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 2019 at home, try 12 grapes before midnight and other lucky New Year's Eve treats from around the world and toast the new year in celebratory fashion with 12 amazing mocktails and cocktails.
Family activities for New Year’s Eve: Monday, Dec. 31, 2018
The Children’s Museum of Tacoma's Music Shakers: 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 every day and the museum is open 10 a.m.–8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31.
New Year's Celebration at KidsQuest: It's an all-day New Year’s celebration at KidsQuest Children's Museum this year. Activities happening every hour include a New Year’s Eve storytime (11 a.m.), streamer-making (1 p.m.) and the always entertaining — and ultra-noisy — Bubble Wrap Stomp (10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.). All activities are included with admission. The museum is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Dec. 31 and special activities take place 10 a.m.–4:15 p.m.
Imagine Children's Museum Pajama Party: 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.
Hands On Children's Museum's Noon Year's Eve Party: Go on a famous-character-themed New Year's exploration and practice engineering and pneumatics with the Three Little Pigs, enjoy a "Goodnight Moon" bubble printmaker station, Oobleck chemistry demos with Dr. Seuss 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. The museum is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31.
Noon Year’s Eve Celebration at KiDiMu: Join the daytime fun and countdown to noon balloon drop plus other holiday festivities. The museum is open 10 a.m.–1 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31. All special activities are included with regular admission or membership.
Go skating at seasonal skating rinks: Get your glide on at seasonal skating rinks open on New Year's Eve. The Winterfest rink at Seattle Center, Bellevue Downtown ice rink, Frozen Fountain at Point Ruston, Oly on Ice and the rink at Redmond Town Center are all open on Monday, Dec. 31. Hours vary, check links for times. (Tip: Most of these rinks are open Jan. 1 as well.)
Seattle Center’s New Year’s Eve celebration: There is plenty of family fun to be had at Seattle Center's annual Winterfest celebration. Come early to take in the last of the Winterfest train and village (open until 6 p.m.) or go for an evening skate at the ice rink (open until 11:30 p.m.). Spend a little time at the beautiful outdoor International Fountain of Light featuring music mixes created by James Whetzel. If you have older kids, join the free, all-ages, New Year's Eve dance party with the band Sway. 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.
First Night Tacoma: This popular, all-ages street party is unfortunately cancelled for this year.
Family activities for New Year’s Day: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019
Free Polar Bear Plunges: For a truly invigorating start to 2019, 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. All free.
Resolution Run and Polar Bear Dive: 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 schedule of activities online.
First Day Hikes: Kick off 2019 with a big dose of nature by joining a free, organized hike in one of Washington's amazing state parks. Check the schedule online and pick one that suits your family — you'll find hikes at Cama Beach, Fort Flagler, Lake Easton, Dash Point and plenty more places. And if you don't fancy joining an organized hike, Jan. 1 is a state parks free day, when the usual Discover Pass parking pass requirement is waived.
Editor's note: This article was originally published a few years ago and updated most recently for 2018.