For generations of Seattle-area families, Labor Day Weekend has meant one thing – Bumbershoot. The huge arts and music festival has always had a remarkable lineup of rising new bands and big-name acts, as well as theater and film offerings, art exhibitions and food and crafts vendors. Together, these offerings have made Bumbershoot the summer festival to end other summer festivals (literally, as it is over Labor Day weekend).
But recent financial challenges led to important changes in Bumbershoot, including an increase in ticket prices. Bumbershoot still has a killer lineup and a special kid-focused minifestival in Youngershoot. But festival passes for a family of four with children 8 years or older cost a whopping $996 today. It’s just not an option for many of us.
If you’re a longtime Bumberfan who has been priced out of the festival, don’t lose hope. There is still plenty to do during Labor Day weekend. Here are a few options particularly appealing to families.
Oak Harbor Music Festival, Whidbey Island
With 30 bands on two stages, the lineup at Oak Harbor Music Festival represents a wide range of musical styles performed by mostly local artists. You can see favorites like Marc Broussard, Vaudeville Etiquette and MoPOP's 2016 Sound Off Winners The Fame Riot. Performances on Friday only take place at night, but there is music all day on Saturday and Sunday. The best part? Admission to the festival is free.
Details: Friday–Sunday, Sept. 1–3. Oak Harbor. Campsites are $75 for the weekend at Brown Paper Tickets.
Tumbleweed Music Festival, Richland
This Richland festival makes up in scale what it lacks in volume. Hear nearly 100 acoustic acts on five stages along the banks of the Columbia River, or participate in more than 30 workshops on songwriting, instrument playing and performance tips. Friday night is Youth Night, where young performers take center stage. Except for the Saturday night performance of three headlining acts and the dance on Sunday, all events are free.
Details: Friday–Sunday, Sept. 1–3. Richland. Free except for Saturday night concert and Sunday dance.
Olympic Music Festival, Port Townsend
This festival features chamber music in an intimate setting with an educational twist. Part of a full summer season of classical music, Labor Day Weekend showcases a string quartet performing masterworks of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. The concert will be performed on both Saturday and Sunday. Minimum age to attend is 7 years old.
Details: Saturday, Sept. 2 and Sunday, Sept. 3 at 2 p.m. Port Townsend. Ages 7–12 are free but must reserve a seat. Adult tickets cost $33–$40.
Summer Concerts at the Ballard Locks, Seattle
If you don’t want to head out of town, but you still want a weekend filled with music, consider the free concerts at the Ballard Locks. Bring a blanket and enjoy a picnic while you listen to STRUM (that’s Seattle’s Totally Relaxed Ukulele Musicians) on Saturday and Michael Clune & Sleep till Noon Band on Monday.
Details: Saturday and Monday, Sept. 2 and 4 at 2 p.m. Ballard Locks, Seattle. Free, except for parking (consider riding bikes — the Burke Gilman Trail passes right by the Locks).
Out to Lunch concerts, Seattle
Sponsored by the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, the Out to Lunch concert series features some of Seattle’s most beloved local artists. Noon performances are scattered around the downtown area in city parks and open spaces all summer long. See one of Seattle's hottest up-and-comers Ayron Jones perform his hard core take on the blues in the final concert of this summer lunchtime series on Friday, Sept. 1.
Details: Friday, Sept. 1 at noon; Occidental Park, Seattle. Free.
With a full schedule of music and performances that includes a dedicated children’s stage, and lots of family activities all weekend long, Bremerton’s Blackberry Festival is one of the Puget Sound’s most family-friendly summer festivals. Two of the biggest hits are the Fun Run (and the Kids’ Berry Dash) and the Fly-In, where, weather permitting, kids can take a free 15-minute airplane ride at the nearby Bremerton Airport. The flights for kids are part of the Young Eagles Program to introduce kids to hobby flying. There is also a hot-rod show taking place at the airport to keep people busy while they wait their turn.
Details: Saturday–Monday, Sept. 2–4. Bremerton. Free.
Can Can Matinee, Seattle
At first blush, cabaret would seem better for a date night, but the Can Can throws an all-ages matinee every weekend, and Labor Day Weekend is no exception. The hour-long dance, comedy and acrobatics performance is recommended for ages 12 and up, but all ages are welcome. Despite sharing tales from Seattle’s colorful history, the hosts note that the matinee cabaret will not expose younger children to more language, violence and nudity than a Justin Bieber concert. Food on the brunch menu is sourced almost exclusively from Pike Place Market vendors. Read our review here.
Details: Saturday–Sunday, Sept. 2 and 3, at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Pike Place Market, Seattle. Tickets $10 - $18 each plus cost of brunch.
Evergreen State Fair, Monroe
The smaller state fair in Monroe is a nice alternative to the outsize Puyallup (held in September). City kids who have never heard of 4-H will be amazed to see the sheep, cattle and even llamas hand raised by kids their own age. They might even be inspired to take up a new hobby after viewing the prize-winning handicrafts and artworks on display. At the carnival, the thrill rides are separated from the kiddie rides, making it easier for families to find rides they can all enjoy. (Note that even kiddie rides have a 36-inch height requirement.)
Details: Daily, from Thursday, Aug. 24 to Monday, Sept. 4. Monroe, Washington. Advance tickets to the fair are under $10 and carnival tickets are $30. Concerts and other special events require special tickets; rates vary. For deals and discounts visit evergreenfair.org/192/Fair-Deals.
Lasso your kids and head over the pass to the Ellensburg Rodeo, an annual tradition since 1923 and one of the country’s top professional rodeos. Tickets to the rodeo include admission to the local county fair. If your kids’ closest encounter with a cow was at Woodland Park Zoo, rodeo is an American tradition that may feel like an exotic foreign culture.
Details: Friday–Monday, Sept. 1–4. Ellensburg. Ticket prices range from $16–$36 and include admission to the Kittitas County Fair. Extreme Bulls and Rockin' the Arena require a separate ticket.
If your family has already turned its back on summer and is looking forward to snowfall, then you probably already have plans to hit SkiBonkers, the annual giant snow gear sale in Bellevue. Kids outgrow their gear quickly, and evolving technology limits the lifespan of hand-me-downs. Measure your kids, check your gear and stock up before school starts. You never know when winter is coming.
Details: Thursday, Aug. 31 to Monday, Sept. 4. Bellevue, Washington. Free admission.