Feel a breeze outside? It’s beckoning you to introduce your kids to a classic outdoor pastime that will literally have them reaching for the skies. All you need is some wind and a kite.
My own childhood memories come flying back whenever I see a colorful kite soaring in the sky. With my dad’s help I would first sense the direction of the breeze, then run to give the kite a gentle boost so it could catch the wind. I can still recall the feel of the kite spool in my small hands as an unexpected gust pulled me. There were a few tangled strings, and my kite seemed to have a magnetic attraction to tree branches, but what fun we had together.
How to buy a kite
For a low-fuss first outing, pick a clear day where the wind is discernible but light — strong gusts can be dangerous (the American Kitefliers Association has more safety tips). Buy a basic single-line kite — try a classic 2-stick diamond kite or triangle-shaped delta kite. Choose the right size for your child — too small and you’ll have trouble getting it up into the wind, too big and it will have too much pull for small hands. Once your family masters a basic kite, you could sharpen your skills on a dual-line sport or stunt kite, like one in the fun shape of an octopus or dragon.
With last year’s closing of the much-loved Gasworks Park Kite Shop there are no dedicated kite shops left in the Seattle area. Sporting goods stores will have a few models of diamond or delta kites, but for a unique or stunt model you’ll probably want to look online. Try thekiteshoppe.com, based in Vancouver, Washington. If you’re feeling crafty, make your own starter kite; here’s an easy DIY diamond kite tutorial.
Then, watch for the wind and let it soar. Any wide-open, grassy field free of power lines will do, like your neighborhood soccer field or local public beach. If you want great wind, here are some Puget Sound kiting hotspots.
Sand Point Head (also known as "Kite Hill") is a grassy knoll overlooking Lake Washington that boasts great views, consistent winds and no trees to trap your kite. The spot features an annual Father’s Day Kite Fly, where families bring kites, picnics and catch the breeze together.
While hikers take to this park’s forested trails and scenic beaches, kite fliers head to the wide parade grounds to catch the incoming wind from the north. Park at the nature center or the lot off Emerson street, then walk the unpaved trails to this grassy field. (Photo at the top right of the page of a toddler kite-flying in Discovery Park courtesy of reader Marta Noble Johnson, who notes, "It's no secret: Discovery Park's meadow beats out the kite hills at Magnuson and Gasworks for best winds.")
What could make the seaside town of Edmonds even more scenic? Your kids, running on the sand with a kite in the wind at Marina Beach Park. Just south of the Edmonds Marina, this park is the perfect place to fly kites, watch the sunset over the Olympics and have a beach picnic. If the tide is high, no worries – there’s a large grassy knoll to fly your kites from. (Photo courtesy of knowinspiration/flickr.)
Want some reliably awesome wind? It blows steadily at Fort Casey State Park, set on the west shore of Whidbey Island with panoramic views of Admiralty Inlet north to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. With nearly 11,000 feet of saltwater shoreline there’s plenty of room to spread out on the sand, though most kite fliers prefer the expansive green parade field. Round out your day with a beach picnic and visit to the well-maintained Admiralty Head Lighthouse. (Photo, second down on right, by Jim Simandl.)
Pick any one of the large, open grassy areas that have nice exposure to southerly winds, though the most popular kiting spot sits on the park’s east side, a stone’s throw from the rock climbing wall. You may be joined by colorful paragliders if the wind is truly spectacular.
Note: Kite Hill at Gas Works is closed until June 2015. The flat top of “Kite Hill” at Gas Works Park is one of the best places to catch some wind in the city. Newbies beware - you won’t find much free space to practice here on a clear, breezy Saturday, but you will enjoy the spectacle of a dozen kites in the air and have a chance to watch and learn from the experts.
The bright green grassy “Central Meadow” area of this new jewel in the Pierce County park system just had to have been created with kite flying in mind. The stunning, expansive meadow is set on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound about two miles northeast of the ferry dock to Anderson Island. (Photo at right courtesy of Richard Wood, kapchur.us photography.)
Just northeast of Browns Point and Tacoma’s Commencement Bay, this waterfront park’s sandy beach is in just the right place when it comes to wind. Low tide unveils a huge stretch of sand, providing plenty of room to run for your kite’s launch and to maneuver once it is in the air. Be sure to pack your camera – that shot of your kid flying a colorful kite on beautiful Puget Sound is sure to be frame-worthy.
This article was written in 2013 and updated in 2015.