Unique Experiences For the Young and Young-At-Heart

In the summertime, Seattle is often lauded as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Enveloped by Puget Sound, Lakes Washington and Union and sprinkled creative energy we are fortunate to have an array of water and culture-related activities available at our fingertips. Each summer, our family creates a “Summer Fun” list for experiences that we don’t want to miss. It helps keep us on track and offers inspiration when we feel like we’ve hit a rut. So when Experience PNW reader, Kelly D, wrote and asked me to write a list of fun summer things to do with your kids in the Seattle area, I was thrilled! I love the idea of being intentional about planning fun and hope that this list inspires you to get out, get moving and get local.

In this summer fun list, I have only included outdoor experiences that are typically less than a 45 minute drive from Seattle and meant to appeal to all ages (with a few exceptions where alcohol is mentioned).

And for those rare rainy summer days, or when it’s so hot outside that you need a little AC, I will soon publish an article that features my favorite Seattle indoor experiences. Following will be another list of my favorite summer day trips that you can take within 2.5 hours of Seattle.

Ponder Your Next Seattle Summer Adventure

  1. Go Tidepooling along one of the City’s urban beaches during low tide for a fun, free experience! Check the Puget Sound tide chart and set out to explore the temporarily exposed sea life at your favorite urban beach. A few resources: a tip sheet for first-timers, a schedule of Seattle Aquarium Naturalist visits to nearby beaches, and a link to a printable field guide. The Charles Richey Viewpoint on South Alki Beach is one of our family’s favorite spots to find sea creatures hiding among the eel grass.

  2. Rent a group-pedal “Surrey” bike on Alki Beach at Wheel Fun Rentals. I recommend pedaling West along the beach to the turn-around point to take in the grand Olympic Mountain / Puget Sound views and then head East along the beach until you come to Marination Ma Kai for amazingly delicious Hawaiin-Korean fusion tacos with a Puget Sound / City view patio. Tips: Marination Ma Kai is a very popular, busy place! Consider pre-ordering your food at marinationmobile.com so you don’t have to wait in the long line. Also, West Seattle parking can be difficult to find, so leave enough time to cruise around, and consider planning your visit later in the day to include a beach fire, or take the passenger ferry from downtown (info on the Alki Beach site linked above).

  3. Find a dark place to view the Perseid Meteor Shower. If u can’t get outside the city for optimal viewing, join the Seattle Astronomical Society Star Party in Green Lake on August 10, at 8 p.m., where they will have telescopes and society members on hand to answer questions about the Perseid Meteor Shower (known for fireball, ultra-bright streaks that shoot across the sky).

  4. Kayak among the sealife and cruise ships. Rent kayaks from Elliot Bay Marina Fuel Dock and have a patio/dockside meal afterwards at Maggie Bluffs.

  5. Paddle board while seaplanes fly over your head, on bustling Lake Union. My friend Keelan L. loves and recommends the Northwest Outdoor Center. Consider a post-fun meal at the lakeside White Swan Public House (it opens at 3 p.m., has a patio and is part of the famed “Matt’s in the Market” collection of restaurants).

  6. Pack a picnic and enjoy Shakespeare in the park with impressive, free performances by the Seattle Shakespeare Company.

  7. Spend the day at the beach and have a twilight beach bonfire at Golden Gardens Beach. Arrive early in the day to secure an approved firepit and parking (overflow parking is in a lot above the beach). If you have sensitive sun people in your group, head to the North end of the beach and put up your own hammock in the grove of trees. For food, either pack a picnic or pick up nearby carryout dinner. I highly recommend Un Bien Caribbean food, located on the East side of Shilshole Ave; or Miri’s, for fresh, grilled eats, mini dutch pancakes and kombucha on tap, located adjacent to the Golden Gardens Bathhouse.

  8. Pack a picnic and head to the secluded and beautiful, 20-acre Japanese Garden in South Seattle called Kubota Garden. Favorite features of this garden are the countless hidden entrances to “magical fort-like” green spaces and the koi-stocked ponds surrounded by bonsai. History buffs will appreciate the story of this remarkable garden that was originally owned and created by a Seattle-based Japanese landscaper whose family was sent to an internment camp for 4 years during WWII.

  9. Watch and listen to national-touring and local bands at KEXP’s-sponsored outdoor concerts at the Mural. These Fridays in August shows are fitting for singles, groups of friends, date nights or families, alike. I recommend pre-show or take-out dinners at Skillet Diner, inside the armory. Insider tip: they have a bar with yummy, seasonal cocktails and good beer and wine.

  10. Rent canoes, rowboats or kayaks at the University of Washington Waterfront Activity Center, next to Husky Stadium. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, consider indulging in award-winning dumplings at Din Tai Fung, or delicious burgers and fish sandwiches at locally-owned Burgermaster (the University location).

  11. Search for treasures at the funky Fremont Sunday Market, located alongside the canal. There are food vendors, individual purveyors of wares, artists and, sometimes, a photographer who can take that much needed family photograph. Don’t miss the “Hyper Market” featuring vintage collectibles inside the parking garage. Also nearby are tasting rooms at Mischief Distillery and Theo’s Chocolate Factory (they also have tours, but the health department no longer allows them to include the confection-making kitchen, which in my opinion, was the best part).

  12. Enjoy a Puget Sound sunset sail on the Obsession sailing yacht with the friendly, adept crew from “Let’s Go Sailing.” This ocean sailing yacht comfortably seats 48 people and boards on the waterfront at Pier 56. This is one of our favorite summertime activities and guests are welcome to bring along coolers with food and drinks. Insider tip: “heeling” of the yacht usually occurs, which requires moving quickly from one side of the boat to the other, so food and drinks need to be portable . Let’s Go Sailing also offers shorter, affordable sails throughout the day. Reservations are accepted 7 days before your sail date.

  13. Appreciate the beautiful Olympic Mountain Range views and practice yoga on Saturday mornings (beginning July 13), Zumba Saturday afternoons and enjoy live music, art-making and food trucks Thursday evenings (beginning July 11) in the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park. The summer events are very popular, so be sure to check out the pro tips page to make your visit as enjoyable as possible.

  14. Be adventurous and get some exercise by travelling to one of the nearby ropes courses in Woodinville (Adventura) or Everett (High Trek Adventures, also has an 18-hole mini-golf course). If you opt for Woodinville, consider having a meal afterwards at The Hollywood Tavern (featuring a patio and lawn games and free live music on Monday nights; kids are welcome). If you opt for Everett, consider heading to the lovely waterfront and to have post-fun meal at either the Scuttlebutt Brewing Restaurant or Bluewater Organic Distilling Bistro (kids are welcome at both).

  15. Stroll along the docks to marvel up close at fishing vessels and pleasure craft at the Fisherman’s Terminal. Maritime enthusiasts might want to print this self-guided tour map before heading out. If you are hungry, consider enjoying a meal, dockside, at either Chinook’s or the Highliner Public House. Also nearby are taprooms to taste local brews: Figurehead Brewery (specializing in English and Belgian ales) Dirty Couch Brewing (specializing in artisanal barrel-aged sour beers), Urban Family Brewing (specializing in hoppy and sour/farmhouse beers) and Rooftop Brewing Company (featuring a lovely outdoor patio and brews to satisfy almost anyone). All taprooms are open in the afternoon and evening, welcome kids and occasionally feature visiting food trucks.

  16. Play a round of mini-golf or practice driving at the range at the municipal Interbay Golf Center (they have a basic cafe with outside seating, next to the pro shop and free jazz concerts on Mondays.) Be sure to check the closure calendar before heading over to make sure the course isn’t reserved for a party).

  17. Engage all of your senses by taking a guided nighttime kayak tour with Vashon Adventures. Consider experiencing Puget Sound under the light of the full moon, or experience the magical bioluminescence (radiant plankton outline moving objects in saltwater, this phenomenon typically happens in August, so e-mail the tour company to confirm target dates) in a rented kayak. Consider having a pre-paddle meal at The Hardware Store Restaurant or May Kitchen & Bar and/or staying the night on Vashon Island at the Vashon Adventures Campground or the Lodges on Vashon. Check the summer ferry schedule before you go.

  18. Hike a short trail through the towering evergreens and swim right next to the Puget Sound at the Seattle Parks Coleman Pool, in West Seattle. Like any city pool, it is very popular so show up early with a lunch (we love to pick up Pecos Pit BBQ on the way) to get your tickets and picnic on one of the waterside picnic tables. If you are a nature geek, bring binoculars for eagle and seal spotting.

  19. Spend the day building sea forts, picnicking and reading a book at one of our family’s favorite beaches that are not usually busy: Seahurst Beach in Burien or Carkeek Beach in North Ballard.

  20. Grab to-go food from nearby Metropolitan Market or Zeek’s pizza, bring a cooler of drinks and explore Lake Union from the comfort of your electric boat that moves at a laid-back speed of 10 miles an hour. The boats have weather-proof plastic windows that you can zip up if the weather is bad. This is a really fun activity for groups! Don’t miss cruising by the floating houses or down the Fremont canal. Save yourself money and opt for the non-luxury model boats, which are almost as nice as the newly upgraded versions that are more expensive.

  21. Although you are actually inside, you feel like you are floating on the Puget Sound as you watch the Thursday night sailboat races from the comfort of the Sound-side, rustic-sheek 6/7 Lounge at the Edgewater Hotel. This is not a great place for kids (but the adjoining restaurant is fine for foodie kids who enjoy amazing views). The 6/7 Lounge is also a great date night place on Friday and Saturday nights when they have free live music.

  22. I am always looking for new places and would love to check out your favorite, off-the-beaten path summer fun ideas! Please share them in the comment section below.