Many times when traveling with kids we want to try to include things that will excite them. Stuff they will remember. Let’s be honest, not all kids want to spend a full day in a museum or on a historical tour. No. Kids want weird. They want wonderful. Heck, to be honest, we all want a bit of weird and wonderful on our trips, right? After all, sometimes that’s the stuff that makes them fun.
The city of Seattle offers many weird and wonderful attractions. Not all of them are well-known. One is merely sitting on the side of a busy road, and another is tucked under a bridge. But if you seek them out, you won’t be disappointed. These sites are not merely for the young, but for everyone no matter how old. They may be fascinating, different, and not something you will see every day. Visiting places on a trip that everyone will think is cool? I call that a picture of a pretty awesome family vacation!
1. The Mystery Coke Machine
A mystery indeed. This 1970’s-model Coke machine is said to be haunted. Sitting all alone in front of a hardware store on John Street, it is always full of a variety of delicious flavors of soda, but no one ever sees it get filled. All the selection buttons are “mystery” buttons so you have no idea what delectable drink will clunk it’s way to the bottom. My kids were convinced the machine would give you the soda your heart truly desired. I ended up with a Grape Fanta, so maybe they are right. It was pretty delicious!
918 East John Street
Cost: $1.00. This machine accepts quarters or dollar bills.
Time needed: 10 minutes
2. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Where the weird meets the weirder. This souvenir shop is located right on the water at Pier 54. But souvenirs are not all you will find here. Mummies, shrunken heads (yes, REAL shrunken heads!), swords, and other strange memorabilia line the walls of the store. Kids can grab a book at the front desk and explore the oddities from A-Z while you marvel at the peculiar collections before you.
1001 Alaskan Way. Pier 54. (walkable from Pike’s Place Market)
Time needed: Depends how curious you are. 30 minutes to an hour.
3. Gum Wall
Yes, you read that right. This wall has become a Seattle institution. For over 20 years, people from all over the world have come to this colorful location to leave a little gum souvenir for the city. The result is a rainbow alley of small spotted confections. As a mom, all I saw was an alley full of germs (gag), but it was still pretty weird and cool.
1428 Post Alley (at Pike Place Market)
Cost: A piece of gum 😉
Hours: always open
Time needed: 15 minutes
4. Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum
A museum full of vivid colors shining through glass blown art? Yes, please! Chihuly found his calling in glass blowing, and the results of his artistic vision are stunning. You will experience beautiful, unique pieces, vibrant colors, and interesting designs. Take a stroll through the garden and look into the orbs that dot the landscape. Have fun taking pictures of the Space Needle through the colorful glass balls.
305 Harrison Street (you can easily combine this museum with a visit to the Space Needle and/or MoPop). Check out the City Pass for some pretty great savings.
Cost: Adult: $24, Senior: $21, Child: $14
Hours: Sun-Thurs: 10-7, Fri, Sat: 10-8
Time needed: 1 hour
5. Beneath the Streets tour
Did you know Seattle is a city built on top of a city? Whaaat?!? It’s true. Back in the 1800’s, the city was built at sea level. As the population grew, people quickly realized having a city at sea level on the water is a pretty terrible idea, because of…well…the sewage situation. When the tide rose, so did the poop. Eww! So city planners decided the best course of action was to merely raise the city up. So, they built the version of Seattle we see today right on top of the old city. It is pretty cool to walk the tunnels and see what became of the old city.
102 Cherry Street. The tour begins at the corner of 1st Avenue and Cherry Street.
Cost: Adult: $19, Senior: $17, Student: $17, Child (7-12): $10
Hours: Winter tours run 10:30-4:30. Check website for current times.
Time of tour: 1 hour
6. Gas Works Park
If you are a fan of Steampunk, Gas Works is for you. It is what remains of a coal gasification plant that was in operation from 1906-1956. Industrial yet, dare I say, artsy. You may be inspired to take some pretty unique pictures amongst the old towering structures, or on the “Great Mound” with the Seattle skyline in the background.
3300 Meridian Ave. N. Seattle (Lake Union)
Time needed: 1 hour
7. Fremont Troll
Who wouldn’t want to set their eyes upon a massive concrete troll under a bridge? Sometimes finding random things in odd places is what makes traveling fun, right? This troll is huge. 18 feet high, to be exact (thanks, Wikipedia), and is actually clutching a real Volkswagen Beetle! If you’re a planner like me, here’s a side note: it is very easy to combine a visit to both the Fremont Troll and Gas Works Park on the same trip.
N. 36th Street at Troll Ave.-under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge.
Time needed: 15 minutes
8. Ballard Locks
This is a fascinating location for both the old and young alike. I will try to explain this intriguing lock system as simply as possible. The locks connect the Puget Sound to Lake Washington and Lake Union. Sounds simple, right? Well, hold on a minute. The Puget Sound is salt water and Lake Washington and Union are freshwater Not to mention, the two bodies of water have up to an 8.8 feet height difference. Umm, how in the world does that work you may wonder? That’s where this cool lock system comes into play. So I don’t write a novel trying to explain it all, read more about how the locks work here. Crazy cool, right?
3015 NW 54th St
Time needed: 1 hour
Other things we ran out of time to explore but look pretty awesome!
9. Seattle Pinball Museum
Pinball anyone? Check out 25 vintage pinball games. The oldest is dated back to 1934!
10. Archie McPhee Catalog Store
According to their website, Archie McPhee’s is, “widely considered to be a Mecca for connoisseurs of the strange and one of Seattle’s top ten weird destinations, it is truly an attraction without a parallel. It’s a one-stop shop for party supplies, crafts, costumes, miniatures and the weirdest collection of toys and candy that you’ve ever seen.” Need I say more?
11. UP House
The iconic house from the movie Up exists in real life! You read that right folks. A little old woman named Edith Manfield held onto her home despite the city growing around her. Read about her story here. The tiny house still stands although it is now surrounded by a shopping center. Who knew?
As you can see, a plethora of unusual sites can be found in Seattle. Get out there and explore the city the way you will remember. Journey off the beaten path and check out some things that not everyone gets to see. After all, everyone needs a little weird and wonderful in their life, right?
*As operating times or prices may change throughout the year, please double check these details before you go.