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The Sunday Play List: Ideas for Cheap Family Fun for Seattle Kids and Families

Published on: September 29, 2013

Children's Museum of SeattleSundays sometimes come up short on stuff to do, especially on winter Sundays when you really need to get the ya-yas out. Well, ya-yas beware, because here’s our list of 20 Sunday activities -- with a focus on free and cheap -- designed to help you dump those winter Sunday blues and end the week on a high note!


1. The Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union in Seattle offers free public sails on Sunday s from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tip: Arrive to reserve your spot. Look around the center and chat with the friendly volunteers while you wait, or head to the model boat pond at Lake Union Park to sail pond boats. Combine it with a trip to MOHAI at Lake Union Park, where kids ages 14 and under are always free.

2. The Seattle REI’s climbing tree lets kids get the wiggles out in “nature” indoors. This play space gets crowded, but kids seems to find their way around each other well enough to get rosy-cheeked and warm. REI opens at 10 a.m. Sundays.

3. The stores at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue don’t open until 11 a.m. on Sundays, but the café, the 25-cent kiddie rides, and the wide-open space to run all open at 7 a.m.. A perfect recipe for the energetic early riser who maybe doesn’t like the rain. 

4. For those with the clothing and attitude suitable for winter weather, the Cedar River Watershed Education Center (open at 10 a.m. on Sundays) offers a fun and educational destination. While grown-ups learn about where Seattle’s tap water originates, kids can enjoy the drips on drums. Everyone can explore Rattlesnake Lake and environs. (Thankfully, no actual rattlesnakes are present.) 

5. Find something tasty at the Ballard Farmers’ Market, which opens at 10 a.m. Sundays year-round. Let your kids pick an interesting new ingredient for a Sunday afternoon cooking challenge, or just choose a yummy treat to be consumed right there on the curb. With a little luck, some live music will entertain you while you snack. The West Seattle Farmers’ Market is also open Sundays all year.

6. The Seattle Center Armory (formerly the Center House) has a lot going for it — open early on Sundays and plenty of elbow room. Among its many eateries, Starbucks opens at 7 and Eltana Bagels at 9 a.m.. (If your kids spy the Children’s Museum down below, it’s super fun. Admissions is $7.50 for adults and kids, under age 1 free, and it opens Sundays at 10 a.m..)

SPL open  sunday7. Drop by your local Seattle Public Library branch. The Central Library downtown and all 26 neighborhood branches now have Sunday open hours (mostly 1-5 p.m.). Comb the stacks for some new stories, grab a comfy seat and dig in.

8. IKEA’s Smaland play area offers an hour of free play while you shop. A ballroom, crafts, and other activities entertain your young’uns. IKEA Seattle (located in Renton) opens at 10 a.m. Sundays. Note: Height restrictions limit entry to those between 37” and 54” tall. And be prepared for a thorough and precise sign-in, tracking (bracelets and pagers) and pick-up system, which is necessary in such a busy place.

9. For a breath of spring on a cold day, try a visit to Seattle's Volunteer Park Conservatory. Open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the Conservatory features tropical and other interesting plants not typically growing in western Washington. Admission is free though donations are greatly appreciated. After you have your warm coat back on, you’ll find plenty of space to run in the grass at Volunteer Park.

10. The saying goes there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing for the weather. Gather up the wool socks, rubber boots, parkas, and mittens (bonus points for a thermos of hot cocoa) and go for a hike in one of our area’s parks. Crowds and foliage are thinner, so there’s plenty of space for you and it's easier to see birds and other critters. We love Discovery Park, Point Defiance Park, Lincoln Park, Cougar Mountain, Mercer Slough, the Washington Park Arboretum and the Redmond Watershed Preserve.

SwimmingPretty cheap

11. Introduce your kids to a lifelong sport at ACME Bowl in Tukwila. (We challenge you to find a nicer, cleaner, more pleasant bowling alley anywhere!) ACME is ready for kids with little shoes, gutter guards and Saturday and Sunday morning bowling specials, from 9 to 11 a.m., offering $2 games and $4 shoe rentals. Tip: Get there early. (And see more places to bowl around the Sound here.)

12. Lynnwood’s pool is known far beyond the city limits for its warm water and family-friendly focus. Three separate public swims take place Sunday afternoons: Beach Swim is ideal for little ones, and Rec Swim and Open Swim are great for all ages. (Check website as pool schedule is updated regularly.) Admission is $5 for adults, $4.50 for teens, $4 for kids 2-12, and under 2 are free. Or $15 admits a whole family. The Mountlake Terrace Pool also offers a variety of family-friendly Sunday swims.

13. The Fort Nisqually Living History Museum in Tacoma is the kind of museum kids can really appreciate. Rather than just displaying stuff in glass cases, Fort Nisqually features real people acting out what life was like in Washington 150 years ago. Open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the museum is offering discounted admission through the end of February: $4-$5 for ages 4 and up, 3 and under free.

Ice skatingA little pricier

15. For little kids, WiggleWorks at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue is a winner -- its play equipment is soft and it moves. This is all great for the motor skills of the short set, not to mention super fun. Under 48” tall and wearing socks? Let ‘em play. Parents must stay on site—WiFi is included.

16. Like the REI climbing tree, the Woodland Park Zoo Zoomazium (open at 9:30 a.m., along with the zoo) gets pretty nutty on rainy weekend days, but if your kids are undaunted, it has caves, a tree climber, a mountain slide, plus an enclosed area just for the wee ones.

17. If your tots have more energy than you do Sunday mornings, head to HappyNest Play Centers in Redmond, which offers its Open Play Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.. HappyNest has three play areas with equipment and toys designed just for ages 0 to 18 months, 1 to 3, and 4 to 7. For parents there’s a snack bar with coffee and free WiFi. Tip: check the website for a $1 off coupon.

18. For families with a crafty bent, Paint Away! in Redmond and Paint the Town at Seattle's U Village (both open at 11 a.m. on Sundays) offer an art project you’re unlikely to be able to do at home. Paint Away! offers several small figurines and tiles under $10 each (mugs and plates from $18), and the paint and firing are included. Go back in a week to pick up your item and see how it turned out.

19. Take advantage of our coastal location, and hop a ferry for an on-the-water outing. Ride the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry, stop by the book store (opens at 10 Sundays) or a coffee shop in Winslow, and ride back. Kids under age 6 are free. Tip: This is a great option for very early risers — ferries depart downtown Seattle even before 8 a.m.! If you don't mind paying to play, check out KiDiMu, the Kids Discovery Museum, located just a short walk from the ferry dock. ($6 per person, under 1 free, and open at noon on Sundays.)

20. It’s guaranteed to be chilly at the Kent Valley Ice Centre, but at least you know it won’t be raining. Kent Valley offers a public skate session Sunday afternoons from 2-5 p.m.. Admission is $6.25-$8.68 per person (3 and under free) plus skate rental of $3.20. Skate sizes start at 6 (toddler) and helmets are available at no extra charge — have fun and protect those noggins. (Find more places to skate here.)

More Sunday play ideas

Six chilly-season thrills

The ultimate rainy day play list

25 indoor play secrets from a preschool teacher

Ultimate guide to bowling


About the author: Nancy Chaney is a freelance writer, ParentMap's Camps & Classes editor, and the Seattle mom of a three-year-old boy.

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