Entertainment & Fun: Readers' Picks
Place for dad-child getaways
Given their affinity for hands-on play, it's no surprise that the most popular place for dads and kids is the Pacific Science Center. Located under the arches near the Space Needle, the Science Center features interactive fun for all ages, including the ever-popular water play area for toddlers and a variety of cause-and-effect science exhibits (how many calories DO you burn when you peddle that bicycle?). Located at 200 Second Ave. N., Seattle, 206-443-2001, www.pacificsciencecenter.org. Runners up: Museum of Flight (9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, 206-764-5720, www.museumofflight.org), Seattle Aquarium (1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle, www.seattleaquarium.org), The Children's Museum, Seattle (305 Harrison St. in Seattle Center, 206-386-4300, www.thechildrensmuseum.org) and Woodland Park Zoo (750 N. 50th St., Seattle, 206-684-4800, www.zoo.org).
Whether you walk along the seawall loop at Stanley Park, see beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium or ride the water taxi to Granville Island, Vancouver, B.C. offers a host of attractions for families. ParentMap readers picked this cosmopolitan city -- a two-and-a-half-hour drive, plus border-crossing time, from Seattle -- as their favorite family getaway.
Indoor play area
Readers chose the new KidsQuest Museum as their Hidden Gem indoor play area. Located in Bellevue's Factoria Mall, the museum's interactive, hands-on exhibits present art, science, technology, math and daily life concepts in a fun environment. (4091 Factoria Blvd., Bellevue, 425-637-8100, www.kidsquestmuseum.org). Runners up: The Children's Museum, Seattle (www.thechildrensmuseum.org) and Imagine Children's Museum (1501 Wall St., Everett, 425-258-1006, www.imaginecm.org).
Sunny day places
Contrary to popular belief, the Puget Sound area can get positively hot in the summer (or maybe it just seems that way to those of us who are more at home in fleece jackets than floral bikinis). ParentMap readers agreed that West Seattle's Alki Beach (1702 Alki Blvd., Seattle) is the best place to hang out with the kids when the temperatures rise. Runners up: Woodland Park Zoo, Magnuson Park (7400 Sandpoint Way N.E., Seattle), Kelsey Creek Farm (13204 SE 8th Pl., Bellevue, 425-452-7688), Lake Sammamish and Brackett's Landing in Edmonds (corner of Main Street and Railroad Avenue just north of the Edmonds Ferry dock).
Place to swim
The recently remodeled indoor Mountlake Terrace Pool, with its "lazy river" feature and shallow-water leisure play area, was the "Hidden Gem" selection for best place to swim. Located in the Mountlake Terrace Recreation Pavilion, 5303 228th St. S.W., 425-776-9173, www.ci.mountlake-terrace.wa.us. For outdoor swim enthusiasts, runners up included Pop Mounger Pool in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood )2535 32nd Ave. W., 206-684-4708), Coleman Pool in West Seattle (8603 Fauntleroy Way S.W., 206-684-7494) and Lake Sammamish.
Voters selected West Seattle's Lincoln Park as their "Hidden Gem," and with good reason: The park's child-friendly layout includes the heated outdoor salt-water Coleman Pool (see "Place to swim"), plus a wading pool, two kids' play areas and Puget Sound beach access (8011 Fauntleroy Way S.W., Seattle). Runners up: St. Edwards State Park (14500 Juanita Dr. N.E., Kenmore) and Downtown Park near Bellevue Square (10201 N.E. 4th St., Bellevue).
Entertainment & Fun: Writer's Picks
Hidden Gem weekend getaway that will leave you with money for your Monday morning latte
Bellingham is only some 80 miles north of Seattle, but it might as well be a million considering how little it figures into many area families' recreation plans. Once you get there, though, you'll find that you can spend a couple of days exploring the town without having to shell out the big admission fees that are common in larger cities' museums and attractions. So find an inexpensive room, grit your teeth as you gas up the car, and don't forget to take Chuckanut Drive (www.chuckanutdrive.com) instead of the freeway. On Saturday, visit Mindport (www.mindport.org) an art gallery-cum-science museum where interacting with the exhibits is the whole point. Afterward, head to the American Museum of Radio and Electricity (www.americanradiomuseum.org) for a rare chance to play a 1929 Theremin, the electronic instrument responsible for that warbly outer space sound effect beloved by B movie directors, or study the train layouts at the Bellingham Railway Museum (www.bellinghamrailwaymuseum.org). End your day with a family movie on the Bellingham Public Library Lawn (www.whatcomfilm.org/tps/Default.aspx). On Sunday, drive five miles north to Ferndale to local gem Hovander Homestead Park (www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks/hovander/hovander.jsp). Families can play on tractors and view farm animals in the bright red barn, get their hands on sweet-smelling plants in the Fragrance Garden and take the wetlands boardwalk around Tennant Lake. Total cost for all of this for a family of four? Under 40 bucks. (Lodging and event info at www.bellingham.org.)
Hidden Gem daytrip that makes you feel as if you've been far away -- even though you really haven't
It'll take you about 40 minutes from Seattle, but Eastside families can get to the Cedar River Watershed Education Center -- which overlooks Rattlesnake Lake in the Cascade foothills near North Bend -- even faster. The watershed supplies drinking water to the greater Seattle area, so it's off limits to unaccompanied visitors. Take your older child (age 10 and up) on one of its interpretive bus tours, however, and you'll be treated to an insider's look at the area's complex historical and current uses as well as some seriously gorgeous landscape. If tours aren't your style, or if your kids are too young, roam the education center's serene grounds and visit the water-themed exhibits inside. The 1.5-mile Rattlesnake Lake trail runs past the education center, but if you're feeling adventurous you can continue two miles up (way up) to Rattlesnake Ledge for a great view. Check out the free activity backpack that contains guides, maps, magnifying glass and other tools of the trail. Get all the info at www.ci.seattle.wa.us/util.
Upscale surroundings, inexpensive lunch and playdate Hidden Gem
The REI Flagship Store in downtown Seattle, long a playground for adults who want to rock climb or test out a bike or pair of hiking shoes, recently renovated its children's playspace. The play area, tucked away on the second floor next to the children's shoe department, now contains a spiffy tree house climbing structure that your child will not be able to resist. It's challenging enough for kids up to age 6 or 7, with its roof-brushing height and long slide, while tots can climb through passageways at the base or play in a shiny red toy kayak. There's plenty of floor space for running around, cubbies to store shoes and a World Wrapps outlet right next door where you can get a quesadilla kids' meal for cheap. It's a fresh place for an inexpensive afternoon out (if you can avoid spending close to $50 on that tiny pair of purple Keens on your way in, that is). 222 Yale Ave. N., Seattle. 206-223-1944, www.rei.com.
-- Kris Collingridge
Entertainment & Fun: Readers' Picks