Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Play at the North Transfer Station Community Viewing Room

Watch garbage trucks unload trash while learning more about this essential service

You wouldn’t necessarily think of a transfer station as an ideal spot for kids. Still, the Community Viewing Room at the Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) North Transfer Station is an interactive destination for community members of all ages.

What happens in the Community Viewing Room?

In the Community Viewing Room, you can view the North Transfer Station (NTS) in operation through floor-to-ceiling windows. Trucks of all sizes enter the facility and dump waste as large work vehicles work to put and keep garbage in piles.

But the viewing room is so much more than just a room to watch NTS operations. SPU has created activities and exhibits in the viewing room to engage visitors. You can test your knowledge of where different kinds of waste go by playing a slot-machine type matching game for recycling, composting, and landfill; you can find answers to your waste questions in a Q and A section with small doors revealing the answers, and you can learn about Seattle waste streams.

Learning for everyone

“We are happy to share this space with the community,” notes Lucie Harpster, NTS Manager at SPU. “The viewing room is a welcoming space for everyone and provides learning opportunities for all ages. Visitors can enjoy our education exhibits, public art, and nearby open space (playground).”

On the day of our visit, the room was filled with caregivers and children, ranging in age from babies to four-year-olds. Most of the kids were playing with the toy cars and trucks, driving them around on the carpeted floor or moving them throughout the miniature replica of the transfer station.

Pretend play

My kids spent most of their time watching NTS operations while playing with the toy cars and vehicles. They had a collection of vehicles up near the viewing windows and would check in with what was going on in the transfer station as they played with the toy cars. At one point, I overheard, “Watch how this truck pours its garbage,” as one of them filled up a larger garbage truck toy with smaller cars and poured them out. Another moment, I noticed they were playing with a small work vehicle that looked just like the one they could see on the transfer station floor.

We stayed longer than expected – watching NTS operations and playing with the toy vehicles kept their interest.

Older kids

For older kids, I could imagine coming to the viewing room and using the prompts throughout. Can you spot waste that’s not sorted correctly? And Spot the red recycle bins throughout the facility. – and engaging them with additional questions, such as: What kinds of garbage do you see in the transfer station? Where is all of this garbage going? Or How can we reduce our waste consumption? Viewing the transfer station operations can be engaging for visitors of all ages.

So, whether you’re looking for an indoor outing for your little ones to explore or an educational opportunity for older kids (or a little bit of both for each group), consider visiting the North Transfer Station Community Viewing Room.

Know before you go:

  • If you bring your toy cars to the viewing room, take them home with you. “To ensure the safety of all viewing room visitors,” Harpster notes, “we encourage you to leave your toys at home. If you decide to bring your toys to the viewing room, we ask that you take them with you at the end of your visit.”
  • The North Transfer Station is located at 1350 N 34th St in the Fremont neighborhood.
  • A small parking lot is available for visitors – (it was full the day we visited, but we easily found street parking).
  • The Viewing Room is open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. daily.
  • The room is free to visit.
  • After your visit, stop at the playground just north of the NTS.
  • The South Transfer station also offers a community viewing room.

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Find more things to do on the Seattle’s Child calendar

About the Author

Ellie White

Ellie had the privilege of growing up in our beautiful Pacific Northwest. She currently lives in the Green Lake neighborhood with her husband and twin toddlers.