Modern parents are rarely accused of spending too little time with their kids. According to the Pew Research Center, today’s dads and moms log more hours with their children than they did in the 1960s (yes, even working moms, despite all that guilt).
But after we’re done with the homework nagging, chore wrangling and activity ferrying, how many minutes are left for plain old family fun — pinball, ping pong, pizza and the like?
So here's a challenge to set aside the to-do list and plan some pure fun time with your kids: a parent-kid date in the month of love. Try one or all of these 10 old- and new-school ideas for outings around the Sound, which are awesome for one-on-one time and work as family dates as well.
1. Try a new film spot
Families with older kids should check out Cinerama — when it re-opens later this year following renovations — which boasts rotating lobby exhibits (Star Wars costumes), reserved seating and legendary chocolate popcorn! More fun flick picks include Pacific Science Center IMAX shows; Seattle’s Central Cinema (try Cartoon Happy Hour on Thursdays); Mommy & Me screenings Thursday mornings at luxe Lincoln Square Cinemas; or The Grand Cinema, a charming Tacoma spot offering Wednesday morning baby- and sensory-friendly showings, plus a free Family Flick on the third Saturday of each month.
2. Hit the arcade
A surefire way of engaging the most jaded tween or teen, arcades offer a chance for kids and parents to show and share favorite games. Head to one of Full Tilt’s five locations for pinball games, Pac-Man and some of the best ice cream in town; the Seattle Pinball Museum in the Chinatown–International District for a trip down pinball history lane (and more than 50 games); or Dorky’s Arcade in Tacoma for retro pinball and video games, plus classic eats (and the best name ever!). An outing to Living Computers Museum + Labs features arcade games, an '80s living room set up, complete with retro games plugged into the TV, and plenty of other hands-on fun.
3. Walk in the snow together
It’s said that shoulder-to-shoulder conversations are the best way to talk to your kids, especially as they get older — and what could be better than a shoulder-to-shoulder tromp through the snow? Snowshoeing is cheap, easy to learn (can you walk?) and you can do it even when snow conditions aren't great. Start by snowshoeing at the Nordic areas of local ski areas. Or sign up for a ranger-led snowshoe walk at the Jackson Visitor Center at Mount Rainier (for kids ages 8 and up with families).
4. Consider the cosmos
Don’t wait for summer to ponder questions of space, time and whether asteroids are soon to demolish Earth (a recent question from my son). Among our local galaxy of planetariums is the Pierce College Science Dome, a digital planetarium at Lakewood’s Pierce College, which offers three shows every Saturday in its 58-seat auditorium. You can also book a planetarium show at Bellevue College; head to Pacific Science Center’s Willard Smith Planetarium for multiple shows a day (they fill up quickly); or attend an outdoor monthly star party at Seattle’s Green Lake, Shoreline’s Paramount Park, Covington Community Park or other locations, hosted by the Seattle Astronomical Society.
5. Wheel-world fun
Recipe for a fab family night: Lace up a pair of four-wheeled skates (a.k.a. quads), wobble on to the vintage floor of a roller rink and hang on to each other for dear life. If you’re just beginning, try the affordable Friday family skate night at the Bitter Lake Community Center Annex in North Seattle or the Alki Community Center. Other hot spots include rinks such as Southgate Roller Rink (original home to the Rat City Rollergirls), Skate Tiffany's in Puyallup and larger rinks that offer speedier surfaces, such as Federal Way's Pattison’s West. Other great rinks include Lynnwood Bowl and Skate and Skateworld Tacoma (formerly Rollin' 253). Check online for a rink that participates in the awesome Kids Skate Free deal.
6. Get your board game on
In case you haven’t noticed, the Seattle area is enjoying a boom in game stores and cafes — making it easy to while away an afternoon looking for your family’s new favorite way of connecting (and competing). Try Blue Highway Games in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, Meeples Games, a gaming cafe in West Seattle; or Mox Boarding House with outlets in Ballard and Bellevue, where you can try games in real time before you buy while enjoying nibbles and drinks. Locations of Uncle's Games in Bellevue and Redmond also host a variety of gaming gatherings.
7. Go on a treasure hunt
You want to hike, or at least walk outside. Your kid likes technology and treasure. The win-win-win activity is geocaching, a GPS-driven hunt that you can do anywhere in the world, starting with (literally) your own backyard. Our geocaching primer outlines basic caching etiquette and local starting points to get your family into the game, from a hike in old-growth forest on Whidbey Island to a history-driven cache hunt in Port Townsend. Want a lower-tech hunt? Try out this popular painted rock treasure hunt, which you can participate in by searching for rocks or painting and planting your own. At Tacoma Nature Center, check out the Agents of Discovery app for new missions coming up this spring.
8. See a new museum, for free
Did you know that free or pay-what-you-can museum days extend well beyond first Thursdays? Check out the Bellevue Arts Museum for free on first Fridays. Also on first Fridays, Olympia's excellent Hands On Children’s Museum offers free and very cheap admission. Get a dose of the tropics at the renovated Volunteer Park Conservatory, free the first Thursday and first Saturday each month. The fun and tot-focused Children’s Museum of Tacoma is pay-what-you-can every day. The Center for Wooden Boats and the Frye Art Museum, both in Seattle, are free every day. For families with a child on the autism spectrum, Pacific Science Center opens its doors one specific time a month (morning or evening) for you.
9. Take a break (dance)
If you’ve got kids ages 2–6 who love to spin and hop on the kitchen floor, this one’s a no-brainer. Take your budding b-boy or b-girl to an exhilarating Mini Breaks dance class. Organized by Anna Banana Freeze, a member of Seattle’s award-winning breakdancing crew Massive Monkees, Mini Breaks classes, and newer Biggie Breaks, for older kids, take place in a few spots around town. Parent participation encouraged.
10. Go to a show
For starters, check out our family fun calendar — there are always great kid-friendly performances featured there. Shows that look particularly fun or thought-provoking for an upcoming family date include "Little Red," from Storybook Theater; "Frozen," the Broadway musical; "Number the Stars" at Olympia Family Theater and "Snow White," from Seattle Children's Theatre.
Editor's note: This article was originally published a few years ago and has been updated for 2020.