Seattle: one of the great West Coast cities with its musical history, open markets, outstanding seafood. Oh, and one cannot forget the coffee. That would be criminal.

Hitting up Seattle with kids is a cinch. In fact, The Emerald City is probably one of the most kid-friendly I’ve been to.

The obvious options are always there: Woodland Zoo, Boeing Museum for Flight, the Experience Music Project. But sometimes what makes a city stand out are those little pocket-moments where you walk in on the unexpected.

Our trip was hasty: one quick night — booked in beautiful Bellevue as all the downtown hotels were full — and a day spent rummaging around the various options at the base of the Space Needle. Most notably a return to The Children’s Museum as per my daughter’s request.

En route, a traffic jam turned a normally 2 1/2 hour drive into a 4 hour crawl. Not to mention a flat tire — which I changed in a record 7 minutes.

Unexpected delays when traveling with fussy kids = several extra gray hairs. Remembering the portable DVD player and Curious George movies = perfection.

We arrived in good shape, our little donut spare tire looking a little ramshackle amidst the more elegant cars waiting to be parked by the Westin Bellevue valet. Yes, I used the valet service. I mean, when you’re traveling in such style…

Note: Bellevue is only 15 minutes out of the city and it boasts high-end hotels, shopping, and eating. All for considerably less than staying downtown. Plus the drive there is lovely as you go over the floating bridge connecting it to the main land.

The next morning, after a rain-sodden, replace-the-tire venture, we finally made it downtown. What follows is some brief points of advice, based on personal experience:

  • On Sundays, parking in Seattle is free so get there early and avoid the pay parkades. We paid $21.00. “Nuff said.
  • If you park near Westlake Center Mall (5th and Pine), you can take the Seattle Monorail, which runs straight through the Experience Music Project and its wild architecture, and stops right at Center Station, across from the Space Needle.
  • Around the base of the space needle you’ll find an amusement park, indoor games for kids, and a pavilion of shops and eateries. Inside the pavilion, downstairs, you’ll find the Children’s Museum. Hard to miss.
  • Pike Place Market is awesome for couples. Not so much with kids, unless they’re still really tiny and can be carried on your back. Otherwise it’s a crush of people — all moving with urgency — and your child will send most of their time looking at other peoples’ bums.

Inside The Seattle Children’s Museum, your kid may go apoplectic with glee. The place is compartmentalized into areas of interest: a grocery store complete with carts and plastic foodstuffs and cashiers; a Mexican Food eatery where kids can pretend to make lunch, costumes and a stage for putting on shows.

Also worth noting is the multi-cultural aspect of the museum. On one end, kids can move through areas representing Africa, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and others. Mock-ups of housing, transit, eating, and general lifestyle are all set out to interact with.

One of those places where if you can get past the stuffy air and neverending clamor of squealing kids, you realize the place is designed to incorporate fun and discovery. Hard to top it.

A final note, for the adults: Seattle is famous for coffee. And you’ll find a place on every corner proffering the necessary caffeine fixes. But if you really want to hit up a true coffee house — the kind that makes you pine for being young and kidless — visit Roy Street Coffee and Tea up in Capitol hill (north of the I5). The perfect combination of coffee and art and community.


Harry Tournemille realizes that every once in awhile he has to behave appropriately.