I love the idea of a family road trip but the reality is more about drive-through bloat, sofa-bed induced back spasms, and hearing myself say , through clenched teeth, “Does it look like we’re there yet?” The fact that it takes a second mortgage to fill the gas tank makes it even easier to stay put this summer.
Instead of traveling, we’ve decided to be tourists for a day in the towns that are close to home — starting right where we live, Edmonds. If you've just driven through Edmonds to get on the ferry, it's time to take a second look. Even I was surprised by how much there is to do here.
1. Stretch your legs. Edmonds is very pedestrian-friendly. When you drive into town, just keep an eye out for the fountain roundabout on Main and Fifth — that’s the center of town. Street parking is usually fairly easy to find, and free. Park West of Fifth and on Main (or close to) for the easiest access to both the downtown area and the beach. There is also a four-hour lot at Bracket’s Landing on the north side of the ferry dock. There are a number of self-guided walking tours to get you started.
2. Hit the beach. Edmonds has the kind of beaches that make living in this part of the world so crazy-amazing. Its entire beachfront, the Edmonds Marine Sanctuary, is a prolific wildlife area with great bird-watching, a fishing pier and the occasional baby seal chillin’ on the sand. If a seal does decide to rest on the beach, within minutes the Edmonds Seal Sitters send a volunteer to watch over the pup. They provide information and answer questions while they keep the well-meaning, but misguided, from trying to “help.” (No, you do not take a seal home and put it in your bathtub.) Add good sand, rocks for climbing, trains going by, a ferry coming or going, a marina and play areas and you already have a fantastic day in store.
Brackett’s Landing, a popular spot for divers with a 27-acre underwater park, is located on the north side of the ferry terminal, at the end of Main Street. Four-hour parking is free. There are rocks to climb, a viewing telescope, a sandy beach for digging your toes in, and breathtaking views. Our family plays a game called “Ferry’s in,” which entails keeping an eye out for the exact moment the ferry lands and hollering “Ferry’s in!” It’s pretty complicated.
Edmonds Marina Park, south of the ferry landing near Anthony's Home Port, is another excellent stop. If you're walking from downtown it's a long haul for short legs, so you may want to drive. If the small parking lot is full, park in the visitor spots in the Edmonds Marina and take a short stroll along the promenade to the park. The view is fantastic and worth the walk. The park is part grassy hillside, part beach and has a play area, an off-leash dog and nature area, and just in case you packed your volleyball in the diaper bag, a volleyball court.
If you've got boat lovers in your family, the Port of Edmonds, north of Marina Park, could keep you busy for hours. Check out the dry storage area with rows of stacked-up boats, a public boat launch, a 50-ton Travelift that can haul out a 60 foot boat, and a power wash station. Think your kid loves the car wash? Wait until he sees a boat get plucked out of the water and its undercarriage blasted with jets of water. If you want to go down to the docks, or visit Bud’s Bait House to get a snack or a cold drink, you can stop by the life vest loaner station and borrow a kid’s life vest, or PFD (personal floatation device.) No charge, just return it before you leave.
Check out the weather station — a bank of three computer screens with educational weather and environmental videos and real-time weather data.
Located on the north end of the marina, at the base of the fishing pier, the Visitor Station is open weekends noon–5 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. Ranger-naturalists and volunteer beach docents are available to answer questions and share their knowledge. The highlight is the touch tank stocked full of local marine life.
Finally, don't miss Just Frogs, Toads Too and Friends! Amphibian Center, open weekends from 1–7 p.m. and Wednesdays 4–8 p.m. This is is the “Frog Lady,” Thayer Cueter’s educational center, animal rescue and hoppin’ fun gift shop. It's located at the fishing pier (below Arnie’s of Edmonds Restaurant.)
3. Take in the arts. Edmonds has public art scattered throughout the town. Download this brochure for information and a route for a self-guided tour. Visit the Edmonds Historical Museum and take a gander at one of their collections of artifacts and historical documents dating from the town’s birth in 1890 to the modern day, highlighting the town’s logging and shingle mills, a Victorian Parlor, a Maritime Room and most importantly for the kiddos, a large model train layout ($5/adults; $2/kids). Once a month the downtown galleries, restaurants and merchants open their doors for the very popular Third Thursday Art Walk from 5–8 p.m. On Sunday afternoons in July and August, take a lawn chair or a blanket and head to City Park, on 3rd and Pine, and enjoy free family-friendly summer concerts, from 3–4 p.m.
Finally, the charming Edmonds Theatre, on Main Street downtown, is a refreshing alternative to the multiplex, showing great movies at affordable prices and a free bag of popcorn for children 12 and under. On Tuesdays, all tickets are $6 and on Wednesdays they give you all the popcorn you can eat for $3.
4. Go shopping. Downtown Edmonds has a ton of great shops and art galleries and a fantastic farmers market on Saturdays. Here are my favorite kid-centered places to pop in:
Edmonds Bookshop. Small, but well-stocked, this indie bookstore has a great kids’ selection and a friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Terri’s Toybox. A family-owned, hands-on toy store with a fantastic selection of classic, unique and educational toys catering to the kid in everyone.
Nama’s Candy Store. The good ol’ fashioned candy shop every town needs, offering timeless favorites and hard-to-find sweets.
The Wishing Stone. A magical hole in the wall (really — they have a cave wall inside the shop) with fossils, minerals, shells, stones, spheres, jewelry and all kinds of natural wonders.
Kinder Britches. A darling family-owned boutique with quality kids’ clothing and gifts.
Glazed and Amazed. A “paint your own pottery” and glass-fusing studio with creative special events throughout the month — like Family Day when groups of two or more get 10% off and Listen and Then Paint Storytime for 3- to 7-year-olds.
5. Fuel up. You’ll no doubt need to fuel the family up before heading home and you can find just about anything you crave. Here are a few kid-friendly spots to check out.
Demetris Woodstone Taverna is the perfect foodie-with-kids spot, positioned across a parking lot from a beach, park and ferry terminal. Much of their menu is tapas style — the lamb sliders, bacon-wrapped dates, seared ahi tuna and the calamari are my current favorites. The kids keep busy watching the ferry come and go, counting passing train cars and chewing on flatbread — the tomato, basil and mozzarella is a kid favorite, but they will make it plain if you have a picky eater. There is also a small kids’ corner inside with chalkboard walls and a pile of toys. If the weather is right they light the fire pit on the deck and it adds warmth and a festive atmosphere.
Enjoy a classic 50s-style diner experience at Main Street Burgers. They use all-natural Painted Hills Beef and fresh local ingredients, and also make all the dipping sauces in house. Fresh-baked buns come from the Edmonds Bakery, just a few doors up.
Finish off with a stop at Revelations Yogurt, a little self-serve frozen yogurt bar with a cult following and an ever-changing menu, from Thin Mint Cookie to Caramel Carrot Cake to Cable Car Chocolate.
Emily Metcalfe Smith is an Edmonds mom of two and ParentMap's Out & About intern. Top photo credit to The Wooden Shoes, flickr.com.