When we lived in Seattle and since we’ve moved, there’s nothing I love more than helping friends (and strangers!) who are visiting Seattle customize their trip — helping them discover restaurants that are off of the beaten track, local favorites for shopping and places to take their little ones. Friends and “friends” on Facebook will probably tell you that it’s super annoying, but with so, so, so many gems to share, I can’t help myself.
Here are some of our family’s favorites when we lived in Seattle that will get you out of your tourist-rut, while still making you feel like you had an adventure when you visit the city:
1. Lincoln Park
Alki beach, blah, blah, blah. Sure, it’s pretty. And beachy. And it will remind you that rollerblades do actually still exist. But, our favorite West Seattle beach is Lincoln Park, which is around the corner from its popular sister, Alki. Highlights include: A long beach with soft rocks for throwing in the water and tons of driftwood for building sweet forts. The best close-up view of ferries coming and going to the peninsula. A wide paved path that is perfect for strollers, scooters, bikes and plain old feet. A fun playground that’s tucked in the woods and includes a zip line. Find it: Lincoln Park, 8011 Fauntleroy Way SW, Seattle, WA 98136
2. The Armory
It’s likely that you’ve been here when you’ve visited the Seattle Center before, but this food court has recently been through a major renovation and has been re-branded as The Armory. With a sampling of many of Seattle’s best and most popular restaurants in one place, it’s worth stopping here for lunch or dinner on your way into or out-of-town. You’ll get to try the Seattle foodie-favorites without needing a reservation (which will likely be at 9 p.m. anyway). Highlights include: The kid-sized tables and chairs for your littlest dining companions. Everything on the menu at Skillet, especially the Kale Caesar Salad. Creative kid-centric food at Bean Sprouts Cafe. Find it: The Armory, Seattle Center, Park in the parking garage on Fifth Avenue North, across the street from the EMP at 325 Fifth Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98109
3. The Locks
I’m guessing that you’ve actually heard of The Locks because Ballard, the Seattle neighborhood where they’re located, is about half-populated with people who grew up in Bellingham. When we lived in Seattle, if we were going to run into anyone we knew from Bellingham, it would be in Ballard, without a doubt. The Locks, or more formally, The Ballard Locks or the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks is where the fresh water of Lake Union meets the saltwater of the Sound, and where boats (of all sizes) and fish go through the locks (a water elevator, of sorts) to get from one side to the other. Highlights include: Watching the fish swim from the underwater viewing spot, Checking out the gigantic, intricate fishing boats up close as they pass through on their way to adventures in Canada and Alaska. Grabbing fish n’ chips nearby — there are a few spots within walking distance. Find it: The Ballard Locks, 3015 NW 54th St., Seattle, WA 98107
4. PlayDate SEA
If you’re looking for an indoor adventure when you visit Seattle, because it’s raining, again, check out PlayDate SEA. This place opened just before we moved from Seattle and it is a favorite for local families with little ones who need to run off some rainy day energy. It’s just off of the freeway at Mercer Street, making it convenient to add-on to other Seattle adventures or a great place to meet up with friends who live in the city. Highlights include: Parents aren’t charged an admission fee. Kids up to age 14 can play (and they will have fun!). They serve yummy Stumptown Coffee. Find it: PlayDate SEA, 1275 Mercer St., Seattle, WA 98109
5. Columbia Center Sky View Observatory
Want the absolute best view of Seattle? Head 73 floors up in the sky to the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory. Located in that huge black tower that looms over downtown (you often can’t even see the top on a cloudy day!), this is a Seattle adventure that even many Seattleites haven’t experienced. Find step-by-step instructions on how to get to the top on Red Tricycle, including how to find the world’s highest Starbucks. Highlights include: Kids under age 5 are free. You get a sweet peek into the Seahawks’ stadium. There is a ton of space in the observation room for your kids to roam around freely. Find it: Columbia Center Sky View Observatory, 701 Fifth Ave., Seattle, WA 98101
6. Columbia City
If you’re looking for a new neighborhood to explore when you visit Seattle, head south of downtown to Columbia City. This spot is where young families are flocking to buy homes and settle down, without giving in to becoming suburbanites and its full of fun places to shop, delicious restaurants, historical buildings and tons of community and character. Highlights include: If you’re in downtown Seattle, you can jump on the Light Rail (access under Westlake Center) and take it to Columbia City. Pinball and ice cream at Full Tilt. Live music and art, always. Find it: Visit the Columbia City Business Association website for directions
What is your favorite tourist-free place to visit in Seattle with your kids?