If you haven't been to Burien — that small city southwest of Seattle — you're in for a treat. In the last few years the downtown has been reinvented as a pedestrian-friendly shopping area with boutiques, cafes and green spaces.
When you stroll down 152nd Street between First and 10th Avenues you'll find plenty of fun options — all within blocks of the Burien Transit Center, which offers express bus access to downtown Seattle and Bellevue.
Burien's Town Square Park, adjacent to the the new Burien Library, was designed to be Burien's central public space. It's the site of the Thursday Farmers Market, as well as open air concerts and annual events like Carnival Days.
The open lawn amphitheater is a perfect spot for a picnic, and features gorgeous views of Mt. Rainier. Make sure to bring towels — kids love the Town Square spray park (open daily from May to October, much later than other spray parks in the area).
A little farther afield, Seahurst Park is a local favorite. This 178-acre park on the shores of Puget sound has picnic shelters, a play area, a swimming area, nature trails, and amazing views of the Olympic Mountains on clear days. It's just a few miles north of downtown at 1600 SW Seahurst Park Rd.
2. Tumble, jump and climb
One of Burien's best spots for active little monkeys is the Jungle Gym, located just off 152nd Street on Second Avenue in downtown Burien. The gymnastics center offers classes for kids as young as 4 months, as well as hosting free-play times throughout the week and a Kids' Night Out every other Friday. The cost for free play is $8 per child ($5 for members).
Kids can fly down the zip line, bounce on the tumble track, and test their skills on the climbing wall (using frog, butterfly and alphabet hand holds).
The Jungle Gym is also a great place to throw a birthday party — rental of the space includes a "party host" who leads kids in games and fun.
3. Enjoy story time
A couple blocks away, kids can immerse themselves in a world of books. You can't miss the new Burien Library on the corner of 152nd and Fourth, which hosts story times throughout the week for toddlers, preschoolers, and even infants in their children's area on the first floor.
If you hear a story you love, chances are you can find it in one of Burien's two independent bookstores. Bumbershoot Books, on 152nd and Sixth, has a nice selection of picture books and chapter books, with lots of comfy chairs for reading.
A few blocks farther west on 152nd and Eighth Ave, Burien Books has a proud emphasis on children’s books, and even sells used editions along with new.
4. Taste around the world
Burien's many immigrant communities have made a big mark on the town's character and cuisine. Tucked in among the many Latin American and Asian restaurants are several more unusual choices. Grab a bite to eat at Captain G's Ottoman Restaurant (on 152nd and 6th Ave), or the Australian Pie Company on 152nd and Fourth Ave., which serves up puff pastry meat pies, as well as selling a selection of Australian groceries.
Burien's grocery stores are a treat in themselves. Step into a different world when you enter the Balkan Market, on 153rd just east of Second Ave. The aisles are packed with Eastern European delicacies, home-made sausages, and European Fanta flavors. Wayne's Seafood & Meat (on 152nd and First Ave.) and Hans German Sausage & Deli (farther afield at 717 S.W. 148th) are also worth a visit for their unique products.
Don't miss the Burien farmers market, which opens for the season on May 2 and is held every Thursday from May to October in Town Square Park (right next to the Library). You'll find new things to try in the stalls of local produce, which are keyed toward the tastes of the immigrant communities.
5. Shop around
A number of charming independent boutiques and cafes line 152nd Street, including two must-visits for kids.
A Place for Pets is right across from the library on 152nd and Fourth Ave. The two-story pet shop is well-stocked with rows of tropical fish tanks, exotic birds, reptiles, and even puppies and kittens. There's even a play area where kids can get to know potential new pets.
Little train lovers will get a kick out of the Electric Train Shop, which is just two blocks away on 152nd and Sixth Ave. Chock full of model trains and components, it's a great place to explore (no matter your age). The friendly staff are happy to answer questions.
About the author: Jessie Kwak is a Seattle freelance writer who loves to type about the good life: travel, outdoor adventures, cycling, food, and sewing. You can follow her on Twitter, connect on Google+, and read more of her writing on her blog, Bictoro: Bikes and Crafts. Photos in this piece are by Robert Kittilson, Jessie's husband/staff photographer, with the exception of the farmers market photo.