With a new zip line, a high slide and multiple climbing features, a brand new playground has just opened at Seattle's Discovery Park, well-timed for kids on winter break and a stretch of dry weather. More than a dozen kids played enthusiastically on a recent cold, clear afternoon. With adventurous and accessible features, this new playground is well worth a trip from points near and far.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the public, with warm drinks and light snacks, is planned for Thursday, Dec. 28, from 10:30 a.m–12:30 p.m. There will be nature activities for kids as well.
The new playground is located among tall trees in the same spot as the former one, a rough 150 yards south of the Discovery Park Visitor Center and Environmental Learning Center. The playground features a multi-level climbing structure with adventurous elements designed for kids ages 5–12. Elements include a covered tower from which a long plastic slide descends. There are also rope structures for balance and another climbing tower with layers of climb-through platforms. Textured archways provide places to crawl under and climb over. A short, two-channel slide descends from the lower level of the covered tower.
A smaller structure caters to kids ages 2–5, with a small slide, climbing steps, drums and bells. A set of four swings includes two baby swings, one regular swing and one accessible swing, though it does not have straps.
A new zip line sits in the spot of the old one. Kids lined up on a recent visit, doing a decent job of taking turns. The launching platform for the zip line is somewhat improved over the old one: Kids can now climb onto the seat and zip without the help of an adult. However, the launch area is cargo netting which makes for less steady footing on take off than the previous concrete platform. A group of kids in second, third and fourth grades playing on the new zip line reported that the old one was faster, but they still played until their guardians insisted on going inside to warm up.
The new playground design incorporates accessible features such as accessible pathways and curb ramps and accessible seating at picnic tables and adjacent to benches. Both the school-age and preschool-age climbing structures have ADA-compliant transfer platforms, and additional elements include the swing, a balance board and a dual seat bouncer.
In a community survey prior to the design phase of the new playground, respondents chose "adventure" and "natural" as the most popular responses for what type of playground they wanted. Adventurous elements abound with tall towers, rope climbing and the zipline; natural seems easily achieved by the forested surroundings.
One drawback to the playground — that has not changed with the redesign — is its placement amid tall trees that keeps the area cold and damp for much of the year. On the rare hot sunny Seattle day, playground visitors welcome the abundant shade, but most of the year you'll want to bring an extra warm jacket and a towel for drying off slides and swings. Three nice new wood picnic tables and two wood benches looked inviting for a summer day, but were all wet on a recent visit, even though the day was dry.
When visitors do get cold, or need a bathroom break or change of pace, the nearby Visitor Center offers nature-themed fun for younger kids. In addition to clean bathrooms and a drinking fountain, exhibits highlight the flora and fauna of the park. A side room features a puppet theater for imaginative play plus a huge bin of puppets.
Helpful Visitor Center staff can provide maps and help families plan a walk to the sand dune on the bluff, to the chapel or all the way to the lighthouse at the beach. With nearly 12 miles of trails within Seattle's largest park, there is much to explore.
If you go...
Where: Discovery Park is located in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood on the site of the former Fort Lawton. To reach the playground, go to the Visitor Center parking lot at 3801 Discovery Park Blvd., Seattle. There are also North and South parking lots which access different parts of the park.
When: The Visitor Center/Environmental Learning Center is open Tuesday–Sunday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Note the building will be closed for upcoming holidays Dec. 24–25 and Dec. 31–Jan. 1. The playground and surrounding park are open daily, 4 a.m.–11:30 p.m.
The playground grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony is Thursday, Dec. 28, 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Park activities: Discovery Park hosts frequent nature activities for families. Find the current activity brochure on the Environmental Learning Center page.
Facilities: In addition to the Visitor Center (with restrooms) and playground, Discovery Park offers tennis courts, a basketball court, open meadows and miles of trails. There is a portable toilet on site for when the Visitor Center is closed.
Getting there: The Visitor Center parking lot fills up on nice days and is a well-known target for car prowlers. Do not leave anything in your vehicle, even in the trunk. Bring a backpack or consider transit. Metro bus routes 19 and 33 serve the area.
Nearby snack stops: Magnolia Village is about a 1.5 miles south of the Visitor Center parking lot and has lots of restaurants and shops. Fishermen's Terminal is about 1.5 miles east near the Ballard Bridge; find fish and chips and other seaside fare there.
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