Live Entertainment for Kids
Winner: Louie Foxx You’ll find wowing audiences with his accomplished sleight of hand, humorous patter and other, more unusual Louie “One Man Side Show” Foxx tricks (duct tape, lassos, shadow puppets, anyone?) at locations all over the region. Foxx, a Guinness World Records holder, may not have the kind of brand recognition enjoyed by some of the other top picks, but you called his shows “humorous, inspiring for kids and magical.” One impressed parent said, “The kid is still talking about not only the show last week, but remembering the one from about three years ago! That is some impression making and long-term appreciation from a youngster.” And that is some endorsement.
Finalists: While Louie pulled it out for the win, we’d be remiss in not mentioning a trio of hot kindie bands that put up a rockin’ good fight. -- with their pink-and-black costumes, jangly rock ’n’ roll guitar licks, and spare lyrics about traffic safety and getting older (turning 5, people) -- get the preschool set up and dancing every time. The Not-Its!
(aka Presidents of the United States front man Chris Ballew) infuses his shows with a childlike energy that little ones love, and his sweet-natured music is easy on the all-important adult ear: “Great music, catchy, and doesn’t drive adults crazy!” Caspar Babypants
Elementary schoolteachers turned kid rockers
display a “fun, happy, genuine interest in children” with their brilliant blend of musical and lyrical sophistication and goofy onstage antics. Recess Monkey
Kids’ theater may be a little less raucous, but no less fun:
produces stellar kids’ shows in Redmond, many of them original musicals with book and lyrics by founding artistic director Stan Gill. Voters praise its “intimate theater setting, interaction between professional actors and the kids” and “wonderful series of performances.” SecondStory Repertory
Finally, you gave kids’ theater company
, which is affiliated with Kirkland’s Studio East, big praise for its humorous, fairytale-based musicals, saying that it “offers the perfect introduction to live theater. The shows are geared towards the under 10 set but older kids and adults love them as well. Kids get to participate and also can ask questions at the end.” StoryBook Theater
Winner: KidsQuest Children's Museum in Bellevue may be best known for its absorbing, hands-on learning exhibits for kids, but it’s also — surprise! — your go-to place for enjoying an exciting story time with your tots. Story times happen each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m., and you may want to consider timing your visits: “Miss Alison and Miss Jamie are fantastic storytellers … sometimes there’s animals or guest storytellers,” raves one local parent. KidsQuest Children’s Museum
Finalists: Bellevue’s hosts the The Bravern Little Bookworms story time on Wednesdays at 11 a.m., another local favorite that’s lauded for its “nice, comfortable environment” next to a fireplace. A plus that’s “easy for moms”: Valet parking is free while you attend story time. “It's the most organized story time I have been to,” says one parent.
Mockingbird Books is located in the beautiful 1921 Great Hall in Green Lake, and features lots of light, a friendly staff, a play space for kids and an indoor café, but this is the real draw: “Every day action!” Staff-led story times happen daily (except Sundays) at 11 a.m. The popular Green Lake playground is located nearby, so kids can get their ya-yas out before or after.
is a gem of a public space, with a children’s library that has its own entrance just off a shaded native plant garden. The children’s section of the library was created with kids in mind, with pint-size chairs, an aquarium, and plenty of books and puzzles. Story times are frequent and geared toward different ages (check the schedule for current offerings), but they’re “great stuff — always entertaining.” Bainbridge Island Public Library
is another favorite for story time, a candy-colored space full of interesting shapes, gleaming surfaces and plenty of space to tool around in. Story times are scheduled at different times for different ages, so check the schedule. The lowdown: “Great librarians, excellent facilities.” Central Library
Other finalists include Mercer Island’s well-loved, independent
(“Fun playhouse structure in the kids' section, awesome book selection for children/adults and helpful, knowledgeable, friendly staff”) and the Island Books (“Great stories, and the kids are learning, too”). Puyallup Library
Winner: Mountlake Terrace Pool Swim up (or down, in this case) a lazy river at the , which was your top water-play pick for its cool wet and wild features: warm water, spray fun, toys, a padded shallow entry, and that lazy river, which moves kids gently through a water channel and into the main pool. We like the spacious pavilion that houses the facility — there’s plenty of room to spread out — and the pool’s various programs range from swimming lessons to birthday parties to open swim times for all ages. “Great instructors, 88-degree pool, large shallow area for toddlers.” Mountlake Terrace Pool
Finalists: The at Forest Park in Everett boasts a nice grassy area to picnic on and more than a dozen cool water features for kids to play in. Voters love its “huge selection of structures, a water area and a petting farm.” Rotary Centennial Water Playground
2010 renovation increased the size of its pool — and added two big water slides, plus river, beach and lake play areas, and a family hot tub. Sweet! Lynnwood Recreation Center’s
The splash park at
Crossroads Community Park in Bellevue is cleverly designed around a Pacific Northwest theme, with frog and clam sculptures that spit water on the kids. “It is free, accessible and a fun water park for kids from walking age to at least 5 years old. It is safe and fun for both of my kids and easy to see both of them from any vantage point,” writes one satisfied parent.
The water feature at
, Ballard Commons Park with its gentle spray sculptures and slow-moving fountain, is “perfect for the under-5 set.”
The large, shallow
is “almost always open” and offers a “mix of sun and shade and plenty of room.” Green Lake Park Wading Pool
Winner: Grass Lawn Park Playgrounds were another hotly contested category among voters – you and your little ones adore your local playground, but like to explore new ones, too – and spacious, grassy in Redmond was your top choice for its versatility and fun factor. “Park has something for everyone and every age! Water spray for kids, great climbing structures, swinging structures, sandbox, swings, slides, monkey bars, trails to ride bikes…” And let's not forget about the fact that “the super-tall blue slide is the best ever!” Grass Lawn Park
Finalists: The super-cool Kids Up! Playground at on Bainbridge Island features an intricate wooden climbing structure designed by kids. (“Great community-built playground with a lot of fun structures.”) Battle Point Park
in Seattle’s Broadview neighborhood boasts expansive water views, wooded trails for hiking, and a beloved giant salmon slide in the Puget Sound-themed playground. Carkeek Park
Junior League of Seattle Playground at Warren G. Magnuson Park in Sand Point features a “huge play area” – Seattle’s biggest – and a child-designed theme that echoes the area’s past as an airfield.
, located in an orchard behind the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford, is a “safe, enclosed” space with plenty of grass to run on, sculpture and art to look at, and shaded areas. Meridian Playground
playground, located in Kirkland on the grounds of a former seminary, is another community-built site with a fantastic wooden climbing structure, much like the one at Battle Point Park. Saint Edward State Park’s
Winner: Remlinger Farms , located in Carnation, is clearly your go-to spot for down-home adventures. The farm’s Country Fair Fun Park is a popular seasonal draw, where little ones can go on rides, hop on a steam train and say hi to barn critters. “…For a toddler who needs constant stimulation, this is it!” The farm offers seasonal tours of the grounds, U-pick berries in the spring, corn mazes in the fall, and a grocery store and café. You really can spend an entire day here, from strawberry to pumpkin season. “Nice mix of rides and farm animals, and a good pumpkin patch.” Remlinger Farms
Finalists: You call “one of the best pumpkin patches in Snohomish!” The farm swings into full action in the fall, when it hosts a corn maze, hay rides and yes – pumpkin picking. Craven Farm
You don’t have to drive very far to get to
in Redmond, and it offers animal viewing and farm programs to area families. You like the “animals and forest trails that are kid-friendly and not too long.” Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park
, another close-in farm, is located in Bellevue and hosts seasonal events and animal viewing in a lovely setting. “Great accessibility to a farm!” Kelsey Creek Farm Park
You gave 20-acre organic farm
in Duvall props for its programs: “The best local organic food, childrens’ garden, education program, and great fun farmers.” Oxbow Center
at Swan's Trail in Snohomish is the home to the astonishing Washington State Corn Maze, and another go-to place for harvest fun. “A cool play area for kids, duck races, a petting zoo and the best caramel apples!” The Farm
Winner: KidsQuest Children's Museum You love the “organized chaos” at , located in Bellevue. According to you, the museum’s innovative, hands-on exhibits – kids can climb a treehouse to learn about science, play with water, and tinker in a garage – make it “the most enjoyable local children’s museum.” Every time you visit, you’ll discover something new, from story time to science projects to themed weeks that include crafts and other activities. KidsQuest Children's Museum
Finalists: Everett’s is another favorite museum destination, offering a “great” rooftop playground and a full calendar of events, including art projects and story times. “Clean, new, large, good for all ages.” Imagine Children's Museum
(KiDiMu) on Bainbridge Island recently moved into a spiffy new space located just a two-minute walk from the ferry. “Friendly staff, great programs.” Kids Discovery Museum
You give the “huge”
on Queen Anne love for its frequently changing exhibits. Pacific Science Center
, located in South Seattle, is home to an eye-popping collection of vintage and modern aircraft, and seeing many of them suspended from the ceiling in the Great Gallery is an awesome sight. The Museum of Flight
Winner: Camp Long We hear you: When it comes to camping, you want to be close to home. Very close. And you don’t really want to set up a tent. , located in the heart of West Seattle, is your pick for best kid-friendly campground. Stay in one of 10 (very) rustic cabins nestled in a deep forest, attend a ranger program, hike the trails and keep your eyes peeled for the numerous birds and other critters that call the park home. It’s utterly charming. “Close to home yet feels like you are out in the wilderness!” Camp Long Finalists: You also like to camp in the old-growth at in the North Cascades near the startlingly turquoise Diablo Lake, explore the old military installations and three miles of beach at Colonial Creek Campground on Whidbey Island (“Accessible, lots to do.”) and watch Puget Sound from atop a high bluff at Fort Ebey State Park in Jefferson County (“Beach, playground, military installations, snack bar, kites!”). Other finalists include Fort Flagler State Park (many locations) and KOA campgrounds in Wenatchee, where you can visit the Rocky Reach Dam and count marmot sightings. Lincoln Rock State Park