| Outings + Activities | Rainy Day Fun | Family fun

Foul-weather fun: Great venues for rainy-day play

Now that the season of nonstop rain is upon us, kids and parents alike begin pacing their rooms like jaguars at the zoo. Sometimes we all need to break out of our cages, so allow us to suggest a few new venues for rainy-day play (they're sure to become standbys), as well as some old favorites to fall back on. Bring along a few friends and find fun for a crowd!

Artsy fartsy

No matter how well-stocked your crafts closet, young artists sometimes require a change of scenery for inspiration to strike. Local museums are great places to both see and make art. For the price of admission, your mini-Matisse can create masterpieces at several area museums. All of these opportunities are free with admission.

On its free First Saturday Family Days, the Seattle Asian Art Museum (206-654-3100, www.seattleartmuseum.org) provides art opportunities that engage children and teens in current exhibits. The Bellevue Art Museum (425-519-0770, www.bellevueart.org) also offers drop-in weekend art opportunities for elementary and middle school youth in conjunction with exhibits.

The Children's Museum, Seattle (206-441-1768, www.thechildrensmuseum.org) offers daily artist-facilitated activities at its Imagination Studio. At the museum's Festivals of Light cultural celebration, held this month, kids can do projects specific to the cultures celebrated each week.

At Everett's Imagine Children's Museum (425-258-1006, www.imaginecm.org), drop in on selected days for special arts and crafts, as well as a chance to work on projects with a guest artist. Check the museum's Web site for the schedule.

Local arts and crafts studios also provide opportunities to create. The Little Artist in West Seattle (206-935-4185, www.littleartiststudio.com) offers drop-in arts and crafts for $12 per child. Parents and tots ages 1-3 can visit on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m., and ages 3 and up can visit on Mondays and Wednesdays at 11:00 a.m. Kirkland's Art n' Play (425-820-2040, www.artnplay.com) is a drop-in art studio for ceramics, painting and imaginative play. A two-hour session is $5-$10. The Creation Station in Lynnwood (425-775-7959, www.creationstationinc.com) stocks its drop-in studio with industrial recycled materials and mainstream crafts supplies ($5.95 per person).

Animal attractions

Zoos and aquariums are great places for kids to stretch their legs while taking refuge from the weather.

Peel off layers of fleece at the Woodland Park Zoo's (206-684-4800, www.zoo.org) Tropical Rainforest exhibit, or visit the Day and Night exhibit to bask in the sun lamps that warm reptiles and guests. The zoo's new Zoomazium indoor play area, designed for kids under age 8, stimulates both mind and body with active play areas and quiet spaces for exploration of the natural world. Download a Rainy Day Map at the zoo's Web site.

The Seattle Aquarium (206-386-4300, www.seattleaquarium.org) is a foul-weather favorite and its large tanks allow for lots of viewing space no matter how busy it gets. In addition, tots and parents can visit the drop-in Toddler Time, Mondays and Tuesdays through February (Dec. 11 and 12 only), for storytelling, songs and other activities.

Known for its outdoor adventures, Northwest Trek (360-832-6117, www.nwtrek.org) in Eatonville is open Fridays through Sundays all winter. Trek's trams provide shelter from the weather, and the Cheney Discovery Center offers an indoor venue for viewing native reptiles and for hands-on learning activities about Northwest animals and habitats. Older kids will enjoy the Baker Research Cabin, which provides Web cam observation of Trek's fox and wolf dens.

Might as well jump

Cabin fever's ultimate cure, of course, is letting kids run, jump and climb. Many area gymnastic centers feature open gym schedules, and bouncy-house centers offer drop-in fun for the whole troop. See the list below for local venues, and, because it's the busy season for indoor play spaces, don't forget to call first to ensure space availability.

All wet

Even on the rainiest days, some activities make getting wet worthwhile. Razor clam digging is a Northwest winter tradition. Ocean beaches will be open for clamming from Dec. 2-4 and New Year's Eve through Jan. 2. Information on licensing and logistics is available at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Web site: www.wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/razorclm/season.htm.

The upper Skagit River provides a winter buffet for convocations of bald eagles who fly in from as far away as Alaska. Thousands of visitors gather to watch the great birds feast on spawned-out salmon carcasses served a la carte on the river's gravel bars. During the peak season (mid-December to late January), morning visitors may see up to 100 birds at a time. The Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Rockport (360-853-7626, www.skagiteagle.org) offers speakers, walks and directions to eagle-watching areas. Warm, waterproof outerwear and sturdy footgear are advised.

Forest canopies offer wet-weather hikers some protection from winter's whims. Lowland hikes can be suitable for family outings all year. After a jaunt along Rattlesnake Lake's flat, family-friendly trails, visit the nearby Cedar River Watershed Education Center (www.cedarriver.org) for kid-friendly watershed education. Seattle's Seward, Schmidt, Discovery and Carkeek parks (www.seattle.gov/parks) are also good places for short rainy-day hikes, and Bellevue's Mercer Slough (www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/mercer_slough.htm) stays damp rather than frosty and sports broad, flat trails and an environmental education center.

Washington State Forest Rangers, National Forest Service and National Parks have a jointly operated Outdoor Recreation Information Center in the REI Flagship store in Seattle that is open Tuesdays-Sundays to offer tips, advice and information about hikes, permits and conditions. It can be reached at 800-627-0062 or 206- 470-4060.

Colleen Laing is a Seattle freelance writer and mother of a preschooler. She regularly blogs for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and contributes to Multilingual Living Magazine.

Indoor Play Spaces - north zones
  • Pump It Up (inflatables)
    Drop-in times: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 9-10:15 a.m. or 10:30-11:45 a.m.
    Ages: 5 and under
    Cost:$6/one child, $4 for siblings
    In Kirkland at 11605 N.E. 116th St.
    In Lynnwood at 18027 Highway 99, Ste. J
  • 3-2-1 Bounce (inflatables)
    Ages: 2 years-adult
    Cost: $6/child
    In Bellevue at 13434 N.E. 16th St., Ste. 110
    Drop-in times: Mondays, Tuesdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m.-noon
    In Everett at 1111 80th St. S.W., Ste. 200
    Drop-in times: Wednesdays, Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m.-noon
  • Urban Monkeys (indoor play space)
    1124 Harrison St., Seattle
    Drop-in times vary monthly. Visit www.urbanmonkeys.com for schedule.
    Ages: Crawling-age 6
  • Seattle Gymnastics Academy
    12535 26th Ave. N.E., Seattle
    Drop-in times: Mondays-Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.
    Ages: 1-5
    Cost: $6/child
  • GYMagine Gymnastics
    3616 South Rd. #B3, Mukilteo
    Drop-in time: Fridays, 9:15-10 a.m.
    Ages: 1-4
  • Gymnastics East
    13425 SE 30th, Bellevue
    Drop-in times: Saturdays, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
    Ages: Kindergarten and up
    Cost: $6/hour/child
  • Gym East Location 2
    19510 144th Ave. N.E., Woodinville
    Drop-in times: Once a month on Fridays, 8-11 p.m. (Dec. 1, Jan. 12, Feb. 9)
    Ages: First grade through high school
    Cost: $10/child
  • Auburn Gymnastics
    1221 29th N.W., Auburn
    Drop-in times: Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon; alternate Saturdays, 6-8 p.m.
    Ages: 5-17
    Cost: $15/two hours
  • Metropolitan Gymnastics
    6822 S. 190th, Kent
    206-575-4138 or 425-282-5010
    Drop-in times: Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturday noon-2 p.m.; Tuesdays, Thursdays, 1:30-3:30 p.m., Fridays, 1-3 p.m.
    Ages: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, preschool; Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, preschool and school age
    Cost: $6/one hour, $8/two hours

Indoor Play Spaces - south zone

  • Gymnastics Unlimited (open gym)
    34016 9th Ave. S., D-5, Federal Way
    Drop-in times: Mondays-Thursdays, 4-8p.m. (call in advance)
    Ages:school age
    Cost: $12.50 for 11 and under; $15 for 12 and up
  • Max Gymnastics Academy (open gym)
    19102 Des Moines Memorial Drive, SeaTac
    Drop-in times: Fridays, 7:30-9 p.m.
    Ages: 3-15
    Cost: $10/child, $15/two children
  • Mile High Gymnastics (open gym)
    4242 Mile Hill Drive, Port Orchard
    Drop-in times: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, noon-2 p.m.
    Ages: weekdays, ages 1-6; Saturdays, school age
    Cost: $6
  • Rainy Dayz Playcenter (indoor play)
    Location:2615 Jahn Ave. N.W. # E-7, Gig Harbor
    Drop-in times:Mondays, 9-10 a.m.; Tuesdays, 10:15-11:15 a.m. 1:30-2:30 p.m.; Wednesdays, 1:30-2:30 p.m.; Fridays, 9-10 a.m., 10:15-11:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 1:30-2:30 p.m. (reservations recommended for Fridays).
    Ages: 0-5
    Cost: $8/child
  • Bainbridge Island Gymnastics (open gym)
    Bainbridge High School

    Drop-in times: Mondays, Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (call for holiday schedule)
    Ages: 6 months-5 years
    Cost: $5
  • Black Hills Gymnastics Westside (open gym)
    2601 Mottman Ct. S.W., Olympia
    Drop-in times: Fridays, 6-9 p.m.
    Ages: Preschool-teens
    Cost: $10 per child
  • Black Hills Gymnastics Lacey Center (open gym)
    7961 29th Ave. N.E., Lacey
    Drop-in times: Saturdays, 7-9 p.m.
    Ages:Preschool to teens
    Cost:$10 per child
    Preschool drop-in: Fridays, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
    Ages: 18 months-5 years
    Cost: $5

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