Seattle’s Neighborhood Parks, Playgrounds and Ducks

Seattle’s many parks guarantee a childhood’s worth of diversions in the Emerald City.


When my son Mike was little, he always called it the 1-2-3-4-5 slides park. As you might guess, the park had five slides in a big, expensive play structure that was one of the best of its kind in Seattle. We went there every time we were in the Wallingford neighborhood (it’s actually called the Wallingford Playground, at 4219 Wallingford Ave. N., and is still one of the best playgrounds in the city). Mike wound up going to high school two blocks away, and we still always made plans to meet each other at the 1-2-3-4-5 slides park.

You and your kids might very well start making up your own names for Seattle parks and playgrounds, too, because there are tons of them. In nearly any neighborhood that you visit during your explorations of the city, you can find a pocket park that is a great place for younger kids to swing, slide, run around on grassy fields and do those goofy things that little kids want to do that adults don’t quite understand. (I mean, whirling around in circles with arms outstretched, chanting things about Pokemon?  Come on, man.) However, these parks can work in adults’ favor, too.

Kerry Park

For example, you want to go to Kerry Park on W. Highland Drive in the Queen Anne neighborhood to get the best photo op in the city of Mt. Rainier towering above the Seattle skyline. But your kids want to slide and chase each other. The solution? Bayview-Kinnear Park, on 3rd Ave. W. & W. Prospect St. It is directly below Kerry Park, is in the midst of a major repair and restoration project (including two new play structures), and has witnessed many episodes of Mike and I kicking soccer balls at each other. You get your view, they get to play: Everybody’s happy.

Olympic Sculpture Park

Another example of parent/child bliss: Visit the cool new Olympic Sculpture Park at the Seattle Art Museum opened in January 2007 on Western Avenue at Broad Street. Your kids will want to throw rocks in the water, and threaten to sulk and whine until they’re allowed to do so. You make a deal and walk together through the sculpture park, with its wonderful, oversized pieces of steel and concrete and wood, and wind up at Myrtle Edwards Park on the Seattle waterfront, with its paved path for strolling and jogging, exquisite views of Puget Sound and, yes, lots of places to throw rocks into the water.

Discovery Park

The opportunities are endless. Seattle is a city of great parks and facilities. Head to the west side of Discovery Park in the Magnolia neighborhood for broad, grassy fields that are great for playing and tossing balls around, with trails that lead down to the Sound. The east side of this huge park has forests of pine trees with trails, as well as another great play structure of swings and slides done in natural wood finishes.

Seattle Center

My wife Kris is to thank for the interactive mountain forest at the Children’s Museum, Seattle.  It is located in the huge Center House at Seattle Center, that big, several-square-block park that is located just north of Denny Way from downtown Seattle, in the Queen Anne neighborhood. Kris worked several weeks with other sculptors to carve the 30-foot mountain out of concrete, and inside are tunnels and exhibitions devoted to northwest geology and botany. It’s perfect for little kids, as are the food shops that ring the Center House, with pizza, hotdogs, and burgers (and Starbucks for you), and the big, open dance floor where they like to run around. Outside, on hot days, an enormous computerized fountain blasts water a hundred feet into the air, under which kids romp and play until they’re thoroughly soaked. Take it from me: parents who get too close to the fountain while retrieving their squealing kids get soaked, too.

Sports Arenas

Seattle Seahawks tickets at Qwest Field are tough to come by, but sports fans can nearly always get into Seattle Mariners games on short notice (except the game against the loathsome Yankees, which sells out well in advance every year). You can buy center field bleacher seats for as little as $7 each, and look for family four-packs on Wednesday nights that discount reserved seats, hotdogs and sodas. The Mariners' Safeco Field is on the southern edge of downtown, in the Pioneer Square neighborhood. Also, the Seattle Sonics may be playing their final NBA basketball season in KeyArena (the owners are threatening to move the team), and tickets will probably be plentiful this winter.

Quacking, er, Getting Around

A fine tour of the city that your kids will also enjoy is provided by Ride the Ducks of Seattle (206-441-DUCK), which meets near the Space Needle (also at Seattle Center) and puts everyone on open-air vehicles that were formerly amphibious landing craft. They tool around town looking at attractions and then plop into Lake Union for a leisurely putter around the water. Kids love it because everyone is equipped with duck-bill noisemakers, and they’re encouraged to use them to honk at cars and passersby.

Quack, slide, swish: Sounds like a nice family day in Seattle to me. 

Destinations: Seattle

Themes: Family Travel, Urban Endeavors

Activities: Museums, Parks and Playgrounds, Sightseeing

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