Seattle’s quintessential summer festival is about to kick off and whether you are new to the Seattle area or you’ve lived here your whole life, this summer celebration never gets old. And thanks this month and a half-long festival, your July and August days will never be dull. In fact, the folks at Seafair have packed more fun and excitement into their festival than you can shake a stick at. Since we know sifting through all these events can be overwhelming, we’ve scoured the official Seafair website to pull out the best activities for the littlest Seattle-ites and made a list of our fave picks. So read on for our stress-free tips, and get ready to mark your calendar with lots of family fun.
Seafair Pirates Landing – July 6
Undeniably, one of the biggest and most exciting Seafair events is the pirates making tharrrrr debut on Alki Beach each year. Plan on making this an all-day event with your swashbuckling gang. The pirates will arrive between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm, but we suggest heading to Alki by 10:00 am to get a good spot. Bring a lunch (all the restaurants will be packed) and some sunscreen and enjoy the wait. Insider Tip: Leave the car on the Seattle side and ride the Water Taxi over to Alki. Can’t make it to the landing or don’t want to deal with the crazy crowd? Remember that the pirates will be at many of the community Seafair parades as well on TV during the Torchlight Parade.
Wallingford Family Parade & Festival – July 6
Whether your little ones dream of being the star of the parade or are content just watching from the sidewalk, this parade through the heart of Wallingford is a Seafair classic. If you and the fam want to participate in the parade itself, jazz up your stroller, scooter or trike with fun decorations and bust out that snazzy Halloween costume that you spent a month making last fall – this is the time to go wild! Afterwards, enjoy the family-friendly street festival. Insider tip: View the map for directions on where exactly the parade goes and where to meet to walk in the parade – it’s very helpful.
Kent Cornucopia Days – July 11-14
Head southeast of Seattle for this fun and extremely family-friendly summer Seafair festival. Kent Cornucopia Days includes a carnival, street fair, dragon boat races, a skateboard tournament, grand parade and even a children’s bike ride (best for older kids). Insider tip: Make sure the little ones have eaten before venturing out to Kent because the traffic on Highway 167 can be a bear.
West Seattle Summer Fest – July 12-14
This annual Seafair event, located in the heart of West Seattle, has evolved into one of Seattle’s premier summer street fairs and music events. During the 3-day festival, the West Seattle Junction will close to car traffic so you can enjoy a long weekend of shopping, music, art, food and family-friendly fun. Insider tip: Avoid the crowds by hitting the festival on Friday morning when it opens and purchase an unlimited ride bracelet for the bouncy houses and slides that inhabit one whole corner of the festival.
Pioneer Square Fire Festival – July 13
No kid can deny the appeal of a fire truck–they’re loud, bright, and they drive really fast! See a bunch of antique fire trucks parked along Occidental Square Park and take a look back in time to see how firefighters and their technology have changed over the years. There will be family-friendly activities (how does a fire truck that’s been converted into an arts and crafts wagon sound?) and even a vintage police car on display for the kids to see. If you’re looking for a little history to accompany the old-school vehicles, check out all the historical museums open during the festival as well.
Milk Carton Derby – July 13
If you’re up for braving the crowd, the Milk Carton Derby held at Green Lake is another top-Seafair event for families. Parking is typically nuts and you’ll want to make sure you put little ones in strollers or packs, but it sure is fun to watch these homemade sea crafts brave the waters of the lake (and sometimes sink!). Insider tip: Don’t plan on grabbing lunch at a local restaurant after the derby because they’ll all be packed. Instead, pack your own picnic and a blanket to enjoy the show and some people watching. Also, pack your patience and plan on spending time visiting the sponsor booths and enjoying lots of interactive displays and exhibits as well as playing in the designated kids entertainment area.
Mercer Island Summer Celebration – July 13-14
With a “Magical” theme for the 2013 celebration, your little magicians won’t want to miss this festival on Mercer Island. They will have a parade on Saturday morning and a spectacular fireworks show later in the evening as well as a fab street fair that will last all weekend long and car show that dad will especially love. Insider tip: Warn the littlest ones about the roaming performers so that they don’t get scared during the parade. Also, don’t forget to check out the Kids Fun Zone, with arts and crafts, inflatable rides, games, and more.
Seattle Chinatown-International District Dragon Fest 2013 – July 13-14
Formerly known as Summer Festival, you won’t want to miss this Seafair event that brings together some of the best cultures present in Seattle. There will be Japanese taiko drumming, Indian dance performances, Chinese martial arts demonstrations, and a huge outdoor Asian market with food and crafts for kiddos of all ages. Insider tip: Parents will love the Food Walk, with local restaurants offering up international cuisine for just two bucks and your kiddos will love collecting stamps from the participating restaurants and entering to win the grand prize drawing.
White Center Jubilee Days – July 13-21
Another fun community celebrating Seafair is South Seattle with their White Center Jubilee Days. Your family will love the carnival (July 17-21), fireworks and street fair, complete with live music, a car and bike show, and a beer garden for parents. Insider tip: Don’t miss taking the littlest ones to the Kids Center (July 20-21) for pint-sized carnival games, crafts, and lots of fun.
West Seattle Grand Parade – July 20
West Seattle families love (with a capital L) this parade that has all the bells and whistles of the Torchlight Parade, but without the crazy parking and downtown crowds. This parade is the perfect place to catch both the Seafair clowns and pirates as well as the Seafair princesses and the community floats. Insider tip: The main parade goes all the way down California Avenue, but the kiddie parade starts halfway down – find a spot on the south end if you want to catch it.
Waterland Parade – July 20
Going straight through the heart of Des Moines (about 30 minutes southwest of Seattle), your little ones will love this community Seafair parade. It begins with a children’s parade at 5:45 pm followed by the main parade. Be sure to go early to explore the Classic Car and Wooden Boat Show. Insider tip: For dinner before or after the parade, head over to Wally’s Chowder House for some seriously tasty fish n’ chips.
Covington Days Festival – July 20-21
Another excellent, family-friendly Seafair activity on the south side of Seattle is this two-day extravaganza in Covington, which is located just east of Kent, next to Maple Valley. Not to be missed is the watermelon eating contest and awesome parade on Saturday as well as the Kiwanis Club Kids Zone running on both days. Insider Tip: If you have a little one who would like to brave some carnival rides for the first time, this is a good place to start with smaller crowds and tickets that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Kids’ Triathlon – July 21
Just because the little ones in your life haven’t learned to walk yet doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this fun Seafair event. The kids’ triathlon is quite entertaining – kids ages 6 and up can participate in the course (there is a short and long version) with family and friends cheering from the sidelines. Have an older child who wants to give it a shot? Advance registration is available online for $25. Insider tip: Explore Seward Park afterwards – it’s one of the best parks on the south end.
Greenwood Parade – July 25
Not much is better than a summer evening parade. The Greenwood Parade is yet another great place to bring the family to catch some of the highlights of Seafair (think pirates, clowns, princesses, and floats) with more of a neighborhood vibe. Insider tip: Stop by Picnic on the way for a meal to enjoy while watching the parade.
Ikea Renton River Days – July 26-28
For something fun this weekend, head south to Renton. The major highlight of this family-friendly Seafair activity is the Duck Hunt and, no, it’s not how it sounds! It’s a scavenger hunt for 30 large rubber ducks that have been hidden around the city of Renton for you and your kids to find. Check out the Renton River Days Facebook page for further rules and guidelines. Insider tip: See the full schedule of events, broken down by times, on the Renton River Days website, which is a great resource for picking the things you’d love to see and fitting them in around naps.
Torchlight Parade – July 27
This is the big one! Winding through downtown, the Torchlight Parade is a more than 60-year tradition in Seattle. The parade itself starts at 7:30 pm, but you’ll need to get there far earlier to secure a good spot. Make an evening of it by packing a picnic dinner and some cards to play Go Fish while you wait. Insider tip: If you have a double stroller, this is the time to bust it out. They are perfect for wheeling the kids right into front-row parade seats on the sidewalk. If camping out along 4th Ave is not your idea of fun, purchase reserved seats at Westlake Park. This is where the TV crews set up so you are guaranteed the best seat in town!
Parade of Ships – August 1
Grab a spot along the Seattle waterfront to watch the magnificent tall ships roll into Seafair via Elliott Bay. There is no specific time for their arrival, but past years prove that they start to make an entrance into Seattle around 2:00 pm – you won’t be able to miss them with the cannons and yelps coming from their decks. Insider tip: Don’t miss a free tour of the ships and boats at Bell Harbor from August 1-4.
Magnolia Summerfest – August 2-3
Two fun-filled Seafair days in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood include an art show, bouncy houses and pony rides galore, a kids’ talent show and the largest children’s parade in the city. Insider tip: Moms and dads, the parade starts early in the morning (get there even earlier for a good seat), but rest assured, there are coffee shops on every corner in Magnolia, including the super family-friendly Serendipity Café.
Boeing Air Show – August 2-4
One of the highlights of Seafair is the fantastic air shows over Lake Washington. If you live in Seattle or just outside, you won’t be able to miss the sound and sight of these jets doing tricks and stunts in the Seattle skies (which will hopefully be clear and blue). Try checking them out just before takeoffs at the Museum of Flight or catch the show from the Seattle side of I-90 (via the Mt. Baker neighborhood). Insider tip: Bring protective ear wear for little ones because these planes are seriously LOUD!
Seafair Hydroplane Races – August 2-4
For three days, watch as the Unlimited and Unlimited Light hydros race for the Albert Lee Appliance Cup. Purchase a day or weekend pass and enjoy all of the festivities at Genesee Park including pit tours, the Boeing Air Show, wakeboard demonstrations, entertainment and food vendors. Plus, take the kiddos to the Kids Zone for giant inflatables, rides, games and activities. Insider tip: Parking can get a bit crazy near Genesee Park so try to carpool or take the bus. Also, avoid the long lines at the gate by purchasing your tickets online. Gates open at 8:30 am.
What are your best Seafair tips? Do you brave the crowds to bring your little ones to these city-wide events or do you stick to your local, neighborhood celebrations?
– Kristina Moy & Katie Kavulla