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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

Chambers Creek Regional Park in University Place, Wash., is one of the Puget Sound region's biggest parks
Expansive Chambers Creek Regional Park in University Place.

Chambers Creek Regional Park

Find it: Chambers Creek Regional Park is located at 6320 Grandview Drive W. in University Place, just south of Tacoma.

Locals commonly refer to this park as Chambers Bay, after the golf course that hosted the 2015 U.S. Open, but its 930 acres offer so much more than 18 holes.

Cross a kid-size Galloping Gertie

Enjoy the water views and the local flair that decorates the wooden Playground by the Sound on the northern end of the park. Orcas leap through the toddler area near a lighthouse and crab shack. Big kids can cross a bridge bearing the nickname for the Tacoma Narrows bridge, “Galloping Gertie,” before descending through an obstacle course watched over by an octopus named Stanley.

""On a gray fall day, kids play at Playground by the Sound at Chambers Creek Regional Park in University Place near Tacoma one of Puget Sound area’s biggest parks
Playground by the Sound at Chambers Creek Regional park. Credit: Natasha Dillinger

The playground is surrounded by a wooden fence, so you don’t have to worry about runners, but keep in mind that strollers and pets aren’t permitted inside the play area. I like to park near the playground before taking the Soundview Trail down to the Central Meadow area to extend our play. It’s 2 miles each way and a bit steep, but the paved path is stroller-friendly.

Fly a kite

Catch a sea breeze with your kite in the open skies surrounding Chambers Creek’s central meadow. Any windy day will do the trick, but in summertime, check the Pierce County Parks website for a kite festival and additional kite-flying days, when kids can learn from more experienced fliers. There’s even access to food trucks as well as special activities for kids on select dates.

Young boy looking at love locks locked to the bridge crossing the train tracks at the South Sound’s expansive Chambers Creek Regional Park
Inspecting the many “love locks” left on the bridge over the train tracks. Credit: Natasha Dillinger

Cross that bridge when you come to it

The beautiful pedestrian bridge provides an excellent viewpoint for your little engineer to watch trains as you walk over to the beach. Herons and seals frequent the area, which was once a fishing village for the Steilacoom Tribe, and the rocky coastline is the perfect place for spotting wildlife.

As you head back to the meadow, admire the padlocks placed on the bridge’s rails by couples commemorating their everlasting love.

Boy playing on ruins of gravel mine at Chambers Bay a large park in the Puget Sound area
Playing by the gravel mine ruins. Credit: Natasha Dillinger

Climb and play around not-so-ancient ruins

Gravel mined from the park once supported the building of Fort Worden, Fort Flagler and Fort Casey, and mining operations didn’t cease until 2003. Remnants of the former mining facilities provide a striking architectural element, but my kids think they’re best used for games of hide-and-seek.

My tips for your big-park outing ...

  1. Most of the parks offer paved or gravel trails that are wheel-friendly. (Discovery Park has more traditional hiking trails.) Consider a jogging stroller or carrier if you’re planning to tour the whole park and have young kids in tow. We often walk 2–5 miles on a visit, and the right gear makes this possible.
  2. Save the best for last! I like to take my young kids for a walk first before revealing that we’ve magically parked just out of sight of the play area — sure to result in an instant energy boost!
  3. Strategize for your “ins and outs.” Unlike your favorite neighborhood park, these urban oases are so big, they aren’t within walking distance of a café, and their restroom facilities are spread out and sometimes basic. Pack a picnic and use bathrooms when you have the opportunity.

More places to play ...

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2021 and has been updated for 2023.

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