Trying to plan the perfect Seattle family vacation but don’t know what to do? As a local Seattle mom, I’ll share my 3-day itinerary in Seattle that covers all the highlights!
This 3-day itinerary in Seattle was written by Seattle family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
I’ve lived in the Seattle area for my whole life. So, I figured it was probably time that I write up 3 days in Seattle itinerary for families!
Since a lot of people do a long weekend in Seattle, Washington, I came up with an aggressive 3-day Seattle weekend itinerary. The hope is that you’ll adjust it a bit for your own family’s interests.
Don’t have time to read a bunch of Seattle blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Seattle with kids.
Popular Seattle Tours/Activities
- Seattle Harbor Cruise (it’s the best way to see the Seattle skyline)
- Pike Place Market Food Tour (it’s the easiest way to hit all the tasty highlights)
- Space Needle and Chihuly Glass Museum (this combo ticket is the cheapest option)
- Seattle Underground Walking Tour (this is perfect for older kids)
- Woodland Park Zoo (great for younger kiddos)
- Flytographer photo shoot (they are easy to book are really affordable)
Kid-Friendly Seattle Hotels
Is 3 Days Enough to See Seattle?
While you can’t see everything in Seattle, Washington in just three days, it is definitely enough time to experience some of the city’s highlights and get a taste of what it has to offer.
There are so many things to do in Seattle with kids that you’ll have no problem filling your days.
You can visit the famous Space Needle, stroll around Pike Place Market, explore some of the city’s neighborhoods, and enjoy the natural beauty of Puget Sound and surrounding mountains.
Of course, if you have more time to spare, you can delve deeper into Seattle’s rich culture and history. But for a short trip, this Seattle 3-day itinerary is a great start to exploring the Emerald City.
What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Seattle with Kids?
Seattle is really spectacular in July-September and it’s always when I tell friends and family to come to visit. However, this is also peak tourist season, so the city can be crowded and hotel prices may be higher.
Spring (March-May) and fall (September-November) can also be good times to visit, as the weather is still mild and there are fewer crowds.
Winter (December-February) can be rainy and chilly, but it’s a great time to enjoy indoor activities like museums and aquariums, and there are often holiday events and activities to enjoy as well.
How to Get to Seattle, Washington
If you’re spending 3 days in Seattle, chances are you are either driving or flying.
Seattle Tacoma Airport
This is the main Seattle airport that most tourists fly in and out of. It’s a fairly large airport and you may even need to take the train to get between your gate and baggage claim.
Check Alaska Airlines for deals, as Seattle is their hub.
Trip to Seattle by Car
A lot of people who live in the Pacific Northwest visit Seattle by car. Seattle is about 2.5 hours from Portland, Oregon and about 3 hours from Vancouver, British Columbia.
Save Money with Points
Here are the best credit card offers for families who travel and want to use points to pay for airfare and hotels.
Where to Stay for 3 Days in Seattle
I actually have a whole post on the best places to stay in Seattle with kids, but I’ll give a few options below. Many of these are within walking distance of top Seattle city attractions.
Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
This hotel offers luxurious accommodations and amenities for families, including an outdoor infinity pool and a children’s program with fun activities for kids. Check the latest rates and availability.
Hyatt Place Seattle/Downtown
This hotel offers spacious rooms with separate living areas and pull-out sofa beds, making it a great choice for families. It is also conveniently located in the heart of downtown Seattle. Check the latest rates and availability.
Grand Hyatt Seattle
This hotel offers modern and comfortable accommodations for families, including a rooftop pool and a 24-hour fitness center. It is also located near many of Seattle’s top attractions. Check the latest rates and availability.
This hotel offers stunning views of the city and Puget Sound, as well as spacious rooms and suites with modern amenities. It also has a rooftop bar and lounge with great views. Check the latest rates and availability.
The Westin Seattle
This hotel offers family-friendly amenities such as a heated indoor pool and a kids’ club, as well as spacious rooms with stunning city views. It is also located in the heart of downtown Seattle, making it easy to explore the city with kids. Check the latest rates and availability.
Book a Family Photo Shoot
Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND they guarantee that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.
Getting Around Seattle
Link Light Rail
The Link Light Rail is a convenient and affordable way to get around Seattle and the surrounding areas. It provides access to many popular tourist destinations, including the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the University of Washington, and downtown Seattle.
Additionally, the light rail is easy to use, with frequent trains, clear signage, and multiple payment options. By using the Link Light Rail, tourists can avoid traffic, save time, and enjoy a stress-free travel experience.
This is a unique way to get between Seattle Center and Downtown Seattle. It ONLY goes between these two places so there’s no worry about getting off at the wrong stop.
My kids LOVE taking this 2-minute Monorail ride. Check out my Seattle Monorail tips for families!
I personally haven’t taken a bus in Seattle in probably 15 years. It’s not my vibe and it can take a long time to get where you need to go.
But, there are Seattle buses running all around the city and it is an option if you need to do it.
Renting a Car in Seattle
I highly recommend renting a car in Seattle if you plan on doing some day trips or are going anywhere outside of Seattle Center or the waterfront. You’ll want to check rental car prices to see if it fits your budget.
You’ll also need to be prepared to pay for parking. Most of the parking in Seattle needs an app for payment instead of a traditional pay station.
Another popular option is using ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft, which can be useful when traveling with young children or a larger group. Just be sure to bring your own car seats.
Seattle City Overview
My Seattle 3-day itinerary focuses mainly on Downtown Seattle and the Seattle waterfront. But, you might want to check out some other parts of the city.
Capitol Hill is a trendy and vibrant neighborhood located in the heart of Seattle. It’s known for its lively nightlife, cultural diversity, and historic architecture.
Capitol Hill is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, bars, and cultural institutions, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
Lake Union is a freshwater lake located in the heart of Seattle, surrounded by neighborhoods, parks, and marinas.
It’s a popular destination for boating, kayaking, and other water activities, and is home to several floating houseboat communities.
Lake Washington is a large lake located southeast of Seattle, surrounded by parks, beaches, and residential neighborhoods.
It’s a popular destination for boating, fishing, and other water activities, and is home to several parks and beaches that offer stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
Elliott Bay is a large bay located in the heart of Seattle, Washington, that opens out into Puget Sound. This is where you’ll find the Seattle Great Wheel, Seattle Aquarium, and so many other waterfront attractions.
It’s surrounded by some of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods, including downtown Seattle, Pioneer Square, and Belltown.
A historic neighborhood located in the heart of downtown Seattle, Pioneer Square is known for its Victorian-era architecture and cultural landmarks.
It’s a popular destination for tourists, offering a variety of shops, restaurants, and cultural institutions, as well as access to the city’s iconic waterfront.
West Seattle is a residential neighborhood located on a peninsula southwest of downtown Seattle. It’s known for its stunning views of the city, Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains, as well as its beautiful parks and beaches.
West Seattle is a popular destination for outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and kayaking, and is home to several vibrant and eclectic neighborhoods.
3 Day Itinerary in Seattle for Families
I want to emphasize that this is a pretty packed itinerary for 3 days in Seattle. I didn’t leave any room for naps. Your family might want to spend longer in some of these locations or skip others completely, so keep that in mind.
Day 1 Seattle Itinerary
Pike Place Market
Start your day at the iconic Pike Place Market, where you can grab breakfast from one of the many food vendors and watch the fishmongers throw fish. We really like eating at the Crumpet Shop when we visit Pike Place Market.
I suggest snapping a photo of your kids with Rachel the Pig, a huge piggy bank that raises money for the market foundation. And it’s fun to let your kids add their own contribution to the infamous Gum Wall.
If you think you’ll want to spend a lot of time here, head to their website and do their Create Your Market Day where you can take a look at all the vendors and see where you want to go.
I personally recommend doing one of the many Pike Place Market food tours, as it’s a great way to sample some of the amazing bites and treats!
Next, visit the Seattle Aquarium, located on the waterfront, and explore the underwater world of the Pacific Northwest. You’ll be able to walk there from Pike Place Market.
This aquarium has a mix of indoor and outdoor exhibits. My kids like the touch tanks and the underwater dome. There’s also an indoor play area if you have younger kids who need a break from exploring.
They are currently building an Ocean Pavilion that will supposedly open in 2024.
Seattle Great Wheel
Visit the Seattle Great Wheel, a 175-foot-tall Ferris wheel that offers breathtaking views of the city and Elliott Bay. It’s right next to the Seattle Aquarium.
It’s a pretty slow ride and you’ll do 3 full rotations where you can check out the awesome views. If it’s a really overcast day or foggy, you might want to skip this. However, it’s a must-do on a clear day.
We usually swap seats mid-way through so everyone gets a different view.
Wings Over Washington
If you like Soarin’ Over California, you’ll LOVE Wings Over Washington. It’s the same concept but focusing on Washington State. And it’s right next to the Seattle Great Wheel.
It’s a really fun way to see more of the state than just Seattle. And they do a cool pre-show presentation.
Lunch at the Seattle Waterfront
Your family will probably be famished by now. There are lots of food options at the Seattle Waterfront. Try Elliotts Oyster House for a nice sit-down meal or Ivar’s Acre of Clams for a more casual spot.
Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe
One of the most unique Seattle shops is Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe on the waterfront. It’s super quirky and it’s full of all sorts of oddities.
It’s a fun place for a quick walkthrough or your kids might want to spend a long time looking at each thing.
Olympic Sculpture Park
If your family has the energy, walk to the Olympic Sculpture Park near the Seattle waterfront.
You can admire the outdoor art installations and enjoy stunning views of Puget Sound. It’s a great place for kids to run around or sit down and have a break from all the walking.
Seattle Center Monorail
Next up, head to the Seattle Monorail Station near Westlake Center. You can buy tickets there for the short ride over to Seattle Center.
Your kids will probably want to sit as close to the front as possible.
The Seattle Monorail goes directly to Seattle Center, where you’ll find the Museum of Pop Culture.
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop)
End the day with a visit to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), where you can immerse yourself in the world of music, film, and popular culture.
It used to be called the Experience Music Project and it has a big focus on the PNW music scene. But there’s also the Science Fiction Museum section that has all kinds of cool props and costumes from popular movies.
There are a bunch of places for hands-on experiences including playing newly-created video games and trying out instruments.
They also usually have cool traveling exhibits that are worth the extra cost of getting tickets to see.
Day 2 Seattle Itinerary
Start your day with a visit to the Seattle Space Needle, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and beyond. Check out my Space Needle tips for families.
The iconic Space Needle is another attraction where the weather can make a huge difference. If it’s really overcast or cloudy, there might not be great visibility. Use your judgment as to whether or not it’s worth it for your family.
If it’s sunny, it’s definitely worth it! You’ll find tons of cool photo spots with their glass benches. There’s even a fairly-new revolving glass floor that’s pretty fun for kids to experience.
And the Space Needle has one of the coolest gift shops filled with made-in-Seattle products. Save money with combo Space Needle and Chihuly Garden tickets.
Pacific Science Center
Next, visit the Pacific Science Center, where you can explore interactive exhibits, watch IMAX films, see the butterfly garden, and check out the planetarium.
It’s perfect for families with kids ages 1-12 years old. There’s even a whole toddler area that’s pretty fabulous. Check out my top Pacific Science Center tips for families.
This is another Seattle museum that frequently has cool traveling exhibits. We’ve seen the Terra Cotta Warriors here as well as the King Tut exhibit.
Lunch at Seattle Center
Head into the Armory for a wide selection of lunch options. It’s pretty much a big food court with a handful of sit-down restaurants.
Seattle Children’s Museum or Chihuly Garden and Glass
After lunch, decide whether to visit the Seattle Children’s Museum (for kids 0-7 years old) or the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum (not great for toddlers or preschoolers).
The Seattle Children’s Museum was recently renovated and it’s located inside the Armory. There are a bunch of cool play areas and exhibits that are perfect for young kids.
The Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum is really cool for older kids. It’s a mix of indoor and outdoor exhibits and there are some neat video presentations. There are also sometimes live demonstrations in the garden area.
You can bring younger kids here but you’ll want to have them in a stroller or hold hands with them. It’s not a place to run around.
Artists at Play Playground
One of the coolest playgrounds in Seattle is the Artists at Play playground right by MoPOP at Seattle Center. It’s a pretty adventurous playground that’s great for preschoolers through older kids.
There are giant slides, things to climb, a merry-go-round, swings, and tons of other things.
It’s the perfect place to get out extra energy and enjoy some fresh air.
Day 3 Seattle Itinerary
One of the most unusual Seattle attractions is the Fremont Troll. The troll, which was created by local artists in 1990, is a large sculpture of a troll clutching a VW Beetle, and it has become a beloved symbol of the Fremont neighborhood.
It’s located under a bridge (which is quite fitting) and you can usually find free street parking nearby.
This is a super quick stop as you’ll probably want to snap a few photos and maybe let your kids climb all over the troll.
Next, you’ll head over to Archie McPhee. This is a novelty shop also in the Fremont neighborhood and you’ll find the most unusual Seattle souvenirs and gift items.
There’s even a rubber chicken museum (free admission), a fortune-telling machine, and crazy candy items.
I suggest giving your kids some cash and letting them go wild picking out items.
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
SAM is one of the largest and most comprehensive art museums in the Pacific Northwest, offering a wide range of exhibitions, collections, and programs.
It is home to a diverse collection of art from around the world, including contemporary art, Native American art, and Asian art, among others.
The museum also features a number of special exhibitions and events throughout the year. I suggest checking their website to see what’s going on during your trip to Seattle.
Seattle Central Library
This is another spot that could be worth a quick stop if you’re interested.
The Seattle Central Library was designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus and is considered to be one of the most innovative and sustainable libraries in the world.
The library has a beautiful rooftop terrace that offers panoramic views of the city, making it a great place to take in the beauty of Seattle.
Kid-Friendly Seattle Tours
If you want to do some Seattle sightseeing that isn’t on the above 3 days in Seattle itinerary, here are the tours that I recommend for families doing a Seattle weekend trip.
It’s hard to visit Seattle without doing some sort of boat tour. The Argosy Cruise has a 1-hour sightseeing tour that is a great way to enjoy the Seattle skyline. Check the latest rates and availability.
Pike Place Market Food Tour
I know the Pike Place Market can feel totally overwhelming when you don’t know where to go or what foods to try. That’s why this Pike Place Market food tour is such a good investment. You’ll be able to maximize your time while hitting all the highlights! Check the latest rates and availability.
Seattle Beneath the Streets Tour
There was a big fire in Seattle in the 1800s and they literally just re-built the city on top of the old city. This Seattle Beneath the Streets Tour is a great way to see what the old city looked like.
I remember being creeped out doing it as a kid, but I was also a big scaredy-cat! Check the latest rates and availability.
Seattle Coffee Culture Tour
We all know that Seattle is pretty famous for coffee, but there are SO many Seattle coffee shops to choose from! This Seattle Coffee Culture Tour takes out the guesswork. Kids as young as 6 years old can participate. Check the latest rates and availability.
Museum of Flight
One of my kids’ favorite Seattle museums is the Museum of Flight near Boeing Field. It has impressive exhibits as well as some cool indoor and outdoor play areas. Check the latest rates and availability.
Is the Seattle CITYPASS Worth it?
For families who want to hit up a lot of Seattle attractions, you might want to look into the Seattle CITYPASS.
The CITYPASS is a discounted ticket package that provides admission to several of Seattle’s top attractions, including the Space Needle, the Seattle Aquarium, and the Pacific Science Center, among others.
You’ll save 44% or more on prepaid admission to 5 must-see attractions:
- Space Needle –day/night admission – includes two visits within 24 hours
- Seattle Aquarium – general admission to all major exhibits with additional events subject to change
Plus you can pick 3 of the following attractions:
- Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour – a 1-hour narrated Harbor Cruise Tour
- Museum of Pop Culture (MOPOP) – general admission
- Woodland Park Zoo – general admission
- Chihuly Garden and Glass – general admission, plus a complimentary audio tour on your personal smartphone
It’s a great deal if you’re already planning on doing 5 of these attractions during your 3 days in Seattle. You can buy your Seattle CITYPASS here.
Want to Add a Seattle Day Trip?
If you have longer than 3 days in Seattle or you’d like to swap out one of the days on this Seattle itinerary for a day trip, here are some great options:
Mount Rainier National Park
There are a few Washington State national parks worth checking out.
A day trip to Mount Rainier National Park from Seattle with kids can be an exciting and memorable experience.
My family likes to hang out in Paradise. The Paradise area offers stunning views of Mount Rainier and has several hiking trails suitable for families with kids.
There’s also a cool visitors center where you can chat with staff members about the history and geology of the area. The exhibits are pretty cool.
Olympic National Park
A day trip to Olympic National Park from Seattle is a great way to experience the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
A few top things families should do on an Olympic National Park day trip include hiking Hurricane Ridge, visiting Lake Crescent, exploring the Hoh Rainforest, or hiking to Sol Duc Falls.
There are also usually ranger-led programs and activities offered throughout the park. These can include guided hikes, nature walks, and educational programs about the park’s history and ecology.
If you want to include a ferry ride in your 3 days in Seattle, I suggest visiting Bainbridge Island. You can walk on as pedestrians and there are tons of things right near the ferry terminal.
I suggest strolling through the charming downtown area and checking out the local shops, galleries, and restaurants. There are also several parks and waterfront areas nearby.
If you’re visiting on a Saturday, the Bainbridge Island Farmers Market happens from April through December and features local produce, baked goods, crafts, and more.
Insider Tips for Visiting Seattle with Kids
Seattle is a family-friendly city with plenty of exciting activities and attractions for kids. Here are some of my tips for traveling to Seattle with kids:
Plan Your Seattle Itinerary
Seattle has a wide range of activities and attractions to choose from, so it’s important to plan your itinerary ahead of time. Consider visiting the Space Needle, the Pike Place Market, and the Seattle Aquarium.
Map Out Your Activities
Seattle is a large city with a lot to offer, so it’s important to plan your activities in advance. It’s equally important to map them out so you’ll know where to park. This will help you make the most of your time and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Take Advantage of Public Transportation
Seattle has a well-developed public transportation system, which makes it easy to get around the city with kids. Consider taking the bus, light rail, or ferry to get to your destinations.
Pack for the Weather
Seattle has a temperate climate, but it can get rainy (yes even in the summer). So be sure to pack a rain jacket and umbrella for your kids.
Consider Staying in a Family-Friendly Hotel
There are many family-friendly hotels in Seattle that offer amenities like indoor pools, play areas, and kid-friendly rooms. These are usually in more convenient spots that vrbos or Airbnbs.
Seattle is a beautiful city, but it can be a lot to take in. Be sure to take breaks throughout the day to relax and recharge. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
Visit the Parks
Seattle has many beautiful parks and outdoor spaces, which are great for kids to play and explore. Consider visiting Green Lake Park or Discovery Park. There are also tons of cool playgrounds worth spending an hour or two.
Visiting Seattle with Kids FAQs
Technically yes, but you probably don’t want to. It’s about 3-4 hours away from Seattle and you’ll need to make ferry reservations months in advance. Plus, the ferry schedule from Anacortes can be tricky if you are going anytime outside of summer months. I’d add an overnight in the San Juan Islands so you’ll have time to actually enjoy them.
The best time for whale-watching tours in Seattle is typically from May to September, as this is when the gray whales and orcas are most commonly seen in the area. You’ll probably want to do whale-watching tours in the San Juan Islands because that’s your best chance of seeing them up close.
Yes, the Seattle ferry terminal is generally easy to navigate. There are signs throughout the terminal to help guide you to your desired ferry and there are typically staff members available to answer any questions you may have. I suggest arriving at least 30 minutes before your scheduled ferry departure time to allow time for parking, ticketing, and boarding (if you are walking on). If you’re driving, the lines can be a little stressful with Seattleites using it for their commute (and sometimes they are grouchy when tourists don’t follow the rules).
Seattle is famous for its coffee culture, with a plethora of coffee shops to choose from. A few of my favorite coffee shops in Seattle include the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Elm Coffee Roasters, Victrola Coffee Roasters, and Herkimer Coffee.
Seattle is known for its rainy weather, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up inside all day. We like to visit the Pacific Science Center, the Museum of Flight, the Burke Museum, or the Museum of History and Industry.
As with any major city, there are safety concerns for families visiting Seattle. While Seattle is generally a safe city, it’s always a good idea to take basic safety precautions such as staying aware of your surroundings, not leaving valuables unattended, and avoiding poorly lit or secluded areas at night. In addition, Seattle has a visible homeless population, particularly in certain areas of downtown, and families should exercise caution and sensitivity when interacting with those experiencing homelessness.
Yes, you can bring a stroller on public transportation in Seattle. Buses and trains are equipped with wheelchair ramps and designated areas for strollers. However, it’s important to note that some bus routes or trains may have limited space for strollers, especially during peak travel times. It’s recommended to fold up the stroller and store it in the designated area or hold it securely during the ride to ensure the safety and comfort of all passengers.
Seattle Vacation Wrap Up
This 3-day Seattle itinerary for families is a perfect way to visit Seattle and enjoy some of the city’s most iconic attractions.
From exploring the heart of downtown Seattle to discovering marine life at the Seattle Aquarium, indulging in the culinary delights of Pike Place Market to enjoying panoramic views of the city at the Seattle Center, there’s something for everyone on this Seattle trip.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a frequent traveler to the city, a weekend in Seattle is sure to create lasting memories for all.
Don’t hesitate to plan your visit to Seattle and discover all that this beautiful city has to offer.