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10 Nighttime Adventures for Northwest Kids and Families

See the stars, explore the woods, peer under the sea and more — after dark

Published on: January 09, 2018

stars trees

Night comes early on these dark winter days. But don’t curse the dark — take advantage and explore nature at night with your kids. Summertime is made for easy days when you want to play outside forever. But it's too hard for littles to stay up late enough to hunt for owls or see the stars in summer — and if they did, it would wreck bedtime for days.

Want to go on a nighttime adventure with kids at a reasonable hour? Enter winter! Thank you, early darkness. (Never thought we'd say that.) So bundle up, wear your boots, grab your headlamps and explore the darker side of the great outdoors. From star parties to beachside explorations to treks in the nighttime woods searching for owls, we've got a mountain of exciting ideas. 

barred owl

Owl prowls

Head out to Seward Park, which boasts an old growth forest right in the city, for an owl-centric adventure. Start off with owl pellet dissection (this is seriously one of the coolest things a kid can do — and don’t worry, germo-phobes — they are sterilized) and then head into the darkness to search for owls in the wild. Tip: These walks are incredibly popular so sign up early!

Location: Seward Park Audubon Center, Seattle
Dates: Friday, March 16, 7–9 p.m.; Friday, April 20 7:30–9:30 p.m.; Friday, May 11, 8–10 p.m.
Register: Online 
Cost: $10
Ages: 10 and up

Pier Peer

Explore the deep sea after dark, without leaving the dock with this Tacoma Nature Center program. Local divers bring up funky finds you can explore hands-on with flashlights. After inspecting what the divers collect, head inside for cocoa to warm up and learn more about undersea creatures.

Location: Point Defiance Marina, Tacoma
Dates: Saturday, Jan. 20, 7:30–9 p.m.; Saturday, March 10, 7:30–9 p.m.
Register: Preregister by calling 253-591-6439
Cost: $10
Ages: 8 and up

Night hikes at Lewis Creek Park

Another chance to learn about the animals that are active after dark in the park. Bring your headlamp on this ranger-led hike around fantastic Lewis Creek Park.

Location: Lewis Creek Park, Bellevue
Dates: Friday, Jan. 26, 6–7:30 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 16, 6:30–8 p.m.
Register: Preregister by calling 425-452-4195
Cost: Free
Ages: 5 and up

girl with headlamp

Mercer Slough night walks

Pacific Science Center and Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center team up to teach families all about nocturnal creatures. Get hands-on in the lab and then head out for a guided night hike.

Location: Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center, Bellevue
Dates: Friday, Jan. 26, 7–9 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 16, 7–9 p.m.; Friday, March 30, 7–9 p.m.; Friday, April 20, 7–9 p.m.
Register: Call 206-443-2925 or email mercersloughprograms@pacsci.org
Cost: $15; $12 for Pacific Science Center members
Ages: 6 and up

Moonlight beach walks at low tide

Put on your rubber boots, bring your flashlight or headlamp and explore Burien’s shoreline in the moonlight. End the evening with activities and refreshments inside.

Location: Environmental Science Center at Seahurst Park, Burien
Date: Saturday, Jan. 27, 6–8 p.m.
Register: Online
Cost: Free; preregister
Ages: All ages

tide pool

Nighttime low tide beach walk

Bundle up and join beach naturalists in the dark to explore tide pools by flashlight. The Seattle Aquarium hosts this walk.

Location: Constellation Park/South Alki Beach, Seattle
Date: Sunday, Jan. 28, 7–9 p.m.
Register: No registration necessary
Cost: Free
Ages: All ages

Starlight low tide beach walks

Explore the tidal zone along the Saratoga Passage at Cama Beach by flashlight, with naturalists on hand to help identify finds. You will need a Discover Pass to park your car at this state park.

Location: Cama Beach State Park, Camano Island
Dates: Monday, Jan. 29, 8:15–9:15 p.m.; Wednesday, Feb. 28, 8:45–9:45 p.m.
Register: No registration necessary
Cost: Free; Discover Pass required to park
Ages: All ages

Full moon salamander walks

It’s salamander mating season! Bring your flashlight and search for salamanders at Camp Long in West Seattle.

Location: Camp Long, Seattle
Dates: Saturday, Feb. 2, 7–9 p.m.; Friday, March 2, 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Register: Online for course #172445 or #172446
Cost: $10
Ages: 6 and up

Pier into the Night
Credit: Harbor WildWatch

Pier Into the Night with Live Dive

Trained SCUBA divers explore what's happening under the surface of Puget Sound at night. You stay dry and take a "virtual dive," watching what they see on the big screen in this program from Harbor WildWatch.

Location: Jerisich Dock, Gig Harbor
Dates: Saturday, Feb. 3, 6–7 p.m.; Saturday, March 3, 7–8 p.m.
Register: No registration necessary
Cost: Suggested donation $2/person or $5/family
Ages: All ages

Discovery in the Dark: A No-Moon Adventure

Take advantage of a moonless night and learn about nocturnal animals that inhabit wild and wonderful Discovery Park.

Location: Discovery Park, Seattle
Date: Saturday, Feb. 10, 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Register: Online for course #172429
Cost: $10
Ages: 8 and up

No Flashlight Night Hike

You won't be exploring the woods by flashlight on this walk; leave the lights behind and let your eyes adjust to the dark. Expect to learn about bats, night vision and wintergreen-flavored mints (hmmm...).

Location: Seward Park, Seattle
Date: Monday, Feb. 12, 7:30–9 p.m.
Register: Online
Cost: $12
Ages: All ages

Lake Hills Greenbelt Evening Hike

Learn all about nocturnal animals in the greenbelt on a guided hike at this Eastside favorite.

Location: Lake Hills Greenbelt, Bellevue
Date: Friday, Feb. 16, 7–8 p.m.
Register: Call 425-452-6993 or email ParkRangerProgram@bellevuewa.gov
Cost: Free
Ages: All ages

starry night
Credit: Evgeni Tcher/Pixabay

Star parties

Join members of the Seattle Astronomical Society at a public Star Party. Members share their knowledge, telescopes and love of astronomy with all. You don’t have to arrive right at the start time; viewing generally lasts several hours. Some parties are specifically geared toward newcomers, but all are open to anyone, check the website for details. Note that parties are sometimes canceled due to bad weather so always check online prior to traveling.

Locations: Multiple locations, see schedule

  • Rattlesnake Mountain Trailhead, Snoqualmie (Jan. 13, Feb. 17)
  • Covington Community Park, Covington (Jan. 19, Feb. 23, March 23)
  • Green River Natural Resource Area, Kent (Jan. 20)
  • Green Lake (near the Bathhouse Theater), Seattle (Jan. 20, Feb. 24, March 24)
  • Paramount School Park, Shoreline (Feb. 24, March 24)

Dates: select Fridays and Saturdays, Jan. 13–March 24, 2018
Register: No registration necessary; but confirm on website before heading out
Cost: Free
Ages: All ages

frog in pondFrog Hop at Lewis Creek Park

It’s finally spring and time for frog song! Learn all about our froggy friends and explore the park with your flashlight as you listen and look for amphibians in the park.

Location: Lewis Creek Park, Bellevue
Dates: Friday, March 23, 7–8:30 p.m.
Register: Preregister by calling 425-452-4195
Cost: Free
Ages: 5 and up

More options..

If none of these organized outings work for you, consider setting up your own private nighttime tour. Or just play outside in the dark at home with these 10 fun ideas.

Stewart’s Stewardship Adventures in Nature

Naturalist Stewart Wechsler leads custom nature adventures.

Location: Varies
Date: Your choice
Register: Online or by email to ecostewart@gmail.com or by phone at 206-932-7225
Cost: $40/hour + setup fees
Ages: All ages

Tacoma Nature Center

Gather a group of at least 10–12 people and request your own adventure with Tacoma Nature Center.

Location: Varies
Date: Your choice
Register: Email briannac@tacomaparks.com for information and rates
Cost: Varies
Ages: All ages

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