If you want to put one big park on your summer bucket list, Warren G. Magnuson Park, located in Seattle's northeast corner, might be it. At more than 300 acres, Magnuson is the second largest park in Seattle — and packed with fun activities for families with kids of all ages. A former Naval Air Base that used to included an airstrip, Magnuson Park was decommissioned and turned into a park in the 1970s. It’s named after the U.S. Senator who helped secure federal funding to build this urban park.
Tip: If this is your first visit to the park (or if it’s been a while since you’ve been here), it is worth studying the map in advance so you know where to park to reach your top picks.
One of the best outdoor play spaces in the whole region, Magnuson’s 20,000–square-foot playground was donated by the Junior League and built by volunteers. Several big play structures provide space for kids of all ages to swing, slide and climb. There’s even a small playhouse for waddlers. The large sandbox is also a popular spot.
If your kids love to play hoops, the outdoor basketball courts near the Junior League Playground offer a rarity — baskets at two different kid-friendly heights. Bring your own ball for the 4-foot and 7-foot hoops.
The Tennis Center at Sandpoint opened in 2013 with 10 beautiful indoor courts in two buildings. The Center also offers camps and lessons for kids and adults, as well as court rentals.
Open from June to September, this relatively new nine-hole putt-putt golf course opened this spring at Magnuson next to the tennis center. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, the cute course offers two rounds for only $5 per person. None of the holes are very difficult, so this is a great place for kids to try putt-putt golf for the first time with minimal frustration.
With several miles of mostly flat trails, Magnuson is a wonderful spot for a quiet bike or scooter ride and for kids to practice burgeoning pedaling skills. Start on the Cross Park Trail, which begins near the playground and traverses the park to the beach. In July and August, look for blackberries to pick along the way.
Magnuson’s wetland trails are teeming with wildlife. See if your kids can spot a dragonfly, frog and chickadee near the many ponds found throughout the park.
Build a fort, learn about composting, pick berries or do a scavenger hunt at the wonderful Magnuson Children’s Garden, which also has a small log pile kids can build forts with, and small hill with a winding path that encourages running and exploring. Magnuson Nature Programs also offers camps and family programs at the Children’s Garden.
This is just in the summer, of course, but Magnuson’s swimming beach is a lovely place for a post-exploring swim. It's guarded weekdays from noon to 7 p.m. and weekends from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the summer. Strong swimmers who can pass a swim test can swim out to the platform.
Also open in the summer, Magnuson Park’s small wading pool is located near the swimming beach and is one of the few wading pools in Seattle that is open daily (it opens June 27; and hours are noon–6:30 p.m. through the summer).
Near Magnuson’s swimming beach is Kite Hill, one of the best places in the city to fly a kite. Kids can start at the top of the grassy hill and catch the breeze as they run down at full speed.
Introducing your kids to boating is another exciting summer experience. The Sail Sand Point Boating Center at Magnuson Park rents kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and sailboats. The nonprofit organization also teaches classes for beginners.
12. Play Frisbee
Magnuson’s wide-open playfields are excellent for games of Frisbee. Unlike smaller and more crowded Seattle parks, you should have no problem finding a spot to toss a disc back and forth.
Magnuson Park hosts free outdoor movies every Thursday evening , staring on July 9 with Back to the Future and ending on Aug. 27 with The Princess Bride. Shows start at dusk but food trucks and entertainment are available before the movie starts. Seating opens at 7 p.m. As is befitting a park that's home to one of Seattle's biggest dog parks, the film series is also dog friendly.
Several outdoor sculptures are fun to discover at Magnuson. Check out The Fin Project by John T. Young (near Kite Hill) and Straight Shot by Perri Lynch (near the shore).
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) campus, which is adjacent to Magnuson Park to the north, also has an art walk along a half-mile trail (photo I.D. required).
15. Have a picnic
With so many scenic spots, a visit to Magnuson isn’t complete without a picnic lunch or dinner. Pick up food and supplies at PCC or Metropolitan Market or inside the park at the café at the Tennis Center at Sand Point. The park also has three reservable picnic shelters for parties.
And, of course, for the odd rainy or too-hot day, head to Arena Sports' Inflatable Fun Zone for some high-energy bouncing action. It's open Tuesday through Sunday; and it costs $9 per kid ($6 for non-members).
And for good measure, a few more:
- Enjoy a musical at Seattle Musical Theatre
- Walk your dog at Magnuson dog park
- Sign up for a camp; there are a number of summer camps offered at Magnuson, from Audubon camp to Magnuson Nature Camp to Cascade Bicycle Club camp to Arena Sports camp. (Most will be full at this point, but file it away for next summer.
- Get to know some of the nifty nonprofits that call Magnuson home, including Thistle Theatre, EarthCorps, Cascade Bicycle Club, Plant Amnesty and Bats Northwest.