Winner: Stroum Jewish Community Center
Featuring year-round swimming classes for all ages and levels of expertise, the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island offers affordable lessons for both members and non-members who are looking to take the plunge. As the top pick for where to make your debut splash, SJCC is your fave for its all-important “warm water,” and the fact that “they make it fun.” And voters agreed that the SJCC has outstanding instructors who are great with kids.
With private lessons and various class locations, Waterbabies is a top choice among voters for its “caring, patient and expert swim teachers.”
Parents also love Mountlake Terrace Recreation Pavilion for its “fantastic instructors” and the opportunity to meet other local moms. (It was also the top winner in our Waterplay category.)
Safe N Sound Swimming, located in Seattle and Bothell, specializes in personalized one-on-one instruction, a nice alternative to the group swim classes, and was nominated for its “great instructors and programs.”
Voters also love taking the plunge with Seattle Parks and Recreation, as it offers a variety of pool locations throughout the city, “affordable classes” and “great instructors.”
And how could swimming lesson venues be complete with including the YMCA? Voters raved about the Y for its always “clean facilities,” “capable instructors that make it fun” and affordable services for all ages.
Winner: Creative Dance Center
The Creative Dance Center, which sashayed away with the win in this category, is well known for its mission to help dancers of all ages with skill and technique, while nurturing their creativity. Home of the Kaleidoscope Dance Company for young people, Seattle’s Creative Dance Center offers a variety of year-round programs for everyone from infants to adults. Its popular BrainDance class warm-up is a unique “centering body/brain movement tool for brain reorganization, oxygenation and recuperation.” How cool is that? Voters love the great dance curriculum, and praise CDC’s developmentally appropriate classes, learning-centered approach and compassionate teachers. And here’s a kicker: “The kids put the adults down for naps in the toddler/adult classes!”
Offering camps, classes and birthday parties, American Dance Institute in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood is another of your top choices. Programs range all the way from parent-toddler classes to ballet, flamenco, hip-hop, Irish step dancing, hula, capoeira, break dancing and more. They even have classes just for boys. Sign us up! One parent offers this testimonial, “The classes have helped my not-so-physical child really increase her large motor skills.”
Another Seattle favorite, Wedgwood’s All That Dance, is noted for its “fun teachers and flexible times” with summer camps and classes for parents and tots, kids, teens and adults.
The list of notables wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Pacific Northwest Ballet, with classes in Seattle and the Eastside. The premier ballet school has a children’s division for kids ages 2-7 as well as audition-only programs for older kids who want to get serious about their craft. It was nominated as a favorite for its classes with live pianists and most importantly, for its focus “on the artistic, creative side.”
Kirkland Dance Center is yet another fan favorite, where kids, teens and adults can take unique classes such as hip hop, tap and even “aerial dancing” throughout the year. Parents applauded their “wonderful teachers and dedicated staff.”
Cornish College of the Arts features a variety of classes and camps for young dancers of all levels, including dance intensives, ballet, modern dance and more. Voters raved about Cornish for having “the most experienced teachers.”
Winner: Village Theatre's Kidstage
Whether you’re paving the road toward Broadway or simply looking to strut your stuff on the stage, Village Theatre’s Kidstage, with locations in Issaquah and Everett, offers a variety of classes, camps and programs for children of all ages. Featuring popular productions year-round (past favorites include Chicago and Hairspray), Kidstage has devoted fans with plenty to say about their favorite theater program, from “promoting positive self-image, teamwork and confidence” to gushing about “the kind and talented staff.” Voters tell us Kidstage lives up to its well-known motto: “Skills for theatre … Skills for life!”
With various camps, classes and workshops, Kirkland’s Studio East was nominated for the “life skills” that it teaches kids and for its drama summer camps that are a “ton of fun.”
Well-known Seattle Children’s Theatre ranked among the favorites for its education outreach and drama school, with one voter noting that it has “great, imaginative programs.” For example, in Story Drama, youngsters as young as 3 and a half get to act out the themes, characters and environments of a different children’s book every day. Perfect for your little ham.
With themed classes like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “Hogwarts Camp” and “Rock ’m Sock ’m Shakespeare,” it’s clear Redmond’s SecondStory Repertory knows how to draw kids into the fun. Parents say it has “awesome camps and ongoing classes for kids of all ages.”
Youth Theatre Northwest in Mercer Island ranked high among voters as a top pick for local theater programs as it offers a wide array of year-round classes, camps and “fantastic performances with great instruction and guidance.”
Bainbridge Performing Arts Theatre School boasts a variety of classes, camps and performances for budding pre-K thespians all the way up to adults. Parents comment that it gives “a great intro to the theater experience” and that the “staff and facility are awesome.”
Infant and Toddler Classes
Voilà! The winner in this category, by far, is Polly-Glots, offering foreign language immersion classes in French, Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese for children ages 1 and older. Voters say “oui, oui!” to these programs held throughout the Seattle area and love having the opportunity to learn a new language with their little ones, citing “experienced teachers with great support” and “lots of creativity and energy.”
Featuring music and movement classes for young children throughout the Seattle area, Sunshine Music Together was a favorite, with one parent noting that their “children look forward to it all week!”
Another top choice, Sponge, hosts various language classes in Seattle and Redmond; one voter commented that it has a “good variety of music, play, snacks and interaction with other kids.”
Woodinville Family Preschool was also a top infant/toddler class pick as it provides parents of children in the same age group with the opportunity to share.
Voters can’t get enough of Nancy Kubo’s work at Musikgarten of Seattle, with age-appropriate classes and activities for babies up to kids age 9. Whether your child just wants to bop to the beat or beat on the drums for an afternoon, Kubo offers classes that are not only educational, but also provide a whole lot of musical good times for everyone.
Sometimes, you just wish you could decipher what your baby is trying to say. If you don’t have psychic powers working in your favor, voters recommend Hop to Signaroo for boosting your child’s early communication skills with sign language. Citing a variety of options for families on budgets, “fun class activities” and “really fabulous techniques that actually work,” voters have plenty of love to share for Hop to Signaroo’s Seattle-area classes.
Art and Creative Classes
Winner: Tomato-Tomato Creative Space
Hosted within Creative Moms Toys in Renton, Tomato-Tomato Creative Space is certainly a spot to visit if you’re looking to pick up some crafty new skills with your tot. Design maven Kelly Affleck offers a variety of paint- and glitter-filled classes, including button making, screen printing, spin art and much more. Readers noted that Affleck always has the “best creative twists on even the most basic of projects” and that “she thinks up the neatest crafts that are just perfect for little hands.”
Roaring Mouse Creative Arts Studio in Seattle gets a big old shout for its “experienced teaching staff, great families” and “homespun excellence,” offering creative classes for the preschool set ages 3 to 5.
Say yippie-kai-yay for Black Horse Art Studio in Sammamish, a favorite among voters for its combination of art and horseback riding classes.
Featuring a variety of arts, play and enrichment classes and camps, Orange Blossom Society in Redmond hits a sweet spot for its “amazing instructors, creative space” and “nice people.”
Bainbridge Island’s IslandWood, a 255-acre outdoor learning center, gets votes for its unique nature craft projects and ethnobotany activities, with one parent saying, “What better place to learn how to express yourself than out in nature?” (IslandWood also ranked high among finalists for its day, overnight and nature camps as well.)
Thrive Art School offers two Seattle locations for mini, growing and fully-grown Monets of all skill levels. Boasting an array of camps and classes for both beginners and masters-in-training, voters love that the instructors “teach fine art skills while promoting creativity.”
Martial Arts Studio
Winner: Magnolia Karate Academy
Certainly one Seattle studio that karate-chopped the rest of the competition, Magnolia Karate Academy is your top choice for where to earn those highly regarded black belts. Offering a variety of camps and classes for kids, adults and families, Magnolia Karate Academy earns high marks from voters who say Sensei O’Donnell is “simply the best” and that their “kids look forward to their karate lessons there each week.”
A favorite among Redmond families, Eastside Family Karate offers classes for adults and children, summer camps and home school programming for those hoping to become the next “Karate Kid.”
Fairwood Martial Arts, located in Renton, features professional karate and kickboxing classes for all ages, along with women’s self defense classes and birthday parties for kids.
Another voter favorite, Jae Hun Kim Tae Kwon Do Institute in Wallingford provides children as young as 3 up to adults with age-appropriate Tae Kwon Do techniques.
Voters love Miller’s Martial Arts in Kirkland for its “amazing teachers and bully-proofing program.”
West Family Martial Arts in Woodinville also ranks high among the finalists for Master West’s “firm, respectful and fun teaching style.”
Winner: The Little Gym
With ongoing classes and summer camps for children of all ages, The Little Gym is your top choice for children’s gymnastics. Offering programs for every stage of your child’s development with music, movement and skill-building curriculum throughout the Puget Sound, The Little Gym is an excellent place for making new friends and meeting families in your area. Voters had plenty to say about what makes The Little Gym their favorite including that “they’re great with toddlers,” have “fun revolving themes” and that they’ve got “bubbles, balls, climbing, singing and jumping… It’s all there!”
Voters also love Seattle’s Camp ZinZanni when it comes to gymnastics and clowning around during school breaks.
Cascade Elite Gymnastics, located in Mountlake Terrace, offers year-round classes, summer camps and birthday parties for kids who are crazy about tumbling.
Gymnastics East offers three Eastside locations with recreational and competitive gymnastics, tumbling, cheering and more.
Seattle’s School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts (SANCA) is the place to go if you’re looking to try out the flying trapeze or just pick up some new acrobatic tricks (classes year-round).
Seattle Gymnastics Academy offers gymnastics and more for toddlers to adults in three Seattle locations.
Sports Camp or Program
Winner: Stroum Jewish Community Center
Got a future Seattle Sounder or the next Kobe Bryant on your hands? The votes are in and you chose Mercer Island’s Stroum Jewish Community Center’s (SJCC) sports camps as the best place for scoring goals over summer break. The SJCC offers a variety of school break camps for children in grades K-6 that are packed with physical activities, games and sports such as kickball, soccer, basketball, field hockey and more. Parents note that they love SJCC’s sports camps because they are “well staffed” with “attentive counselors” and that they offer “fun field trips” and camps for a “great price.”
With various Puget Sound locations, the Boys & Girls Club offers plenty of physical fun with an array of sports activities, summer camps and beyond.
Great Play of Redmond features open gym play times, summer camps and sports classes that help children develop motor skills.
Well-known for fun soccer programs, Seattle’s Lil’ Kickers provides young children with the opportunity to score some goals on the field and make lifelong friends through various classes and camps.
Redmond Parks and Recreation offers sports leagues, tournaments and summer camps with a wide variety of sports to choose from.
Voters also seem to love the Sounders Soccer Camp, with one parent saying that they have “well-run programming and great role models.”
Winner: Sunshine Music Together
With a focus on nurturing the musical growth of young children, Sunshine Music Together features a variety of Seattle-area music and movement classes for parents and children from newborns up to age five. Voters say they cherish Sunshine Music Together’s music classes for the opportunity to “bond over the love of music, rhythm and dance" with their favorite little music makers.
With various Puget Sound locations, the 4/4 School of Music offers plenty of lessons for your budding musicians, including piano, voice, guitar and drums.
Chickadee Music Together boasts a variety of mixed-age classes for kids from newborns to age 4 with instruments, movement, singing and early musical education in two Seattle locations.
Katy’s Musikgarten provides music classes in Seattle for infants to 9-year-olds, with a focus on movement, musical games, piano lessons and more.
Main Stem Music, located in Bellevue, offers group, private and after-school music classes, along with piano and news reporter summer camps.
Voters also rave about Musikgarten of Seattle’s music classes for infants to children up to 10 years old, saying that children receive a “strong foundation in all music” and that instructor Nancy Kubo is “excellent with kids.”
Winner: Wilderness Awareness School
Perfect for teens who are wild about the outdoors, the Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall is the top choice among our voters for Seattle-area overnight camps. Featuring overnight outdoor camps in the Cascade foothills, Wilderness Awareness School gives campers the opportunity to learn important survival and scout awareness skills and even the chance to track wolves in the wild Idaho backcountry. Voters noted that school has a “knowledgeable, safe and kind staff” and “great outdoor instruction.”
Located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Gold Bar, Camp Huston is a top pick among voters for its Christian-based summer camps that offer traditional camp experiences and activities for children in third grade and up.
Situated outside of Everett, Camp Fire USA’s Camp Killoqua features age-appropriate overnight camps for children in first grade and up, with traditional activities such as hiking, cookouts, swimming and more.
YMCA of Greater Seattle’s Camp Orkila on Orcas Island offers young campers a traditional overnight experience and features expedition programs in sailing, kayaking and biking for teens.
Nestled on beautiful Vashon Island, Camp Fire USA’s Camp Sealth offers kids in first grade and up a residential camp experience with plenty of outdoor activities and fun.
Voters have plenty to say about Bainbridge Island’s IslandWood overnight camps, commenting on the fact that “the accommodations are fantastic,” the environment is gorgeous and that the counselors “teach kids about nature while making sure they feel safe and comfortable.”
Summer Day Camp
Winner: Wilderness Awareness School
Wilderness Awareness School wins your vote as the No. 1 Seattle-area summer day camp (it also wins for favorite overnight camp). With day camps for kids ages 4 through 12 – from half- to full-day nature camps in locations such as Seattle, Kirkland, Everett and Bellevue and beyond -- kids have the opportunity to learn about the local wildlife, plants and the terrain that we Pacific Northwesterners hold dear. Though voters obviously love Wilderness Awareness School for many reasons, many compliment it for the “great outdoor instruction” and the “top-notch staff.”
Hosting various day camps throughout the Puget Sound, Camp Fire USA Day Camps rank among the top finalists for “the leadership skills they provide for kids” and their array of awesome outdoor activities.
Bainbridge Island’s IslandWood makes the top list for its “imaginative activities,” “young, enthusiastic counselors” and for offering a wide variety of environmental programs.
KidsQuest Children’s Museum, located in Bellevue, offers campers ages 3 to 7 an array of themed day camps with hands-on, educational activities.
Redmond’s Orange Blossom Society features themed camps for children with activities including fitness, art, gardening and more.
Stroum Jewish Community Center features day camps in various Puget Sound locations with fun activities such as performing arts, sports, field trips and more.
Nature or Environmental Camp
Winner: Wilderness Awareness School
All right, we get it – you LOVE Wilderness Awareness School, which also wins top honors in our Summer Day Camp and Overnight Camp categories. There is much to howl about when it comes to the Duvall-based school, which offers wilderness and environmental education for youth and adults. One voter sums it up like this: “I love how the staff bring deep nature connection right into our backyards, mentoring my girls' discoveries of so many plants, birds, insects and animals they may never have noticed, just running through the park. At an age when most kids are disconnected from nature, my girls are becoming hardwired for noticing the natural world around us everywhere they go.”
Seattle’s Discovery Park Nature Day Camp is a favorite among voters, with parents commenting on its excellent outdoor activities, nature education and the fact that it’s “magic for children too young for sleep-away camp.”
Voters also loved Bainbridge Island’s IslandWood nature and environmental camps with its wide variety of outdoor education camps for all ages.
Located in Carnation, Oxbow Center provides young campers with a farm-tastic experience where they can learn about the farm’s treasure plants, animals and roaming critters.
The Port Townsend Marine Science Center allows children the opportunity to explore and learn about local marine wildlife through hands-on exhibits, crafts, activities and more.
A favorite amongst Seattleites, Seattle Tilth features a variety of day camps in two locations, with plenty of fun in the garden for kids and hands-on nature exploration.
Winner: Swerve Driving School
Got a teen who’s itching to get behind the wheel? When it comes to getting your teen (and self) ready for this potentially stressful time, you want to be prepared – and that’s why you choose Swerve Driving School as your top choice for driving schools. You want your teen to be responsible, safe, and fender-bender-free when it comes to life behind the wheel. With classes available throughout the Seattle area, Swerve Driving School wins points for instructors who “really connect with the kids.”
With a variety of Puget Sound locations, voters love 911 Driving School because it “only [hires] police officers as instructors” to help educate teens on road rules and safety. Simply Driving School, located in Marysville, gets a nod for its “cost-effective and family-operated” services.