New Outer Space Seattle indoor play space. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
Editor's note (Aug. 3, 2020): West Seattle play spot Outer Space Seattle had been open only a few months when the pandemic forced it to close. The owner recently let us know that they're reopening for drop-off child care for ages 3–10. It's called Space Camp and there's a whole host of new safety procedures in place, including small group sizes. Our writer visited back in January, and note that in her original article below, some of what she describes (such as cost and hours) won't apply to Outer Space's new child care offering, but you can get an idea of what the play space is like!
Original article (Jan. 21, 2020):
On our recent visit to Outer Space Seattle, a new indoor play space for kids, I saw a mom peek into the sensory room and then heard her exclaim, “There’s nothing like this!”
It's true. When Outer Space opened its doors on Dec. 20, 2019, it immediately took off with neighborhood families. Owner Caitlin Huertas came up with the idea four years ago, when she had a toddler and was pregnant with her second child. Like other young families in West Seattle, she didn’t want to have to schelp across town to visit an indoor play space.
“It’s my neighborhood, it’s my community,” Huertas said. “There’s just really a demand for it. We’ve been slammed.”
Outer Space is located right on Alki, and you can see the ferries crossing Elliott Bay across the street. Inside, the space-themed play space is cheerful and clean with pops of yellow. Your kiddos can explore a custom three-level play structure while you enjoy the wifi at one of the cafe tables. In the summer, the storefront’s garage doors will slide open to catch the breeze from the water.
Outer Space is a really beautiful space, curated just for kids. It’s a terrific addition to this family-friendly neighborhood.
Compact but well-designed
The physical footprint is compact but takes advantage of every inch. The play structure is designed for babies to age 12, with a sweet spot right around toddler and preschool ages. There’s also a sensory room for quieter play filled with soft toys and space-themed books.
Some visitors accustomed to larger play spaces such as Southcenter’s Safari or South Lake Union’s Playdate SEA may find Outer Space to be small. But West Seattle is like an island, and why leave if you don’t have to?
Outer Space caps the maximum number of people inside at 45, so it’s never manic like it can get at those bigger indoor playspaces. On busy days, Saturdays especially, that can mean a waitlist. You can pre-purchase a Saturday time slot to make sure you get in.
Clean and secure
When you enter, sign a waiver on an iPad for adults and kids (or fill it out ahead of time). I liked that there’s a gate at the entrance for safety. And I really liked that the entire place is squeaky clean. After closing each day, the staff spends an hour cleaning the whole play structure, toddler nook and sensory room.
A King County health inspector popped in unexpectedly the same day we visited. He checked out the kitchen (which serves sandwiches, pizza, salads and kid snacks) and gave it an “Excellent” rating. After he left, the owner was on her hands and knees wiping down the floors because the health inspector walked through with his shoes on. Hey, babies crawl on that floor! That’s the level of cleanliness here. Who cleans up after the health inspector?
I was really impressed by the quality of the toys in the sensory room. As a mom who likes to shop, I knew that some of these were definitely an investment. (If you don’t believe me, look up Squigz and liquid tiles on Amazon.) I also saw great titles like “Ada Twist, Scientist” and “Astro Girl” in the picture book selection, and wondered if the owner had a background as a teacher or child psychologist.
“I’m a mom,” Huertas said. “I think being a mom really informs what works and what doesn’t.”
In her previous life, actually, Huertas worked as an advertising creative director, which totally explains why the visual details in the interior are so cohesive. Everything works with the space theme, from the logo to the hand-painted mural to the spherical lights. Huertas was even rocking a solar system necklace, a gift from a customer.
We visited on a school day, when the crowd was mostly toddlers and preschoolers, plus one nursing baby. The adults all supervised the kids — these seemed like the kind of people who apologize for putting compost in the wrong bin, not the kind of people who let kids run crazy-wild.
My 4-year-old kid normally sticks to me, but at Outer Space, he was happy to explore the play structure on his own. When I climbed in to join him later, he eagerly showed me around. “This one wobbles, this one spins,” he said, pointing out different features as I crawled awkwardly behind him. (The rope bridge is the one adult-height section.)
Huertas’ daughters are now ages 6 and almost 4. She makes a point of teaching her girls that when they’re at Outer Space, their job is to act as ambassadors. Maybe there’s a kid who could use a friend?
Huertas has nephews with special needs, and goes out of her way to make sure Outer Space is safe and fun for children of all abilities. She put together little backpacks filled with sensory fidget toys, and installed a handgrip on the play structure for kids in chairs. A braille menu is in the works. If you have ideas, let her know. “Accessibility has always been very important to me,” she said.
Huertas is already planning to expand Outer Space. At least another outpost in Seattle, maybe in other cities too. We’re hoping she picks our neighborhood.
If you go...
Contact: Call 206-397-4591 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sundays are reserved for birthday parties ($500 for a 2-hour party). Note that weekday admission is for all day; Saturday admission is for two-hour sessions — booking ahead online is strongly recommended.
Cost: Admission for toddlers ages 1–3 is $9; for kids ages 4–12 it's $12. Babies under 12 months and adults enter free.
Parking: There's free 2-hour off-street parking in the alley behind the building and in the garage under the building. Street parking is also free. Metro's route 50 stops nearby.
Food: You can bring your own snacks (no nuts, please), or order from the yummy and reasonably priced menu. You’ll find sandwiches for $6–$7, pizzas for $12–$16 and kiddie snacks for $.75–$3.
Parents should know: Wear socks! No shoes inside.