Credit Natasha Dillinger
Are the pandemic and the dreary weather making you stir-crazy? Strap on your moon boots, grab the kids and blast off to North Kirkland Community Center and Park’s new space-themed playground.
After nearly 30 years as a train-themed playground, this Eastside park's play equipment was due for an update. Last January, some 500 community members voted among proposed play-area themes such as Jungle Quest, Circus Wonder and Hometown Heroes. But the Space Adventure theme was a clear favorite and won the day.
Late last month, the completed play area opened to its first space explorers, uh, I mean visitors. My kids and I masked up and went to try it out.
Interplanetary fun for all ages
We loved the new playground's moon- and Saturn-shaped climbing structures that are geared towards confident climbers. These really cool centerpieces are unique among local playgrounds we've visited. Younger astronauts will appreciate the space shuttle climbing gym.
As the parent of an energetic preschooler and a toddler who just wants to tag along, I appreciated that most of the playground equipment was multi-purpose — my adventurous daughter scaled Jupiter while my son played peek-a-boo through the planet’s core.
A flying saucer-shaped spring rider with space for a small handful of kids will encourage cooperation during future playdates with your pod. She’ll never admit this, but I spotted my girl gently rocking her younger brother so he could join in on the fun.
My toddler could spend all day on swings at traditional playgrounds, but pushing them gets monotonous. Thanks to a tandem swing, we could swing together and make funny faces at each other! The only thing I didn’t love about the new design was that the swing area is separated from the rest of the playground. It was the only spot where I made the kids stick together so I could keep track of them both.
Leveraging the landscape
I liked that the playground’s design takes advantage of its hillside location. My oldest loved feeling independent while testing out the rope climber at the top of the hill. At the same time, I could chase my toddler around the lower level, while maintaining clear sightlines up the hill.
Tall trees surrounding the play area remain and will provide shade to some distantly spaced benches next summer, while the wide hills surrounding the play space could transform into an awesome local sledding space if we’re blessed (cursed?) with more of the relatively heavy snow of the past few winters.
One important note: With shaded play areas and turf, most slides and swings were still wet with dew even at the end of a week of sunshine. You’ll want rain gear or a sturdy towel to keep kids happily orbiting this playground this time of year.
Make a day of it
We loved our early morning visit and had the place to ourselves for almost an hour before a couple of well-masked families showed up. With no restrooms open at the moment, it was a good excuse to give others a turn and head to our car parked in the fairly large lot below the community center.
Tucked away in a neighborhood up the road from Juanita High School, the location feels equal parts quiet and convenient. It's close enough to the Juanita Beach-area shops that we could grab a treat and a coffee from Top Pot Doughnuts and take a stroll by the waterfront. For a tasty Keralan lunch or dinner, pick up a takeout order from Kathakali.
If you go...
Parking: The parking lot is just down the hill and has space for about 20 cars. A small drop-off throughway is located adjacent to the playground. Families could cruise by to gauge how busy the playground is before committing.
Restrooms: Two single-stall restrooms are on-site near the swings, but were closed for the winter during our visit. Porta-potties are in place at nearby Juanita Beach Park (a 3-minute drive away).
Rules: I know you’ve heard this all before, but wear a mask, keep your distance from other families and stay home if you’re sick. Even better, wear a space-themed mask or astronaut helmet to enhance the experience.
Nearby outdoor spaces: Big Finn Hill Park has wooded trails for forest fun and there’s another large playground with open restrooms at Rhododendron Park in nearby Kenmore. If your heart is set on a destination playground, check out this list of other pandemic-friendly play spaces.
Keep the space-themed fun going: Check out this list of space-themed crafts for more fun at home.