Rainy Day Recess: More than 60 Indoor Play Places in the Seattle Area
Written by Kris Collingridge and ParentMap staff
It’s that time of year again. You know, the one season that seems to stretch on forever, that can last from October to (sometimes even) July.
Don’t despair! We’ve gathered more than 60 outings that are perfect for a rainy day. (Psst, we update this every few months,and love tips about new places — just email email@example.com.) And check out our calendar for much more indoor fun!
Indoor play areas and cafes
1. Community center play areas. Twenty of Seattle's community centers boast "toddler play areas," indoor play rooms equipped with enough toys, slides, cars (and other kids) that it adds up to a dream outing for only $3. Particularly renowned are the Green Lake toddler room (open six days a week for long hours) and Northgate Community Center's huge "wear 'em out" room.
2. Kid-friendly coffee shops: A place where you can get your caffeine fix and your kids can happily play is ideal for rainy days. As of April 2013, we've just updated our list, with lots of help from readers.
3. Dizzy’s Bus Stop in Belleuve. The play space (decorated with a bright bus theme) hosts drop-off playtimes for children ages 18 months to 6 years. You get to run errands or go shopping, while your cooped-up darlings stretch their legs at Bus Stop & Go: up to three hours of play arts and crafts, snacks, stories and other kid fun. You can also stay with your kids in the Park & Play programs. The schedule changes monthly, so look online for up-to-date times and prices.
4. HappyNest, a play space in Redmond, won our Golden Teddy award for best indoor play area in 2012, and it's easy to see why. Parents like its affordable price, the wifi and coffee bar, its long hours (10 a.m.-7 p.m. most weekdays and for three hours on Sunday) and the variety of activities, from foam structures for infants to play cars for toddlers to gym equipment and dramatic play props for older kids.
5. Alderwood Mall play area in Lynnwood. Another reason to head north: The kids’ area was upgraded in December 2007 and now sports shiny new play equipment. It’s free and open during mall hours.
6. Twirl Cafe in Seattle. Sit back and drink a latte (or sip a glass of wine on their "Whine Wednesdays") while your child enjoys open play time in the play room or space to run around in the upstairs multipurpose room. Twirl Cafe offers a full, kid-friendly cafe menu, supervised play times for when mama needs a break and monthly classes and activities.
7. Mosaic Coffeehouse in Wallingford. This unique community coffeehouse, housed in the basement of a church, offers good coffee and snacks, only charges you what you can afford, and offers a complete playroom outfitted with a train table, books, toys and more.
8. Vios in two Seattle locations: Vios -- a pair of Greek cafes in Ravenna and Capitol Hill -- has reached star status among Seattle parents, featuring super play areas, excellent coffee, snacks and food and an atmosphere that immediately puts families at ease. The Ravenna location is open early for coffee and breakfast and has the extra benefit of being housed in Third Place Books.
9. The Nest in Woodinville. Need to run some errands? Drop off the kiddos for some arts & crafts, music, movement and age-appropriate open play while you finish up your daily chores. Check the events calendar for featured daily activities and what's in store for your tot's play day.
10. Om Kids Play Gym in Seattle, near Lake Union. An inviting alternative to community centers, Om offers an open gym for kids and parents several days a week, with facilitators on-hand to engage the children in movement, music, yoga, dance, and play, including a trampoline, swings, rings, lots of cushions and a song circle. $8 a session.
11. Kids' Cove, Bellevue Square. Do some shopping and entertain the kids at Bel Square's tot play area, with a maritime theme. On Saturdays they sometimes have free concerts by some of the most popular kids' entertainers around. Open during mall hours.
12. Lil' Diggers, South Seattle. Want a taste of the beach? Head to Sandbox Sports' playtime in a very, very large indoor sand box, with shovels, pails, trucks -- even small slides. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, 9:30-11 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
13. Northgate Mall, Seattle. Nothing wrong with combining shopping with some wear 'em out time. In 2011, Northgate opened a a very good toddler play area at the north end of the mall, with a playhouse, a car kids can sit in, and an electric piano on the wall. Open during mall hours, and free.
Gyms, bounce houses, trampolines, and other ways to wear 'em out
Kids love ‘em because they get to go wild and crazy. We love ‘em because they deliver exhausted children. Click on each link for the current schedule.
14. Elevated Sportz in Bothell, is the new kid on the trampoline block, opening up in November 2012, with trampolines, a giant kids' play structure and cafe with free wi-fi.
15. Seattle Gymnastics Academy indoor playground. If you've got ages 5 and under, head to the Seattle Gymnastics Academy in Lake City, Ballard or Columbia City for their indoor play time. With tons of props to jump off off, a foam pit, and much more, you are guaranteed a huge nap later that day.
16. Wiggleworks, Bellevue. A walk-in, indoor, completely soft-play, children’s playground and party facility for children less than 48” in height at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue, with separate play areas for infants and toddlers/preschoolers, plus snack area and wi-fi. $10 for an all-day pass. Try mornings for fewer crowds.
17. Playdate Cafe, Lynnwood. New, and already-super-popular Playdate Cafe is an 8,500 square foot play space with free wifi, a cafe/eatery, birthday party rooms, etc.. Our reviewer was wowed. Tip: Check Playdate's Facebook page to see how busy it is.
18. 3-2-1 Bounce in Bellevue and Everett. The bounce-house play space offers weekly playgroups and drop-in play sessions with activities including bounce houses, air hockey and physical activity.
19. Jump Planet in Bothell. Open play time at this bouncy emporium happens three times per week for kids of different ages.
20. Kidz Bounce in Issaquah. A large play area and many weekday drop-in times make this a popular destination for Eastside kids ages 2-10.
21. Arena Sports in Redmond and Seattle (Magnuson Park). At the Fun Zone Indoor Inflatable Playground kids can drop by and explore large inflatables, make new friends and bounce their hearts out.
18. Pump it Up in Kirkland and Lynnwood. Voted as the "Best place for a birthday party" in our "Best of 2010: Giggles, grub and gotta-haves" article last year, Pump it Up offers pop-in playtime Tuesday-Thursday and monthly special events for both children and families.
19. Skymania! Trampolines in Kirkland is open Tuesday through Sunday, with many jump times, a special toddler time two days a week, birthday party packages and much more.
20. Sky High Trampolines in Bellevue has more than 150 trampolines as well as dodgeball games, cheap toddler sessions (Munchkin Mondays) and special monthly sessions for kids with special needs.
Story time and crafts fun
25. Kaleidoscope Play & Learn. A program of Child Care Resources, Kaleidoscope Play & Learn are FREE organized play sessions around the Sound where young kids (ages 0-5) and their caretakers take part in play activities that support children’s early learning, meet new friends, and hear more about other early learning and family support programs in their neighborhood. Groups, which are offered in a variety of languages, meet weekly all over King County. Check out the groups in Seattle, North Seattle, South Sound and the Eastside.
26. Adventure Kids Playcare in Issaquah. Finish up your daily errands while your kids enjoy indoor activities such as air hockey, open play, arts & crafts, storytime, computer games, a karaoke stage (!), and oh, so much more. There's a special area for infants and toddlers; check the calendar for upcoming special events.
27. Space to Create in Seattle. This small, light-filled Ballard studio, located in a green-painted brick building in one of those funky Seattle business districts you’d never find if you didn’t know the name, offers open studio times for preschoolers and/or elementary-age kids.
28. Glazed & Amazed in Edmonds or Paint the Town at University Village. Skip the rainy day boredom and try your hand at painting your own pottery with your little one. Check the calendar and monthly promotions for daily discounts and family-friendly activities.
29. The Moonpaper Tent in North Seattle. Check the schedule for open studio activities such as story time, art, theater play and fun adventures led by instructors, or monthly Parents Night Out..
30. Central Library in Seattle. Explore the Central Library's endless stacks, take in the view from the top floor or relax during a story time, Tuesday-Thursday mornings. There's much to love about the downtown Seattle library; even if you are just climbing the stairs to the top.
31. Crossroads Play & Learn in Bellevue. Art, stories, games — lots of good stuff here for kids ages 2-5 and a caregiver during the free drop-in activity time near the Crossroads Bellevue stage. Wednesdays, 10-11:30 a.m.
32. Mockingbird Books in Seattle's Green Lake neighborhood. Mockingbird Books has an 11 a.m. story-time every day (except Sunday), train table, puzzles, a wonderful selection of books -- plus good coffee and adult books so you can sneak a few minutes of perusing in while your kids play.
33. Planet Happy toy store near University Village in Seattle. An eco-friendly toy store which always offer craft activities, including making buttons or seasonal crafts, plus a train table, trucks, and marble toy, plus hedgehogs doves and finches in residence. Open daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. FREE.
34. Mountlake Terrace pool and Lynnwood Pool. Seattle residents: Yes, it’s worth the drive to the North End. Both pools are warm, and have toddler-friendly lazy rivers, water slides and hot tubs. And if you just want a short swim (perfect for toddlers) you can take advantage of Mountlake Terrace's $2 "Happy Hour" swims.
35. Bainbridge Island’s Aquatics Center is worth a ferry ride over, with a water slide, lazy river ride, tot pool and play area ($4-$5 a visit).
36. Ballard Pool in Seattle has a spa/warm water area, a slide and rope swing. Check the schedule for family and tot swim times.
37. The Fife Swim Center boasts a main pool, two-foot deep wading pool and hot tub that are chlorinated with salt water, eliminating the need for harsh chemicals.
38. The Federal Way Community Center has both a lap pool and a leisure pool. The leisure pool showcases a two-story water slide with banked turns plus an interactive play structure with water sprays and a smaller slide for the younger set.
39. Our comprehensive guide to indoor pools lists many more pools worth a drive!
Enjoy a first-run movie with people who won’t give you "The Look" if your baby starts to fuss:
40. Baby’s Day at the Movies in Kirkland. Plays every other Friday at 9:45 a.m. (doors at 9:15 a.m.) at Kirkland Park Place. Children ages 4 and under are free (though it's not always a kid's movie that plays).
41. "Cry rooms" at three Landmark Theatre cinemas in Seattle. Show up early enough to grab the first-come, first-serve "cry room" seats at the Guild 45th, the Varsity or the Metro. And here's a handy blog post on how to game the Landmark phone system to figure out what's playing in each cry room.
42. Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue. Catch a Mother's Day film every Thursday at 10 a.m. with your baby! Bring your stroller and see new films with fellow infant mothers. All shows are presented with lowered sound and the lights a little brighter. Check the website for upcoming featured films.
Sports fun and other thrills
43. Bellevue Skate King in Bellevue. The interior is a bit worn, and the floor isn’t the shiny maple found elsewhere, but we love this roller rink because it’s so kid-friendly. A DJ spins positive tunes during the 10-and-younger skate on Saturdays and family skates on Sundays (discounted admission). Saturday evenings feature disco music and lowered prices.
44. Lynnwood Ice Arena. Public skating seven days a week, skate aids for toddlers, and cheap sessions on Wednesday nights; plus kid under age five are free.
45. Castle Ice Arena in Renton. Hit the ice Monday-Friday during public skate with your tot! Check out the family skate specials and the calendar for special family-friendly events. (And see our list of other great skating rinks.)
46. SyKart Indoor Racing Center in Tukwila. Got a speed racer on your hands? Children ages 8 and up will love taking a couple spins around the go-kart track with their friends or daring mama. Open Monday-Sunday, SyKart features a basic driving school course each weekend and a junior racing program for the kids who are more comfortable operating (and racing) a go-kart.
47. Seattle Bug Safari in Seattle. With over 50 different species of insects, spiders, millipedes and scorpions, there is much to excite your little critter lovers at the Seattle Bug Safari. Check the calendar before your visit -- reduced weekday hours are subject to change.
48. Uwajimaya in Seattle. A trip to the flagship Seattle store in the International District can be a cheap date or an all-out rainy day shopping trip. Snack on bubble tea and noodles; browse manga and Hello Kitty! doodads; and wander aisles stocked with a staggering selection of fruits, vegetables and snacks from Japan and other Asian countries.
49. Central Market, Shoreline. Mini-shopping carts for kids to push, fresh tortillas to taste, live crabs and other seafood to see, a traveling tractor to to climb on, and super-nice cashiers with stamps on hand for fretting toddlers. Plus, of course, an amazing selection of relatively well-priced ethnic goodies, as well as all the staples.
50. Blue Highway Games in Seattle. Drop by the quiet game shop on the top of Queen Anne any time during open hours and play a game or two (or three) from its extensive game library for all ages, from “Killer Bunnies” to “Apples to Apples, Jr.” The store hosts a Pokemon league and board-game nights, too. Free.
51. Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Here's a great deal: On select rainy days, the zoo offers a 50 percent "rain discount." Check the Rainy Day Discount page to see if it's on. Also, download a rainy day map so you can hit all of the zoo’s indoor exhibits if it pours.
52. West Seattle Bowl in Seattle. Retro-cool colors, good interior design and recycled flooring bump these lanes up to luxe. On Sundays you can bowl at a special family price. And in the summer take advantage of the kidsbowlfree.com program for lots of bowling gratis! See also our comprehensive guide to bowling for many more awesome alleys.
Museums kids love
53. Pacific Science Center in Seattle. When the cloud cover is thick, there’s nothing like getting an eyeful of the starry night sky in the Willard Planetarium. There's also a new Professor Wellbody health-focused exhibit, and much more. Daily shows are for kids ages 4 and older.
54. Bellevue Arts Museum in Bellevue. Plenty of monthly events including craft activities, demonstrations, family days, free student days, teen workshops and family movie nights at the museum.
55. The Burke Museum in Seattle. Wander through a hands-on exhibit that traces Washington state’s past natural history and check out the “oh wow” mastodon skeleton. First Thursdays are free and most weekends feature family fun activities.
56. Seattle Aquarium in Seattle. Seals, tide pools, octopus-feeding, starfish-touching: The Aquarium is incredibly dependable as a source of indoor fun and learning for babies and older kids alike.
57. Museum of Flight in Seattle. Take a spin in a two-seat flight simulator or tour a real Concorde and other iconic aircraft in the Airpark. Check out the awesome new Space Shuttle Trainer exhibit. Free the first Thursday of the month, from 5-9 p.m..
58. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma. Camels and otters and penguins, oh my! Skip the rain and spend the day with your favorite zoo critters. Check out the website for a variety of kid and family weekly programs that include activities such as art, science and learning about the zoo's animals.
59. The Children’s Museum, Seattle in Seattle. It’s worth the admission fee at The Children’s Museum, Seattle, just to hang out for awhile in the recently retooled Imagination Studio. You’ll find well-organized, well-stocked art stations here: clay play, recycled-materials sculptures, metal embossing and other projects. Plus, pay-as-you-can for the last hour each day.
60. Children's Museum of Tacoma in Tacoma. Tacoma's kids' museum has a warm and modern new home, creative Playspaces, and an attractive pricing policy -- pay as you can on any day.
61. Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett. In the museum’s small-scale wildlife clinic, your future vet can care for “wild” stuffed animals, remove them from realistic looking kennels, and other cool doctor-type stuff.
62. KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Bellevue. KidsQuest offers several themed activity days per month — think “Penguin Day,” “Opposite Day” and “Chinese New Year” — during which visitors are treated to stories, crafts and fun facts.
63. Discovery Village in Gig Harbor. Drop in for some hands-on learning fun, a kid-friendly cafe with healthy eats and five main play exhibits for various age groups. Discovery Village also offers weekly events, including story and art times.
64. Seattle Art Museum in Seattle. The museum’s entry hall features real cars, hung from the ceiling, that seem to be catapulting through the space. Don’t miss the Art Ladder, located in the south building, which features kid-friendly art installations. Another draw for families is the refurbished children’s play area, the Knudsen Family Room on the third floor. This quiet nook, with windows that look down on a busy streetscape, is beautifully designed and filled with outstanding play and educational materials for kids. Free the first Thursday of the month and kids under age 12 are free every day.
65. KiDiMu on Bainbridge Island. Beat the rain and take in a variety of hands-on learning exhibits, including the pirate tree house, art studio, science hall and totally tot activities. Open daily, with longer hours on Monday and Wednesday, KiDiMu also offers summer camps and monthly family-friendly events. And it's just a short walk from the ferry landing. Free the first Thursday of the month.
66. Frye Art Museum in Seattle: Free all the time, the Frye has excellent exhibits, a Small Frye story time the first Friday of every month, led by Seattle Children's Theatre actors, and other family activities.
67. Hands on Children's Museum in Olympia. In a completely re-imagined space on Olympia's East Bay waterfront that holds true to its Olympia roots, the new Hands On Children's Museum (re-opened in November 2012) is the largest children’s museum in the Pacific Northwest, with eight galleries and more than 150 exhibits, plus a state-of-the art outdoor exhibit that will open in spring 2013. First Friday of the month is FREE from 5 p.m.–9 p.m.
Kris Collingridge was ParentMap's Out and About editor.This article has been updated several times since she first wrote it.