Best Kid-Friendly Things to Do in the Pacific Northwest
See bustling city life, breathtaking mountain vistas, and kid-friendly museums and attractions in the Pacific Northwest –all within about a five-hour drive. A trip to the Pacific Northwest will spark a love for you and your kids of urban spaces and wide-open nature. We flew into Portland and worked our way up the coast. Here are our top twelve stops in Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver.
1. Browse Pike Place Market in Downtown Seattle for snacks, stalls, and shops. Watch donuts being made and enjoy them seconds later at Daily Dozen Doughnuts. Pike Place is the spot where you can witness the flying fish. Hop on the Seattle Great Wheel nearby. Yes, it’s an overpriced experience, but the view of the city and waterfront is worth it.
2. Explore the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop) at Seattle Center. There’s a ridiculously huge guitar installation, sound rooms to try out your rock star chops, science fiction, and video game exhibits. The “Artists at Play” play area outside of the museum was a highlight for the kids, with its giant climbing tower and slides. Don’t miss a trip to the nearby Space Needle. When it’s busy, splurge on the VIP experience to skip the lines. Also at Seattle Center, Seattle Children’s Museum has hands-on activities and fun programs for kids 10 months to 10 years old.
3. Visit Seattle Central Library. Public libraries in the Pacific Northwest are top notch. Explore the huge children’s section on the first floor of the downtown Seattle library; take an elevator ride to the top floor to take in the modern design of the library and the view of downtown Seattle.
4. Get the wiggles out at Seattle’s playgrounds. Jefferson Park is just south of downtown Seattle in the Beacon Hill neighborhood and has a great view of the city with two cool slides built into the hill, two zip lines and modern climbing elements. Visit Woodland Park Playground before or after a trip to the zoo. The playground has swings, a dome net climber and a treehouse to explore. Plus, there’s a mini treehouse for the toddlers.
5. Eat German food and enjoy indoor Bocce Ball at Rhein Haus in Capitol Hill in Seattle. Our kids picked typical chicken nuggets, but the restaurant has fun German options to try as well. For dessert, go to Hello Robin, a delicious ice cream cookie place, also in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Nothing says yum like two, warm delicious cookies and ice cream. If you’re staying downtown, Mel’s Market is an easy, healthy soup and sandwich spot for a quick meal. Plus, the Seattle bus system is great, cheap and easy to get around to restaurants and attractions around town.
6. Get giddy nervous on the Capilano Suspension Bridge, one of the largest suspension bridges in the world, in Vancouver, BC. The bridge park has other heart pumping things to do, too. Our kids loved traversing the side of a cliff and standing on a plate of glass and looking several hundred feet down. They also loved the walking trails and learning about the old growth trees in the park.
7. Take a ride on the Aquabus to the Kid’s Village, shops and restaurants at Granville Island in Vancouver. Kids will love the small water taxis that tug in the waters of False Creek and the toy shops on Granville Island.
8. Learn about the history of Vancouver on a guided horse-drawn tour through Stanley Park. Our favorite stops at the park were the rose garden and the nine totem poles at Brockton Point. Vancouver’s central park, Stanley Park is also home to the Vancouver Aquarium, the Stanley Park Kid’s Train plus playgrounds and a water splash park.
9. For easy and delicious food, get eats at Urban Fare Grocery Store in Vancouver. They have prepared foods plus an order at the counter restaurant with tables for eating. Vancouver has great bike options, and a comprehensive train and bus system. Buy tickets in advance at many convenient stores and at the train stations. Daily passes are $10.
10. Spend a couple hours at Powell’s Books in Portland, the largest independent book store in the world. Located in the middle of downtown Portland, Powell’s Books takes up an entire city block with a huge children’s book section on the main floor. The hardest part is lugging your big stack of books on the airplane on your way back home.
11. Go old school at Oaks Park, the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States in Portland. It’s not a thrill seeker park like Six Flags, so kids will love the small thrills. When the rides are not open in fall and winter, check out the roller skating rink open year-round.
12. Explore the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum and the World Forestry Museum at Washington Park in Portland.This beautiful park has playgrounds, an arboretum, rose garden, and more.
Where to Stay in the Pacific Northwest
Loews Hotel 1000 in downtown Seattle has large suites and rooms for families with an excellent location near restaurants, shops, and attractions. The Hotel 1000 was an easy base to walk from or hop on the bus to explore Seattle. Kids get to pick a gift from the kids’ welcome wagon at check-in.
Hampton Inn & Suites Vancouver, located steps from the BC Place Stadium and more in downtown, has affordable two room suites for families. We enjoyed the included hotel meals each morning, and the kids were even given small toys during breakfast. The hotel has easy access to public transportation, restaurants, and attractions.
Inn at Northrup Station, a fun, funky hotel located in downtown Portland, has good size rooms with a pull-out couch and full kitchen. Walk to restaurants and more in the Knob Hill, Northwest District, and Pearl District. Hop on the streetcar that goes right by the hotel.