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7 New Destination Playgrounds That Park Hoppers Really Must Visit This Summer

New and revamped playgrounds around Puget Sound your kids will love

Published on: June 29, 2021

Forest Park Everett lady bug
Photo:
Forest Park Playground, Everett | Credit: Natasha Dillinger

Restless families have been sticking pretty close to home this past year, but while we’ve been in sheltering mode, new and revamped playgrounds have quietly been springing up like volunteer flowers. We sent our trusty playground pros out to get the scoop on some of the best new destination playgrounds around Puget Sound that, so far, have opened or reopened to families in 2021.

Safety first: We’ve said this a lot, but it’s worth repeating until we emerge from the other side of this pandemic mess: Wear your masks, wash your hands, keep your distance from those outside your family, and move on if you stop by a park and find a crowd. 

Natasha Dillinger, JiaYing Grygiel, Devon Hammer and Kate Missine contributed to this article.

1. Suquamish Shores Natural Play Area

Suquamish Village

After learning about Suquamish tribal culture and history, head to this amazing new playground, which connects the restored Chief Seattle gravesite, the Suquamish Museum, the Suquamish Veterans Memorial and the House of Awakened Culture (the Suquamish Community House). Just down the hill is Old Man House Park, where one of the largest longhouses in the region once stood. 

Suquamish Shores Natural Play Area kids standing on orca statue; credit JiaYing Grygiel
Photo: Credit JiaYing Grygiel

The playground

A piece of forest has been transformed into a culturally themed children’s playground — it even has a pod of orcas to climb on! Adventurous kids will love testing out the nature-inspired rope bridges and the enormous spinning basket. The ultimate challenge is a huge climbing boulder that features tribal art.

The play area has fun stuff for younger kids, too, including a wooden shelter and a small slide built into a slope.

If you go…

Find it: The Suquamish Shores Natural Play Area is located behind the Suquamish Museum at 6861 N.E. South St. in Suquamish
Getting there: Getting to Suquamish from Seattle takes about an hour and 15 minutes, including crossing time on the Seattle-to-Bainbridge ferry, but not including ferry wait time. From Tacoma, it’s about an hour’s drive, with no ferry crossing.

More nearby fun:

  • Wander in nature with your crew on some of Bainbridge Island’s best family trails.
  • Explore the quaint town of Winslow for kid-friendly fun. (Don’t forget the ice cream!) 
  • Book a visit to play at Bainbridge Island’s children’s museum, KiDiMu.

JiaYing Grygiel

2. Forest Park Playground

Everett

Occasionally, playgrounds that are touted as “all abilities” include one or two small elements for kids with disabilities. Forest Park, however, could practically serve as a catalog for the options available for inclusive play spaces. 

Child walks toward the statue of Rosie the Elephant at Forest Park playground
Rosie the Elephant. Credit: Natasha Dillinger

The playground

Forest Park features some fantastic, new-to-me structures, such as the We-Go-Round, a merry-go-round that enables wheelchair users to glide in and lock in place before turning. The equipment was installed by PlayCreation, the company that partnered with Landscape Structures to create local-gem playgrounds at Juanita Beach Park, Yesler Terrace and Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park.

A wheelchair-accessible ramp leads to a Sway Fun glider (similar to a seesaw) and roller slide, perfect for a gradual descent down to a soft turf play surface that cushions any falls. A forest-themed space is attached to the ramp-accessible play structure. Older and ambitious kids will find lots to occupy them here — there are plenty of climbing structures and a tall slide.

A statue of Rosie the Elephant memorializes Forest Park’s previous inhabitants — bears, elephants and peacocks — harking back to its time (1914–1976) as a local zoo. Bigger kids will enjoy the fun challenge of climbing atop her back, while younger kiddos can hop up, with a parent’s help, to pose for a cute photo. 

If you go…

Find it: Forest Park is located at 205 Park Rd. in Everett, about a 35-minute drive from Seattle or Bellevue. You’ll find a large lot with free parking and clean multi-stall restrooms. 
Nearby snacks: Visit The Loft Coffee Bar in downtown Everett for hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, sprinkles and a gummy bear. For lunch, pick up pizza slices at Brooklyn Bros. Pizzeria, a couple of miles away.

More North Sound–area play stops:

Natasha Dillinger

3. Heron Park

Mill Creek

Add this newly renovated, nature-themed park to your family’s playground passport. 

Two kids approach a play structure at Heron Park playground
Photo: Credit Natasha Dillinger

The playground 

Younger visitors will be beguiled by inviting play structures, including climbing structures shaped like tree stumps and wide green leaves, a tall corkscrew slide and a unique merry-go-round featuring a group-controlled steering wheel in the middle of four seats.

The larger play structure here is best suited to older kids, with challenging handholds on the climbing sections and steeply inclined bridges. Keep a close eye on your crew if you have kids who like to test their limits. (Pro tip for caregivers of older, independent kids: Enjoy a game of tennis on the adjacent court while still keeping your crew within sight.)

In addition to the playground overhaul, Heron Park’s sheltered picnic area also had its roof and floor redone as part of a $410,000 renovation completed in late 2020.

If you go…

Find it: Heron Park is located at 2701 155th St. S.E. in Mill Creek. A tiny parking lot provides space for three cars (including one ADA spot), but ample street parking is available nearby.
Facilities: There are no open restrooms, but you’ll find a large picnic shelter with tables, where families can take cover in poor weather. A small paved walking trail also winds around 1 acre of wetland space.
Takeaway grub: Mill Creek is home to the only remaining Washington location of iconic Toshi’s Teriyaki Grill.

More nearby fun:

Natasha Dillinger

4. Juanita Beach Park

Kirkland

This park’s scenic lakefront site can attract a crowd, and the fun new playground will only increase its draw. In addition to having fun on the playground, families can watch the ducks on the short boardwalk, take one of the side trails through wetlands or relax by the beach. Large new picnic pavilions with covered grills offer families space for outdoor dining in sight of the playground, and the park will also offer food concessions and nonmotorized boat rentals this summer.

Small boy slides down the playground slide at Juanita Beach Park
Photo: Credit Natasha Dillinger

The playground

This spacious all-abilities playground delights kids with features such as adaptive swings (including a fun double swing) and space to zoom around with a minimum of barriers. The playground’s level entrance and turf play surface accommodate wheelchairs, strollers and wobbly toddlers.

Two climbing structures — one structure designed for ages 2–5 and the other for ages 5–12 — provide protected spaces underneath for kids who need a little breathing room.

Swings, the smaller climbing space and the roller slide are popular features for younger kids, while mid-level sensory features such as drums, steering wheels and spinning colored discs engage older kids.

If you go…

Find it: Juanita Beach Park is located at 9703 N.E. Juanita Dr. in Kirkland. Two adjoining parking lots offer space for about 200 cars; there are several ADA spots.
Restrooms: Newly constructed gender-specific and gender-neutral restrooms are adjacent to the playground, alongside a seasonal bathhouse for changing into and out of swimwear.
Nearby nosh: Drop by Urban Coffee Lounge for hot chocolate and a croissant after playtime. Mobile ordering is available, and the kind employees will even bring your drinks to the car so you can wait with your kids. (I recommend the salted maple latte.) 
If your family has an adventurous streak when it comes to ice cream, stop by the new Salt & Straw location at Totem Lake Village, a couple of miles away.

Need more? Expand your playground circuit with nine super-fun Eastside parks kids love.

Natasha Dillinger

5. Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park

Renton

Hugging the shores of Lake Washington, this ultra-popular park features a swimming beach, a fishing pier, a boat launch, paved walking paths, tennis and volleyball courts, and two restaurants on-site — plus, a gigantic playground area.

Young girl enjoys the new playground at Gene Coulon Memorial Park
Photo: Credit Devon Hammer

The playground

Four main play structures, three bays of swings, and several smaller structures dedicated to spinning, climbing and riding fun are just the start.

Not only does the new playground include 11 slides (!) of varying lengths, one of them is a tube slide with windows. For the largest slide, kids have to ascend a cool ramp-type climbing structure to get to the top. 

Another feature earned the nickname “the obstacle course” from my kids. It was a dome-shaped climbing structure with various balancing features inside. The four-person teeter-totter was another big hit.

If you go…

Find it: Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park is located at 1201 Lake Washington Blvd. N. in Renton. There is a large parking lot directly beside the playground. Restrooms are located adjacent to the playground area.
Fuel up: Find Ivar’s and Kidd Valley right on the park premises. 

Devon Hammer

6. West Fenwick Park

Kent

The highlight of Kent’s recently renovated West Fenwick Park is a colorful and fanciful board-game-themed playground that complies with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. Alongside this phenomenal playground, other park attractions include a covered area with picnic tables and outdoor grills, a futsal field, a central lawn area, a basketball court and a tennis court. 

Recently renovated West Fenwick park
Photo: Credit Devon Hammer

The playground

A rainbow-colored path of game spaces winds through and around the entire playground. Scads of chutes and ladders — i.e., slides and climbing structures — line the path. Because the playground is built on a hill, there is plenty of elevation change for the slides and ladders, plus fun artificial turf hills to run up and roll down. Instructions to play the game can be found on a large signboard at the entrance to the playground. The game spinner doubles as a merry-go-round.

The playground was pretty busy when we were there, so it was a little tricky for me to facilitate the game and call out the numbers of spaces to advance so the kids could hear me. Regardless, they had tons of fun pretending they were pawns in the game and making it all the way to the finish line. (Pro tip: Yell out higher numbers to speed things up.)

If you go…

Find it: West Fenwick Park is located at 3808 S. Reith Rd. in Kent. It is roughly a 25-minute drive from Seattle, Bellevue or Tacoma. There is a decent-size parking lot adjacent to the playground. Multi-stall restrooms are located right near the playground.

Make a day of it:

Devon Hammer

7. Sunset Neighborhood Park

Renton

With a revamp completed in late January of this year, Sunset Neighborhood Park serves as a catalyst for the revitalization of Renton’s ethnically and economically diverse Sunset neighborhood. Anchored by the Renton Highlands library branch and newly constructed residences, the park features 3.2 acres of walkways, open lawns, rain gardens and an entry plaza with pergolas. But the star of the show is, of course …

A view of the pyramid climbing structure at Sunset Neighborhood Park in Renton
Photo: Credit Kate Missine

The playground

This jaw-dropping new playground is a destination for squealing-good risky play. The main play structure consists of a giant pyramid with a slide, connected by a suspension bridge to two climbing towers. The two towers reach 19 feet and 25 feet in height, and they’re linked by a rope tunnel. 

The climbing structures are huge, with a base that takes a good few minutes to walk around, and aren’t for the faint of heart. If anyone in your crew is timid or anxious when it comes to heights, they may not love it. That said, as long as kids feel comfortable, parents can rest easy: The structures are safely constructed, with the tallest sections of the towers enclosed in plexiglass for extra peace of mind.

The adjacent toddler section consists of a tot-friendly Kompan play structure, along with two bucket swings and seesaws. This space will keep younger siblings occupied, but it’s really the older kiddos who have all the fun here — provided they love climbing.

If you go...

Find it: Sunset Neighborhood Park is located at 2680 Sunset Lane N.E. in Renton. Street parking is available in the surrounding residential areas and adjacent to the library building. New (and sparkling clean!) restroom facilities are located on-site.  
Snack tips: There are some great multicultural food options in the area for grabbing a post-play bite. Try the Taqueria Los Potrillos #5 food truck for tacos or Renton Deli for delicious banh mi sandwiches. (There’s also a Subway nearby for less adventurous eaters.)

Kate Missine

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