I’ve found that this is usually the case for anywhere we go. Of course, some places are easier with little ones than others, but it’s also what we make of it. If we make it fun, our kids will think it’s fun. So, when you have 4 days to explore Seattle, what do you do?
First, we stayed a few blocks from The Market, which was about a quarter mile from the train, and about a mile from the Space Needle, so we were very centrally located. I chose a place with a kitchen so that we could cook some of our own meals and save on eating out. AND, because, eating out every meal of the day for several days in a row, can get quite old when it’s with two little ones. So, breakfast at our place before we went out on our daily adventures was key.
Since we planned on walking everywhere or using public transit, we didn’t rent a car. This meant taking the train from the airport to downtown and then walking (luggage and kids in tow!) to our hotel. Sounds worse than it was. Fortunately, we had the single stroller (easier to maneuver and gate check than a double stroller) and carriers for baby-wearing. In case you haven’t tried it, strollers usually make great luggage carts. Not that I know from personal experience or anything… 🙂
The Pike Place Market (where the original Starbucks is, all the pretty flowers, fresh produce, fish being thrown, etc) is one of the places the stroller came in handy. It’s so crowded that it’s not the best place to try to hold a little one’s hand and walk through. Sometimes, both kids sat in the stroller (because they were little enough and cooperative enough) and other times, Sweet Pea (then 3 years old) rode in the stroller while Buddy Boy (18 months at the time) rode in the carrier on my back.
But, there are hills.
So, getting to/from The Market, depending on where you are, with a stroller, isn’t necessarily the easiest task. Doable, but, not necessarily easy. There were a few times both my sister in law (who accompanied us on the trip) and I both pushed the stroller up a hill or held it going downhill so we had double “brakes” for just in case. Elevators aren’t plentiful there and can be hard to find too. So, put on your walking shoes before setting out on an adventure there! You can always rest and have a snack, enjoy some ice cream, or sip your Starbucks on the lawn at the open park adjacent to it. Lots of homeless congregate there, which can be unexpected (but now you know!), but we didn’t have any problems or feel unsafe.
There’s a beautiful garden, a gum wall (gross, but you might as well check it out, right?), vegan ice cream, a used book store, beautiful arts and crafts, and so much more at The Market. You can easily spend a day there, but we just went a few times. My favorite was the morning we left Seattle. We got there as the vendors were arriving and opening shop, which made it really neat to see. It was serene, but busy at the same time.
Down by the water are the piers, the Great Wheel, the amazing aquarium, tons of shops and restaurants, harbor cruises, and more. There’s definitely lots to see and do down at the Downtown Waterfront!
We got into Seattle in the early afternoon, so after dropping off our bags at our room, we headed down to The Market and the Waterfront, just to check it out. The kids enjoyed the Waterfront a lot! Lots to see and run around and look at. Plus, they’d been cooped up traveling all morning, so running around must have felt nice.
We later went back to the aquarium, which was simply amazing. We spent all morning there, but could have easily spent longer looking at all the different exhibits. It was one of those places that was very well designed, fun for kids AND adults, which isn’t always easy to do. I could have easily stayed a lot longer, that’s for sure.
Buddy Boy loved looking at The Great Wheel, which wasn’t something we rode (NOT my thing!), but it was fun to look at.
We ended up getting a City Pass, which lead us to taking a harbor cruise (LOTS of fun! Totally worth doing if you can). There were food and drinks available for purchase on the cruise we were on, but you can also bring your own. There’s stroller parking too, so don’t let that deter you from going on a harbor cruise. We got to see the cruise terminals, Olympic Park, the shipyards, the stadium, and learn so much about Seattle, what makes it unique, what it’s famous for, and lots more. You’ll need sunscreen if you sit on the top deck!
Looking around the shops was fun and entertaining, but, like most places, the souvenirs all kind of end up looking the same, and their prices seemed to be about the same. What did change was some of the local artisans and vendors, who set up tables to sell their masterpieces.
Find out more about what there is to do around the Downtown Waterfront in this post from Trip Savvy.
Touristy? Absolutely. Pricey? A bit. But, it was a bucket-list item for me, so we had to go. We went early in the day (around 10am), which was before it got too crowded on a nice clear day. We had to wait in line for a little bit, but not too long, but it was well worth it. And, they’re very organized with their lines, getting you into the elevator to go up, and stuff like that. The kids loved seeing a seaplane land on the water while on the observation deck. We loved the great views!
A note about strollers- they’re not allowed up on the observation deck (or in the elevator), so plan on leaving it in the stroller parking below or not taking it with you. We opted for backpacks (I absolutely LOVE my Venture Pal Lightweight Packable Durable Travel Backpack!*), water with our lunch out (so we didn’t have to carry it), and baby carriers that day. Lots of walking that day, (over 6 miles!) with Buddy Boy on my back for most of it! It was also the only day my sister-in-law had to wear a kid (phew!), as Sweet Pea got tired and needed a lift in the afternoon, as we expected she would.
We purchased City Passes to save money on seeing the Space Needle, and a trip to the aquarium, which were two things we wanted to do for sure. We also landed a harbor cruise, a trip through the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum (RIGHT next to the Space Needle) and the Museum of Pop Culture (also RIGHT next to the Space Needle)… after walking into the Museum of Pop Culture, we immediately wished we’d chosen to go to something else (there was another choice instead of the MoPOP). Totally not our thing, but lots of stuff from movies and TV shows there.
But, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum was pretty! It’s amazing what artists can do with glass! I wish I’d had taken my “real” camera with us because the glass as simply beautiful and amazing to look at. Certainly NOT a place to take children who want to run around. Fortunately, Buddy Boy took it as an opportunity to nap and Sweet Pea sat in the stroller most of the time (she enjoyed walking around the gardens, holding onto one of our hands and finding the glass among the plants). This was doable with toddlers, but I’d certainly consider the time of day that you go, as it’s not the most kid-friendly place. And, like most museums, there’s some degree of expecting things to be quiet, which doesn’t always go well with small kids.
There’s LOTS to do right next to the Space Needle, which you can get great views of from the ground, for free. There’s a very cool park that the kids enjoyed (lots of ropes, so not totally toddler friendly, but still fun). The Seattle Center Armory has lots of nice restaurants in it, making it a great place to have lunch (it’s also where the bathrooms are!). I loved the vegan place right inside the main doors, as they also had plenty of gluten-free options.
After exploring the area around the Space Needle, we took the tram through the MoPOP and over to the mall, which was fun for the kids, especially since we sat right in the front. It was a short ride, but still something that was new and exciting for them. The mall was just that, a mall, but we found a nice little park with fun outdoor games nearby. From there, we walked back down toward The Market and our hotel.
Since both kids were sleeping (on our backs!), we walked through The Market and grabbed some sweets for later. While there’s plenty of baked goodies and pastries, I highly recommend getting some berries. They have several kinds, some of which I’ve only seen there, and all were super sweet and delicious. Yum!
All in all, staying in downtown Seattle with two little ones was fun and something I’d do again. There wasn’t air conditioning in our room (aka, 1 bedroom apartment), but I think that’s the case with a lot of places in Seattle because it doesn’t usually get that hot. In fact, some mornings, we needed sweatshirts when we left our room around 9am because the tall buildings of downtown and being close to the water made it a bit cool for what we’re used to during the summer.
There’s also the normal stuff that you have in the downtown section of most big cities- lots of people, tourists, traffic, and homeless people. We saw some signs of homeless people sleeping in doorways or asking for money and stuff like that, but we didn’t feel unsafe and weren’t bothered by it. We also chose to stay in at night (much easier than dragging tired and crabby kids out!), so I can’t speak to walking around after dark.
And, being from the San Francisco Bay Area, we didn’t think the traffic was all that bad in Seattle, at least not compared to what we see here. The few parking lots that we did see had small parking spaces (just HOW do they get kids out of those cars anyway!?) and seemed pricey, but that’s the same as in San Francisco (and probably most big cities).
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