As a family with three very active boys, we spend our summer at parks and playgrounds burning off all that fantastic kid energy. Although colder weather usually means more time indoors, I learned early on in my parenting career that there’s no need to stay inside on a wet day. Whether we’re hiking on a trail with good tree cover, puddle jumping or watching a storm roll in on a beach, it’s always exhilarating to be outside. Here are some of our favorite rainy-day parks to play in, as well as the closest hot-chocolate destinations.
Run, dog, run: Richmond Beach Saltwater Park
Everyone likes this stunning Shoreline park, right on the shores of Puget Sound, but families with dogs feel like they’ve found nirvana, at least in the winter: From Nov. 1 to March 15, this Shoreline park includes an off-leash area. Play fetch with your pup, dig in the sand and explore the driftwood forts.
Bonus: Watch the whitecaps from a shelter on the beach or head to another shelter at the ship-inspired playground above the beach, giving you a spot for a drizzle-free lunch with a view.
Location: 2021 N.W. 190th St., Shoreline. Free parking in the lot and on streets just outside the park entrance.
Warm up: Cozy Richmond Beach Coffee Company, with a toy-and-book corner for kids, is just a short drive up the hill from the beach.
Tower power: Miner’s Corner County Park
This spacious Bothell park, designed for kids of all abilities, opened in 2013, and it’s easy to see why it’s been wildly popular ever since. A flat, paved half-mile path — perfect for beginner bikers — meanders around the park. The three-story climbing structure has a long wheelchair-accessible ramp (reputedly one of the tallest of its kind in the world). Rock-climbing features, bridges, a fire pole and a long spiral slide add to the excitement. And a sand and water garden, fed by rainfall and runoff, invites kids to explore and get muddy.
Bonus: Tall trees provide great rain protection over an area next to the playground, which has logs and stumps that my kids have been known to turn into a parkour course. If it really starts to pour, duck under the large covered structure for lunch at one of the picnic tables.
Location: 22903 45th Ave. S.E., Bothell. A small parking lot is close to the playground.
Warm up: Just 2.5 miles away, Crystal Creek Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a super kid-friendly atmosphere, with airplanes hanging from the ceiling and a kids’ menu.
Dragon Park: Deane’s Children’s Park
Known as “Dragon Park” for the 45-foot-long dragon slide/climbing structure that’s been a local icon for decades and was redone in 2013, this forested park in Mercer Island can keep kids busy for hours on drizzly days, with dense trees and a nearby shelter providing protection. Older kids and even teenagers will enjoy conquering the large rock-climbing structure; and two playgrounds provide more fun, including a long slide and a castle-themed structure complete with a fake stone façade and flags.
Bonus: Most of the park is fenced, providing relief for parents who have more than one kid in tow or a child who likes to wander.
Location: 5500 Island Crest Way, Mercer Island. A small, free parking lot is close to the playground. >>
Warm up: Head to Homegrown Sustainable Sandwiches on Mercer Island less than 3 miles away, for soups, salads and sandwiches made with locally sourced ingredients; and then to Island Books, which boasts a fantastic kids’ section.
Hit the trails: Point Defiance Park
Tacoma’s epic park has enough play options to occupy kids for a week, and with several covered shelters to pop under and heavy tree cover, it’s great for unpredictable weather. Climb and slide at the playground, get sandy at Owen Beach, hike through old-growth forest on the Inside Loop Trail or fish at the marina/pier. If you have more time, visit the critters and sharks at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (open Thursday–Monday in winter, except for the holiday season, when it’s open daily).
Bonus: Explore Five Mile Drive by car and pull onto a bluff-top view points for dramatic storm-watching across Dalco Passage and the Tacoma Narrows.
Location: 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma. Free parking at many lots inside the park. Follow signs to your destination. Buses stop inside the park.
Warm up: The marina, located inside the park, offers snacks and sandwiches. Or warm up at the cozy Antique Sandwich Co., three blocks south of the park’s main entrance on N. Pearl Street. Its milkshakes are a welcome treat in any weather.
Zippin’ new playground: Mount Baker Park
A new tree house-style playground with bridges, slides and tricky ladders is the star attraction at this forested park in south Seattle, which stretches a third of a mile down to Lake Washington. Two structures suit older and younger kids alike with slides, instruments and a suspension bridge; and the new zip line is one of the city’s best, with a fast ride and a thrilling bump at the end.
Bonus: Bring scooters and bikes for a spin on the paved path that winds around the park and down to the waterfront under good tree cover.
Location: 2521 Lake Park Drive S., Seattle. Free parking is available in a lot near the beach and on adjacent residential streets close to the playground. Buses stop on S. McClellan Street next to the playground.
Warm up: Just across the street and around the corner from the playground, the adorable, vintage-themed Feed Store, which just reopened in a new location, serves pour-over coffee, smoothies, fresh produce and other nibbles. The kids love the old-fashioned, coin-operated pony ride.
Wetland wonder: Lewis Creek Park
This park in the Cougar Mountain area of south Bellevue feels like a true urban wilderness adventure. If the weather is creating a deluge, start at the beautifully designed visitor center (open Wednesday–Sunday), with kids’ puzzles, comfortable seats and huge windows that look out over the wetlands. Pick up a scavenger hunt sheet to take outside on the half-mile Loop Trail and look for slugs, worms, birds’ nests, insects and more.
Bonus: Next to the center, find two play areas that both have large sail-like covers that protect from both rain and sun.
Location: 5808 Lakemont Blvd. S.E., Bellevue. Free parking is available in the parking lot.
Warm up: Pick up supplies for a rainy-day picnic at the Town and Country Market, less than a mile down the road.
Storm-watching wonder: Seahurst Park
Burien’s large waterfront park has nearly a mile of recently restored saltwater shoreline to explore, along with trails and a playground. Time your visit with low tide to explore tide pools. Or take the South Shoreline Trail on a rainy day for a puddle-filled hike under tree cover. Covered picnic shelters located close to the beach offer a perfect vantage for watching storms roll in.
Location: 1600 S.W. Seahurst Drive, Burien. Free parking is available in the parking lot. Buses stop on Ambaum Boulevard Southwest, about 1 mile outside the park.
Warm up: Located less than two miles from the park, 909 Coffee and Wine (909 S.W. 152nd St.) serves locally sourced espresso and treats, soups, sandwiches and items from an extensive kids’ menu. Tip: Happy hour is 4–6 p.m.
Pirates, ahoy! Lake Meridian Park
This lakefront park in Kent is justifiably popular in the summer, but the good news about visiting in the off-season is that kids may have its fabulous playground to themselves. The brightly colored, imaginative play equipment (most of which is wheelchair-accessible) includes fun, fast slides and a pirate-ship-like structure that have inspired my kids to create an elaborate game of defending their territory against incoming boats and hunting for “treasure” with a park scavenger-hunt game. You’ll also find a tall, geometric net climber, a rock-climbing structure, swings and a spinning rope climber. If necessary, take cover in the huge covered shelter nearby.
Bonus: Dig and build at the long, sandy beachfront, or walk out on the dock for access to year-round fishing.
Location: 14800 S.E. 272nd St., Kent. A free parking lot is a short walk from the playground.
Warm up: You’ll find kid-friendly Mod Pizza, where everyone can order what they want, about a mile west.
Play on the Sound: Lincoln Park, West Seattle
A newly revamped playground, wooded trails and a long stretch of beach all make this 135-acre West Seattle park an excellent winter destination. The park’s more northern playground has new treehouse-style climbing equipment, with slides and bridges as well as new swings and a zip line. The southern end boasts a second playground with a wooden play structure, along with another zip line, more swings and a big sandbox. Venture down to the shoreline for a paved path perfect for kids on wheels. Five large picnic shelters provide drying-off spots.
Bonus: For a truly memorable outing, bring firewood and s’mores supplies — shelter no. 3 on the southern waterfront has a fireplace. (The shelter can be reserved, but also is available first-come, first-served if nobody has reserved it.)
Location: 8011 Fauntleroy Way S.W., Seattle. Free parking is available in two parking lots. Buses stop along Fauntleroy Way Southwest immediately outside the park.
Warm up: Chaco Canyon Organic Café in West Seattle has terrific vegan and raw dishes, kid-friendly food and a small play area.
Bike and play: Maple Leaf Reservoir Park, North Seattle
This two-level park offers outdoor thrills year around, with two picnic shelters — one right next to the playground — available for escape from the pouring rain. The lower park is the site of the playground, where kids will have a blast zipping on the zip line, whooshing down the slides built into the hill, climbing on rock structures, hiding in the little rock cave and digging in the sand area. If the weather holds up, walk or bike the half-mile paved loop in the upper section of the park. You can also shoot hoops on the basketball court or play pickleball.
Location: 1020 N.E. 82nd St., Seattle. Free street parking is available on Roosevelt Way Northeast and Northeast 82nd Street. Buses stop on Roosevelt Way Northeast and on 15th Avenue Northeast.
Warm up: Just north of the park, longtime neighborhood favorite Cloud City Coffee (8801 Roosevelt Way N.E.) serves hot drinks, soups and sandwiches, and baked-on-the-premises cakes and pastries (coconut bread!). Kids love the $1 bag of animal crackers and the small play area, with its big trucks and small books.
10 more great rainy-day parks around Seattle
Camp Long, West Seattle: West Seattle is abundant with hiking options that are kid-friendly, and Camp Long is one of the best spots for keeping kids entertained in any weather. Explore the half-mile Middle Loop Trail where there’s something new to discover around every corner, including Schurman Rock, the country’s first man-made rock climbing structure built in the 1930s. Picnic shelters will provide a dry spot for a lunch break, and you can also stop in to the Environmental Learning Center to escape a downpour (open Tuesday–Saturday during winter months).
Seward Park, South Seattle: Seward Park, a 300-acre forest park located at the southern end of Lake Washington in Rainier Valley, has enough to do to keep kids occupied for hours. The playground features a small climber for younger kids near the sandbox, in addition to a big treehouse-style structure for older kids that's partially covered. You'll also find swings and a popular zipline. When the rain starts, run for cover inside the Seward Park Audubon Center to learn about Seward Park's wildlife (open Wednesday–Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), which also hosts nature programs year-round, from owl prowls to bird walks. Hiking trails right behind the playground have good tree cover for rainy-day hikes.
Seattle Children’s PlayGarden, South Seattle: This wonderful park is designed for kids of all abilities to play and explore their environment. The PlayGarden is fairly small and fully fenced, so parents and caregivers can let little ones discover on their own without worrying about losing them. Kids will find gardens, a large sand area, a tree fort, a boat, chickens, a tractor and much more. When the rain picks up, duck under the white tent area for relief. The park is also the grounds for a preschool, but is open to the public (check hours on the website and look for special public programs such as free art classes). Make sure the gate is securely shut after entering and exiting the park.
University Village Play Area, North Seattle: You can give your shopping helpers a well-deserved play break at University Village's cute play area. This covered outdoor playground is small and suited to tots ages 5 and under so it's perfect for a rainy day. A couple of slides, a climbing structure and other small toys are set inside a fully fenced area in front of the Kid's Club store.
Santos Rodriguez Memorial Park, Beacon Hill: This fully-fenced playground opened in 2014 in front of El Centro De La Raza to the delight of families living on Beacon Hill. Kids will have fun on the colorful climbing structures, which have little roofs on the tops of each platform. There’s also mosaic art that looks like stepping stones, swings and a demonstration garden. Parents and grandparents can keep an eye on the kids from nearby benches, and everyone can duck under the covered shelter if rain hits. (Note: the park is closed to the public 10:30-11:45 a.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday when the child care center in El Centro De La Raza uses it.)
O.O. Denny Park, Kirkland: Some of the oldest and tallest trees in the region shelter visitors to this north Kirkland waterfront park on Lake Washington. Start at the playground, which has a tree-house style climbing structure with slides and rock climbing wall. If the weather turns bad, a large covered picnic shelter is just steps away and provides plenty of protection for lunch or a snack. The network of trails starts across the street near the overflow parking area. This dense forest has good rain cover, and kids will like looking for the giant stump of Sylvia, a 600-year-old Douglas Fir.
Blyth Park, Bothell: Adjacent to the Sammamish River Trail in Bothell, Blyth Park , just a bit west of Bothell Landing, is a 40-acre park that's popular with picnickers. The two covered picnic shelters are just steps away from the playground if rain picks up. The playground has two climbing structures with slides and a little suspension bridge. An interesting structure made out of old tires is also a fun place to climb. You can also venture onto the Sammamish River trail where kids can bike, cross bridges and occasionally see boats coming through on the Sammamish River.
Beaver Lake Park, Sammamish: Nestled among tall trees on the Sammamish Plateau, Beaver Lake Park is a peaceful spot for a fall or winter walk. Several spots along the shore are great places for kids to throw rocks or dig. Bring a lunch and take advantage of the picnic tables, many of which are underneath tall cedars and other evergreen trees for protection from the rain. There's also a playground and, if you need to dry off, a large picnic shelter.
Mercer Slough Park, Bellevue: A fantastic park for urban hiking, Mercer Slough Park — just off I-90 in Bellevue — has more than 300 acres to explore. With kids in tow, it's best to start small and begin your visit at the Environmental Education Center on the park's eastern side. A visitors center perched in the trees like a treehouse is a good place to wait for the rain to let up (and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Trails start just below the center and wind down the hillside to the flat wetlands where it's fun to try to spot wildlife.
Pioneer Park, Mercer Island: Enjoy a hike along flat trails under a thick tree canopy in the middle of Mercer Island at Pioneer Park. Even as the huge maple trees are nearly done dropping their leaves, cedars and other evergreens will keep you mostly dry as you explore this 113-acre park. Pioneer Park has three quadrants totaling about six miles of trails. In two of the sections, dogs are allowed to go off-leash, so keep an eye out if your kids are nervous around dogs. Need to bribe them with some playground time? Deane's Children's Park (also known as the Dragon Park) is a half-mile north and has a fabulous playground with a large covered area for picnicking.