Our family has lots of holiday traditions (Westlake Park lights, WildLanterns at Woodland Park Zoo and Swanson’s Nursery, to name a few), but there’s always room for a little new magic, especially when it’s right down the street. We headed out to check out the new Kringle’s Filling Station for a low-stress weeknight outing.
Kringle’s Filling Station: the story
Never heard of your hosts, Otis and Sparky Kringle? Me neither. These “imagineer” characters were dreamed up by Hotopp Creative Studio, a local design firm with a theater background whose work includes the Kraken’s NHL Expansion Draft event and many Christmas events. I found the backstory a little quirky — two brothers invent machines and gadgets to deliver holiday magic, then hide behind the Santa Claus story and retire to a garage — but Christmas calls for a little faith in the unlikely.
Best not to pay too much attention to the background and just enjoy the scenery. After a photo opp in the Volkswagen-Thing-turned-sleigh, we walked around appreciating the details. You’ll find trees crafted from tires, paint cans, license plates and ladders. Step into Otis and Sparky’s office where SeaTac’s air traffic control tower chatters and you can read letters discussing their new gadgets (like a high-tech Santa suit that’s actually on view at the Mall of America). Staff members in coveralls circulated to point out details we’d missed, answer questions and hand out a map of more nearby holiday activities.
Kringle’s Filling Station: what to do
This spot is like a mini-family fun center. We kicked off the games by playing ring toss on reindeer crafted from PVC pipes and sawhorses. An engine lift with a wooden platform acts like a game of Jenga. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that my 5-year-old balanced more weighted presents than I could before they toppled over. We weren’t quite brave enough to try Holiday Karaoke, even though my kids can loudly outsing each other on “Frosty the Snowman” in the car.
Undoubtedly, the family favorite was ski (nope, not skee) ball. It wasn’t too busy, so we managed to try out all the lanes on our weeknight visit (we got the highest score on the third lane from the left, just saying). My 5-year-old never wanted to stop playing, and the low height of the machines made it easy for her to participate. My 2-year-old couldn’t quite get the hang of an underhanded throw, but he enthusiastically “helped” by pushing the ball-return buttons.
We had so much fun playing that bedtime snuck up on us a bit and we barely had time for perhaps the most unique feature: gas pump hot cocoa. Yep, you read that right. For $4 per cup, you can enjoy chocolate straight from a pump nozzle, which was a huge hit with my kids. It was surprisingly good, especially with whipped cream, and not too hot to drink right away. Ask a staff member where it comes from and see what funny answers you get!
For families like ours who are choosy about indoor activities right now, this is a great option. Most games and photo opps are indoors, but the giant garage doors remain open to provide significant ventilation. There are picnic tables and oil barrel fire pits outside for keeping warm while you sip your cocoa. We’ll be back soon with visiting family before the filling station closes on Christmas Eve!
Kringle’s Filling station details
Where: Kringle’s Filling Station is located at 8211 Aurora Avenue North in Seattle.
When: Runs through Dec. 24. Open 5-10 p.m. weekdays and noon-10 p.m. weekends. Last entry is 30 minutes before closing. Budget about 30 minutes to an hour for your visit unless your kids are big ski ball fans like mine.
Cost: $10 per person. Kids 5 and under are free. A family photo package (which includes hot cocoa) is $35. Reservations not required, but book in advance for best availability.
COVID precautions: Masks required indoors for anyone 2 and older unless actively eating or drinking. Proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours for anyone 12 and older.
Parking: Free street parking in the neighborhood.
Restrooms: Single-stall restroom available near the office space.
Snacks: Limited snacks are available for purchase, and a la carte cocoa is $4 per cup. Nearby, enjoy authentic Laotian food at Flavor Lao Bowl or visit another converted gas station at Bongo’s Cafe to eat Caribbean food on their covered patio (bring sand toys!).