All photos by Krista Tsai
We’re still in the thick of the PNW “Big Dark” season with the sun setting around 5 p.m., but that doesn’t mean the fun has to end at sunset. Although the day might seem to be over, many kids aren’t done playing. If you need a play break before dinner or want to wear them out before bedtime, these lighted playgrounds help keep the fun going while brightening your night.
This small playground, nestled within the University Village outdoor shopping center, is not only lit but also covered and it has heat lamps. The play equipment is geared toward toddlers and preschoolers, with a sign suggesting a height limit of about 46 inches. The turf ground is forgiving for crawlers and toddlers, and the enclosed area provides peace of mind for those with wandering little ones. The play structure provides opportunities to burn some energy climbing, sliding and balancing on stepping stones. The Cozy Coupe cars and rocking horse toys are a fun novelty, especially if you don’t have those at home.
Happy Lemon and Home Grown border the playground, which are always well-loved by kids, but there are endless options of family-friendly eats at University Village.
Find it: 2623 NE University Village St., Seattle. Open 8 a.m.–9 p.m.
This iconic Seattle Center playground has a wow factor beyond the backdrop of MoPOP and the Space Needle. The 30-foot climbing tower with two slides is eye-catching and is bound to be a highlight for older kids (recommended for kids ages 5–12). Rope ladders, enclosed rope pathways and webs make this playground a climber’s delight. Little ones or less adventurous children have plenty of options for engaging play including a smaller play structure, swings, musical features, a labyrinth and space to run around. This playground is sure to engage all ages and may even build your children’s confidence as they embrace its challenges. Plus, it's located just steps away from Seattle Children's Theatre. Maybe take a play break before sitting down for an evening performance.
Find it: 305 Harrison St., Seattle. Open 6 a.m.–11 p.m.
Otherwise known as “Whale Tail Park,” this playground is on theme with its West Seattle location. While the sand play area and toddler playground are not as well-lit, the larger playground, boat, swings and iconic whale tail offer plenty of space for kids of all ages to play under the lights. My kids like to use their imaginations to play a game of pirates while burning energy climbing the large play structure. Lighted tennis and pickleball courts border this playground. Please note the bathrooms are temporarily closed.
Find it: 5817 SW Lander St., Seattle. Open 6: a.m.–11:30 p.m.
Play atop Beacon Hill where kids have many options to explore — the main playground is best lit with a toddler section, swings, climbing and spinning features, and slides. The playground continues into a hill and over a small bridge where one can discover a double zip-line and large slides built into the hill. My 5 and 7-year-old found the enclosed slide on the hill to be quite thrilling! My two-year-old did not dare try it. Many paved paths within the park are lit and make perfect trails for a stroller walk or little legs on bikes and scooters.
I highly recommend timing your visit with a sunset for breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains, Duwamish River and the city. This park also offers a well-lit skate park, soccer fields, basketball courts and tennis courts. Bathrooms might be temporarily closed.
Find it: 3801 Beacon Ave. S, Seattle. Open 4 a.m.–11:30 p.m.
This is probably the largest lighted playground that you will find in the area, especially on the Eastside. While the larger playground is better lit than the toddler area, there’s plenty to do for kids of all ages. Kids can keep warm on cooler nights by running, playing tag, jumping on the trampoline, climbing the vine wall and sliding. There are swings and comfortable swinging benches for parents who want to rest. This inclusive playground is even more beautiful at night with the city light views. Bonus: Bring your bike or scooter to utilize the .4-mile well-lit paved loop around Bellevue Downtown Park, and check out Bellevue’s newest public art installation, the Piloti sculpture, at the northeast entrance of the park.
Find it: 10201 NE 4th St., Bellevue. Open a half-hour before sunrise to 11 p.m.
Children 10 and younger can play at this partially covered shopping area playground. Toddler caregivers will appreciate the turf flooring and the almost entirely enclosed space (currently, the entry gate is chained open). At first sight, the whimsical “Happy Hollow” makes this playground feel like it’s geared toward toddlers and preschoolers. However, with some imagination, older children can have fun playing tag using the large play rings, hiding by the bear under the escalator, climbing the wavy structure in the middle and making some noise with the multiple musical features throughout. Ample lighting also makes it possible to read a book on the playground benches — maybe a new one from Brick and Mortar Books within Redmond Town Center.
Find it: 7345 164th Ave. NE, Redmond. Open 10 a.m.– 6 p.m.
This Eastside playground is small but if your kids are like mine, they love a zip-line, so that is an automatic stamp of approval. There are climbing features, a slide and a small area under the playground structure where my toddler likes to sit and play “ice cream shop.” This playground is along the Cross Kirkland Corridor trail, so bring a bike or scooter to enjoy this well-lit paved trail through Google’s campus. If you time it right, you also can enjoy pizza, soft pretzels, ice cream and more at the Chainline Station brewery at the north entrance of Feriton Spur Park.
Find it: 509 6th St., S, Kirkland. Open 6 a.m.–11 p.m.
Visit these other playgrounds