On a fall day, kids play at Seattle’s udpated Lakewood Playground. Credit: Natasha Dillinger
Nestled in a South Seattle neighborhood, not far from larger Seward Park, a small community park recently unveiled a new look. Updated Lakewood Playground reopened last month and it’s welcoming kids and families for play. The playground’s renovations combined beloved existing features with new equipment, thanks to community input.
There’s nothing quite like peeking at the fall foliage on a drive along Lake Washington Boulevard, so my 5-year-old and I took a colorful little trip to check out the new playground.
A play structure for all ages
Most playgrounds we’ve visited lately feature two distinct play structures; one for the ages 2–5 set and another for ages 5–12. At Lakewood, parents of multi-aged kids won’t have to keep switching their gaze between structures — a move I like to call the “playground side-eye.” Park designers here stuck to one comprehensive structure, with age-appropriate elements for toddlers to tweens, so everyone can play together.
Multiple climbing approaches provide access to the structure — enough that big kids could pretend the wood chips are hot lava and not risk “burning” their feet. My daughter tried them all out, but the biggest hit was the new ADA-accessible ramp. She loved climbing up the castle-like stone walls before leaping to the ramp and dashing down the tube slide. We saw younger kids gleefully coasting down the ramp astride tricycles and dump trucks.
My 2-year-old missed this outing, but he would have had a strong opinion about the tricky layout of his favorite playground equipment: the swings. There are four swings at Lakewood Playground, untouched by the renovation, and they’re unfortunately positioned on the opposite side of the restroom from everything else. Unsurprisingly, I saw almost no one using them. I felt a little sad for the swing fans who might feel like the swings didn't get much love in the design.
Community-led planning preserves treasures
With a relatively small budget of $320,000, public input was particularly critical in making sure renovations reflected the community’s priorities. Area families voiced the importance of retaining a beloved stone wall, which got a small extension to support a paved ramp and encourage free climbing. Likewise, renovation plans preserved the kid-favorite sand pit that overlooks the play area. The new ramp provides improved ADA access.
A giant Empress tree was preserved and continues to provide shade in summer — and surprisingly excellent rain cover — to the playground. This is thanks to the thoughtful placement of play structure footings around the tree’s significant roots.
During our visit, I could easily see how smart it was for designers to listen to the community: Parents avoided the light drizzle under the tree while big kids chased each other along the stone wall and toddlers dug in the sand pit. Fancier playground equipment can certainly be found elsewhere, but Lakewood’s more natural elements fit the neighborhood.
Won’t you be my neighbor(hood park)?
We’re playground fanatics in our household and we tend to categorize parks into a few buckets: you’ve got your epic destination parks, your splashy themed parks and your go-to neighborhood parks that are perfect for a quick romp or a relaxed playdate. Lakewood Park falls into the last bucket. You don’t need to trek across the city to play, but if it's your neighborhood, or you find yourself in the area, stop by. You won’t have to fight with hordes of other families for a spot on the slide. An adjacent playfield offers more green space to run and kick around a ball if you choose to stay longer.
We’ll visit again and I’ll bring a coffee and a book (Third Place Books is within walking distance) since I know my kids will be within easy sightlines of a bench, or we might make a quick play stop before a meal in Columbia City.
If you go…
Find it: Lakewood Park is located at 5013 S. Angeline Street in Seattle. Google reviewers seem to get it confused with Lakewood County Disc Golf Club, so you can ignore mentions of disc golf or the bike playground which are found in White Center (though these spots are also worth a visit). Also a note for newcomers: There's a South Sound-area city called Lakewood, just south of Tacoma, but this playground is in Seattle.
Open Hours: Seattle parks are open daily, 4 a.m.–11:30 p.m.
Parking: Free street parking surrounds the park.
Facilities: Flush toilets available.
Nearby: You’ll find coffee a couple of blocks away at Caffe Vita. For a brunch option, check out the covered outdoor seating (and the perfectly crispy french toast) at Geraldine’s Counter in Columbia City. We picked up brisket and cream mac and cheese at Lil Red’s BBQ.