to people. (Psst… they can help decipher game rules, too). And while you can nosh at the gaming tables, feel free to move your game into the café for a change of scenery. We’re especially impressed that the family game section comes complete with a small table and pint-sized chairs just right for the littlest gamers in town.
Good to know: Keep an eye on Mox’s events calendar, as they often have (free) events for families.
5105 Leary Ave. N.W.
13310 Bel-Red Rd.
On the east side, Uncle’s has two locations families can choose from. The Bellevue store, located in Crossroads, has an extensive game library that features some family faves, like Azul, Tiny Towns and Sushi Go. Here, families can play anytime the store is open (hint: Saturday afternoons are a great time to easily find a spot), and there’s a dedicated game lane in front of the store that also has plenty of seating. The Redmond location offers the same gaming play options (great games and snacks), plus they have a dedicated open game time Friday nights, from 5 p.m.-midnight. When you’re there, check out some kid-friendly faves, like Planet and Forbidden Island.
Good to know: If you’ve got a Pokémon curious kiddo, bring them to the Bellevue location on Mondays. There they’ll find a Pokémon professor to help them learn the ropes so they can play along with others. And the Redmond location is dog friendly so bring your fur baby along to play, too.
15600 N.E. 8th St., Suite K10
Redmond Town Center
7325 166th Ave. N.E., Suite F150