One of the minor, pleasant surprises of light rail is what a great amusement ride it is for small children. I’ve used it extensively for that purpose, and I can tell you that most little kids can easily become totally obsessed with the line and its stops.

One problem is that there isn’t a ton to do for kids within little-feet walking distance in many station areas.  That’s  certainly true when the weather is poor.  Fortunately, Delicious Baby has a two-part series (1,2) to lay out lots of outing ideas for each station.

The only item I’d add at Seatac is going up to the top floor of the parking garage to watch the planes take off.  If you’re OK with taking a connecting bus (or walking a longer distance) that widens the options to some pretty great parks in the Rainier Valley (Jefferson, Seward, and Kubota Garden).

32 Replies to “Light Rail with Kids”

  1. I used to do this with my kids, when they were small. Plus on Metro you can take well behaved dogs. So with two German Shepherds, and two kids, and one pass. I’d ride from Renton to Seattle on Metro, ride the waterfront trolley, catch a ferry to Winslow, back up the Hill climb on foot, catch the Monorail to the center, back to the tunnel and home. Way cheaper than Disney land and with some good luck and some binoculars we might even see dolphins from the ferry ride… as for punks on the bus, nothing like just the presence of the dogs to keep everybody in line.

    We called it “transportation day” and they still look back on those trips as great fun.

    1. We’ve done the light rail to ferry connection with kids. That was fun. The West Seattle water taxi is another great option.

      But the favorite is transferring to the Monorail at Westlake. That gives us all the retail core experience, the different urban parks, and then some wonderful destination at Seattle Center. The museums, the Children’s Theater, the fountain, the skateboard park, festivals: it’s all there.

      Commuting by Link is great. But it makes weekend family outings into an easy and friendly adventure. How to explain it? We’re all equally empowered to move around and engage with each other and the places we’re in. No car seats, no focused parental attention on the roadway, no backseat boredom. And we get to bring along picture books, like we used to do on the bus, only this way we avoid the herky-jerky flow of traffic.

    2. My 30-something son still remembers his nursery school’s field trip to Berkeley on BART when it was brand new.

      Took my 3 year-old grandson to the airport via light rail last week to see someone off. He loved visiting the big lofty international terminal afterwards, having a snack by the big rocks, and watching the birds flying around. I was tempted to take the soon-to-be-gone 194 back to Seattle, since it stopped right outside that terminal, but grandson wanted no part of that, and did not mind the long walk back to north terminal to catch light rail.

  2. I took my kids on the Light Rail line last summer after it opened and we all had a great time. I also took my parents on a ride up and down the line, and they had a great time as well. It’s really been a great source of entertainment for my whole family. God, I hope we get light rail to Ballard soon!!!

  3. Nice! Walking the Rainer Square underground is another thing I’ve done in the rain, though be warned there are some stairs/escalators.

    The SLU Streetcar is also kid-approved.

  4. My son loves to copy the announcements of “Doors to my left/right”. He thinks its funny and tries to guess what the next station will be. Although, since we have ridden it quite a bit, he is starting to know which stations have the doors on which side!

  5. I took my three-year old daughter on Link for the first day of airport station service. We rode the full length from Westlake round trip, buying an ice cream at the airport as a mid-trip treat. She loved it and has asked several times to go back. It took a herculean effort to keep her off the train when we were at Uwajimaya recently and she realized there was a station across the street.

  6. Good articles, but one line hurt my native-Seattleite brain: “…it’s an easy walk to Pike’s market..” Pike Place Market. “Pike’s Market” is what the tourists call it!

    1. Lol yeah I hated that until I realized that it’s good as a kind of password to tell the tourists from the natives.

    2. A couple of years ago, I had a driver on a morning inbound run of the Route 41 who regularly announced Westlake Station as “Westlake…Pine Street…Pike’s Market”. I cringed every time. Ugggh.

    3. Well, then there are all the fun cities names around Western W-arr-shington such as:

      Tukwila (Tuk-why-la)
      Sequim (See-quim)
      Anacortes (Anna-Cot-teeez)

      They can serve as tip-offs too.

  7. Every time I ride Link there’s kids staring wide eyed out the window. I saw a little girl saying the next stop before it was announced. Future transit nerd!

  8. You know, I wonder about how much effect subconsciously this will have on the young ones.

    For as long as I can remember I have been in love with the idea of big cities and rail transit, even though the first time that I can actually remember riding on rail was when I was 17, and first went to Germany.

    However while I have no actual memories of the train rides themselves, I do know that in elementary school we took a field trip from Atmore to Evergreen on Amtrak. I remember the mothers with vans picking us up in Evergreen. Also I know my family took MARTA to the Olympics in Atlanta in 96. I remember walking to and from the station but not the actual train ride. Wonder how much effect that had on my strong affinity for rail even before I really became acquainted with it.

  9. The way I look at it, the more children get to ride on LINK, the bigger the majorities for transit votes for many decades to come. Big problem these last years is that several generations of voters have grown up without ever once riding on a train of any kind.

    School system really should be brought in on this one. Transit, and especially electric trains, are an important part of the education of a modern citizen.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I agree. Teaching children how to ride a bicycle and walk safely, and how to plan and take a trip on transit should be the “drivers ed” for the 21st century.


        Learning how to Effectively use the local transit should be taught in Freshman year in high school at some point for all the schools in the area…Show the kids how to read timetables, how to time connections, learn what does work and what doesnt, I could go on. And I dont just mean a quick pop on one bus, I mean make a day out of it and go to Seattle or something. Sample all of the different modes of transport…

      2. I mastered the public transit system in Austin TX at the age of 11 which probably sealed my fate as a future transit worker. I even recall standing on the seat prepared to pull the cord on the city bus going to grade school in Iowa City – dont remember whether I had a parent along or not.

      3. Back in the early 80’s reading a bus schedule and answering some questions/hypotheticals about trips on the bus were part of a minimum competency test I took in high school here in Seattle (along with recipes, phone books and the like). It was pretty darn simple, but at least exposed the student to a bus schedule/route map.

        Of course, everyone I knew had already used the bus repeatedly and had no problem with the questions! :)

  10. In the late fifties, the second grade class at Hoover Elementary School in Yakima would take the train (Northern Pacific) to Toppenish and then take a Greyhound bus back to Yakima. That was fun!

    I remember it was in second grade that we learned about transportation.

  11. I took my nieces on Link to Columbia City, and then we walked to Tutta Bella on Rainier Ave. On the way back we stopped in the ID for an excursion through Uwajimaya, and then back to Westlake. A good time was had by all. They really enjoyed the ride, especially on the elevated portion towards Beacon Hill, and the various stations.

  12. Nice piece – it works for us grownups too – I spend most of the trip staring out of the window!

    As for the SeaTac Airport garage, I too have spent time up on the top floor, although the view is not quite as one would hope of the runways etc. In the old days, airports would often make provision for spectactors who come just to watch planes. I have many childhood memories growing up watching planes land and take off at London Heathrow and London Gatwick airports from specially designated spectator areas. Those have probably long gone now. At Schiphol in Amsterdam, I believe they had a walking area running along the top of the piers and gates as folks were boarding beneath them! I can’t see that still going on in this post 9/11 world!

    With regard to SeaTac, I would probably recommend, watching them land from North SeaTac park just north of the runways – great for when they are landing from the north!

    SeaTac garage is nice for taking photographs of Mt Rainier on clear days. You can see the Olympics pretty well too, but for aircraft spotting, it is not quite so good.

    If I had my daughter with me, I would probably want to take her on a tour around the art work at the different Link stations.

    1. Used to be an outdoor roof deck at Sea-Tac as well, on the second level more or less where the new food court and shops are. There’s still a door there but it’s just maintenance access to what remains of the old roof. The intent of the big glassed-in Pacific Marketplace was to give a good view of the runways (which it does); unfortunately post-9/11 it became off-limits to the non-flying public.

      I rarely arrive early enough to enjoy it when I’m flying anyway.

  13. I took my 2.5 yr old son for a ride on a bus, monorail, and light rail in the same day. I totally expected him to love the light rail and monorail, but when we were on our way back from the south end of Link, he asked if we could go ride the bus instead–apparently he liked riding the bus better than either form of rail. Who would’ve expected that?!

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