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Seattle with kids

Explore the Emerald City a little at a time

World-famous Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. Photo credit: Kristi Berry

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One of the benefits of living in the South Sound is that you can enjoy Seattle like a local. Pop up for a few hours to visit a museum or explore a neighborhood. Seattle offers plenty of family fun -- start with these introductory itineraries and keep going back for more.

Itinerary 1: Monorail to Seattle Center

A trip to Seattle wouldn't be complete without visiting the Space Needle -- and the best way to get there is on the Seattle Center Monorail. Both of these Seattle icons were built for the 1962 World's Fair.

The monorail is on the third floor of Westlake Center at Pine Street and 5th Avenue. A military discount is offered, and kids ages 4 and younger ride free. Try to sit up front by the driver for the best views. The ride only takes two minutes, but it's fun. It brings you right to the heart of Seattle Center with the Space Needle towering above.

Let the kids burn energy at Artists at Play or splash at the International Fountain. The artist-inspired playground features a 30-foot climbing tower, musical instruments and a kid-powered merry-go-round. In summer months, sit and relax while the kids run around the International Fountain's giant spraying dome. Be sure to bring a change of clothes.

On chilly days, head inside one of Seattle Center's museums. Kid favorites are the Seattle Children's Museum and the Pacific Science Center. While pricey, it's worth a trip to the Space Needle's observation deck just to say you've done it. Buy tickets in advance and look for combination deals if you plan to also visit a museum.

Seattle Center Monorail, winter hours: open 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday; 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday; 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday; Westlake Station, 1601 5th Ave., Seattle,; Seattle Center, daily, 305 Harrison St., Seattle,

Itinerary 2: Train to Pike Place Market

If you can travel on a weekday, take the Sounder from Lakewood to Seattle. Your kids will love the train ride, and you'll avoid the interstate and weekend crowds. The cars are clean and comfy with restrooms onboard. The trip takes about an hour and 15 minutes.

Once in the city, walk across the street to catch the Link Light Rail at the International District/Chinatown Station. On the way, look up to see dragons clinging to lampposts. The stop is across from the historic Chinatown Gate and near King Street Station. Peek inside to see the beautifully restored 1906 train terminal. For the Sounder and Link Light Rail, buy tickets at station kiosks or use an ORCA card.

Get off at the Westlake Station and walk four blocks toward the water to visit Pike Place Market. Open since 1907, it's one of the nation's longest continually operated farmers markets. Start at Pike Place Fish Market to see the famous flying fish. Then take a picture with Rachel the Piggy Bank, the market's 550-pound bronze mascot. Head down the stairs and around the corner to check out the Gum Wall. It's disgusting yet fascinating.

Explore the four-story labyrinth of stalls and shops that sell everything from specialty foods, fresh fish and local produce to flowers, jewelry and crafts. Grab a bite to eat at one of 80 restaurants. Kids like Beecher's Handmade Cheese on the corner of Pine Street and Pike Place. The mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches are delicious, plus you can watch cheese being made in the corner window. On a clear day, walk out to the MarketFront to take in the views and let the kids run around the lawn.

If you still have energy, make a few stops on your way back. Hop off the Link Light Rail at Pioneer Square Station to walk around Seattle's original neighborhood or visit Columbia Center's Sky View Observatory. At 902 feet, it's Seattle's highest viewpoint. Walk around the 73rd floor to enjoy a 360-degree view of the Seattle skyline. Bonus: it's less expensive than the Space Needle.

This is just a start. Other great day trips include taking a ferry to Bainbridge Island, visiting the Museum of Flight, touring CenturyLink Field or going to a Seahawks or Mariners game.

Sounder Lakewood Station, open Monday to Friday, 11424 Pacific Hwy. SW, Lakewood,; Pike Place Market, open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, Pike St. N. to Virginia St. and First Ave. W. to Western Ave.,

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