In 2012, Nate and I moved to Seattle from Arizona where we were both basically born and raised. We could not have chosen to relocate to a city more opposite from what we had always known. My first winter in that dark grey city was a rough one. Even though I grew up in Phoenix, I “grew up” in Seattle. It holds an incredibly special place in my heart. I am thankful for our time there and for the time we continue to get to spend there due to the relationships that were formed and fostered there. I hope this guide helps you make the most of whatever amount of time you spend in this magical place. Seattle is an enormous city with insane traffic and volatile weather, but it will woo you. Just wait and see 😉
Where to stay?
The city of Seattle is a large geographical area that is split up into many different neighborhoods. For a more in depth review of all of the different neighborhoods, you can explore VisitSeattle.org. In general, I would recommend staying away from neighborhoods that are located more downtown. While these places are going to be closer to certain attractions you might like to visit like Pike Place and the Space Needle, they are busy, lack parking availability, and have little space to let your kid wander safely. Personally, I would point you to the following three neighborhoods if you are traveling with young ones.
While I am a bit biased because this is the neighborhood we lived in back in the day, it is a great choice of place to stay due to its central location, bus-ability and proximity to downtown, and huge park nearby. Beacon Hill was one of the last areas of the city to truly be developed, therefore there is a good amount of diversity and character still preserved, while still being safe and providing several fun dining/ drinking options. In fact, our old landlords recently opened up a brewery on the top of the hill in an incredible corner location complete with patio space and highchairs!! Check out Perihelion Brewery and Jefferson Park if you choose to land in this southside spot.
UPPER QUEEN ANNE
While the entire neighborhood of Queen Anne will provide an exquisite experience, the lower part of the hill brings you into Seattle Center where the Space Needle and Experience Music Project are located. Stay out of the chaos, but close enough to enjoy the sights, by climbing to safety farther up the hill. Plenty of parks, coffee shops, and the best views of the city reside in this sanctuary. Visit a local coffee favorite at Storyville on Queen Anne Ave and have a picnic at Kerry Park to get that post card picture. Say please and Mt. Rainier might even pop her pretty little head out for you!
This neighborhood is the areas directly surrounding one of Seattle’s most popular outdoor play places. You know summer is here when the visitors to this neighborhood quadruple as people dust off their running shoes and life jackets. The lake itself provides the opportunity for swimming and boating around, while the land surrounding it allows for much rampaging with a huge playground, biking and running trails, and numerous sports fields. The lake is then surrounded by lots of restaurants and bars, as well as The Woodland Park Zoo. The cherry on top is that the Green Lake neighborhood backs up to the 99 which provides direct transport into downtown by bus!
How to get around?
Two ways to get around town present themselves when you consider you are traveling with a kid in tow. In general, Uber and Lyft are not options unless you want to lug a carseat around your final destination. Otherwise, I would consider relying on public transportation and rental car, possibly in combination. Renting a car for the entirety of your trip can be an expensive proposition, so consider busing around for the most part and popping into a rental for a few days to explore areas outside the city.
Busing around this city is made incredibly easy by utilizing Google Maps in combination with a custom bus app for Seattle called One Bus Away. Begin planning your excursion by plugging your destination into google maps and selecting the bus icon. This will show you the closest bus stops and which bus numbers to take. Then, move over to One Bus Away to look at your stop and determine when your bus will be arriving. This app is preferred to a regular bus schedule because it provides real time updates for the arrival of your bus so you don’t wait around for 10 minutes if a bus is running late. This is especially helpful if you want to get out on one of Seattle’s infamous drizzly days.
What to do?
PARKS/ SPLASH PADS
Check out Seattle.gov to find a park, pool, spray park or wading pool in your area. The city does an excellent job of maintaining these public spaces.
Seattle sports teams are integral to the culture of the city and are always an enjoyable experience. The reason I recommend soccer rather than football is due to the length of the game itself, the time they usually play, and the price you will pay for a ticket. Check a reputable source like TicketMaster or StubHub for resale tickets since Craigslist transactions for digital tickets are always questionable.
Alki Beach in West Seattle
- Crowded and street parking only, but gorgeous view of the city and LOTS of bar/ restaurant options nearby
Golden Gardens in Ballard
- Campfires available, as well as sand volleyball courts and walking trails
Discovery Park in Magnolia
- Parking is limited and shuttles operate only on the weekends. Over 11 miles of trails in the area leading to the beachfront and lighthouse.
Parking at most hike locations besides Rattlesnake Ledge require a Discover Pass. You can either pay $10 per use at the trailhead or $35 for an annual pass. Before you purchase the pass, check the website for free use days. Keep in mind that holidays and weekends will be very busy for these kid-friendly hikes that are so accessible to the city. If at all possible, plan your outings to these hikes (as well as other popular attractions) on weekdays or off-times.
- Twin Falls (3.6 miles out and back, 31 miles from city center)
- Little Si (3.7 miles out and back, 33 miles from city center)
- Rattlesnake Ledge (5.1 miles out and back, 35 miles from city center)
- Poo Poo Point (7.2 miles out and back, 20 miles from city center)
During the summer months, the Pacific Northwest is a literal smorgasbord of fresh berries! There are several U-Pick berry farms just outside the city, most on the east side near Bellevue/ Redmond. Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm is a personal favorite with a great variety of other local produce as well.
A must-see Seattle classic landmark. Plan on spending some time walking around, watching the flying fish, smelling the gorgeous and dirt-cheap floral bouquets, and getting free produce samples. When it comes to spending your money on snackables in the area, don’t miss the Daily Dozen mini donut stand in the south hall of the market, Piroshky Piroshky for something savory out on the east side of the street, and Rachel’s Ginger Beer in Post Alley.
Again, this is an iconic area with lots to do, but also tends to be very busy and many attractions are going to be on the pricey side. Start your exploration of the area at the “Artists At Play” Playground. This excellent playground is right next to the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the Experience Music Project) and directly under the umbrella of the Space Needle. Pacific Science Center is also nearby, as is Chihuly Garden and Glass (though probably NOT recommended for families with toddlers, because duh).
If you happen to be parked in the Seattle area for an extended vacation, make sure to check out the following locations to visit as well. You won’t regret it.
Mount Rainier National Park
San Juan Islands