Explore Seattle’s Waterways
One of the best ways to take in a nice Seattle day is by boat. There are some truly unique and fun activities to be had on the water, and we’ve chosen six here that your kids are sure to love.
Kayak Rentals at the Aqua Verde Café & Paddle Club
Smack dab in the middle of the two most popular paddling destinations in Seattle – Lake Union and Lake Washington – the Aqua Verde Paddle Club offers a chance for families of all skill levels to do some lake kayaking. If you are new to the activity, or have small children, make your first kayak outing a short excursion around Portage Bay (Aqua Verde sits on the north shore). Paddle by houseboats and maritime businesses to a protected area on the south shore with lily pads, beaver dams and turtles.
Older kids can paddle with their parents through the Montlake Cut (they must be at least 80 pounds to accommodate the spray skirt), with passage to one of the best destinations on the lake for non-motorized craft – Foster Island and the Arboretum. Kids will love exploring under foot bridges and through narrow passageways and spotting wildlife (look for bald eagles high up in the trees as you approach). There are numerous places in this lovely area to beach your craft and enjoy a picnic. For a more urban experience, head west from Aqua Verde under the University Bridge and into Lake Union to enjoy a spectacular view of the Seattle downtown skyline and the houseboats that line the shore.
Kayaks are rented on a first-come, first-served basis. Anyone 17 and younger must ride in a double kayak. Life jackets and paddles are provided, including special equipment for little ones.
Where: 1303 N.E. Boat St., Seattle.
Cost: Single kayaks are $15 per hour; double kayaks are $20 per hour. Check out the website for special weekday deals.
Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (last rental at 6:30 p.m.); Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last rental at 4:30 p.m.).
Contact: 206-545-8570; www.aguaverde.com.
Free Public Sail with the Center for Wooden Boats
A local family favorite, the free public sail on Sundays at the Center for Wooden Boats offers visitors a memorable maritime experience on a classic wooden sailboat. The power of the wind will guide you through the waters of Lake Union, zigzagging past other boats and landing seaplanes, much to kids’ delight. The ride takes about an hour. They sail rain or shine, but high winds may cancel the trip.
Reservations are only taken the day of, in person, and these rides sell out early. Be there when the doors open at 10 a.m. for the best chance. They don’t sail until 2 p.m., so you’ll have time to learn about the history of wooden boats at the museum, ride the South Lake Union Street Car downtown or rent one of their classic row boats for your own trip around the bay. Also, don’t miss the pond boat sailing, where kids can be captain of their own pint-sized rig.
Where: 1010 Valley St., Seattle.
Cost: Public sails are free (donations accepted), pond boat rentals are a suggested donation of $5 an hour, row boats and pedal boats are $25 an hour.
Hours: Museum: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; public sail: Sunday at 2 p.m. (and 3 p.m. if there is enough interest); pond boat sailing: Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Contact: 206-382-2628; www.cwb.org.
Ride the Duck Tours
Ride the Duck is one of the quintessential tourist activities in Seattle. Visitors get a unique guided tour, by both land and sea, aboard a World War II amphibious landing craft. Coined a “party on wheels … that floats,” you chug past the Pike Place Market and the waterfront, historic Pioneer Square, and the funky Fremont neighborhood (watch out for trolls). On the sea leg of the journey, get a look at the industrial Gas Works Park, the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat, and learn some unconventional facts about the area.
Some guarantees for your trip: Your tour leader will be silly; you will witness why Seattle is the coffee capitol of the world; and kids will get a thrill when the vehicle drives into Lake Union. Reservations are recommended, especially during the busy summer months. Be sure to fork out the extra $2 for a quacker; the kids will get a kick out of tooting these duckbill-shaped noisemakers along the way. But hide them before the trip home if you want to keep your sanity.
Where: 516 Broad St., Seattle.
Cost: $1-$28; $2 for the quacker.
Hours: Boats depart hourly, Monday through Thursday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact: 1-800-817-1116; www.ridetheducksofseattle.com.
Pedal Boat Rentals at the Green Lake Boathouse
The pedal boats at Green Lake are a great little outing, especially for small children. You won’t have to navigate choppy waters. The boathouse has three types of pedal boats: a two-seater; a four-seater, in which all riders get to pedal; and an old-fashioned boat with extra space in between the seats, which is ideal for a family with an infant. Life jackets are included.
The boathouse also rents kayaks, rowboats and stand up paddle boards. Snacks (and dogs, if you have one) are allowed on the boats. They are first-come, first-served, so come early on a nice day. The café at the boathouse is stocked with sandwiches, bagels, ice cream and coffee, and plenty of family-friendly restaurants border the lake. Added bonus: Green Lake Park playground is one of the best in the city and sits just across the parking lot
Where: 7351 E. Green Lake Drive N., Seattle.
Cost: $17 an hour.
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (hours may change due to weather).
Contact: 206-527-0171; www.greenlakeboatrentals.net.
Sunday Ice Cream Cruise with the Seattle Ferry Service
Does it get any better than ice cream and a cruise? Both children and adults will be pleased with this combo. Sit back, enjoy your time sightseeing around Lake Union and get a tasty treat, too. Ice cream comes in the form of a root beer float – Captain Larry’s own famous concoction with chocolate ice cream and soda.
The 45-minute guided tour includes some humorous narration about old Seattle and a peek at some unique landmarks, such as Dale Chihuly’s glass art studio, Seattle’s floating homes, and the old Seattle ferry, Kalakala. There are no reservations for the ice cream cruise, and they depart hourly on Sundays.
Where: Valley Street and Terry Avenue North, Seattle.
Cost: $2-$11 (cash or check only).
Hours: Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact: 206-713-8446; www.seattleferryservice.com.
Stand Up Paddle Boards Rentals at Surf Ballard
Ok, so it’s not a boat, but it is all the rage, and chances are your kids will feel pretty cool after mastering stand up paddle boarding. Several places around town rent the boards, but Surf Ballard is great for families because it gives them a chance to watch boats heading through the locks and if you’re lucky have a harbor seal come check you out.
The staff at Surf Ballard recommends rentals for kids ages 11 and older, because of the strength needed to maneuver the board in the ocean current. The boards are easier than they look for even a novice to handle, but if you prefer some instruction, Surf Ballard’s partner, the Washington Surf Academy, offers lessons daily. For $70 per person, you get a paddle board, paddle and two hours of hands-on instruction.
Where: 6300 Seaview Ave. N.W., Seattle.
Cost: $30 for two hours, $60 per week day or $100 per weekend day; wet suits $5.
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Contact: 206-726-7878; www.surfballard.com.