Water play area at KidsQuest Children's Museum. Courtesy KidsQuest
1. KidsQuest Children’s Museum, Bellevue
Why go: In 2017, KidsQuest Children’s Museum re-opened in its gleaming new building in the heart of downtown Bellevue. It features huge windows, beautifully (and spaciously) designed exhibits and an adventurous, two-story ropes-and-ladders climber in the opening gallery. Kids of all ages will love cranking boxes up and down conveyor belts and launching paper airplanes in the On the Go Gallery; building with real tools next door in the Recycled/Rebuild room; running the cash register at the Bellevue Mercantile; doing physics experiments on water in the Water Lab; and much more.
Other highlights include lots of seating for grown-ups, an outdoor area with lots of “loose parts” for kids to build with; and fun sideline exhibits such as long Matchbox car ramps behind the Paccar semi (in the On the Go gallery). The Tot Orchard on the second floor has a small climber, blocks and other toys and a quiet area for nursing.
Bottom line: It’s totally worth a drive from points beyond the Eastside, and has lots of attractions and activities for big and little kids.
Good to know: The dedicated museum parking lot is small, and the museum is popular, so try to target your visit during a less crowded time, such as a weekday morning. At two stories, with clearly defined exhibit spaces, it can be tricky to keep track of more than one child.
Nearby fun: Bellevue downtown library is next door (but don’t park there!) and a fun park, Ashwood Playfield, is across the street. Small and friendly Bellevue Arts Museum is a quick hop away, as is Bellevue Downtown Park and its fantastic, inclusive playground.