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There is plenty to do with teenagers in Seattle, year round, no matter what the weather.
What do your teens like to do? Here are some tried and true favorites.
SEATTLE CENTER: The Seattle Center brims with attractions well-suited for teens. Below are some highlights.
Experience Music Project (EMP) - The building was designed by Frank Gehry, interesting to budding engineers and architects. Inside, the EMP is just as intriguing. Plan to have your band photo taken for a poster complete with gig tickets. Think of a name for your band! Learn to play a variety of instruments or air guitar, compose a sure hit or practice your vocals in the hands on area. The Science Fiction Museum, attached to the EMP, is a natural for teens who enjoy science fiction. They are focusing on pop culture and not just music these days.
Pacific Science Center: Better for preteens, but some may enjoy. The Center often features a special exhibit or event, so check their calendar. Teens around here love the Laser Dome. Protip: bring a blanket and pillow to get the full experience by lying on the floor. The IMAX theater runs feature films, which is a fun way to experience the latest blockbuster. Check the PSC website for ticket prices and times.
Seattle is famous for live theater. Order TeenTix passes well before your trip from the Seattle Center at http://www.teentix.org/ . With these, teens 13-18 can get in to any show for $5 on a standby basis. Check websites for Seattle Children's Theater (excellent with shows geared toward specific age groups), The Seattle Repertory Theatre, Book-It Repertory Theatre, The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle Opera; Seattle Shakespeare Company; ACT Theater; and even Northwest Ballet. TeenTix gets you in to EMP and the laser shows at the Pacific Science Center too. TaprootTheater honors Teentix but they are located outside of downtown.
If you want to get a high view, the Space Needle is a basic. Other choices are Smith Tower and The Columbia Center, which cost a lot les. Going late in the day gets you beautiful twilight views and a lit up city. Kerry Park is another option.
Seattle Monorail to Westlake Center. Ride the Monrail, a Seattle Landmark from the World's Fair from the Seattle Center to Westlake Center. The monorail leaves every 10 minutes or so, and is a two-minute ride to downtown. Once at Westlake Center, teens often enjoy being in the downtown retail core and can easily access the downtown area.
Food in/near Seattle Center:
Seattle Center Armory has Food Court with lots of options and often a cultural event going on There is a rotating restaurant in the Space Needle, it is expensive, but can be fun and festive with teens. Diners sometimes leave notes on the windowsill ("Hi from Sweden!") as you rotate around. Consider dining at lunch, on a clear day. The Space Needle does have a per person minimum, but dining there does include the elevator ride and a visit to the observation deck.
Sushiland kaiten sushi with lots of cooked options, is just north of Seattle Center within easy walking distance.
Dlck's Drive-In, a Seattle classic for retro burgers, shakes and fries.
Kidd Valley Hamburgers, a local fast-food burger stand known for garlic fries.
Zeek's Pizza a block away on Denny. McDonald's is across from the Space Needle if the kids REEAALLY want it.
Interesting Bamboo Garden vegetarian Chinese on Roy St. at the north end, lots of other choices nearby.
Sport, in the Fisher Plaza across from the Space Needle, features a TV at every table and teen-friendly menu.
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop is a must. Plenty of oddities to entertain and delight. Take a picture with the mummies in the back! The Seattle Aquarium is may appeal to some teens, not for others.
The Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park is unique, with outstanding Puget Sound views, at the end of the waterfront. No admission charge.
Take the ferry ride to Bainbridge and back. It is a 35 minute ride each way and is easy to walk-on. Passengers/walkers only pay on the way TO Bainbridge, the return trip is free. Go during the day, at sunset or travel back to Seattle at night and enjoy the city lights. The City of Bainbridge is a few blocks from the ferry with a few shops, restaurants and galleries. Not too much to interest teens, but an excursion worth doing.
Tillicum Village features a northwest native culture dinner, show and boat ride to Blake Island. If your teen enjoys native cultures, it may be a good option.Look on Goldstar for discounts.
A good place to eat if you just want to feed 'em is Red Robin on the Seattle waterfront, with views right on the water. Red Robin IS a Seattle chain. Teens gobble up the "endless fries" and bottomless drinks. There is a Spaghetti Factory near the Sculpture Garden. A teenage boy can eat for $13 or so each incl. tax and tip (unlimited free refills on milk! And on fresh hot bread!). Ivar's Fish Bar features fish 'n chips, salmon 'n chips, scallops 'n chips, and of course clam chowder. Teens often appreciate Ivar's "Keep Clam" sense of humor.
PIKE PLACE MARKET
Most teens enjoy the Pike Place Market. Turn them loose in pairs with some pocket money. There are mini donuts, trinket shops and local artists selling their wares. Always a street musician or two. See if they can find the Gum Wall (gross!). Start at the Spanish Table on the lowest level of the market. It has cool tiny dishes, Mexican Coke, and several varieties of Nutella, then explore and wander through the many stores working your way to the main leve. You may or may not see a fish fly --the only way to be sure is to buy a fish! Stop at the original Starbucks. Sample the cheeses and curds at Beecher's Cheese. Pick up fruit, a loaf of bread and perhaps something from the German deli (but there is much to choose from), and enjoy a picnic overlooking Elliott Bay.
Plenty of shopping for those teens who enjoy retail therapy or just window shopping. The Convention Center features major events/exhibitions, it is worth checking their calendar (Sakura con in April, PAX on Labor Day weekend, Comic Con,...). The Crepe place at the base of the Convention Center is a fun place to eat right on the sidewalk. ACT theater is there too. Gameworks is a popular stop. Downtown movie theaters include the Multiplexes at Pacific Place and the Meridian. For a first-run feature film, the Cinerama is cool and a retro classic. For live performances, there might be something to appeal to your teen at Seattle's Town Hall, the Paramount, 5th Avenue Theaters or Moore Theaters which are nearby. Dragonfish Restaurant has a small plates happy hour after 10pm which is seriously good and cheap, Under-21's are allowed in.
REI is a fun stop, it is a co-op outdoor/athletic retail store with one of the tallest climbing structures in the country. As a member (anyone can join) you can climb the Pinnacle. Call ahead and make a reservation. It is belayed and safe, for the novice or more experienced teen climber, and really an awesome experience. The view from the top is spectacular. On the third floor of REI there is a World Wrapps for a quality bite with great views.
In Seattle Center, there is the Vera Project. Downtown there is The Showbox and El Corazon. All three would be for older teens, but there is a wide variety of music. Check the website of the newspaper The Stranger for shows. You might not want your teen reading this paper as it is quite alternative, but it is a good source of information. It is free on the streets in boxes, by the way, so if you determine you do or don't want your kids reading it, keep your eyes open while you're here. Tacoma Dome is far away so try to discourage that great idea unless you are a really awesome and flexible parent/fellow-vacationer. If possible, bring your teen on Labor Day Weekend for the Bumbershoot Festival. Check their website throughout the year for details on bands. It is one of the top 10 rock and culture festivals in the country, and it is the cheapest (article in Rolling Stone last year). There are bands of all types, movies, comedy, performance art, food and people watching all going on simultaneously for three fabulous days. It is within a ticketed zone, so you can let older teens travel in pairs with a cell phone to see all the things they can (while you watch movies all afternoon at the One Reel Film Festival, a part of Bumbershoot?). If you have a car, Redmond has a good teen music center, as do Kirkland and Bellevue. Here's an article about them:
Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana are both from Seattle so you can research fan sites if your teens are interested.
Seattle is packed with international experiences. There are restaurants from every ethnic group you can think of -- Himalayan/Nepalese, Ethiopian, TERIYAKI (a local favorite -- and great way to feed a hungry non-vegetarian teenager) and lots more. Check out the International District, so called because it houses Japanese, Cambodian, Thai and many other Pacific Rim nationalities, not just Chinese. A must stop is the Uwajimaya Market. Great food court here, but lots of fun cookies and candies, as well as manga and fan items in the bookstore. You can pick up stuff for a fun picnic, too, including fresh local oysters (probably not for the teens -- ewww!). Great produce section! Great place to pick up gifts for the friends back home! In the neighborhood, there are many restaurants, BBQ houses (you can see the birds hanging in the windows), bakeries, and medicine shops with all kinds of unusual dried things. There is a strange and interesting pet store on Maynard Alley. The aquariums are all homemade, but the animals are healthy. If you have a car, you can park on the street if you're lucky or in the parking garage at Uwajimaya. They validate in the store so it is free. Seattle Center hosts weekend celebrations of various ethnic communities througout the year, so check their calendar to see what is coming up. There is a Nordic Museum in Ballard which hosts a festival once a year. The museum is not bad as a quick stop, especially if your kids like Norse Mythology and legos (Lego version of the Norse mythological world -- beyond cool for that subgroup!).
If your kids love to participate in active sports, Seattle is your town! It is easy to hop out to the mountains for skiing, sledding, backpacking, mountain biking, hiking, whitewater kayaking or rafting. There is sea kayaking right on Lake Union north of downtown. Moss Bay, Aqua Verde Paddle Club and the University of Washington Aquatic Center rent kayaks, canoes, or row boats at reasonalbe prices. You can take a rowing lesson if you've always wanted to try crew. The easiest places to do that are Moss Bay and Lake Union Crew, but Seattle is full of rowing clubs. Seattle itself hosts two boating centers, one at Green Lake, and one at Stan Sayres Park south of I-90 (Mt. Baker Rowing and Sailing). There is more sailing at the sailing center at Magnuson Park near Uunivesity of Washington (Sail Sand Point -- mainly in summer). Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union also rents interesting wooden boats. There is a mountain bike park under the interstate, so it is usable most of the year.
There is a lot more to do in Seattle, but this will keep teens busy. Have fun!