Outer Space Seattle reopens for indoor play. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
Update Nov. 10, 2023: We were so sad to learn recently that just after its return to offering open play, Outer Space Seattle announced it must its doors. Citing financial strain caused by the pandemic, the owners are looking for a buyer for the business. Barring a new owner, Outer Space will close for good on Dec. 22, 2023.
Original story Oct. 3, 2023:
Outer Space Seattle, a kids’ indoor play space in West Seattle, opened its doors to the community in December 2019, just a couple of months before you-know-what. Womp womp.
Normally, indoor playgrounds are a rainy-season lifesaver for families, but a gaggle of kids playing together inside was an immediate no-go at the outset of the pandemic. Outer Space founder and CEO Caitlin Huertas quickly pivoted to private learning pods, preschool and camps, serving hundreds of kids and families during a trying time for everyone.
Outer Space grand reopening
Now, post-pandemic, Huertas is celebrating a “grand reopening” for Outer Space Seattle. She’s returning to her original vision: an indoor playground with a café, serving families from her West Seattle community and beyond. And it’s happening just in time for our Pacific Northwest drizzle season.
“We’re here! We’re back!” Huertas said. “It’s like nothing happened, four years later.”
What’s in: All-day open play. Hooray! The kitchen is back, too, serving up pizzas and snack plates. Everything on the menu is mom-approved. Kid-friendly pizza — “so it’s not spicy or pricey” — pleases young palates, and vegan cheese and gluten-free crust options cater to dietary needs. There are also fruit plates, hummus-and-veggie plates, bagels with cream cheese (or Nutella!?), plus beer and wine for the grown-ups.
What’s out: No more reservations, just stop in to play! (There are also no more drop-offs, with the shift away from a child-care setup. Adult caregivers need to stay onsite and supervise their kids during open play.)
Outer Space open play
Admission for open play costs $14 (plus tax) for kids ages 1–12; parents and infants are free. Admission good all day, so you can leave and come back the same day.
For the grand re-opening, Huertas added sound-proofing panels to absorb the sound from the concrete walls. Noise-canceling headphones are available to borrow for any kids who need them.
In the sensory room, look for new floor padding and wall padding. Huertas added a plexiglass panel to the wall to attach Squigz suction cups, and a magnetic section for building with Magna-Tiles.
‘My neighborhood, my community’
When my preschooler and I first visited Outer Space Seattle, I noticed a mom peek into the sensory room and exclaim, “There’s nothing like this!”
Huertas, the owner, came up with the idea for a community play spot 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 schlep across town to visit an indoor play space. “It’s my neighborhood, it’s my community,” Huertas said.
Outer Space Seattle is located right on Alki, and you can look out and see ferries crossing Elliott Bay. 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 café tables. In summer (or anytime the weather’s nice), the storefront’s garage doors will slide open to catch the breeze off the water.
Squeaky clean and well-designed
When you enter, sign the waiver on an iPad if you haven’t filled it out ahead of time. I noticed that there’s a safety gate at the entrance, and that the entire place was squeaky clean. The staff cleans all the toys and the entire playground every night. They also do a monthly deep cleaning from top to bottom.
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.
The sensory room for quieter play is filled with soft toys and space-themed books. Older kids tagging along can help themselves to the stash of Legos and board games.
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. I also saw great titles in the picture book area, like “Ada Twist, Scientist” and “Astro Girl.”
“I’m a mom,” said Huertas, whose girls are now 7 and 9. “I think being a mom really informs what works and what doesn’t.”
In her previous life, Huertas worked as an advertising creative director, which 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.
Adults can play
On our visit to Outer Space Seattle, my normally clingy preschooler was happy to explore the play structure on his own. Later, when I climbed in to join him, he eagerly showed me around.
“This one wobbles, this one spins,” he said, pointing out different features as I crawled behind him. Yes, grown-ups are welcome to climb into the playground, too!
Pulling through the pandemic
The timing for Outer Space Seattle’s initial opening couldn’t have been any more brutal. Huertas managed to pull through the pandemic by offering child care and camps. But with the labor costs for child care, she wasn’t quite breaking even every month and accrued more debt just to stay open.
“On one hand, I’m grateful we were able to be nimble and switch to that,” Huertas said. “But I’m very happy to be back to where we were in December of 2019.”
Huertas’ thoughts about the grand reopening?
“I am excited and very, very tired,” she said, laughing. “So much of our resources and energy has been [spent] to just stay open. I hope we can be around for a long time as a really great play destination.”
If you go...
Hours: Outer Space is open for drop-in open play Monday–Thursday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; and Saturday, 6:30–9 p.m. The facility is closed for private events on Saturdays until 6:30 p.m., and all day Sundays. If there are no private parties booked, the facility will open for extended open play hours — check social media for announcements.
Cost: Open play admission for ages 1–12 is $14 plus tax. Adults and babies younger than 12 months enter free.
Parties: On weekends, Outer Space Seattle offers birthday parties: $350 for a 2-hour party, with up to 40 friends. You get the whole place to yourself, and the staff takes care of all the cleanup.
Parking: There’s free 2-hour off-street parking in the garage underneath Cactus Restaurant (enter the garage from 63rd Avenue Southwest). Street parking is also free. Metro’s route 50 stops nearby.
Food: Outer Space’s café menu offers a range of family-friendly food. No outside food is allowed, though unopened, prepackaged baby food is allowed.
Parents should know: No shoes inside! Everyone needs to wear socks and sign a waiver.
Contact: Call 206-397-4591 or email email@example.com with questions.
Editor’s note: This article was first published in early 2020, following Outer Space Seattle’s initial opening, and updated in 2023 with information about its return to offering open play.