A Mom's Review: PlayDate SEA in South Lake Union, Seattle
An indoor play option where kids AND adults can have a great time? Say hello to PlayDate SEA, a new play space located in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood that aims to be a one-stop-shop of entertainment not only for kids but also for their adult caregivers. The space opened last weekend and holds its all-day, free grand opening on Saturday, June 1.
Owner Robert "Bob" Birkhahn (a physician) built upon the lessons and experiences of managing a popular playspace/cafe — PlayDate PDX — in Portland. You can tell that they’ve put a lot of thought into this new location’s interior design, play structure, menu and party rooms.
The main attraction
The facility’s main attraction for kids is a 3,000-square-foot undersea/Atlantis-themed, multi-level play structure with slides, tubes, tunnels and balancing challenges.
It’s like a giant gerbil maze for children and it looks like something a kid would dream up. (Luckily it was dreamed up by adults who also had safety and cleanliness in mind.)
Kids can enter and climb via a number of routes which spreads the kids out and minimizes congestion. They can go all the way to the top and explore the various padded obstacles or stay on the lower parts with slides and other obstacle challenges.
There are also two interactive gaming activities inside the structure where kids’ movements are tracked by motion sensors that change the projected images on the floor (like a simple Wii or Xbox Kinect game) and a ball area with dueling Nerf air cannons and a ball fountain just to the side of the structure. Toddlers can play in a separated space for ages three and under.
Parents can play, too
Parents are able to keep an eye on the kids in the big structure through the mesh and net “walls.” They are also encouraged to directly monitor and go inside the structure themselves. Additionally, safety and sanitation protocols are in place to help make sure everyone has a fun and healthy experience.
If your kid is both adventurous and well-behaved, it’s possible for you to sit on the sidelines, have a beverage and watch them tire themselves out exploring every nook and cranny. Bold 4-year-olds and older will likely do great solo in the main structure.
More timid and younger kids seem to do better with an adult sidekick to encourage them. The interior can be a little dim in parts, which adds to the exploratory spirit of the space, but could be a little frightening for smaller kids. My almost four-year-old daughter wanted me to join her in the main structure with her infant brother strapped to me in a carrier. While not impossible, it proved awkward, so we hung out in the enclosed toddler area that has padded shapes, wall puzzles and two small slides.
The cafe: A full menu, plus Stumptown
And what about the other all-important feature of any modern play space, the cafe? As with the play space as a whole, the owners designed the cafe menu to appeal to kids and adults. It includes many ready-to-eat and cooked food options, from salads to paninis and from pizza to snack plates, and includes gluten- and dairy-free offerings as well. (The “SLU Wrap” with chicken, lettuce and balsamic glaze, is delicious, by the way.) Tip: Order early and before you need to eat, because it takes a while to get your food.
The café menu also boasts a variety of drink options, including smoothies, milk and soda, plus Stumptown Coffee, wine and some local beers. In the dining area, there are also some 55-inch TVs tuned to ESPN and the Food Network (but they do honor other requests). Plentiful seating is provided, along with free wifi.
PlayDate SEA also has two beautifully painted party rooms available for hosting birthdays or gatherings, seven days a week.
If you go ...
Where: PlayDate SEA is located at 1275 Mercer St., Seattle. The entrance is on Yale, next to Bright Horizons; look for street parking, but (in the near term) it will be slightly more challenging with condo construction going on next door.
Grand opening: The Grand Opening is set for Saturday, June 1, 9 a.m.–9 p.m., with free admission all day long.
Tips: Don’t forget to bring socks so your child and you can roam the structure. (If you forget, there are some for sale.) Children should dress comfortably and in layers as the structure can get warm with all the physical activity — especially when the AC is not running.
They ask that patrons leave all outside food and drinks at home since they have a full-service cafe menu (exceptions made for special diets and baby food/formula).
Admission: Monday-Friday: $5 for toddlers (up to 3 years), $10 for children (4+ years)
Weekends/holidays: $7 for toddlers (up to 3 years), $12 for children (4+ years)
Discounted 10 or 25-visit punch cards are also available that don’t expire and are not child specific.
Hours: Sunday–Thursday 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday–Saturday 9 a.m.–9 p.m.Google+