Travel Tips

Space Needles & Sundaes: Family-Friendly Activities in Seattle

Locations in this article:  Los Angeles, CA Seattle, WA

Seattle, Washington is a popular destination for travelers. But did you know that the Space Needle serves a sundae that dates back to the World’s Fair? Contributing writer Margot Black shares her tips for visiting Seattle with your family—and highlights a few spots you won’t want to miss.

I’m always excited to introduce my son and husband to new places and had heard from many that Seattle was extremely family-friendly. This exciting city sits on the Puget Sound, and kids of all ages—and adults—can easily find something to keep them happy. From the Music Experience Project to younger Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Aquarium, there are many boxes waiting to be ticked.

An Easy Way to Get Around

Before we left for Seattle, I got us all CityPass tickets ($79 for both adults and children), which covered entry to the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) or Woodland Park Zoo, the Chihuly Garden, and Glass or Pacific Science Center.

Not only are they great value but the passes give you freedom to come and go, and entry to all attractions is at your fingertips. Super easy, one-stop, mom-on-the-move trip activity is organized and complete in minutes.

Staying Central

We stayed at the Mayflower Park Hotel, which is celebrating its 90th birthday this year. Built in 1927, it has been beautifully renovated and is one of the last remaining locally owned and independent hotels in the Seattle area. We loved its central location next to Westlake Center, the Monorail to Seattle Center, and the Sound Transit Light Rail to SeaTac Airport. It is also the only Seattle member of Historic Hotels of America, an organization that includes over 200 other historic hotels, and is home to award-winning cocktail bar Oliver’s and Seattle’s Mediterranean restaurant Andaluca.

We had booked the breakfast package and it was amazing, so we ate in the hotel every day and the food at the Andaluca was epic. Top tip: I always like to have breakfast included where possible because it’s so much easier when you have a child to feed.

Before we did anything, we had to go out and buy warmer clothing, which was easily done since the Mayflower Park Hotel was in the middle of the shopping district. Coming from Los Angeles, I underestimated the Seattle chill factor in April, but once we were wrapped in jackets, scarves, hats and gloves, we were raring to go.

Sundaes at the Space Needle

The hotel is close to the Monorail. So our first trip was on the Monorail and we made a beeline for the iconic Space Needle. It was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, and today is the tourist hub of the city. The unusual form of transportation was a treat.

We had brunch in the Sky City restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed it (though it’s essential to book if you’re in a large party). It’s the perfect choice for a family splurge, and because we ate in the daytime, we could see all of Seattle below us as the restaurant slowly revolved.

We have a family tradition called Sundae Sunday, and as self-proclaimed ‘Mom of the Year’ I could not have planned it better. As we dined on the legendary Space Needle sundae, the Lunar Obiter was a sight to behold.

It’s the only item left over from their original World’s Fair menu and was the perfect dessert arriving in a billowing, steaming waft of dry ice. The dessert itself is made of different flavored ice creams, syrups, and coulis as well as fresh sliced fruit. It’s truly magnificent and my son was in heaven. I guarantee you’ll feel like a mad scientist eating it—trust me, it will give you sugary joy and laughter.

After our gigantic dessert, we walked across the street to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), which is dedicated to contemporary music and popular culture. It uses collections, exhibitions, educational programs and interactive technologies to “engage and empower” visitors—and it worked. Our son certainly felt empowered and we lost him in all the places he could play music. Naturally, my husband Rob enjoyed it just as much as he did. We took part in a family singing session and a drum jamming session, which is about as hands-on and family-friendly as you can get.

My son loved the video games while I was entranced by the fairytale exhibition, which showed all the ways to write a fairytale. It was utterly magical. This summer they are showing a Jim Henson exhibition, which is a must for all Muppet fans and Kermit the Frog aficionados. We scheduled two-and-a-half hours but really should have left four hours since there was so much to see.

Outside the museum there’s a big family-friendly park, so we let Jett climb on some things. I always try to give him some running around time if we’ve been inside for long periods of time, and this was perfect.

Afterward, we took the Monorail back to the hotel, which we did for everything. It was fun and easy and I was happy that we had such a fantastic transport system at our fingertips.

Garden & Glass

On our second day, we went straight for the unmissable Chihuly Garden and Glass, which includes eight galleries, the centerpiece Glasshouse and a lush Garden, which is also peppered with the most incredible glass sculptures. It’s a vibrant explosion of color and creativity.

As the name suggests, there are beautiful gardens and outstanding glass creations—giant flowers and amazing glass sculptures. I regret that we didn’t eat in the restaurant (it had just closed when we got there) since it was such a gorgeous space and featured many additional cheeky collections of the artist.

Do not miss this incredible exhibition which is in the Seattle Center and was born out of the artistry of northwest visionary Dale Chihuly. All his work is beautifully displayed, and his passion for his craft is evident in every inch of the place. Enjoy the afternoon in this space.

Marine Life Up Close

After, we found ourselves drawn to the water and enjoyed an Argosy Cruise. We arrived at the jetty a little early and because I had our CityPass tickets, I decided that we should kill some time by having a look around the Seattle Aquarium, since they were right next to each other. Without the CityPass I probably wouldn’t have done that, but it’s a good example of the freedom it can give you. The cruise itself is a great way to see the Seattle skyline, and get some great shots for your Instagram.

When we got back to the city, we were all excited to go back to the Seattle Aquarium, where we saw sea otters and lots of other amazing sea creatures. If you love your social media, you are encouraged to upload your photos or videos along with the hashtag #SeattleAquarium and every #photoFriday they upload the best content to the website. We lingered for a long time with the otters, because what’s not to love?

We ended the day appropriately seaside with dinner at Lowell’s, which bears the hilarious tagline “Almost Classy since 1957.”

The restaurant is part of the Pike Place Market, which was also just a short walk from our hotel and a short walk from the Monorail.

It’s the original Seattle farmer’s market having opened in 1907. Now it’s a vibrant marketplace where old meets new. Our son loved meeting the traders and especially the fishmonger, who had the best—and biggest—display of fish I’ve ever seen.

Locals and tourists alike can buy their groceries here and then eat delicious food in any number of buzzing restaurants. We enjoyed Lowell’s Famous Fish & Chips made with hand-breaded Alaskan cod, and the fresh Wild Copper River Salmon.

Before we knew it, it was time to leave. Seattle gave us more family-friendly moments than I was expecting, and our CityPasses made everything super easy. We particularly enjoyed staying at the Mayflower, since it was so elegantly beautiful. The staff were so helpful and its location made it convenient when planning our days.

The only complaint is that family Sundae Sunday has some serious competition that might be hard to beat!

For more information about family-friendly destinations from Margot Black, check out:

Text and Images by Margot Black for Peter