Visiting Seattle

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello BPNers,

    Our family (kids ages 9 & 14) will spend a week this summer in Seattle and Portland and the areas in between. We'll start in Seattle and drive to Portland by car. I've looked in the archives, but would like newer recommendations on places to hike, spot wildlife, and interesting things to do in and around those 2 cities as well as on the road in-between. We're open to ideas!


     Mount St. Helens just north of Portland is pretty fascinating for adults and kids.

    We moved to Portland recently and have been exploring the area with our children. I’d be happy to share ideas and help you with your itinerary. The San Juan islands (just off the coast of Seattle) are stunning, the Oregon coast is beautiful as is the Gorge and it’s waterfalls (about 25 min outside of Portland). In Portland don’t miss the Japanese gardens, Ken’s bakery and Salt and Straw ice cream. Your kids might also enjoy The Oaks amusement park (a historic amusement park located in the city) and Powell’s bookstore. Feel free to message me for more ideas! 

    I’d highly recommend a day trip to Bainbridge Island - I’m biased because I grew up there but think the ferry ride in and of itself is really gorgeous on a sunny PNW summer day, and there are lots of fun restaurants and things to see along Winslow Way if you decide to walk on instead of drive a car over. Enjoy your trip!

    In Seattle the space needle and Music Museum are great. Your kids might be too old for this but when we when there when our kids were younger we got a really cute book called the "Wheedle in the Needle" about a creature called a wheedle who lives in the space needle. There's a really tall (at least to me!) Ferris wheel nearby too that they might like. Also- many, many, MANY donut shops. You could go on a donut extravaganza :)

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Seattle in July without kids!

July 2013

My husband and I are headed to Seattle for a midweek trip in
July...without the kids!  I'm looking for recommendations on
things not to be missed.  We are definitely going to the
Space Needle and Pike's Market, but other than that, we are
open.  Need recommendations for places to visit, bars,
restaurants, and shops.  


Not sure if you are after restaurants or things to do/places
to go.  Sounds like you already know about the well known
attractions, Space Needle, Music Experience, Monorail, Pike
Market and the art scene.  Other places you might want to
consider are Snoqualmie Falls, Leavenworth, North Bend, Mt.
Si, Lake Chelan, Boeing, Binbridge island, Vancouver,
Kirkland is interesting, and Woodinville if you like wine.

For restaurants try Din Tai Fung, (it is always packed) or
Maneki or Mashiko.  Like San Francisco there are tons of
unique restaurants.

If you into seeing where people who are worth $73 billion
live as in Bill Gates he has a lake front house you could
see.  Bill drives around in a Ford Focus and can be seen at
restaurants and theaters with his kids.  Maybe you'll catch
a glimpse.

Hope this helps.

I grew up in Seattle and these are the things I still visit
every time I go there: Fran's Chocolates (Downtown).
Chihuly Glass Gardens.  The Gum Wall (by the Fish Market at
Pike's Place)

If kids were with you I would say don't miss The Troll under
the Aurora Bridge. But for an adult's trip only, it's not

The area around the Space Needle is an annoying tourist
trap, but still a must-see if you've never been there
before. Especially if it's a sunny day.

Hope you have fun!

Family-friendly lodging in Seattle

April 2012

Can anyone recommend their favorite family-friendly
lodging/accommodations in Seattle, possibly near the Seattle
Center? We prefer a privately owned, independent lodging
versus a national chain hotel or motel, but we're open to
hearing where you and your kids enjoyed staying anywhere in
the city. We have kids aged 8-10 years old.  Zoe

Check out Silver Cloud Lake Union. It's a great place to
stay near Seattle Center. They have free breakfast free
parking and free shuttles every half-hour to the Pike Place
market and to the space needle.    It's across the street
from Lake Union and you can watch sea planes take off and

I recommend doing a vacation rental-look on VRBO, Homeaway.
You have kitchen, home base, more space, and often the cost
is less than a hotel.


Two days in Seattle with young adults

March 2012

I will be spending two full days in Seattle with three 20+ year olds that haven't been there before. I would appreciate some suggestions on how to spend our two days. They are adventurous and so perhaps some suggestions that include outings we can do...possibly some hiking? I want to do more with them than just walk around downtown or typical sightseeing areas. Thank you. seattle bound

You have to go to the Experience Music Project (museum), from the architecture to the exhibits, it's very cool. It is touristy, and in the very touristy are (Seattle Center), but otherwise, really great (esp. if you need to be indoors for a day. Anon

Seattle visit with 4th grade boy

Feb 2010

We are going to Seattle for a long weekend in mid-March and we would love some advice on the best way to get around and where to go with a ten-year-old boy. We will be attending a Bar Mitzvah for the weekend mornings, so need some good half-day long activities as well as something to do on the one full weekday we'll have. How is public transport in the area? Is it advisable to rent a car? How about getting to the suburbs and to/from the airport? Thanks!

Seattle is a great place for a 4th grader to visit! Right in Seattle Center there is the Pacific Science Center (very cool exhibits, also an IMAX), Experience Music Project, and Seattle Children's Theatre (check to see if they have any performances that weekend). You can also combine any of these visits with a trip up to the top of the Space Needle, which is tourist-y but my 4th grader and his pal loved it. If it's sunny, be sure to play in the huge fountain in Seattle Center near the Arena. Pike Place Market is fun for looking at curios, great eats and you can walk from there down to the waterfront and go to the Seattle Aquarium. For outdoorsy activities, Gasworks park is fun, the Woodland Park Zoo if you like zoos, and Discovery Park is great. If you stick to downtown locations, public transit (bus and monorail) are very easy. In fact, there is a free ride area downtown, and the monorail goes right to Seattle Center. There are fast express buses from Bellevue, if that's the suburb you'll be in. I'm sure the Seattle Metro (bus) has a website. Have fun! Seattle is a great place to visit. former Seattleite

Seattle family vacation in late July or August

Feb 2010

I am interested in hearing from parents who have gone to Seattle during summer for a family vacation. We have two girls who are 6 and 9 years old. Is this city a good place for a family vacation with children? Is there enough to do for ten days? would you rent a condo or stay at a hotel? can you recommend a section of the city where we can stay, with a park, children's entertainment and restaurants that we can easily walk to without driving (we will have a car but do not want to use it every day)? what are the main museums and day trips that we can do with the children? can you recommend a great hotel (mid price)? can you recommend some nice restaurants that are good for children and adults. thank you, Interested in doing something other than San Diego but not too far from California. Lisa

Yes, Seattle is a fabulous place for a summer family vacation, and there is plenty to do for ten days! (And then some.) And July/August is the best time to go, weather-wise, but yes, there will probably be some rain.

I can't recommend hotels or condo rentals, because we have always stayed with relatives, but the city is chock full of fun places to take grade school age kids. I would look to stay near the Seattle Center or downtown which will give you the easiest access to local attractions and public transportation, though of course you might find something less expensive in a more residential neighborhood. There's no regional equivalent to BART, and cross-town traffic can be very slow, but the city busses are quite decent, and the monorail between Seattle Center and downtown is fun to ride as well as practical. Plus, of course, there's the ferries!

Our favorites for the family include the Seattle Center (lots of museums, rides, and other attractions there; do the Space Needle observation platform, but don't eat in the restaurant, which has not-good food at way-too-high prices), the Pioneer Square area (the Underground Tour is worth doing, and yes, it's fine for the kids although there will be some bawdy innuendo in the stories the guides tell), the downtown main public library, the Arboretum's floating walkways on Lake Washington (combines nicely with a visit to MOHI, a historical museum that's maybe more interesting for the adults but does offer some displays and activities that appeal to kids), the Wooden Boat Center on Lake Union, Gas Works Park, the waterfront (you must visit the Pike Place Market, of course, but don't plan on a LOT of time there; an Argosy harbor cruise is worth doing), the locks, taking the ferries out to Bainbridge or other day-trip destinations, the zoo, the Fremont troll, and Archie McPhee's store. There are lots of other museums and attractions we've never managed to get to yet. There are some wonderful festivals, events and attractions in the area, too, that are worth a day trip (or half-day or evening or whatever) out of Seattle proper, whether by car or by ferry (on foot or with car); you'd have to investigate what's going on during the dates you want to go. Plenty of opportunities for hiking, berry- picking, kite-flying, boating, music and art festivals, sporting events, farmers' markets and craft fairs, historical and maritime exhibits, etc., etc., etc.

Bring the kids' swimsuits everywhere you go. There are lots of public fountains where water play is allowed, and parks with water features, and water-play friendly beaches. In fact, it's one of the most astonishing things about Seattle (and Portland too) for a Bay Area native -- there is just water everywhere, in every form! LOL

Have a breakfast at the Original Pancake House in Ballard. I know, it sounds like IHOP but it's much better. Get the Dutch baby. There are a ton of good restaurants for dinner, but I don't have any specific recommendations; we tend to just hit whatever looks good wherever we happen to be at the right time.

There are a couple of different entertainment cards/combo pass deals available, which are worth investigating, but be sure you'll make full use of them if you buy. Check the museums' free day schedules, of course, as well as discounts offered via any local museum or zoo memberships you have. Holly

We had a great family vacation that included Seattle this past August. I don't know that I'd spend 10 days in Seattle itself, although that wasn't the focus of our visit and we stayed with friends there so didn't do a lot of digging into what was available and kid-friendly. Our kids loved the zoo (including feeding the giraffes) and the children's museum. My husband & I weren't as excited about their children's museum; we log a lot of hours at the Exploratorium in SF and Seattle suffered by comparison, but that's just our impression.

We actually spent the bulk of our time in the San Juan Islands, which was wonderful. Our kids (then ages 2 and 3) had a lot of fun too. We didn't do much that had any structure, but enjoyed wandering around exploring a couple of the islands, collecting stones & shells on the beaches, going whale-watching (the girls still talk about Orcas!), picking as many blackberries and plums as we could eat from the bushes and trees at our hotel, going to farmers markets & outdoor concerts, kayaking.... Our seven days seemed too short and we'll definitely be back. I'm happy to share details of specific islands, hotels.... Liz

I grew up in Seattle and still love visiting. It's a great city for kids of that age, I'd say - the Pike Place Market, the Aquarium, the Woodland Park Zoo, and the Pacific Science Center (at Seattle Center, which also has an amusement park, a monorail, and lots of other things to do) all come to mind as fun things to do. And the weather is very reliably sunny and nice in August. You could take a ferry ride, go up to the mountains one day, take an Underground tour in Pioneer Square, go to the Museum of Flight. Tons to do! You'll have no trouble keeping entertained.

Now, where to stay? There are many great neighborhoods around Seattle that would give you the restaurants, markets, cafes, and nice walking you're interested in - Queen Anne Hill would be a great place to rent a house if there are any on It's right next to downtown and the Seattle Center and has lovely views and a nice neighborhood feel (if a bit yuppie). Ballard, Fremont, West Seattle, and Wallingford are also nice, though they'd be a bus or car ride to downtown (the buses are great in Seattle - you might only need a car for a few days). The neighborhoods are part of what makes Seattle special, so it might be worth staying in a house rather than a hotel. Plus you can cook at home! Seattle Fan

2004 - 2007 Reviews

Family Vacation to Seattle in August

April 2007

We are beginning to plan our vacation this summer and are considering a trip to Seattle and environs. I hae checked the archives and have seen things to do, but little on places to stay. We will be two adults and two kids, ages 6 and 16. We are looking for a family friendly 1 br suite hotel, ideally centrally located. Any recommendations? Also, we will probably rent a car for a couple of days (not the whole visit) and would like suggestions for places to go outside of Seattle. And finally, if there are more current recs for places to go, places to eat, etc. in Seattle downtown that would be great. Is the monorail up and running again? Thanks! planning ahead

We were just in Seattle in March with 2 kids (much younger than yours, though). We did the monorail and the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, the touristy things, and had a great time. Your kids would probably really love the Experience Music Project ( at the base of the Space Needle, if you haven't considered that already. They might also get a kick out of the ''space travel supply'' store ( that fronts 826 Seattle, the NW outpost of SF's 826 Valencia (which has an excellent pirate supply store in the Mission, btw). JP

Seattle with a 4 year old & infant

April 2006

Going to Seattle in July, staying near Convention Center. Ideas on things to do for a 10 mo. old and a four year old with grandma while I am in conference and then for after my conference when we can go a bit further away from the city. Places to go, restaurants, good kiddie places to swim, kid's museum's, whatever. Thanks.

The Seattle Center (on the northern edge of downtown) is the obvious one with a fantastic childrens museum, science center and fab fountain to play in when it's warm. The aquarium is also just downtown and is OK. Ballard locks - if your kids are interested in fish or boats. Shilshole beach (just a little farther than the ballard locks) is great, sandy, fun to play for the little ones. Woodland park zoo - 5 minutes N of downtown - great zoo. feel free to contact me for more info - I just moved here from there and have two little kids. skh

I have visited Seattle the last two years during July/August and found many great things to do with my four-year-old daughter. Here are some we've enjoyed: 1) Children's Museum at Seattle Center 2) Fountains for water play at both Seattle Center and Redmond Town Center 3) Seattle Aquarium 4) Swimming beaches at Pine Lake, Sammamish 5) Pacific Science Center (Seattle Center) 6) Woodland Park Zoo 7) Seattle Public Library-architecture is amazing and children's section is excellent with it's own theater with scheduled events 8) Pike Place International Market for a great variety of places to eat I highly recommend a resource book called Out and About with Kids Seattle. judy

A few ideas for your trip to Seattle: - the Aquarium is on the waterfront and very close to downtown and the Convention Center. Down in the same area, it might also be fun to take a ferry ride or hop on the trolley. - Green Lake is good for kids. It is a short drive from downtown, just west of the UW. It has paddle boats for rent and a play ground area. There is a swimming area, too. - There are several parks on Lake Washington with swimming. I recommend checking out the Seattle Parks and Recreation website. - Seattle Center, at the Space Needle, has some kids-oriented museums to check out.

I'm sure you'll get lots of other postings. Also, google Seattle kids places and I think there are some websites for more ideas. A Seattleite

The aquarium in downtown Seattle is fabulous. The Children's Musuem is as well and would be perfect for the 4yr old. It is in the Seattle Center, which is a fun, short Monorail ride from downtown. The new library downtown has a great section for kids. The inside is done in really bright colors, so kids love to just go up and down the escalators and elevators and explore. The Seattle Center in general has some fun stuff to do with kids and has various events going on throughout the year. The Pacific Science Center there has a great area for little kids and a wonderful Butterfly Exhibit, a big room with tropical plants and butterflies everywhere. Downtown restaurants with kids, they change so fast I am not as up to date with that. There are some fun places along the waterfront and in Pike Place Market. Pike Place is also a great place to get food if you want to shop and eat at the hotel. There is a great little dairy shop in the ''sanitary Market'' which is back behind the street vendors. The Crumpet Shop on 1st ave, right off of Pike (small place right next to the flower shop on the corner)is a great place for breakfast and lunch and so yummy. Taco del Mar is a decent local burrito chain, so is Blu Water Taco. Outside of the downtown area there is a great zoo, The Woodland Park Zoo, that puts the S.F. zoo to shame. There is also a really nice playground just north of the zoo, still in Woodland Park. There is pool in the Ballard neighborhood called Pop Mounger (I think), I don't know what it is like for everyday swimming, but is THE place to have birthday parties, so I assume it is kid friendly on a daily basis. Ballard and Fremont are great neighborhoods, with fun shops, good food and both have street markets (farmers mkt, food vendors and arts & crafts) going on the weekends. There are also some great street fairs in various neighborhoods, throughout the summer. The beaches along Lake Washington can be fun if the weather is warm enough for a swim in the lake. Madison Park has a nice beach, good restuarants and a nice playground across the street from the beach. Golden Gardens Park also has a fun beach and playground as well as beautiful views. It is on the Puget Sound, so it would have to really warm to go in the water there. hope that helps.

Seattle Area B or other romantic lodging

Nov 2005

My husband and I (without the kids!!) will be traveling to the Seattle area over Veteran's Day weekend, somewhat on business (we're considering a big move) and also as a belated anniversary celebration. We will spend one or two nights with friends in Kent (35 min. south of Seattle) and would like to spend one or two nights no more than 2 hours driving time from Kent. Can you please recommend either a B or other romantic lodging place? Thanks Tiffany

Our daughter applied for early decision to University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA (she didn't get in -- all to the good, ultimately), and when we visited the campus we stayed in a nearby B that was charming as heck! It's called Chinaberry Inn and here's their website: Tacoma has a lot of fun places to visit, and it's a quick drive into Seattle. When we stayed there, many of the people we met over delicious breakfasts in the dining room were repeat customers, including Washington State locals who just love it for a getaway! Becky

Check out The Inn at the Market in downtown Seattle - a few blocks (or just one?) from Pike's Place Market. I'm dying to stay there. They are probably booked, but maybe you can get a last-minute cancellation. Bonus: you'll be able to explore all of Seattle on foot and public transport. If you want to check out the out-lying areas, it will still be convenient. A side comment, since you mentioned you are thinking of moving there, don't be scared off if you don't like Kent, where you mentioned you'll be for a few days. I grew up in a small town just next door to Kent and while it has some things going for it, I personally think there are far better (more attractive, more interesting, etc.) areas within the greater Seattle area... so as I said, don't let yourself be scared off initially. Poke around! If you can stand the grey skies, it is a MARVELOUS place to live. Sarah

We stayed at the Crescent Lake Lodge last fall (with our kids). It's in the Olympic Nat'l Park and is gorgeous!! On that same trip, we stayed at the Paradise Inn in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park and that too is fabulous. Neither is cheap and I'd say Crescent Lake's accomodations were nicer, but you can't beat the scenery at either place. Both offer upscale, good restaurants. There's also the Salish Lodge at Snoqualmie Falls. I think that's even more expensive, but very romantic also. And their restaurant is top-notch--one of the best meals I've ever had. anon

Seattle vacation in August

August 2004

I have checked the website, but the postings are old and not exactly what I am looking for. We are hoping to go to Seattle & environs in late August (prior to Labor Day weekend). I would be interested in recommendations for (a) lodging that might have suites, (b) fun things to do and see with our 6 year old daughter, and (c) child- friendly places to eat. Also any recommendations for what to do/where to go around Seattle would be great! Figure we'll be there a week max. Thanks much! Lori

A few of my favorite Seattle restaurants, both in Wallingford: Jitterbug on 45th. Great for all 3 meals. Fine with kids and delicious food from burgers to california-cuisine style food for dinner. The second place is Essential Baking. It's at about 35th and Woodlawn, just above Gasworks Park (fun park to fly kites, etc). The most amazing bakery with delicious lunch food also. Luckily my mom lives 4 blocks away so we make a daily pilgrimage when we go up to visit.

We were just up and found that they have an incredibly easy bus that gets you into downtown for $1.25 in 30 minutes. Bus connections are fantastic there, we walked one block and got on another bus to Wallingford, free because we got transfers. Not sure what age kids have to pay,our 4 y.o. was free. Our original plan was to take the monorail to the children's musuem at the Seattle Center, but turns out there was a recent big fire on monorail system so it was out of service indefinitely.

I would also recommend staying for part of labor day weekend if you can. Bumbershoot festival at the Seattle Center is FANTASTIC (tho you do have to be okay about crowds). You pay a flat fee (in my day it was about $6, but I'm sure it's more now) and have access to an incredible range of music from big (and I mean BIG) name rock & roll bands to great local musicians. Tons of dance performances, literary events etc. former seattleite

Drive from Seattle to Vancouver,BC

May 2004

For our five yr anniversary, we are thinking of flying to Seattle then driving to Vancouver. I'd love to hear advice from others who have done this. We have never been to Seattle or Vancouver so all comments are much appreciated. We will be taking our one year old so child-friendly things will be useful. As for time frame, we will be doing this in six days. Thanks so much. - traveling man

I grew up in Bellingham (half way beetween Sea and Van) and have visited a couple times with my two young boys -- now ages 4 and 2. The border wait can be up to an hour wait or more. And I think they require passports etc.. now (used to be like crossing into another state). There's a train that goes from Seattle to Van. that we've ridden part of the route just because my son LOVES trains. It's a beautiful ride along the coast! In Seattle there's the Space Needle, GasWorks Park, the Aquarium and whole waterfront area along Alaskan Way and Pikes Place Market. Driving North on I-5, there's the House of Pie's right off the freeway in Marysville -- that was always a favorite stop for us as kids -- then there's Mt. Vernon in the Skagit Valley which is home of the Tulip Festival (but that's in the spring). Mt. Vernon is a cute little town but I don't know what's there. you might want to check out the websites for Skagit County and Whatcom County. In Bellingham, there's Fairhaven which is an historic town from turn of the century that was reconstructed. They have a doubledecker bus and the Alaskan Ferry, among other things. The area by the Ferry is fun for kids to run around since it's right by the water, you can see birds, seals, the gift shop (key for my son), etc.. This is all 5-10 min from the Freeway. There's a great park too (Waterfront Park?) that stretches along the shoreline from Fairhaven north. The Bellingham Marina also has a cute little hands-on mini-aquarium for kids. There's some good restaurants around there too but it's a little further off the freeway. Further north, there's Lynden which is a re-creation of a Dutch town. And also the Roeder Homestead (can't remember how to get there but it's near Lynden) which is great for kids. It's an old farm. June 10-11 they have a big Highland Festival there. I haven't been any further north than that with my kids. Vancouver has hundreds of fun things for kids, but that's another topic. Have a great time. We had a trip planned up there with the boys for first week of June but had to cancel for medical reasons, sadly. This makes me wish I was going. Mary

Seattle vacation w/ 3rd grader

Feb 2004

Hi - we're contemplating a short (4-5 day) vacation in Seattle with our 3rd grader in June. Saw the web site postings, but looking for more recent information. What's ''not to miss''? We'll be on public transportation. Can you see salmon in the summer? Parks or activities/museums that are fun for a kid that age? Any and all recommendations (or: things to avoid!) welcome. Thanks. Hope to visit Seattle

I'm from Seattle and please don't miss the Woodland Park Zoo. It is a small manageable zoo with really, really nice exhibits. Natural environment. My friend says it's the best zoo he has ever been to and he's spent a great deal of time at the San Diego zoo. It's also very accessbible on the bus. The bus system is great! Reliable and clean. I also recommend going to the top of the space needle which is at the SEattle Center. Also at the center is the pacific science center which is also fun. louise

Seattle Center rocks for kids...not only is there an amusement park, merry-go-round, and ice rink, but the Seattle Children's Museum is there...think Habitot with a bunch of Microsoft money for swanky exhibits. In fact you can get in for free if you are a Habitot member at the $100 level. Downtown is also daughter loved watching the horse- drawn carriages at Westlake Center. Michael

2003 & Earlier

Driving to Seattle

September 2002

We're thinking of driving to Seattle with our 2 kids (ages 7 and 3) to spend Thanksgiving with friends. We'd take off the whole week, so have a couple of days to travel each way. Are we nuts? Has anyone done this, especially with kids near these ages? If so, was it horrible? Ok? Great? If it was great, where'd you stop along the way? (We're particularly nervous because of the time of year; If it was summer we'd plan to camp and do outdoor things along the coast.) J

We regularly drive to Vancouver, BC, which is 3-4 hours longer than the drive to Seattle. It takes us about 16 hours of driving time to Vancouver (less if I'm the one who is driving :-) ). We do the Vancouver trip in 2 days, stopping mid-Oregon (Eugene/Springfield has lots of choices), although you might want to stop sooner (e.g. Ashland - the factory outlets are good there, and there is no sales tax in Oregon). If you just want to get it over-with, you could drive to Seattle in one long day from here. We find that taking I-5 is best. Although the coast is more scenic, the driving is slower.

We've done the drive to Vancouver starting with a crawler, who is now 8. Although we don't like the food, we find that stopping at McDonalds or Burger King with Play-places really helps. There is a good one in Weed. Depending on the weather, there are also lots of rest areas with grass along I-5. If you bring a frisbee, that helps to burn off energy, too. However, the fast-food places help if it is rainy.

We find that books, cd's, books on tape, etc help. Our son has been through the long drives so much that he can entertain himself. However, last summer, I read Harry Potter: the first book on the trip up, the second on the trip down (plus time to finish each at the destination). We find that staying someplace with a pool helps, too. There is a Holiday Inn Express in Springfield that is good. They also provide a good breakfast. Barbara

Re: Driving to Seattle. We just drove from San Francisco to Seattle in mid-August for our one-year sabbatical. We have two kids, just about 4 years old and 6 months. We had a great time, mainly because we took the following steps:

1) Give yourself enough time. Perhaps with slightly older kids you can get away with more time in the car in a single day, but we decided that 6-7 hours of driving was the max our kids (and us) could take, so we budgeted three days.

2) Have a daily destination. We planned to stop somewhere interesting each day to hold out as a carrot for the kids. The big treat was to visit Crater Lake in Oregon. Unfortunately, the smoke from nearby forest fires prevented us from actually seeing the lake itself (but having been there before I HIGHLY recommend going - call ahead to get conditions. There will definitely be snow by Thanksgiving, so not sure which roads will be open). The other thing we did was to make reservations at motels that had a pool for each night. That really helped to release steam at the end of the long driving day. Having prior reservations helped to avoid anxiety in the car, too, as we didn't have to worry about trying to find a place to sleep. The internet has plenty of options, just pick a city on the map and look it up.

3) Be sure to drive along the coast for some portion of the trip, but don't try to take Hwy 1 all the way - it will take too much time. We took 101 up to Crescent City, CA, then drove inland using state roads over to Crater Lake, then over to I-5 and up to Seattle. But if you're not going to go to the Lake, then I recommend taking I-5 through California and moving over to Hwy 1 through Oregon, where the coast is simply astonishingly beautiful. In summer it can get clogged with RV's, but in November it should be easy, although be prepared for cold and rain.

4) You may need to budget more time for the total vacation, if you're going to drive both ways. Or make the way up the slow drive and the way down the quick one. If you took I-5 the whole way, you could probably do it in two days and one night.

5) Consider Amtrak. There's a sleeper train that goes from Emeryville to Seattle in about 24 hours or so. It's pricey, but if you're looking for something special I think it would be great, especially for the kids. You could take the train both ways, or do a one-way train/one-way plane trip. I'm pretty sure Amtrak and United have some sort of package for this. 5) Regardless of car/train/plane: pack lots of things for the kids to do, especially have new things they can open and enjoy.

Have fun!!! It was great to get back to my roots of road trips with my own family as a kid. Feel free to email me if you'd like more ideas, or specifics on places to stay. Gretchen

Long, long ago, my parents took my brother and me (then 4 and 7) to visit grandparents in So Cal. We drove from Seattle in a tin- box Fiat with no air conditioning and black vinyl seats. It was a heat-wave summer. And although I'm told by my mother that we drove them crazy, we both remember loving it. At least you won't have to put up with the heat! The trick my parents used was to start VERY EARLY each morning, bundling us into the car in our pj's, so we slept. Then, around 7:30 or 8, and 100 miles down the road, we'd stop for breakfast at Denny's or some such place. It felt like such a huge adventure! Lots of stops kept things interesting; if you take the most direct route, I-5, there isn't as much to see or do along the way, especially until you reach the California/Oregon border. On the other hand, once in Oregon there's plenty, and don't forget to stop at Mt. St. Helens once you get to Washington State. What could be cooler to kids than a recently exploded volcano? Alexa

I just did the drive with my sister and two small children (5 and 6 months) from Oakland to Seattle last weekend and I will NEVER do that again -- at least not in the same way.

Based on our trip planning research with AAA, OnStar, and MapQuest, we estimated the trip would take around 12 hours, but it was more like 17! I quickly learned that those trip planners are not reliable for planning the actual timing of long car ventures because, as you can imagine, with the need to stop for meals, bathrooms, diaper changes, gas, rest, etc. additional travel time can add up.

My kids did as well and even better as one could expect for such a long journey. Although after arriving in Seattle, I was heartbroken to find that my daughter's bottom was red and chafed from so much sitting in the car seat. During the return trip I was wiser and excessively powdered her bottom and that did the trick.

While my five year old alternately slept, played car games, workbooks, puzzles, those got old after a while and we were not prepared for the additional 5 hours. So there were some moments where we just had to pull into a rest stop so he could just run to let off steam and energy.

The upside is that we both found the drive itself to be easy and very beautiful. The road conditions were excellent and traffic was minimal because we did a lot of driving during off-peak times.

If we chose to drive again, I would definitely rent a RV and not be so ambitious about getting there so quickly. In retrospect, I would have much preferred to spend the night at some point to break things up. It also would have been nice if there was time to explore some of the quaint, historic towns along the way. Rue

Regarding the comment that mapquest etc. give too short times: Of course they will only quote the driving time not including any stops. How long it will take you including breaks depends on how many and how long breaks you take. With two or three drivers and stops only for getting gas you'll probably need not that much more time than the quoted 12 hours. Of course, if you travel with children, you will need more and longer breaks. Ina

Seattle with a Preschooler

March 1999

Our daughter (also 4 1/2) has really enjoyed the Seattle Center (formerly the site of the World's Fair). There are two good museums (Children's and Science), and there are often activities in the big indoor food court area (this place is also great for the little cars and trucks they leave out for kids to scoot around in while parents finish a more leisurely lunch). There are also some standard amusement park rides (not sure if these were permanent or temporary when we were there last).

Pike Place Market is interesting to see, but pretty crowded and an easy place to lose sight of an overly mobile kid. It can quickly turn into one of those look out for that (whatever) or don't break that (whatever) kind of experiences. Plan on using a backpack for the baby if you can. There's also a nice aquarium right on the waterfront below the Market.

Finally, Seattle has lots of great parks. Of course there are the big ones. The Olympic peninsula is beautiful if you have a full day for driving and hiking (you can take a loop route and work a nice ferry boat ride into the trip). There are also lots of nice city parks. My in-laws used to live in Leschi (a district by Lake Washington) and there were several great beach parks on the lakeshore.

You're picking a great time to see Seattle. Have fun! -Jeff

We just spent a week in Seattle with a 9 yo, 5 yo, and 3 yo (visiting two families with a 5 yo, 7 yo and 7yo) and the favorite activity was the Children's Museum which is at Seattle Center. There is quite a fountain show outside at 5 pm also. The Science center would also be fun for your 4 yo. Its expensive but you can bring your own food (and should). We saw a IMAX movie on Beavers that they loved. The Everest IMAX is suppose to be spectacular but centered a lot around some of the deaths that occured on that trip. We also went north an hour and went inner tubing in the snow. There are some places that take reservations but we just found an area to play in. There was a lot of snow this year.

Our children really like going on the Ferry. We took a longer trip this year to Whitby Island which involved more driving than Ferry, but the trip to Bainbridge is a good distance to enjoy the ferry ride, and you can get on downtown. There are shops to browse and an ice cream store and a park at the other end. There is a Whale Museum on Friday Island that is kid friendly but again you will need a rental car and the trip is several hours long by car AND ferry. We did not see any Killer Whales while we were there but there had been some earlier that same day migrating. The zoo is nice and you can get a combo pass for it and the aquarium. There is a park at the north entrance. I really liked Pikes Place but the children were bored. Hope this helps and Have fun! Carolyn

Seattle has a terrific zoo, and I understand their children's museum is pretty good, although we didn't make it there. Lots of good recommendations can be found at Lysa

Seattle has an excellent Aquarium (on the waterfront)--much better than Steinhardt, but not as good as Monterey, I'd say. Additionally, the Pacific Science Center (where the Space Needle is) is not to be missed. They have a butterfly room, where you walk in and are surrounded by butterflies of all kinds. They often land on your head and shoulders. And they have a special toddler and small child area set up with a bubble wall, water play, and other child friendly exhibits. My two year old loved it. Dawn

Yay Seattle! It's a terrific place to take small kids. I was there with two free weeks and a 2-yr. old a few years ago, and we had a marvelous time. Really don't miss the Children's Museum & the Science Center. We bought a year's family membership at the Museum, and we went so much in a week we saved money. It's about the best Children's Museum anywhere I think (& don't miss the potties in graduated sizes in the restroom!) The Science Center has a super section for small ones. There is also a fabulous, fun & free thing to do in Seattle - for all ages! - so fabulous that when my husband used to talk about moving up there I could almost agree just by remembering what a great time we had. That's the wading pool on the north end of Green Lake. It's fed by a tiny stream & it then funnels into the lake, so it has fresh water all the time, though they do load in some chlorine or something every day. It's nearish to the street & traffic so it's not as though you're at Lake Anza, but there's something really wonderful about it. Maybe bc it is so urban, or festive, or comfortable. There's a very shallow end as well as a slightly deeper end. I think it's much more fun for tiny kids than the beaches on the lake itself, right nearby. Remember to bring some water toys. There's a place to rent skates nearby if you want to skate around the lake, and there's a super bakery/cafe just across the street & maybe down a block. Good food nearby too. Another place that can be fun is Archie McPhee's, a novelty store that sells amazing things. You may want to skip it with kids, but if you're used to taking them to Mr. Mopps, it's not that different. The only thing that's unimproved over the years is that I think they now manufacture in China many if not most of their own novelty items. They're just not all classics any more. Ah well. (They have a website of course: Have fun in Seattle! (Yes, I would move there, except it would mean moving away from here...) Leah