Skip to main content

Free Play Becomes Free at Seattle Community Centers

In a win for accessibility and rainy-day fun, Seattle Parks drops fees from toddler gyms and most other drop-in activities

Author Elisa Murray

Published on: January 05, 2017

Indoor play at Ballard Community Center. Photo credit: Seattle Parks & Recreation
Indoor play at Ballard Community Center. Photo credit: Seattle Parks & Recreation

Seattle's community centers have long been a bargain, but now they've scored even more of a win for accessibility, equity and free play. Starting this week, the city has dropped the fee for most drop-in activities at its community centers. 

So that means that your tots can slide tiny slides, shoot tiny hoops, drive (and crash) small cars and otherwise get their wiggles out at baby and toddler gym sessions without paying a cent. "All drop-in Tot Gyms and Tot Rooms held during normal business hours will now be free," says Christina Hirsch of Seattle Parks & Recreation. 

In a Parkways post, Hirsch writes that the new policy was the result of a a public outreach process showing that even small drop-in fees "can be a barrier for people with low incomes, preventing many from taking part in some of our basic activities and services."

"As part of our work to ensure that community centers are accessible to all," she writes, Seattle Parks recommended eliminating drop-in fees and the mayor and City Council agreed.

These drop-in activities are now free at most Seattle community centers:

  • Tot gyms and tot rooms
  • Fitness rooms
  • Basketball, pickleball, dodgeball, volleyball
  • Pool tables
  • Table games like bridge or mahjong and most other activities that previously had $1, $2, or $3 drop-in fees.

These drop-in activities require a fee:

- Any program where you pay for a class one session at a time
- Special events
- Drop-in activities held outside normal operating hours

The toddler play gym at Meadowbrook Community Center
The toddler play gym at Meadowbrook Community Center

Baby and toddler indoor play sessions are offered at 23 community centers around Seattle. Designed for kids ages 5 and younger, they "offer a variety of toys and larger space to play indoors," such as balls, trikes, scooters, push bikes and more. 

Find a full list of centers that offer indoor play areas, and links to hours on this site. 

Also, Seattle Parks will require that guests for drop-in activities use a QuickCard, a free card issued by community centers that gets swiped when someone “checks in” for a community center activity, so that activity usage can be tracked even when an activity is free.  

The QuickCard can be loaded with money to pay for any fee-based activities, such as swimming. 

More rainy-day play secrets 

More than 60-plus rainy-day activities

Rainy-day activities from a preschool teacher's bag of tricks

Free art studios at local museums

Great rainy-day parks 

Get the best of ParentMap delivered right to your inbox.

Share this resource with your friends!