Seattle's Central Library. Photo credit: JiaYing Grygiel
1. Central Library
Find it: 1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle
The Central Library, which opened in 2004 to a collective gasp from the architecture community, is an iconic building at the heart of the Seattle library system, and its children’s section is so vast, it’s practically like its own branch.
Children’s librarian Jenny Craig loves the Central Library because of the scope of the collection — “We have most things” — and the open play areas. There are blocks, puzzles and Magna-Tiles galore in the hot pink zone. On most weekdays, the toddler and preschool set has the run of the place, because few families live downtown.
Take the elevator up to the 10th floor. There you’ll find a dizzying lookout point where you can peer all the way down to the lobby. On level four, the walls, ceilings and floors are all painted trippy shades of deep pink and red.
Most of the library’s nonfiction collection is located in a “book spiral,” composed of four levels connected by a continuous gentle ramp. Big call numbers are clearly printed on the floor. It’s a great walk for little ones learning digits (and it’s stroller-friendly, too).
Day trip: Two blocks from the library is Columbia Center, where you can get a 360-degree view of the city from the observation deck on the 73rd floor. We like the (free) view from the Starbucks on the 40th floor just as much.
Also fun for families is the first floor of the Seattle Art Museum, with a free art-making space and a hidden mural.