Seattle Center = Family travel heaven

The. Best. Playground. EVER.

The. Best. Playground. EVER.

After more than two weeks away from home, we closed out our 2015 summer road trip in style today with six hours at Seattle Center, an entertainment hub (and former World’s Fair fairgrounds) on the north end of downtown Seattle.

Without question, it was one of the best days of our trip, with a seemingly never-ending number of kid-friendly attractions to keep L and R interested.

From our hotel—the Hotel Monaco downtown—the fun began on our approach; instead of taxiing or walking to the area, we took the Seattle Monorail, which travels about a mile from a shopping mall in the heart of the city to the middle of Seattle Center. Aboard this futuristic train, the kids felt like they started their day with a ride. (FWIW, the monorail was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, too.)

From the Monorail station, we walked about 100 yards to Seattle Center’s newest attraction: the Artists at Play playground.

The centerpiece of this playground is a giant climbing structure designed for kids a bit older than ours—L got scared climbing up the ladder to one of the structure’s rope bridges and had to come down. Still, with swings that make music, smaller climbing structures, and a handicapped-accessible merry-go-round, the park had plenty to offer for younger kids.

(Also, there was a shave ice stand, so my girls were stoked.)

Following a hard hour of playing outside, the kids were sweaty and hungry, so we took them into the Seattle Center Armory, which has been repurposed as a food court with plenty of kid-friendly options for lunch.

Next, the kids led us to the ground floor of The Armory, where they spotted peers playing at the Seattle Children’s Museum. We’ve been to a number of children’s museums over the years and this one ranks among the tops. The girls loved an exhibit that challenged them to build their own forts using household materials such as pillows and sheets. They also enjoyed a 30-minute session in the “Imagination Studio,” an art studio with an unlimited supply of paint, crayons, and crafts.

We ended the day experiencing the most famous Seattle Center attraction: the Space Needle. On the elevator ride up, they likened the tower to the lookout from “P.A.W. Patrol,” a Nick Jr., cartoon with which they’re obsessed. From the top, more than 600 feet above the ground, the kids marveled at cars and ferries and buildings below, and oohed and aahed at the view of Mount Rainier, which seemed to float on the horizon to the south.

By the time we got back down to ground level, the kiddos were spent and in need of some serious Down Time back at the hotel. We barely scratched the surface of Seattle Center—the area also is home to the EMP Museum, the Pacific Science Center, and Chihuly Garden and Glass.

Now we know we’ll be back.

Shining spotlight on a new local gem

Fishing at the CMOSC.

Fishing at the CMOSC.

Because this blog deals with family travel on a general basis, I usually try to keep the focus as broad as possible. Sometimes, however, I can’t resist writing about local stuff. Especially when I’ve profiled that local stuff in a major metropolitan daily newspaper.

Case in point: the new Children’s Museum of Sonoma County (CMOSC), which I spotlighted in my most recent family travel column for the San Francisco Chronicle.

The playground portion of the facility opened in March and the girls are OBSESSED. In fact, the day after my story about the place was published, we became members. I’m certain we’ll be headed there at least 2-3 times each month.

Things we love: the water play area, which comprises a series of water tables and a river from which kids can pluck plastic fish; the art studio, which hosts a different themed project every day; the organic garden, from which kids (under appropriate supervision) can pluck fruits and veggies; and the giant building blocks, with which kids can build giant Rube Goldberg-type machines.

Personally, I also love that after I called them out about it in my piece, the museum added a shade sail.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s stuff we’d change about the place, too. One of the biggies: The museum has way too many rules. You can only eat in a certain spot. You can’t be barefoot. You can’t play *in* the river (you have to stand on a bridge).

Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly recommend taking the family the CMOSC. Perhaps the best plan is to combine your visit with a trip to the Charles M. Schulz Museum, which is next door. There’s even an In-N-Out Burger down the street for an impromptu lunch. California Wine Country isn’t just for grown-ups anymore.

%d bloggers like this: