Around the Sound in 20 Days…With Teenage Boys

Great Wheel - photo by LM

Nico, Jaspar, Sam, me and Cole. Photo by Lori Magaro.

Chances are, if you have a teenage son you worry that whatever destination you choose for vacation you will find him trudging begrudgingly behind you, head down, hoodie up and hands in his pockets. Possibly muttering about how “lame” this place is and wishing he was home hanging out with his friends.

Fear not. Come to Seattle and your son (and a couple of his buddies if you can swing it) will be Facebooking and Snapchatting about how you are the coolest mom/dad on the planet and…okay, fantasy over. But seriously, Seattle is a great place to bring teenagers and, I promise, they won’t be bored.

Ride the Ducks - photo by Jamie Beers

Cole and Nico riding the Ducks. Photo by Lori Magaro.

I recently took on the challenge of entertaining teenage boys when my 15-year-old son Cole and I welcomed Nico, a 16-year-old exchange student from France, into our home for three weeks. Fortunately for us, Nico is an “anything goes” kind of kid, so pretty much everything I suggested was met with enthusiasm.

Straight from Sea-Tac, we hit the ground running with a walk through the Pike Place Market to the Waterfront and lunch at Seatown – which has an eclectic menu friendly to both adult and youth tastes.

Tiny Ninja Cafe - The Hebephrenics - photo by Mike Weaver

Rocking the Tiny Ninja Cafe. Photo by Lori Magaro.

Providing no rest for the jet-lagged, Nico joined Cole and three of his friends on Ride the Ducks (don’t forget the quackers) and the kids had a blast touring Seattle, singing and waving to people on the streets and in their houseboats. After the Ducks, they chilled out at EMP Museum – an excellent stop for music-loving teens. We actually go to EMP a few times a year to check out the different exhibits. Make sure you stop in the gift shop for a Nirvana t-shirt and new stickers for the guitar case. That evening we scored tickets to see the CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifying soccer matches at CenturyLink Field. This was a special event, but check out the Seattle Sounders FC schedule and be sure to squeeze in a match if your son is a soccer fan/player. Tickets are affordable and the matches are only 90 minutes – perfect for attention-challenged teens.

Fremont Troll - photo by LM

Teens meet troll. Photo by Lori Magaro.

Throughout the next couple weeks, we visited the Seattle Aquarium (the octopi, seals and otters are entertaining regardless of visitors’ ages), rode The Seattle Great Wheel (breathtaking views), took an Argosy Harbor Cruise, and made a nighttime visit to the infamous Fremont Troll. We visited the Ballard Locks (and got to see a section of the 520 Bridge float through) and took a picnic down to Golden Gardens for some beach soccer and s’mores over a bonfire.

Paddleboarding Shilshole Bay - photo by Cindy Howard

Surfin’ Ballard. Photo by Cindy Howard.

If your son is like mine, he’s active and wants to be outside – on the water if possible. Seattle has a huge array of easily accessible options. We rented paddleboards (and wetsuits) from Surf Ballard and paddled around Shilshole Bay in Ballard – entertaining the guests on the deck at Ray’s Café – where we dined for lunch afterwards. We took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island and kayaked around Eagle Harbor with the help of a guide from Exotic Aquatics. The boys took a daytrip to Eastern Washington for whitewater rafting. We discovered parasailing a little too late, but will definitely give this a try in the future.

Although we didn’t do this, Seattle and the surrounding Olympic and Cascade Mountains provide excellent terrain for hiking and camping. Also worth exploring is a zip-lining trip through the trees with Canopy Tours Northwest, which you can combine with a ferry ride to Camano Island.

Seattle has a lot of all-ages music venues, and ones that encourage teen bands to perform on their stages. The Vera Project books great youth bands, and Fremont’s Tiny Ninja Café offers a Teen Music Night as well as an open mic night – where Cole, with his special French guest, performed with his band The Hebephrenics. Seattle’s School of Rock puts on season shows three times a year with some of the most talented young musicians you will ever hear, so check out their website and take in a show if you are lucky enough to be in town when they are performing.

We capped off Nico’s visit with a shopping trip downtown to make sure he had souvenirs for himself and gifts for his family. Abercrombie & Fitch was a hit with this age group and Starbucks provided the fuel for a few hours of intense spending.

SkyCity - Lunar Orbiter - photo by LM

At the Space Needle. Photo by Lori Magaro.

No visit to Seattle would be complete without a trip to the Space Needle. On Nico’s last night, we amped it up with dinner at Skycity Restaurant. Make sure you bring a postcard or note if you decide to dine here. The restaurant revolves at a rate of once every 45 minutes and if you put a note on the sill, it will pass by all the other diners seated by the window. The custom is to write a little message and put it back. If you are lucky, you get the card back. Nico did this and just over an hour later, he had “Bonjours,” “Au Revoirs” and well wishes from guests visiting from all over the world – something he will never forget. We played like tourists and ordered the Lunar Orbiter (fun even for a teenager) – go for it.

Tired after a day of fun - photo by LM

Photo by Lori Magaro.

So, if you have a teenage boy (or will have one visiting), make Seattle the destination for your next vacation. You may be tired, but I guarantee, you and he will have a trip you’ll always remember!

About the Author

Lori Magaro

Lori Magaro was a Executive Assistant to the President/CEO of Visit Seattle. In her free time, she enjoys urban hiking, climbing stadium stairs at soccer practice, dining out with friends, seeing live music in small venues, and aspiring to be the “cool” mom to her athletic rock-star teen son.

More Posts By Lori Magaro



  1. Hi could you give me information to find a camp near Seattle or in seattle for my teenager, a young boy who is 16 years old. He will go in friends famille in Seattle tao weeks im agust 22.

    Trankil you
    Havé à Nice Day.

  2. Hi,
    Any suggestions for a scenic boat ride (half day or full day trip) to enjoy Puget Sound? Perhaps one that takes us round trip to a fun little town or destination?
    Thanks for any suggestions!!!

    • Hi Karen! I would suggest checking out Clipper Vacations or Argosy Cruises for ideas on exploring on the water. Alternatively, you could keep it simpler and hop on the Washington State Ferry system with a daytrip to Bainbridge Island or the San Juan Islands.

  3. Could you list a couple of hotels you would recommend for older teens (17-19)? Maybe a couple in Seattle and maybe one on an island?

    Thanks so much,


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