Finding a place where the whole family can enjoy live music is not an easy task in the Seattle area. Even though the restrictive Teen Dance Ordinance has been repealed for nearly a dozen years, some would say that the all-ages music scene has yet to fully rebound. Not all all-ages shows are family-friendly, though: places like Neumos and the Crocodile will admit the under-21 set, but the music is very loud, seating is very limited, and there are sometimes just enough intoxicated of-age patrons to raise an eyebrow.
There are a few obvious choices that are worth mentioning when it comes to family-friendly venues. The Vera Project (305 Harrison St., Seattle) is probably the city's most visible all-ages venue. In addition to offering concerts, the Vera Project offers classes in DJ-ing, writing about music, and screen printing, to name just a few. In addition to its collection of rock memorabilia, the Hard Rock Cafe downtown (116 Pike St., Seattle) presents live music in its Cavern Club. All of the Seattle Theatre Group venues — the Moore, Paramount, and Neptune — are all ages. All kinds of acts, from local favorites to international superstars, pass through these halls. The Neptune has a flat floor (i.e., standing only) and a bar available to patrons over 21 (with ID).
But if you're looking for something off-the-beaten path, a smaller venue with food where you can sit down and enjoy a conversation, then check out one of these spots for some good local live music. All of the venues have menus and music schedules on their websites.
In the heart of Seattle's vibrant Columbia City neighborhood, the Royal Room presents some of the most eclectic musical offerings in Seattle. On any given night you can hear jazz, blues, classical or experimental improvised music. The Room is all ages until 10 p.m. (Many shows, particularly on weekends, start on the late side.) The menu is straightforward, with fish tacos, macaroni and cheese and a cheeseburger among the offerings. Entrees are priced around $16, and there is no cover charge: musicians are compensated via your donations. While you're in the neighborhood, grab a sweet treat at Columbia City Bakery and check out the wares at Retroactive Kids.
Location: 5000 Rainier Ave. S, Seattle
Upcoming: Check upcoming shows on the Royal Room's calendar, inclding the phenomenal Roosevelt High School Jazz Band scheduled to perform on Sunday, Nov. 15.
2. The Paragon
The Paragon in Queen Anne is an upscale neighborhood pub that allows minors until 10 p.m. The restaurant features live music Tuesday through Saturday on a small stage by the front window. Every Tuesday, the bar hosts "You Play Tuesday," an open-mic session, with sign-up starting at 8 p.m. (Be warned: the night I attended, the music didn't start until about 9:40). Join the fun, or sit near the fireplace and just enjoy the variety. The menu features classic pub fare such as burgers and fish and chips. Four TVs above the bar allow patrons to keep tabs on their favorite teams.
Location: 2125 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle
Upcoming: Two Buck Chuck, an acoustic duo, has a regular Wednesday-night gig at Paragon. The brothers play familiar songs in acoustic arrangements. Showtime is 8 p.m.
3. Café Racer
While many of us remember the tragic incident of gun violence that took place here in 2012, Café Racer has all the elements of a great neighborhood coffee shop and deserves to move on from this sad association. There's quirky art hanging on the walls, diverse clientele and a collection of bobble-heads and plastic animals adorning the bar. Open daily from 9 a.m. until 2 a.m. (all ages are welcome until 11 p.m.), the Café offers an expansive menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner options including omelettes, hot dogs and grilled cheese. The music offerings range from jazz to folk, and its Sunday night Racer Sessions start with a lesson in improvisation led by a different performer each week, which is followed by a jam session. In between sets, check out the Official Bad Art Museum of Art.
Location: 5828 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle
Louie G’s Pizza in Fife bills itself as the area's premier all-ages music venue. The walls are adorned with well-used guitars and cymbals, and rock music plays over the speakers. They've been in business for nearly eight years and offer a live show roughly once a week: The stage is just behind the restaurant proper with easy access. While you wait for the next band, your kids will love trying their hands at one of the half dozen arcade games near the front. In addition to pizza, the reasonably priced menu (most entrees around $10) includes burgers and sandwiches, both hot and cold, as well as Italian dishes, many of which are available in kid-sized portions. While Louie G’s is the least bar-like of the venues here, they do serve alcohol.
Location: 5219 Pacific Hwy E., Fife
Upcoming: A trio of grunge tribute bands (to Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam) is on deck for Friday, Nov. 13 at p.m. ($15–$20).
A walk from Tacoma's museum district, the Swiss Pub allows minors daily until 8 p.m. The pub is divided into three large rectangular rooms. The first includes the bar, which features one of Tacoma's best beer selections. The stage is in the second room, and live music plays almost every night. On the second Sunday afternoon of every month, the pub hosts the Puget Sound Music For Youth Showcase, featuring some of the best young bands in the area. The third room includes darts, shuffleboard, pool tables, and a handful of video games.
Upcoming: The next Music for Youth Showcase is Sunday, Dec. 13. Check the full calendar here.
Locateon: 1904 Jefferson Ave, Tacoma
Four more spots to enjoy live, rockin' music shows with kids
McMenamins Anderson School, Bothell: This just-opened new hotel/swimming pool/movie theater boasts several restaurants on site, with all-ages live music most Friday nights starting at 7 p.m. and some Thursdays as well (Robert Sarazin Blake on Nov. 26). Make an afternoon and night of it with a swim, then dinner and music.
Town Hall Seattle. Beyond Town Hall's acclaimed Seattle’s Family Concert series, featuring kid-friendly folk and world musicians (kids free, adults only $5), Town Hall also offers a dizzying array of concerts across the musical spectrum from marching band to rock orchestra to jazz. A downstairs cafe offers snacks, coffee, wine and more.
Crossroads Bellevue. Grab a dosa, fresh roll or sushi at the International Public Market, then settle inn for a MarketStage concert, with free live music several nights of the week, from folk to rock and world.
Mount Baker Community Club's Kindiependent series. With Saturday morning shows featuring the region's best family bands (Caspar Babypants, Recess Monkey, Johnny Bregar and more), this series is squarely aimed at very young kids and their parents. Shows are high-energy, fun and a great way to burn off energy and dance. Series begins Saturday, Dec. 19.