Seattle Museums With Kids – Burke Museum

In addition to searching Red Tricycle Seattle and Parent Map’s events every week, our daycare sends out a list of events (mainly compiled from those sources, but sometimes including others) every Friday, which is how we ended up visiting the Burke Museum’sI Dig Dinos” event this past weekend. On the last Sunday of every month through Memorial Day weekend, they’re having special themed days for kids to come and learn about dinosaurs. They also have a “Dino Days” event this coming weekend, but that seems more formal and likely to be busier.

This weekend’s theme was a “Dino Days Preview” and even though the website says it’s geared for kids aged 3-7, our nearly 2 year old had a great time. The museum is located on the University of Washington campus and is free for kids under 4, with general admission costing $10, so it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other local museums. Parking is also free on Sundays, and there’s some street parking available that’s also free.

We kicked off the morning with breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe, which has a location about a 15 minute walk from the museum. Their pancakes are phenomenal (try the butternut squash with pear butter) and include a trip to the fruit bar that Julia thinks is the best thing since sliced bread. Brunching around 9 a.m. also meant that we beat the rush of UW students.

The event runs from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., but the museum opens at 10 a.m., so we were there with time to check out the other exhibits. Julia liked pointing at the fossils and casts on display, particularly the “elephant” (woolly mammoth) and the whale.



The museum’s permanent exhibits aren’t huge, though, so we spent a lot of time doing dinosaur-themed puzzles in the discovery lab.

All Mine
Toddlers and T-Rexes say “All Mine”
So proud of her for putting together all those numbers herself (sorted by Mom, of course)

We also checked out the Work In Progress exhibit that shows how museum employees are packing up specimens to move to the new Burke location. Julia was mostly interested in climbing in and out of the crates, but did like seeing a T-Rex skull that is being excavated.

The main event was in the Burke Room by the front entrance and was well set-up for families with small kids. There were plastic dinosaurs to play with, dinosaur tails to try on (Julia was not interested), a photo booth, a spot to sort Dinosaur vs. Not Dinosaur pictures (toddlers + sorting = love), and a very popular digging pit. Julia loved it, but I think a 7 year old would get bored quickly.

Why ride a pony when there’s a perfectly good brontosaurus?
Yep, T-Rex, I agree. She’s delicious.

In the main lobby, you could also decorate a dinosaur mask (I can’t recall the dinosaur’s name, but nothing I recognized). Julia loved it and has been carrying her dino mask around with her all week.


I don’t know that we would make a regular trip to the permanent exhibits, but our visit to the Burke Museum for this special event was so much fun (ok, Daddy was bored, but I’ll bring more snacks for him next time) that it’s reminded me I need to keep better track of local museum-sponsored events.

Are there special exhibits that you’ve particularly loved with your little ones?



Lisbon With A Toddler – Part 1

Lisbon was the second leg of Julia’s first international trip last February. We spent 7 beautiful days there, and I’ll split the trip into a couple of posts since it was a longer stay. If you missed the Madrid travelogue, flip back to it here.

Where We Stayed

Lisbonaire Apartments
Enjoying the toy box from Lisbonaire Apartmens

We rented an apartment at the Lisbonaire and it was the apartment to which all future stays will be compared (we reserved through, but were in Apartment O if you’re booking on their website). Our one bedroom place was gigantic (even for American standards), had a well-equipped kitchen, a balcony, and a washing machine (they have a dryer you can use in the basement, but we just hung things on the balcony to air dry). Most importantly, they were so baby friendly. Our apartment came with a pack and play, a toy box, a high chair and a baby bath tub. They also kindly recommended a babysitting service for us to use while we were there (it was great; to discuss more later).

Access was easy and used numeric codes that they e-mailed us a few days before our stay. There’s an app you can download to do common things (like request cleaning, book tours, etc). I tried to use it to schedule a taxi to the airport since our flight was early and when it didn’t work, I e-mailed them and they scheduled it for me very quickly. I didn’t realize that our reservation wouldn’t kick in a payment automatically during our stay, so they even sweetly e-mailed me the day before we checked out to remind me to come down whenever it was convenient for me. The wifi wasn’t perfect from the bedroom, but was excellent in the living area, so researching dinner reservations or double-checking trip details didn’t require holding our phones up to a window or door for a better signal.

The location was amazing and super convenient to multiple transit options. We were able to take Aerobus 1 from the airport to the Restauradores stop a block and a half from the apartment, and the Rossio station that is the jumping off point for a day trip to Sintra was similarly very close. We chose to do very little subway riding, so while we did a lot of hills, the location offers pretty easy walking if you’re wearing comfortable shoes. As an added bonus, the main street has a Fabrica da Nata for some tasty Pasteis de Nata and a block further is a wonderful coffee shop that we sadly didn’t discover until close to the end of our stay, Fabrica Coffee Roasters.

What We Did And Where We Ate

Day 1
We arrived in the Lisbon airport around midday and took the Aerobus from the airport. It was a full bus, but we pack light and everyone was very understanding about making sure we got seats with a baby. It was very easy to find at the airport and was only 3.50 EUR/person (Julia was free), and took a little less than an hour to get to our stop, which I feel is pretty typical for public transport from an airport to a big city. We walked a block and a half to the apartment and relaxed for a bit while Julia explored the toy box and we researched dinner plans. I’m finding that while doing some advance restaurant research is good to make sure we don’t miss any major gems, it’s also nice to do a quick search the day of depending on what we feel like eating. Lisbon seems to eat a little earlier than Madrid, but they’re still very much on European time (no dinner before 7 at the earliest). We decided to take a leisurely walk to dinner so that we could sight see a bit since it was that beautiful hour or two before sunset. I really wanted to try ginjinha (a liqueur made from sour cherries) while we were in Portugal and we made a stop at Ginjinha do Combro for a tasting. The lady who runs the shop was so kind to us (entertaining Julia while we sipped our drinks) and the ginjinha was so delicious (she emphasized the purity of the alcohol used versus other manufacturers) that we made a return stop later in our trip for souvenirs.

Ginjinha do Combro – getting the rundown on production of their delicious cherry liqueur

Next, we made our way to Churrasqueira da Paz. It’s a small family restaurant down a back street and when we arrived, they kindly told us that they don’t normally open until 7, but that because we had a baby, if we came back around 6:30 (it was about 5:30 at that point), they would serve us earlier. After a quick glance at our maps, we walked to Jardim da Estrela to visit the lovely little playground so Julia could crawl around a bit. Diaper changing facilities are very rare, but no one seemed to mind when we used an empty park bench. We got back to Churraqueira da Paz around 6:45 (didn’t want to look too eager…) and despite their small size, they even had a high chair prepped for Julia. We enjoyed olives and bread with house white wine and took our waiter’s recommendations for fish. We had grilled golden bream and a sea bass, which came with perfectly steamed broccoli and new potatoes. Julia loved the delicious simplicity, and so did we. Our whole meal was only around 17 euros, so we added a generous tip. They didn’t push us to leave (despite the fact that the tables are largely communal and we were sitting at a large one), but when we headed out, there was already a line out the door full of people waiting to get in. We stopped at Manteigaria on our walk back to the apartment for a sampling of Pasteis de Nata. These delightful little egg custards are a specialty in Lisbon and I pretty much achieved my goal of tasting each of the major bakeries while we were there. They aren’t too sweet, and when served hot out of the oven, their luscious creaminess could convince a person to drop everything and move to Portugal.

Day 2
We never really took Julia off her travel schedule of going to bed around 10 p.m. and waking up around 8 a.m., which worked out well for us when we wanted to stay out later for dinner. It was also nice for us to be able to sleep in (never thought I would define that as getting up after 7, but that’s life with a baby for you). We picked up some oranges and berries from a tiny market around the corner from the apartment and snacked on fruit before starting off the day with coffee and pastries from Fabrica da Nata up the street. We needed the calories for our long walk to Castelo de Sao Jorge. We took Julia in the baby carrier (Beco Gemini – see more detail here) to better navigate hills with uneven cobblestones and stairs, but also brought the stroller along since we knew we’d be out for awhile and might want it for naps and flatter ground. It was also nice to be able to feed her on the go – I just draped a scarf over the carrier so she could breastfeed discreetly while we walked, which also helped ward off the bright sun. The fort is quite a climb and as a result, rewards you with beautiful views over Lisbon. It was a warm and sunny day, so the light breeze from the top felt great. We climbed up and down the ramparts with Julia safely in the carrier and were able to leave the stroller near the entrance (there were many other families doing the same, and we didn’t leave any valuables in it).

After our visit, we took a leisurely walk down near the water on our way to Time Out Market. This spot was made for families! Local chefs have small stands around the perimeter of the large indoor space. You can walk around and check out what’s on offer before circling back to order whatever’s most appealing. There are appetizer/tapas sized dishes as well as full-sized portions and the wide variety means that everyone can pick out something they like. There are also a few high chairs scattered around, so you can pull yourself up to a communal table and stick baby at the end so your hands are free to sip a glass of wine. Locals here love families and are more than willing to scoot over so you can grab a space. We never waited more than a couple of minutes for a table. The food was so amazing that we came back every day during our stay. I enjoyed a delicious octopus salad in a little seafood tin, we shared a pea and mint soup with Julia on a couple of visits, and ate crispy pork, slow cooked beef cheeks and sipped a variety of wines over the course of a couple of days.


We went back to the apartment for an afternoon snooze and hung out until our babysitter for the evening came. That’s right, we got a babysitter!! The Lisbonaire gave us a recommendation for PrioVida. It’s always nerve-wracking to leave your baby with someone you haven’t met before, but Claudia from PrioVida and I corresponded several times before our trip. They have a rigorous vetting process (background check, interviews, etc) and when our babysitter, Madalena, arrived, we immediately felt at ease with her. More importantly, Julia loved her and didn’t even notice when we left after going over her bedtime routine.

We waltzed off to enjoy a walk to the waterfront for cocktails. There are several little stands where you can order a drink and sit in lounge chairs while you check out the twinkling evening lights.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We ate dinner at Solar 31, a Portuguese seafood restaurant hidden up a winding hill (we were grateful for Google Maps and MyMaps on this walk). I had made reservations a few days before, which was nice because they happened to be busy. The food here was delicious, but we definitely felt removed from the locals. Most diners in the restaurant were American, English or Chinese. We had really enjoyed the bream at Churrasqueira da Paz, so we ordered a similar grilled preparation as well as the red snapper. We love snapper, but it’s a lower priced fish (they kept emphasizing the amount of bones, but we didn’t have trouble pulling them out), and we did feel a little bit of pressure to get something more impressive (read: expensive) like their large octopus dish or tiger prawns. The dry ice chilling our wine was also a little over the top. That being said, our fish was well cooked, with the chef making friendly visits to all of the tables to make sure everyone was satisfied, and my dinner date was devastatingly handsome, so it was still a lovely evening out.

We had told Madalena that Julia had been going to bed around 10, so we were pleasantly surprised when we got back (after sneaking to the roof top deck at the apartment for a quick peek at the view) and Julia had gone to bed around 8 and was sleeping soundly while Madalena read a book. Hi, can we please bring our babysitter back to the U.S. with us?

It was a great start to our trip and we were really excited for sailing the next day, but I’ll save that for Part 2!

Have you used a babysitting service while on vacation with your kids? How did you find them and how did it work out?

Seattle Museums With Kids – Seattle Art Museum

The second in a series of posts about Seattle Museums with a toddler. Check out the Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Aquarium posts for more museums to visit with your little one.

After seeing a Seattle Times article about the new Seattle Art Museum (SAM) exhibit, Figuring History, Julia and I took advantage of one of my half days to go check it out. On weekends, the museum provides discounted parking in the Russell Investment Center garage, and we’ve used the Target parking lot (free parking for about an hour with a $20 purchase) before, but this time we took a bus downtown to make it a bigger adventure.

The museum doesn’t open until 10 a.m., so we started off with a visit to The Crumpet Shop. It was our lucky day because the table right next to the windowed area where they make crumpets freed up minutes after we placed our order. We shared a Vermont crumpet (maple butter, walnuts and cream cheese, which I always replace with ricotta) and an egg/English cheese/ham crumpet while we watched the action.

We wrapped up breakfast just as another hungry family started hovering around our table and walked a block to SAM. It was a really cold day, so we checked our bundle of coats, hats and gloves with the stroller at the complimentary coat check and picked up our member tickets (if you’re a member, don’t forget to pick these up because they need to verify your card). I’ve never had an issue before, but today the security guard objected to the size of our diaper bag. I showed her that it fit within the green rectangle on their sign about bags, and she protested that it was too puffy, but eventually was nice enough to let us in as long as I promised to carry it cross-body instead of just dangling at my side. They do have tiny blue canvas totes you can borrow for essentials, but the whole reason I bring a diaper bag is because toddlers have so many essentials and unpacking/re-packing is a pain. I think we could have schlepped all our stuff if we’d kept the stroller, but the elevator is slow and often full with people who actually need it (wheelchairs and the elderly), so I opted to take what I thought would be an easier route.

I knew we would have limited time with a toddler attention span, and we’ve been to the permanent exhibitions before, so we took the escalator straight to the top floor for the main event. Julia was only marginally interested in looking at the actual art, but did love looking at the beautifully bright colors in many of the paintings. I loved the way the artists re-imagined some classic works (like Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait) to make statements about black history. Julia’s not quite 2 yet, but some of the pieces also allowed us to have age-appropriate conversations about race. I’m still learning how to do these, but we talked about the beautiful black women portrayed in Mickalene Thomas’ work, and how it’s okay for a black person and a white person to love each other (there was a painting specifically focusing on interracial relationships), or a man to love another man (not depicted, but seemed appropriate to talk about all love being wonderful).

Julia’s favorite part of the whole exhibition was the living-area-like seating in front of Le déjeuner sur l’herbe: Les trois femmes noires. She wanted to read all the books and sit on all the seats, as did the other 3 kids that filtered through while we sat there. I took the opportunity to set the heavy diaper bag down and read the back covers of the books so I could look them up at the library later.

Our last stop before heading out to catch the bus home was a visit to the children’s play area (the Knudsen Family Room) on the 3rd floor. It’s hidden away in a little corner behind the American Art section (there are restrooms with water fountains and changing tables on the opposite side of the same floor), so no one seems to mind if Julia gets a little noisy with her “Mine!” and “No!” We were lucky to have a couple of other kids there to visit with, and Julia decided to serve all of us tea. We love our visits to the art museum – it has been a great way to spend rainy/cold days and try to insert some culture into Julia’s life.

Serving everyone tea in the Knudsen Family Room

Have you visited art museums with your small children? What kinds of conversations do they spark?

Madrid With a Toddler

We took Julia to Madrid and Lisbon last February (she was almost 11 months old) and it was a perfect intro to international family travel for us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We started off the trip with 4.5 days in Madrid, which worked out well for us, particularly from a jet lag perspective. Madrilenos eat very late (they were basically still doing happy hour at 9 p.m.), so we were able to look slightly less grandparent-esque and eat around 9 because Julia wasn’t getting sleepy until at least 10 or 11 p.m. We also took full advantage of the afternoon siesta time, typically adventuring until about 1 p.m. and then retreating back to our apartment for a 2-3 hour nap before heading out for a promenade. It seemed like all the small families in Madrid took their toddlers out for a walk (much more bundled up than ours – #badmom) around 4 or 5 p.m. and used it as a good time to be together as a family. That’s a European tradition I could heartily support. The mood was happy and relaxed and since it was February, it was also a perfect time to see the sunset.

Where We Stayed

We rented a standard apartment at Prado Apartamentos (we booked through Expedia for this trip, solely based on availability and price). It wasn’t the most luxurious of apartments, but it had an elevator and a washing machine, which are like gold on a European vacation. They also loaned us a pack and play for an additional 20 euros/stay, which was well worth not having to drag one along ourselves. There was a queen size bed in the bedroom (which also had some really great room darkening curtains) as well as a pull out couch in the living room. Julia had a lot of trouble sleeping at night for the first couple of nights, so this couch was a lifesaver because one parent (usually me since I was still breastfeeding) could rest in the living area with her while the other tried to get some sleep in the bedroom. I won’t lie, getting through the first few nights and worrying about waking the neighbors with all the crying was tough. However, I would absolutely do it again. The location was convenient to the Prado museum and El Retiro park, which were two of my must visit locations during our stay.

Julia enjoyed hiding under the coffee table on the green shag carpet

What We Did

Adjusting to traveling with a baby was actually a nice change of pace in some ways. Pre-baby, we usually stayed in a city for 3 days max and packed a bunch of activities (with back-ups!) into each day. On this first trip, I typically chose 1 key activity to do and then had some things plotted around that area as “bonuses.”

We arrived in Madrid midday, so after a nap, we took a late afternoon stroll and ended up at El Corte Ingles to visit the top of the large department store and check out the view. There’s a large and delicious food court (and I am not usually a food court person) on the top floor where we sampled some pizza (cut by weight) and espresso.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The second day, we started off with a visit to the Mercado de San Miguel. We took the stroller and if I were to do it over again, we would have put Julia in the baby carrier because it was really busy in there and sometimes difficult to navigate her through the crowds (I also made sure to keep valuables in a safe place). However, people generally gave her a smile and politely moved to the side when they heard our Perdóns. We tasted some delicious jamon (served on a silver tray and cut to order), sampled croquettes and pinchos (basically a small crostini with varying toppings; my favorite was the bacalao, or salted cod, which was surprisingly rich and not as fishy as I expected) and indulged in a sangria. The stroller’s cup holder came in handy to hold the sangria while we juggled other plates (balanced diet for the win!). A note for breastfeeding moms – I fed Julia under a light muslin cover while holding her in the market. No one gave me any weird looks and Peter was kind enough to hand feed me croquettes while my arms were occupied.

Julia’s personal jamon platter

Julia napped well in the stroller while we were there (we love the Summer Infant 3D Lite – read more here), which gave us the chance to walk towards the Palacio Real de Madrid. We didn’t go in, but the walk was really lovely and by taking back streets, we got to peek at the beautiful architecture at a relaxed pace.

Our next stop was the infamous Chocolateria San Gines. You order your thick drinking chocolate and churros at the front counter and then wait for a table, but they’re very efficient, so the wait for us was not particularly long. For those with allergies, they actually have a multi-lingual list of allergens at the front counter. The drinking chocolate has soy, so I couldn’t share it with Peter (I know, life is very difficult), but we all enjoyed the churros. Julia, in particular, flirted with all the waiters and loved feeding Peter churros.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We were starting to head back towards our apartment for the afternoon siesta when we walked past a touring Escher exhibit put on by Arthemisia at the Palacio de Gaviria. This was a magical find and an example of when not micro-planning every little activity months in advance paid off. Escher’s work is very baby friendly (cool patterns in simple colors) and the venue was gorgeous with some fun interactive exhibits, so we got a surprise peek at work that we’ve admired for a long time and would never have anticipated seeing in person.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next day was my favorite in terms of activities – I have been looking forward to visiting the Prado art museum since I took AP Art History in high school, and I was not disappointed. We arrived right when they opened at 10 a.m. (we had ventured by he previous evening during the free hours from 6-8 p.m., but the line was terrifyingly long) and had to wait awhile, but it was manageable even for a baby. We opted for the Paseo del Arte card so that we would have admission to the Prado, the Museo Reina Sofía and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. In hindsight, this was a bit over ambitious of us, but it was a nice idea. The Prado is one of the best organized and best labeled art museums I’ve ever been to. The map provided at the entrance (available in multiple languages) shows you the highlights of each room, so you can make a beeline right for the Garden of Earthly Delights or any other artworks you might be passionate about. I even found a new favorite – the Birth of the Milky Way. We had no trouble pushing Julia through the museum in her stroller (she even napped for a good chunk of it) and she enjoyed a bit of crawling in some of the larger rooms. The cafe was downright reasonable for a museum and we took a break midway through our visit for croissants and coffee. We ended up spending close to 4 hours here. That won’t be for everyone, but the museum’s excellent layout made it easy to see highlights, take a break, and then return for more. There were also changing facilities and convenient benches when I needed to feed Julia.

Julia Grace getting the right viewing angle for the Three Graces

After so much time indoors, we were ready to venture out to El Retiro Park to visit the Crystal Palace (very walk-able from the Prado). We had pretty gray and rainy weather during our visit (not dissimilar from where we live in Seattle), but it was a nice enough day for a stroll through the park. The Crystal Palace has free admission and seemed to be a spot for tourists and locals alike to go and hang out. There was plenty of room for Julia to crawl around, too. We weren’t there particularly long, but it was a lovely break in the day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On our last day, we visited the Museo Reina Sofia in the morning. If we had gone here first, I think I would have enjoyed it more. It’s a beautiful location and has some early Picassos, but having been blown away by the Prado the day before, the modern art here just wasn’t as captivating for me. There was also a really large multi-class school group visiting on the same day. It seemed like a great program for them with 5-10 minute talks in front of some of the major artworks (like Picasso’s Guernica), but it meant that we couldn’t usually get close to anything.

That evening, we said goodbye to Madrid by taking a particularly long stroll from our apartment to the Templo de Debod in the Parque del Oeste. When the Aswan Dam was under construction (which we had visited pre-baby 2 years prior), the Egyptian government donated this ancient temple to Spain to try to preserve it. It’s at the top of a long hill with beautiful views over the city, which made it a perfect spot to wave goodbye to Spain.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Where We Ate

I’ll be honest, while we had some great food in Madrid, there weren’t any life changing meals on this trip. I didn’t make any specific reservations because we didn’t have a babysitter and I wasn’t sure how Julia would perform at nicer restaurants. People also eat very late in Madrid, so while we stretched her bedtime by several hours, it still wasn’t really late enough to eat with the “cool kids.” We did enjoy the following places, however:

  •  Taberna Sanlucar – little hole in the wall in La Latina (cash only) where we ate on our first night. They had an excellent shrimp pancake, good olives, and inexpensive wine. The seating would be uncomfortable for children that want to sit on their own (basically short backless barstools), but we were able to stick our small stroller against the wall so Julia could sit in it or on my lap.
  • La Castela – I should have made reservations here. We tried to go for dinner on our second evening (it’s on the far side of El Retiro park, so at least it was a lovely evening walk) and it was packed. We were, however, able to convince people to let us perch in a little bar area and had some fantastic pinchos and wine.
  • Taberna del Buendi – this place had a good size crowd when we walked by it on our way to La Castela, so we headed back after we struck out on dinner there. They were able to seat us quickly and the staff was so incredibly nice to Julia (they even found a little pumpkin toy in the back room for her to play with). We weren’t starving since we had already eaten half a meal up the street, so we shared shrimp, more pinchos and a plate of jamon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Madrid was a great spot to kick off our first international trip with a baby. We slowed down our usual travel place and found that allowed us to better deal with jet lag and see some things that weren’t in the original plan. Everyone was very friendly and kind to Julia, and while eating in busier places with her was challenging, we never felt unwelcome or like we were inconveniencing anyone by bringing her along. Eating in markets (like Mercado de San Miguel or El Corte Ingles; we didn’t love Mercado de San Anton) allowed some greater flexibility in meal times that we appreciated. It also helped that we picked one “can’t miss” activity (the Prado museum) and focused on getting the most out of it.

If you’re flying out of the Madrid airport (we were connecting to Lisbon), you’ll also appreciate that they have small play areas interspersed throughout the airport. This seems to be pretty rare in the U.S. (the Seattle Airport is one of the few I’ve seen with a dedicated play space) and we were all happy to see it. It’s pretty amazing that language barriers don’t bother children at all, nor do age gaps to a large extent. Kids as old as 5 or 6 were happy to share the play equipment with Julia.

Have you been to Madrid with a young child and, if so, what were your favorite stops?

Seattle Museums With Kids – Seattle Aquarium

The second in a series of posts about Seattle Museums with a toddler. Check out the Woodland Park Zoo post if you missed it!

I didn’t visit a lot of aquariums growing up, so having a membership to the Seattle Aquarium has been a fun new experience for me as well as for Julia. It’s located just below Pike Place Market on Alaskan Way, so it’s easy for us to stop by for an hour or two on a weekday if I can leave work a bit early. We joined as members when she was about 6 months old. Even at that young age, she could stay glued to the smaller tanks of fish in the Pacific Coral Reef and focus on their bright colors.

Can’t tear her away from the fish

Her favorite exhibits have changed a bit over the year and a half that we’ve been members so far. It started with that coral reef and the Underwater Dome, where she could just quietly observe from the comfort of her baby carrier. As she’s gotten older, she’s enjoyed the tide pools (now that she can reach while being held, feeding anemones pieces of seaweed has been a recent hit) and the play areas that allow her to pretend to be a jellyfish, or arrange sea creatures on a felt background. The front desk staff can be a little gruff (they see a LOT of customers, so I can understand), but the volunteers in the museum are incredibly nice and they know so much about the sea creatures that they’re eager to share if you’re interested. We were lucky enough to get some quality time with one of the giant Pacific octopuses on a recent trip. There was almost no one there, so when the octopus came out to swim around, Julia was able to get right up close and see the tentacles. One of those legendary volunteers came around and told us how octopuses taste with their tentacles, so it was fun to get Julia to pretend to taste with her hands (better solution than letting her continue to lick the glass, I think!).

The cutest jellyfish I’ve ever seen

We’ve done the Diving Santa show at Christmas, but it’s nice just to make the regular show in their Window on Washington Waters exhibit. Julia will listen attentively for about 2 minutes, but she’s still not old enough to understand most of the talk. However, after the show, she loves getting up close to the diver and giving high fives or pretending to touch the bag of food they use to feed the fish.

Julia loves getting up close with the diver for high fives after the show

Individual admission is rather pricey (currently $29.95/person over 12; kids under 3 are free), so this is another spot where we find the membership to be a good value ($69 per named adult for a year). Once you’re a member, you can deduct your membership fee on your taxes, so don’t forget to add it to your list if you itemize (nerdy accountant tidbit from their website). You’ll also typically get an e-mail a couple of months before your membership is set to expire that gives you a link to renew for a 14 month period (2 months free).

The cafe upstairs is reasonable (we’ve had good chowder, crab cakes, and sweet potato fries), but we usually prefer to park at the Hillclimb Garage across the street (validate your parking if you’re a member for $1 off/hour for up to 3 hours) and take a hike up the steep stairs to Pike Place Market to snack on some smoked salmon, Ellenos yogurt, or a crumpet at the delectable Crumpet Shop (the Vermont with maple butter, cream cheese and walnuts is my absolute favorite and Julia adores watching them make crumpets through the window into the kitchen).

We typically drive in and park (it’s harder than I would like to take public transit with a toddler), but if we make a fun day trip out of it, we also enjoy taking the bus to Westlake and walking, or parking in West Seattle and taking the water taxi (especially if we can eat delicious Marination tacos while we wait for the boat).

Visiting the Aquarium shortly after Julia learned to sit up. Wish I could wear sea creature PJs out in public