With the little elves out of school for winter break, it’s time to plan some fun-tastic outings to celebrate the season (and help burn off all that candy cane energy). That’s why we’ve compiled a list of get-out-of-house, unique-to-the-season outings and activities to help make the most of your family’s time. Read on and get ready to start your winter break staycation Seattle style!

The whirling tradition of the Holiday Carousel returns on Friday, November 27 at Westlake Park. Kids of all ages are welcome to take a spin, with a suggested donation of three dollars. Proceeds benefit the work of Treehouse, providing foster kids a childhood and a future. Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. Sunday: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Special Hours: Nov. 27: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. Dec. 13: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. Dec. 24: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Dec. 25: CLOSED Dec. 31: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Jan. 1: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

photo: Christopher Nelson

1. Head Downtown. We all know Seattle is an amazing place to live – and it’s an even better place to play especially this time of year. Explore the sights and sounds of downtown Seattle (from the carousel, to the Star Wars-themed gingerbread houses, to The Teddy Bear Suite); view the holiday lights in our favorite Seattle neighborhoods and along Candy Cane Lane; and experience Festivals of Light at the Seattle Children’s Museum. Plus, watch the snow fall inside Pacific Place or become a tourist in our own city with a winter stroll through the Pike Place Market and a ride on the Great Wheel.

Redmond Town Center - Seize the Season 

photo: Redmond Town Center 

2. Eastside Festivities. If you’re a Westsider, the Eastside is definitely worth a visit, especially around the holidays. Bellevue goes all out with a huge ice skating rink at Bellevue Park; there’s nightly celebrations along Snowflake Lane and Celebration Lane; and the Bellevue Botanical Garden’s Garden d’Lights display will be dazzling families through the New Year. Kirkland, Redmond, Renton and other Eastside cities also have a variety of festive holiday activities that will keep everyone in your brood happy and entertained over the long break.

Paradise Visitor's Center on Mt. Rainier

photo: Pennuja via flickr

3. The Hills are Alive. Bundle up and hit the pow pow! Our area boasts an amazing variety of sledding hills, including the Summit at Snoqualmie, Hyak, Paradise Visitor’s Center at Mt. Rainer, Suncadia, White Pass and more. Grab your sled, saucer or garbage can lid and let it fly!

Leavenworth, Washington (Appx. Population 2,050)

photo: Icicle TV

4. Worth the Drive. If you’re into a longer drive or just need to escape the city for the day, check out a Bavarian-style Christmas in downtown Leavenworth. Definitely worth the time in the car, Leavenworth goes all out for the holidays with town-wide decorations, carolers, roasted chestnuts, a giant Christmas tree (with a mini, impromptu sledding hill in town center), and of course warm cocoa and bratwurst.

Oldies but Goodies

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

5. Animal Fun! Local lions, tigers, bears – and fish! – all get into the holiday spirit during winter break. While the colder weather can make the animals less likely to prance around, it’s still a great time (think less crowded!) to visit favorites like Woodland Park Zoo’s WildLights, Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s ZooLights, Issaquah’s Cougar Mountain Zoo’s Reindeer Festival and the Seattle Aquarium.


6. Bill Nye-It. Our area is flush with fan-tastic museums and exhibits for kids and now is the perfect time to check ‘em all out. Head to the Pacific Science Center, Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, KidsQuest Museum, Seattle Children’s Museum, Bainbridge Island’s KidiMu, Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia or EMP. Psst… the new Hello Kitty exhibit is not to be missed!

Suncadia Resort

7. Go Take a Hike. Bundle up and get up-close-and-personal with Mother Nature. With (the possibility of) snow on the ground, everything looks sparkly and special. Extra bonus – you can burn off those holiday cookies, cocoa and cocktails. Check out these Washington State Parks and activities which are just as festive in the winter months.

Kirkland Firemen (2)

photo: Jennifer Davis

8. Chug Chug, Beep Beep. Our hometown heroes are still working hard over the holiday break, so take junior down to visit your local fire station or police station (check first to see if there’s a better day/time for a pop by). If you’ve got a little train buff on your hands, chug over to these spots see or ride on a steam train.

A Christmas Carolphoto: Chris Bennion

9. Lights, Camera, Action! Dress up in your theater finest and take in a holiday production. Beyond the variety of Nutcracker shows around the city, there’s something for everyone with theater programs like Storybook Theater and Seattle Children’s Theater and festive faves like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Sound of Music at the 5th Avenue Theatre.

DaBuDa play space_Bellevue

photo: Jennifer Davis

10. Park n’ Play. The local swing set might be old news in your household, so check out a new-to-you park like the Eastside’s Google Park in Kirkland or some classic Seattle Parks. Or keep ’em indoors and try a new Eastside indoor play place if the weather isn’t exactly perfect for outside fun.

Does your family have a favorite holiday activity? How are you planning to keep the kids busy over winter break? Tell us in the Comments below!

— Jennifer B. Davis

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