Outings + Activities | Travel | Arts | Holidays

Priced Out of Bumbershoot? Here Are 11 Awesome Alternatives

Music festivals, free concerts, a ski sale, a rodeo and more Labor Day weekend fun

Ellensburg Rodeo. Photo credit: Bill Lawless
Ellensburg Rodeo. Photo credit: Bill Lawless

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. This year's Bumbershoot still has a killer lineup (Billy Idol, Death Cab for Cutie, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis) and a special kid-focused minifestival in Youngershoot. It's even added a new food program called B-eats that features local chefs. But festival passes for a family of four with children 8 years or older cost a whopping $900 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.

Fly Moon Royalty, Oak Harbor Music Festival
See Fly Moon Royalty at the Oak Harbor Music Festival

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 hometown favorites like Ayron Jones, Fly Moon Royalty and EMP 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. 2–4. Oak Harbor. Campsites are $25 at Brown Paper Tickets

Tumbleweed Music Festival, Richland
Tumbleweed Music Festival, Richland

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. 2–4. Richland. Free except for Saturday night concert and Sunday dance, with tickets at $8 adult/$5 teens.

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 Beethoven, Brahms and Dvorak. The concert will be performed on both Saturday and Sunday. Minimum age to attend is 7 years old.

Details: Saturday, Sept. 3 and Sunday, Sept. 4 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, Around the Sound Band playing famous marches, movies and show tunes on Sunday and Michael Clune & Sleep till Noon Band on Monday.

Details: Saturday–Monday, Sept. 3–5 at 2 p.m. Ballard Locks, Seattle. Free, except for parking (consider riding bikes — the Burke Gilman Trail passes right by the Locks).

Naomi Wachira will play an Out to Lunch concert on Friday, Sept. 2
Naomi Wachira will play an Out to Lunch concert on Friday, Sept. 2

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 Bumbershoot veteran and local sweetheart Naomi Wachira perform her modern take on folk music in the final concert of this summer lunchtime series on Friday, Sept. 2.

Details: Friday, Sept. 2 at noon; Van Vorst Plaza in South Lake Union, Seattle. Free. 

Japan Fair
Japan Fair

Japan Fair at Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue

Celebrate the traditional arts and modern culture of Japan at Bellevue's free Japan Fair. See performances, play games, eat festival food both new and familiar and don’t even try to resist the allure of Japanese toys in the marketplace.

Details: Saturday–Sunday, Sept. 3–4. Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue. Free, with free parking.


Young Eagles program flights
Young Eagles program flights

Bremerton Blackberry Festival

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. 3–5. Bremerton. Free.

Matinee Cabaret at the Can Can, 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.

Details: Saturday–Sunday, Sept. 3 and 4, at 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Pike Place Market, Seattle. Tickets $10 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 4H 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. 25 to Monday, Sept. 5. Monroe, Washington. Advance tickets to the fair are under $10 and carnival tickets are $25. Concerts and other special events require special tickets; rates vary. For deals and discounts visit evergreenfair.org/192/Fair-Deals.

Courtesy Evergreen State Fair website
Courtesy Evergreen State Fair website

Ellensburg Rodeo

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.

 Friday–Monday, Sept. 2–5. Ellensburg. Ticket prices range from $16–$36 and include admission to the Kittitas County Fair. Extreme Bulls and the Cinch Shootout require a separate ticket.

SkiBonkers, Bellevue

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: Wednesday, Aug. 31 to Monday, Sept. 5. Bellevue, Washington. Free admission.

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