Can’t stay up ‘til midnight? No babysitter? No problem — make ringing in the new year a family affair. Read on for top family outings around the Sound for both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
And if you're ushering in 2020 at home, try a sparkling science experiment or one of these other fun ways to ring in the new year at home, and toast the new year in celebratory fashion with 12 amazing mocktails and cocktails.
Family activities for New Year’s Eve: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019
Hands On Children's Museum's Noon Year's Eve Party: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Go on a famous-character-themed New Year's exploration and practice engineering with the Three Little Pigs, create Where the Wild Things Are accessories, Oobleck chemistry demos with Dr. Seuss, design a catapult to rescue Rapunzel and a Harry Potter wand-making station. There will also be face-painting, dancing, special food, parades, prizes and a ball-drop every hour! Activities included with regular museum admission or membership.
Noon Year’s Eve Celebration at KiDiMu: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Join the daytime fun at this Bainbridge kids' museum with a countdown-to-noon balloon drop plus other holiday festivities. All special activities are included with regular admission or membership.
New Year's Celebration at KidsQuest: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
It's an all-day New Year’s celebration at KidsQuest Children's Museum this year. Activities happen every hour and include New Year’s Eve story time, New Year's hat-making and the always entertaining — and ultra-noisy — bubble wrap stomp! All activities are included with admission or membership. The museum is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Dec. 31, and special activities take place 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
The Children's Museum of Tacoma's music shaker party: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Kids can make plenty of noise celebrating the new year after creating their very own musical shaker. Stop in any time. Every hour, museum staff will lead visitors in a dance party with everyone playing their new music maker! Admission is pay-what-you-can for this event and every day.
Seattle Center Winterfest activities: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 10 a.m.–midnight.
There is plenty of family fun to be had at Seattle Center's annual Winterfest celebration. Catch a last glimpse of the train and village (open until 6 p.m. in the Armory) or go for an evening skate at the ice rink (open until 11:30 p.m. in Fisher Pavilion). If you have older kids, join the free, all-ages dance party in the Armory horn- and vocal-rich band Left Turn on Blue. The dance party goes from 8–11:45 p.m. Dance for an hour and have the kiddos tucked into bed by 10 p.m. Or go the distance and catch the Space Needle fireworks at midnight.
First Night Tacoma: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 5 p.m.–midnight.
After taking a year off, this family focused New Year's street party is back! First Night includes a bedtime-friendly countdown at 9 p.m. in addition to the real one at midnight. When not counting down, enjoy the famed "world's shortest parade," family activities, performances on numerous stages plus fire pits and food trucks to keep everyone comfy. Buy your button in advance for $14; $18 day of. Kids ages 11 and under are free.
Imagine Children's Museum Pajama Party: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 7–9 p.m.
Buy your tickets in advance and pick out your best jammies for Imagine's New Year's Eve family bash. Enjoy a variety show, glow bowling, caricatures, party hats and more. This party begins at 7 p.m. and the evening culminates in an East Coast midnight (that’s 9 p.m. here) ball drop that promises to be spectacular! Ball drop is outdoors, rain or shine. Tickets are $15 per person in advance and $20 at the door, space permitting.
Skate out 2019: Tuesday, Dec. 31 (times vary)
Close out the year with a family ice-skating outing. In addition to the Winterfest rink at Seattle Center, the Bellevue Downtown ice rink, Frozen Fountain at Point Ruston, Oly on Ice and the rink at Redmond Town Center are all open on Tuesday, Dec. 31. Hours vary, check links for times. (Tip: Most of these rinks are open Jan. 1 as well!)
Family activities for New Year’s Day: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020
Free Polar Bear Plunges: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020 (times vary)
For a truly invigorating start to 2020, may we suggest one of the region’s several Polar Bear Plunges? Pick your poison — the Sound or a lake. For Lake Washington, try the Matthews Beach plunge, reportedly the oldest in the area. Even if you can’t stomach a dip, it’s fun to watch others show their courage. But bring your towel just in case you get caught up in the moment. All free.
Resolution Run and Polar Bear Dive: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, 10:30 a.m.
If you want to get warm by running prior to your plunge, try a combo run and dip at Magnuson Park in Seattle. The post-race celebration includes a free kids' dash for children 10 and under, a beer garden for the 21 and over set and a post-race chili feed. $40–$45; kids' dash free. The run begins at 10:30 a.m.; be sure to check the full timeline of activities online.
First Day Hikes: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020 (times vary)
Kick off 2020 with a healthy dose of nature by joining a free, organized hike in one of Washington's many amazing state parks. Check the schedule online and pick one that suits your family — you'll find hikes at popular spots such as Cama Beach, Fort Casey, Kopachuck State Park, Lake Sammamish State Park and Larrabee State Park. And if you don't fancy joining a guided group hike, Jan. 1 is a state parks free day, when the usual Discover Pass parking pass requirement is waived. Pick any park you like and go exploring.
Editor's note: This article was originally published a few years ago and updated most recently for 2019.