Are you looking for a kid-friendly museum in Seattle? As a local Seattle mom, I’ll share my personal tips for visiting the Pacific Science Center with kids!
This guide to visiting the Pacific Science Center in Seattle with kids was written by 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.
As a Seattle mom, I’m always looking for half-day adventures to do with my boys around town.
One of the best things to do in Seattle with kids (for tourists and locals alike) is visit the Pacific Science Center at Seattle Center.
Not only do they house fabulous exhibits year-round suitable for kids and adults, but they also have really interesting traveling exhibits.
We’ve been taking our kids there since they were babies and toddlers and it’s always such an exciting family outing!
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
What Can You Do at the Pacific Science Center?
If you enter the Pacific Science Center from the turnstiles in Seattle Center, you will immediately be in the Outdoor Exhibits area.
It looks like big squares of concrete with water surrounding them. Your kids may run toward the exhibit areas. You have been warned!
It’s easy to see why kids of all ages love this area. You can spin a two-ton granite ball with your bare hands, play with water cannons or walk in the giant water wheel in Water Works.
When exploring the Pacific Science Center with kids, prepare yourself for spending a long time in just a few areas. The Gravity Well is one of those exhibits. They have something similar at the Museum of Flight, so my kids already knew what to do.
What’s great about the Gravity Well is that there are lots of benches for little kids to stand on and for adults to rest weary legs. There are also tons of little balls so multiple kids can participate at the same time.
Because there are so many balls and benches, we didn’t feel like we were hogging the area, which is sometimes the case in other places.
Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time
One of the exhibits that my boys are always excited to see is this one about dinosaurs.
Guests travel back in time to meet dinosaurs from the Mesozoic Era, stand in the footprint of a giant duckbill dinosaur, and take control of the Pneumoferrosaurus to see how animatronic dinosaurs work. Sounds cool, right?
However, the animatronic features used to scare my kids when they were toddlers. If your kids might be frightened by dinosaurs that move slightly, it might be best to avoid this area completely.
Or, you can walk through it quickly to get outside. We’ve done that in the past.
Tropical Butterfly House
One of the most popular Pacific Science Center exhibits is the Tropical Butterfly House. It’s 4,000 square feet of hundreds of free-flying butterflies in a garden setting.
Pacific Science Center purchases the butterflies as a chrysalis from farmers who raise them in their natural habitat.
It’s very warm it is there, so you might want to take off some layers to store in the cubbies before heading inside.
My youngest son really enjoys seeing the butterflies flying around and sitting on flowers.
IF YOU’RE BRINGING A BABY
You cannot bring your stroller into the Tropical Butterfly House. There is plenty of stroller parking right outside the entrance. You’ll need to leave all food outside, too.
Just for Tots
If you are exploring the Pacific Science Center with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, you’ll definitely want to stop at the Just for Tots exhibit.
They have a water table, a play area with large toys, musical instruments, and more!
They offer story times several times a day in this area. When we attended one year, the staff member read A Very Hungry Caterpillar complete with the puppet! She also showed the kids butterflies in little magnifying boxes.
After the story, the kids got to make leaf imprints with crayons and create butterfly mouths out of pipe cleaners to take home. This was a very informative and interactive storytime!
While you can nurse your baby anywhere at Pacific Science Center, the most comfortable spot may be their private nursing area. It’s located in the Just for Tots section, which is nice if you have toddlers and preschoolers.
Another cool Pacific Science Center exhibit is their touch tank. It’s a great place for kids to see what PNW sealife feels like.
They are currently in the process of creating a wheelchair-accessible touch tank, too!
Pacific Science Center IMAX Theater
Want to watch a movie and feel good about yourself? Pacific Science Center has two state-of-the-art IMAX theatres. Proceeds from ticket sales support science education across Washington State. And if you are bringing small children, you can get booster seats for the theater.
A few years ago, we watched Pandas in 3D and it was incredible! It was my kids’ first experience with 3D movies, so they kept reaching out trying to touch the pandas. The story was really compelling, and at 45 minutes in length, it was perfect for our family. Plus, the film is narrated by Kristen Bell!
But, they don’t just show science-based documentaries. Pacific Science Center IMAX is also your best bet for watching the latest superhero movies or Disney films.
Pacific Science Center Planetarium
Planetarium tickets are included in your general admission ticket and you should take advantage. Seating is limited, so I recommend getting there early. They have 15-minute shows for preschoolers and 30-40 minute shows for guests ages 5 and up.
What’s really cool is that all shows are live, meaning the presenter is able to modify the program based on the audience’s interests. Plus, you can ask questions!
Twice a day, the planetarium offers a preschool version of its show. They just dim the lights a bit, so little ones won’t be scared. Plus, they tell stories and it’s an interactive experience.
A few years ago, we brought our then 4-year-old and 18-month-old and they both were mesmerized by the changing images on the ceiling.
I was really impressed with our guide Joe. He told us the story of How The Bear Lost His Tail, which is a tale from the Iroquois tribe. He also showed us How the Rabbit Got on the Moon using stuffed animals.
We could tell that he truly enjoyed connecting with families and he captured the entire audience!
Pacific Science Center Laser Shows
Another cool experience is attending a laser show at Pacific Science Center. The Laser Dome was recently upgraded and now has the most full-color lasers permanently installed in any Laser Dome in America.
These laser shows take place in the evening and feature music from Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, the Beatles, Sia, Michael Jackson, and more!
Pacific Science Center Membership
If you think that your family might visit the Pacific Science Center more than once this year, you might consider getting a membership.
We used to have one and since we’re Seattle locals, we appreciated the free guest passes and the IMAX movie passes.
Pacific Science Center Parking
The James Albert Claypool Memorial Garage is the closest parking garage to the Pacific Science Center. It’s located on the corner of 2nd Avenue North and Denny Way and provides a covered walkway directly into their south entrance. There are 3 levels of parking which include designated disabled spaces.
Street parking near the Pacific Science Center is hard to come by, but not impossible. Your best bet is near the parking garage on 2nd Avenue North and near the parking garage on 1st Avenue North. Street parking is free on Sundays.
You can also take the Seattle Monorail, which is a fun adventure for kids! Park near Pacific Place and take the 2-minute ride to Seattle Center.
10 Tips for Visiting the Pacific Science Center
Arrive Just After 10 a.m.
The Pacific Science Center opens at 10 a.m. When I’ve gone in the past, there has been a HUGE line to get in at 10 a.m. However, if you wait just 10 or 15 minutes, you can avoid that line, which can be crucial when going with a toddler or preschooler.
See the Traveling Exhibit
World-famous exhibits come to Pacific Science Center all the time and it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted. In past years, I’ve seen the Pompeii, King Tut, and Terra Cotta Warriors exhibits. They often offer timed tickets or you can stand in line.
I recommend doing the Traveling Exhibit first, when possible. There is so much to see in the rest of Pacific Science Center that you might feel rushed during the Traveling Exhibit.
Set Aside Time to Play
Dedicate at least half a day to fully explore the center’s exhibits and activities, and remember to take breaks to prevent overstimulation.
Pacific Science Center does an incredible job of providing hands-on activities for kids in all the exhibit areas. These activities are perfect for kids of all ages (including toddlers.)
Chances are, your kiddos will want to stay and play in one area for a long time. It’s nice that you can tell them there are new things to play with in the next area to help move them along.
Participate in a Scheduled Event
Check the Pacific Science Center’s calendar for special events, exhibits, and IMAX film schedules to maximize your experience.
We’ve been there during story time in the Just for Tots area and it was a lot of fun! Not only did the staff member read a book, but there were science experiments and a takeaway art project that our toddler was able to do.
It was nice to sit down and take a break while still experiencing some science. They had several events happening all over Pacific Science Center for a variety of ages.
Check Out the Butterfly House
Don’t miss the Tropical Butterfly House, where colorful butterflies flutter around you in a warm, lush environment. They even provide resources for families to identify each butterfly.
You can easily do a few laps to see all the different butterflies and watch them eat all kinds of fruit.
Visit the Planetarium
Plan your visit around one of the daily planetarium shows for an exciting journey through the cosmos. It will expand the mind of any child who is curious about our solar system.
Check out the Science Playground
Visit the Science Playground, designed for kids aged 2-7, for hands-on, age-appropriate exhibits and activities. It’s perfect for curious minds.
My kids also really enjoy the building areas when they can create their own science experiments.
While the center has a café, it’s always good to have snacks on hand for hungry little scientists. That way they can focus on the hands-on activities and exhibits.
Plan to Eat at Seattle Center
Whether you grab food at the Pacific Science Center cafe so you can keep exploring. Or head to the Armory after you explored enough and plan time to eat lunch. There are lots of indoor and outdoor spaces to eat and the last thing you want is a grumpy toddler.
If you’re a local or plan to visit multiple times, consider a membership for discounts and exclusive benefits. It’s a great way to get your students interested in technology, engineering, and the future of science.
Pacific Science Center for Families FAQs
The cost of admission to the Pacific Science Center varies depending on age and whether you purchase tickets online or in person. General admission for adults (18-64) is $27.95 online or $29.95 at the door. Youth (3-17) is $19.95 online or $21.95 at the door. Seniors (65+) is $25.95 online or $27.95 at the door. Members get in free. There are also discounts for military, AAA members, and groups.
It depends on how much time you want to spend at each exhibit and show. If you just want to walk through quickly, you could probably do it in an hour or two. But if you want to spend time reading and interacting with the exhibits, you could easily spend 3-4 hours or more.
The laser shows at Pacific Science Center last for 30-40 minutes.
Yes, Pacific Science Center has summer camps for children ages 3-12. The camps are designed to be fun and educational, and they cover a variety of topics, such as science, technology, innovation, engineering, and math.
Yes, schools can go on field trips to Pacific Science Center. Field trips are a great way for students to learn about science and technology in a fun and interactive environment. Pacific Science Center offers a variety of field trip programs for different grade levels and interests in our communities. They also have virtual field trips.
Pacific Science Center in Seattle Wrap-Up
The Pacific Science Center in Seattle is a fantastic destination for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge and exploring the wonders of science.
With its wide range of educational programming and exhibits, visitors are sure to leave with a newfound appreciation for the world around them.
One of the highlights of the Pacific Science Center is its IMAX theater, which offers an immersive cinematic experience that can transport viewers to other worlds and inspire them to think critically about the challenges facing our planet.
Above all, the Pacific Science Center is a place that encourages curiosity and fosters a sense of community among its visitors.
Whether you’re a lifelong learner or just looking for a fun day out with family and friends, this institution has something to offer everyone.
In a world where scientific literacy and critical thinking are more important than ever, the Pacific Science Center plays an important role in promoting a culture of inquiry and discovery.
By nurturing curiosity and providing engaging educational experiences, it is helping to shape the next generation of scientists, engineers, and thinkers who will tackle the pressing challenges of our time.