As the hustle and bustle of summer begins to wind down, treat your family to an afternoon in a local waterside park. Whether a sprawling beach or an urban retreat, all of these scenic spots are worth a visit. Relax, spread out a picnic, let the kids get their feet wet, and enjoy a quintessential summer activity before the season turns toward fall.
With its cozy little niche in the trees, Madrona Park offers striking views of Mount Rainier and a soft, sandy beach for little feet and hands. The swimming area features floating platforms, a diving board and a lifeguard on duty until Labor Day. Combine a picnic with a walk on nearby trails or scenic drive along the shoreline. 853 Lake Washington Blvd., Seattle. www.seattle.gov/parks
West Seattle’s Alki Beach Park is a long beach strip that offers proximity to several eateries for take-out picnic fare. Enjoy the impressive panoramas of the downtown skyline and Olympic Mountains as you try out your sandcastle-building skills. 1702 Alki Ave. S.W., Seattle. www.seattle.gov/parks
Idylwood Park on Lake Sammamish features an expansive swimming beach, vast lawns, sheltered picnic areas and new play equipment that is appropriate for kids of all ages. Two eagles nesting nearby give beachgoers a regular air show. 3650 W. Lake Sammamish Parkway N.E., Redmond. www.redmond.gov/insidecityhall/parksrec/parks.asp
Found right in the center of Meydenbauer Bay, Bellevue’s picturesque Meydenbauer Beach Park is a real gem. Its well-kept, wooded entry leads up to a charming playground, beach and swimming hole. A lifeguard is on duty all summer, and parents will appreciate the views of sailboats and handsome homes. 419 98th Ave. N.E., Bellevue. www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/parks_intro.htm
If your child is enthralled by ferries and trains, Edmonds Marina Beach is a must-see. This shoreline park is also great for flying kites, climbing on driftwood and exploring marine life at low tide. And it has play equipment for kids who want a break from the water. South end of Admiral Way, Edmonds. www.ci.edmonds.wa.us/parks.stm
Thornton A. Sullivan Park at Silver Lake is a beautiful, natural space in an urban setting. It offers a large, sandy beach and guarded swim area — the optimal condition for wading toddlers because there is no current. This park also boasts a gigantic playground, rentable paddle boats and trout fishing. 11405 Silver Lake Road, Everett. www.everettwa.org
The water fountain at Ballard Commons Park is made of a long, slanted granite table with bubbling spouts and water channels. Kids get a kick out of pouring water into the massive stone seashells, which flows down the sides. Located kitty-corner to the Ballard Library, this is a wonderful destination on its own or coupled with a trip to get some books. 5701 22nd Ave. N.W., Seattle. www.seattle.gov/parks
Families frequent Seattle Center’s International Fountain to cool off after attending a cultural event or playing at the Fun Forest amusement park. Set up a picnic on the perimeter while the kids venture down into the great fountain, which has sprays that are synchronized to music. 305 Harrison St., Seattle. www.seattlecenter.com
After a shopping excursion, Borders story time or bike ride on the nearby Sammamish trail, visit Redmond Town Center’s main courtyard and play in the fun little fountain. Water shoots up from the ground, and kids can climb on the bronze bear sculptures. 16495 N.E. 74th St., Redmond. www.redmondtowncenter.com
North Lynnwood Neighborhood Park features a spray park surrounded by a submarine, tires, a whale and colorful cement shapes. The biggest attraction, though, is the tall green dragon that spurts mist from its nostrils. Afterward, take the kids for a bike ride on the park’s asphalt loop. 18510 44th Ave. W., Lynnwood. www.ci.lynnwood.wa.us/parks
Taryn Zier lives in Lake Forest Park and is a freelance writer and mother of two small children who love the outdoors.