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Seattle/PNW -- what to see/do there for 5 days with teens?


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I second the locks. That is my sons favorite place to go. While at the locks you can visit the Freemont troll and Theo's Chocolate. The Tour is super fun. For some cheesy Seattle history, the underground tour. If the weather is nice ride a ferry. Just walk on. You can ride to Bremerton and tour a Naval Destroyer and the Naval museum.

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If the Space Needle is out of your budget, you can go to (near) the top of the Columbia Center, the tallest building downtown, for a pittance.  That's what we do when we want to get that great view.  Just go to the concierge desk in the lobby and ask for an escort to the observation floor.  It's something like $3.00, compared to $14 or so for the Space Needle. 

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When I went with my 16 yodd last fall, our favorite was the underground tour. There is more than one. We did the one that didn't have a haunted theme. So I'm not sure if that one is as good. We loved the Space Needle. Your admission price allows you two trips up. We went both during the day and at night. Loved both trips. I loved the Chihuly Garden snd the aquarium. We actually bought a Citypass, which gives you discounted admission to five or so attractions. We visited all of those attractions,but a couple of them were just okay.


There is an awesome fountain that gushes water to music and it is free. We visited and watched that more than once. It is near Seattle Center, iirc. Pike's Place Market is free, unless of course you buy something. :) But it was super fun to walk through. I also liked the zoo, but I love going to the zoo.


I think next time I go, I'm going to take a ferry to one of the islands and do some exploring there.


Have fun!

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We all loved the Chihuly glass exhibit--it's next door to the Space Needle if you want to do both. The restaurant at the top of the Space Needle is expensive and you need advance reservations, but I wouldn't mind splurging for lunch there next time. You take an elevator up and skip the incredibly long line to just go to the top of the Needle. We didn't have reservations, so we ate at the food court thing by Chihuly and the Children's Museum (which is definitely for really young kids). There was a MOD pizza there (Made on Demand I think?) which we thought was excellent. They make a little pizza just for you-whatever you want on it. Very good and much cheaper than Space Needle! I think the Pacific Science Center is there--closed on Tuesdays which is when we were there. There's a rock and roll museum too--didn't go.


Definitely need to wander Pike's Place. There's a stand that does little donuts--you can watch the machine make them. Delicious. Not too far from the fish throwers. Of course there is all kinds of healthy fruits and veggies too but we liked the donuts!

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You got great suggestion! Just a couple of comments:  Space Needle (there's a revolving restaurant on top) - this is true, but it is VERY expensive, its menu is Northwest gourmet, and it is deliberately a slow dining experience so you can see the view. I would  expect to be in the restaurant several hours. Not worth it for teens, in my opinion.



When I went with my 16 yodd last fall, our favorite was the underground tour. There is more than one. We did the one that didn't have a haunted theme.  I've done both.  Oh my gosh, the haunted Seattle tour was dumb! Unless your teens love Ghosthunters, don't bother with that one. Regular underground tour would be ok.  It can smell iffy if it's hot.

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Thanks for the ideas. I've done the underground tour myself & think it's something my teens would enjoy. Pike Place too. Am looking at all the other options mentioned -- thank you!


The mention of the ferries -- what are the best ones? (I've been out to Bainbridge, but haven't taken other ferries around Seattle.)


What is the driving time to Mt. St. Helens?


I'd also like to go to Ranier for a long day trip too.

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Last year my dh and I went to most of the attractions in Seattle but the ones I loved the most were kind of quirky - the Seattle Underground tour (and while waiting for the tour to start, pop around the corner to visit the Seattle Mystery Bookshop), Wild Ginger restaurant (downtown), and the downtown Seattle Public Library.

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for the underground tour - they've closed off a lot of areas that used to be open, and it *really* depends upon who your tour guide is and how well they know the stories in "sons of the profits" by William c speidel.  they will probably tell you how seattle had 8,000 seamstresses - and produced not a shred of clothing.  but not how UPS got its start running messages/packages between those "sewing" houses.  they will cover henry yesler being contracted to install a fire hydrant system - but not bothering to put water in it.  so, seattle burned to the ground when that cow knocked over the glue pot. (which used to be on display at the museum of history and industry. not sure if it's there now. I want to go back - without dudeling.)


for within the city:

 on the waterfront

  • ivar's fishbar - throw French fries at the seagulls.  (they can be pretty darned lazy. it can be sitting on the ground in front of them, - and they will screech at you for not getting it closer to them.)
  • ferry boat ride.  you only pay to go westbound. if you are able to go between the sides in the very front of the boat's passenger deck (not the one's where you are passing through a covered area) - the very center is protected from the wind even if you're outside.  Bremerton is the longer route and has stuff to do on the other end. I've seen submarines as they are tended while they ride the surface in Puget sound.  last time we also saw several sea lions.
     If you drive on, you can go to the submarine museum at bangor.
  • ye olde curiosity shop.  my *absolute* most favorite place as a child.
  • parking on the waterfront is miserable due to construction of the tunnel - so be warned.
  • the aquarium is also on the waterfront - as well as a giant enclosed ferris wheel.


  • Columbia center for the view - far cheaper than the very overrated space needle (do NOT eat at the space needle.  the food is highly overpriced, and pretty mediocre.)
  • museum of history and industry (very different than the one I grew up with) at the south end of lake union.  ride the s.l.u.t.  aka: south lake union trolley. (and to think they didn't see that one coming.  lol.)  or just buy a t-shirt.

alki - in west seattle.  where the settler's first landed.  there are beaches and some overlooks to look back and see seattle across the water. free parking - if you can find any.


  • ray's boathouse for seafood - lunch is cheaper, and you might want to check, but at least you know you'll be getting quality seafood.
  • ballard locks are on the same road. (pay parking)  walk across, see the fish ladder at the other end.  maybe even see sealions feasting at the bottom of the spillway.


  1. museum of flight (which is by boeing field in south seattle) - generous parking. you can also pay extra to go into the real space shuttle cockpit trainer. walk through a mock up of the cargo bay.  if your kids are remotely interested in flying machines (james bond's flying car, blackbird with drone), they'll love it. they have a concord that you can walk through, among many other goodies.
  2. boeing tour (paine field in Everett.  45 mins north of seattle.)  lots of walking.  the building is big enough to house ALL of Disneyland.  it makes a 747 seem small.

points north

  • Whidbey island/deception pass.  absolutely amazing.  we saw a gray whale there once -from shore.  drive-up, head west towards Anacortes, then south on the island taking the ferry back across at the southend.  we always stop at fort casey on Whidbey. there is a lighthouse - and bunkers you can explore. very popular with teenage boys (bring flashlights.)  good for flying kites on the enormous parade ground.  picnic area.  overlooks Puget sound and you can see across to port townsend.  in the summer, you also get to see the cruise ships sail past.
  • Anacortes - you can do a walk on ferry ride to the san juan islands.  you can usually rent scooters on the islands.  orcas and san juan are the biggest and most populous -and they are very different.  If you want to stay overnight - make sure you have reservations somewhere.  the advantage to walking on is the ferry line to come back can be hours in the summer.  you watch boats come and go while you sit there.  it is free to go on the ferries inter island.  san juan has desert at the southern tip (and the north can be pouring rain . . . ) also british camp and American camp and the almost war over a pig.  orcas has mt. constitution with a CCC stone tower at the top.  highest point in the islands. (approx. 2000') you can see to canada
  • north cascades highway - especially good for anyone interested in geology as it is very varied and unique.  beautiful when you hit the eastside of the mts.


  • pt defiance park. - fort Nisqually, zoo/aquarium, old growth forest.
  • Tacoma railway museum
  • Washington state history museum - tacoma

mt. rainier.

about a two hour drive each way.  Longmire has some self-guided tours.  the gas station is now a museum. I remember when it sold gasoline . . .

paradise - great hikes.  range from very short relatively easy to half the day, but takes you well above paradise (and there is cell service!)  you can see mt. Jefferson (or am I thinking of adams?), mt. st. Helen's and even mt hood if it is particularly clear.  I remember when there was a campground there.  points if you can find it.  it's now pretty well grown over you have to know where it was.

narada falls, reflection lakes, ohanapekosh and big tree grove (very easy short hike).  there are trees that are 1000 years old on a small island in the ohanapekosh river in the SE corner of the park. 


mt. st. Helen's.  great visitors center - and great history/geology/volcanology opportunity.  we went the first time in 1984. there was nothing but dust as far as the eye could see.  a few lupines and fireweed as they are among the first plants to come back.  but the dust went on forever.  and there were not even any branches left from the trees (which were g.o.n.e.)


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just adding -

someone mentioned the fremont troll (note the actual VW BUG in its hand), there are reputedly goats down the hill. 

also, the waiting for the interurban statue on the NE corner of the fremont bridge is fabulous.  the locals love to decorate it, seasonally appropriate.  (and the dog's face is former mayor Charles royer.  seems the sculptor wasn't happy with him . . . .)



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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for all the input, everyone! We ended up getting the City Passes & doing quite a few of those items, along w/ some others....


Mt. Rainier

Pike Place (including eating at our fave bakery there) a couple of times

Underground tour, hanging around Pioneer Sq. area, & shopping in Magic Mouse Toys

Ate lunch at Ivar's at the waterfront, visited the Aquarium & the Old Curiosity Shop

Ate at Johnny Rockets twice (we used to have one near to us & the dc have missed it so that we made a special effort to eat there twice, lol)

Rode the monorail, visited the Pacific Science Center (including the spy exhibit) & the Space Needle

Took the ferry to Bainbridge & hung out there for the day & evening (including book shopping & eating at a neat little diner)


ETA: We also tried to go to Alki beach but that was Sunday a week ago & the weather was so gorgeous that it was an absolute zoo/traffic nightmare over there. We ended up not staying over there because the crowds/parking were just nuts. We did manage to eat at Luna Park Cafe before leaving the West Seattle area, though.


Btw, we really enjoyed the (temporary) spy exhibit at the Pacific Science Center & thought it was pretty neat. I enjoyed it more than the spy museum in D.C. Recommended. (I think the exhibit will be there until sometime in September.)



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  • Columbia center for the view - far cheaper than the very overrated space needle (do NOT eat at the space needle.  the food is highly overpriced, and pretty mediocre.)


OP, glad you had a great time!


I had to comment on this as this has often been my recommendation as well (for anyone else's future reference) -- they apparently did a major remodel of the observation level at the Columbia Center in the last year or two and now they're charging $12.50 to visit -- very similar to the Space Needle. I was quite disappointed to learn about this and now I think I'd recommend the SN for the iconic aspect since the price is now so similar.

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