Editor's Note: Did you know ParentMap has a South Sound edition? Read our ParentMap Picks 2007 South Edition feature for favorites in your area. For the Seattle, Eastside and Snohomish areas, read on.
We asked for it. Our readers are an opinionated bunch, so when we asked you to weigh in on the best places to play, shop, eat, and share in our region, we got ... well ... an eyeful.
We asked you to stick to locally owned businesses, ruling out big national chains, and this year, we added a twist, asking for favorite family traditions for holidays and giving. We also asked you to say a good word or two about your favorite unsung hero, and got some responses you might expect — plus a few that might surprise you.
With typical Northwest savvy, you’ve scoped out the finest spots for kid’s books, great eats, hot dates, and more. You’re dedicated to your neighborhood haunts, but will brave cross-town traffic to get to the best. You served up your choices with a side order of attitude. So here it is, back at you: your fourth annual ParentMap Readers’ Picks.
—Kristen Dobson, managing editor
Best children’s bookstore
A favorite for four years running, All For Kids is the clear winner this year, racking up votes for its great selection and knowledgeable staff. The family-owned store, located across from University Village, prides itself on more than two decades of “putting the perfect book into the hands of the reader” — especially reluctant readers. Visit the store’s Web site and you’ll see another reason it’s a favorite: The store regularly brings in favorite authors for readings, and hosts story times and even a knitting and book discussion club. And if you’re committed to supporting locally owned businesses but just can’t face loading the kids up in the car, use the Web site’s online catalog to order for delivery at your door. (2900 N.E. Blakely St., Seattle, 206-526-2768, www.allforkidsbooks.com)
Runners-up: The Secret Garden in Ballard is always a strong contender, and this year is no exception (2214 N.W. Market St., Seattle, 206-789-5006, www.secretgardenbooks.com). And check out Island Books for a helpful staff and free shipping (3014 78th Ave. S.E., Mercer Island, 206-232-6920, www.mercerislandbooks.com).
Best consignment store
Savvy parents on a budget know you don’t need to spend a bundle to kit out your kid. Our readers love the bargains at Me ‘n Moms, with locations in Ballard and Issaquah. Check out clothes, toys, furniture and more, all in great condition. (2821-B N.W. Market St., Seattle, 206-781-9449 and 1480 N.W. Gilman Blvd., Issaquah, 425-427-5430, menmoms.com)
Runners-up: Treehouse (15742 Redmond Way, Redmond, 425-885-1145) and Kids on 45th (1720 N. 45th St., Seattle, 206-633-5437). North-end parents love Other Mothers, where kids can watch a video while their parents (not just moms!) shop (11419 19th Ave. S.E., Ste.C-100, Everett, 425-357-8779, www.othermotherseverett.com).
Best toy store
You voted in droves for the third year in a row to perch Top Ten Toys on the Picks pedestal. The streets around the store’s Greenwood location are about to undergo a major revamping, but loyal customers will be glad to know that Top Ten won’t close. With more than 7,000 square feet of toys, and a nonviolent toy policy, this gentle giant has a selection and philosophy that parents love. The store’s goal is to keep old-fashioned, healthy play alive with lots of the classic and hands-on toys that inspire creativity. (104 N. 85th St., Seattle, 206-782-0098, www.toptentoys.com)
Runners-up: Pinocchio’s Toys (4540 Union Bay Pl. N.E., Seattle, 206-528-1100 and Tree Top Toys (15752 Redmond Way, 425-869-9713).
Kids’ clothing store
You were having none of it. This year, we tried to mix things up, leaving off the Children’s Shoes category, but readers wouldn’t let us forget about a stellar shoe store that commands fierce loyalty. The king of this jungle is the Shoe Zoo, a store with an 18-year history in Seattle, relocating twice before settling back in the U-District just last year. Why the raves? Owner Bruce Stern says it’s probably a combination of a huge selection and “good old-fashioned service. We stand behind every fitting,” Stern says. (2920 N.E. Blakely St., Suite B, Seattle, 206-525-0073)
For kids’ clothing, the favorites are Kids Club (2630 N.E. Village Lane, Seattle, 206-524-2553, www.shopkidsclub.com), Georgia Blu (4707 California Ave. S.W., Seattle, 206-935-4499) and Pop Tots (6405 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle, 206-522-4322, www.poptots.net.
There’s no getting around it: National chain stores rule in this category. (Our readers love Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.) But local chains made a strong showing, especially PCC Natural Markets. Readers love PCC’s high standards for fresh, natural foods and its huge selection of organic produce. The stores sell only hormone-free meat, and nothing in the aisles contains hydrogenated fats or added trans fats. Kids get free fruit to munch while shopping, and shelves feature “Kid Picks” tags on items judged yummy by a panel of kids. (Locations in Seattle at Fremont, Green Lake, Seward Park, View Ridge, and West Seattle, and in Issaquah, Kirkland, and Redmond. Visit www.pccnaturalmarkets.com for details.)
Runners-up: Central Market in Shoreline and Mill Creek (www.townandcountrymarkets.com), and Metropolitan Market, with locations in Seattle’s Queen Anne, Sand Point, Uptown, and Admiral neighborhoods (www.metropolitan-market.com).
Kid-friendly coffee shop
Around here, we don’t mess around when it comes to coffee, so if we’re toting kids, it had better be kid-friendly. Our readers love their neighborhood java joints; we got more different answers in this category than in any other! But two spots tied for first in the faves: perennial favorite My Coffee House in Seattle’s Madison Park (2818 E. Madison St., Seattle, 206-568-7509) and Firehouse Coffee in Ballard (2622 N.W. Market St., Seattle, 206-784-2911). Both feature amenities such as a separate children’s play area and enticing menus.
Runners-up: A shout-out to a staff favorite, Red Cup Espresso in West Seattle, where baristas serve up junior-sized drinks with a twist: a pile of gummy bears and a sucker stuck in the straw. Skip the sugar, if you prefer; the tasty lattes keep this drive-thru hopping (4451 California Ave. S.W., Seattle, 206-923-0431).
Ice cream shop
Kid-friendly and ice cream — they go together like Chunky and Monkey! Still, a few scoop shops shine through for our readers, who are sweet on The Scoop at Walter’s on Ballard’s Sunset Hill. “Staff is great to kids and patient while they choose,” says ParentMap’s Out & About editor Kris Collingridge. “The whole scene is charmingly funky and small-town — lots of dogs and neighbors greeting each other and kid schlurping cones on sidewalk seating.” (6408 32nd Ave. N.W., Seattle, 206-782-3920)
Runners-up: Husky Deli in West Seattle (4721 California Ave. S.W., Seattle, 206-937-2810) and Mora Iced Creamery (Bellevue Square, N.E. Eighth Street and Bellevue Way, 425-454-2073).
Americans eat 100 acres of pizza every day, and ParentMap readers are doing their part! This year’s winner, Pagliacci Pizza, is loved for delicious seasonal offerings, like this month’s roasted asparagus, and for offering delivery to hassled parents in Seattle and Bellevue. What you may not know: This pie-maker with a heart has been quietly building two transitional housing projects in Seattle for battered and homeless women. (Six locations in Seattle and Bellevue. For takeout or delivery in Seattle: 206-726-1717; on the Eastside: 425-453-1717, www.pagliacci.com.)
Runners-up: Zeek’s Pizza (with stores in Seattle and Kirkland. For takeout or delivery in Seattle: 206-285-8646; in Kirkland: 425-893-8646, www.zeekspizza.com), Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria (Columbia City, 4918 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, 206-721-3501; Wallingford, 4411 Stone Way N., Seattle, 206-633-3800, www.tuttabellapizza.com).
Restaurant or bar for a night out without kids
A killer menu and a sophisticated vibe put the Purple Café and Wine Bar over the top for readers taking a breather from the kids. (Locations in Kirkland, Woodinville and downtown Seattle; 206-838-3852 or www.thepurplecafe.com for details.)
Runners-up: Jak’s Grill (in Issaquah, Laurelhurst, and West Seattle; www.jaksgrill.com) and Daniel’s Broiler (in Bellevue and Seattle’s Lake Union and Leschi neighborhoods, www.schwartzbros.com).
Family-friendly ethnic food
Free grilled corn tortillas and a large kid’s menu make Rosita’s Mexican Grill the queen of world cuisine for our readers. Kids younger than 10 choose from tasty Mexican faves (sans the spicy), including tacos, mini-quesadillas and “kid nachos,” or opt for tried-and-true chicken strips or hot dogs with French fries. At Green Lake, with outdoor seating (7210 Woodlawn Ave. N.E., Seattle, 206-523-3031, www.rositasrestaurant.com).
Runners-up: Udupi Palace (Southern Indian vegetarian cuisine, Crossroads, 15600 N.E. Eighth St., Ste. 9, Bellevue, 425-649-0355) and Blue C Sushi (Fremont, 3411 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle, 206-633-3411; U-Village, 4601 26th Ave. N.E., Seattle, 206-525-4601; www.bluecsushi.com).
Indoor play area
Kids are wild about Zoomazium at the Woodland Park Zoo, this year’s clear winner in the rainy-day play category. Little ones can explore a mountain cave, cross a rope bridge in the tree canopy, discover what lies beneath a savanna watering hole, and (safely) climb a 20-foot tree. (5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, 206-684-4800, www.zoo.org/zoomazium)
Runners-up: The Children’s Museum (305 Harrison St., Seattle, www.thechildrensmuseum.org) and KidsQuest Museum (4901 Factoria Blvd., Bellevue, 425-637-8100, www.kidsquestmuseum.org).
Editor’s note: Don’t miss the brand-new kids’ room at the Seattle Art Museum (www.seattleartmuseum.org).
Sunny-day play and parks
Seattle’s Green Lake Park gets the blue ribbon for best place to hang with kids on a sunny day. Readers love the great play area at the northeast end of the lake, which features a big sandpit, swings, a merry-go-round and two climbing structures. With bathrooms and good lattes nearby — and great people-watching — the park offers plenty for parents, too. (North Seattle, 7201 E. Greenlake Dr. N.)
Runners-up: Seattle’s Warren G. Magnuson Park (7400 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle) and Carkeek Park (950 N.W. Carkeek Park Rd., Seattle). In the north end, parents love St. Edwards State Park (on Juanita Drive in Kenmore).
Place to swim
A toddler pool featuring geysers, a slide, and an island, and a “lazy river” for older kids make Mountlake Terrace Pool our reader’s favorite place for indoor swimming (5303 228th St. S.W., 425-776-9173). On the Eastside, check out the Bellevue Aquatic Center (601 143rd Ave. N.E., Bellevue, 425-452-4444).
For outdoor swimming, readers like “Pop” Mounger Pool in Magnolia (2535 32nd Ave. W., Seattle).
Place that pampers moms (and dads!)
Just looking at its “spa menu” is enough to start you daydreaming — will you begin with the Rhythm Drum Massage or the Ashanti Foot Ritual? Our readers love Habitude’s changeable “seasonal” offerings along with a long list of regular services offered at its tranquil Ballard and Fremont locations. (2801 N.W. Market St., Seattle, 206-782-2898 and 513 N. 36th St., Seattle, 206-633-1339, www.habitude.com)
Runners-up: Gene Juarez (five locations in Seattle and on the Eastside, www.genejuarez.com) and Frenchy’s Day Spa in Seattle’s Madison Park (3131 E. Madison St., Ste. 103, Seattle, 206-325-9582, www.frenchysdayspa.com).
Out with daddy
Local dads like to take their little critters to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, our readers’ fave place for some daddy time (206-684-4800, www.zoo.org). Other best-loved spots: the Seattle Aquarium (206-386-4300, www.seattleaquarium.org), Pacific Science Center (206-443-2001, www.pacsci.org) and the Museum of Flight (206-764-5720, www.museumofflight.org).
Runner-up: Safeco Field.
Family weekend getaway
The tide has turned in this category — to a pair of idyllic nearby islands. Take a ferry or drive across beautiful Deception Pass to visit Whidbey Island and its multitude of parks and quaint shops. Or, farther afield, plan your ferry strategy and queue up your car for the crossing to Orcas Island in the San Juans, where families find great hiking, boating, shopping and eating. Last year’s winner placed third this time around: Vancouver, B.C.
Big family getaway
Must be all the gray. When our readers plan a big family getaway, they head for the sunny islands of Hawaii, where the mercury tops 80 degrees by the end of May (check current temps and get info at www.gohawaii.com). Closer to home, the windswept beaches of the Oregon coast and towns such as Cannon Beach and Rockaway Beach are in a close second place.
Family bike ride
With 14.1 miles of car-free cycling and gorgeous views of Lake Washington and the Cascades, the Burke-Gilman Trail is our readers’ favorite pedaling spot, by a long shot. If your kids are small or shaky on two wheels, save this trail for midday, midweek rides, when crowds are thinnest. Download a map at www.metrokc.gov/kcdot/roads/bike/map.cfm.
Runners-up: Redmond’s Marymoor Park and Seattle’s Green Lake Park.
Family day hike
Seattle’s biggest park is our readers’ favorite for hitting the trail with kids. Discovery Park offers more than 11 miles of trails and paths, two miles of tidal beaches, and gorgeous views of Puget Sound, the Cascades and the Olympics.
Runners-up: hikes in the “Issaquah Alps,” including Cougar Mountain and Tiger Mountain trails.
Family ski destination
It’s a long drive, but our readers say it’s worth the effort to get to Whistler Ski Resort in B.C., Canada. The kids’ ski program is one of the largest around, featuring Adventure Camps, “magic carpets,” an “adventure zone” and a play fort. For skiing together, green-run areas have signs for “family zones,” where skiers are instructed to “go slow.”
For day trips, our readers like the Summit at Snoqualmie, just a half-hour or so from Seattle.
For family fun at the holidays, our readers say nothing beats the Westlake carousel in downtown Seattle, marking its 20th anniversary this year. You also gave high marks to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker and Garden d’Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. But for many readers, the best holiday tradition of all is gathering with family and friends to celebrate — and eat!
Family charity tradition
Giving back is a family affair for many of our readers, and feeding the hungry is your favorite way to do it, whether by working at a food bank or collecting cans for Northwest Harvest. Other favorite charity traditions: cleaning up local parks and volunteering through church.
Favorite unsung hero
“Amazingly patient.” “Hard-working.” “Wonderful.” ParentMap readers nominated teachers again and again in this category. “They become everything to your child when you drop them off: teacher, nurse, cheerleader and counselor,” writes one reader. “We have high expectations of them and they are met with little or no thanks,” writes another.
Firefighters got props for “the ultimate in community service: risking lives for others, leaving their families on holidays to serve your family,” as did the men and women of the military. But for many readers, the true hero is even closer to home: their husbands. As one reader put it: “He always puts his family first, is gentle and kind, and is constantly helping others.”