Riding a surrey along Alki Beach in Seattle. Credit: Lisette Wolter-McKinley
A Seattle summer is always worth celebrating. We don’t suffer through months of cold drizzle for nothing! School is wrapping up, cousins and friends are coming to visit, it’s time for a special treat. We’ve put together a list of the best family activities in Seattle that showcase our phenomenal Northwest summer.
From splurges to budget-friendly, these family activities focus on outdoor recreation, the very best way to celebrate a splendid Seattle summer.
1. Donut Boat rental from Seattle Donut Boat
You don’t actually eat doughnuts on a Seattle Donut Boat ride? Well, you could, just bring some along! Seattle Donut Boats are named for their shape — boats resemble a giant floating doughnut. These round watercraft are fun and easy to maneuver around Lake Union. You don’t need a boater’s license or extensive water expertise to operate a donut boat. The boats are electric and steered by a tiller which you can learn to use during a quick tutorial. The boats can accommodate up to six people, making it the perfect self-contained summer family activity. Seattle Donut Boats have umbrellas to shade you from the hot summer sun and tables in the middle that are perfect for snacks — doughnuts, duh — out on the water.
Details: A two-hour rental costs $220; reserve online.
2. Surrey rental on Alki with Wheel Fun Rentals
You don’t need to be a tourist to cruise along one of Seattle’s most popular waterfronts, Alki Beach. At Wheel Fun Rentals, choose your cruising equipment: a surrey, a beach cruiser, a tandem and more. A surrey, which is sort of like a carriage bicycle with team pedaling, promises lots of fun and laughs. If you are feeling extra adventurous, pedal over to Marination Ma Kai for loco moco, fish and chips or a guava pop. Even on a summer day, pack a light jacket because the breeze off the water can make it feel much cooler.
Details: A regular surrey rental costs $29 per hour and seats up to three adults, plus two very small kids. A double surrey rents for $39 per hour and seats up to six, plus two very small kids.
3. Take me out to the ball game
Baseball is America’s pastime for good reason: fresh air, hot dogs, the seventh-inning stretch and cheering for old and new favorite players. We’re lucky to have one major-league and two minor-league teams all close by — the Seattle Mariners, Everett AquaSox and Tacoma Rainiers. There’s sure to be at least one game that fits your family’s schedule this summer. (And unlike some pro sports, a baseball game can be pretty affordable.) Gather your friends and fam, because nothing is more quintessentially summer than an afternoon or evening at the ballpark.
Details: Tickets start at about $10 per person; buy online.
4. Sunset sail with Sailing Seattle
Set sail on the glittering Puget Sound right from Pier 56. Board a U.S. Coast Guard-certified performance racing yacht, and feel the wind through your hair and the sunshine on your face. Enjoy an evening on the water as you watch the sun dip behind the Olympic Mountains. Make certain to bring a jacket, a blanket, snacks and beverages to end your day — and celebrate summer — on a spectacularly high note.
Details: The two-hour sunset sail costs $59 per adult and $36 per child ages 5–12; kids 4 and younger sail free. Daytime sails of 90 minutes or two hours are also available. Book online.
5. Rent paddle boards or kayaks at the REI Boathouse at Enatai Beach Park
If the idea of getting out on the water under human power sounds appealing, look no further than the REI Boathouse at Enatai Beach. Here you can try the ultimate PNW family activity when you rent stand-up paddleboards, canoes or kayaks. Paddle to the nearby wetlands for calm water and enjoy an afternoon of bird watching and lily pad dodging. A canoe is your best bet if you have small kids.
Details: Kayak, SUP and canoe rentals range from $29–$49 for the first hour; $10 each additional hour. The boathouse is currently open Thursday–Sunday. There’s another REI boathouse offering rentals at marvelous Meydenbauer Bay Park.
6. Take an urban hike across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Not all spectacular hikes are found in the woods. Crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on foot is a hike you won’t soon forget. The bridge offers beautiful views both coming and going and has a wide pedestrian path used by many walkers and bikers every day.
The best place to start your adventure is War Memorial Park which provides access to the bridge’s walking path and plenty of parking. While the walking path is wide and has a thick cement barrier separating it from traffic, keep car and bike safety in mind as you cross, especially if you are walking with younger children. Your family will get a thrill from this must-do urban adventure!
Details: The bridge is about a mile long, but if you start from the War Memorial Park your hike will be about 3 miles round-trip. While the path is open and free anytime, a sunset or sunrise hike offers amazing views of Mount Rainier. Note that there will be heavy road noise from the traffic going by.
7. Dinner and kayak cruise at Agua Verde
Forget dinner and a movie and say hello to a Seattle-style family date night and one of the coolest family activities in Seattle around: dinner and kayaking. Work up an appetite exploring the busy waterway of Portage Bay before devouring a plate of smoked salmon tacos and a heaping pile of chips and salsa. Agua Verde is your one stop for food, fun and a memorable outing on the water.
Details: Single and double kayaks rent for $23–$30 per hour. The paddle club is open daily except Tuesdays and Wednesdays in July for walk-up rentals. Agua Verde also offers guided tours.
8. Low-tide exploration with Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists
This glorious summer activity for families is budget-friendly — it’s free. Stroll along the beach during low tide when beach naturalists from the Seattle Aquarium will help identify what you find and share everything they know about the abundant marine life living along our coastline. They’ll also let you know how to keep it safe. Find beach naturalists stationed during low-tide days at the following parks: Richmond Beach, Carkeek Park, Golden Gardens, Olympic Sculpture Park Pocket Park, Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint, Lincoln Park, Seahurst Park, Des Moines Beach Park, Saltwater State Park, Redondo Beach and Dash Point State Park.
Details: Check the link above for low-tide dates and times in June, July and early August. A Discover Pass is required to park at Saltwater State Park and Dash Point State Park.
9. Try new foods at a local farmers market
Eating locally grown, in-season produce is a wonderful way to “eat the rainbow.” Local farmers markets are the best place to find this edible rainbow, and letting kids pick out new and unusual foods is a great way to encourage them to try new fruits and vegetables. Get to know what is ripe with a weekly visit to your local farmers market, and get to know the farmers, who will have recommendations. Find a market near you for a weekly family tradition, or pick a market by the day of the week at the website above, and get ready for an affordable, delicious and nutritious family activity in Seattle.
Details: Choose your county at the link to search for neighborhood farmers markets or search by day of the week for the day you want to go. A few examples: The Kirkland Wednesday Market runs 3–7 p.m.; the Burien Farmers Market takes place Thursdays, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; the Proctor Farmers Market in Tacoma runs Saturdays, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
10. Electric Boat rental from The Electric Boat Company
This special family outing suits a graduation, birthday or family reunion celebration. The standard electric boat holds up to 10 passengers and the larger luxury boat holds up to 12 passengers. Grab a picnic dinner and spend a couple of hours cruising around Lake Union, meandering through the rows of houseboats and watching the seaplanes take off and land. As even our summer weather can be unpredictable at times, Electric Boat Company boats can be open-air for beautiful summer days, or can be heated and fully enclosed for cooler summer nights.
Details: Standard boats rent for $278 for a two-hour block; luxury boats rent for $378 for a two-hour block. Reserve online in advance. Driving the boat is akin to driving a golf cart and the designated “captain” in your party will receive a quick training.
Whether you’re entertaining out-of-town relatives, rejoicing in the fact that your family survived another year of school or just excited about the prospect of reveling the sunshine, you’ll have a great time celebrating our Seattle summer.
More summer activities for families:
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2021 and updated for 2023.