Credit: Myles Tan, Unsplash
The Summer Bucket List: Bookmark these perennially sweet pastimes
Many of the best amusements for families in the Puget Sound area are free — at least in the summer: beaches, spray parks, wading pools, wildflowers, natural waterslides, lighthouses, animal experiences, parks and playgrounds, and more. We especially love free programs that are big on fun and community building.
Amazing playground adventures: Rain or shine, expand your playground circuit to include some of the best new playgrounds opened within the past year or two. You’ll find all the playful details here.
Berries gone wild: Ditch the drive to a farm or market and head to a local park (or food forest) to pick not just blackberries, but thimbleberries, salmonberries and huckleberries, to name a few.
Book it: Summer reading programs at libraries are always the best summer deal in town. Despite library buildings being closed throughout summer 2020 due to the coronavirus, patrons have still been able to discover and virtually access a stunning multitude of services offered by our local library systems, which are always fostering a love of reading in every family.
Enjoy a flick from your mother ship: Drive-in movies have enjoyed a real resurgence in popularity during the pandemic, with old-school drive-in theaters and all kinds of pop-up drive-ins offering a big-screen experience. Pack up the car and enjoy a night out with the fam from the comfort of your car.
Farmers market fun: Local farmers markets double as a source of fresh entertainment for the whole family. Check out our list of neighborhood markets that make for ideal family-friendly foraging.
Go batty for bats: Local nonprofit group Bats Northwest hosts bat walks on several evenings during the summer at Green Lake in Seattle. Participants usually gather about an hour before sunset.
Hike and seek: There are so many ways to hunt for treasure, starting with geocaching. Lesser-known, low-tech options include letterboxing, which could involve following clues to a cached journal, or hiding and finding painted kindness rocks.
Hike and slide: You want to hike, they want to (water) slide. Combine those two activities by taking a ramble down the trail to Denny Creek’s natural slides (take exit 47 off Interstate 90, then hike 1 mile to the falls), where families can whoop it up on hot days. Keekwulee Falls offers a stunning viewpoint that is easily accessible. Find water safety tips and scads more kid-friendly waterfall hikes here.
Summer Fun at Jetty Island: Puget Sound’s rocky shores teem with crawly critters and thriving tide pools, but when summer arrives, you want to sink your toes into some sand. Trade in your boots for flip-flops and head to Jetty Island, a 2-mile kids’ paradise of sand, sun and warm water.
Hit the beach: Comb your favorite area beach for a variety of items — a unique shell, beach glass, sand dollars, a feather, a bit of sea fern. Bring your precious finds home and put them into a jar with some sand to remind you every day of your fun beach adventure.
Plan your escape: This whole pandemic thing has kept us on uneven ground for months. With the ongoing uncertainty, it’s been hard to keep our balance. Having something to look forward to might help. Why not snag a getaway for the final weeks of summer 2020, if you can, or put something on the calendar for a fall weekend to keep your spirits up? Consult our guides to nearby family destinations that are now accepting reservations and taking heroic precautions to make your visit a safe one.
Play hometown tourist: There is a decided emphasis on staycations this summer, and we are fortunate to live in an area that is a world-famous tourist destination. Venture to the Seattle waterfront to check out all kinds of kid-approved attractions.
Play streets: Did you know that jaywalking in Seattle is now authorized? Well, at least it is in select areas where Seattle and Bellevue have closed the streets to cars — specifically for family recreation. If you’re in Seattle, it’s a simple process to get a free permit to regularly close down your street to create your own neighborhood “play street.” Find out how here.
Row, sail, paddle your boat: Take advantage of our waterlogged wonderland. Boating spots such as the University of Washington’s Waterfront Activities Center, The Center for Wooden Boats, Foss Harbor Marina in Tacoma, Issaquah Paddle Sports at Lake Sammamish and REI Boathouse locations on the Eastside (closed at time of publication due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic) offer affordable rentals.
Nature, by appointment: If you want to get out in the green and explore, but remain leery of crowds (understandably so), make a reservation at Renton’s fascinating Shadow Lake Nature Preserve or the peaceful and lovely Seattle Japanese Garden.
Sleep under the stars: Sleeping outside sounds pretty nice on hot summer nights. No reservation? No problem! Check out our guide to first come, first-served campgrounds around Washington. Or ditch many of the hassles of camping and take a page from our list of awesome ideas for an at-home family camp-in.
Spy sea creatures: Washington beaches are brimming with life. Join a beach naturalist to discover and identify the fascinating critters and plant life that a low tide reveals.
Swimming: We’ve missed visiting many of our go-to places for a refreshing splash with kids in 2020: outdoor pools, spray parks and wading pools. Thanks, pandemic! But we still have a plethora of lake options (and Puget Sound, if you have the constitution of a polar bear). Check out our roundup of favorite lake beaches and swimming holes for your crew.
Taste summer: Add a tasty fistful of summer to your pancakes, smoothies and bowls of cereal with delicious, sun-kissed berries, ripe for the picking. Find a farm near you for a good old-fashioned family harvest in our guide to U-pick farms around the sound.
How Do You Like Them Apples? Want to pick apples but don’t want to make the trek all the way to eastern Washington to do it? Check out our list of orchards that are closer to home, making for a perfect apple-picking day trip.
Urban hikes: You don’t have to escape to the forest to find great walks. Explore new corners of the city by following a designated trail, such as the Cheshiahud loop trail around Seattle’s Lake Union, or by blazing your own trail. (Psst! We also have a great list of secret urban wanders that are perfect starter hikes for little kids.)
Wenatchee: In this year of staying close to home, a nearby destination that has 300 days of sun a year and attractions ranging from quiet bike trails and apple picking to family-friendly skiing stands out. Plan your family getaway with our all-seasons guide to the wonders of Wenatchee.