Ballard Playspace | Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
Seattle soaked up nearly four feet of rain this winter, the wettest it’s been since the record-keeping started in 1895. Just when you start thinking about putting away the galoshes, another spring shower pours down. Need one more rainy day play option?
Enter Ballard Playspace. It’s so good (and free) that you’ll want to come back again and again, even on the sunniest days.
The indoor play space, designed for kids up to age 8, features a huge tube climbing structure. A track wraps around the base for would-be race car drivers. My 1-year-old was too timid to climb into the tubes, but he loved the soccer “field” made of artificial turf and sprinkled with balls. One section is reserved just for the under-two set, with a thick padded mat and rocking chairs perfect for nursing.
When you arrive, sign in at the desk and leave your shoes in the cubbies. (Socks only inside.) There’s a very clean restroom off to the side, equipped with a changing table and a stepstool. You can bring your own snack (sans nuts) to enjoy at the little tables. Adults can help themselves to free coffee and tea.
Ballard Playspace is available on weekends for party rentals (four hours for $250), and the money keeps the play space free on weekdays (Tuesday through Thursday). Party rental tip: Search the online calendar to see if the weekend you want is open.
The play space, which opened two years ago, is a ministry of Ballard Church. If you’re religion-wary, don’t worry. Religion never comes up, and you don’t have to belong to the church to use the facility.
Unlike a toddler gym, which can be a free-for-all, the caregivers at Ballard Playspace seemed more attentive. We saw one woman carefully wipe up her toddler’s table when they finished snacking. When a little boy’s errant ball landed in a group of toddlers, he came over to apologize. There seemed be a welcome expectation that kids play courteously and adults supervise closely.
If you go
Where: Ballard Playspace, 1460 N.W. 73rd St., Seattle
When: Open year-round, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Open some Tuesday evenings – check online before you go
Cost: Free admission; free parking in the church lot or on the street
Tip: Bring your snacks and your socks, but leave nuts at home.