My kids refer to me as an “outdoors mom.” Hiking and exploring nature with them brings me immense joy, but I think their lovingly delivered point is this: I’m often coaxing them out onto trails when they’d rather be playing at the playground.
Families are all about compromise, so when I saw that Redmond’s new play space at Westside Park is chock full of structures crafted from natural materials, we all agreed to head over and check it out.
Westside’s claim to fame is that it hosts the first zipline in the Redmond park system. Ever the daredevil, my 2-year-old was eager to ride it by himself but needed a boost to climb on. I appreciated that the zipline’s position is offset, down a small hill from the rest of the play space, making it less likely that curious toddlers will run in front of another kid speeding down the line.
In the main play area, two primary structures built out of sturdy red rope and wooden logs offer plenty of opportunities for climbing and problem-solving. My son investigated the obstacle course from the accessible turf surface before deciding to give it a try. He could hop between logs pretty well on his own, but a little hand-holding was key to getting across the wobbly jungle gym.
We eventually made our way over to the impressive (and slightly intimidating) log climbing structure. Some playgrounds place climbers at dizzying heights (like nearby Grass Lawn Park, Seattle’s Montlake Playfield or — gulp — Sunset Neighborhood Park in Renton), but the structures at Westside are set closer to the ground.
The lower positioning makes climbing equipment more accessible to young kids (like mine) who want a challenge. (Also better for cautious caregivers’ stress levels?) After a little demonstration from me, my son felt comfortable creeping his way across the rope net before dropping safely to the ground through the gaps.
One word of caution to parents of climbers — the wood materials here are slippery when wet, so make sure you pack your grippiest shoes and hold little hands when needed. On the flip side, this is a good spot to keep handy for hot summer days — I expect the structures will stay nice and cool when the plastic and metal components at standard playgrounds might get uncomfortably toasty.
Open space engages everyone
Swing banks often sit at the outskirts of a playground, isolating kids who are swinging — and the parents pushing them. The play structures here are placed in a circular arrangement, so kids can see friends nearby while open space in front of them helps prevent accidental kicks. Rather than a standard infant swing, a more flexible webbed basket swing can play host to a child with disabilities, a baby or even a small group of kids.
When my son was a baby, I remember the monotony of pushing the stroller back and forth to keep him asleep while my daughter played on the play equipment. Westside offers a short paved path with good sight lines to the wide-open play area. Parents with the same conundrum could keep an eye on older kids playing independently while strolling the path to facilitate a younger sibling’s nap time.
Adults and older kids will welcome the shiny new courts for pick-up games of pickleball or basketball, within sight of the playground. The grassy lawn is still in its infant stage, but will be the perfect place for a picnic or throwing a Frisbee in the summer.
Westside Park is located adjacent to Redmond’s gigantic Marymoor Park. Westside’s amenities and layout indicate its status as a neighborhood spot that nearby families can reach by foot. There’s limited street parking (although it’s right up front) and a picnic shelter that’s perfect for snack time, but there are no restrooms.
While perhaps not intended as a destination playground, its unique log climbing equipment make it well worth a visit for Eastside families and those passing through the area.
The restroom situation cut short our foggy morning visit, but as we headed off for a coffee shop break my son was already talking about bringing his older sister back so they can climb together.
If you go…
Open hours: 6 a.m.–10 p.m. daily
Parking and facilities: Street parking is available along 156th Avenue N.E. There are no restrooms onsite. A picnic shelter has tables for an easy snack break.
Other nature-inspired play spots to check out: