Information updated August 2018
Seattle handily takes first prize for the best place to be in summer; the city thrives on sunshine and mountains, long days and lazy waterways. The only problem: that creeping feeling of anxiety about having not taken advantage of the wonderful months before the rain returns and Seattle’s heavy lid of clouds settles in for the winter. But worry no more: this handy list of activities will help you prioritize what needs to get done before the beginning of school and soccer, before weather and homework spoil outdoor adventures.
Get out on the water
Hop a ferry, explore by canoe or kayak, do whatever it takes to spend some time on Seattle’s sprawling waterways. See "A Beach Walk, a Ride on the Edmonds ferry and Crepes in Kingston", "Boats! Boats! Boats!", "Electric Boats are Smooth Sailing for All Ages".
Pick your own food
Everything tastes better when you pick it with your own paws. Head north on I-5 to Garden Treasures in Arlington to pick your own vegetables, or in almost any direction to find a u-pick blueberry farm. Not only are the freshest fruits and vegetables the sweetest and the crunchiest, studies have shown that the best way to get kids to eat more veggies is by letting them help harvest.
See an outdoor movie, concert or play
Between the various festivals and concert series, weekends in Seattle are full of free live rock, pop, jazz, folk and kids music. Roving theater companies present plays in different parks every night. Parks around the city, along with the Shilshole Marina play movies under the stars — many geared toward children. Bring a few chairs, some snacks, and set up for an evening of entertainment en plein air. See: Guide to Free Family Summer Concerts in Seattle, Take the Kids to A Movie in a Park, and Seattle's 2018 Outdoor Theater Season – What's Best for Kids.
Play tourist in your own city
If you don’t already have visitors coming, there’s no reason not to pretend that you do as you tour your city’s finest features. Look out at the cityscape from Kerry Park, meander through Pike Place Market (go early to avoid the crowds and snag a tasty breakfast), and go for a walk through the locks in Ballard. Be sure to check out Seven Overlooked Things to Do with Kids in Seattle
Sometimes Seattle stereotypes exist for a reason: Everybody wants to live here so that they can get out of town when the weather is wonderful. Join the rest of the city and pack up your tent for a lake, or the woods, or the mountains. See: Want to take the kids camping? Here's how to get a spot at the last minute. Also, here areThree Meals to Prepare in Advance of Your Camping Trip
Take a day trip to a small town
Take a ferry to Winslow on Bainbridge, drive to La Conner, or hop on over to Ellensburg: Simply spend a day in a new place, wandering the streets and spoiling the family with milkshakes and silly souvenirs. You’ll come back with a little bit of buyer’s remorse and a lot of great memories.
Go to the fair
Timed nearly perfectly as a last chance to enjoy the summer sunshine, the Washington State Fair (aka the Puyallup) offers music, animals, rides, food, and of course, mutton busting. OK, maybe you’re not ready to put your kid on a bucking lamb yet, but a scone and a visit to the piglet palace should definitely be a to-do.
Eat ice cream or other frozen delights
Nothing wraps up a late summer evening as well as ice cream cones, drippy messes, and big, chocolate-covered grins for the whole family. Seattle’s breeding a bumper crop of sweet treats that are as adult-friendly as they are kid-pleasing. See: Ice cream, etc.: a family guide to frozen treats around Seattle.
Go play in the street
Just like your mom always told you not to, right? Summer in Seattle means that neighborhood byways all over town are closed off from time to time for people to gather, exercise and well, play. Check here for a recurring "Play Street" near you. The biggest play-in-the-street night of the year is Seattle Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 7. There are also Bicycle Sundays, when a scenic stretch of Lake Washington Boulevard becomes a zone for bikes, pedestrians, and other not-so-motorized travelers. Upcoming Bicycle Sundays: Aug. 19 and 26, Sept. 2, 9 and 16.
Catch a game
Whether it’s one of the Mariners’ day games or an evening rooting for the Sounders, Storm or Reign, summer is a fine season to scream for your team. See: Take them out to the ball game: a family-friendly guide to summer sporting events.
Visit a garden
Colorful flowers and shady trees, winding paths and falling water: Seattle’s gardens hide worlds of wonder for the little ones. Both the 20-acre Kubota Garden in Rainier Beach and the Japanese Garden in the Arboretum seem endless, while smaller options include Queen Anne’s Parsons Gardens, Mt. Baker’s Bradner Gardens Park and Katie Black’s Garden on Beacon Hill. See also: More than a walk in the park: six public gardens to explore with kids.
Ride a train
It could be a quick jaunt on the light rail or a day trip to Bellingham, but any adventure on a train captures kids’ attentions in a special sort of way. Make it a full-day adventure by tracking your trip on a map, packing a picnic, and finding an activity within walking distance of your destination station before turning around for the ride home (usually featuring a nap). A Day Trip from Edmonds to Bellingham by Train
Run through the fountain or a spray park
Generations of Seattle’s children have sought relief from the summer heat by running through the giant International Fountain at Seattle Center, and there’s no reason not to pass the tradition on to the next generation. See: Keep cool at these stellar spray parks.
Eat from a truck
Seattle's ever-evolving fleet of food trucks is a great gift to hungry families, presenting an array of interesting, mindfully prepared food, offered cheap, in settings where there is no requirement to have your toddlers conform to restaurant etiquette. Good places to find them include street festivals and microbreweries. There is no comprehensive website that says what food truck is where, but two sites that do a good job are seattlefoodtruck.com and roaminghunger.com. Mobile Food Rodeo puts on a series of street food festivals around the Seattle area.