The holiday season has a way of making us appreciate local landmarks, especially when seen through the perspective of visiting family or wide-eyed children. I’ll admit to occasionally taking Seattle Center’s abundance of activities for granted, but a sprinkle of festive lights and a few new activities made it the perfect spot for a recent family-friendly holiday itinerary.
My mom, my 7-year-old daughter, and I started our girls’ trip by hopping on board the Seattle Center Monorail from Westlake Center. The window seats offer a perfect view of downtown decorations, including the tall fir tree in Westlake Park.
Note to families: Thanks to a state funding program, kids under 18 ride transit for free. However, Seattle Center Monorail requires a Youth Orca card for children ages 6-18 to access a free fare. Make sure to bring yours or purchase a youth ticket on-site for $1.75.
Walk right off the monorail into the Armory building, home to Seattle Center’s Winterfest. For over 40 years, families like ours have made visiting the spectacular train and winter village a treasured tradition. The train operates from 10 am-6 pm daily until December 31. Eager engineers can even steer the cars around the tracks as guest operators under the kind mentorship of community volunteers.
Operating the vintage train at Winterfest at Seattle Center Natasha Dillinger
Pick up a scavenger hunt at the main station and take a few laps around the village to complete it. Most questions change annually, but I happen to know that a certain dare-ing aerialist keeps their Symetra insurance policy every year. Turn in your finished paper to the Customer Service desk behind the festively decorated stage. Then pick up a snack and settle in for some live entertainment on weekends (check the schedule to see what’s playing).
In keeping with the polar theme, we headed downstairs for our next stop: a visit to the Seattle Children’s Museum Winter Market. This cozy seasonal space brings the snow indoors with activities like decorating a snowperson with felt pieces, roasting a s’more over a lifelike fire, and sliding over a sock skating rink. My daughter loved serving pretend cocoa and treats from the market stall and we spent an hour in the space before moving on to the museum’s permanent exhibits. You can visit the Winter Market through January 28 and it makes a perfect tie-in to our next stop!
Exploring the Winter Market at Seattle Children’s Museum Natasha Dillinger
Our Canadian neighbors in Vancouver have enjoyed a festive Christmas market for over a decade and it’s finally Seattle’s turn! The Seattle Christmas Market brings a taste of traditional German-style Christkindlmarkts to the heart of Seattle Center through December 24.
After our Children’s Museum visit, we headed to the South Fountain Lawn with our timed tickets and made a beeline for the carousel. Despite the crowd of excited market-goers, the queue moved quickly and we never waited more than one cycle to climb aboard. There are plenty of ponies for everyone, but my daughter made it her mission to ride the unconventional menagerie members. Watch for animals like an ostrich, a billy goat, a rooster, and a very popular teal dragon.
Pausing at the central pyramid, we listened to carolers and picked up Glühwein for the grown-ups (a non-alcoholic kinderpunsch is perfect for anyone avoiding alcohol) and then meandered through the market’s artisan stalls. We even recognized several of our favorite small businesses (hello, Macadons!).
Seattle Christmas Market’s central pyramid Natasha Dillinger
Our two-hour visit started at 4 pm and coincided with dinnertime. This allowed us to see the market transition between a festive day and a glimmery evening, and made us hungry! Purchasing a few snacks like roasted nuts and pretzel knots held off hanger while we waited in a few lines for heartier fare. Alternating stops on our wandering dinner with carousel rides and a few fun photo ops allowed the whole group to stay engaged. Make sure you pause for a smooch under the mistletoe at Lover’s Lane and look up at the twinkly lights as you stroll through the giant walk-through tree!
Seattle Christmas Market at Seattle Center Natasha Dillinger
All good things have to come to an end. With bedtime fast approaching, we capped off our day trip with a front-row monorail seat and a quick stop at Westlake Park‘s brilliant light sculptures before taking the light rail home. May your holiday season be equally merry and bright as you sample all that a wintery visit to Seattle Center has to offer!