Attending The Nutcracker with Kids

Photo by Lindsay Thomas.


For many young children, attending George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® is a wonderful introduction to the world of ballet: the dazzling costumes, colorful sets, enchanting music, and of course breathtaking choreography and dancing. The Nutcracker is central to many families’ holiday traditions, and continues to inspire the next generation of dancers.


However, how do you prepare a 5-year-old to sit through a two-hour live ballet performance? As Pacific Northwest Ballet rehearses for its performances of The Nutcracker this winter, read up on our expert tips to make sure your visit to McCaw Hall with your children is as exciting and magical as possible.


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PNB School Students. Photo by Angela Sterling.



What To Do/Know Before You Come


  • Introduce your child to The Nutcracker – Read The Nutcracker story at bedtime, listen to the soundtrack by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and show them photos and videos of the production. Be familiar with the plot and characters yourself so you can answer any questions they may have.
  • Make a connection – The sets and costumes for The Nutcracker at Pacific Northwest Ballet have been designed by Ian Falconer, the celebrated author and illustrator of Olivia the Pig. For Olivia fans, The Nutcracker will be a real treat!


1. Drosselmeier, Clara and Nutcracker sketch by Ian Falconer 2014
Drosselmeier, Clara and Nutcracker sketch by Ian Falconer, 2014.


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Set design by Ian Falconer, 2014.


  • Prepare your child for the performance – Each performance is approximately two hours, including one 25-minute intermission. Let your child know there are a few moments in the performance that may be considered “scary,” such as Drosselmeier’s entrance and the battle scene.
  • Buy the best tickets – The performances for young children are the weekend matinees – but order early, as these performances sell out quickly!
    • Bonus insider tip: Ticket prices increase closer to the date of the show, so you save the most when you buy early.
  • Select your seats – Consider choosing aisle seats close to an exit in case of a bathroom emergency or a restless child. Please note that every family member must have a ticket, even infants.
  • Plan your outfit – Some people enjoy making their visit to the ballet a dress-up occasion, but many others dress casually. Most importantly, wear something you are comfortable in, and enjoy the performance!
  • Land of the Sweets – Pre-order your treats at concession stands on all four levels of McCaw Hall, and your order will be waiting for you at intermission. Please note food is not allowed in the auditorium.
Photo by Lindsay Thomas.



Getting to McCaw Hall


  • Early bird gets the worm – Make sure to leave/arrive early in case of traffic.
  • McCaw Hall – We are located at 321 Mercer Street, Seattle, WA 98109.
  • Parking – Parking is available at Mercer Street Garage directly opposite McCaw Hall and provides skybridge and wheelchair access. See here for the most up to date parking rates.
  • If traveling via bus – Please check the King County Metro Transit Planner for public transit information.


Before the Show Starts


  • Get there early – The lobby opens two hours before each performance. Take advantage of the various photo opportunities in the lobby or check out the gift shop for The Nutcracker themed tree ornaments and more.


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Photos by Lindsay Thomas.


  • Food, beverages, and more – Full meal service is available at the Prelude restaurant up to 2 hours prior to performances: no reservations are necessary.
  • Give ’em a boost – Grab booster seats or binoculars, available just off of the main entry lobby (Kreielsheimer Promenade): ushers can help guide you there. There is a $5 rental fee for binoculars.


Photo by Lindsay Thomas.


  • Get settled in – Find your seats and review the program with your child. This is a great time to also remind them they must be quiet and hold their questions for intermission.



During the Show


  • It’s showtime – Simply enjoy the magic of The Nutcracker!
  • Restless in Seattle – Children who are having difficulty watching and listening quietly during the performance may leave with an accompanying adult through the nearest exit, and you can view the performance on video monitors in the McCaw Hall Lobby.


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Leah Merchant as the Sugar Plum Fairy in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Angela Sterling.




  • Snack time – Grab food and beverages from any of our concession stands. (Our mouse cookies are especially popular!)
  • Bathroom break – Make sure to take a trip to the restrooms, located on every floor.
  • Playing catch up – Intermission is a great time to answer any questions children might have about the plot or characters. You can also briefly explain to/remind them what will be happening in the second act.


Make your Nutcracker experience stress free with Pacific Northwest Ballet!