Baby owls calling to their parents in the trees. Bats swooping above your head. Sea stars in the Sound and stars in the sky. It's easy to have a nocturnal adventure this summer with your children with the help of some intriguing local programs.
Night sounds and creatures can sometimes be frightening to young children, but learning about our fascinating nocturnal neighbors can help dispel some of those fears.
Tip: Owl prowling and star-watching can make for a late night, so for young kids, look for late August and September programs that start earlier.
Seward Park Owl Prowls
Every first and third Saturday nights, the naturalists at the Seward Park Environmental & Audubon Center host an Owl Prowl. The class begins in the classroom with owl pellet dissection and learning fascinating facts about our local owl species. Then the class heads out to the trails, searching for the owls that live in the park. You might get lucky and be able to see and hear baby owls begging for food from their parents, or hear the adults calling softly to each other. You’ll learn all kinds of fascinating facts about owl anatomy and ecology.
Tips: This class is popular and fills up quickly. It is appropriate for children over 8; children must be comfortable walking around after dark without a flashlight, walking up to 2 miles, and be able to stay still and quiet on the trail.
Go: Classes begin at dusk and last about 2.5 hours. Register online. Scholarships are available.
Seward Park Bat Quests
Join naturalists for a different learning adventure, a monthly bat walk on Wednesday nights at Seward Park. You’ll discover fascinating tidbits about our local bats, and then go for a walk at dusk to view the flying mammals in person as they swoop over your heads.
Tips: For ages 8 and up. As with the Owl Prowl, children need to be able to stay up late and be comfortable walking after dark on uneven trails.
Go: Register online.
Green Lake bat walks
Local nonprofit group Bats Northwest hosts informational bat talks on several evenings during the summer at Green Lake in Seattle. Volunteers teach about bats and answer questions, and then participants can watch the bats fly around, and listen with echolocators as they forage for food. The bat walks begin near sunset, so they might be late for small children. (As the days get shorter, though, the walks start earlier.)
Tips: Dress for the weather and the cool night air. Meet near the Bathhouse Theater on the northwest side of Green Lake.
Go: Bat walks are free and held at Green Lake every two weeks or so (next date is Wednesday, July 30), starting around sunset. You can find dates and times on their Events Page. These events are free and are held rain or shine.
Park in the Dark at the Arboretum
Take a walk in Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum and learn about night-time animals in one of the Arboretum's programs geared towards families. You’ll learn about how creatures are adapted to the night and you’ll use your senses to experience the gardens in a new way, with educators prompting kids to imagine becoming bat or a moth, testing their sense of smell, and listening to night sounds.
Tips: BYOF (Bring your own flashlight.)
Go: Classes are $8 per person and geared toward families with children ages 6–12, typically lasting an hour and a half. Find classes and register online on or call 206-543-8801.
Summer is a great time to look up at the sky at night. The Seattle Astronomical Society hosts monthly free Star Parties at Green Lake in Seattle and Paramount Park in Shoreline. Times vary depending on the time of sunset; parties are canceled in case of cloudy skies. You can find other places to learn about the sky in this article.
Go: Check the events Page of the SAS website for next dates, times and directions.
Many other parks have one-time events in the evenings.
Magnuson Park has several nighttime walks through the summer, including a "Bats and Beaver" walk on Aug. 8. Friday, Aug. 1, from 8:30-10 p.m. $3/individual or $8/family; register by calling Magnuson Community Center at 206-684-7026.
Edmonds hosts its annual The Moonlight Beach Adventure on Friday, Aug. 22, from 7:30-9 p.m., a diverse family program that brings sea creatures up to the beach and into smaller pools for closer observation. It's free.
Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge
If you plan on making a trip to Eastern Washington, check out the programs at the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge. On Saurday, Aug. 15, they’ll be hosting Bats Among Us from 7–9 p.m. You’ll get to learn how scientists study bats and watch and listen as they use bat detectors to hear what our ears can’t.
The Conboy Lake NWR is also holding an Astronomy Night on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 7:30 p.m. You’ll get to look at the very dark night skies with an astronomy expert – experience a view without light pollution! You can bring your own telescope or binoculars if you have them, or use one provided for the event. For driving directions and more information about the refuge, check their website or call 509-546-8300.