Pacific Science Center with Toddlers

The Pacific Science Center is a great stop for tourists and locals alike when visiting Seattle Center. Not only do they house fabulous exhibits year-round suitable for kids and adults, but they also have really interesting traveling exhibits. The Pacific Science Center is a fun thing to do in Seattle with kids of all ages. It’s also the ultimate place to watch an IMAX movie.

Note: This post was originally published October 31, 2016 and updated April 23, 2018.

Outdoor Exhibits

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!

Photo of Pacific Science Center near the Space Needle at Seattle Center #seattlecenter #spaceneedle #pacsci #pacificsciencecenter
My 4 year old enjoyed shooting water in the outdoor section of the Pacific Science Center. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

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. And older kids can ride the High Rail Bicycle 15 feet above the ground, on a rail only one inch wide! I was too nervous to ride it as a child, and I’m still too nervous!

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Gravity Well

When exploring the Pacific Science Center with a toddler (or several) 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.

Photo of the Gravity Well at Pacific Science Center, which is a fun thing to do in Seattle with kids #pacificsciencecenter #pacsci #seattlecenter #STEM #seattle #seattlewa #familytravel
My preschooler could spend hours rolling balls around the Gravity Well at Pacific Science Center. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

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 other places.

Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time

One of the exhibits my 4 year old was most excited to see was this one about dinosaurs. Guests travel back to 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?

Photo of dinosaurs at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, which is a fun thing to do in Seattle with kids #dinosaurs #dinosaurexhibit #seattlecenter #pacsci #pacificsciencecenter
My oldest was most excited to see the dinosaurs, but he got a bit scared after a few minutes. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

However, the animatronic feature started to scare him a little bit. 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 chrysalis from farmers who raise them in their natural habitat.

While we didn’t explore the Pacific Science Center butterflies on our most recent trip, we’ve been there a few times in the past. 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 son really enjoyed seeing the butterflies flying around and sitting on flowers.

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, play area with large toys, musical instruments and more!

Photo of the Just for Tots play area at Pacific Science Center at Seattle Center #seattlecenter #pacsci #pacificsciencecenter #seattle #seattlewa #familytravel
The Just for Tots area is a nice spot to let kids play in an enclosed environment. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung
They offer story times several times a day in this area. When we attended last 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 story time!

NURSING AREA

Photo of the nursing area inside Pacific Science Center #breastfeeding #pacsci #newmom #pacificsciencecenter #seattle #seattlewa
The private nursing area inside the Just for Tots area has chairs for both Mom and toddler, plus board books and a magnetic wall! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

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.

Pacific Science Center IMAX

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.

For Spring 2018, they are showing the family-friendly documentary Pandas, Amazon Adventures 3D, Conquest of the Skies 3D, and Flight of the Butterflies 3D. 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. Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 are also available in IMAX.

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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!

Photo of the Pacific Science Center Planetarium, which is a thing to do in Seattle with kids #planetarium #seattlecenter #pacsci #pacificsciencecenter
This may not look like much, but when they turn down the lights, your kids will be in awe of the sky! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Twice a day, the planetarium offers a preschool version of their 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.

We brought our 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 how 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 have one and since we’re Seattle locals, we appreciate the free guest passes and the IMAX movie passes. Here are the details:

FAMILY MEMBERSHIP

A family membership cost $139/year and includes:

  • Covers 2 adults and up to 6 youths (ages 3-18)
  • 2 Membership cards, which can be used by anyone listed on the Membership with valid ID
  • 15 free documentary IMAX movie passes
  • 8 free permanent exhibit guest passes (Over $100 value!)

Pacific Science Center Parking

PARKING GARAGE

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

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.

SEATTLE MONORAIL

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.

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Top 6 Tips for the Pacific Science Center

Photo of the Pacific Science Center at Seattle Center, which is a great family activity in Seattle for kids #seattle #seattlewa #pacsci #pacificsciencecenter #seattlecenter
Have a blast exploring all the hands-on exhibits at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

1. ARRIVE JUST AFTER 10AM

The Pacific Science Center opens at 10am. When I’ve gone in the past, there has been a HUGE line to get in at 10am. However, if you wait just 10 or 15 minutes, you can avoid that line, which can be crucial when going with a toddler.

2. 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.

3. SET ASIDE TIME TO PLAY

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, you 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.

4. PARTICIPATE IN A SCHEDULED EVENT

We happened to be there during a 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.

5. VISIT THE PRIVATE NURSING ROOM

If you are nursing and want some privacy, they have a really cool room set up in the Just for Tots area. In fact, you can sit in the glider to nurse while your toddler reads books or plays with the magnetic wall in the same room. If you don’t need complete privacy, your toddler can actually play in the adjoining room.

6. 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 your explored enough, 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.

Family Fun at Seattle Center

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6 Reasons Your Kid Should Ride Seattle’s Monorail

Pacific Science Center provided tickets for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Pacific Science Center

Exploring Pacific Science Center with Toddlers at Seattle Center #pacsci #pacificsciencecenter #seattle #seattlewa #visitseattle

Author

Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.

30 Comments

  1. This looks like a fantastic science center! Seattle is on my bucket list and I’d love to take my kids someday!

  2. This looks awesome! My kids are a little older but would love it! I’ll have to keep it in mind if we visit Seattle.

  3. This place sounds like it has a little something for everyone! I love the dinosaur exhibit and everything looks so hands-on and fun! I love your descriptions and how detailed you made this post!

  4. This looks like a great place for us to take our kids! My girls would love the just for tots zone- thanks for sharing this!

  5. This looks like such a fun day! My kids would have so much fun in the tot area and I love that they have magnetic toys in the nursing room.

  6. This looks soo fun. Something my babies would love. If l ever visit Seattle I’ll have to check it out.

  7. I love it when museum make areas for the younger kids. It makes the trip way more interesting for them.

  8. Some great tips here, and definitely looks like it could keep an active child busy and entertained!

  9. Science centers are great for kids. The hands on learning makes the environment perfect for young minds

  10. Great post, my kids love PSC, especially when we pair it with a visit to the artist park and the fountain!

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