A kid from Seattle, one from the Eastside and another from the South Sound want to meet up for a playdate — what’s the optimal spot that minimizes the drive for all of their parents?
If the start of that word problem left you with not-so-fond recollections of math class, we’ve got the answer key: It’s the newly completed playground at Newport Hills Woodlawn Park!
This enticing new play spot is located in south Bellevue, just a 20-minute drive away for loads of Puget Sound families. And it’s even closer for lots of Eastsiders.
My son and I aimed for a break in the rain and headed out to test-drive the new playground.
Where art meets play
If you wander up, as we did, and find that the play equipment looks rather sculptural, it’s not just you.
Most of Newport Hills Woodlawn’s play structures come from ID Sculpture, a playground equipment manufacturer of unique, nature-inspired pieces you might have seen at parks such as Bellevue’s Inspiration Playground and Renton’s Meadow Crest Playground.
Most of theses sculptural pieces are meant for advanced climbing. An eye-catching sphere vaguely resembles an asteroid with a “path” carved through it. A structure called the Eagle’s Nest is built of faux logs and features a cargo net tube leading to the top.
Another structure looks like a tree trunk that has fallen onto a boulder, and a nearby faux log construction provides a slightly lower climbing challenge.
Ideal for elementary-age kids
Because of the nature of the play equipment, I really wished that I’d had my elementary-age daughter along (she was in school) — she would have loved all of the climbing! Older kids sometimes get neglected on the playground scene, but this is a spot where they’ll have plenty to keep them entertained.
My preschooler is a pretty adventurous climber (read: I’m a bundle of nerves watching him climb high), but there’s less here that’s specifically geared toward the preschool age group.
My son co-opted the cone spinner for a good chunk of our visit and took a turn on the lone basket swing in between younger visitors. Parents of really wee ones may find that the swing is the only suitable thing for their kiddos.
The timing of this playground’s opening is a little tricky — we’re headed into the rainy season, and all of that moisture makes the faux wood and rock structures pretty slippery. There’s at least one advantage to wet equipment though: The hillside slide gets supercharged if you wear rain pants! My son loved zipping down the slide at top speed and landing on the foam crash pad at the bottom.
Even with wet equipment geared toward older kids, we had many opportunities for nontraditional play because the space’s simple layout encourages ingenuity. A window through the climbing sphere turned into a perfect spot to play peek-a-boo.
The branches supporting the lower Charlotte’s Web climber became a takeout window for my son’s pretend coffee shop. I’m already planning a future playdate here — what parent doesn’t want to chat over a handcrafted wood-chip latte?
Grown-ups, get moving
Creative park use isn’t limited to kids. An area full of adult exercise equipment rests on a terrace and offers good sightlines to the playground, though the equipment was wet on the day we visited.
Tables are not yet installed under the picnic shelter, and we saw a group of older adults taking advantage of the opportunity to practice Tai Chi under cover. Perhaps the city will consider limiting the number of tables to be installed (there are also a few uncovered ones closer to the playground) so that informal exercise can continue under the shelter.
More to come
The park sits on 13.7 acres of land purchased over time by the City of Bellevue. Most of it is dedicated to walking paths, but when summer hits there’s a large hilly lawn adjacent to the playground that will be perfect for playdate picnics and tossing a Frisbee around.
Rover and Fido can play soon, too. A large off-leash dog park sits between the street and the playground area, but the tender grass roots need more time to establish themselves before pups can dash across the lawn. Keep your paws crossed for spring!
With such a central location, make your post-park lunch plan for around the corner at the Newport Hills Shopping Center. There, you’ll find The Rice Table, Cloud 9 Burgers and family-friendly Resonate Brewery & Pizzeria. Or head 10 minutes north for snacks and errands in Factoria.
Our early morning outing gave us cold hands and hungry bellies so we made a beeline for soup dumplings and scored a table with minimal wait. I could get used to this kind of drizzly fall day!
If you go …
Find it: Newport Hills Woodlawn Park is located at 11560 S.E. 60th St. in Bellevue. You can enter “Newport Hills Dog Park” into your maps app to avoid ending up down the street at the similarly named Newport Hills Park (which has a more traditional playground).
Hours: Bellevue parks are open from dawn to 11 p.m.
Parking: There are six parking spots, plus an accessible spot adjacent to the playground, with another six parallel parking spots closer to the dog park.
Facilities: Between the dog park and playground you’ll find two gender-neutral restrooms (with changing tables) and a water fountain with a bottle refilling station.
Snack time: Pop down the street to the Newport Hills Shopping Center for kid-friendly fare at Cloud 9 Burgers and Resonate Brewery & Pizzeria. We drove a bit further north for crave-worthy xiao long bao at Supreme Dumplings — perfect for one of the first chilly fall mornings this year.
More fun new playgrounds to try out: