Day Trip From Seattle
To me, it’s hard to beat the Seattle Waterfront on a warm summer day. It’s just comes alive! And it’s the best spot to see ferries and cruise ships. The only thing cooler than being on the Seattle Waterfront is seeing it from the water on a Seattle cruise! So for my birthday this year, I decided to take my family on a Seattle Argosy Cruise to Tillicum Excursion on Blake Island.
May contain affiliate links.
Where is Argosy Cruises in Seattle?
Argosy Cruises is located on the iconic Seattle Waterfront. The Tillicum Excursion boat docks at Pier 54, near The Frankfurter and Kidd Valley. If you are facing the water, it’s to the left of The Seattle Great Wheel.
Seattle Waterfront parking can be tricky. I suggested giving yourself extra time to find a spot. We found a lot across the street. The spaces were pretty tight and I’m not sure I could have fit in the spot had I been driving. Thankfully, my husband used to work for Enterprise Rent-a-Car and can park literally anywhere! Here’s a good spot to check for parking lots and garages in Downtown Seattle.
You are supposed to arrive 30 minutes prior to your boarding time. Since there’s so much to see on the Seattle Waterfront, I’d suggest getting there even earlier if you have the time. We hit some traffic due to road closures and ended up being the last group to board just minutes before the boat launched. Get there early!
If you are looking for a Native American cultural experience in Seattle, this is it! Take a 40 minute boat ride to Blake Island, home of Tillicum Excursion. Here, you’ll enjoy a feast and see a Native American storytelling show. And you can explore the 475-acre island before cruising back to Seattle.
Seattle Cruise to Blake Island
My kids were beaming as soon as the boat started backing away from the pier. The ship we took had 3 levels. The first level was mostly indoor seating at a few tables. The second level was a mix of indoor and outdoor seating. But the top level was where the action happened!
They set up a lot of chairs in rows so people could sit and listen to the narration. Since our kids like to explore, we let them guide us to where they wanted to camp out. My 4 year old found a platform that was up a few stairs and that’s where we spent the 40 minute ride to Blake Island.
I found the narration to be quite interesting! Our guide spoke in a conversational tone and told us a bit about Chief Seattle and why he was born in the islands. And he also talked about the early Seattle pioneers and how the Duwamish Tribe saved them from despair during their first winter on Alki.
The Seattle boat ride was very smooth and the kids were able to walk around quite easily. We took turns taking the kids to the front of the ship so they could see where we were going. I was surprised how quiet the ride was. We had no problem hearing each other speak in a normal voice.
Arrival at Tillicum Excursion
The boat docked at Tillicum Excursion and we saw the morning guests ready to get back on the boat. As soon as we got off the boat, we were presented with a hot mug of steamed clams. It’s Duwamish Tribe tradition to give hot clams on arrival to warm guests from the chilly journey. Our family LOVES clams so we were eager to taste them. Boy, were they delicious! In fact, we all drank our broth, too!
Then came the fun part. We were instructed to toss our clam shells onto the ground and stomp on them! Our 4 year old wore his rain boots (which he wears ALL summer long) and they were quite useful as he smashed all our clam shells. Our toddler tried to get in on the action, too!
Native American Longhouse
When we were all done with our clams, it was time to head into the buffet. As soon as you enter the longhouse, there’s an area where you can see people cooking the salmon. I’d suggest lingering a bit outside before heading over because people swarm the area to get photos.
Then, we got in line to be seated. The set-up felt a lot like a Hawaiian luau. They asked how many people were in our party before seating us at a long table. After taking our drink orders, we were excused to head to the buffet.
The buffet had the following options: Green salad, mushrooms and polenta, beef stew, fresh fruit salad, bread, and salmon. I wasn’t expecting much but both my husband and I thought the food was outstanding! In fact, my husband went back for another plate. I devoured my whole plate, which isn’t like me! The kids liked the polenta, beef stew, and the fruit.
We made sure to save room for dessert. They had a few cookies options and a mini berry pie. My 4 year old and I filled up a plate of treats to take back to our table. We ate them during the presentation.
NATIVE AMERICAN STORYTELLING
The staff members quickly pulled the shades over all the windows and the presentation started! It’s an interesting mix of high-quality video and live performers. The show was revamped in the past few years in partnership with the Burke Museum.
What I thought was cool is they incorporate stories and dances from neighboring tribes in Alaska and Vancouver. The kids were pretty mesmerized by the large cedar masks that moved during the dancing. My 4 year old sat on my lap during the show and he kept singing along with the drummers. The presentation was the right length for our family.
After the show, the dancers were in the lobby to pose for photos and answer questions. The two young men were really friendly and encouraged my kids to touch the masks. They even let my oldest help move the mouth on one of the large masks! It was neat to get so close (and touch) something we usually just see on display at the Burke Museum.
Exploring Blake Island
So, we chose to do the extended cruise in order to get an extra hour on Blake Island. I’m so glad we did this because there’s a lot for families to explore! It’s a beautiful island with walking trails, a playground, and the beach.
The first thing we did was the interpretive walking trail. Now, my family does not hike, so we weren’t sure what to expect. But, we had so much fun! We got to see the roots of a giant tree that had fallen over, walk across little bridges, and just experience nature. And they had little signs throughout the path talking about the plants.
After our walk, we made a pit stop at the restrooms before heading toward the beach. The Blake Island beach has a mixture of rocks and sand. And there’s a ton of driftwood. Our youngest was quite content to throw rocks into the water and he could have easily done this for another hour or two.
Our oldest wanted to explore a bit, so I took him on a walk to see some of the driftwood play houses. We always love seeing them on the beaches in the Pacific Northwest. We had time to see two driftwood shacks. One of them was quite large and had a covered entrance. My son had been holding a walking stick and decided he wanted to contribute by adding it to the roof!
We headed to the playground next. You can tell the play structure has been here awhile and it’s not one of the brightly colored ones you can find at newer parks. This is a total old school playground complete with a TIRE SWING! I can’t remember the last time I saw a real tire swing at a park! There were tires everywhere and it reminded me of the playgrounds where I used to play when I was a kid!
Cruise Back to the Seattle Waterfront
Right as we were done playing, it was time for us to line up to board the Argosy Cruise ship back to Seattle. This time, we decided to buy some popcorn and root beer to enjoy on the ride home. We headed back to our platform and let the kids get the rest of their wiggles out. It was such a wonderful way to spend my special day celebrating with my family in one of the most beautiful spots in the world!
Other Argosy Cruises
If the Tillicum Excursion isn’t your style, you can still do a Seattle cruise. These are shorter options that will work for any Seattle itinerary.
If you just want a quick Seattle boat tour, this is the one for you. In just 1 hour, you will see the Seattle skyline, Mt. Rainier, the Cascade and Olympic mountains, and more. You really can’t beat this view!
Something unique about Seattle is the Ballard Locks. It’s the way boats get from Puget Sound to Lake Union and it’s a top Seattle attraction. Experience it yourself with the Seattle Locks Cruise. Plus, see the houseboats from Sleepless in Seattle!
Have you heard of Bill Gates? This cruise takes you past his waterfront estate. Plus, you can marvel over the other beautiful homes on the East Side. And, you will go under the largest floating bridge in the world!
Did you love “The Boys in the Boat?” Come see where the 1936 Olympic Gold Medalist Crew Team practiced at the University of Washington. Plus, cruise by Husky Stadium, Seattle’s iconic floating homes, bridges and more. Plus there’s a wine cruise, I’m just sayin’!
Tips for Families
So, I can’t NOT share my tips for doing this adventure with your kids. I actually think this is one of the easiest summer activities to do with young children because there’s always something to do.
WHEN TO GO
On Saturdays, they offer an extended trip at 1:30pm. You get an extra hour to explore Blake Island. This is what our family did and it was so nice to not feel rushed! We had plenty of time to walk around, play at the playground and relax at the beach.
WHAT TO WEAR
For anywhere in Seattle, I recommend wearing layers. The boat ride can get chilly with the wind, so I’d suggest bringing a light jacket in the summer months. If you’re planning to walk around the island, wear comfortable shoes.
WHAT TO BRING
I’d suggest packing sunscreen, snacks, water bottles, and extra clothes for kids who might get wet. We brought our BOB all-terrain stroller and it was great for the walking trails. We saw a few people with the little umbrella strollers and they couldn’t really go anywhere.
My husband was really impressed that there were changing tables in the Men’s restroom in the Longhouse. There are also restrooms in the park area. And there are restrooms on board the Argosy Cruise ship.
SNACKS ON THE BOAT
They offer limited snacks (like popcorn), alcoholic drinks, soda, and bottled water on board. I’d bring extra snacks in case your kids get hungry before arriving at Tillicum Excursion.
DRINKS AT TILLICUM EXCURSION
The free drinks at Tillicum Excursion are water, soda and lemonade. We didn’t see milk as an option. So, if you kids usually drink milk with their meals, you might want to bring your own. And they don’t have cups with lids, so if you think your kid might have a hard time drinking out of a regular cup, you might bring your own.
They also have a bar in the lobby and you can order alcoholic drinks inside.
I feel like families always need to know where the ice cream is! We saw that they sell ice cream bars in the lobby at Tillicum Excursion. And there’s lots of indoor and outdoor seating to enjoy your treats!
Thanks Argosy Cruises for hosting my family. All opinions are my own.
Fun Things to Do in Seattle
Spend the Day at Pier 57 in Seattle with Kids
Local Mom’s Guide to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo
6 Tips for Enjoying the Pacific Science Center with Toddlers
Funko HQ Tips for a Fun Seattle Family Activity