Live Entertainment for Kids
Winner: Louie Foxx
You’ll find Louie “One Man Side Show” Foxx wowing audiences with his accomplished sleight of hand, humorous patter and other, more unusual 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.
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. The Not-Its! -- 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.
Caspar Babypants (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!”
Elementary schoolteachers turned kid rockers Recess Monkey display a “fun, happy, genuine interest in children” with their brilliant blend of musical and lyrical sophistication and goofy onstage antics.
Kids’ theater may be a little less raucous, but no less fun: SecondStory Repertory 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.”
Finally, you gave kids’ theater company StoryBook Theater, 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.”
Winner: KidsQuest Children's Museum
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.
Bellevue’s The Bravern hosts the 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.
The Bainbridge Island Public Library 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.”
Seattle’s Central 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.”
Other finalists include Mercer Island’s well-loved, independent Island Books (“Fun playhouse structure in the kids' section, awesome book selection for children/adults and helpful, knowledgeable, friendly staff”) and the Puyallup Library (“Great stories, and the kids are learning, too”).
Winner: Mountlake Terrace Pool
Swim up (or down, in this case) a lazy river at the Mountlake Terrace Pool, 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.”
The Rotary Centennial Water Playground 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.”
Lynnwood Recreation Center’s 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!
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 Green Lake Park Wading Pool is “almost always open” and offers a “mix of sun and shade and plenty of room.”
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 Grass Lawn Park 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!”
The super-cool Kids Up! Playground at Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island features an intricate wooden climbing structure designed by kids. (“Great community-built playground with a lot of fun structures.”)
Carkeek 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.
The 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.
Meridian Playground, 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.
Saint Edward State Park’s 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.
Winner: Remlinger Farms
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.”
You call Craven Farm “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.
You don’t have to drive very far to get to Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park 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.”
Kelsey Creek 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!”
You gave 20-acre organic farm Oxbow Center in Duvall props for its programs: “The best local organic food, childrens’ garden, education program, and great fun farmers.”
Popular The Farm 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!”
Winner: KidsQuest Children's Museum
You love the “organized chaos” at KidsQuest Children's Museum, 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.
Everett’s Imagine Children's Museum 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.”
Kids Discovery 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.”
You give the “huge” Pacific Science Center on Queen Anne love for its frequently changing exhibits.
The Museum of Flight, 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.
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. Camp Long, 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!”
You also like to camp in the old-growth at Colonial Creek Campground in the North Cascades near the startlingly turquoise Diablo Lake, explore the old military installations and three miles of beach at Fort Ebey State Park on Whidbey Island (“Accessible, lots to do.”) and watch Puget Sound from atop a high bluff at Fort Flagler State Park in Jefferson County (“Beach, playground, military installations, snack bar, kites!”). Other finalists include KOA campgrounds (many locations) and Lincoln Rock State Park in Wenatchee, where you can visit the Rocky Reach Dam and count marmot sightings.