We asked for it. Our readers and editors are an opinionated bunch, so
when we asked for votes on the best places to play, shop, eat, and share
in the south Sound, we got … well … an eyeful. We asked for only
locally owned businesses, ruling out big national chains, and this year,
we added a twist, asking for favorite family traditions for holidays
With typical Northwest savvy, you’ve scoped out the finest local spots for kid’s books, great eats, hot dates, and more. Our editors weighed in, as well. So here it is: your fourth annual ParentMap Picks.
—Kristen Dobson, managing editor
Best Children’s Bookstore
Teaching Toys and Books in Tacoma (2624 N. Proctor St., 253-759-9853) doubles as a favorite book store and toy store, with an array of products to aid in early learning and development. The Children’s Bookshop (Puyallup: 707 River Road, 253-445-4790; Kent: 225 W. Meeker, 253-852-0383) and the University of Washington Bookstore, Tacoma Branch (1754 Pacific Ave., 253-272-8080) also have excellent selections of kids’ books.
Best Consignment Store
Parents on a budget know you don’t need to spend a bundle to kit out your kid. Our readers love the bargains at The Chifferobe (1007 Capitol Way S., Olympia, 360-705-0592) in downtown Olympia. In Federal Way, Heaven Sent Children’s Resale (1200 S. 324th St., 253-946-2229) is known for its great customer service, variety of products, and kid-related activities scheduled throughout the year.
Best Toy Store
Wind Up Here in downtown Olympia (121 Fifth Ave. S.E., 800-531-2616) definitely has it all, as far as toy connoisseurs are concerned. The store hosts third Thursday game nights and other kid-related toy events every month. The Learning Sprout (809 Pacific Ave., 253-274-0136) is a quaint toy shop in historic downtown Tacoma that offers a nice selection of toys for toddlers and preschoolers.
Best Kids’ Clothing Store
Sugar Babies in Sumner (1114 Main St., 253-299-6221) is a popular stop for fun and funky infant and toddler clothes, both new and used. It also sells toys, furniture and great gifts for expectant mothers. On Bainbridge Island, the Lollipops Children’s Boutique (271 Madison Ave. S., 206-780-9012) caters to the upscale and trendy tot.
Best Grocery Store
There’s no getting around it: National chain stores rule in this category. (Our readers love Trader Joe’s.) The Proctor Metropolitan Market in North Tacoma (2420 N. Proctor St., 253-761-3663) treats kids like little shoppers with miniature carts and sticker giveaways. The Bayview Thriftway on Olympia’s waterfront (516 W. 4th Ave., 360-352-4897) has a great bakery selection to plan for kids’ birthdays and parties.
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 Olympia’s Dancing Goats Espresso gets raves for its great location, across from the Olympia Farmers Market — a perfect spot for families to stop and grab a quick drink (111 Market St. N.E. #102, 360-528-8555). The baristas are happy to fill up baby bottles and serve up kid-size Italian sodas. For a sit-down atmosphere, its downtown Olympia location, the Batdorf & Bronson Coffeehouse (516 Capitol Way S., 360-786-6717) gives the family a relaxing time to chat and enjoy a drink together. In Tacoma, make sure to stop by the Antique Sandwich Company (5102 N. Pearl St., 253-752-4069). A 34-year tradition in Tacoma, the dining area contains several baskets full of toys for kids to play with while parents get their java fix.
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 Mora Iced Creamery (139 Madrone Lane, 206-855-8822), which serves up ice cream and sorbets made from scratch on Bainbridge Island. The All American Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt Shop (625 Black Lake Blvd. S.W., 360-753-1424) in Olympia makes fresh waffle cones by hand to hold its more than 30 flavors of premium ice cream. And for wacky ambiance, Mad Jack’s Ice Cream Concoctions (2009 Mildred St. W., 253-460-6235) in Tacoma features servers in lab coats and a décor reminiscent of a mad scientist’s lab.
Americans eat 100 acres of pizza every day, and ParentMap readers are doing their part! The Rock Wood Fired Pizza (1920 Jefferson Ave., 253-272-1221) in Tacoma and at newer locations in Lacey and Federal Way is a family favorite. The kids get pieces of pizza dough to play with when you sit down and the pizzas are scrumptious. Spiro’s Pizza and Pasta (3201 N.W. Bucklin Hill Rd., 360-698-4800) in Silverdale is a local favorite with indoor and outdoor seating. Locals say: Check out the “White Pizza.”
Restaurant or Bar for a Night Out Without Kids
Stunning views and a killer menu put the Falls Terrace Restaurant on top in this category (106 Deschutes Way, Tumwater, 360-943-7830). Perched above Tumwater Falls, the dining room provides a romantic atmosphere to enjoy an upscale but affordable dinner and drinks on the deck. The Oysterhouse (320 Fourth Ave. W., 360-753-7000) in Olympia serves up fresh seafood right on the waterfront. After dinner, take a stroll along Percival Landing to wrap up the romantic evening. In Tacoma, a stop at the Lobstershop (4015 Ruston Way, 253-759-2165) seals the deal for a perfect anniversary or celebration. A second location at Dash Point also has breathtaking views of Puget Sound.
Family-Friendly Ethnic Food
OK, it’s a national chain, but it’s also the ultimate in kid-friendly food: The Old Spaghetti Factory (1735 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma, 253-383-2214) is one of the South Sound’s most popular family dining spots. South end kids appreciate touches like a children’s menu that doubles as a coloring and game booklet, a kids’ club and its Reward for Reading program (download a form on the Web site and bring it in for a free kids’ dinner). La Taqueria Mexican Restaurant (534 Capitol Way, 360-357-5028), with locations in Olympia and Lacey, serves a to-die-for fried ice cream.
Indoor Play Area
The Hands On Children’s Museum (106 11th Ave. S.W., 360-956-0818) in Olympia provides the perfect place for indoor play, with stations such as the Working Waterfront, Backyard Wilderness and Tot Spot. In Tacoma, hit the jungle gym or laser tag maze at the Odyssey 1 (2310 W. Mildred, 253-566-3233). Older kids will appreciate the game room too. In Tacoma, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma (936 Broadway, 253-627-6031) has several ongoing exhibits and regular programs for hands-on play. On Bainbridge Island, the KiDiMu, or Kid’s Discovery Museum (305 Madison Ave. N., 206-855-4650) holds art activity classes every weekday!
Sunny-Day Play and Parks
Slip on your swimsuit and head down to the Heritage Park Fountain (330 Fifth Ave. S.W.) in downtown Olympia for some fun in the sun. In the summer months, it’s open for splish-splashing Thursdays-Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 3:30-9:30 p.m. The Kid Zone at the Point Defiance Zoo (5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, 253-591-5337) is a local favorite for hanging out with the kids on a sunny day. Enjoy running through the water at the dancing lily pad fountain or meet animals in the Contact Junction. Down at Owen Beach (5400 N. Pearl St.) in Tacoma, families can enjoy wading, beachcombing and picnicking.
Place to Swim
A 160-foot water slide, a lazy river, a bubble pool, and a water play structure all add up to a first-place finish for the Stewart Heights Pool in Tacoma (402 E. 56th St., 253-573-2532). The pool at the downtown Olympia YMCA (510 Franklin St. S.E., 360-357-6609) offers various open swim times and is only $6 for an entire family of as many as nine people. In Bremerton, check out the Glenn Jarstad Aquatic Center (50 Magnuson Way, 360-473-5376).
Pack up your fishing pole when you head out to DeCoursey Park (1800 Seventh Ave. S.W.) in Puyallup. The pond is stocked with fish every year, and kids can play on the play structure and check out the beautiful creek. The Tumwater Falls Park (Capitol Blvd.) in Tumwater is popular for family picnics and a walk around the falls of the Deschutes River. Viewing of the fish ladder and Chinook salmon run is best around late September and October. Titlow Park (8201 Sixth Ave.) in Tacoma is another local favorite. Located on the edge of the Tacoma Narrows, the park offers everything from a playground to basketball courts, softball fields, walking paths, scuba access, picnic areas, a pool and more.
Places That Pampers Moms (and Dads!)
Just looking at its list of services is enough to start you daydreaming — will you begin with the Rosemary Mint Awakening Body Wrap or the Caribbean Therapy Massage? Our readers love the Premiere Salon and Spa (111 Market St. N.W., 360-753-3299) in Olympia, featured as the Northwest’s Spa of the Year in Vogue magazine. In Tacoma, the Avanti Spa (1506 Pacific Ave., 253-682-2005) offers couples and “girls’ night out” packages.
Out with Daddy
Tacoma is the home of the Mariners’ AAA team, the Rainiers, and dads love to take their kids to catch a game at Cheney Stadium (2502 S. Tyler St., 253-752-7700), where they can get closer to the action and avoid the crowds of Major League games. In Eatonville, dads love to take their little critters to visit Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (11610 Trek Dr. E., Eatonville, 360-832-6117). Kids and dads enjoy tram rides across the forest, meadow and wetlands, spotting bears, wolves, bobcats, dear, elk and more. Nature trails and hands-on activities at the Cheney Discovery Center in Northwest Trek also create a great atmosphere and more time for dads to spend with their kids.
Family Weekend Getaway
For camping, our readers love Joemma Beach State Park (Bay Rd.) in Gig Harbor. The popular spot for crabbing, boating, fishing and pitching a tent on the beach is open year-round. Or 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.
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 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
For the serious street-biking family, the 20-mile Central Kitsap Bike Tour starts in Bremerton’s Manette neighborhood, winds through Keyport and circles back. For a more structured path setting, families prefer the 2.5 miles of bike trails at Penrose Point State Park (158th Ave.) south of Purdy.
Family Day Hike
The park at the Tacoma Nature Center (1919 S. Tyler St., 253-591-6439) provides a place to explore the natural environment amidst the urban setting of the city of Tacoma. Two miles of trails wander through the wetlands and forests that cover the 70-acre site. The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (100 Brown Farm Rd., 360-753-9467) in Olympia has been a popular family hiking spot with options for a shorter, easy hike for the little ones to longer hikes for the full nature and wildlife experience.
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.
A 20-year tradition tops this list for families in the south Sound area: Zoo Lights at the Point Defiance Zoo. Thousands of colored lights transform the zoo grounds into a magical winter wonderland, complete with holiday music, a carousel ride, family photos and hot drinks. The Festival of Trees features a display of more than 65 elaborately decorated Christmas trees, live entertainment, Santa photos and holiday shopping. The annual event benefits Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Health Center. This year, it takes place at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center.
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.
Originally published in the July, 2007 print edition of ParentMap.