So, school’s going to be out for the whole summer in the blink of an eye. You probably have all your camps and trips on the calendar. But what about the days in between? My recommendation: Do a double-take on the Eastside. Here are 12 great little summer adventures on the other side of the pond that will break up a boring summer day.
1. Country Village Farmers Market: Held on Fridays from noon to 6 p.m., Country Village Farmers Market in Bothell isn’t the biggest or fanciest, but it has a ton going for it. Along with the fresh flowers and produce, the organic soaps, handmade jewelry and yummy goodies to taste, there’s usually live music. But the crown jewel for the kids? The Iron Horse Railway, which also runs during the week. Even better: the station house sits next to an awesome, funky playground. Don’t skip feeding the ducks or checking out the offbeat shopping in the Village itself.
2. Bellevue Botanical Garden: In May, the garden opened a 150-foot-long suspension bridge named “The Ravine Experience” that provides an up-high perspective of the unadulterated lush green forests the Northwest is famous for. The 53-acre garden is free and open daily from dawn to dusk. You can also take free guided tours Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Other happenings throughout the summer include the garden’s 20th-anniversary celebration (June 23) where you can take tours and gardening clinics and participate in kids’ activities.
3. Juanita Beach: Kirkland has taken this oft-overlooked park on Lake Washington and made it a destination, with new walking paths, lots of nice new benches to sit on and watch myriad waterfowl, and a pretty new amphitheater. The beach is a great place to take the kids to play in the sand and swim in some shallow water. There’s something every season whether it’s huge rafts of boats docking together in the summer or sail surfing in the spring and fall. The bonus? The Juanita Friday Market is re-stationed there now every week from 3-7 p.m.
4. Snoqualmie Falls and The Attic: The Falls are breathtaking in any season. Plus, parking is free and there’s a smooth, paved walk to the two observation decks, which are ideal for scenic family photos. Have lunch at The Attic (the less swanky sibling to the Salish Lodge's Dining Room), a smallish, casual space with spectacular views at the top of the falls. Be warned: the hiking trail to the base of the falls is closed for renovation until next year
5. Kelsey Creek Farm: There aren’t many cities that can successfully combine metropolitan progress with preservation of its agricultural roots. In Bellevue, Kelsey Creek Farm is 150 acres of forest, farm and wetland preserved for education and enjoyment. There you will find long nature walks, playgrounds, farm animals to watch and (sometimes) pet and historic buildings. Summer programs range from horsemanship and pony rides on the trails to art and cartooning camps to a log cabin camp that lets your little one live like a pioneer.
6. Grasslawn Park: This park in Redmond is the pinnacle of activity parks, with room for every sport imaginable, from basketball to soccer to tennis, plus walking trails, playgrounds and picnic areas. Take swim suits so the kids can cool off in the waterspout feature. Little bursts of water shoot out of the ground unpredictably enough that kids will get the giggles and you’ll love watching them. There’s also a great rock climbing area on a super-padded, cut-rubber ground so your little monkeys will bounce instead of bump.
7. Snoqualmie Point Park: Pack a sack lunch and head out to this hilltop park that once was home to the beautiful Snoqualmie Winery. From the site of the old building (which burned down in 1999), there’s an architecturally interesting covered area for the interpretive signs and shaded viewing of a gorgeous panorama that takes in Mount Si, the Snoqualmie Valley and the Cascade Mountains. The open-air amphitheater hosts various events during the summer and (when empty) makes a great little spot for impromptu dancing! This is also your trailhead if you’re tackling the four-mile, equally scenic Rattlesnake Ledge hike. There are two parking lots, and if you use the upper lot, you’ll need a Washington State Discover Pass.
8. Twin Falls: While there are a multitude of great hikes throughout the Cascade Range, this three-mile round-trip hike near North Bend gives you the biggest bang for your buck. The well-maintained trail meanders through forest until you get to the falls at the south fork of the Snoqualmie River. Beautifully built outlooks and bridges provide perches for a water break, viewing the stair-step plunging waterfalls and snapping some pictures. The area is open year-round.
9. Issaquah Salmon Hatchery: You can’t live in the Pacific Northwest without having a well-above-average salmon IQ! The Issaquah hatchery provides the best education available when it comes to our iconic fish. While the prime time to be there is when spawning salmon return in the fall, there are summer camps for passionate students to learn about the salmon life cycle and the watershed, take nature hikes and do all kinds of experiments to better understand our unique Northwest ecosystem. Take the tots back in October to see the salmon homecoming!
10. Cougar Mountain Zoo: For 40 years this small zoo has loved and supported native and exotic animals and educating the public about conservation while giving us a unique experience alongside cougars, reindeer, wallabies, cranes and macaws. You can be a part of the next 40 years by buying a paving stone at the zoo. Get your name engraved in stone for 30% off all summer!
11. Miniature golf at Willows Run: This elite golf course in Redmond has one of my favorite mini-golf courses around. Rainbow Run’s 18 holes are in a lovely setting and each named after something specifically Northwest. One sandy hole is called The Palouse, another hole with a bridge is called Deception Pass. We always ended our miniature golf tournaments with a stop at Theno’s Dairy for ice cream (which, sadly, is closing after 70-plus years in business).
12. Kids Bowl for Free: Rain here is inevitable, even in the summer, so keep this idea in your back pocket: Kidsbowlfree.com, a national program to make another summer activity available for kids and their families. And yes, your kids really do bowl free, every time, all summer at participating alleys (you have to pay the shoe rental fee). Kenmore Lanes is the only Eastside alley but there are lots of others around the region and state. Register online and you’ll have the weekly email coupons sent to you. As long as at least one parent is taking the kids to the lanes, the kids are free. You can also buy a family pass for about $25 for the whole summer, which makes it even less expensive.
Allison McDowell Enstrom is a freelance writer and full-time mom to two children. Before kids, she worked as a news producer and executive news producer at NorthWest Cable News, KING 5 News, and stations in Portland and the Tri-Cities.