Read Paula's article about Park Advocacy for tips on how to be your local park's best friend.
When it comes to parks, Puget Sound families can literally play all day. We are rich in outdoor spaces, wealthy in parks and playgrounds of gorgeous variety. Sifting through the choices to pick out a just a handful is a difficult task, but we've done it. Here are six terrific parks, large and small, throughout the region. Now that spring is on its way, it's time to get outside with the kids again. Pick a park you've never visited before and get primed for play!
Major destination: Spencer Island
4th Street South East, Everett
Spencer Island is a quiet gem in the Snohomish River Estuary. Walking trails along the shoreline feel private, remote and undeveloped. Signage and trails are currently undergoing renovation and the surrounding slough is unfenced, but pond observation decks and an abundance of wildlife make this park a great day trip for older children. Bring water, snacks, sketchbooks and sunscreen, and observe waterfowl, salamanders, frogs, raccoons, muskrats and deer in their natural habitat.
Secret treasure: Marina Beach Park
End of Admiral Way South, Edmonds
Right on the beach with a stunning view of the Olympic Mountains, Marina Beach Park is a tiny jewel. A bright, newish compound play structure (over wood chips) is sited directly on the beach, giving little children the chance to slide, build sandcastles and explore tide pools in a manageably small area while the big kids throw a Frisbee nearby.
Major destination: Lewis Creek Park
5808 Lakemont Blvd., Bellevue
Bring the stroller, roller blades and doll carriage along when you visit Lewis Creek Park and enjoy the long paved path that winds through 56 acres of wildlife habitat. Kids will notice the sights and sounds of native wildlife as the path turns its back on busy Bellevue and descends into a soothing valley. You'll pass several play structures, swings and spring toys along the way. A great picnic spot!
Secret treasure: Deane's Children's Park ("Dragon Park")
5500 Island Crest Way, Mercer Island
A visit to the recently renovated Deane's Children's Park involves an exciting treasure hunt along forested paths. Kids will discover two large compound play structures (one with a castle theme), swings, a climbing wall and a lovely longhouse-style covered picnic area, all nestled between tall trees. The friendly dragon, a beloved park feature since 1961, has gone from fuchsia to green but still invites children to climb around, over and through it.
Major destination: Discovery Park
3801 W. Government Way, Seattle
At 534 acres, Discovery Park is Seattle's largest. Loop trails, beachfront, West Point Lighthouse tours, a small play area with cable ride, the Environmental Learning Center with cool indoor play area -- Discovery Park has something for everyone. Postcard-worthy views from Magnolia Bluff will impress visitors and make Puget Sounders feel downright smug.
Secret treasure: Meadowbrook Playfield/Friends of Annie's Playground
10533 35th Ave. N.E., Seattle
Meadowbrook Playfield/Friends of Annie's Playground is a breathtakingly large collection of thoughtfully innovative play equipment with a Pacific Northwest theme. Kids can wind through a cave habitat, slide down four great slides and investigate a beautiful tile mural depicting salmon migration. In season, watch for migrating salmon(and cutthroat trout) as they swim up Thornton Creek, which flows alongside the park.
Paula Becker writes frequently about parks and park history, and with her three children has explored parks and playgrounds throughout the Puget Sound region.