Seattle is one of my favorite cities. A friend and I did a road trip the summer before I met my husband and visited a few things, but that was nearly eight years ago. So, a perfect storm of affordable plane tickets and Fall Break for my husband and daughter meant I booked tickets for a short trip to the Emerald City! So, here’s how to visit Seattle in a weekend, and a few tips on what we did with our 5 year-old daughter in tow!
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First things first: Accommodations
We love Airbnb for traveling. It’s cheap, fun, and totally convenient. We rented a spare room in an apartment only a few blocks from downtown. It was quiet, safe, and our hosts were fantastic.
I’ve had a lot of questions about how Airbnb works, so here’s the low-down. Basically, people rent out their houses, apartments, and spare rooms to travelers. Sometimes the owners of the property are there, other times they aren’t. In this case, because we were in a spare room, we did see a lot of our hosts.
But, that brings me to another benefit of Airbnb. Our hosts were fantastic guides. If we had questions about how to get around downtown, where to eat, or what sights we had to see, they were more than willing to help. It’s a way to get good information about the city and meet new people. Of course, you can always rent a place without the owner on site if you want more privacy! (Bonus: sign up for Airbnb and you can get $20 off your first booking).
We flew out of Salt Lake City at about 11 am. It was the first plane trip for Abigail (or at least that she could remember). And frankly, one of the best things about the trip for her was the flight. She loved the take-off and landing.
When we arrived at the airport we took LINK, the light rail system in Seattle, to the train station nearest our apartment. Once we’d checked in to our apartment, we went to our first stop, the Seattle Aquarium.
I’d been to the aquarium before, so I knew it was something that Abigail was going to love. We purchased a CityPass before we flew out, because one price gave us admission to a variety of different attractions. It was also a fantastic guide for what to see and made our vacation SUPER easy to plan. If you want to visit Seattle in a weekend, this is probably my number one recommendation.
We spent a couple hours at the aquarium.
One of the funniest parts about the aquarium was Abigail’s reaction to the tide pool exhibit. You’ve got to watch out and make sure you don’t get washed away!
The Seattle Aquarium has a bunch of different exhibits that range from the more exotic (feeding a baby octopus!) to the local habitats. It’s worth seeing, especially if you have a CityPass.
We then headed over to Pike’s Place Market. It’s a must-see, not just for the fish throwing, but because there are amazing shops with all kinds of goodies to buy from local vendors.
We ended up with some delicious chocolate cherries (dried cherries, not those crazy ones in the syrup) from Chukar Cherries. We got an assortment as well as some spicy cherries that were AMAZING.
As an added bonus, we got to see the sun setting across the harbor for some incredible light.
After our day near the harbor, we walked back up near where we were staying for some sushi. Salmon is a big deal in Seattle, and it’s delicious. Once you’ve had fresh salmon sashimi from Seattle, I don’t think you’ll ever go back. I wish I had taken some photos of our plates, but we were too famished to stop for pictures!
The first thing on the next day’s agenda was visiting the zoo. This was also part of our CityPass. We could choose either the zoo or the EMP Museum. We decided on the zoo only because it was supposed to be a gorgeous day (which it was), and we thought Abigail would have more fun seeing animals than exhibits.
The zoo was far from where we were staying so we took an Uber. This is the way we got around everywhere that wasn’t close enough to walk. Uber is a ride-sharing service where people who own their cars can give you a lift around the city. (If you haven’t tried Uber, you definitely need to. Use this link to get your first ride for free!)
Woodland Park Zoo
I was totally blown away by how amazing the zoo was. They had some fantastic exhibits, it was well laid out, the animals were active, and it was very informative. I would definitely recommend it as a stop if you have little kids or are going on a day when the weather is nice. It’s a fun walk.
There were several places to sit and chill.
This is one of the problems of having a short child. She always needs a boost up to see better. But, I guess it’s better than her hanging on the rails.
I gave Abigail a flip video camera, and she spent a good amount of time filming animals. I had to stop her a few times and remind her to just enjoy the moment.
One of the really fun animals to see was the jaguar! He ran in circles around his enclosure, so he was easy to spot.
There were several enclosed aviaries where the birds flew around. They were gorgeous!
Probably one of my favorite exhibits was the bears. They were active and ENORMOUS. I couldn’t believe how big they were.
After the zoo, we took a car to a little burger shop for lunch and then scooted over to Archie McPhee’s. There is no other way to describe this place except that it’s a real life Zonko’s Joke Shop. It’s floor to ceiling FILLED with amazing novelty gifts. It’s not just gag gifts either, but things like Jane Austen band-aids, or a bin filled with plastic aliens.
Abigail tried on a praying mantis mask, and I opted for the bat. The had horse heads, pig snouts, the whole nine yards.
I ended up getting a little take-out box of random things. It was probably one of the best values in the store. Sure, you didn’t get to pick what you wanted, but I loved the thrill of the mystery.
Green Lake Park
After all the walking and seeing, we took a break at Green Lake Park. In the summer you can rent paddle boats and go out on the water. We just sat on the dock and did some people watching.
Again, this is a great, free activity to do on a nice day. There is a long loop around the lake that’s perfect for biking, walking, or just sitting and watching people.
Center for Wooden Boats
The Center for Wooden Boats is a free museum where you can learn about sailing and the upkeep of wooden boats. It has a very Sleepless in Seattle vibe to it. There are some amazing boats and wonderful views of the water.
The Space Needle
The iconic Space Needle is included in the CityPass. I hadn’t been up to the Space Needle before, and to be honest, I don’t think I would have gone if it weren’t for the CityPass. There were some great views, but the line to go up and down was pretty long.
The city looks so cool lit up at night!
We finally got down from the Space Needle at about 9 pm and headed over to Zeek’s Pizza (it’s within walking distance and came highly recommended). The pizza was good, affordable, and child friendly. After all that walking—I think I logged 14,000 steps on my fitbit—we headed back to the apartment to sleep.
Our final day in the city was a partial day, just like our first day in the city. We had a few more things we wanted to see with our CityPass. I also have a good childhood friend who lives in the city and we wanted to meet up. We got breakfast and headed over to the Pacific Science Center.
Pacific Science Center
We were all a little tired at this point, so this museum wasn’t as fun as it would be if we had done it the first day or if we were local. However, there were a few things worth noting.
First, the IMAX theater. That was worth the trip alone. We saw a 3D movie about the Hubble telescope and it was gorgeous. The film was great, and it was informative. Abigail talked about this film for hours afterward and for good reason. I imagine all the movies were this way, but I can particularly recommend the Hubble one if it’s playing.
The other must-see is the butterfly garden.
There were hundreds of butterflies in this beautifully lit dome. Everyone was provided with a card to identify butterflies, which was a lot of fun for Abigail (and me!).
As you can tell, I really loved the owl butterflies.
Besides the butterflies and the theater, they had a tide pool where you could touch the animals, and tons of hands-on exhibits. There were exhibits on space, health and nutrition, animals, insects, dinosaurs, and so much more. It would be easy to spend the entire day there.
We, however, had one more important stop:
Argosy Harbor Tour
This was the last thing on our CityPass. Even though the weather had been beautiful up to this point, it was almost raining by the time we got to the dock. We went on the tour anyway, and it was definitely worth it. The tour guide was funny and informative. He had a lot of information about the different docks along the coast as well as the landmarks you could see from the boat.
The top deck of the boat was perfect for selfies, by the way.
By this time, it was getting time for us to start packing up. We took a car back to the sushi place we went the first night (it was that good!) and had dinner. Then we grabbed our bags and took a car back to the airport.
Seattle, Washington is a fantastic place to visit with your family. There are tons of affordable or free things to do in the city, regardless of activity level. It is absolutely possible to visit Seattle in a weekend and pack in a lot. Abigail cried when we left because she wanted to live there. It’s got a home-y feel that will make you want to fit right in.