Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker, with sets and costumes designed by the late Maurice Sendak, is the ballet that most Puget Sound families choose to introduce their children to dance for good reason. But that popularity can make a visit to the ballet a little more challenging than it might be at other times. If this is your family’s first time seeing Nutcracker, check out our in-depth story first, then read these extra tips.
1. Do bring your boys. It is true that ballet is a perfect activity for little princesses, but there is plenty for boys to enjoy, too, especially at Nutcracker. After all, the title character is a prince. There is a sword dancer and a rousing battle scene (with cannon fire!) in the first act. The little boy sitting in front of me today was so excited by the giant leaps of the dervishes in Act Two that I thought he might try to join them on stage.
2. Arrive early. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Parking can take time and nearby garages can fill up. You’ll need time to find your seats, take pictures, visit the restrooms, pick up booster seats, try out all the special activities, and maybe check coats and pre-order snacks for intermission. All of these things make your visit more comfortable – if you’re not in a hurry.
3. Make a snack plan. Even with multiple concessions on every floor, when there’s a full house you could find yourself standing in line for the entire intermission – and still not get your pink-frosted cupcake with a ballerina on top before the bell rings for the second act. If you want snacks during intermission, either bring them from home, stand in line to pre-order when you arrive, or preorder the $15/person “Family Matinee Nutcracker Suite” online before you leave home.
4. Have an exit strategy. Nutcracker is a perfect family ballet, with short, colorful dances that keep most kids’ attention. In an audience of families, whispered questions and misplaced applause are more likely to bring smiles than scowls. But if it just isn’t working out for whatever reason, you can watch the performance on monitors in the lobby.
5. Take your time at the end. The Mercer Garage, attached to McCaw Hall by a sky bridge, is the most convenient place to park. But when full, as often happens during the Nutcracker run, it can take a while to clear out. Instead of rushing to sit in traffic, take your time when the ballet ends. Return booster seats to their shelves, use the restrooms one last time, and enjoy the photo opportunities in a less-crowded lobby. Then return to your car in an empty garage. You’ll stress less and save gas.
If you go ...
When: Nutcracker runs from Friday, Dec. 7 to Saturday Dec. 29. Show times for this year’s 30 performances are listed online. Arrive early to allow time for parking, pre-ordering intermission snacks, participating in pre-show activities, and collecting booster seats. Nutcracker performances run approximately two hours, including one intermission.
Where: Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street, on the north edge of Seattle Center. Booster seats can be borrowed at no cost, and binoculars can be rented for $5. Snacks are expensive at McCaw Hall. You can bring your own, but be sure to keep them sealed and well-stowed during the performance. No food is allowed in the auditorium.
Tickets: Tickets range from $25–$135; buy online at pnb.org. Every family member must have a ticket, but the price is discounted for children 12 and under. There are no bad seats at McCaw Hall — do not hesitate to buy the cheapest seats available. Group discounts are available.
Parking: The Mercer Garage is connected to McCaw Hall by a sky bridge. Rates vary from $5–$15 depending on events at Seattle Center. Other pay lots in the neighborhood have similar pricing. Street parking is limited to 4 hours, and hard to come by. Consider taking the bus — look online to plan your route.
About the author: Gemma Alexander has been to PNB’s Nutcracker almost every year since 1993. This year will be especially memorable, as she is introducing her youngest daughter, who just turned 4, to the tradition.