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April 21, 2008

Insider's Guide to Seattle

By Guest Blogger

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Book It!: Seattle's new Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaus (Peyman Oreizy)

Seattle resident and mother of two young kids, Debbie Dubrow is the voice behind, a blog filled with insights about traveling with kids and featuring numerous family-friendly city guides.Contact us if you'd like to contribute.

Seattle's walkable urban areas, beautiful natural setting, and laid-back atmosphere make it a great vacation destination for anyone regardless of age, but you might be surprised to learn how well it accommodates its youngest visitors. Not only are there lots of activities specifically for kids, but Seattle's major sites (and some of its most popular restaurants) are just as much fun for children as they are adults. Living in Seattle has given me plenty of opportunities to explore the best of the city with my two young children, so here are a few of my favorite locales—some of them well-trod, others more off-the-beaten track!

Pike Place Farmer's Market is the classic Seattle tourist attraction. The colorful market, filled with fresh fruit and flowers, is interesting for all ages, but kids in particular will be drawn in by the live crab displays and the "flying fish" at Pike Place Fish Company. On summer weekends, scheduled kids' activities, including cooking demonstrations, face painting, and games and music, make the bustling market even more fun. After taking in the sights at the market, head across the street to Beecher's Handmade Cheese, where kids can watch as cheese is made, sample fresh cheese curd, and feast on the city's best mac and cheese.

After lunch, head to Seattle's new Central Library. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, this thoroughly modern building mixes modern building practices, eco-friendly materials, public art, and library science in a totally new and engaging way. Daily library tours give a fascinating insight into redesigning a public space that serves many different needs. Best of all, the children's area is a huge space with toys, puppets, and, of course, lots of books; the teen area includes comics and music listening stations.

Parents might be wary of visiting the new Seattle Art Museum (re-opened in 2007) with kids, but the designers have made every effort to make this newly expanded museum as kid-friendly as possible. Older kids will appreciate the hands-on fun at the museum's (free) art ladder and WaMu Open Studio craft area, while young toddlers will love practicing their climbing skills on the long marble staircase. Inside the galleries, there is a cozy play area with dress-up clothing, engaging toys for all ages, and art-related books.

By now, everyone is probably ready for a snack. Just two blocks from the Seattle Art Museum, Gelatiamo serves delicious gelato and Italian sweets. Sit at the marble tables and watch the city pass by while you enjoy a scoop or two.

Stomachs happy, walk up Pike Street to Westlake Center and catch the Monorail to Seattle Center. Seattle Center is home to many of Seattle's kid-friendly attractions, including the Seattle Children's Museum, the Pacific Science Center and a small amusement park, and the famous Space Needle. Our favorite spot on a sunny summer day is the International Fountain, where kids can get soaked running in, around, and through the choreographed spray.

For dinner, head back downtown to the Serious Pie pizzeria, the newest restaurant opened by one of Seattle's best known chefs, Tom Douglas. This isn't traditional pizza house pizza, but it will be easy to satisfy your kids' cravings here, and grownups will enjoy gourmet toppings like house-made mozzarella, pancetta, and sausage. Reservations are not accepted, so arrive early to beat the crowds.

After a day downtown, you'll be ready to head further afield on day two. At the Ballard Locks (also known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks), you'll see boats pass through the locks as they sail between the salty water of the Puget Sound and inland freshwater lakes. You'll also learn about salmon here, plus you can watch them in-season through a glass-viewing area as they leap up a salmon ladder. Kid-friendly Ballard also has plenty of food options for lunch, including our family favorite, Carta de Oaxaca, which offers fantastic Mexican food that's a refreshing break from the usual enchiladas, rice, and beans. Try the black chicken molé or the lamb birria, then head around the block to Cupcake Royale for dessert or coffee. This is also a great area to wander and do a little shopping, with offbeat stores for children and adults.

Seattle's funky Fremont neighborhood is another fun area to explore with kids. From the huge troll lurking under the north end of the Aurora Bridge to the rocket sculpture denoting Fremont as the center of the universe, it feels like there's something to discover around every corner. At the Edge of Glass Gallery, visitors can get close enough to feel the heat of live glass-blowing demonstrations. Blue C Sushi, a speedy conveyor-belt sushi joint is the perfect spot for lunch with kids here. The opportunity to choose their own food off the conveyor belt puts most kids in a good mood, and even picky eaters can feast on sesame noodles, fruit salad, and fresh cream puffs. End your outing with a tour of Theo Chocolate Factory, one of Seattle's best chocolate makers and the only roaster of organic cacao beans in the U.S. (book well in advance, though). -- Debbie Dubrow

Need more Seattle inspiration? Visit's Seattle Family Vacations Guide, plus check out the authoritative for attraction listings, itineraries, and kid-friendly restaurants.

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Travel Tips


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