Playground or Park
This year’s winner, Battle Point Park, was a new discovery for us, but now that we know about this 90-acre gem on Bainbridge Island, it’s on our hot list. Highlights include a fantastic community-built playground that’s designed to spark imaginative play (miniature ferry, lighthouse, digging areas), a duck pond, skate park, trails for walking and biking, and community gardens. “Great for all seasons,” says one reader.
With a spray park, huge play structure, unique rock-climbing area, gentle paths perfect for beginning bikers and playing fields galore, Redmond’s Grass Lawn Park is another park that should be tops on your summer-do list. “Fantastic play structures, great for all ages!” raves one reader.
Carkeek Park has “something for everyone,” says one of the many fans of this beloved North Seattle park on Puget Sound. “Nice playground for small and big kids, hiking trails … beach access for digging and throwing stones, and a bridge over the train tracks for trainspotting.” We especially love the tide pool exploring opportunities, the apple orchard and the chance to watch salmon fight their way down Piper’s Creek in the fall.
Readers also loved Northwest Seattle’s Golden Gardens for its pirate-themed playground, wetland trails, a big beach that’s ideal for digging and grilling, and an unparalleled sunset view; and Jefferson Park, a gorgeous park in Seattle’s south end with a new spray park, top-notch playground, skate park and gentle trails for the wee ones to practice their balance-bike glides.
We asked on Facebook... What’s your favorite close-by campsite for a quick overnight dose of nature?
There is no shortage of nearby natural attractions for the happy campers of Puget Sound. When it comes to kid-friendly campsites, our Facebook friends had these great destinations to share:
- The cabins at Cama Beach. Good for winter “camping.” — Nadine M.
- Manchester State Park. Woods, beach and an area for games; only 10 minutes from the Southworth Ferry Dock. — Leslie H.
- KOA Leavenworth. Best campground for kids!! Pool, playground, hiking trails, pancake breakfast, outdoor movie night, shirt tie-dying, etc.! — Chloe H.
- Washington Park Campground in Anacortes. We just did a mid-week spur-of-the-moment overnight here and while I can’t say it was my “favorite,” the kids liked it and it did the trick. It’s open all year. — Jennifer J.
- Ohanapecosh at Mt. Rainier. Beyond-classic U.S. National Park campground! Camp among the giants (i.e. stately old-growth forest). — Matt H.
- Penrose Point; Larrabee State Park; and Millersylvania State Park. Millersylvania is great for the kids riding bikes endlessly around the loops. — Tracy M.
- Kayak Point County Park. Their yurt village is really awesome and the playground on the beach is terrific for the kids. — Melissa M.
- Offut Lake Resort in Tenino, Washington. — George S.
- Flowing Lake County Park. They have really cool cabins near the lake. — Melissa M.
Next up: Farm Fun »
Why does Remlinger Farms win this category year after year? Perhaps because “farm” is only the beginning of the fun at this Carnation hot spot: In addition to farm staples such as a petting zoo, pony rides, U-pick berries and pumpkins, you’ll find carnival rides (including a new roller coaster and an antique-car driving track), miniature steam train, mazes, hay rides and more, more, more.
Jubilee Biodynamic Farm, which was one of the first community-supported agriculture farms in the Seattle area, is a biodynamic farm in Carnation that draws hundreds of visitors every fall to its pumpkin patch and the attendant entertainment: draft-horse-pulled wagon rides out to the patch, a hay maze, hot cider and — our personal favorite — a trebuchet, or giant pumpkin catapult. CSA members also love Jubilee’s July “farm school” for kids.
Let’s start with “free” as a reason to visit Kelsey Creek Farm Park, a unique city-owned farm park in Bellevue that features “sheep, goats, chickens, pigs and ponies and lots of room to run,” according to one reader. “Great summer camps, too.” We also love the climbing tractor, the farm-themed quizzes along the path and the pioneer homestead.
Fox Hollow Family Farm, a family farm and equestrian center in Issaquah, also brings the fun, with “pony rides, baby animals, train rides, inflatables and kid-sized cottages with slides!” says a reader. Also, don’t miss the miniature John Deere tractors, a kid-sized train, and a giant rope swing into a hayloft. As for Fox Hollow’s renowned Easter egg hunt, two words: Reserve early.
“Very cute, traditional farm,” says one fan of The Farm at Swan’s Trail, set along the Snohomish River. It comes alive in the fall, with a 45-acre pumpkin patch, a U-pick apple orchard, duck races (!) and a 12-acre corn maze in the shape of a Washington state map, labeled with state roads and towns, and packed with historical facts.
Next up: Live Entertainment »
This year’s winner, Jeff Evans, is a magician and educational entertainer extraordinaire. He wows audiences throughout the Pacific Northwest at private events and parties, school assemblies and library programs. “Kids from 1 to 100” love his engaging entertainment that sneaks a little learnin’ in (shhh, no need to tell the kids about the learnin’ part). “He captures kids’ interest immediately” says one reader, “and he incorporates a lot of science and other subjects into his shows.” “He has such a great way of connecting with the kids,” says another. “His programs are always educational, but it doesn’t take away from the joy of it. We love Jeff Evans!!!” Awww, he loves you, too.
“One-man sideshow” Louie Foxx makes the list again this year, as well he should. This performer has an impressive stash of tricks up his sleeve — magic, comedy, cowboy stunts and hand shadows are just a smattering of his crowd-pleasing talents. “It was the most fun I can remember having as an audience member in a very, very long time!” reports a mom whose kids laughed through the whole thing. “It has been several weeks since we last saw him, and they are still talking about his show.”
Foxx is not the only charmer in town — Kelly Ann Moore Hughes, or Miss Kelly, of Tangerine Tales is a Ballard-based published children’s book artist, storyteller, writer and gifted face painter. “Kelly has a way with kids, amazing energy and wonderful face painting. The hit of every party we’ve been to!” exults one parent. Another raved that seeing Miss Kelly in action was “a truly magical and unforgettable experience!”
Another local fave, Xakary the Magician is “fantastic with kids” and delivers a magic show jam-packed with classic feats of illusion. Have a budding magician in the family? Thrill him with a visit from Xakary on his next birthday — the guest of honor gets star treatment as the magician’s assistant, complete with a chance to make a real bunny appear. Simply put, folks think Xakary is “wonderful!”
Next up: Birthday Party Venue »
Birthday Party Venue
Once again, HappyNest Play Centers in Redmond is ParentMap readers’ favorite birthday party venue for the wee ones. Voters love the mix-and-match options available in addition to the basic party package — music and dance, clowns and balloons, magic show, character meet-and-greets and glitter face painting, as well as games and sports. HappyNest reaps top honors for being “well-organized and clean” and for its “creative” and “warm” staff. Parents love the affordability, but more importantly the kids love it all. “We enjoyed every minute,” enthused one happy parent, and that is impressive indeed.
It would seem that kids on the Eastside sure know how to party! Great Play of Redmond is another hot spot where families can whoop it up, birthday style. Voters love it for its “amazing coaches,” “fun challenges for kids” and “reasonable pricing.”
In Seattle, another finalist gives your party a creative twist. Paint the Town not only allows for hands-on fun for the kids, it eases mom and pop’s party chores. Explains one relieved parent, “They host, organize, staff and clean up!” The kids stay busy and get to make their own party favors. Paint us a happy shade of yellow!
Another finalist also makes birthdays a breeze — parties at Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu) on Bainbridge Island are “easy, easy, easy for the parents, fun, fun, fun for the kids.” Parents love the “friendly staff,” “great activities” and “fun exhibits.”
Next up: Indoor Play Space »
Indoor Play Space
HappyNest Play Centers snag two top spots in this year’s awards. Also the favorite birthday party venue, HappyNest feels the voters’ love any ol’ day of the year. “So much thought went into this wonderful place!” says one voter, who finds “imagination stimulation” tucked into every corner. Parents love the “very clean and organized” play center that is “affordable,” “cozy” and “friendly.” “This is the perfect place to spend a rainy day with your infant or toddler.”
The Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu) is also “perfect for rainy days” and “provides fun learning activities for children from toddler to grade-school ages.” Readers love the “great staff and hours of imaginative play.” One smart parent takes the kids to engage in “messy art there, not at home,” and another suggests walking on the ferry to turn a fun time into a “fun day out.”
Another finalist is a new kid on the block, Playdate Café in Lynnwood. So far, the buzz has been all good about this coffee shop/play center/educational and community hub. “Their setup is outstanding, and they have amazing coffee and treats!” Kids have a blast, but parents love it, too — one voter feels like “it’s home away from home,” and another takes her kiddo there to “get the wiggles out” while she studies.
And speaking of wiggles, parents also love Bellevue’s WiggleWorks Kids for its “unique playground” with bright “interactive, motion play structures.” “Kids play hard,” says one savvy voter, “and nap hard!” You had us at “nap.”
Next up: Water Parks and Pools »
Water Parks and Pools
The Lynnwood Recreation Center & Pool won a promotion this year, from a 2012 finalist to 2013 winner. One reader did our work for us with this great review: “This pool has amazing family dressing rooms, where you can get your whole family ready in one room without having to worry about sharing with lots of other people. They have a great ‘beach’ with shallow water sprays, and a water playground. They even have a family hot tub!” Swimmers and splashers can also enjoy water slides, a lazy river, a lap pool and, for the grownups, a sauna, adult hot tub and a warm-water therapy pool.
Grab your sunscreen and head to Crossroads Park for a whale of a good time. This finalist is a voter favorite because of the interactive splashy, squirty marine-themed water park. Whales, sea anemones and frogs squirt and spout over the safe play structure, where squealing is inevitable, and encouraged.
If the sun isn’t cooperating or you need a midwinter dunk and mini “vaycay,” head to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound. The balmy 84-degree indoor water park offers more than 56,000 square feet of water-packed excitement for all — from daredevil slides for human torpedoes to zero-depth entry for timid toes.
The Bainbridge Island Aquatics Center also made the short list of best places to test your swim diapers. The two-pool facility includes a 180-foot water slide, lazy river, sloped beach entry and play area, 1- and 3-meter
diving board area, tot pool, spa and a four-lane lap-swimming area.