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