Planning a Family Vacation to Seattle, Washington

For children – and grown-ups – fascinated by flight, Seattle offers firsthand glimpses of airplane history along with plenty of other attractions to keep your pilot wannabes busy.

While Seattle tends to get jammed with tourists in summer, January visitors find fewer crowds, deeper discounts on lodging and have a more authentic experience in the city.

Seattle’s unique vibe

Up in the northwest U.S., Seattle is the birthplace of phenomenal music acts, innovators and companies that are household names. Jimi Hendrix, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam all began in the Seattle music scene – your kids may be more familiar with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Then again, Amazon and Boeing call Seattle home, too, plus a little coffee brand you might have heard of – Starbucks.

The town, which embraces its “hipster” image, doesn’t mind the drizzle. In fact, true Seattleites don’t use umbrellas or even own them. To stay dry they might wear a raincoat or boots (pack yours), but they don’t mind the rain. It keeps the air fresh and the area green, earning Seattle its nickname: the Emerald City.

Start flying

Set for takeoff? Begin at the Museum of Flight, a trove of aircraft from 1900s biplanes to an old Air Force One. Your kids can handle the controls while sitting in the cockpit of some of the fastest jets in the world. Then try manning the control tower before touring the Space Shuttle Trainer Crew Compartment. Open daily, it’s $19/adults, $11/youth 5-17 and free/4 and under.

Keep up theme by taking a Boeing Factory Tour. This super-sized tour charts the beginning of the company’s first factory in the early 1900s and walks guests through – literally – how airplanes are made. Prep your camera for shots of your kids sitting in cockpit of a 727 flight deck. Keep in mind, the tour is only for those 4 feet tall or more. Cost is $18/adults and $10/ages 15 and younger (discounts for advance purchases).

Soar above the city

Next, get a bird’s eye view of the city up in the iconic Space Needle, jutting 605 feet into the air. In advance it’s $19/adults, $12/ages 4-12 and free/under 4; slightly more on site. Stroll the revamped observation deck to see cars and people below with Mount Rainier as a backdrop. Or skip the tickets by eating at the SkyCity Restaurant (reservations recommended).

Or try the Seattle Great Wheel, a big Ferris wheel off of one of the city’s piers. Opened in 2012, it rotates to a height 175 feet over the water in cozy enclosed gondolas. Rides are $13/ages 12-plus, $8.50/ages 4-11 and free/under 4.

Give your taste buds a lift

While eclectic restaurants dot Seattle, Pike Place Market has a wide assortment of some of the best food finds. As one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the U.S., it’s a collection of fresh food stands and small shops. The first Starbucks coffee shop opened here (look for the line). Plan on picking up Daily Dozen Doughnut Company’s mini doughnuts – the local fave is bacon and maple glazed! No visit is complete, however, without stopping by the fish market, where fishmongers hurl fish to one another – and even into the crowd.

Planning your visit: Ready to plan your winter getaway to the northwest? Start your Seattle adventure by going to

Six Fun Family Destinations in Seattle

Seattle Aquarium. Learn about local residents like orca and sharks at this expansive aquarium. Watching the daily otter and seal feedings is a must.

EMP Museum. This futuristic-looking museum of music, sci-fi and pop culture is a Seattle original where you find all things Star Wars, Dr. Who and more, depending on the exhibit.

Pacific Science Center. From how 3-D movies are made to spinning a two-ton granite ball with your fingertips, this interactive center turns your kids into explorers.

Discovery Park. Stretching over Puget Sound, this 534-acre city park has trails, play areas and a nature center all designed to give you a chance to discover more about Seattle’s natural side.

Woodland Park Zoo. Make friends with one of the 1,100 animals here like elephants, lemurs, snow leopards and warthogs.

Fremont Troll. Located in the eclectic Fremont neighborhood that locals call the “Center of the Universe,” this 18-foot sculpture that appears to be emerging from beneath the bridge is fun for a quick stop and an unforgettable picture.


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