Creating in the art studio at Hands On Children's Museum. Courtesy HOCM
It’s that time of year again. It’s dark, it’s damp, it's cold outside and everyone is itching for a change of scenery. Don’t despair.
We’ve gathered up more than 30 outings around the South Sound and South King County. Explore a new museum or revisit an old favorite, burn up energy at a roller rink or gymnastics center, or settle in for a craft at a new locale. The rainy season is your chance to be adventurous indoors. (For more ideas around the Sound, check out our Seattle and Eastside rainy-day play list.)
Active indoor play
Defy Olympia (formerly Boom Shaka), Olympia
This 23,000-square-foot trampoline facility is worth a visit, even if you live nowhere near Olympia. With 60 trampolines (including angled wall trampolines), aerial silks, launching decks and lots of different activities for various ages, kids will be flying high. (There is also a Defy Tacoma; Flying Circus in Tukwila is now Defy Seattle.)
Pattison’s West Roller Skating Center, Federal Way
A Federal Way institution, Pattison’s offers roller skate training sessions for beginners and a discount family night on Wednesdays and Sundays, 6–8 p.m. ($6, including skate rental).
The community center boasts a swimming pool that’s worth the drive, with a lazy river, two-story water slide and interactive play structure. Check out Come Play With Me, an indoor play gym at the community center open Monday and Friday mornings.
Trampoline Sportz (formerly Aerosports Trampoline Park), Federal Way
Federal Way’s indoor trampoline park offers a fun, clean jumping environment for kids. The mezzanine area for those watching the fun boasts comfy seating and free Wi-Fi. Open daily, and late!
WiggleWorks Kids, Puyallup
This indoor play place in Puyallup — a sibling to the Crossroads Bellevue WiggleWorks location — is a soft-play indoor play space designed for children under 48 inches in height, and a ParentMap Golden Teddy Award winner. Little ones love to run around, chase balloons, swing and wiggle away. Parents love Wi-Fi and snack area. Best of all, it's open daily.
Skate Tiffany’s, Puyallup
A huge maple floor sets this 1960s-era Puyallup roller rink apart from the pack. Tiffany’s offers Family FUNday every Sunday afternoon, $2 Tuesdays, and other special events and discounted times.
Bounce E House, Tacoma
A fun inflatable indoor play space in Tacoma, Bounce E House features a giant obstacle course, slide, toddler play area and more. It has open play Monday–Friday for all ages (check times before heading out); check its Facebook page for other sessions.
Pump It Up, Tacoma
Pump It Up was founded on great birthday parties, but has plenty of drop-in fun options as well, such as Pre-K open jump sessions on weekday mornings and a glow-in-the-dark bounce experience called GLOW Jump on most weekday nights. There are also monthly special events for both children and families.
STAR Center, South Tacoma
A STAR Center pass lets you take advantage of kids’ activities in the playgrounds, the adventure course, discounted classes, a fitness room, lap and family swims at two offsite pools and discounts on party packages. If you have a larger family and think you might go often, give them a call to see if a family pass is a better deal for you than paying individually (253-404-3939). If you are looking for less commitment, just pay an admission fee to play at the awesome indoor/outdoor (covered) Treetops Playgrounds.
Odyssey 1 Family Fun Center, Tacoma
The Tacoma play center’s Jungle Gym Park is a great place for kids to expend energy on the large climbing structure, monkey bars and more. Plus, there's a laser tag arena! Open seven days a week (and late!).
Black Hills Gymnastics, Lacey
This gymnastics training center offers open gym sessions for different age groups. Check the online calendar for times when the gym has sessions.
Cirque Climbing, Lacey
Drive them up a wall — a rock wall, that is. This climbing gym, formerly Warehouse Rock Gym, invites kids ages 6 and older to climb in the bouldering area. Kids need to weigh at least 30 pounds to wear a harness and climb in the roped area. Day passes for youth cost $15; more for adults. Check the website for climbing times.
Kent Indoor Park, Kent
The concept is pretty simple: Take a playground and put it indoors! This play space, great for kids over 10 months and up to age 4.5, is available at the Kent Commons Gymnasium on several mornings a week during the winter months. Only $2 for a day pass; $1 for siblings (maximum three kids per adult for supervision reasons).
Metropolitan Gymnastics, Kent
Drop by this spacious Kent gymnastics center for open-play Wednesdays and Saturdays. A current schedule of play times is available on the website.
Bounce at Diamond Square, Black Diamond
Over 3,900 square feet of inflatable FUN! Also a great baby/toddler area so they can join in the fun, too! Open 7 days a week, including a discounted "Hoppy Hour" Monday–Thursday, 4–6 p.m. Check the website for additional hours and rates.
Super Jump Party Zone, Auburn
You will find bouncy houses and slides plus an arcade area in this expansive venue. There is also a South Hill Mall location.
Peak Gymnastics, Enumclaw
This gymnastics training gym offers "Indoor Park" hours when you can use the gymnastics equipment, including a foam pit, tumble track, a bungee swing plus a big slide. There are Tiny Tots sessions for ages 3 and younger as well as sessions for older kids; check the website for hours and rates. Plus, check out Family Night every Friday, 6:30–8:30 p.m. You only pay admission for the kids but parents are encouraged to join in the fun!
Crafts and games
Play to Learn, multiple locations
Check the calendar of your local library and the Children's Museum of Tacoma for a schedule of free Play to Learn sessions, a time for fun activities, parent information and learning materials to take home. Adults stay and play with children, ages newborn to 6. Visit your library for traditional story times and special events, too.
An awesome "creative reuse" center in downtown Tacoma (there's a mobile Tinkermobile, too), this spot has everything you'll need for uber-creative projects. They also offer classes and workshops.
Paint Your Own Pottery at Throwing Mud Gallery, Tacoma
This contemporary ceramics studio opened up a few years ago inside Tacoma's Throwing Mud Gallery. Children are welcome to come with an adult to paint a keepsake ranging from plates to piggy banks to figurines, and pick up the glazed and finished masterpiece seven days later. Calling ahead is recommended especially for groups of four or more.
Art & Clay Studio, Lakewood
At this fun paint-your-own-piece studio in Lakewood, kids can choose from a variety of pottery pieces to decorate. Pieces are glazed and finished for pickup a week later. Open Tuesday–Sunday.
Michael’s Kids Club, Lakewood
Michael’s Arts & Crafts has a changing lineup of easy but absorbing craft projects, classes and events. Teachers at the Lakewood store are flexible. They often teach multiple classes and can change the craft at the request of children in attendance. Call the store or check online to find out what’s coming up.
Captain Little, Olympia
Longtime Olympians probably remember Wind Up Here, a toy store that closed a few years ago. Saddened by the loss, local business owner Paul Shepherd opened up Captain Little in its place. Follow on Instagram for events and more.
Museums, zoos and nature discovery
Tacoma's children's museum offers a warm and modern downtown spot with creative play spaces and an attractive pricing policy — pay as you can on any day. It's open Wednesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Check the website for special programs, including Play to Learn.
With eight galleries and more than 100 interactive exhibits, Olympia's awesome children's museum offers interactive play for young children, including Snug Harbor, a soft space for infants and crawlers with an educational focus, and an amazing Outdoor Discovery Center, with a driftwood building area, an interactive public art piece and more. Also, don't forget to check out the fantastic new play ship, the Megan D; read our review here. Tip: Every First Friday from 5–9 p.m. the museum offers free admission for the first two guests in your party, $2 for each additional guest.
Harbor History Museum, Gig Harbor
This maritime museum explores the seafaring and fishing history of the Gig Harbor area. Museum programs include hands-on learning opportunities, family events and school field trips. Museum volunteers are currently restoring a 65-foot purse seiner called The Shenandoah. The museum is free for all through the end of 2019; read our review.
LeMay — America's Car Museum, Tacoma
It's true that kids can't touch many of the vintage-car exhibits at the LeMay; but they will adore racing the slot cars and building and racing the pinewood cars in the Family Zone. Check the events page for fun workshops and special shows.
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Eatonville
Don’t ignore Trek during the rainy season. The Cheney Discovery Center is packed with interesting natural history items for kids to examine, from animal pelts and teeth to puppets and coloring projects for little ones. You could happily spend a morning here. And don't miss the epic Kids' Trek playground, also open all year.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Tacoma
The zoo is a great place to visit in the rainy season, with several indoor spaces (including the new tropical-feeling and amazing Pacific Seas Aquarium) and fewer crowds. If you have younger kids, consider joining one of the zoo's fun clubs, such as Critter Club, which meets on occasional Thursdays and Fridays.
Pierce College Science Dome, Lakewood
Those rain clouds won't stop you from seeing the stars with the shows at the Science Dome of Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood. Designed for ages 3–12, special children's shows get your kids up and moving while teaching them cool facts about the night sky. Check out the online calendar for show times and descriptions.
White River Valley Museum, Auburn
The history of South King County is on display at this small museum tucked into Auburn’s Les Gove Park (combine a visit with a trip to the park, which is awesome). It’s hands-on fun and innovative exhibits for just a couple of bucks. Free admission every first Thursday and third Sunday. Check website for times.
Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma
Located in downtown Tacoma's Museum District, this gem easily pairs with trips to other museums, such as the Children's Museum of Tacoma or the Washington State History Museum. Take a tour of the galleries, then proceed to the Open Art Studio, where kids can experiment with good art supplies and work on projects suggested by the museum. Tips: Paying museum admission is not required to visit the art studio and the museum is free every Thursday from 5–8 p.m., and also free for kids ages 18 and younger every Saturday.
Washington State History Museum, Tacoma
Get the kids into history! Play games on touch-screen computers in the Great Hall, do a scavenger hunt and check out the giant model railroad. Tuesday–Sunday, your family can play Museo, a hybrid of scavenger hunt and Bingo. Visit the History Lab Learning Center for hands-on, interactive exhibits.
Insider tip: Get free admission for partnering museums through Pierce County Library; just ask!
Legislative Building Tour, Olympia
Tour the domed 1928 building in Olympia that’s at the heart of Washington’s government, learn about the state’s legislative system, and visit the Public Galleries. Hour-long tours depart daily.
Bigelow House Museum, Olympia
Take a 45-minute guided tour of Olympia’s oldest residence, built in 1860, and find out how one family of that era lived, worked and played. This is one for families with older kids. Check the events calendar for the current schedule.
Olympic Flight Museum, Olympia
Take your plane-obsessed child to the Olympia Regional Airport to view several beautifully designed vintage warplanes, such as the shark-snouted Hawker “Hunter,” and a large collection of model aircraft, too. The museum is open Tuesday–Sunday.
Editor's note: ParentMap staff contributed to this article, which was most recently updated in December 2019.