Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Seattle Places Olympic Sculpture Park

Pandemic-friendly, no-blow bubble wands add extra fun to a walk through the Olympic Sculpture Park. Photo by Joshua Huston

Summer 2020: Explore Seattle

Twenty-two places to explore in a reopening Seattle.

Here are 22 places to walk, learn, play, meet people, eat and explore the many facets of Seattle.

It’s awkward to write a city guide in June 2020, because we have no way of predicting what is going to be open. While we have a plan for how businesses and institutions are going to return, we don’t know when King County is going to move from one phase of coronavirus precautions to another. Also, the plan for what opens when constantly evolves.

At first, libraries were going to be open in Phase 3. Then at the beginning of June, the talk was about having curbside service for libraries during Phase 2. Pools can reopen in Phase 3, but it appears that Seattle’s outdoor pools and wading pools will not, because they rely on seasonal hiring, and the city currently has a hiring freeze.

As we publish this, most places on the list are open to some degree. You can go to parks (though the parking lot may be closed), many beloved restaurants are open for takeout, and some of the bigger ones have seating. But this situation will pass. Seattle will transform, as cities do. Be safe, smart, and enjoy the reopening!


Pike Place Market
So many things about the market as usual – the crowds, the buskers, the fish-tossing, the alleyway lined with discarded gum – are not compatible with a social-distancing lifestyle. The beloved institution, composed of roughly 240 small and eclectic businesses, is open and worthy of exploring. As Seattle continues to open up, the market will be returning to its noisy, colorful self.

Olympic Sculpture Park/Waterfront
You can’t touch the art, but this is a mind-bending place to explore, and you can walk from here to a small beach, set off along the newly refurbished Elliott Bay trail, or see what’s happening on Alaska Way, the touristy waterfront strip that includes the Seattle Aquarium. Last year the state finally demolished a crumbling old viaduct to make way for… parking lots, so far. But there are plans in the works for great parks and plazas, so watch this space.

International District
Come hungry; there are lots of places to eat. Check out the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, if it’s open. You’ll be glad you stopped by the Asian supermarket Uwajimaya for groceries and a look at the fish counter.

Seattle Center
When everything is open, there’s more to do here than there is time in the day. This is the home of the Pacific Science Center, Seattle Children’s Museum, Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle Children’s Theatre, the gigantic Artists at Play Playground, and the monumental International Fountain with its 200 jets making intricate patterns.

West Seattle

Brothers with stomp rocket

A stomp rocket will amuse your kids while you people-watch at Alki Beach. Photo by Joshua Huston

Alki Beach
In a city surrounded by waterfront and lakefront, this broad band of sand along Puget Sound is the premier beach haunt. A nearby area of businesses catering to the beach crowd adds to the festive atmosphere.

Lincoln Park
This triangle-shaped, 135-acre park is bordered on two sides by Puget Sound. Within, explore a lush forest on a network of trails.

South Park
If you happen to be at this end of town around a mealtime, check out the strip of affordable restaurants on 14th Avenue South near South Cloverdale Street. Along with some of the best Mexican joints in town, you’ll find highly rated spots for burgers, pizza and kebabs.

Southeast Seattle

Lake Washington Boulevard
When the Olmsted brothers drew up the plan for Seattle’s parks, the chain of greenery along Lake Washington Boulevard was what they were aiming for. A trail along the lakefront connects a series of beaches, parks and small green spaces to pause in.

Columbia City
This colorful, energetic stretch of Rainier Avenue hosts an independent cinema, a jazz club, and many lovely places to eat, and hosts a hopping Wednesday farmers market in-season.

Beacon Avenue
The stretch of Beacon near the Beacon Hill light rail station is host to a diverse collection of small restaurants. It’s easy to find something affordable and kid-friendly, and easy to take out for a picnic at nearby Jefferson Park.

Central Seattle

Jimi Hendrix Park

Pack some sidewalk chalk and enjoy the wide-open space of Jimi Hendrix Park. Photo by Joshua Huston

South Massachusetts Street between 23rd and 25th Avenues
On the north side of the street: the Northwest African American Museum and the beautiful Jimi Hendrix Park. On the south side of the street, past a playfield: Seattle Children’s PlayGarden, an ingenious space geared for young children of all abilities.

Capitol Hill
The area surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station is the historic heart of Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community, and hub for the arts, food, fashion and protest. In June, part of it became a police-free enclave of politics, feeding the hungry, and making art, including a beautiful “Black Lives Matter” mural on the blacktop of East Pine Street. Go see it.

Volunteer Park
A classic city park at the north end of Capitol Hill, where you can enjoy a summer day on the lawn, climb a cedar tree, check out some iconic public art, and take in a cool view of downtown.

Queen Anne/Magnolia

Queen Anne Avenue
With Blue Highway Games at the north end and Queen Anne Book Company at the south end, the avenue’s commercial strip atop the hill is a good bet for parents shopping for gifts.

Fishermen’s Terminal
The home port of Seattle’s fishing fleet is a great place to explore with a child entranced by boats and machinery. Stop at Little Chinook’s and dine on some expertly fried fish and chips as you watch the action.

Discovery Park
It’s less than 5 miles from the Space Needle, but the wild landscape of Discovery Park, the city’s largest public park at 534 acres, feels like a world apart. Big enough for an afternoon hike on nearly 12 miles of walking trails, this park contains forest, meadows, beaches and views across Puget Sound.

Northwest Seattle

Green Lake
The home of Seattle’s favorite 2.8-mile running and walking loop is also a place to swim, row, paddle, fish and enjoy the bird life.

East Ballard industrial area breweries
The cluster of small breweries in East Ballard includes several places where parents can enjoy a pint while their kids enjoy simple food-truck fare, or play nearby. Two good spots: Populuxe Brewing and Peddler Brewing Company.

Gas Works Park

Flying a kite is a great way to spend an afternoon at Gas Works Park. Photo by Joshua Huston

Gas Works Park
This scenic spot overlooking Lake Union‘s north end makes dramatic use of its industrial past. What had been contaminated soil is now a lawn-covered hill, capped with a sundial. People fly kites off it on windy days and sled down it when it snows. Other concrete-and-steel remnants of the coal gasification plant that once stood on the site now remain as monuments.

Northeast Seattle

Magnuson Park
This hub for sports also includes a children’s garden, wetland areas teeming with birds, and a popular beach.

U District
The University of Washington attracts students from all over the world, and the restaurants in this neighborhood cater to them. Biang biang noodles, dosas, pupusas and bibimbap are among the many wonderful tastes to try here.

Burke-Gilman Trail
This multi-use, 20-mile trail from Ballard to Bothell draws as many as 5,000 daily commuters at peak times, and is also a favorite route for families looking for bike adventures with few cars in sight.

More of Seattle to explore: 7 kid-friendly restaurants to try this summer, Parent review: Go visit the reopened Woodland Park Zoo!

About the Author

Fiona Cohen

Fiona Cohen lives in Ballard with her husband, two teenagers, a big vegetable garden and an absurd cat. She is the author of "Curious Kids Nature Guide," and is working on a new nature book for kids, to be published by Little Bigfoot in 2022.