“I scream, you scream!” The ice cream season may have hit Seattle a bit early this year, but since July is National Ice Cream Month, it deserves a little extra celebration. We couldn’t think of a better way to cheer for ice cream than by booking passage on the Seattle Ferry Sunday Ice Cream Cruise. It’s a little bit sightseeing, a little bit maritime history and a whole lot of souped-up floats and ice cream goodies to help you stay cool on a hot day. Read on for the scoop.

Entance to Ice Cream Boat Cruise

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Ship Shape
Captain Larry Kezner has been navigating the waters of Lake Union on the Sunday Ice Cream Cruise for over 15 years. During this time, slurping chocolate root beer floats aboard the M/V Freemont Avenue has gained a kind of kitsch status reserved for funky only-in-Seattle activities, like visiting bridge trolls and leaving gooey somethings behind on the gum wall. So whether you’re looking for a new family adventure, have some guests in from out of town or just want an excuse to eat ice cream (on the water!), this is definitely the place to do it.

Checking out Gas Works Park ice cream cruise

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Bon Voyage!
The Sunday Ice Cream Cruise boards right outside of MOHAI on Lake Union. You can’t miss the colorful balloons that mark the dock entrance. And on weekends families can expect to find plenty of free parking spots in the lot west of the lake. Be sure to get there on the earlier side to snag one, and plan a few extra minutes of walking time as the footbridge that connects the two is currently closed.

Playing checkers on ice cream cruise

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

During the 45-minute cruise around the lake, Captain Larry treats passengers to enticing little tidbits about some iconic Seattle sights, like Gas Works park, Dale Chihuly’s studio and of course, the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat. Whether you’ve seen them before or are checking out these well-known hot spots for the first time, enjoying them atop this passenger ferry, root beer float in hand, is all part of the fun. As is the ice cream served inside. The ship’s interior is reminiscent of an old soda shop, with colorful half-moon tables and painted chairs lining the walls, and what looks like antique stained glass letting in light from above. Chess and checkers pieces are set up on painted boards all set to play, so you and your sidekick can have a wicked match while cruising around Lake Union.

Eating ice cream Sunday cruise

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Sweet Treats
As for cool treats, they serve up plenty once the ship leaves the dock. The chocolate root beer float is what they’re known for, but you can get a traditional one too, as well as an orange dreamsicle or strawberry cream just like grandma used to make. There are plenty of ice cream truck faves for the Littles to choose from (think drumsticks and ice cream sammies), in case fizzy soda tickles too much. And the prices won’t break the bank. Plan to spend between $2-$4 for each treat.

Stay and Play
We love any activity that maximizes playtime and this cruise is poised to do that. There’s tons to see and do before or after your trip, so you can make a day of it. A visit to MOHAI is a no-brainer (and not just because of the A/C). They’ve got some mighty cool exhibits for the kidlets to explore while you chill out. Or check out the boats on loan from the Center for Wooden Boats. Each weekend between 11 a.m.-2 p.m. they bring out about ten beautifully crafted wooden boats for passers-by to test out on the South Lake Union Boat Pond ($5 suggested donation). Race ‘em, time ‘em, let them float leisurely along. Any way your littlest mate plays will be time well spent on the water. The spray park at Lake Union Park is another splashtastic way to spend a sunny day here. Pack a swimsuit and some sunscreen in the diaper bag for this added maritime adventure.

Wooden Boat pond South Lake Unionphoto: Allison Sutcliffe 

Good to Know:
1. The cruise is walk-on only, which makes it an easy spur-of-the-moment Sunday family adventure.

2. It’s cash or check only for both passage and frozen goodies, so bring some green on this trip.

3. If you can’t make the Sunday cruise, Captain Larry sets sail on Fridays and Saturdays too, for a 60-minute Lake Union and Portage Bay cruise that’s a little different from the Sunday sundae cruise.

4. BYO food gets a green light from Captain Larry. Pack a lunch or a light snack to level out the blood sugars after all that yummy ice cream.

Seattle Ferry Service (just west of MOHAI on Lake Union)
860 Terry Ave. N.
Seattle, Wa 98109
Online: seattleferryservice.com

When: Sundays, departing on the hour from 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Cost: $11/Adults; $10/Seniors; $7/Kids (5-13); 5 & under $2

Do you plan to take a Sunday Ice Cream Cruise this summer? Already been? Tell us about your experience in the Comments below.

— Allison Sutcliffe