Big City Adventure Packed Into A Small Weekend

Read next

You know how weekend getaways can feel like an endless cycle of waiting in lines, lugging strollers and diaper bags from one tourist attraction to the next trying to fit everything in? We’ve found a way to pack big city adventure into a small weekend without even breaking a sweat…or the bank. Get those kids out of town and into the city! Use our two-day Seattle itinerary to go where the locals go, scrimp, and splurge in the right places and leave loving Seattle.

The Trick
You’ve probably seen the buses around Portland promoting 2 days in Seattle and if your kids can read, they want to go. But the truth is, there’s way too much to do in Seattle to feel done with it in two days. Lucky for us, Seattle is so close to Portland, so planning a series of kid-sized adventures to get acquainted with her museums, steep streets and bustling waters is a breeze.

Frugal (And Super Fun) Friday on Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill is a cool neighborhood lined with shops for the young, loaded, and not-even-thinking-about-having-kids-ever and it’s buzzing like a big city. This makes Broadway a really fun place for people watching, which is exciting to aspiring little urbanists! But just a block off this hipster highway we found an amazing park, cheap burritos, the most orderly Value Village thrift store in the world, and the most delicious ice cream. Set your GPS or your taxi for Cal Anderson Park and then have a blast wandering around. Plan to stay ‘til bedtime. The action lasts into the night when the park is flooded with lights.


At the south end of the park is a low-slung brown restaurant. This is where the cheap burritos are. Get them to go and get back to the park! From the south end, to the west is Molly Moon’s homemade ice cream. From the southeast corner of the park, head south to find Value Village. This might be the neatest thrift store you’ve ever seen. It’s three levels. Kids’ clothes, books and toys are on the top floor. This is a great place to pick up anything you forgot to pack. Kid’s books were a steal!

Why Kids Will Love Cal Anderson Park
It has a volcano! Well, it has a sculpture of a volcano…with lava water pouring out the top and filling a mod, urban creek flowing around a grid of stepping-stones. You might want to pack the kids an extra change of clothing for this.


The people in this park have an inclusive, big-city sensibility. One 11 year old was able to play his first pick-up game of basketball with a bunch of Seattle kids and was invited into a grown-up soccer game. Younger kids were invited to walk the balance line that had been strung up between two trees by a group of (presumably) aspiring circus performers.

There is a nightly bike-polo game to watch, little league practices and Frisbee games. There’s so much going on all over a huge field of new-fangled astro turf so soft and clean, kids can just play around in socks.

There’s a regular play structure surrounded by a wide three-foot wall good for playing lava tag. There were no off-leash dogs. Even the tiniest kids were toddling around this park without fear of being run over.

Kid-Friendly Comfort at Hotel Monaco
If you could stay in a dollhouse designed by Architectural Digest, this is what your room would look like. Hotel Monaco is gorgeous, hip and comfortable: attention has been paid to every last detail. They’ve managed to create a truly family friendly feeling of luxury. This place is ideal for a Mother’s Day Weekend or prince or princess birthday sleepover. A room with two queen beds is $169 a night and includes a seemingly endless family friendly happy hour of drinks and snacks in the lobby from 5-6 every night. It’s right downtown, four blocks off the water and just down from a strange geometric structure that houses Seattle’s Central Library. The lobby here is inviting and actually full of people visiting in the numerous sitting areas throughout the day. There’s a toy chest, great big coffee table books and games to play. And…checkout time isn’t until noon!


Insider Tips for Hotel Monaco
There will be a live goldfish in your room…at kid level. If you want it to have a special name for a special occasion, make that request ahead of your stay. You might also want to ask for additional bathrobes. Ask about scooters, bikes, balls, etc. available to check out for free.

If you missed happy hour, ask the front desk for a complimentary drink voucher when you check in. You can use it at the adjacent restaurant, Sazerac, where the bar’s virgin beverage menu is better than all the other kids’ drinks and a better deal. There’s also brick pizza and plenty of gluten free meals. Kids will love sitting at a high table to watch whole chickens getting lopped in half, pizzas getting topped and more. Some nights there is live acoustic music.

Score on Parking
To celebrate baseball season, Hotel Monaco has a deal going that makes parking more affordable. Their unlimited in-and-out valet parking is normally $40 a night, but with the ‘Score on Parking’ deal, it’s bound to be steeply discounted. Whatever the Mariner’s opponents score in the game the night before your stay is how much you’ll pay for parking: 1 run =$1. Use the code: SCORE when you make your reservation to score on parking, get two bottles of beer, and a bag of potato chips.

Breakfast in Bed?
The bright-eyed might be ready to bounce out to breakfast somewhere… but if you like to take your time waking up with some coffee, room service here is a more relaxing (and pricier) option. There’s just enough room in the fridge for a tub of cream cheese, so if you’re trying to splurge on other things, it might be a good idea to bring your own bagels… which can be found fresh the day before on Capitol Hill at Einstein’s Bagels. In any case, what do kids love more than watching hotel TV? Well, we found out… keep reading.

A Time Travel Cruise to Tillicum Village
This mid-morning cruise to Tillicum Village on Blake island lasts several hours, includes a Salmon buffet, guided tour of the harbor and a Salish storytelling and dance performance. The guides are expert at making geographic and historic facts intriguing even to the kids on the boat. Parents can enjoy hot tea and whiskey while the kids take over the bowsprit (the front of the boat) lapping at the wind like dogs with their heads out of car windows. Everyone steps off the boat to warm mugs of steamed clams. Kids might be more into playing with the shells than actually eating them. There’s time to walk around and check out totem poles before the show. Inside the Salish longhouse fire pits blaze and you can see how salmon was once cooked. Then, you eat the salmon! There’s plenty in the buffet to satisfy kids’ tastes and adult appetites. After the meal, the lights go down and the storytelling and dancing begin. Even kids in highchairs will be captivated!


Insider Tips for an Argosy Cruise
If you buy a Seattle CityPASS, which saves you money at other attractions as well, you can use the Harbor Cruise coupon to upgrade to the Tillicum Village Cruise.

On the Boat
– Kids! No running on the boat or the captain will speak to you about it over the loud speaker. Blush. Shame.

– Take a camera. Please don’t be the people who let their kid dangle an iPad over the railing of the boat to take pictures.

– Dress in layers or pack a thin blanket. Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen.

– A stroller would be fine if you used one to get to the dock, but you really don’t need it on the island.

Back to the Landing
The cruise disembarks at about 3:30 in the afternoon. Depending on the weather, a family stroll north to the Olympic Sculpture park would be fun and easier on the purse than other attractions. But kids will love Miner’s Landing, which is like a mini Seaside, Or. There’s a small carousel and arcades games, conveniently located under the Seattle Great Wheel. This enclosed modern ferris wheel is new to the Seattle waterfront, can seat six in each car and the view is magical… especially around sunset.


Saturday Night Sushi! + a Pedicab
The waterfront is still busy after dark, but after this day little legs are bound to be tired. Hail a pedicab, UP HILL halfway back to the hotel, to fantastic sushi that you will not find on a tourist map. Kids will love big bowls of miso at Nijo Sushi Bar & Grill. Parents will love hot Saki.


Sunday Visit to Seattle Aquarium
The Seattle Aquarium is cool, especially if you or your kids are learning about marine biology or conservation. There are presentations and activities throughout the day as well as interpretive staff to answer questions. But, if you’ve already visited a northwest aquarium, you won’t find much that’s new here. Still, there are some stand out features worth mentioning: a live diver show that kids love, a glass dome where a shark, sturgeon and other large fish are swimming around and over your heads, and a tubular octopus tank. There’s also a series of tanks to hunt out all of the characters from the dentist’s fish tank in Finding Nemo.

If You Go
Check out the Seattle CityPASS… it could save you plenty and you can use it for nine consecutive days once it has been activated.

Plane, Train or Automobile?
If you plan your trip out far enough in advance, you can score a round trip, 47-minute flight on United or Alaska Airlines for about $150. With kids under two sitting in your lap, this could be a reasonable and time-saving option. The train takes about four hours and adult tickets are between $60 and $80 round trip. Kids ages 2-15 are half the adult fare. Driving an SUV costs roughly $75 round-trip and takes about three hours each way. Seattle is a big city and the streets are steep in many places. If you go without a car, plan to spend money on cabs. But don’t think you’ll just flag one down. You’ll need to call one up or find a cabstand, located outside most hotels. If you take a car, plan to spend money on parking.

What are your must-see attractions on a two-day trip to Seattle?

Written and photographed by Amber Dennis

Hotel Monaco photo via Hotel Monaco facebook page