We spent the September Long/Labor Day weekend in Seattle this year. After many years of September long weekend camping, we decided to shake things up a bit and go on a family adventure. Little did we know what an adventure it would be. You see, we had no idea that the PAX expo was that weekend. For the non-gaming geeks (like me) in the crowd, this is one of (if not) the largest gaming conventions in the world. On top of that, there was also a huge music festival at the base of the space needle that weekend too. Great weekend to decide to visit….no wonder there were so few hotels available!
Regardless, we found accommodations and set out to see Seattle. Since we scored a hotel downtown near all of the action, we decided to forgo a rental car. There were a few things that we missed because of this decision but I still think it was a wise one because parking is EXPENSIVE at downtown hotels. Now…on to our sight seeing and adventures (I haven’t included price info for anything other than the City Pass. Prices change often so click through the links to view up to date info)!
- We decided to buy the Seattle City Pass since it included so many of the sights we had already decided to see. It ended up being a great decision and I think it saved us a lot of money. You get admission to the Space Needle (2 visits), the Seattle Aquarium, an Argosy Harbor Cruise, the Pacific Science Center, EMP Museum and either the Woodland Park Zoo or the Museum of Flight. There are also discount admissions to other sights like the Chihuly gardens (in pic above) inside the ticket pack. The pass is good for 9 days from your first use and saves you 46% off admissions. Prices are $74 for adults and $49 for children 4 – 12. We used everything except the zoo and the Museum of Flight. Visiting either would have been much easier had we rented a car.
- The Seattle Aquarium – Hands down Evan’s favorite place we visited in Seattle. This aquarium is beautiful and very well set up for children. They have a giant room full of tidal pools where children can explore and touch the sea animals there. Full of starfish, anemones, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and more, we had a hard time getting Evan to leave this part of the building. Throughout our trip, he continually asked if we could return to the aquarium. Had we stayed longer, I think a return trip would have been on our list.
- The Pacific Science Center – Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Pacific Science Center is an awesome feast for the eyes. The soaring towers and architecture are wonderfully mid-century. Evan really enjoyed the water features they had set up in the pools around the towers and the butterfly exhibit. We arrived at the science center a bit late in the afternoon so I don’t feel we gave it a fair shake. I found much of it poorly organized and hard to decipher what you were supposed to do there. However, Evan enjoyed it nonetheless. Check the website for a full list of current exhibits as they change frequently. The Pacific Science Center, the Space Needle and the EMP museum are all in very close proximity however, I would not recommend trying to do all three in a single day.
- The Space Needle – An iconic part of the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle was on our “must visit” list even though it is very similar to the Calgary Tower. Our trip up to the top was easy peasy thanks to the City Pass “skip the line” feature at the Space Needle. There were probably 150 people in line waiting to buy tickets and we skipped that line totally. Once you are at the top, you can walk around the needle to see the Seattle skyline. Unfortunately we made bad choices and Evan was HANGRY when we got to the top. He was a miserable little poop and we left super quick as even an emergency granola bar couldn’t turn things around. It was pretty cool but not super interesting for children. The picture they make as you go up is available for free if you email it to yourself (like the picture below, though Evan’s shirt color made the background show through because it was on a gray screen). If you buy the City Pass and have time…go for it. Otherwise, skip it.
- Argosy Harbour Cruise – About an hour start to finish, this cruise takes you around Elliot Bay. We went on a brilliantly sunny day and Mount Rainier even made an appearance. Evan did not love the cruise but (again) it had more to do with his mood than the cruise itself. I liked that we got to see a bit of Seattle while resting after a day full of walking. There are cocktails, drinks and snacks served on board as well as bathrooms since there are very few bathrooms near where you board the ship.
- Ride the Ducks of Seattle Tour – You’ve seen them, the crazy amphibious vehicles blasting loud music and sporting loads of people quacking through duck whistles. Yep….that’s the duck tour. We had many suggestions that we should go on the tour. Overall we had a good time but it is VERY dependent on which driver you get and whether you get a fun crowd. Our crowd was not so fun. They were mostly a bunch of fuddy duddies that just sat there. You can catch the tour downtown or near the Space Needle. The pro of catching it downtown is that you get more time on the water and less time stuck in traffic.
- The Seattle Underground Tour – While we were on the Duck Tour (above), our driver mentioned the Seattle Underground tour. Evan heard “underground” and immediately started asking non stop to go on the tour. He was SURE that there would be crystals and glow worms on the tour since it was underground. I had to break it to him that there would probably be neither of those things but he wanted to go anyway. The Seattle Underground tour ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. You learn lots about the history of Seattle and how there came to be a sidewalks a full story under the street level of Seattle. The tour guides are funny and tell you more than just the dry historical facts. Fun and interesting for history buffs and regular people alike. However, the tour requires quite a bit of walking and lots of stairs. Not recommended for people with limited mobility, strollers or kids under 6.
- EMP Museum – You know this museum is going to be cool from the second you see it because the even the building is awesome. Supposedly the designer used cut up pieces of guitars to make his early designs. Inside the museum are collections from pop culture. When we visited there were exhibits about Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Science Fiction movies, Fantasy and more. Dewey could have stayed in this museum all day because of his love for music. Evan bored of museum-type music displays pretty quickly. However, he quite enjoyed the Fantasy exhibit (there were dragons!) and the hands on music exhibit (he loves to play the drums). No pictures for this museum even though I took quite a few. They are all super grainy because it was quite dark in there.
- Chihuly Garden and Glass – Wow. Yep, that sums it up. Wow. It’s Dr. Seuss meets glass blowing meets magic meets awesome. Our entire family loved this museum. It is relatively small so it doesn’t take a huge amount of time to go through. There is a LOT of glass though so make sure to keep a firm hand on your littlest ones. We got through unscathed though there was one moment where Dewey and I had visions of a giant glass sculpture crashing to the floor. Thankfully that did not happen. I wish I could put 20 or more pictures here to give you an idea of how beautiful it was. Instead, you just have to go see it for yourself.
That sums up all the touristy sights we saw while we were in Seattle. We had an amazing time and we can’t wait to go back. Stay tuned for a post on our favorite eats in Seattle in the coming weeks.
Since I plan to start writing more about travel in the future, I would love to hear any feedback or suggestions you might have on what you would like to see more/less of.