Discover our family's favorite things to do – and foods to eat – in Seattle.
Our family is from Seattle – and the first Penguino came from the Woodland Park Zoo! Although we call Austin, Texas home these days, we love to travel back to the Pacific Northwest. We're excited to share some places we return to again and again!
Seattle is an incredible destination for families. The best time to go is the summer. July and August mean long, sunny days in a city best known for rain! Of course, nine months of rain a year means Seattle offers lots of things to do indoors. Seattle is surrounded by incredible natural beauty. So whenever you go, be sure to pack clothes to stay dry and warm so you can go out and explore!
11 Things to Do
1. Artists at Play Playground
Located at Seattle Center in the shadow of the Space Needle, this new playground has a 35 foot fall play structure! While big kids will enjoy the rope ladders and enormous slides, there’s plenty for little ones to do closer to the ground.
The Seattle Center is home to many other attractions and performing arts:
- International Fountain
- Seattle Children’s Theater
- Pacific Northwest Ballet
- Pacific Science Center
- Seattle Children’s Museum
- Museum of Pop Culture aka MoPOP
- Seattle Space Needle
2. Ferry to Bainbridge Island
On a sunny day, the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Islands has an incredible view of both the city and the mountains – from the Cascades and Mount Rainier on the East to the Olympics on the West. We love to spend a couple hours exploring Winslow, just a quick walk from the ferry terminal. Don’t miss Mora Iced Creamery and their signature blackberry ice cream.
3. Woodland Park Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo, located near Greenlake in Northwest Seattle, has more than 1,000 different creatures. Rain or shine, plan to spend a whole day exploring indoor and outdoor exhibits. Pack a picnic (nearby PCC is our go-to) or grab something from the surprisingly delicious food pavilion. Little ones will enjoy the Zoomazium, an indoor play area. Our favorite animals include the giraffes, gorillas, grizzly bears, jaguars – and of course penguins!
4. Discovery Park
Discovery Park lies at the western tip of the Magnolia neighborhood. Exploring the trails and beaches, you’ll quickly forget that you are in a city. The best time to visit is at low tide when you can see sea anemones, hermit crabs, sea stars, urchins and more. In the summer months, stop to pick and eat blackberries along the trails.
Most visitors have to park and walk a mile or so to get to the beach. Visiting with a child under age 8? You can request a permit to park closer to the beach.
5. Ballard Sunday Farmers Market
The best time to visit Ballard – one of Seattle’s most family friendly neighborhoods – is during the weekly farmers market. On Sundays from 10am to 3pm, more than 100 vendors selling everything from organic berries to artisanal cheeses line the NW Market Street and 22nd Avenue NW. The market is surrounded by some of Seattle’s best restaurants and boutiques.
6. Theo Chocolate Factory Tour
Theo Chocolate makes some of the world’s most delicious fair trade chocolate in a renovated factory in Fremont. Families can tour the factory to learn how the company transforms cocoa beans into chocolate bars. Enjoy plenty of samples and learn a little about the social and environmental issues related to cocoa and cocoa farmers. Tours are designed for families with older kids – for little ones there’s a chocolate story time on weekends!
7. Kayak on Lake Union
One of the best ways to see Seattle – including the iconic houseboats on Lake Union – is by water! Three seasons of the year, you can rent kayaks and standup paddleboards at Agua Verde Paddle Club. The family-friendly Mexican restaurant upstairs makes delicious burritos and tacos!
8. Shop at University Village
The most family-friendly shopping in Seattle is at University Village, an upscale outdoor mall with a great mix of local boutiques and national brands. There are lots of options for kids, including Crew Cuts, Peek Kids, Hannah Anderson and local-favorite Kid’s Club – plus fun fountains and play areas to keep little ones busy. Beware the frog fountain: we’ve headed home from University Village with at least one soaking wet child too many times! If you’re looking for a treat, both Trophy Cupcakes and Molly Moon’s are to die for.
9. Pike Place Market
The Pike Place Market is one of our first stops every time we visit Seattle. The iconic market has hundreds of vendors selling everything from crafts to fresh fruit, vegetables and fish. To avoid crowds, the best time to go is on a weekday morning just as the market opens up. A few of our family’s favorites are Beechers, Ellenos Greek Yogurt and Le Panier. Go hungry: there are so many yummy choices!
Near the Pike Place Market:
10. Visit a Climbing Gym
Seattle is home to three great climbing gyms: Stone Gardens in Ballard, Vertical World between Queen Anne and Magnolia, and Seattle Bouldering Project in Beacon Hill. Our family prefers bouldering to climbing with ropes – and the Seattle Boulder Project has two full floors of climbing walls with cushy, 2-foot thick mats on the floor. There’s a children’s play area and shoe rental is free on your first visit.
11. Fly on a Trapeze
Join the circus for a day and learn how to fly on a trapeze at the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA). The school offers a one-time, 2-hour flying trapeze class open to everyone 6 years and older. This thrilling - but safe - activity is great for older kids! Book online ahead of time.
3 Places to Eat
1. Portage Bay Cafe
For the best brunch in Seattle, visit Portage Bay Café, conveniently located a few blocks from downtown Ballard as well as in South Lake Union. The café is famous for their breakfast bar with seasonal fruit, nuts and whipped cream to go on pancakes, waffles, French toast and oatmeal.
Nearby you can visit the Ballard Locks and Fish Ladder.
2. Marination Ma Kai at Alki Beach
Marination Ma Kai is a casual beachside restaurant in West Seattle. With an outdoor patio and a to die for view of downtown, it's the perfect spot on a sunny afternoon. Hawaiian Korean fusion tacos and sliders cost just $3 each. Don’t miss the fish and Kahlua pork tacos.
As Austinites, we’re taco experts (aka snobs). These tacos are up there with the best of Torchy’s and Taco Deli!
On a sunny day, take a walk along nearby Alki Beach and a dip in the sound – if you’re brave. Even in summer, the water is cold!
3. Tutta Bella
Family-friendly happy hour? Yes please! Tutta Bella makes some of Seattle’s best pizza in wood-fired ovens. At happy hour daily from 3-6pm in their restaurants, kids can chow down on 10-inch pizzas while grown-ups enjoy craft cocktails, local brews and Italian wine. Save room for dessert: both the gelato and tiramisu are excellent. There are five locations Columbia City, South Lake Union, Wallingford and on the Eastside.
Head over to the Penguino Travel Instagram to see more photos of our favorite places in Seattle!