If you’re in South Lake Union, a trip to MOHAI is always on the day’s docket. With the opening of their newest exhibit Da Vinci—Inventions, it’s the perfect time to plan a day in this walkable community. From exhibit tips to nearby activities and eateries, here are six great reasons to play in SLU soon.

Da Vinci—Inventions at MOHAI

If your kids aren’t fans of da Vinci’s yet, they will be after visiting MOAHI’s newest exhibit that opened just this past weekend. It highlights the ultimate Renaissance man’s many inventions, and features the work of Grande Experience, a group of Italian artisans who brought da Vinci’s drawings to life. They scoured over 6,000 pages of his personal codices, written in mirror-image no less, to get the info they needed. One of the first things you’ll see when you walk through the doors are the codices themselves (try your hand at reading them) and a secret message scrawled in red that looks a bit like abstract art. We bet your kids will figure it out (hint: let’s just say it’s as easy as A-B-C)!

Wandering through the exhibit, kids will marvel at the imaginative ways da Vinci applied his observations of the natural world to problems that needed solving and limitations of the time. Have your kiddos keep an eye out for bird wings, duck feet and other animal elements in his creations. The fantastic displays range from costumes and musical instruments to flying machines and pop-up bridges for foot soldiers (that totally work!). There are even a few intriguing inventions designed to help humans explore underwater that are easily mistaken for space suits and flying saucers. Although much of the exhibit is for eyes only, there’s a row of “touchables” young kids will love. They can test out pulleys and gears that showcase some pretty basic physics concepts that’ll get them thinking.

Save the date: This summer, MOHAI will host two Water Wonders outdoor workshops for families on Saturday, August 28 and September 18, from 2 -3:30 p.m. The workshops will be held on the MOHAI terrace and use da Vinci's inspiration to give kids a chance to explore how we move over, under and through water. Kids will move from station to station making observations, taking on specific challenges and of course, getting wet as they do. Complete them all and you’ll get $5 off your next MOHAI visit.

Good to know: Although the rest of the museum exhibits are open, the Kidstruction Zone on the 3rd floor remains closed for now. Also don’t forget about Free First Thursday at the museum, where everyone gets in for free from 5-8 p.m.

Dates: Jul. 31, 2021-Jan. 3, 2022
Hours: Thurs.-Mon., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs. in Jul. & Aug., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Cost: $22/Adult; Free for kids 14 & under

860 Terry Ave. N.
Seattle, WA
Event details 

Play at Lake Union Park

Just outside MOHAI is Lake Union Park, and in the summertime, it’s a welcome grassy mecca for city kids. Start at the splash pad just outside the Center for Wooden Boats’ Education Center and you may not have to do much more than that to keep your kiddos happy. Just remember finding a shady spot is a challenge so bring plenty of sunscreen and full water bottles to keep everyone content on sunny days. The boat pond is another hot spot for families, and although the Center for Wooden Boats’ pond boat rental program is on hold for now, families can bring their own model boat to try on the pond. Then there’s the secret beach just over the bridge. While everyone else heads to Alki or Golden Gardens, you and the kids can wade in the shallow waters, launch kayaks or SUPs or just watch the sea planes take off from nearby Kenmore Air. It’s not a shady spot, so bring a sun tent if you plan to spend serious time there.

Visit the Center for Wooden Boats

Bring your little sailors to the Center for Wooden Boats to get your fill of wooden boats on display and on the water. Whether you wander through the offerings at the Wagner Education Center or stroll the docks to see what’s being restored or rented, it’s a dry land excursion every boat lover needs to take. Families can rent sailboats of all sizes for a fee when the Center is open, or stick to a free peapod boat rental for simple way to explore Lake Union.

Hours: Weds.-Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Cost: Free

1010 Valley St.
Seattle, WA
Online: cwb.org

Ride & Slide

Be sure to bring your scooters, trikes and balance bikes when you visit the new exhibit. Right outside the doors of MOHAI is one of the city’s best bike paths—the Chesihaud Lake Union Loop. Ride it over to the little playground that’s just beyond the Center for Wooden Boats' shelter. It’s another secret spot that lets families find a change of scenery without going far. If you’re up for it, visit the Kraken Team Store in Chandler’s Cove, just beyond the playground—look for the flags. It’s the only place you can grab a Kraken sippy cup that, let’s face it, your baby needs.

Take a Boat Ride or Tour

Kylie Kirkland

Ice Cream Cruise
If you see the exhibit on the weekends, add a sweet cruise around Lake Union before or after your visit. This narrated tour lasts about 45 minutes and includes fun and fascinating stories about our fair city. Sure you’ll see the houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle, but you’ll also find out about the busiest drawbridge in the world, where Boeing was born and how Gas Works Park went from a gas tech plant to a favorite kite flying destination. A variety of sweet ice cream treats are available for purchase once you’re on board, and doggies are welcome.

Hours: Sat., sailings at 11 a.m., noon & 1 p.m. through Aug. 28; Sun., on the hour from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., year round
Cost: $15/adult; $10/kids, 3-12; $4/kids, 2 & under

860 Terry Ave. N.
Seattle, WA
Event details 

Tour the Seattle Fireboat Duwamish
Weekends are also when families can climb aboard the historic fireboat Duwamish for a tour. It’s the second oldest fireboat in the country and you’ll find it docked at the Historic Ships Wharf just behind MOHAI. If you can, plan to visit on Sunday when it’s Family Funday. In addition to the usual tour, kids will find coloring pages, crafts, puzzles and more.

Hours: Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m.-3 p.m., through Sept.
Cost: $5/group, suggested donation
Event details 

Good to know: The historic Virginia V is currently in the shipyard for repairs, but has plans to return to the waters outside MOHAI this fall when tours resume.

Play Mini Golf

If an easy lunch and a round of mini golf sounds like a great way to get out of the sun, head across the street to Flatstick Pub. The pizza is fresh and served up quickly (especially on weekdays) and the Ryan Henry Ward-themed, nine-hole mini golf course in back is irresistible to kids (If we’re honest, the 12-foot Sasquatch is pretty irresistible to parents, too). You don’t need a reservation to play, although you can make one online.

Good to know: Take advantage Pizza Happy Hour, week days from 3-6 p.m. Pizzas are just $10 and you can still get a round of golf in before they go 21-plus. 

Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-1 a.m.; 21+ after 7 p.m., daily
Cost: $8/person
609 Westlake Ave. N.
Seattle, WA
Online: flatstickpub.com/south-lake-union

—Allison Sutcliffe, story and photos (unless noted)


13 Safe & Scenic Places for Families to Go Kayaking

Seattle’s Newest Indoor Playspace Brings the World to Kids

7 Spectacular Sunflower Festivals to Brighten Your Summer

Tee Up Fun at Seattle’s Best Mini Golf Courses for Kids

15 Wheely Fun Bike Trails for Seattle Families

Your daily dose of joy and connection
Get the Tinybeans app