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What to See and Do With Kids in the Seattle Area’s Biggest Parks

Play all day in enormous parks that feature playgrounds, trails, beaches and gardens

Published on: October 05, 2023

What to See and Do With Kids in the Seattle Area’s Biggest Parks

Kids and families play on the updated playground at Discovery Park, Seattle's largest park
Among its many amenities, Discovery Park’s playground is a must-visit. Credit: Nancy Chaney

Discovery Park

Find it: Discovery Park is located at 3801 Discovery Park Blvd. in Seattle (Magnolia neighborhood).

At 534 acres, Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest park, and visiting it feels like you’ve been magically teleported far outside the city.

Build a fort at the playground

Renovated in 2017, Discovery Park’s playground provides many opportunities for nature-inspired play. A multilevel climbing structure gives kids the sense that they’re in the tree canopy, while tunnel-like archways below offer spaces to crawl over and through.

After a dozen flights on the zip line, my kids often migrate to the trees. While I can never guarantee it, previous playground visitors often leave behind epic forts constructed from fallen branches. If you don’t find one, build your own!

Kids peer into a large tree fort found near the playground at Seattle’s Discovery Park, one of the Seattle area’s largest and best parks
Credit: Natasha Dillinger

Discovery Park’s excellent Environmental Learning & Visitor Center remains closed as ADA updates are finished. Look for it to reopen this fall. The east parking lot, the one adjacent to the visitor center and closest to the playground, has reopened. Parking is tight on sunny weekends; park along 36th Avenue West if needed (and leave nothing in your car if you do find a spot in the lot — trust us).

Get some sand in your shoes

Puget Sound beaches are known for being rocky rather than sandy, but if you park at Discovery Park’s south parking lot, you can trek to the viewpoint on the bluff and play in some fantastic, honest-to-goodness sand.

Girl playing in the sand on the bluff at Seattle’s Discovery Park best biggest parks around Seattle
It’s like a beach on the bluff. Credit: Natasha Dillinger

With a few toys packed from home and a good bit of distance from the cliff, my kids can play happily while we watch for boats and seals. (Orcas have also been known to make their way past the park.)

Weather tip: There is no real tree cover on the exposed bluff. While a little rain never hurt anyone, we head to another area on windy days to avoid getting sand blown in our faces.

Child hiking on a boardwalk under a tree at Discovery Park’s Wolf Tree Nature Trail big parks to play in around Seattle
Wolf Tree Nature Trail at Discovery Park. Credit: Natasha Dillinger

Hit the trails

Of the parks featured in this guide, Discovery Park has the most traditional dirt hiking trails. (There are also paved roads through the park that suit bikes.)

With independent little legs, we head for Wolf Tree Nature Trail. The quarter-mile loop has cute boardwalks and plenty of stops to learn about the local flora and fauna. (Remember: Dogs are not allowed on this particular trail, but they’re allowed elsewhere in the park, on leash.)

If we’re feeling more ambitious, we cobble together some combination of the Loop Trail and North Beach Trail. If you take this approach, make sure you have a map; download one from the Friends of Discovery Park website or use an app like AllTrails. A round-trip hike of about 4 miles takes us by the West Point Lighthouse and the beach, which is currently only accessible on foot or with an ADA placard — once the visitor center reopens, check for the availability of beach parking permits for families of young children.

Boy in a field of wildflowers at Discovery Park overlooking the bluff best stuff to do with kids in Seattle area’s biggest parks
Springtime delivers wildflowers at Seattle’s Discovery Park. Credit: Natasha Dillinger

Search for wildflowers

I’m a sucker for a good field of wildflowers. Springtime blooms seem to peak in late May and early June in the meadows of Discovery Park, and I can usually con my toddler into a floral scavenger hunt if I promise him some beach time. In my experience, the North Beach and Hidden Valley trails offer the most variety — we’ve seen wild roses, salmonberries, giant daisies and large patches of purple lupines.

Remember that we share this big backyard with others. Please admire flowers from the path and don’t pick them (I know, it’s tempting); that way, everyone gets a chance to enjoy them.

For more Discovery Park fun, including educational opportunities, check out this tip-packed article

Next stop: Magnuson Park

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