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Singing Along to Northwest Folklife Festival: How to Rock It With Kids

From singing workshops to break dancing and family dances, our top Folklife picks and tips

Courtesy Northwest Folklife Festival
Photo credit: Northwest Folklife Festival
If you can navigate the crowds without losing your kids or your cool, the Northwest Folklife Festival is one of Seattle's most amazing (and affordable) family events. Featuring thousands of performers from cultural communities around the Northwest, as well as buskers, dance performances, workshops and more, it's an opportunity to introduce your children to the world in the most accessible way possible: through music, art and dance. 
Plus, there is a dedicated space just for families: The Discovery Zone boasts an ever-growing roster of activities and performances. See the full 2016 Folklife schedule to figure out your Folklife game plan (you can log in and bookmark your faves), but here are some top tips for this year's fest. (Thanks to Folklife programming staff for their recommendations.)
Tip: Don't miss entering our Folklife-sponsored giveaway of ZinZanni tickets!

Home base: The Discovery Zone

Kids build boats at the Discovery Zone

Ground zero for families at Folklife with younger kids is the Discovery Zone, a fenced area in the Next 50 Pavilion that offers a full schedule of performances, hands-on activities and more kid fun. Highlights this year include Gage Academy of Art's pop-up drawing jam, toy boat-building with The Center for Wooden Boats, exploring rhythm with Seattle Children's Museum and activities inspired by Northwest African American Museum's new exhibit Posing Beauty: Finding the Beauty Within. Check out the Discovery Zone page online for schedule updates. 

And if you need some chill time, the Discovery Zone also features a covered area with picnic tables where the whole family can recoup and plan the next stop.

Cultural focus: The Power of the Human Voice

This year's cultural focus of Folklife couldn't be simpler, or more compelling: The Power of the Human Voice. "Singing is one of the most natural means of human communication and expression," says Folklife programming staff, explaining their choice. "Songs play an essential part of the social fabric of cultures."

Tip: To find singing-focused performances, activities and workshops, follow the music-note icon throughout the schedule. Here are some highlights that families will particularly enjoy.  

Singalong with Paul Mooselips, Discovery Zone Stage, Friday, 2–2:50 p.m.

Seattle Opera Presents: Our EarthCornish Playhouse, Saturday, 11 a.m.–1 p.m

Singalong with Pastor Patrinell Wright, Fisher Green Stage, Saturday, 1:35–2:05 p.m.

Family Dance: Singing Games for all ages, Armory Lofts – Dance, Sunday, 2 p.m.

Youth Voices of South India Showcase, Center Theater, Monday, 11 a.m.

Greater Choral Consortium: Play Songs, Discovery Zone Stage, Monday, 3 p.m. 

Beyond the Discovery Zone: Program highlights around the Seattle Center for families

Folklife is by nature a family-friendly festival, but you can follow the balloon icon on your Festival guide to find the most family-oriented performances. Here are a few highlights for families.

Colors & Cultures of India | Credit: Piper Hanson

Friday performances

Youth Bollywood Dance, Open-Air Dance Stage, Friday, 1–1:45 p.m.

North City Rockers, Open-Air Dance Stage, Friday, 3–3:45 p.m.

Saturday performances

Seattle Opera Presents: Our Earth, Cornish Playhouse, Saturday, 11 a.m.–1 p.m.

Family Friendly Rhythm Jam, Rhythm Tent, Saturday, noon–12:50 p.m.

Arts Corps Presents: Massive Break Challenge, Bagley Wright Theatre, Saturday, 3–5 p.m.

Family Dance: Stuart Williams and his Sprouts, Armory Lofts – Dance, Saturday, 2–3:30 p.m.

Courtesy Folklife Festival

Sunday performances

Marimba on the Fountain Lawn, Fountain Lawn Stage, Sunday, 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

206 Zulu Showcase: Kids breakdancing competition, EMP Skychurch, Sunday, noon–2 p.m.

Southeast Seattle Community Youth Orchestra showcase, Mural Amphitheater, Sunday, 3–4 p.m.

The Not-Its play the Kindependent Show! on Monday, May 30

Monday performances

Kindiependent Show!, Fountain Lawn Stage, Monday, 11–2:30 p.m

Melody Institute Dance, Open-Air Dance Stage, Monday, noon–12:45 p.m.

KlezKidz, Mural Amphitheater, Monday, 3:45-4:15 p.m.

Folklife: Owuor Arunga

Places to tune in and tune out with baby in tow

If you're bringing really young kids to the festival, staff recommend venues in particular. The Fisher Green Stage is a centrally located outdoor venue. The surrounding area is grass, and is a perfect location to set up a picnic blanket to sit and enjoy acoustic music. 

The Folklife Café is an indoor venue that features smaller musical acts with ample seating. Parents and babies can hang out in the back and enjoy the music with the audience, and there’s room to duck out if you need to.

Take a look at the festival grounds map and scope out more calm spots ahead of time.

Artists at Play
Artists at Play playground, Seattle Center | Photo credit: Highwire

More fun at the Seattle Center

Seattle Center, of course, is packed with more family-friendly ways to play, explore the arts and learn. Here are few we especially love. 

Artists at Play playground: which opened Memorial Day weekend last year, offers an epic climbing tower and many musical elements, plus a fully accessible carousel. Find it near the EMP Museum.
Dupen Fountain: A quieter fountain/wading pool near Key Arena makes a nice counterpoint to the craziness of the International Fountain. 

The new KEXP: Also located near Key Arena, KEXP's Gathering Space and café is a wonderful place to hang out any day: order treats and excellent espresso; check out the DJ at work; take a tour.

The Art of the Brick Pacific Science Center: Opening Saturday of Memorial Day weekend (talk about good timing!) is the The Art of the Brick exhibit by artist Nathan Sawaya, a collection of artworks made exclusively from Lego. 

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