Active Kids | Outings + Activities

One Mom, Three Kids, 400 Seattle Parks

She thought it would take a year. It took four.

Linnea Westerlind, at Lowman Beach Park in West Seattle

In 2009, new mom Linnea Westerlind started an impressive mission: to visit every Seattle park within a year. One year turned into four as she welcomed two more children and came toe to toe with the reality of visiting 400 parks. She has documented her parks adventures on her blog, Year of Seattle Parks. ParentMap caught up with her during prime park season to get her best tips on local green spaces.

What inspired you to visit every Seattle park?

I'm a Seattle-area native, and I've always loved our parks. I thought of the project a few months after my oldest son was born in 2009 when I was craving an excuse to get outside and go exploring. I also liked the challenge of trying to visit all the parks in one year. It was such a fun way to visit different neighborhoods and see new parts of our city through its parks system. I also really enjoy taking pictures at the parks and then getting to write a little bit about each one on my blog,

Why did it take four years?

It turns out that Seattle has more than 400 parks, so doing it all in one year was a little too ambitious! I managed to do more than 180 parks the first year. Then a year and a half after I started the project, I became pregnant with twins and ended up on bed rest for several weeks. I had to put the project on hold for a few months but as soon as I could, I got back out with a new double stroller and finished off the rest of the parks in late 2013.

If you could be a Seattle park, which would it be?  

I love Lincoln Park [in West Seattle], which I've been going to since I was a kid. It's a fantastic urban park with a lot of amenities including the seasonal saltwater swimming pool, but it is also quiet and peaceful. It has a great contrast between the busy waterfront path that is fun for biking and strolling and the denser forest above that is nice for a hike. The views from the lower and upper sections are both amazing.

What are a couple of other favorite parks and why?  

Seattle has some amazing parks that seem to fly under the radar. Jack Block Park in West Seattle, Soundview Terrace on Queen Anne, Othello Playground in Rainier Valley [see photos below of Othello's well-known giant slide], Pritchard Island Beach in South Seattle and Llandover Woods Greenspace in northwest Seattle are all worth a visit.

Slide at Othello Playground, Linnea Westerlind

What park surprised you the most?

I was surprised by Cal Anderson Park, which is right in the middle of the dense Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Cal Anderson Park, Linnea Westerlind

I was happy to see how many cool features this park holds in its seven acres and how diverse its users are. I've seen kids captivated by the amazing fountain, seniors doing tai chi, professionals on their lunch break enjoying the sun and twentysomethings playing bike polo on the tennis courts. It's a very cool park. It also has a great playground and despite what people may think, there are families with young kids that live in that neighborhood.

What park offers the most adventure to kids?

I would have to say Discovery Park in Magnolia. It is Seattle's biggest park and exploring it fully takes several visits. There is a nice playground, but I think kids can have even more fun looking for animal tracks on the trails, poking around on the beach during low tide and playing ball or flying kites on the huge open fields. Parents get the bonus of beautiful views from several different spots in the park. 

Discovery Park, Linnea Westerlind

What's your favorite pocket park?

It is so hard to choose one favorite, but I love South Passage Point Park in Eastlake. It's tucked underneath I-5 along the waterfront. It's a great place for a picnic in the summer while you watch all the boat traffic coming in and out of Lake Union.

What's a particularly funny moment from this project?

I visited most of the parks with paper printouts from Google maps, where I had marked in pencil where each of the parks was located. One day when I was walking with the stroller it started to rain and my printouts got soaking wet and I couldn't read them anymore. Then the wind started blowing them out of the stroller. It took me until that moment to realize how much easier this project would be with a smartphone!

How did your kids do?Leschi

My kids have been incredibly patient with me dragging them all over the city and sometimes to multiple parks in one day. That's not to say that we haven't had our moments when I failed to pack enough snacks or forgot to bring diapers! But, I think they understand that this is an adventure for me and that they get to be part of it.

My oldest son Liam has played on dozens of different playgrounds. And now that my twins Evan and Graham are 2 1/2, I'm really enjoying taking them out on short little hikes at city parks. And my husband has even driven me from park to park while the kids were napping in the backseat. I'm lucky to have a great team with me.

What's next for you? Parks of King County?

Right now I've been visiting other cool public spaces in Seattle, like waterfront street ends that are managed by the city's transportation department. And I've started checking out some great regional parks, which is really fun.

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