By Jennifer Johnson
Wondering what to do with your kids for the next few months? Or perhaps you have family coming into town and are looking for a fun intergenerational outing? The Seattle Kids Tour, a two-hour tour that's fun for the little ones while still being interesting for the grownups, is a good option. It's a new tour by Seattle By Foot, a local tour company that specializes in educational walks in the heart of the city.
On our recent test-drive of the Seattle Kids Tour tour, my kids and I met our tour guide Jennifer Dopps at the entrance to Pike Place Market just before 10 a.m. She quickly learned the names of my son Gabriel, age 10, and my daughter Annika, age 6, and it was clear that she loved young children and knew how to interact with them. After everyone else showed up, she gave us a bit of history on the Market, and took us to meet some of the store owners. We met the owner of Oriental Mart, an Asian merchandise store with three generations of women in charge. Next door was Choice Produce, where we met a man named Swan and learned about Washington crops and sampled some of the tasty produce for sale.
From there we headed down and around the corner to the Gum Wall, an international destination. The wall is near the entrance to the Market Theater, and patrons would stick their gum on the wall outside before entering the theater. Now sticky, gooey gum covers the building up to 15 feet high and 50 feet long. I had never been there, so I was thrilled to see something unique like this. Jen had gum for us all to deposit on the wall, and we tried not to get germs.
Next we wound through the cobbled hallways and down the stairs to the Bug Safari, which we were allowed to enter so we could spend time with the insects and spiders. The kids all loved this part (some of the moms, not so much) and I got my daughter a box of salt-and-vinegar-flavored crickets to eat later, since she has been begging to try eating bugs for several months now.
After stepping through some more of the Market, we ventured out to other kid-friendly destinations in the city — the lobby of the Seattle Art Museum and the space where kids can go any time to make art for free; the Seattle Public Library, of particular interest to my architecture- and book-loving children; and the bus tunnel, where we got on the bus and headed back to Westlake. A chocolate shop was the final destination of our tour.
Along the way, Jen told us about art and architecture, history and culture, all doled out in kid-friendly bites that helped even this decades-long resident of the Emerald City appreciate my surroundings more. For example, we learned about a building that was designed to look like the mountains, a manhole cover that had a map of the city on it, and some background on the Hammering Man I hadn’t heard before.
I highly recommend this tour for locals and tourists alike. Though initially I thought the price was a bit steep, ($26 for one adult and child, $10 for another child), there are freebies, snacks and surprises along the way, and I believe it is ultimately a good value. Our guide was both very professional and gifted at interacting with kids. I got to meet the owners Heather Chermak and Penny Truitt, as well, and was impressed by their enthusiasm and passion.
Both my kids want to go again (their favorite parts were the Bug Safari and the Gum Wall), and I am looking at Seattle By Foot’s other tours for a future date with my husband.
If you go:
Where: Seattle By Foot Kid’s tours, which depart from the Information Booth at Pike Place Market.
When: Tours run Thursdays through Mondays from 10 a.m. to just after noon; destinations for the tour change depending on the day of the week.
Ages: I’d recommend the tour for children ages 5 and up, though younger children may enjoy much of the sights as well.
Tickets: $26 for one adult and child; $10 for each additional family member. Limit 2 children per adult. Advance reservations are required; call 206-508-7017 or buy online.
Parking: You will want to find parking in a lot, as the street parking in the area is strictly limited to 2 hours. We found it very convenient to ride the bus downtown.
Tips: Consider leaving the stroller at home; on the day of our tour the elevators in the Market were broken, and there are many sets of stairs and escalators to navigate. There are bathrooms conveniently located throughout the tour. You’ll be outside for most of the day, so dress in layers and comfortable walking shoes and bring a rain coat or sun hat if the weather is wet or hot. You can find more information about Seattle By Foot at their website, seattlebyfoot.com.