A nine-foot bird, gigantic toadstools, a miniature mine: You may think you’ve stumbled onto the set of a new Lewis Carroll movie, but this wonderland adventure is all real — and yours for exploring at Lake Sammamish State Park's new 10,000 square-foot all-accessible destination playground, located by the park’s Sunset Beach.
Three days before its official debut, I and my two lucky little test subjects had the privilege of stepping behind the fencing and into the colorful, nature-inspired adventure that all Puget Sound families can now enjoy.
“This is a nature park, and we want the kids to play outside but also really appreciate the nature,” said Janet Farness, executive director of the Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park, which helped fundraise and gain support for the $1.1 million playground. “That’s what’s so unique about this playground.”
A giant blue heron greets visitors at the entrance in playful reference to the park’s heron rookery, spraying water at the press of a button. Around it, handcrafted mosaic glass mimics a stream of water on the ground, flowing towards a row of happily hopping salmon. Whimsical oversized mushrooms and a quirky Issaquah Mining Co. coal mine double as imaginative spaces to climb on, hide in and slide down, while a large xylophone and an oversized set of outdoor chimes beckon budding musicians.
Cute hidden critters peek out; and peppered around are bright interactive displays, where curious minds can learn all about mushroom types or hear animal sounds.
“Mining is such a big part of Issaquah’s history, and so is the salmon,” says Farness. “And we wanted to include a lot of natural elements, so we have the animals, logs and trees.”
On the other side of the playscape is where braver souls roam. A cool challenge-course structure sports a variety of nets, twisted ladders and wacky log steps to be tackled. Beyond it, a 17-foot tall geodesic climbing dome, a zip line and a netted carousel also invite the thrill-seeking crowd.
For the less daring, a row of swings awaits, including an accessible saucer-style swing, and my personal favorite — an infant-parent swing, aka a long-awaited excuse for grown-ups to swing with abandon with their babies.
Anticipating becoming a bustling Eastside attraction, the playground is designed with kids aged 2 to 12 in mind but all ages are welcome. And with tumble-safe rubberized ground cover, plenty of seating and picnic tables that can accommodate a wheelchair, little ones of all abilities are bound to have a blast.
In its open location by the water, the playground likely won’t see much shade in the hotter months.
Follow up a morning of play with a hike through one of Lake Sammamish State Park's many trails and explore its native plants and wildlife, including many species of birds and a salmon-bearing creek.
A five-minute drive away is Gilman Village, a quaint shopping complex with funky boutiques, a fantastic toy store, and Issaquah Coffee Company, which includes a tots’ play area — the perfect refueling stop after an active day.
If you go ...
Address: Lake Sammamish State Park, 2000 N.W. Sammamish Road, Issaquah
Parking tip: The park offers an extensive parking lot, but a Discover Pass ($30/year) or a day pass ($10) is required. Automated pay stations are available.
Hours: Dawn to dusk
Restrooms: Restrooms are available inside the Sunset Beach bathhouse next to the playground.