Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

outdoor activities for kids

Serenity and Ryan Ulsberger with Elliott, 4, and Eva, 2, enjoy the Family Nature Experience at Tacoma Nature Center, led by a preschool teacher naturalist. (Joshua Huston photo)

Get outside! Fun, guided activities for Seattle-area families

Here's where to find family-oriented outdoor adventures with expert leaders.

Looking for outdoor activities for kids? Let’s face it. Getting out of the house in the middle of winter is a little more challenging. It’s chilly, it’s dark and someone always seems to be missing a mitten. If your family has had one too many cozy days on the couch this season, you can capture some motivation from the experienced hosts of local guided activities … and opt for an outdoor adventure. 

Tacoma Nature Center Family Nature Experience

You don’t have to drive for hours to have a guided outdoor experience. Enjoy a private winter family walk and learn all about plant and animal adaptations to the seasons. (An optional Turtle Time indoor add-on is available).

When: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Select Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

Where: Tacoma Nature Center, 1919 S. Tyler St., Tacoma. 

Cost: $35 per family up to 6 people ($30 for members). Must be from the same household or pod.

Age guidelines: Little ones welcome. Adaptable for most developmental stages.

Register: Request a time at least 1 to 2 weeks in advance by emailing tnc@tacomaparks.com or calling 253-404-3930.

Kids listen attentively as Amy, an instructor with Mount Rainier Institute, explains how to make a playdough spider from a laminated model. Photo by Natasha Dillinger

More outdoor activities for kids:

Mount Rainier Institute 

This partnership between the University of Washington and Mount Rainier National Park offers year-round family programming, but the sweetest option is their Big Leaf Maple Syrup Program. Families have hands-on opportunities to learn about these special trees and the process of syrup making, plus a chance to taste-test! 

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on select dates between Jan. 21 and Feb. 13.

Where: Pack Forest at 9010 453rd St. E. in Eatonville.

Cost: $45 per family of 2, $60 per family of 3, $70 per family of 4, $80 per family of 5. Children 2 and under are free.

Age guidelines: Designed for kids 8 and up, but my toddler and kindergartner have participated and loved this program.

Register: Online at rainierinstitute.org.

Wenatchee River Institute

Take in the scenic views on a two-hour guided snowshoe stroll. You’ll learn about the P’squosa (Wenatchi) people and the local plants and animals they’ve stewarded since time immemorial. Snowshoes are provided for participants age 6 and up. (Bonus: Poles and gaiters are provided at the fish hatchery.)

When: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in January and February (starting Jan. 6). Various midday times. 

Where: Choose between two Leavenworth locations: the Wenatchee River Institute (WRI) at 347 Division St. or the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery at 12790 Fish Hatchery Road.

Cost: $5 per person at the WRI, $15 per adult or $10 per youth (6 to 14) at the fish hatchery. Children 5 and under are free.

Age guidelines: All ages are welcome, but there are no snowshoes small enough for kids under 6.

Register: Online at wenatcheeriverinstitute.org

Bellevue Parks Guided Hikes

Outdoor programming has resumed in Bellevue and families can choose from three locations: Lake Hills Greenbelt, Lewis Creek Park and the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center. Winter registration doesn’t begin until Dec. 20 (Dec. 13 for Bellevue residents), but programs generally include a mild walk of a mile or less as participants examine flora and fauna. Special programming (like a night hike) is occasionally available. 

When: Various start times, but typically Saturday mornings at Lewis Creek and afternoons at Lake Hills and Mercer Slough.

Where: Lake Hills: 15416 SE 16th St. Lewis Creek Park: 5808 Lakemont Blvd. SE. Mercer Slough: 1625 118th Ave. SE. (All in Bellevue.)

Cost: Free

Age guidelines: Geared toward kids age 5 and up; all ages are welcome

Register: Online at register.bellevuewa.gov. Groups are limited to 15 to 20 participants. 

Outdoors for All 

This local organization focuses on supporting individuals with disabilities in outdoor sports and offers lessons in downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

When: Saturday and Sunday half-day sessions starting in January. 

Where: Summit at Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass.

Cost: Starts at $500 for a seven-week session with scholarships available. Gear rental and lift tickets are extra. 

Age guidelines: Age 7 and up.

Register: Online at outdoorsforall.org

Find more things to do in our Family Event Calendar