What to Do with a Kid

19 Seattle Adventures for Kids and Adults Alike

Where to embrace the city sights, the great outdoors, or a rainy afternoon.

By Allecia Vermillion March 20, 2017 Published in the April 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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Image: Brandon Hill


Seattle Bouldering Project

Kids toddler age and older can strap on climbing shoes and try to scale the walls in a special youth-only area, where a successful climb rewards you with a trip down a slide. For kids who aren’t so into climbing, the bouncy foam floor is entertainment unto itself. seattleboulderingproject.com


PlayDate SEA

South Lake Union’s rainy day go-to isn’t so much an indoor playground as a trilevel labyrinth of slides, tunnels, games, and general bodies-in-motion clamor for kids 12 and younger. There’s a special section for toddlers and a huge food menu so everyone refuels in between sessions of shooting soft foam balls from the decks of a mock submarine. If all this sounds very overwhelming, it is—but there’s beer, wine, and Stumptown coffee to get you through it. playdatesea.com


Arena Sports Inflatable FunZone

Magnuson Park harbors a bazillion worthy pastimes, but the Arena Sports complex on the northern shoreline houses a surefire energy burner: an entire room of bounce houses and bouncy slides, where kids 18 months to 12 years can cast off their shoes and go to town. Grownups are allowed on the slides, but you can also grab a seat and a snack on the sidelines and catch up with fellow adults while the kids play. arenasports.net

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Seattle Gymnastics Academy

In theory, the balance beams, trampolines, and springy tumbling mats cultivate agility and balance. But learning how to execute a flip into a pit full of soft foam blocks is also crazy fun. Four Seattle-area locations have classes for 18 monthers up to 12-year-olds, but your kid doesn’t have to be the next Simone Biles to appreciate the open play sessions. ­seattlegymnastics.com 


Rent Kayaks 

Taking to the water is high adventure for the water-wings-and-foam-pool-­noodle crowd and not nearly as difficult as novice adults might think, particularly in the mellow urban waters of Lake Union. The Northwest Outdoor Center on the western shore offers three-person kayaks that are handy for families, but the Agua Verde Paddle Club offers kayak rentals from a prime Portage Bay location—plus a superb patio, sparkling water views, and restorative tacos and margaritas upon your return. nwoc.com, aguaverde.com


Anderson School North Shore Lagoon Pool

When Portland-based ­McMenamins revamped a former junior high school in Bothell, it turned the community pool next door into a balmy swimming hole with some serious South Seas atmosphere—saltwater, Polynesian masks, water spilling down from bamboo spouts overhead. Also overhead: the upstairs tiki bar, where everyone can repair postswim for rum drinks (you) and chicken fingers (them). Or make a day of it and head across the parking lot to the rest of the Anderson School complex, which includes a theater, several pubs and restaurants, and a meandering outdoor seating area. mcmenamins.com

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McMenamin's Anderson School North Shore Lagoon Pool.

Image: Brandon Hill


Woodland Park Zoo 

Even noobs know kids enjoy the zoo. But when cold temps or rain invade Woodland Park, head to the indoor Zoomazium playground. There’s a play area for the littlest of littles, plus a section for kids up to age eight that combines nature lessons with adventure play—a towering corkscrew slide turns educational when housed inside a replica of a strangler fig tree. Shelves are full of books, blocks, and puzzles for kids to explore, and staff members stop by throughout the day for story hours and visits with live animals. zoo.org


West Seattle Water Taxi 

Take advantage of your Orca card (and the fact that we live in this glorious corner of the world) with a 10-minute crossing filled with stunning views and the occasional wayward marine life. Depending on which direction you’re headed, continue the adventures with alfresco kalbi tacos at Marination Ma Kai or a walk on the downtown waterfront. Yes, ferries are also marvelous, but the water taxi is cheaper—and feels more dramatic. kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/water-taxi


Seattle Pinball Museum

You owe it to the next generation to cultivate an appreciation for the days when gaming meant flashing lights, plinking sound effects, and ricocheting balls. This marvelously unexpected spot in the Chinatown–International District is filled with pinball machines that date as far back as the 1960s and welcomes visitors ages seven and up; after you pay the entry fee ($15 for adults, $12 for kids), games are free to play. Parental bonus: a solid bottled beer list and a cup holder on every game. seattlepinballmuseum.com

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Image: Andrew Waits


Rainier Beach Pool

Seattle’s newest city pool is a straight-up aquatic wonderland, with a twisty water slide, lazy river, spray features, and a shallow area where babies can plop on their bottoms and splash around. The water is warm enough for kids, and family dressing rooms minimize postswim changing chaos. seattle.gov/parks


Seattle Children’s Theatre

Introduce budding arts patrons to the pleasures of live theater with high-­quality, noncorny performances parents can’t help but enjoy too. SCT’s two auditoriums put on shows for different age groups, and the box office can advise which is more your family’s speed; theaters are open seating, so come early. sct.org


Ride the Monorail 

Seattle’s most iconic rail-based transit has limited value for commuters, but makes for a fantastic family adventure, from navigating the downtown bustle at Westlake Center (savvy travelers demand a trip to the second-floor candy store) to the slow wind through the cityscape and the myriad amusements of Seattle Center—including a particularly child-friendly food court. Vital reminder: Monorail is cash only. seattlemonorail.com

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Get Outside 


The first key to getting kids to enjoy nature is probably bribery. Starbursts, screen time—promise anything to get them started. The second: finding hikes with something exciting to see along the way. Issaquah’s Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park offers waterfalls, mine shafts, old pieces of railroad; more than 50 trail sections, most under a mile, intertwine like a bowl of spaghetti. Tiger Mountain, Cougar’s bigger, easterly brother, features a nearly two-mile route to Poo Poo Point, an open vista beloved not only for its giggleworthy name (oh grow up, it’s meant to evoke loggers’ steam whistles!) but its crowds of paragliders launching into the skies. Finally there’s Monte Cristo, home to an actual ghost town. Located four miles from the Mountain Loop Highway—east of Granite Falls, this is a full-day trip—the onetime mining boomtown has faded to a series of rusty signs, sagging wood cabins, and a railway turntable. Even better: The Forest Service recently rid the site of toxic chemicals in a decadelong cleanup (still, don’t lick the rocks, kids). 

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Image: Hye Jin Chung


Even toddlers can enjoy bike rides from the safety of a trailer or child seat (while rocking a tiny helmet). But once your little people are big enough to power their own pedals, or at least balance a bike, some of the area’s quieter bike trails offer a chance to ride without contending with a crush of other cyclists (cough, Green Lake). Despite the urban environs, Myrtle Edwards Park is unexpectedly serene, its paved pathway along Elliott Bay an absurdly picturesque parade of mountain and water vistas; at just 1.25 miles, it feels doable for younger riders. The 2.4-mile trail that hugs the Seward Park shoreline is scenic, well paved, and, best of all, starts near the playground. Aspiring mountain bikers can navigate the short, relatively smooth trails at Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park on the Sammamish Plateau and practice jumps and riding berms. —Allison Williams


Community Center Toddler Gyms

Several times a week, community centers around the city haul out an entire playland’s worth of entertainment—ride-on cars, slides, balls, and various large-scale toys—and set them up in the gym. These sessions, usually about two hours long, are an absolute blast with the pre-preschool set. Parents enjoy them even more since the city made these gyms free to attend. seattle.gov/parks/find/toddler-indoor-play-areas


Ballard Locks

The feats of maritime engineering formally known as Hiram M. Chittenden Locks help boats and salmon pass between Puget Sound and our freshwater lakes. Watching both happen is endlessly entertaining to children, especially the fish ladder and underwater viewing area. As outings go, it’s free, easy, and classically Seattle, especially when you factor in the relaxed botanic gardens on the other side of the spillway. ballardlocks.org

Courtesy allecia vermillion fdzjhy


A sunny little bilevel building in Bryant offers tables and troughs of Legos and Duplos for communal play. Watch yourself—adults can become more zealous than their young counterparts in constructing trains, houses, and Star Wars battleships. There’s a basic menu of snacks, plus espresso, wine, mimosas, and drafts from nearby Ravenna Brewing Company, and you can take drinks with you into the Lego rooms. On weekends, birthday parties dominate the afternoons, so come before 2pm. ­wunderkindseattle.com


Kelsey Creek Farm

Wander this 150-acre farm owned by the City of Belle­vue to check out pigs, cows, bunnies, ponies, and chickens up close, then hit the tot playground. Classes and camps cover farm basics like animal care or living Laura Ingalls Wilder–style in a log cabin outfitted with luxuries like lanterns and a butter churn. The annual sheep shearing event (held on Saturday, April 29 this year) offers food, tractor rides, and a chance to watch some woolly friends be divested of their winter coats. ­farmerjayne.com


Emerald City Fired Arts

Bring energetic, limb-flailing young ones to a room full of breakable ceramics? Yes, this is a good idea. Arts activities usually come in the form of workshops or classes, but this friendly Columbia City studio lets you drop in with kids to glaze a bowl or stencil a cup and saucer with plenty of patient hands-on instruction. Come back a week later to pick up your fired, finished product. emeraldcityfiredarts.com

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