The old seminary building in Saint Edward State Park has reopened as an upscale lodge. Credit: Sinziana Gafitanu/Flickr CC
Packed playgrounds. Busy beaches. Crowded trails. You know it’s almost summer in Seattle (especially during a pandemic) when everyone flocks to the outdoors for some fun in the sun.
Visiting popular spots at non-peak hours is a great way to skirt the crowds, but organizing everyone out of the house can be like pulling teeth sometimes.
The beautiful new Lodge at St. Edward State Park offers a nifty solution: a comfy bed right next to all the outdoor fun. The lodge's location, inside Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore, offers up ideal family amenities: A spectacular wooden playground, spacious lawns and 71 trails — including a few that lead to the beach.
As a Mother’s Day treat for myself, I splurged and booked a room, betting that even with its luxurious presentation, a stay in the former seminary would be fun for kids and families.
Rooms and history
After collecting our commemorative patches during check-in — part of an opening special that extends through June 30, we headed up to our double queen room in the former nuns’ quarters. While I packed a bag to go out adventuring, my kids devoured the tasty trail mix provided with our room. They also tested and retested the room's retro rotary-style phone (pro tip: unplug the phone from the wall first).
The lodge building is drenched in history — it opened as a training ground for young priests in the 1930s, but saw its last students in the 1970s. The property was sold to Washington State in 1977.
To share some of the history, the hotel has creatively added QR codes along most hallways as a contactless and paperless way of providing info. We scoured the corridors scanning codes with my phone, finding out that some of its history is more recent: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis filmed a music video in the attic, and the Tonsorium Bar downstairs was the former barbershop. Look for a vintage barber chair and a unicorn head over the bar!
Hike or bike to the beach
After exploring the hotel’s interior, it was time to head outside. Lawn games and complimentary adult mountain bike rentals are available, but we had our hearts set on the beach. We hiked just over half a mile down the Seminary Trail to the park’s Lake Washington waterfront. There is no hike-free water access, but the trail is wide (and bike-friendly) and my five-year-old skipped down the whole way.
I realized when we arrived that I’d brought sand toys and swimsuits, but no sunscreen to reapply. Luckily, there are several shaded areas and we played in the water for well over an hour before a motorboat’s wake tried to wash our shoes out into the lake.
Hiking back up the steeper Grotto Trail to the lodge in sopping footwear was tough, but we were motivated by our dinner reservation.
Dine early, play late
I haven’t eaten dinner past 6 p.m. in years, and good thing, as early mealtimes are an advantage when trying out a hot new restaurant. After changing out of our wet clothes, we were whisked right out to the sunny patio for our dinner at Cedar + Elm, located in the former seminary dining hall.
The restaurant didn’t yet have a kids’ menu during our visit (a kids’ menu is now available), but our server aimed to please and offered chocolate milk and a giant bowl of the most deliciously crispy steak fries we’ve ever had. Just a few days after the restaurant’s opening, things took a little longer than expected to exit the kitchen (and our flatbread never arrived). I killed time sampling an herb-infused cocktail while the kids played with the bag of mini trucks I’d brought and watched families cycle by.
The best part of an early dinner (besides skipping the long line of other people waiting to enter the restaurant and sample seasonal delicacies) was enjoying a pre-bedtime play session on the playground. Very few day visitors lingered, so we had free rein to scale the wooden castle walls before retiring to our room.
Rinse and repeat
My kids tend to be early risers, so the highlight of their morning was waking up and heading straight back to the playground in their pajamas. They delightedly chased each other around the slides with quick breaks for snacks to stave off morning hunger pangs. We had the place to ourselves for two hours before I was ready to head upstairs for a coffee from the in-room Nespresso machine.
We slept well on soft bedding with enough fluffy pillows for fort-building, and I liked that the rose and black pepper-scented bath products added a spa-like feel to my shower. The strong Wifi signal would accommodate remote work or school (or reading the news in the closet while waiting for the kids to go to sleep). Alongside modern conveniences, hints of the lodge's history remain, with original windows and architectural renderings decorating the walls.
Staying in a hotel right inside a park was so convenient that we were able to enjoy a scented shower, make a few more “calls” on the phone and head back to the playground for another round of swings — all by our 11 a.m. check-out time.
If you go…
Location: The Lodge at St. Edward State Park is located within Saint Edward State Park at 14477 Juanita Drive N.W. in Kenmore. It's about a 30-minute drive from Seattle, Bellevue or Everett, and about a 60-minute drive from Tacoma.
Cost: Weekend rates for double occupancy start at a splurge-level $400 per night, plus taxes and a $10 per night fee to support the state park. Opt for a mid-week stay for rates below $300, or check for last-minute deals of up to 20% off on Sunday–Thursday stays.
Parking: Valet parking costs $20 per night. There is no other option for overnight parking. A Discover Pass grants parking privileges in the state park, but cannot be used for overnight parking. We saw guests biking in; there are racks to lock up bikes.
Families should know: Bassinet-style cribs are available upon request at no additional charge. Most rooms are equipped with showers only, although a few ADA-accessible rooms have bathtubs. Keep an eye on the lodge’s social media feed for future ranger tours as group gatherings resume.
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