Free things to do in Seattle
By Debbie Dubrow and Michelle Duffy
Two family travel bloggers, Debbie Dubrow of DeliciousBaby.com and Michelle Duffy of Wandermom.com, to recommend favorite kid-friendly things to do in their hometown of Seattle. And the best part? None of these fun outings will cost you a dime:
Pike Place Market: Pike Place is a destination on any tourist map, and it’s also free. On summer weekends there is almost always something special going on. Best of all, it’s open early, giving you an activity when the kids wake up at the crack of dawn. Favorite free activities in the market include: climbing on the pig at the market entrance, watching the “flying fish” being thrown across the fish market, watching crabs in huge toddler-eye-level tanks, and enjoying the street performers. For a picnic, walk to the Northern end of the market and enjoy a water view at Victor Steinbrueck park.
Seattle Central Library: This branch of the Seattle Public Library (at 1000 Fourth Ave.) is one of the coolest new buildings on the West Coast. The library building was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and former Seattlite Joshua Ramus. From the wide open feeling of the “Living Room” on the third floor to the innovative design of the book spiral on floors 6 through 9, it’s an enjoyable place to while away hours and hours of reading and discovering fun. As you explore the building, you’ll discover wacky art installations, interesting building materials, and a beautiful view. The real gem for families, however, is the 15,000-square-foot children’s section. There are toys, books, computers, and even a puppet theatre. A teen center houses a huge collection of comic books, zines, and music listening stations. Best of all, mom and dad can collapse in a comfortable chair while the kids play.
Olympic Sculpture Park: This outdoor extension to the Seattle Art Museum opened in January 2007, a daring and imaginative use of post-industrial space. The art installations are placed along a half-mile, z-shaped path with stunning views over the Puget Sound. You can expect your children to be a little unsure of what to expect when you start your exploration but a combination of contemplative and fun exhibits will quickly engage and entertain. This is one activity which you are sure to be still discussing long after your visit.
Fremont Troll: This huge, whimsical sculpture of a troll eating an original Volkswagen Beetle (tucked away under the north end of the Aurora Bridge at N 36th St.) is a fun find for kids. Visitors are encouraged to climb on the troll, and since this spot is sheltered by the bridge, it can be a nice place to let the kids run on a rainy day. The nearby Fremont neighborhood is a great place to get lunch or explore.
Ballard Locks: It’s riveting to watch a boat go through the locks, watching the water levels drop and rise on either side of the massive spillway gates. During salmon runs (mid-June to October), you can watch fish swim upstream on a gradual incline using the 21-step fish ladder first built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1917. Don’t miss the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens, which comprise seven acres in the area around the locks—pack a picnic or walk around and enjoy the ambience of this classic English landscape-style garden.
International Fountain at the Seattle Center: During the summer, the International Fountain at the Seattle Center has choreographed water shows. Kids will enjoy running in, around, and through the spray. Bring non-slip shoes and a change of clothes!
Seattle Parks: No list of activities with children in Seattle—free or not—would be complete if it didn’t include some mention of the city’s parks. You can fly a kite at Discovery Park, play and hike at Carkeek Park, hit the beach at Golden Gardens, join the runners, walkers, and skaters at Greenlake, and maybe see an eagle flying low over Seward Park. Hang out with the locals at the wading pools in neighborhood parks in the summer. Enjoy the contrast of fall colors with evergreens and Madrone in the fall. Find your favorite playground at any time of the year.