Seattle, you have fooled us this last week. Not a drop of rain has fallen from those sunny, cloudless blue skies. Our Itty Bitty Foodies have loved playing peek-a-boo with Mt Rainier and the Seattle Space Needle, popping up in sight unexpectedly as we navigate through the lush Emerald City. Twelve years ago, we lived next to Pike Place Market for a year, but this time, we’re seeing Seattle with kids and the whole city has beguiled us. Here’s the Itty Bitty Foodies Guide to Seattle!
Downtown and Belltown
Start the day seeing Seattle from one of it’s greatest natural assets: the bay with an Argosy Cruise. We like to catch the first one of the day because it’s less crowded. Seeing Seattle from the harbor gives a wonderful sense of what’s to come for the trip. The Harbor Cruise showed off Seattle’s beautiful skyline, the Great Wheel Ferris Wheel at the Waterfront, Space Needle, Mt Rainier and the Cascade and Olympic Ranges, to one of the world’s largest shipping terminals. There are other cruises that take you to other islands or the Lake Washington but the shorter Harbor Cruise was just right for 3 children, ages 9 and under.
Whet your appetite next and take a stroll through Pike Place Market, the oldest farmer’s market in America. Years ago, when we lived in Seattle, we had the privilege of going to the market every morning to gather what is fresh for the day. Pike Place Market was where we discovered halibut cheeks and the famous “fish throwing” guys taught me how to shuck an oyster.
We ate honeycrisp apples there for the first time when Fujis were all the rage everywhere else and fell for chanterelles and the fresh handmade pastas. There’s lots of casual eateries like Le Panier (for croissants and baguette sandwiches), Piroshky Piroshky (try the beef and onion piroshky) and La Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe (those meatball sandwiches drizzled with truffle oil are OMG).
This trip, we made a rooftop reservation at Maximilien in the Market. Situated on top of Pike Place Market, this local French bistro has a killer view of the harbor.
They have a “menu express” 3 course business lunch on Mon-Fri which is a bargain at $17. What a treat to eat by the water.
After lunch, take a short walk along the waterfront to the Seattle Aquarium and spend your afternoon there. The aquarium hosts six major exhibits including an underwater dome, an aviary for marine birds and mammas and is also home for a giant octopus. Itty Bitty Foodies loved the interactive nature of the Seattle Aquarium. Sitting right at Puget Sound, they had the opportunity to collect plankton directly from water, then look examine it up close with a staff member under a microscope.
Aside from entertaining visitors, the aquarium provides conservation education to school children and work closely with marine biologists conducting critical research on the Puget Sound species and trains over 150 Beach Naturalists volunteers local beaches during low-tide weekends and engage families in hands-on exploration of their local marine environment while increasing their understanding of how their everyday actions affect Puget Sound.
For dinner, go to the hipster enclave of Belltown. There’s an abundance of cafes and stores. One of the best meals we had during the trip was at Local 360 featuring sustainable, local ingredients mostly sourced from within 360 mile radius of Seattle. Small plates were the way to go like the rootbeer glazed pork belly with English peas. The menu changes weekly so you get the freshest of what’s in season.
Seattle Center & Queen Anne
Plan on spending an entire day here. First thing’s first, book your time slot for the Space Needle observation deck. If you time it around lunch, you can dine at the revolving Sky City restaurant to take advantage of the views.
The Chihuly Garden and Glass center was my favorite. It’s a spectacular exhibit in eight galleries, a dramatic glasshouse with suspended glass sculptures and an insanely beautiful garden with towering, whimsy glass installations throughout. It was unnerving that there were no barriers between the delicate pieces and visitors and a great exercise in self control for the children.
For convenience of time, we ate at The Armory, with fast casual options like a food court. In healthy Seattle style, we had to laugh to find kale even in their fried chicken sandwiches.
After lunch, go play your art out at the new Artist At Play playground. Newly opened in May 2015, this interactive playground with a stunning 35 foot tall climbing tower beckons older kids (and adults) to play.
We let our older two Itty Bitty Foodies (ages 9 and 7 years) to climb and slide freely on the ropes but steered our 2 year old to other aspects of the playground like the labyrinth, smaller play structure designed for the 5 years and under set, and his favorite ‘sound fence’ where children can pull on billiard balls on a string to make chiming music.
Two years in the making, a team of developers and artists worked closely with children to see what they wanted in a play ground which included a carousel. So many parks have removed carousels but it was one of the most popular play structures.
If your kids are older, they would love Experience Music Project museum which is located behind Artist At Play. A futuristic aluminium and stainless steel building, EMP is designed by Frank O. Geary and is dedicated to the history and exploration of popular music, science fiction and popular culture.
Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the EMP is a museum in a class of it’s own. Our kids were schooled in the beginnings of grunge and learnt who Nirvana was and their importance in making Seattle’s music history. We enjoyed playing ‘rock star’ banging and strumming away on all the musical instruments in private booths and had great fun playing some Indie computer games.
The Pacific Science Center is geared to children of all ages. It’s a little dated but the exhibits are wonderfully interactive. There’s a butterfly garden inside, a small toddler area, planetarium and lots of puzzles to keep hands busy. Though not one of Seattle’s ‘must see’ attraction, it’s a great outing for a couple of hours.
For dinner, head up the hill to Upper Queen Anne. Just a few minutes drive away from touristy Seattle Center, Upper Queen Anne is stately, quiet and beautiful where mostly locals hang out. There’s lot of eclectic restaurants of all kinds and our favorite was How to Cook a Wolf for two reasons. One being the cool name that frightened and excited the children, and two because it’s one of Ethan Stowell’s restaurants.
Renowned chef Ethan Stowell is one of Seattle’s most beloved.. With 9 restaurants under his belt, his philosophy of taking simple ingredients and creating a sumptuous, nourishing dish makes for a perfect family meal. How to Cook a Wolf has a rustic Italian inspired menu that is ever changing. Our fave small plates were the grilled octopus, potato gnocchi with beef cheeks and a simple spaghetti tossed in anchovies, chili garlic and mint.
End the evening at Kerry Park in Upper Queen Anne at sundown. This the spot if you want to capture the quintessential Seattle photo of the city skyline, Space Needle, Mt Rainier and spectacular Elliott Bay. If you’re lucky enough, there might be a buskers from the orchestra playing classical music as the sun sets.
This is the first installment of our Itty Bitty Foodies Guide to Seattle. Tune in again soon for the second part as we conclude our foodie journey in the Emerald City. I also wanted to give a shout out to An Emerald City Life by Terumi Pong. I wanted to connect with Terumi because she knew Seattle the way a local would and has active foodie children. We had corresponded before our trip and she gave me some great tips. Thank you!
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Yours in wanderlust.