Rainy Day Recess: 30+ Indoor Play Spots in the South Sound
It’s that time of year again. It’s dark, it’s wet, it's cold and everyone is itching for a change of scenery.
Don’t despair. We’ve gathered up more than 30 outings around the South Sound and South King County. Explore a new museum or revisit an old favorite, burn up energy at a roller rink or gymnastics center, or settle in for a craft at a new locale. The rainy season is your chance to be adventurous indoors. (See also our Seattle rainy-day list.)
Active indoor play
Pattison’s West Skate Center, Federal Way
A Federal Way institution, Pattison’s offers roller skate training sessions for beginners, and a discount family night on Sundays (only $5, including skate rentals).
Admission: Prices vary depending on session. 253-838-7442
Opened in 2007, the community center boasts a swimming pool that’s worth the drive, with a lazy river, two-story water slide, and interactive play structure. Check out Come Play with Me, an indoor play gym (with coffee for the grownups).
Admission: Day Pass $4–$8, Drop-in fee $3/child for Come Play with Me. 253-835-6900
Trampoline Nation, Federal Way
Federal Way’s Trampoline Nation offers a fun, clean jumping environment for kids. Nets separate groups by size to keep everyone safe. The mezzanine area for those watching the fun boasts comfy seating and free Wi-Fi. Open daily.
Admission: Tickets $11/hour; additional hours $7 on weekdays, $11 on Sat. and Sun.
WiggleWorks Kids, Puyallup
This indoor play place in Puyallup — a sibling to the Crossroads Bellevue WiggleWorks location — is a soft-play indoor play space designed for children less than 48 inches tall, and the winner of ParentMap's 2014 Golden Teddy Award for best play space. Little ones love to run around, chase balloons, swing and wiggle away. Parents love Wi-Fi and snack area. Best of all, it's open daily: Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m–8 p.m and Sunday, 11 a.m–6 p.m.
Admission: On weekdays, $7/child; weekends: $10/child, $8/sibling. 253-445-6551
Tiffany’s Skate Inn, Puyallup
A huge maple floor sets this 1960s-era Puyallup roller rink apart from the pack. Tiffany’s offers Family FUNday every Sunday afternoon, and it also participates in the KidSkateFree.com program.
Admission: See schedule for cost. 253-848-1153
Bounce E House, Tacoma
A fun inflatable indoor play space in Tacoma, Bounce E House features a giant obstacle course, slide, toddler play area and more. It has open play seven days a week for all ages, as well as birthday parties; check the Facebook page for other sessions.
Admission: A two-hour play session is $7, and many multi-play passes and specials are available. 253-329-5867
Pump it Up, Tacoma
Pump it Up was founded on great birthday parties, but has plenty of drop-in fun options as well, like Pre-K Open Jump on weekday mornings and afternoons. There are also monthly special events for both children and families.
Admission: Varies depending on sessions. It's $8/session for Open Jump, generally held Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–noon. Check out the details here.
STAR center, South Tacoma
A STAR center pass lets you take advantage of kids’ activities in the playgrounds, adventure course, discounted classes, a fitness room, lap and family swims at two offsite pools and discounts on party packages. If you have a larger family and think you might go often, give them a call to see if a family pass is a better deal for you than paying individually. 253-404-3939.
Odyssey 1 Family Fun Center, Tacoma
The Tacoma play center’s Jungle Gym Park is a great place for kids to expend energy on the large climbing structure, monkey bars and more. Open seven days a week.
Admission: Check the website for current pricing and specials. 253-444-6561.
Frog n Kiwi Cafe, University Place
This cafe at University Place is well-loved for its nicely designed, toy-full play area. There is a 48-inch limit for kids, and be sure to call first (especially on weekends) to make sure there is not a birthday party happening.
Admission: $7/child. Special $2 play time on Tuesday or Thursdays after 2 p.m. 253-292-1318
Black Hills Gymnastics, Lacey
The kids are safe and supervised as they play on the gymnastics equipment at this Lacey gym. You can stay and watch or sneak out to do an errand. For kids 5 and over, choose from Open Gym, and Parents' Night Out (held the last Saturday of every month). For kids 5 and under, check out Preschool Open Gym. 360-413-9855
Admission: $7/Preschool Open Gym; $15/Open Gym.
Warehouse Rock Gym, Olympia
Drive them up a wall — a rock wall, that is. Climbing at this Olympia gym is open to all ages, so as long as your kiddo can fit in the child harness (call for guidance if you have a question), you’re good to go. Rent shoes and harnesses for all ages on site.
Admission: $14/adults, $12/youth 7–17, $7/children 4–6. Free for kids 3 and under. 360-596-9255
The concept is pretty simple: Take a playground and put it indoors! This playspace, great for kids over 12 months and under 5, is available at the Kent Commons Gymnasium on most Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings from 9:30–11 a.m. during the winter months.
Admission: First child is a $2 fee and additional children are just $1 (maximum of 3 children per adult). Check out the online schedule to double-check open dates before you head on over.
Metropolitan Gymnastics, Kent
Drop by this spacious Kent gymnastics center for open play on the equipment. An current schedule of play times is available on the website.
Admission: $11–$13. 425-282-5010
Crafts and games
Play to Learn at Pierce County Libraries
Check the calendar of your local library for free Play to Learn sessions, a time for fun activities, parent information, and learning materials to take home. Adults stay and play with children, ages newborn to 6. Visit your library for traditional story times and special events, too. 253-548-3300
The Puyallup library has a special storytime aimed at budding engineers: LEGO my library! Aimed at kids ages 4–8, the session starts with storytime followed by LEGO creation inspired by the stories. All skill levels are welcome, and no registration is required. The currently scheduled session of this storytime series begins Saturday, January 9 at 11 a.m. Check the calendar to confirm times and dates for the next session.
An awesome "creative reuse" center in downtown Tacoma (they have a mobile Tinkermobile, too), this spot has everything you'll need for uber-creative projects. They also offer classes and workshops. See our full review here.
Admission: No admission to shop. $7 for 90 minutes of drop-in time at the Tinkertopia studio. You can buy supplies bulk in bags, from $6.95–$19.95. 253-778-6539
Paint Your Own Pottery at Throwing Mud Gallery, Tacoma
This contemporary ceramics studio opened up in September 2013 inside Tacoma's Throwing Mud Gallery. Children are welcome to come with an adult to paint a keepsake ranging from plates to piggy banks to figurines, and pick up the glazed and finished masterpiece seven days later. Calling ahead is recommended especially for groups of 4 or more. 253-254-7961
Admission: Varies based on project.
Art & Clay Studio, Lakewood
At this fun paint-your-own-piece studio in Lakewood, kids can choose from a variety of pottery pieces to decorate. Pieces are glazed and finished for pick up a week later.
Admission: Prices range from $10–$70 but average $10–$14 for common choices such as plates, bowls and mugs.
Michael’s Kids Club, Lakewood
Michael’s Arts & Crafts has a changing lineup of easy but absorbing craft projects, classes, and events. Teachers at the Lakewood store are flexible. They often teach multiple classes and can change the craft at the request of children in attendance. Call the store or check online to find out what’s coming up (look for classes labeled KIDS CLUB). 253-584-2058
Captain Little, Olympia
Longtime Olympians probably remember Wind Up Here, a toy store which closed in March 2014. Saddened by the loss, local business owner Paul Shepherd opened up Captain Little in its place. The store hasn't been around long, but it is receiving great reviews, and patrons describe plenty of fun toys and set-ups that keep both adults and kids entertained. 360-352-5441
Museums, zoos and nature discovery
Tacoma's redesigned children's museum has a warm and modern new home, creative playspaces, and an attractive pricing policy — pay as you can on any day. It's open Wednesday–Sunday and late (until 7 p.m.) on the third Thursday of each month.
Admission: Pay as you can
Harbor History Museum, Gig Harbor
This maritime museum explores the seafaring and fishing history of the Gig Harbor area. Museum programs include hands-on learning opportunities, family events and school field trips. Museum volunteers are currently restoring a 65-foot purse seiner called the Shenandoah. Winter museum hours are Tuesday–Sunday. 253-858-6722
Admission: Adult $7, senior/military/student $6, youth (ages 6–17) $5; ages 5 and under free
LeMay — America's Car Museum, Tacoma
It's true that kid can't touch many of the vintage-car exhibits at the LeMay; but they will adore racing the slot cars, building and racing the pinewood cars in the Family Zone. Check the events page for fun workshops and special shows.
Admission: Adults $16; students $12; kids ages 6–12, $8; ages 5 and under free.
Northwest Trek, Eatonville
Don’t ignore the Trek during the rainy season. The Cheney Discovery Center is packed with interesting natural history items for kids to examine, from animal pelts and teeth to puppets and coloring projects for little ones. You could happily spend a morning here.
Admission: $19.75/ages 13 and up; $12.25/ages 5–12; $9.25/ages 3–4; ages 2 and under free; discount for Pierce County residents. 360-832-6117
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Tacoma
The zoo is a great place to visit in the rainy season, with a number of indoor spaces (including the tropical-feeling Aquarium) and fewer crowds. If you have younger kids, consider joining one of the zoo's fun clubs, such as Critter Club, which meets on occasional Thursdays and Fridays. Check website soon for upcoming 2016 dates.
Admission: Online tickets are $6.75–$15; Pierce County residents get a discount.
With eight galleries and more than a hundred interactive exhibits, Olympia's all-new children's museum (it moved in 2012 to a new space) offers interactive play for young children, including Snug Harbor, a soft space for infants and crawlers with an educational focus, and an amazing Outdoor Discovery Center, with a driftwood building area, an interactive public art piece and more.
Admission: $10.95, or free every first Friday 5–9 p.m. 360-956-0818
Pierce College Science Dome, Lakewood
Those rain clouds won't stop you from seeing the stars with the shows at the new Science Dome of Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood. Designed for ages 3–8, special children's shows get your kids up and moving while teaching them cool facts about the night sky. Check out their online calendar for showtimes and descriptions.
Admission: Kids are $6; adults are free at children's shows; All ages (3 and up) are $6 at family shows. Bring cash unless you are paying in advance through the website.
White River Valley Museum, Auburn
The history of South King County is on display at this small museum tucked into Auburn’s Les Gove Park (combine it with a trip to the park, which is awesome). It’s hands-on fun for just a couple of bucks.
Admission: $2–$5, and first Thursday and third Sunday are free. 253-288-7433
Located in downtown Tacoma's Museum District, this gem easily pairs with trips to other museums, such as the Children's Museum of Tacoma or the Washington State History Museum. Take a tour of the galleries, then proceed to the Open Art Studio where kids can experiment with good art supplies and work on projects suggested by the museum. (Free: museum admission not required to visit the art studio.)
Admission: The museum is free every third Thursday for the ArtWalk. See admission prices online. 253-272-4258.
Washington State History Museum, Tacoma
Get the kids into history! Play games on touch-screen computers in the Great Hall, do a scavenger hunt and check out the giant model railroad. Wednesday–Sunday, your family can play Museo, a hybrid of scavenger hunt and Bingo. Visit the History Lab Learning Center for hands-on, interactive exhibits.
Admission: $11/adults, $8/students (ages 6–17), and free for children ages 5 and under. Free every third Thursday for the ArtWalk from 2–8 p.m. 253-272-3500
Legislative Building Tour, Olympia
Tour the domed 1928 building in Olympia that’s at the heart of Washington’s government, learn about the state’s legislative system, and visit the Public Galleries. The hour-long tours depart daily, on the hour, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays and between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekends.
Admission: Free — how cool is that?
Bigelow House Museum, Olympia
Take a 45-minute guided tour of Olympia’s oldest residence, built in 1860, and find out how one family of that era lived, worked and played. This is one for families with older kids.
Olympic Flight Museum, Olympia
Take your plane-obsessed child to the Olympia Regional Airport to view several beautifully designed vintage warplanes, such as the shark-snouted Hawker “Hunter,” and a large collection of model aircraft, too. The museum is open Wednesday–Sunday all year, and on Mondays and Tuesdays during certain times of the year. Full details are available online.
Admission: $5–$7, children ages 6 and under are free. 360-705-3925
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, make the drive to Seattle to visit attractions and museums that feature exhibits you won’t find anywhere else in the state. See also our complete Seattle rainy-day list.
Seattle Art Museum. The museum’s entry hall features real cars, hung from the ceiling, that seem to be catapulting through the space. A draw for families is the refurbished children’s play area, the Knudsen Family Room on the third floor. This quiet nook, with windows that look down on a busy streetscape, is beautifully designed and filled with outstanding play and educational materials for kids. Free the first Thursday of the month and kids ages 12 and under are free every day.
Seattle Aquarium. Seals, tide pools, octopus-feeding, starfish-touching: The Aquarium is incredibly dependable as a source of indoor fun and learning for babies and older kids alike. From September-February, the aquarium hosts Toddler Time, included with admission, where families can play and learn together (see schedule for select dates).
MOHAI, Seattle. With a fantastic location at Lake Union Park, free admission for kids ages 14 and under, interactive exhibits galore, history has never been so much fun. Plus awesome "Exploration" (ages 3–7) and "Innovation" (ages 7–10) backpacks are available to check out from the museum's front desk and contain hands-on activities designed to help young visitors engage with musum exhibits. Backpacks are free with admission and are first come, first serve.
Museum of Flight in South Seattle. Take a spin in a two-seat flight simulator or tour a real Concorde and other iconic aircraft in the Airpark. Check out the awesome Space Shuttle Trainer exhibit. Free the first Thursday of the month, from 5–9 p.m.
Pacific Science Center at Seattle Center. When the cloud cover is thick, there’s nothing like getting an eyeful of the starry night sky in the Willard Planetarium ($3 in addition to regular admission; ages 4 and up). There are also ever changing interactive exhibits, fun science shows aimed at kids, an IMAX theater and much more.
The Burke Museum, University District, Seattle. Wander through a hands-on exhibit that traces Washington state’s past natural history and check out the “oh wow” mastodon skeleton. First Thursdays are free and some weekends feature family fun activities.
This article was originally written by Kris Collingridge, ParentMap’s former Out & About editor.
It was updated in November 2015.