Northwest Trek: A Fabulous Seattle Day Trip

Several months ago, we visited Northwest Trek Wildlife Park for the first time. Located in rural Pierce County, Northwest Trek is a fabulous way to meet some of the Northwest’s critters up close and in the animals’ natural habitat — yes, at the same time.

The Tram Tour takes passengers on a 50-minute circular loop through tall grass, evergreen forest and past mountain-fed lakes. The guide kept up the informational, fact-packed patter on our trip, and answered all and any questions — no question was too silly or small. She slowed so we could take photos of bison, bighorn rams and bull elk. Half the fun was watching the tramful of children get so excited at spotting well-camouflaged deer or

Reindeer harem at kid-friendly Northwest Trek in Tacoma

A reindeer harem at Northwest Trek. Really, that’s what it’s called…

The animals are obviously used to visitors; I swear a few posed for the excited toddlers and preschoolers (and photo-taking parents). The tram tour was my favorite part, but the guides make it clear that the tram is not stopping or turning back, so it’s not a good idea for babies, overtired and upset preschoolers or well, claustrophobes.

Once off the tram, we splashed in puddles along the pavement on the Walking Tour. The kids (being kids) often spotted the  creatures faster than adults did, from black bears to turkey vultures.

Walking Tour at NW Trek

Walking Tour at NW Trek

The Cheney Family Discovery Center resembled one of the better National Park visitor centers. Here, kids could touch pelts, compare their armspan to an eagle’s or play with puppets.

Cheney Family Center NW Trek

Measuring up at NW Trek’s Cheney Family Center

I’d like to go back and try the ziplines, which welcome kids from ages 6 and up; we’ll need to make a reservation to try those.

I didn’t love the cafeteria food in the cafeteria, however, and I didn’t love the nonexistent breakfast options. I would bring a lunch, next time, or drive to Tacoma, about 45 minutes away.

It’s not cheap ($18.25 for adults), you’ll often find Northwest Trek deals and coupons, if you keep an eye out. For example, the Chinook Book offers one free youth admission with one paid adult admission.

The story behind Northwest Trek (part of Metro Parks Tacoma) is fascinating and beautiful; read more about Connie Hellyer, the woman who donated the land.

Free Museums in Seattle and Tacoma with Kids

Seattle Art Museum: A museum that participates in free museums

Seattle Art Museum

Updated for Summer 2013

Here’s a rundown of Seattle’s free museums. I’ve included my opinion on the ages that will get the most out of the experience.

Every Friday Free Seattle Museum:

Soundbridge at Benaroya Hall. 200 University St.,  Seattle; 206-336-6600. Pay-what-you-can every Friday from 10-4. Suggested donation $5-15/family. Best for children under age 6.

First Thursday Free Seattle Museums:

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Free. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., University of Washington, NE 45th Street and 17th Avenue NE; 206-543-5590. Best for kids age 3 and up.

Henry Art Gallery. “Pay as you wish” (or free) 11 a.m.-9 p.m. First Thursday, University of Washington, NE 45th Street and 17th Avenue NE. Best for kids age 6 and up.

KiDiMu. Free 10-4,301 Ravine Lane NE,  Bainbridge Island. 206-855-4650. Best for the 6 and under set.

Museum of Flight. Free 5-9 p.m., 9404 E. Marginal Way S.; 206-764-5720. Best for kids age 3 and up.

Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). Free 10 a.m.-8 p.m., 860 Terry Avenue N ; 206-324-1126. Best for kids age 3 and up.

Nordic Heritage Museum. Free 10 a.m. -4 p.m., 3014 NW 67th Street,
Seattle; 206-789-5707. Best for kids age 6 and up, but the museum often offers preschool-targeted storytimes on first Tuesdays.

Northwest African American Museum. Free 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., 2300 S. Massachusetts St.; 206-518-6000. Best for kids age 6 and up. Also free on the second Thursday of the month.

Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Free 10 a.m.-9 p.m. First Thursday, 100 University St.; 206-654-3100. Best for kids age 5 and up.

Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM). Free 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Volunteer Park, 1400 E. Prospect St., Seattle; 206-654-3100. Best for kids age 6 and up. Also free on the second Thursday from 5-9 p.m.

Wing Luke Asian Museum. Free 10 a.m.-8 p.m., 719 S. King Street; 206-623-5124. Best for kids age 8 and up, except during”Family Day” on third Saturday.

First Friday Free Tacoma & Bellevue Museums:

Children’s Museum of Tacoma. Free admission from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., 936 Broadway Ave., Tacoma, 253-627-6031. Best for kids age 6 and under. Museum is typically “pay as you will.”

Bellevue Arts Museum. Free admission from 11 a.m.-8 p.m., 510 Bellevue Way NE; 425-519-0770. Here is BAM’s cool guide to visiting the art museum with your family.

First Saturday Free Seattle Museum:

Seattle Asian Art Museum. Free admission from 10 a.m. -5 p.m. on “Family Day,” with arts activities and movies.

Third Thursday Free Tacoma and Bellevue Museums:

KidsQuest Children’s Museum. Free admission from 5-8 p.m., 4091 Factoria Square Mall SE, Bellevue, 425-637-8100. Best for kids 6 and under.

Tacoma Art Museum. Free 10 a.m. — 8 p.m., 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253- 272-4258. Best for kids age 6 and up.

Museum of Glass. Free 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 1801 Dock St., Tacoma. 1-866-4-MUSEUM. Best for kids age 7 and up.

Washington State History Museum. Free 2 p.m.-8 p.m. 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, Toll-free 1-888-BE THERE (1-888-238-4373). Best for  kids age 3 and up.

Third Friday Free Everett Museum:

Imagine Children’s Museum. Free admission from 5-9 p.m., 1502 Wall St., Everett. 425-258-1006. Best for babies and up.

Third Saturday Free Museum in Seattle

Wing Luke Asian Museum. “Family Day,” with arts activities included, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Free Seattle Museums — Free all the time:

Center for Wooden Boats. 10 a.m. – 8 p.m during summer, 1010 Valley Street, Seattle, 206-382-2628. Best for kids age 5 and up.

Frye Art Museum. Tuesday through Saturday  10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday,  Noon to 5 p.m., 704 Terry Avenue Seattle, 206-622-9250. Best for kids age 5 and up.

Olympic Sculpture Park. 30 minutes prior to sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset; 2901 Western Avenue, Seattle, 206-654-3100. Best for kids age 2 and up.

Seattle Children’s Museum. “Pay as you wish” last hour of the day (4-5 p.m.). 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, 206-441-1768. Best for ages 6 and under.