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Get centered at Seattle Center

Heather Larson raised two children in the Seattle area, and is now delighting in showing her grandson the sites the city has to offer. She writes from her home office in Tacoma, Washington.

Center yourself

Seattle Center charms natives and tourists, children and adults, those on a budget and those who aren't. It offers everyone a broad assortment of activities from which to choose. From the arts to a first class children's museum, from numerous sports events to the one-of-a-kind Experience Music Project, the "Center" contains something for every age group and taste preference.

International fountain - Seattle

A traveler's destination

In 1962, a 74-acre campus, combining new and existing buildings, was created for the Seattle World's Fair. The theme of the fair, "Century 21: The World of Tomorrow," put Seattle ahead of its time -- and has continued to do so.

What now remains are more than 20 acres of buildings, gardens, plazas, fountains and sculptures owned and operated by the city of Seattle. With its 12 million visitors per year, Seattle Center is one of the largest visitor destination in the United States.

Seattle Center House

Let's start with the Food Court in the Seattle Center House. Several affordable and casual dining outlets feature local and international cuisine. Stop by Seattle icons like Starbucks and Seattle Fudge for a mocha or a tempting dessert after your meal!

Kiddies busy themselves driving toy cars in the children's play area while waiting for their parents to finish eating. In the Center House you'll find four retail stores with a vast selection of apparel, crafts and Northwest souvenirs. Many family programs and public events are also held here such as festivals from different countries and ballroom dancing. No admission charge exists for the Center House.

The Children's Museum

Take the elevator or stairs to the lower level of the Center House and enter a world designed for children, ages two and up. Kids race from one interactive child-size exhibit to another, exploring world cultures, painting in an art studio or serving food in a Mexican restaurant.

The toddlers enjoy driving a Metro bus and filling it with gas, while the older children manipulate pulleys, pipes, mazes and levers in Cog City. All ages are fond of performing on the Bijou Theatre stage, which has props, lights and sound effects. Children love this place where they can easily spend several hours discovering and learning.

Find out more at thechildrensmuseum.org, or in our article about the museum -- Seattle Children's Museum: Wonders around every corner.

The International Fountain

The scoop

Seattle Center is located at 305 Harrison Street in Seattle. Visit www.seattlecenter.com, or call 206.684.7200 for information.

Children adore running in and out of the sprinkler system provided by the International Fountain, especially on hot days. Nine thousand gallons of water are continuously recycled and treated three different times before they reach the public. This very well may be the cleanest water in the city.

Originally built for the Seattle World's Fair, the International Fountain was completely renovated and expanded in 1995. Now children frolic in the fountain bowl right up to the smooth silver dome while others lounge around the edges. Synchronized water and music shows last up to 12 minutes and take advantage of 150 mist nozzles, 77 fleurs-de-lis, 56 micro-shooters and four super shooters. Getting soaked, soaking up the sun or just watching people is free.

Seattle Center Monorail

Built for the Seattle World's Fair, the monorail transports passengers between Seattle Center and downtown Seattle in 90 seconds. The streamlined aluminum passenger cars were designed by an Italian automobile-building firm and built in West Germany. Alweg Rapid Transit, a Swedish firm, created the 1.2-mile run. The entire structure consists of 15,000 tons of concrete and almost 1,000 tons of steel.

Besides giving you a dynamic view of the city, the monorail now runs through the outer shell of the Experience Music Project. It conveys more than three million passengers a year. Get monorail information and maps at seattlemonorail.com.

Experience Music Project

Completed and opened last year, the Experience Music Project (EMP) celebrates musical diversity. Whether you prefer jazz, blues, hip-hop, funk, country, rock 'n' roll or another form of popular music, you'll find an exhibit to your liking. All exhibits, many of which are interactive, were created to commemorate the history of American music.

This 140,000-square-foot structure cost $100 million to build, and looks like something out of a science fiction movie. EMP feels like a dynamic ride experience with interpretive and hands-on displays that tell the story of American popular music. It is the first institution of its kind in the world. Empmuseum.org

Pacific Science Center

FamilyFun Magazine voted Seattle's Pacific Science Center one of the top 10 attractions in the nation. With tons of interactive exhibits, this destination provides fun for the entire family. Meet a Tyrannosaurus Rex close up; experiment with computers, robots and other technical wonders; or enjoy a dazzling display of science in action at one of the demonstrations provided on stage. Check with the ticket booth for times of daily demonstrations.

Basic exhibit admission to the Pacific Science Center is $8 for adults 14 to 64 years of age, $5.50 for those three to 13 and anyone under three gets in free. Exhibit admission includes more than six acres of hands-on exhibits, planetarium shows and demonstrations. Adding an IMAX show or other feature increases the admission cost. Call (206) 443-2001 for details or look at the Pacific Science Center web site.

Other Center attractions

Yes, there's more. Seattle Center holds the key to many of our city's signature, cultural and artistic venues, including the Space Needle, Seattle Center Sculpture Garden, the Northwest Craft Center gallery, the Seattle Children's Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre and Intiman Playhouse.

Sports abound in the Pacific Northwest. The KeyArena, located on the Seattle Center grounds, hosts many sports teams including our women's basketball team, the Seattle Storm. Seattle Center SkatePark, a 2009 addition to the center, was designed by skateboarders for skateboarders and provides an 8,900-square-foot outdoor park for all ages and skill levels.

The forlorn cry of "there's nothing to do" won't be heard at the Seattle Center.

More about Seattle

Seattle Children's Museum: Wonders around every corner

Be a tourist in your own town: Visit the Space Needle!

Seattle's kid-friendly zoo

Photo by neighborhoods.org

Seattle center map

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