Salvaged submarine parts arranged to look like orca fins. Credit: Natasha Dillinger
Formerly a naval air station, this 350-acre space is Seattle’s second-largest park. It’s popular with sporty families for the bevy of sports fields and courts spread throughout the park, but every kind of family will find lots to do here as well.
Duck and cover at the Air, Land and Sea playground
Donated by the Junior League of Seattle, the park’s playground is located at the site of the naval base’s control tower. Its history is commemorated through fun touches, such as a sidewalk oriented in the same direction as the former runway (with realistic markings!) and a mosaic depicting nautical themes.
My family loves this spot on a drizzly day. While the playground is not covered, the play structures are spread out with lots of hidey-holes where you can seek shelter from the sprinkles. Sometimes we just embrace the rain and spend our time digging in wet sand. (It makes better sandcastles, anyway!)
A whale of a time at the Children’s Garden
Located just a hop, skip and a jump away from the playground, the Magnuson Children’s Garden offers some nature-focused fun. Local children and volunteers dreamed up imaginative features for the garden, such as a mosaic whale’s tail, a stream of ceramic salmon and a lookout point surrounded by painted flags.
Enhance your visit by downloading a free Discovery Card and nature activities that highlight some of these features. The card is available in multiple languages, including Lushootseed, the Coast Salish language spoken by the park’s past and present native stewards, the Duwamish Tribe.
Soar over sculptural orca fins at Kite Hill
Families can send kites soaring from this 35-foot-high hilltop, which affords spectacular views: Mount Rainier peeks out from clouds in the distance, and the Fin Project art installation rests at the base of the hill.
John T. Young’s monument to peace uses decommissioned submarine fins to represent the dorsal fins of a pod of orcas. My 2-year-old loved chasing me around the giant structures before sampling a taste of the tart crab apples that grow along the waterfront pathway.
Come sail away with me
The beach at Magnuson is a beautiful spot for some water play in the summer; there’s even an extension of the off-leash dog area that offers Fido a chance to splash. While lifeguards aren’t on duty the other nine months of the year, it’s peaceful to look out at Mount Rainier while the kids watch the ducks and throw rocks in the water (not in the vicinity of the ducks, naturally!).
The Magnuson boat launch is one of the best (and most popular) in Seattle. It features four lanes — two for boat launches and two for retrievals — and plenty of open space in the parking lot to take down sailboat masts without blocking traffic.