Staying Sane During the Holidays: 36 Things to do With Kids Over Winter Break

by Elisa Murray

Do you foresee cabin fever in your future? Never fear, here’s a long list of relatively cheap adventures to have in and around Seattle during winter break. Want more? Try the book that I recently edited, “52 Seattle Adventures With Kids(psst, makes a good holiday gift, too!).

For specific events, check ParentMap’s online calendar. Other great resources are A Year of Seattle Parks, The Hiker Mama blog and NW Tripfinder.

Add your favorite ways to keep your kids entertained over winter break in the comments. It takes a village to stay sane during school breaks!

Note: This article assumes you know about most of the well-known attractions around Seattle, and focuses on lesser-known attractions. Also, it does not include day trips and snow fun. Look around on ParentMap for those, like this sledding article.

Enjoy your winter break !!

Holiday fun on the cheap and playing tourist:

  1. Seattle Center Winterfest: performances (during the weekend), ice skating, ice sculpting, model train, and the rest of Seattle Center is right there. Oh, and visit the Gates Foundation Visitor Center just across the street, essentially a free museum on global poverty and development.

  2. Pier 57, downtown Seattle: Seattle Aquarium, the Great Wheel and the super-cool Wings Over Washington show (where you literally feel like you’re flying).

  3. Downtown Bellevue: Covered open-air ice skating at Downtown Bellevue Park, Bellevue Arts Museum (fun crafty events on the weekend), Snowflake Lane show every night.

  4. Botanical Garden Garden d’lights: Fantastic nightly show (only $5, kids are free, look for free nights).

  5. Clam Lights at Gene Coulon Park: Lovely free light show on the water; great park; Kidd Valley and Ivar’s are right there.

    Never underestimate the power of a mall:

  6. Westfield Southcenter: Lego store, Safari indoor play space, Din Tai Fung, 85c Bakery, and Cloud Nice ice cream. Oh yeah, and Santa and shopping, of course.

  7. Redmond Town Center: Uncle’s Games, Santa, small ice rink, REI, and many shops and restaurants.

  8. Crossroads Bellevue: A fantastic international food court, games stores, coin operated rides for the little littles, Half-Price Books and fun shops. Oh, and free performances on the weekends.

  9. Pacific Place: It “snows” every night during the holiday season and is near Westlake Park’s carousel and much more.

    Indoor Play:

  10. Elevated Sportz in Bothell, which according to a reputable source, recently added a ninja warrior course.

  11. Flying Circus in Tukwila: reportedly the region’s biggest trampoline gym.

  12. Playdate SEA is still a hit (free with canned food donation the last Wednesday of the month). Combine it with a trip to REI.

  13. Roller skating! Lynnwood Bowl & Skate, Southgate Roller Rink in White Center (go to Full Tilt afterwards).

  14. Ice skating: Beyond the holiday rinks, Lynnwood Ice Arena is a really nice rink; and Highland in Shoreline has that 80s feel to it.

    Walk-on ferry adventures:

  15. Bainbridge Island: Take the bus downtown to get the ferry for the win; then enjoy Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (free), Kids Discovery Museum (for younger kids), lunch downtown, Mora ice cream.

  16. Bremerton: Take the fast ferry or the slower one. Explore the USS Turner Joy or the free Puget Sound Navy Museum. Explore downtown.

    Rainy-day hikes and playgrounds:

  17. Mercer Slough in Bellevue: climb the treehouse, explore the nature center and then walk the wetland trails. Never crowded!

  18. Lewis Creek Park in Bellevue has a wonderful environmental education center (open only several days a week, so check ahead), with nice trails and a playground.

  19. Cedar River Watershed Center: Another fantastic environmental center and swee trails around Rattlesnake Lake.

  20. Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually Wildlife Refuge: If you’re headed south on I-5, just five minutes off the highway before Olympia find great boardwalk trails, wetlands, wonderful learning center and more.

  21. Miner’s Corner Park, Bothell: This is a fantastic playground worth the drive to Bothell; combine it with a trip to Country Village or more Bothell fun.

  22. Seattle Children’s Playgarden: In Mount Baker neighborhood, this all-abilities playground is a draw for every kid. Check for open hours and combine with a trip to Northwest African American Museum, just around the corner.

  23. Discovery Park: Start at the Environmental Education center; then hike from there. Don’t miss the new playground next door.

  24. Gas Works Park: Just including this because the playground is new and supposed to be great. Essential Baking Company is nearby.

  25. Kubota Garden: Located near Rainier Beach, one of the most beautiful gardens/parks in Seattle. Kids love the winding paths, little bridges and the walk up to the waterfall.

    Quirky museums and winter tours:

  26. Wolfhaven: Just south of Olympia, this wolf sanctuary offers affordable tours in the winter. Book ahead.

  27. Northwest Trek: Headed to Mount Rainier? Stop at Northwest Trek for the tram tour and amazing adventure playground.

  28. Sunday Ice cream cruise from Lake Union: Year round tour on weeknds, run by Seattle ferry service. $3-$12. 45-50 minutes. You can even bring a pet!

  29. Lake Union Park: Loads of indoor fun to explore (Center for Wooden Boats, MOHAI) and fun to walk the paths.

  30. Living Computers Museum: I haven’t been yet, but I here it’s a big hit. Hands-on exploration of the vintage past of computers.

    Destination libraries:

  31. Downtown Seattle Library: Remember how fun it was to go there with your preschooler? It’s stilil there, still awesome, and you can combine with holiday fun.

  32. Beacon Hill Library: Shaped like a boat; take the light rail to the library and also check out the wonderful public plaza outside El Centro de la Raza.

  33. Bellevue Library: Biggest in KCLS, comfy couches, great children’s area; and it’s next to KidsQuest Children’s Museum.


  34. McMenamins Anderson School North Shore Lagoon Swimming Pool, Bothell: It’s got expansive public hours, is super warm, no chlorine, shallow, and after you’re done you can eat at the Tiki bar upstairs.

  35. Lynnwood Recreation Pool: One of the best around Seattle. Two pools, water slides, lazy river and much more.

  36. Meadowbrook Pool: Don’t forget our humble local pool! Look for the public swims, where adults to not have to accompany kids. They bring out a rope swing towards the end.

Elisa Murray is a Wedgwood mom and Seattle-based freelance writer and editor who formerly worked as Out + About editor and then managing editor for ParentMap.