Excerpted from ParentMap’s new book “52 Seattle Adventures With Kids.”
The Seattle metropolitan area experiences an average of 152 rainy days a year. Drizzle, of course, doesn’t stop us (right?), but there are those days when it’s just too wet or windy to go outside. Here’s a field guide to the great indoors with kids.
A note: In any season, hanging with young kids can be isolating. Find yourself a meet-up group: In addition to PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support), which is focused on new parents, check out resources such as Families of Color Seattle or MOPS International, or form your own group with the help of your community Facebook group or listserv.
Aquariums: Touch tidal life and ogle octopuses at the Seattle Aquarium; or spy on sharks in the underwater tunnel of Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium’s 35,000-square-foot Pacific Seas exhibit. Also, Poulsbo’s SEA Discovery Center and Highline College’s Marine Science and Technology (MaST) Center in Des Moines (open seasonally) are free aquariums with plenty to see.
Bounce and jump: Check out epic jumping spots, such as the 53,000-square-foot Flying Circus in Tukwila or Arena Sports’ gigantic facility in Mill Creek. For the younger set, spots such as the free Ballard Playspace and WiggleWorks Kids get the, er, wiggles out.
Community centers: More than 20 Seattle community centers offer free drop-in play sessions designed for kids ages 5 and younger, complete with balls, trikes, scooters, push bikes and other entertainment. Many other regional community centers have indoor play of all kinds for kids of all ages.
Coworking centers: Coworking spaces that include child care are popping up. Try The Inc. (with two locations in Seattle), Roo’s World of Discovery in Kirkland (also a play space) and others.
Dance: So many options! Beyond formal ballet and tap classes, kids can try break dancing (check out Anna Banana Freeze’s famous Mini Breaks break dancing classes in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District); square dancing (consider a family dance at Phinney Center), Hawaiian dancing and much more.
Drop-in child care and gyms: Drop ’em off and shop (or work) at centers such as Woodinville’s The Nest, and Adventure Kids Playcare in Bellevue and Issaquah. Athletic clubs can be a great source of reasonably priced child care for an hour or two.
Game stores: Unplug with board games at spots like Blue Highway Games on Queen Anne and Meeples Games in West Seattle; you can also borrow a game from most stores’ lending libraries to try it out before buying. Other hot spots include Uncle’s Games (Bellevue, Redmond, Tacoma), Games and Gizmos (Redmond) and Mox Boarding House (Ballard, Bellevue).
Home Depot: You can’t leave your kid at Home Depot, but you can sign them up for a free DIY kids’ workshop, which will guide them in projects such as building a picture frame or constructing a bird feeder.
Ikea: Yes, Virginia, you can shop for furniture and entertain your kids at the same time. Upon arriving at IKEA, drop the kids off at Småland, a supervised play area, or let them visit the activity stations in the store’s showroom.
Indoor skate parks: All Together Skatepark in Fremont and Bellevue Indoor Skate Park offer lessons throughout the year teaching kids how to shred.
Kaleidoscope play and learn: During these free play sessions, held all around the Puget Sound area, kids can take part in early-learning-focused play activities while you meet new friends and hear about support programs in your neighborhood.
Libraries: Your local library has so much to offer: story times, audiobooks, classes, homework help, science kits, digital downloads, personal recommendations and much more.
Maker spots: Many local art centers, such as Seattle ReCreative and Tacoma’s Tinkertopia, offer drop-in sessions that are perfect for preschoolers and older. And even young kids can throw some paint and end up with a gift at a paint-your-own pottery spot.
Malls: Malls are one-stop shops for family fun, from free play areas (in almost every mall) to international food (Crossroads, Westfield Southcenter) to covered playgrounds (University Village). Bonus: These malls typically have excellent family bathrooms and nursing/pumping rooms.
Museums: Kids’ museums are a no-brainer for high-energy, interactive play, but museums of the history, art and science varieties also boast kid attractions.
Nature centers: Beautifully designed environmental centers, such as those at Bellevue’s Lewis Creek Park, the Cedar River Watershed and Mercer Slough as well as the Tacoma Nature Center, are often empty midweek and have space for kids to play and learn. (Always check center hours beforehand.)
Pet stores: Never underestimate the power of an hour at Petco to watch the fish, ferrets and dwarf hamsters. Just be prepared to say no to expanding your critter collection.
Playful cafes: Finding a cafe or low-key restaurant with solid espresso options, good snacks and a train table or play area is the holy grail for parents.
Tumble on: High-flying indoor playtime at spots like the Seattle Gymnastics Academy guarantees a long nap later that day. Older kids may be interested in parkour, an up-and-coming sport whereby kids learn to run, jump and climb over obstacles. Classes are offered by the likes of Parkour Visions, MoveFree Academy and other organizations and businesses.
Unusual story times: Tugboat story time, multilingual story time, story time with theater, story time with chocolate, story time with nature exploration: You can find all that and more around Seattle.
Zoos: Climb, jump and learn at Woodland Park Zoo’s Zoomazium; wander and wonder at Point Defiance Zoo’s Pacific Seas Aquarium. And don’t forget Pacific Science Center’s gloriously warm Tropical Butterfly House.
Bonus: Tech time near you
Check out these local exhibits for indoor fun that taps into your techie side.