If you’re a parent, chances are you’re in a continual search to find interesting, active, stimulating stuff to do with your kids. No doubt, parks play a big role in that. And you probably have your go-to parks – the ones where you can always count on a good time.
But wouldn’t it be nice to know what other parks parents are choosing? Thanks to some 2012 “Best Of” lists, we can help you discover new parks for your family that are sure to become old favorites.
The following list was compiled from Seattle Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards, RedTricycle’s Most Awesome Awards and ParentMap Magazine’s Golden Teddy Awards.
(Note: Seattle Magazine simply lists its readers’ top park choices for kids, while RedTricycle and ParentMap specify a category. If you see a category listed next to the park, it was listed in either RedTricycle or ParentMap. Parks with no categories listed, were only featured in Seattle Magazine.)
• Alki Beach Park: Whether you’re visiting in February or August, there’s always something interesting to see and do at Alki. This long beach is great for walking, taking in the views, building sandcastles or beach combing. Make a day of it by hopping the water taxi from downtown Seattle, grabbing lunch at the new Marination ma kai (of Marination mobile food truck fame) at Seacrest Park, and catching a free ride on the water taxi shuttle.
• Cal Anderson Park: Cal Anderson Park opened in 2005 in the densely populated neighborhood of Capitol Hill. It’s built on top of a former open-air reservoir, which has since been buried. The playground features swings – both the baby and the kid kind, slides and climbing structures. There’s plenty of open space for tossing a ball or just running around. It’s a great place for your kid to practice his balance bike skills – lots of pathways. In the summer, the wading pool opens. Take a bus, walk, ride your bike or prepare to pay for parking. The bathrooms are located in the shelterhouse between the park and Bobby Morris Playfield.
• Carkeek Park (Best Nature Outing and Best Playground Park): Located on the shores of Puget Sound, Carkeek Park’s 220 acres are great for hiking, salmon viewing during spawning season in late fall and early winter, picnicking or playing at the playground, which features a unique salmon slide. Little known fact: there’s an historical apple orchard in the park that is maintained by volunteers. To get to the playground, you must drive all the way into the park. It overlooks the Sound, near the train tracks. The bathrooms are near the playground.
• Cowen Park(and Cowen Park zipline at the playground): With the beautifully restored Ravenna Creek running the length of the park, alongside an easy walking trail, Cowen Park is one of those places where it can be easy to forget you’re right in the middle of the city. The playground with the zipline is located near the corner of NE Ravenna Boulevard and Brooklyn Avenue NE. There are bathrooms near the playground.
• Discovery Park (Best Nature Outing and Prettiest Park and Playground): This former military base is truly one of the gems of the city. It has miles and miles hiking trails, beaches, open lawns for flying kites, vistas, a giant sand dune for digging, ponds for frog watching, an Environmental Learning Center with a playroom, and much more. To get to the playground, enter the park from W Government Way, park at the Environmental Learning Center (where the bathrooms are) and walk on the path directly to the south of the center, past the sports courts. This playground has a great zipline too. Finding parking is usually not a problem; although, it can get rather crowded on beautiful weekend days.
• Ella Bailey Park: This park is one of our newer playgrounds. It opened in 2007, and has one of the best views of Seattle. It features gently rolling slopes, play equipment, picnic tables, barbeques and walking pathways. This park has no public restrooms, and parking is on street.
• Golden Gardens Park playground: Pirate-themed play equipment is a kid magnet in this newly renovated playground. Located conveniently off the parking lot and in front of the bathhouse (where the bathrooms are), this new playground features lots of opportunities for little climbers. And if they get bored at the playground, the beach and creek are nearby. This park is always a hit with kids.
• Green Lake Park: Arguably the most visited park in the city, Green Lake Park is popular with kids of every age. The playground is amply sized, and has both baby swings and big kid swings. It is located near the community center (where the bathrooms are). Parking is always tough. If you can do it, we recommend walking, biking or taking the bus.
• Green Lake Park wading pool and swimming beaches(Best Water Play): In the summertime, it’s a great fun to take your kids out to the waters at Green Lake. For little kids, the wading pool is a great introduction to swimming. For big and little kids, the beaches are fantastic. The water is clear and warm (okay, well warmer than the Puget Sound or Lake Washington). There are two beaches – one near the community center on the east and one near the Bathhouse Theater on the west side of the lake. Both have bathrooms and parking lots. Parking is a bit of a bear in the summer. If you can swing it, walk, bike or ride the bus.
• International Children’s Park: What a treasure this little park is. It’s newly renovated – dedicated just last year, and located in the heart of the International District/Chinatown. It has brand new play equipment for climbing and sliding, a merry-go-round and dragon art/climbing structure. Parking can be a challenge in International District/Chinatown. Make a day of it, and stop in to one of the neighborhood’s many delicious dim sum places – are perfect for little appetites.
• Jefferson Park’s Beacon Mountain: Another amazing new park in Seattle, the renovated Jefferson Park and Beacon Mountain are truly one-of-a-kind. With two zip lines, slides that go down hills and a play water feature, this park attracts lots of families. There are paths for scooters, balance bikes or regular, big-kid bikes. The park features interesting, geometric climbing structures. There are bathrooms nearby at the community center, and there is parking. Parking can be tight on a beautiful day, but there’s usually a spot to be had. If you don’t want to deal with parking, the park is well served by buses.
• Lake Union Park sailing pond: This one is not free, but it’s good, cheap fun. Every Sunday, for a suggested donation of $5 an hour, you can be the captain of your own pond boat. The Center For Wooden Boats runs the program, and it’s one of our favorites. Now, you have the added bonus of visiting the newly opened MOHAI at Lake Union Park. Kids under 14 get in to the museum for free. MOHAI restrooms are free for park visitors. There is a small pay parking lot. But why not ride the South Lake Union Street Car over there? It stops right in front of the park.
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