W.W. Seymour Conservatory in Tacoma's Wright Park. Credit: Curtis Cronn/Flickr CC
Looking for something to do with the kids, but want to stay safe, help stop the spread of the virus and bring this 2020 poopshow to an end?
To serve local families — and stay afloat — local organizations and destinations are offering private, single-household fun, by appointment. You still need to wear masks, book ahead and plan to follow all the safety rules. But at least you can get out of the house!
These outings range from free to super-splurge. Mask up, stay safe and have fun on your private, by-appointment family excursion!
1. Shadow Lake Nature Preserve, Renton
This off-the-beaten-path nature preserve is so cool. Stroll the boardwalk and learn all about the 5,000-year-old peat bog (like, um, what exactly is a peat bog?) as well as about local efforts to preserve the flora- and fauna-rich spot that was once used as a garbage dump. Schedule a reservation for visit online. The preserve is open Tuesday–Saturday.
Cost: Free (donations appreciated)
2. Harbor History Museum Hidden History Walking Tour, Gig Harbor
Sign up for a time slot to join the education coordinator from Gig Harbor's Harbor History Museum for an informative tour. Explore the museum grounds and Donkey Creek as your guide reveals stories of past residents of the area. Tours are offered at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Request a tour time online. The maximum group size is 4 people.
Cost: Free (donations appreciated)
3. W.W. Seymour Conservatory, Tacoma
This lovely botanical conservatory sits on the grounds of Wright Park and a visit reveals some super interesting plants and specimens. Book your visit and your family group or pod of five or fewer people can enjoy an exclusive 30 minutes inside the glass walls.
Cost: $10 per family (additional donations appreciated)
4. Tacoma Nature Center Turtle Time and guided nature walks
Tacoma Nature Center offers two different private family nature experiences. Book a Turtle Time session for your family or pod group of up to six people and meet a turtle ambassador and help care for the center's turtle crew. On a Family Nature Experience, your family or pod will explore the center's trails with a naturalist guide, learning about native flora and fauna. You can also combine the two experiences, each of which lasts about 45–60 minutes. Bookings for either experience are available Monday–Friday at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., plus additional availability Fridays at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. or 11 a.m.
Cost: $35 per family or pod group of up to six people for either experience; combine the two for $60 total. Discount available for Tacoma Nature Center Members. Call 253-404-3930 to book.
5. Seattle Chocolate Experience Chocolate Tour, Tukwila
Suit up and step inside Seattle Chocolate's factory where the company's bars and truffles are created. Yes, there are samples! (What you really want to know, right?) It's worth noting that the chocolate-making machinery is generally in operation Monday through Thursday, so book your tour for one of those days for the most action. Also, this tour allows only guests ages 6 and older, and everyone has to wear a hair net and a mask, in addition to following other safety procedures for the indoor tour. Book online for your private household group of five or fewer people.
Cost: $10 per person
6. Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Forest Field Trips, Shoreline
Lovely Kruckeberg Botanic Garden, a hidden gem in Shoreline, is offering private family and small-group field trip tours. Kruckeberg welcomes family or pod groups of up to 10 kids, with a chaperone. Tours last 90 minutes and can be adapted to different ages and grade levels.
Cost: $20 per student for up to 2 kids; $15 per student for a group of 3–4 kids; $12 per student for groups of 5–10 students. All kids and chaperones must wear masks.
7. Oxbow Family Farm Adventure, Carnation
With its usual fall schedule of school field trips off the table, Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center invites private family groups to visit the farm and learn hands-on about local food and sustainability. Our reviewer and her pod had a great time! Book your private Family Farm Adventure online.
Cost: $50–$150 per family or pod group on a self-selecting sliding scale (Oxbow promises not to turn families away if cost is a barrier; contact the farm to inquire about a scholarship)
Missing the movies? AMC Theatres is offering private and small-group scheduled screenings of select movies for $99 and up. Participating AMC Theatres locations around the region include Bellevue Factoria, Kent Station, Lakewood Mall, Seattle Oak Tree, Seattle Pacific Place, Seattle 10 (U District), Southcenter 16 and Woodinville 12. Here's a word of caution: I submitted the request form to try to book a movie, and got an email reply three days later saying that time was sold out, with no alternatives offered. Hopefully they'll improve the booking process to let people choose from what's actually available. But if you're game, give it a shot!
Cost: $99–$349 plus tax, depending on the movie and theater selected
9. Hands On Children's Museum Personal Play Date, Olympia
HOCM is the only children's museum in the region that's open — Thurston County is in Phase 3 of Gov. Inslee's reopening plan. During the day, families can book timed tickets to visit the museum, which has capped capacity. But for a fully private museum visit, you can book the 5:30–7:30 p.m. time slot, Monday–Saturday, for exclusive access to the entire museum for your small group.
Cost: $395 for a two-hour private museum visit for up to 10 people in one household or pod
10. Northwest Trek Keeper Adventure Tour, Eatonville
You've no doubt noticed we're in the "splurge" section of the list now. You can visit Northwest Trek a few different ways this fall. There's Wild Walk, which takes visitors on foot past many resident animals, including skunks, eagles and bears. The Wild Drive experience guides visitors in their own cars through Trek's free-roaming area. For an exclusive, behind-the-scenes experience with a guide, families can book a private Keeper Adventure Tour for up to five people in the same household, ages 5 and older.
Cost: $400 for a 90-minute private jeep tour
Pac Sci promises a COVID-safe "trip out of this world" with its two-hour, exclusive visit to the planetarium for your household group of up to five people. This opportunity is in the super-splurge range, for sure, but it might be suitable for some families for a milestone birthday or similar special occasion.
Cost: $500 for your private household group of up to five people
Bonus: Seattle Japanese Garden
Entry into Seattle's beautiful Japanese garden is not completely exclusive to your group, but it's worth considering as a COVID-safe outing. The garden is issuing timed-entry tickets and limiting capacity. Your family group should be able to maintain distance from other visitors. Note that the ticket purchase process here is frustratingly complex. There are detailed instructions linked at the website for purchasing on a computer or phone — you will need them. And you'll also need to create a Seattle Parks & Rec account if you don't already have one.
Cost: $8 adults; $4 children