First trip to the Seattle Aquarium with kids

Tiny fish nibble away as lunch is served at the Seattle Aquarium

I’m embarrassed to say that up until Tuesday I had never been to the Seattle Aquarium on Pier 59. I’ve lived here over 5 years and have a 2 year old. The fact that we love aquariums should have had us running downtown to visit the Puget Sound fish years ago. What kind of mother am I?

The colors of the rainbow greeted us at the tide pools. It really is incredible what you can find in the waters around Seattle and Washington.

First Visit to the Seattle Aquarium

My friend Dena came to the rescue and saved me from my oversight. With her aquarium membership she was able to get Dek and I in for free. Her son, Si, who is just about Dek’s age, helped us navigate the variety of Puget Sound fish and mammals (including otters and seals) we would meet on our inaugural visit.

As soon as we entered the aquarium, scuba man Dan was waiting in the Window on Washington Waters tank to greet us. I have seen divers talk to an audience about the sea life in the tank and answer questions before, but never have I seen someone engage the audience like he did. He was giving high fives through the glass. Making faces at the kids and dancing around. Kids were racing to the glass to get a chance to say hello.

Patty cake, high fives and a little dancing were all part of the charm of scuba man Dan

Toddlers at the Seattle Aquarium

Dek started out two feet from the glass. He slowly stepped forward, checking out what this crazy guy was doing. After about 5 minutes Dek was smack up against the glass making faces and dancing along with the rest of the kids. He ran back and forth having the time of his life. Not a bad way to start our visit.

Tide pools at just the right height made our visit that much more enjoyable

We moved further into the aquarium and quickly found our favorite section. The tide pools and touch pools are a water loving boy’s dream come true. For the first time Dek was tall enough to get up on the stone steps and peer into the water. Before now we always had to pick him up to peer in. Dek ran from one pool to another peeking through the glass or over the side of the pools.

Braving the waters of the tide pools. Next time we might even touch a starfish.

Putting his hand in the water was another story. Signs said that visitors could put one finger in the water and touch the animals. Dek wasn’t so sure about that. Living life on the edge isn’t really his thing.

Once he saw the handlers feeding the anemones, sea urchins and starfish he did venture a little splashing. Unfortunately we had to put a stop to the splashing since it freaked out the animals. It was a big step for him to give it a go though.

Grab more things to do in Seattle with kids!

Dena and the boys check out the harbor seals as it flips and loops around its tank

Marine Life at the Aquarium

With a little bit of dragging we managed to move on to Dena’s favorite animals, the puffins. These little birds were quietly hanging out topside, bobbing away in the water, soaking up a little rain. The gregarious sea otters and fur seals put on a much better show for our boys.

Giggles and squeals soon filled the room. An older couple got caught up in Dek’s excitement as one otter flipped around and said hello. They joined in on my son’s clapping and laughter. I like to think we brought a little more joy to their experience.

The marine mammal exhibit is partially outside on Elliott Bay and it was raining. We had stripped our jackets off while inside and it was getting chilly. We headed back inside to wrap up our visit at the Pacific Coral Reef and Ocean Oddities; the only two non-Washington related exhibits as far as I could tell. Clown fish and seahorses drifted around their tanks looking for food and just generally living life. The boys played hide and seek as they tried to count fish.

The Pacific Reef burst with colors and sneaky little fish hiding behind rocks and coral

Snack time for Everyone

After so much running around it was time for a snack. Dena and I steered the boys upstairs to the café to enjoy a little pizza and some snacks we snuck in (the café prefers you eat packed lunches in a different section of the aquarium.)

Can you spy the fish? I’ll give you a hint, it’s on the left side of the picture.

Puget Sound attraction

Although the Seattle Aquarium is much small than others we have visited, it is still one of the top attractions in the Puget Sound. There are no sharks or whales like at the Osaka Aquarium, but it still packs in a morning of fun.

You could certainly tell that care and attention had been paid to the limited number of exhibits the aquarium did have. Sometimes less really is more, especially if you are only 2 years old. Now that we know the lay of the land, I believe we will be camping out at the tide pools on our next visit the Seattle Aquarium.

Coral and shell exhibits outside of the water gave the boys a hands on experience and appreciation for these beautiful creatures

Seattle Aquarium Information:

  • Cost: $19 for adult, $12 (4-12 yrs old), kids under 3 are free
  • CityPASS – accepted at the aquarium along with 6 other top Seattle sights. The pass lasts for 9 days and is definitely worth it if you plan on hitting several museums, the Zoo and the space needle. Buy it HERE.
  • Hours: 9:30am-5pm, check site for holiday closings and reduced hours
  • Food: You can pack a lunch. Areas are designated where you can hunker down and eat them. The upstairs café says no outside food
  • Bathrooms do have changing tables
  • Weekdays during the school year are relatively quiet except if school group shows up.
  • Parking: nearby garages offer a very small discounts. Street parking is available. Parking under the viaduct is more expensive than the street

Not a fan of Aquarium food? Check out these Pike Place Market favorites:

  • Three Girls Bakery: Get a sandwich at the counter or sit at the counter. My favorite is the chicken salad sandwich!
  • The Crumpet Shop: Don’t miss out on their specialty offerings and tea selection.
  • DeLaurenti: Perfect for a slice of pizza, but don’t skip the chocolate chip cookies- the best in town!

Seattle Planning Guide

Hotels in Seattle

  • Inn at the Market: Top rated hotel right by iconic Pike Place Market. Free Wi-Fi, breakfast available.
  • The Maxwell Hotel: Free Wi-Fi, bicycle rentals available, pool, pet-friendly
  • The State Hotel: Family friendly (children activities on site), pet-friendly, free Wi-Fi

Looking for more? Search for a great deal on!

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