The colorful new playground at Kirkland's Totem Lake Park. Credit: Natasha Dillinger
Errand days. They’re a necessary part of our weekly routine, but wrangling a curious toddler past aisles of his favorite snacks is not my idea of a good time. Our grocery runs tend to go more smoothly with the promise of a post-checkout play stop.
So on a recent errand run, we stopped by the colorful new playground at Kirkland’s Totem Lake Park. (Pro tip: The park is right near family staples Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods).
The first thing I noticed when we arrived was the rainbow colored turf ribbons lining the playground’s surface. It turns out they have super powers! Not only are they beautiful to look at and wheelchair-friendly, but the Forever Lawn playground grass also has anti-static properties that help prevent damage to cochlear implants and other electronic medical devices.
Low-incline hills and parallel bars provide accessible obstacle course elements and strength challenges for children with disabilities. Access to the playground is also fairly inclusive with zero-barrier edges, large gender-neutral family restrooms and a multi-level water station. The water station also features a dispenser for refilling reusable water bottles and a fountain for pups.
A climber’s paradise
There are no real swings at this park and, as a parent who often gets stuck pushing, I’m not mad. Instead, the focus seems to be on creating a variety of opportunities to build body strength and coordination through climbing.
At the entrance, we found a cone spinner with a low entrance and slow speed that allowed multiple age groups to cooperate in rotating it.
A series of unique net circles — from infiNET brand play structures — are set at an angle and provide a challenging obstacle course, with spaces to rest where needed.
Kids access the main play structure using several different styles of ladders, and a series of twisting blue slides provide the descent. Bridges and booths connect these elements.
Appropriate for tots?
At first I worried a bit about my 2-year-old. There isn’t a dedicated tot structure, but the new playground turned out to be the perfect spot to fuel his budding interest in climbing.
He didn’t seem to mind that there were no easy stairs to the main structure, and he scaled the ladders with surprising focus. A fun elevator brought him gently back down to the turf so he could run back up to do it again.
Multiple parents I talked with noticed the similarities between this new playground and the recently installed play structures at Bellevue’s Surrey Downs Park. Both playgrounds were designed by Pennsylvania-based Playworld.
Coffee break time
As our morning at the park progressed, the bright colors, stimulating structures and increasing number of other kids started to overwhelm my son. We took a break by eating a snack on the small wooden boardwalk (a larger, art-lined one is set to open soon).
Then we headed over to cruise through the shops at the Village at Totem Lake. Beautiful gathering areas with gas fire pits, a fountain and plenty of cushioned seating (I remember aching for these when I was breastfeeding) invited families to linger in between stops.
We picked up coffee from 203° Fahrenheit and did some quick grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s before heading back towards the playground. Errands accomplished, we decided to eat lunch at the long community picnic table — complete with open spaces where wheelchairs can slide in.
Back to play
Before long, my son was ready to hit the playground again. Bigger kids were enthusiastically enjoying some of the flashier structures and I noticed the design allowed him to adapt his play strategy to cope with the crowds. Sling seats under the main structure provided a fun place to hide and flop on the soft turf, while the less busy obstacle course at the far end of the playground offered a space to run free.
With its punchy colors and challenging climbing elements, this new playground literally added a bright spot to our day of errands and I know we’ll be back soon — we’re perpetually low on milk, after all.
If you go…
Open hours: Kirkland parks open at sunrise and close at 11 p.m.
Parking: There is limited free street parking and a small lot with three dedicated ADA spaces.
Facilities: There are two large gender-neutral family restrooms as well as a water station.
Nearby snacks: For a morning outing, pick up coffee and cocoa at 203° Fahrenheit. On a warm afternoon, check out the unusual ice cream flavors at Salt & Straw. Our favorite local toy store, Snapdoodle Toys, also recently opened a Totem Lake branch.
More playgrounds to add to your errand route: