New playground at Gas Works Park. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
Word got around fast about the new playground at Seattle's Gas Works Park. Seattle Parks and Recreation announced its opening earlier this month after a four-year, $1.8 million renovation. The day after it opened, droves of kids turned out to give the brand-new play structures a whirl. It didn’t hurt that leaves were turning, the air was crisp and the setting afternoon sun cast beautiful light over this unusual Seattle park. Ahh, fall.
Gas Works Park has long been a favorite for flying kites and catching fireworks on the Fourth of July. Now it’s also a place where kids can engage in risk-taking play, including busting out their best Spidey moves.
Webs to climb
The theme of the new playground is webs. Nearly every structure is built from ropes, with a bit of wobble or spin to them that will challenge even the most adventurous little gymnasts. It’s designed to make kids strong. There’s balancing, climbing, pulling — and opportunities for risk-taking. I heard a “Mommy! I’m scared!” from the top of a slide.
The centerpiece is a ginormous rope climbing gym, similar to the one at Seattle Center’s Artists at Play playground. It made my palms sweat just looking at the kids dangling 30 feet up in the sky, but they loved it. The ground is rubber, with some give, but still…
Even the smaller play structure, designed for younger children, uses a ladder strung on ropes to access the slide. I watched one tot tentatively step on the swaying ladder, then back away.
"You’re not sure yet?" her grown-up asked. "You don’t have to do it if you’re not ready."
There’s not much here for the littlest kids. I saw one toddler resort to running in circles around a pole. My own hyper-cautious children found the one stationary object in the playground — a geometric dome climber — and clung to its reassuring metal bars. They soon trotted off to look at the boats.
There’s lots to explore at Gas Works Park when the kids have had their fill of the playground. The park juts out onto Lake Union, offering breathtaking views of the downtown skyline. My boys were happy to watch all the traffic in the water and the sky: kayakers, sailboats, Ride the Ducks boats and sea planes.
Next to the play area, we saw dogs chasing Frisbees, kids kicking a soccer ball, even a pop-up used toy sale. Don’t miss the pocket beach at the water’s edge, and a sundial at the top of Kite Hill.
If the weather turns, duck into the "play barn," a large shelter that houses pieces of old machinery painted bright primary hues. Gas Works Park was a coal gasification plant in the early 1900s, and the hulking metal ruins are prominent in the site’s topography. Nearby, there’s a picnic shelter with barbecue grills and a basic restroom with flush toilets.
A note about safety: Parents have reported finding used syringes in the area by the playground. This is the city life, people. We luckily didn’t encounter any syringes, but we did find a ton of goose poop. Wear closed-toed shoes and stay safe!
If you go...
Open hours: 6 a.m.–10 p.m. daily
Parking: Free parking is available in the adjacent lot, though note that like many of Seattle's most popular parks, this lot is a high car prowl area. Don't leave anything in your car or consider taking transit.
Snacks nearby: Try tiny, friendly Palazzo Coffee, where you won't find wifi, but you will find soup, paninis and egg wraps ('til 11 a.m.). Nearby Essential Baking offers sweet treats, sandwiches and salads.
More parks to explore: Parks are sprouting up all over the greater Puget Sound area! Put all these on your route.