1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59, Downtown
Seattle's aquarium isn't the biggest, but what they do have is pretty great: plenty of hands-on activities for the kids, an array of animals from otters and seals to birds (and fish of all sizes), daily mammal feedings, and an amazing underwater dome that gives you a 360-degree fish-eye perspective on the mysterious activities of the Puget Sound. It gets pretty busy during the school season, so if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, it's best to go before noon or after 3pm.
Seaplane Rides to San Juan Islands
950 Westlake Ave. N, Lake Union
It’s just a 45-minute ride from Seattle’s Lake Union up to the San Juan Islands, but getting there is truly half of the fun. (Think: seals, whales, and orca sightings plus killer views of the Seattle skyline.) Local carrier Kenmore Air offers regular flights for those visiting the islands, as well as the option to do ride-alongs and just sightsee from the seaplane, making for a great weekend activity. (Head here for a full goop itinerary once you arrive.)
Washington Park Arboretum
2300 Arboretum Dr. E, Madison Park
Washington is known for its wet weather and associated greenery, so it should come as no surprise that the arboretum here is pretty out of this world—it's actually the result of a collaboration between UW, which manages the tree and plant collections, and the City of Seattle, which owns the land and keeps up the trails, benches, and buildings. Start at the Graham Visitor Center, where you can meet the friendly botanists on staff (they'll give you the scoop on which parts of the park are in bloom depending on when you visit)—and definitely take the time to walk along Azalea Way to the stunning Japanese gardens. More adventurous tourists might want to explore the arboretum by kayak or canoe, which we've heard is an excellent strategy if you're looking for wildlife like ducks, beavers, turtles, and—if you're a little lucky—bald eagles.
Alki Beach Park
1702 Alki Ave. SW, West Seattle
In West Seattle, looking out towards Bainbridge Island (and with stunning views of Downtown Seattle in one direction, and the Olympic Mountains in the other), Alki Beach Park is a nice local hangout on warm days. There's a big wide bike path that's popular with runners and bike riders, and it's one of the only spots this close to the city where you can have beach bonfires—so long as you confine everything to one of the pre-made fire pits. Come hungry, so you can stop at Marination Ma Kai, a Korean/Hawaiian fusion restaurant that's famous for tacos and excellent shaved ice. Photo: Brian Teutsch
Bainbridge Island is a bedroom community of Seattle that makes a great day trip. The easiest way to get there is to take the ferry (locals just call it "the boat") from Colman Dock downtown across the Bay; the 35-minute ride is an attraction itself, as the route is exceptionally scenic, and it's not uncommon to see whales and other wildlife from the deck. When you arrive, walk around the quaint little downtown—make time to stop at Blackbird Bakery for lunch, or just an extremely good coffee with a side of pastry and cake. Like many spots in this region, Bainbridge is known for gorgeous gardens and greenery. There are a few great gardens to explore, but our favorite is Bloedel Reserve—gardener Prentice Bloedel (a before-his-time environmentalist with a fascinating story in his own right) was colorblind, so the visuals revolve around texture and composition rather than color. If you're traveling with littles, it's worth popping into the small-but-mighty Children's Museum before heading home.
Golden Gardens Park
8498 Seaview Pl. NW, Ballard
Golden Gardens Park is one of those rare outdoor places that's enjoyable regardless of the weather (which is a huge boon in rainy Seattle). On warm days, swim off the dock or go fishing on the pier—if it's cold, bundle up for a walk along the coastline or set up a bonfire in one of the pits. The views of the Olympic Mountains from across the Puget Sounds are some of Seattle's most iconic, so this is also a popular place to get married.
Ira Spring Trail
Ira Spring Memorial Trail, Snoqualmie
This 6.5-mile loop makes for an exciting day excursion or an overnight camping trip—either way, you'll want to leave ample time for the adventure, as Mason Lake is enroute to the Ira Spring Overlook and the Snoqualmie Falls are only a short detour away. The trail itself is definitely on the challenging side (it includes a little climbing) but is well worth the effort: After a 4,320 feet elevation gain, your view spans from the expansive Alpine Lake Wilderness to Mount Rainier. Photo: Curt Smith
Theo Chocolate Factory Tour
3400 Phinney Ave. N, Fremont
Kids, unsurprisingly, go crazy for the factory tour of Theo’s Chocolate. The tour itself is just an hour—you'll spend the first half in a short lecture about the biology and history of cocoa, and the processes required to turn the bean into a chocolate bar. For the second half, you'll walk the factory floor (and experience a sampling of several of their exotic flavors). Note: While tours are available seven-days-a-week, the weekday tours—when the production can be viewed live—are a bit more exciting.
Lake Serene Trail
Lake Serene & Bridal Veil Falls Trailhead, Mt. Index River Rd., Gold Bar
The double feature of Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene make this 8.2-mile trek one of the most popular hikes in Washington (accordingly, you'll want to get there earlier in the day, as parking fills up quickly and the trail can get crowded). The trailhead itself is about an hour from Seattle—a gorgeous drive that takes you over the Evergreen Point floating bridge and along the Skykomish River. From the trailhead, on the way up to Lake Serene, you'll pass a sign for a lollipop trail that takes you out to Bridal Veil Falls. The diversion will add an extra mile to your total trek, but it shouldn't be missed, as a set of stairs allows views from both above and below the falls themselves. From there, continue climbing until the trail crosses into the basin. You'll be rewarded when you finally arrive at the stunningly clear lake itself, bordered on one side by tall pines and the other by steep grey cliffs leading up to Mt. Index. PSA: Parking requires a Northwest Forest Pass ($30, which you can purchase online). Photos: pixelgerm
5900 Lake Washington Blvd. S, Hillman City
This park is actually located on an oblong peninsula that protrudes into Lake Washington, so there are beaches and water access on almost every edge of the space (which is 300 acres in total). The paved bike path through the lush forests—2.4 miles round-trip—makes it a popular spot for jogging or bike riding, and there are plenty of places for picnicking or just enjoying the view. The park is also home to a gorgeous Audubon Center, which hosts camps for kids during the summer, and kid-friendly birding walks during the year (friends have seen everything from eagles' nests to owls walking the grounds).