Some people dread the gray days of winter, but along with the rain, our longest season offers endless playtime opportunities. Our winter-fun bucket list is filled with ideas from A to Z, indoors and out, wet or dry. Here are the activities, places and resources for a season’s worth of family adventures.
A is for art
Seattle has lots of opportunities for kids to see some of the best art the world has to offer and to let their own creativity shine. Visit the exhibits and get hands on, too, with Seattle Art Museum’s family fun workshops and Tacoma Art Museum’s TAM Studio. Sign up for arts classes at Schack Art Center in Everett, Coyote in Seattle’s Central and Lake City neighborhoods or Open Arts in Tacoma. Does your little artist just want to be free? No problem! Stock up on art supplies and turn their bedroom into an art studio.
B is for build
Kids can use Lego bricks to learn about engineering with e2 Young Engineers. Kids ages 8 and older can join Seattle Makers and take workshops on 3D printing, laser cutting, woodworking and more. The University of Washington’s Youth and Teen program offers architecture and CAD classes for older kids. Seattle ReCreative lets youths build stuff with hot glue and recycled materials at its Belltown Pop-Up Makerspace. Younger kids can get creative in the new tinker space at Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett; the Recycle Rebuild Makers Gallery at KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Bellevue; and Seattle Children’s Museum’s Dunn Lumber Construction Zone or Corner Workshop.
C is for climbing
Try indoor rock climbing this winter before getting your belay on next summer. Kids can climb at most gyms when supervised by a parent. If you’re looking for specialized kids’ programs, Vertical World offers classes in its Seattle, Redmond and Lynnwood locations; so does Edgeworks Climbing + Fitness in Bellevue, Tacoma and Seattle. After-school climbing clubs at Seattle Bouldering Project in Wallingford and Judkins Park are so popular that there’s a lottery for registration. There is also a competitive team for climbers ages 8–18.
If your kids can’t decide between climbing and gymnastics, consider parkour. Parkour Visions offers outdoor classes for kids in four different locations.
D is for day trips
Day trips offer all the excitement of a family vacation at a fraction of the cost, effort and planning. Check out charming little towns with fun names like Steilacoom, visit an island (Whidbey is a great bet), or head north to Lynden in Whatcom County and you’ll feel like you’re a world away from the metro Puget Sound area. Wherever you go, the best part is that you can still be home in time to sleep in your own bed when the adventure is done.
E is for eating
Seattle has a lot of family-friendly food tours that offer the budding foodie treats with a side of education. Chocolate factories are a favorite — Theo, Fran’s (virtual only) and Seattle Chocolate each have tours; the Downtown Seattle Donut Tour is a sweet treat as well. All-ages Seattle Cultural Food Tours in Columbia City draw on the neighborhood’s diverse food cultures, while fans of Asian foods will enjoy Wing Luke Museum’s seasonal food tours of the Chinatown–International District. Savor Seattle hits the foodie highlights at Pike Place Market. Even old-time Seattleites discover something new on the South Lake Union tour hosted by Eat Seattle.
F is for Festál
After a couple of years of virtual activities, Festál is back in person at Seattle Center for its 25th year of celebrating global cultures. The free family-friendly events this winter include musical performances, workshops and treats from Croatia and Turkey. Celebrate holidays such as India’s Diwali and Mexico’s Día de los Muertos. Ring in the Hmong new year in November and then start the year over with Vietnamese Tết in February.
G is for gingerbread
The Sheraton’s Gingerbread Village will be back this year to inspire your own gingerbread house (and the people to live in it) at home. If baking your construction materials isn’t your thing, buy a kit or keep an eye out for gingerbread workshops. Purchase tickets for KidsQuest Children’s Museum’s popular gingerbread workshops, taking place this year on Nov. 25 and 26. The Gingerbread Factory in Leavenworth is worth the trip, but it also offers cookies, houses and kits by mail. For a softer snack, amaze your kids with the flavor of real gingerbread.
H is for hiking
Winter hiking takes a little more preparation; dress warmly, check trail conditions before you go and leave enough time to get back before dark. But the payoff is well worth it. Trails are less crowded, wildlife can be easier to spot and stomping through puddles adds to the fun. Western Washington has lots of amazing winter hikes for families making a day of it. And there are plenty of easy ones close to home, too, including Seattle’s Discovery Park, Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary in Everett and Weowna Park in Bellevue.
I is for indoor playgrounds
The monkey bars may be slippery with rain, but indoor bounce houses, play spaces and trampoline gyms get the wiggles out in any weather. Elevated Sportz in Bothell has trampolines, a foam pit, a laser maze and more. Arena Sports’ multiple locations have different activities, but bounce houses, bowling, laser tag and even zip lines are in the mix. While the littlest kids can be overwhelmed at some trampoline parks, Funtastic Playtorium’s indoor playgrounds are for kids ages 10 and younger, and a host of Seattle-area community centers offer toddler gyms. Find dozens more indoor play destinations here.
J is for juggling
Juggling is entertaining, takes up almost no space and requires no more equipment than a few balls. You don’t even need to pay for lessons; YouTube has lots of tutorials. If your kid masters juggling and wants to do more, consider circus arts. Like gymnastics but with a focus on creativity instead of competition, circus arts boost confidence while building coordination, strength and flexibility. Synapse Circus Center, located in Auburn and at community centers throughout South King County, teaches classes for toddlers through adults. Teens can study at nonprofit SANCA (School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts) or at Emerald City Trapeze Arts, which is known for its professional performances.
K is for Kraken
You’ve probably noticed that Seattle has a hockey team now. Head down to Climate Pledge Arena to catch the Seattle Kraken in action. Thanks to the Kraken, Seattle also has a brand-new, state-of-the-art ice rink, and after watching the game, your kids might be inspired to join a youth hockey league or learn to skate. For family fun, head to a public skate session on the weekend. If Northgate isn’t convenient, check out the ice at nonprofit Lynnwood Ice Center, or head to Sno-King Ice Arenas in Kirkland, Renton or Snoqualmie. Kent Valley Ice Centre has indoor mini golf and batting cages for family members who don’t want to, um, hit the ice.
L is for literature
Did you know that Seattle is a UNESCO City of Literature? Browsing a bookstore on a rainy day is one of life’s great pleasures. But if your kids aren’t jumping into the literary lifestyle, it’s time for story time. Your nearest public library branch — we have both a city library system and a county system in the Seattle area — is a sure bet. For stories celebrating gardens and nature, visit the Miller Library at the UW Botanic Gardens. To make story time extra special, add chocolate at Theo Chocolate in Fremont. Keep an eye out for one of Lil’ Miss Story Hour’s BIPOC-centered public story times.
M is for markets
With the summer crowds behind them, locals have a little more room to breathe at Pike Place Market. If you’ve been avoiding the crowds during the pandemic, now’s the time to rediscover this iconic 115-year-old landmark. Pike Place Market isn’t the only option. Burien and Tacoma have year-round markets, while Seattleites can support neighborhood farmers markets in Ballard, Capitol Hill, the University District and West Seattle during the winter. The Fremont Sunday Market doesn’t sell much produce, but it’s great for artisanal foods, vintage finds and handmade gifts.
N is for needlework
Children can learn fine motor skills, math and creative expression with textile arts. Take private lessons from Sew Maris or find machine-sewing classes at Seattle Makers and Made Sewing Studio. The Seattle Fashion Academy teaches all of the fundamental skills required to develop as a serious fashion designer. Kids can develop sewing and quilting skills at Sew Katie Did. For knitting and embroidery, check out Stitches or Seattle ReCreative (it recently started offering a fiber-spinning class).
O is for ocean
Puget Sound may not be the open ocean, but the new harbor tour by Salish Sea Tours still promises to provide adventure and education. The native-owned and -designed tour, which launches from Miner’s Landing at Pier 57 on two custom catamarans, is filled with art by local Indigenous artists. A member of the Duwamish Tribe narrates the hourlong journey, sharing the history of the city and its Indigenous people. Of course, if you prefer to keep your feet on solid ground, watching the winter waves from the beach is delightful when you’re properly bundled up and provisioned with a thermos of hot cocoa or cider. (Alki Beach and Golden Gardens have legal fire pits.)
P is for pools
Dive into winter by visiting an indoor swimming pool. If you just want to splash around, People’s Pool in Tacoma and the Snohomish Aquatic Center have fun toddler-friendly amenities. For more options, visit our guide to the best indoor pools for kids and families around Puget Sound. If your kids missed out on swimming during the pandemic, signing up for swimming lessons now is a great way to improve their safety while giving them lots of fun and exercise.
Q is for quills
Calligraphy is a fun way to play with letters. The Society for Calligraphy & Handwriting is geared to adults, but some of its members, including Kathy Barker, teach children. Calligraphy is also part of the fun at Seattle Historical Arts for Kids’ December Medieval Arts Week camp. Outschool offers online classes in calligraphy and hand lettering. Handwriting Success sells books, materials and an app for developing beautiful handwriting. Michaels Stores’ online workshops include several calligraphy classes, too. Or you could just buy a simple calligraphy kit with a nib pen (actual quills are too old-school) and a library book to inspire handmade birthday party invitations.
R is for rowing
Rowing offers great exercise and demands cooperation. On Portage Bay, Pocock Rowing Center offers three trial lessons before middle and high school students are asked to commit. Green Lake Crew’s junior program is open to rowers ages 13–19 in grades 8–12. Other junior crew programs are run by the Mount Baker Rowing & Sailing Center, Sammamish Rowing Association and Everett Rowing Association.
If your kid would rather face forward, consider dragon boat racing; Seattle Flying Dragon Boat Club accepts members as young as 12. Got a kid who cares more about nature than competition? Try stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking. Seattle Canoe and Kayak Club has youth programs for kids ages 10 and older.
S is for snow
There are snow many things to do when it snows. Kids are always happy to just play in the snow, while sledding and tubing provide bigger thrills for those without skills. But whether traveling for a ski vacation or swooshing down a mountain closer to home, every Northwest family should try skiing or snowboarding at least once. Cross-country (aka Nordic) skiing and snowshoeing extend family hikes into midwinter. And if your family likes mountain biking in summer, give fat biking a spin.
T is for theater
Everyone loves a good story, and Seattle has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to theater. Seattle Children’s Theatre is nationally respected for its all-ages productions. This winter, SCT is staging “Paddington Saves Christmas” and “Carmela Full of Wishes.” Blue Man Group at The Paramount will captivate audiences, and kids will find lots to love in Broadway musicals such as “The Wiz” at The 5th Avenue Theatre and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” at Village Theatre.
U is for underground
When you’re tired of being indoors, but don’t really want to hang out in the rain, go underground. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour is a classic tourist attraction, but it reveals a part of Seattle even locals can’t find on their own. Kids may or may not pay attention to the (sometimes racy) history shared by the guide on this 75-minute walk through the city’s (literally) buried past. But who can resist the allure of secret underground passageways? No one, that’s who.
V is for volunteering
If you’re struggling to keep your kids occupied with diversions, maybe try to find something more meaningful. Help your child find an issue they care about, such as feeding the hungry or caring for animals. Even the very young can help give back to the community with at-home activities, such as putting together care kits. There are some in-person family-friendly volunteer activities, too, which are great for helping kids see the impact of their efforts. There are even more volunteering options for families with tweens and teens, and some programs in which young people can participate on their own.
W is for whale watching
Unfortunately, many whale species are in danger of extinction; your kids may not get to take their kids whale watching. But taking a responsible whale-watching tour (such as those conducted by Pacific Whale Watch Association operators) now could help spark their desire to be part of the solution. The FRS Clipper and Puget Sound Express cruises leave from Seattle. There are more operators based in the San Juan Islands. If you go to the San Juans, be sure to visit The Whale Museum while you’re there. If just the thought of a whale watching tour has you reaching for the Dramamine, there are several spots (consult the Orca Network’s Whale Sighting map) where you might spot whales from land in winter, including one in West Seattle.
X marks the spot
Convincing kids to head outside for a hike when it’s wet can be a challenge. So, redirect their attention to a different challenge with orienteering, which gives young hikers a map and a compass to focus on. Build map- and compass-reading skills on one of Cascade Orienteering Club’s permanent courses or join one of its family-friendly events. For kids who might need the added incentive of hidden treasure, try geocaching, which uses GPS coordinates to locate cached items instead.
Y is for yoga
The idea of teaching yoga to kids is no longer novel. Whether your kids need a way to destress from school pressure or just a form of rainy-day exercise that won’t trash the house, the benefits of yoga stretch beyond the mat. Seattle Kids Yoga teaches workshops and private whole-family lessons. Seattle Yoga News maintains a list of local studios that offer classed for kids and families.
Z is for zoos
Sure, some animals may take shelter out of view on a chilly day. But just as many will be comfortably wandering out in the open now that summer’s noisy hordes have withdrawn. Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is pretty much the ultimate Northwest animal experience, especially if you spring for a Keeper Adventure Tour. If you’re not a fan of walking around in the drizzle yourself, dedicate your trip to Woodland Park Zoo’s indoor tropical exhibits, or enjoy Seattle Aquarium, most of which is under cover. And of course, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium has everything.