Balmer Yard. Credit Loco Steve via Flickr CC
And sometimes the easiest thing to do is just to go train-spotting, which is easy to, um, engineer, considering that freight trains, the Sounder and Amtrak run right by some of the best parks in Puget Sound. Try some of these hot spots:
Balmer train yard in Seattle's Interbay neighborhood: There’s always something to see at the Balmer Yard near 20th Avenue W. and Thorndyke Avenue W. on the Magnolia side of Interbay; if you’re lucky you might see airplane fuselage parts on passing train cars.
Carkeek Park, in north Seattle: Hang out on the bridge between the playground and the beach for some prime train-gawking, and then take advantage of Carkeek's many other attractions, including a nature playground with a view (salmon slide!), trails, an apple orchard and beach that’s perfect for low-tide exploration.
Golden Gardens in Northwest Seattle: This huge beach park has great train-watching, boat-watching, plus a great playground and wetland trails near the beach (to add some turtle-spotting to your train-spotting).
Edmonds waterfront: Trains, ferries, the beach, a playground and good restaurants with more train-watching opportunities equals a perfect morning or afternoon any time of the year.
Costco parking lot, south Seattle: OK, this isn't exactly a destination, but if you want to combine your monthly warehouse haul with some train-spotting to keep the kids happy, the Costco on Fourth Avenue South in Seattle is a great pick. Just don't count on efficiency.
Georgetown Playground, south Seattle: While away a morning or afternoon playing at this terrific new playground and just wait for the occasional train to pass. You'll get double transportation spotting here with planes coming in low to land at nearby Boeing Field.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2012 and updated most recently in April 2018.