66 Days of Summer: What to See, Make, Eat and Do from July 1 thru Labor Day
What's more summer than an ice cream cone? Nadia Burke savors her cone at Molly Moon’s in Wallingford.
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
Starting July 1 through Labor Day, there are 66 days of summer and we've provided ideas — many of them free, all of them fun — of what to do on every single one. Inside and outdoors, in the city and beyond its limits, for active times and lazy afternoons, for the youngest wobblers all the way up to middle schoolers climbing the walls. Consider this an indispensable guide for every parent, grandparent and caretaker out there. Happy summer!
1. The all-day Tanabata Festival at the Seattle Japanese Garden celebrates the legend of two star-crossed lovers who are allowed to reunite only once a year in July. Among other activities, participants are invited to write their own wishes and poems on tanzaku (colorful scraps of paper) and affix them to bamboo sticks in the garden.
2. If you’ve ever wanted to walk into a life-size kaleidoscope, here’s your chance. “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” brings five of the Japanese contemporary artist’s infinity mirror rooms to the Seattle Art Museum this summer (through Sept. 10). Kusama likes polka dots and bright colors, making this exhibit a visual playground for art lovers of all ages. You’ll see twinkling lights, bulbous pumpkins and glowing lanterns, all multiplied to infinity in mirrored rooms. There’s even an audience-participation portion, where visitors can stick confetti dots in an all-white room.
How hot is this show? All the advance online tickets sold out within a day. If you missed that window, a limited number of same-day tickets will be for sale at the museum starting at 10 each morning. If you have a willing and patient child, show up early to get in line — then plan for more lines. If you’re lucky enough to snag tickets, you’re still looking at a wait for each infinity mirror room. Three people are allowed to walk in at a time, for 20 to 30 seconds. Single strollers are allowed in the special exhibition space, but no snacking, and there are no restrooms. FYI, be aware there’s some nudity.
The show includes more than 60 installations, painting, sculptures and drawings from Kusama’s 65-year career. Kusama, 88, was born in Japan and lived in Seattle briefly, where her first U.S. exhibit was held 60 years ago. —JiaYing Grygiel
3. Elevate your average picnic to a classy affair while enjoying free, live classical music al fresco as part of the series Music Under the Stars, which showcases a talented student orchestra starting around 7 pm, followed by a live broadcast straight from Benaroya Hall at 8. The program kicks off tonight at Delridge Playfield in West Seattle, and will return July 10, 17 and 24. Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park hosts July 5, 12, 19, and 26. Freeway Park and Columbia City’s Columbia Park host July 7, 14, 21, and 28.
4. The real fireworks action doesn’t start until after bedtime (often for the better). But there are still plenty of ways to celebrate — parades, parties, pancake breakfasts and more — during the daytime. Here is a sampling; find many more options in the Seattle's Child Family Guide to the Fourth of July 2017.
>Naturalization Ceremony Witness more than 500 citizenship applicants from around the world being sworn in as new U.S. citizens at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion. The free event kicks off at 11 am with a concert, and the ceremony goes from noon to 1 pm.
>Four on the Fourth 4K Run/Walk Leashed dogs and their owners are welcome to run or walk this 4K event in Bellevue’s Ashwood Park, which begins at 9 am and is followed by a doggie costume contest and bounces houses for kids. Patriotic dress is encouraged and kids 12 and under are free.
>Fourth of July Festival: At Les Gove Park in Auburn, catch a kids’ bike parade at noon along with live music, inflatables, pony rides, petting zoo, climbing wall, spray park and more.
>Grand Old Fourth of July. Hop the ferry to Bainbridge Island for a pancake breakfast (7 to 11 am), Fun Run (9 am), street fair, parade (1 pm), classic car show, historical baseball game, music, food and fireworks at dusk over Eagle Harbor.
5. If you’ve spent even one summer in Seattle, no doubt you have a favorite spot to jump in the lake. Indeed, easy access to crisp, fresh water might just be the top selling point of our primo summers (along with the lack of humidity). In Seattle, lifeguards look after nine beaches all summer long, stretching from Matthews Beach in the north to Pritchard Beach in the south.
At all nine, Seattle Parks offers free (!) midday swimming lessons to youth ages 6 to 16; evening lessons are available at four of the beaches (registration is required and space is limited; call 206-684-4078 for more info).
While every beach has its merits, our top pick might be Matthews Beach, with its plentiful sand, minimally rocky shallows, fine grassy fields, sprawling and inventive playground and direct access to the Burke-Gilman Trail. Outside the city, top picks include Idylwood in Redmond, Houghton in Kirkland and Newcastle in Bellevue. Of course, there are dozens more docks, pocket parks and random slips of lakeshore offering access, all yours to discover. Note that King County monitors the fresh water beaches for algal toxin levels and bacteria and water temperature; visit green2.kingcounty.gov/swimbeach to check on current conditions.
6. At dozens of sites around Seattle and beyond, families indulge in the bygone pleasure of crowding together on a blanket to watch a movie outside under the stars at the Movies at Magnuson Park series (even if the kids fall asleep halfway through). Tonight, catch Rogue One: A Star Wars Story at Magnuson Park, which kicks off with food trucks and entertainment around 6:30 pm, with the movie starting at dusk. Others in the series include Moana (July 13), Hidden Figures (July 20) and The Princess Bride (Aug. 24).
7. This summer the nonprofit Skate Like a Girl, which teaches girls and boys of all abilities how to skateboard, offers free weekend lessons from 10 am to noon to those 12 and under throughout the city. Free snacks and loaner gear are on offer; no prior experience is required. Today’s lesson is in Ballard; other locations include Seattle Center, West Seattle, South Park and Northgate — check the organization's website for specific dates and details.
8. Watch or march or volunteer at this year’s Wallingford Family Parade, whose “Dog Days of Summer” theme invites you to bring along your dressed-up dog — or cat or rabbit, or pet of any kind. Sasha, a lionlike Tibetan Mastiff and neighborhood fixture (who’s appeared in Time and the New York Times, among other news outlets) will serve as the Canine Parade Grand Marshal. The parade begins at 11 am at Lincoln High School and continues east along North 45th Street into the heart of Wallingford, finishing up with a local merchant scavenger hunt and hide-and-seek.
9. Mothers, daughters, aunts, nieces, girlfriends and grandmothers can take their pick of distance during the See Jane Run half-marathon, 5K or 1-mile kids’ run. The relatively flat course begins and ends in Gas Works Park, traversing through Fremont, over the bridge and south around Lake Union. Strollers are welcome in the 5K; the kids’ run is open to all ages (and all races are open to all genders) and everyone gets chocolate in the end.
10. Despite what many think, July is not too late to plant an edible garden. True, many plants — including that most classic of summer crops, tomatoes — must be planted in the spring. But there are other, more quick-maturing vegetables that can yield either a summer or fall haul if you plant them now. These include lettuce, beans, carrots, all kinds of herbs, peas, spinach and radishes. And remember: this is more about summer entertainment than feeding your family. Designate a container or corner of dirt for each kid, put in some seeds or a transplant, hand over the hose or a watering can and let them go to town. The nonprofit Seattle Tilth offers a wealth of information.
11. Pack a picnic and your courage for Karaoke in the Park at Shoreline’s Cromwell Park, which takes place every Tuesday starting tonight through Aug. 1. A free event, it runs from 5:30 to 8:30 pm.
12. What’s not to love about minor league baseball? Tickets are cheaper, sightlines are better and a family-friendly spirit prevails. Fresh off a major renovation, the Tacoma Rainers’ Cheney Stadium boasts, among other developments, a brand-new kids’ playground and Whiffle ball field, and a fresh array of local food and drink vendors. The season runs through Sept. 4, but tonight is extra-special because the Rainiers are hosting the 30th annual Minor League Baseball Triple-A All-Star Game, featuring the best talent in the top minor league duking it out.
13. The free, annual Volunteer Park Summer Picnic, from 6 to 8 pm, features circus acrobats, a variety of food trucks, free Molly Moon’s ice cream and a performance from talented folk musician Lydia Ramsey. In addition, artist Naomi Kasumi will lead families in creating a “dandelion garden” temporary art installation. On July 15 and 16, Volunteer Park hosts the Outdoor Theater Festival, which brings 16 different performances to three stages across the park, all for free. The majority of the shows are Shakespeare, but in a truncated form that some kids might be able to sit through, as well as a take on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
14. Now in its 35th year, West Seattle Summer Fest, July 14 to 16, lives up to its reputation as the neighborhood’s best and biggest annual party with delicious food vendors, a beer garden, and free performances by bands (Thunderpussy, Brent Amaker & The Rodeo) that typically you’d pay good money to see in a venue downtown. A designated kids’ area offers free face painting, rides, arts projects and more, for toddlers through tweens.
15. Timber! Outdoor Music Festival, taking place July 13 to 15 outside the town of Carnation, Washington, rolls all the best parts of a Pacific Northwest summer — camping, live music, outdoor activities, cold beer — into one fun and somehow still family-friendly package. A weekend pass costs $85 (kids 12 and under are free!) and includes admission to dozens of concerts amid the trees (Shovels and Rope, a Violent Femmes campfire sing-along) plus tons of activities, ranging from kayaking, standup paddleboarding, biking and yoga to flashlight tag and a Bob Ross painting party. Also included is access to Camp Timber! the epicenter of kid activities, which include Saturday morning concerts, science experiments and arts and crafts. A campsite is an additional $40 per tent and families can opt to stay in the designated “quiet” area (though tents will still be close together). As for food, festival-goers can bring their own to cook at designated BBQ pits and outdoor fire areas, or they can purchase meal packages that include access to a gourmet buffet (think slow-roasted apricot chipotle pulled pork for you, and chicken skewers or hot dogs and fruit for the kids) three times a day, plus access to snacks and nonalcoholic beverages all day. What not to bring? Dogs, alcohol and cannabis.
16. Take your pick or hit up both these free events over the course of two days: Dragon Fest in the Chinatown-International District is a bustling Pan-Asian cultural celebration that swirls with lion and dragon dances, traditional Korean drumming, Pacific Islander dances and Bollywood performances, plus the chance to sample $3 bites from more than 40 restaurants. Meanwhile, the Bon Odori Festival at the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple in the Central District is a smaller-scale affair. At this festival that honors the ancestors that have passed on, expect festival-goers dressed in Japanese kimono, yukata or happi coats plus a traditional music-and-dance performance in the street, food and craft booths, and drumming and martial arts demonstrations.
17. Spray parks and wading pools hit that summer sweet spot: kids of all ages are entertained potentially for hours in the kind of contained manner that might just allow you to read a book or catch up with a friend. Thankfully, more than 30 exist across the city and beyond, and everyone has their go-tos, based on a personal metric of geography, proximity to iced coffee/ice cream/sandwiches and shady-tree potential. The general rule is that the water gets turned on if it’s 70 degrees or above — if the weather is iffy, you can call the wading pool hotline at 206-684-7796 to check. Many pools and spray parks don’t open until 11 am or sometimes noon. On its website Seattle Parks offers a list of all spray parks and wading pools, along with hours — note that many don’t open until 11 am or noon. No dogs and no bare buns allowed — swim diapers, people.
18. Outdoor concerts for kids abound come summertime; it’s just a question of picking one. Free Kirkland Kids Concerts are held every Tuesday morning from 10 to 11 am at the breezy Juanita Beach Park starting July 11, and finishing on Aug. 22 with Caspar Babypants. Today, catch Captain Awesome Sauce, then round out the morning with a spin on the playground or a dip in the lake — the park offers an enclosed beach area with lifeguards.
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
Henry Watkins enjoys a slice at Humble Pie in the Central District.
19. Dining outside is one of the great pleasures of summer: the food taste better, the drinks more refreshing and the fact that the kids are running around seems a little less problematic. Here are three of our favorite places to partake:
> Humble Pie has served stellar, wood-fired artisanal pizza and local brews since opening in 2013. This Central District favorite focuses on environmental sustainability, using organic and hyper-local ingredients whenever possible. The menu offers a dozen huge pies, from a classic margherita to pulled pork and Beecher’s Flagship. The large patio has plenty of picnic table seating, and kids love to watch the chickens in the nearby coops.
> Saint Helens Cafe is a charming neighborhood brasserie in Laurelhurst with a spacious, sunny deck and cozy fire pit. A number of small plates are available to share, and hungry diners shouldn’t miss the patented Saint Helens burger with housemade American cheese. The high-quality kids’ menu offers buttered homemade pasta, grilled cheese on Columbia City Bakery bread, and more. Bonus: Saint Helens, located just off the Burke-Gilman trail, is a perfect destination for families on bikes.
> Bongos, a converted gas station a stone’s throw from Green Lake, is an ultra-casual Caribbean-Cuban oasis, complete with a newly renovated patio and a “beach” with sand toys for the kids. The citrus-braised pork rivals the best in town, and your kiddos will fight you over the last fried plantain. Any sandwich or plate is available as a half-portion for kids, and the yucca fries are a hit for the whole family. — Jo Eike
20. A out-of-the-ordinary evening, for kids old enough to stay up, awaits with the 2nd annual JamFest at the Wing Luke Museum, which takes place in the International District museum and spills over into the historic Canton Alley, World Pizza and Phnom Penh Noodle House. Get ready for food, art, an all-girl teenage rock band, two jazz musicians, a cabaret performer blending both “classic and contemporary forms” of juggling and a burlesque dancer from Taipei.
21, Yes, it’s about 60 miles south of Seattle, but getting to the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville is still faster (and a lot cheaper) than hopping a plane to, say, Costa Rica, and the park offers two of the country’s primary attractions: wild animals and aerial obstacle courses. At the 723-acre park, you can take a tram ride through meadows and forests while looking out for bison, elk, moose and bighorn sheep freely roaming about. Kids’ Trek is a nature-inspired play area where kids can build forts, play in mini cabins, and scramble through a massive “tree trunk.” A discovery center offers hands-on animal encounters, and you can hike along 5 miles of paved and primitive nature trails. Finally there are the spectacular Zip Wild Challenge Courses, five different courses that traverse the park’s canopy via tightropes, balance beams, cargo nets, swinging log bridges, and ziplines. Each is suited to a different age group and all are designed to thrill, build confidence and fire up problem-solving skills. Kids as young as 5 can start with the Super Kid Course, which presents many of the obstacles see elsewhere, just five feet off the ground.
22. With its Saturday morning parade and Sunday morning classic car display, the free Vashon Island Strawberry Festival has a pleasantly old-timey feel that befits a 100-plus-year-old festival on a bucolic island. Come for the pancake breakfast and stay for the booths offering strawberries in all forms (jams, sundaes, lemonade), live music, arts and crafts vendors, and more.
23. Help raise funds for the nonprofit Old Dog Haven (which improves the lives of elderly dogs) by participating in the Walk for Old Dogs and Old Dog Pageant at Shoreline’s Cromwell Park. Walk as little or as much as your four- and two-legged companions desire along a flat, third-of-a-mile promenade, then gather at the amphitheater for a bona fide pageant that includes prizes for costumes, tricks and dance moves. Last but not least, don’t miss this year’s thrilling new event: a dachshund race. The event runs from 10:30 am to 3 pm and you must be pre-registered ($25) to raise funds.
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
Aly and Layla Mohamed play competitive mini golf at Interbay Golf Center.
24. Today is the day: Go play mini golf. The Seattle Parks Department operates two courses: Green Lake Pitch and Putt is a par-3, nine-hole course without bells and whistles, but in a lovely setting near the south end of the lake. And Interbay Miniature Golf is a pretty, tree-lined course with a waterfall in the middle. — Wenda Reed
25. Drop in to the Center for Architecture & Design to ogle the exhibit “Extraordinary Playscapes,” which opens July 13 (with an early evening reception open to all) and runs through Sept. 2. Featuring drawings, sketches, videos and playable installations, the show highlights incredible playground design from around the world — including in the Puget Sound region, so your kids can make a list of must-visits. In connection to the show, the Center hosts Family Fun Day on July 15 from 11 to 4 pm, where activities will include an outdoor play area in Post Alley behind the building, plus board and video games, a photo booth and drawing station. Year-round, CFAD hosts a Playlab most Saturdays from 1 to 4 pm, a free drop-in program that invites families to explore architecture and design.
And if you feel like being adventurous for your lunch or dinner (or ice cream) walk a block down to the waterfront, walk on the ferry to Bainbridge Island and find a place to eat here " Chow Down with Kids on Bainbridge Island."
26. The Burke-Gilman is terrific, but especially in summer, it can be very busy. Try one of these different kid-friendly bike trails instead:
> Centennial Trail: A 29-mile paved trail stretching from just north of Arlington (about 40 miles northeast of Seattle) down to the city of Snohomish. Each section of the ride has its own character: forests, farms, towns, and lakes. Near the northern end, stop at the historic Bryant Store (milepost 4.0) for treats.
> Soos Creek Trail: This paved trail just east of Kent feels surprisingly remote, traversing 6 miles of forests and marshes through an otherwise suburban area.
>Sammamish River Trail: This paved trail links directly to the Burke-Gilman at Bothell Landing. From there it’s 8 miles to lemonade and burgers on the sunny decks of the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville, and another 1.5 miles to Marymoor Park.
> Green River Trail: You can ride nearly 20 paved miles along the Duwamish and Green rivers around Kent and Auburn. The southern portion from Briscoe Park is nice for winding past parks, golf courses, and the Green River. The route includes a few short stretches of low-traffic roads. Make a loop using the Interurban Trail. — Beth Geiger
27. Nestled inside a leafy forest, Mercer Island’s by-donation Adventure Playground lets kids create their own play structures out of wood and scrap materials. Each kid gets his or her own toolbox, complete with such items as a hammer, tape measure, small hand saw, screwdriver, work gloves, goggles and hard hat. Volunteer staff walk around answering questions, but what the kids build and do is entirely up to them. Ages 12 and older may play without a parent present if they have a signed permission slip, and everyone must wear closed-toed shoes.
28. Take advantage of the homework reprieve and designate a night — say Fridays — as board game night for the rest of the summer. Drop into Queen Anne’s Blue Highway Games, Ballard’s Mox Boarding House, West Seattle’s Meeples Games. Or go to Greenwood’s Top Ten Toys to freshen your inventory or find your preschooler's first board game.
29. Celebrating its 10th year in existence, Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park offers fun, free programming all summer long, from Dog Night to Zumba classes. Today is Family Field Day, which encompasses art making, performances, family-friendly yoga, food trucks, and activities centered around helping the environment.
30. Pista Sa Nayon, Pista Sa Nayon, the largest Filipino-American outdoor event in the country, features tasty food, arts and crafts, entertainment, children’s games and more at the Seward Park Amphitheater.
31. Let’s face it: Not every day of summer yields amazing weather, and not every day of amazing weather necessitates being outdoors. Bypass the commitment of a camp and let your kid get creative in a drop-in art class that goes beyond the typical Paint the Town fare. Note that nearly every museum has some kind of art-making program, and even big stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot and Michael’s offer craft or wood-making classes for kids.
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
Linnea Westerlind and her three sons join in the fun at Ercolini Park in West Seattle.
1. This summer, make it a family goal to find your perfect park. Often, the best park is the closest one to wherever we are at the time. But eight years ago, when her oldest child was born, Linnea Westerlind decided to forgo convenience in favor of variety: she began a quest to visit every Seattle park. Now, that quest is a book: Discovering Seattle Parks: A Local’s Guide.
The book, organized by neighborhood, features her 110 favorites of the more than 425 parks she visited. Designed to slip into your stroller or glove department, the book also is searchable by such features as spray parks, dog-friendliness and beaches. So in the end, we wanted to know, what is it that makes for a great park? Also, where should we take our kids right now? We sat down with Westerlind to ask.
“Parks that work well feel like a place people want to be,” she says. To her, that doesn’t necessarily mean a playground, but maybe games or creative seating. Examples include Pioneer Square’s Occidental Square, with its bocce courts and ping-pong tables, and Westlake Park for cool seating. Lately, she likes how the city is installing notably creative playground equipment, like the obstacle course at Montlake Playfield and the mix of equipment geared towards all ages at Powell Barnett.
Another trend she’s noticed, an apt one for the season, is the move away from wading pools toward spray parks. Her favorites are Lake Union, with its wealth of activities nearby (including boat rentals), and Jefferson Park, where she says she could spend all day: The big, open, paved loop is perfect for biking and has good sightlines for parents. For natural water, she likes the beach at Pritchard Island for its sloping lawn and secretive feel, and Madrona for its sand play area.
When pressed, she picks a personal favorite park: Lincoln. Between the beaches, bike paths and wildlife, “I could go every day and never get bored,” she says. But more important than finding the “perfect” park, she just wants people to feel excited about getting outside and giving kids free play time: “Test their limits and let them see bugs!” — Naomi Tomky
2. At noon today, catch “bilingual rock star” (per the Washington Post) Mister G at the free Kent Summer Concert Series for Kids. A winner of a Latin Grammy for Best Children’s Album, Mister G will undoubtedly liven up his little audience members with a cool mix of bluegrass, bossa nova, funk and folk. The series, which takes place in Kent Town Square Plaza, starts July 12 with Tickle Toon Typhoon and ends Aug.16 with Recess Monkey.
3. Take advantage of First Thursdays: On the first Thursday of every month, Seattle museums let everyone in for free (note that while SAM admission is free too, tickets to the Kusama show (see July 2) are half-price). A few shows the kids might like:
> “Daniel Minter: Carvings” at the Northwest African American Museum features painted woodcarvings and linoleum block prints from numerous children’s books illustrated by Minter, including Ellen's Broom, which won a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor.
> ”The Whimsical World of Bjørn Wiinblad” at the Nordic Museum groups together the Danish artist’s beautifully playful ceramics, theater sets and costumes, tapestries, jigsaw puzzles, and textiles.
> “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs” at the Museum of History and Industry takes a look at Puget Sound history through the stories of cats and dogs (who apparently now outnumber children in Seattle!).
4. Love it or less-than-love it (kids and pets tend to have mixed feelings about the noisy Blue Angels), Seafair Weekend kicks off today, meaning hydroplane racing across Lake Washington, U.S. Navy Blue Angels streaking overhead and all kind activities, food and fun along Lake Washington Boulevard and in Genesee Park.
5. Several Saturday mornings throughout the year, Seattle Children’s Museum offers Sensory Sensitive Hours for kids affected by autism or other challenges that make the usual hustle and bustle of the museum unappealing. On these mornings, the museum opens early at 8:30, with dimmed lights and noise kept to a minimum until it opens to the public at 10. Note that tickets ($3) must be purchased online beforehand, not onsite. The other summer date is July 8.
6. Designed to overlap with Seafair Weekend, the free, three-day UmojaFest African American Heritage Festival at Judkins Park celebrates the best of the African American community and African diaspora with a parade featuring dance troops and drill teams and tons of games, activities, food, music and more.
7. What body-surfing is to kids in other parts of the country, exploring tide pools is to Puget Sounders: a beach ritual that endlessly entertains. Sure, the thrill of discovery is much more crucial than you, the parent, fumbling around for the correct name. But if you want the treasure hunt to merge with a science lesson, flag down one of the 100-plus experts roaming the beaches this summer as part of the Seattle Aquarium’s Beach Naturalist Program. The program’s website has a schedule for the whole summer (including in flyer form, to print out and stick to the fridge) for 12 area beaches, including Alki, Golden Gardens and Lincoln Park. For its part, Seattle Parks also offers several free naturalist-led tidepool walks over the course of the summer at Discovery, Carkeek and Me-Kwa-Mooks parks (pre-registration is required). In the South Sound, Tacoma Nature Center offers their Tiptoe Through the Tidepools program monthly, May through August, at Titlow Beach, and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s puts on its Explore the Shore program at Owen Beach about every two weeks, all summer long.
8. Public transportation has never been this fun: Hop on the Seattle water taxi, which whips riders from the south end of downtown, across Elliott Bay, and straight to West Seattle. On the pier across from the taxi's destination is Marination Ma Kai, the fish-shack outlet of Seattle’s original Korean-Hawaiian taco truck. Pick from fish and chips or flavorful tacos for lunch, or take a shave ice out to the patio to enjoy a panoramic view of the city. — Naomi Tommy
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
Lemonade stand Seattle-style.
9. Despite Seattle being bone-chillingly damp many months of the year, the ice cream scene keeps getting better and better. Make it your family’s mission to conduct a grand tour of the city’s ice cream offerings over the course of the summer. Just a few to get you started: Shug’s, Trove, Bluebird, Molly Moon’s, Sweet Bumpas, Cupcake Royale, Kurt Farm Shop, Nue, Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery, Parfait... whether floats, custard and popsicles merit separate studies is up to you. Have everyone create scorecards that rank such features as sample generosity, unusual flavor factor and best-hands-down chocolate. All in the name of research, of course.
10. The only thing sweeter than the taste of fresh summer berries is the sight of your kid gleefully stuffing his or her mouth full of juicy specimens straight off the bush. August is prime time for blueberry picking (plus no prickly bushes) and with dozens of farms across the state, we’re spoiled for choice. If you head to Snohomish, site of several farms, consider bringing bikes to cruise along Centennial Trail afterwards and find a spot for a picnic. Closer by, try Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm in Bellevue, about 2 miles from Kelsey Creek Farm if the novelty of picking wears off after 20 minutes (it happens). A few things to keep in mind: many farms only take cash or checks. Any berry picking is messy and likely in full sun — bring hats, sunscreen, wipes and possibly a change of clothes. Dogs usually aren’t allowed on farms. Prices range from about $2 to $4 per pound of blueberries. Lastly, some farms are certified organic, some follow organic practices without being certified, and others take a conventional approach. If you want to know what a farm’s growing practices are, just ask.
11. At the South Lake Union Block Party expect beer, live music and a “best in SLU” burger contest. Plus, the “steamroller smackdown” where designers print giant posters using a steamroller instead of a printing press.
12. Make a day of a Seattle Center outing: Start off the morning at the one-of-a-kind Artists at Play playground, with its 30-foot climbing tower, oversized interactive sound sculptures and human-powered carousel. Around lunchtime, dip into the free Iranian Festival (11 am to 7 pm) for poetry, dancing, face painting and authentic eats. Then let the kids round out the day with a refreshing run through the International Fountain.
13. Don’t let a summer pass by without indulging in the time-honored two-for-one Seattle special that is Agua Verde Cafe & Paddle Club. First, rent kayaks and paddle around Lake Union to work up an appetite. Then, when happy hour strikes (4 to 6 pm), guide the troops upstairs and order mango-filled quesadillas (them) and a margarita lima (you) and call it a good day’s work.
14. Want to show your kids what games were like before they all fit into a phone? The Seattle Pinball Museum keeps more than 50 games from as far back as 1934 in working condition. All the games are free to play once you've paid admission. With the slightly more expensive multi-entry admission, you can come and go throughout the day to take advantage of the International District's other attractions. This one’s for the older kids: only ages 7 and up are allowed in. — Naomi Tommy
15. Chances are, the opportunities for your city kid to go fishing have been few and far between. At Gold Creek Trout Farm in Woodinville, even a toddler can catch your family's supper. The trout farm provides budding young fishers the simplest of tools: a pole with a line and a hook, a net, a bucket and a cup of brown, Play-Doh-like bait. If you can convince your child to keep the hook in the water, it can take only 10 or 15 minutes to snag a rainbow trout. Even if it takes a bit longer, the spring-fed trout ponds are in a lovely setting, under towering red cedars on a quiet hillside a few minutes outside of downtown. Once a trout is caught, the trickiest part is removing the hook with a special device, but Gold Creek owners Pamela and Cecil Thomas are on hand to help. Then one of them will clean the fish and bag it up to take home, which start at $7.50 each and go up depending on the size. The trout farm has a covered picnic table area for snacks and there's a port-a-potty. And you're darn near a cluster of Washington wineries, if you want to stop on your way home and grab a bottle to complement your trout dinner. — Lisa Stiffler
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
The Armijo siblings’ gourmet lemonade recipe involves heating lemons in a pressure cooker, then finishing the concoction with a frothy topping made using a Thermo Whip.
16. Have the kids set up a gourmet lemonade stand, because c’mon folks, this is Seattle and we can do better than powdered Country Time. Coming up with new twists on the old classics is half the fun, but a few ideas to get you started: Make fresh lemonade (show the kids how to use a handheld citrus squeezer), then add dried lavender, torn-up basil or mint and honey instead of sugar. Use oversized (think fancy cocktails) or rounded ice cube trays to make pretty cubes embedded with herbs or fruit. Fire up the SodaStream (or buy a few 2-liter bottles of seltzer) and make sparkling lemonade, served with an edible flower floating on top. Or add one part lemon juice to two parts vanilla ice cream in the blender, throw in a big handful of ice and whir up lemony milkshakes.
17. Want to take the kids car camping this summer but don’t know where to go, or how to begin looking? For trusted advice, pick up a copy of the newly revised Camping Washington (Mountaineers Books) by outdoor columnist Ron Judd. It offers reviews of more than 500 campgrounds, tips on amenities, and info on nearby outdoor activities. Some of Ron’s favorite family-friendly campgrounds include:
> Wenatchee Confluence State Park: A lot of grass. A swimming beach. Courts and playfields. Hiking trails. A biking loop. It’s all here at Confluence, where the Wenatchee River meets the Columbia.
> Millersylvania Memorial State Park: One of the most diverse state parks in the system, this Olympia-area park offers fishing (dock or boat), hiking, cycling, and even an exercise trail to work off those s’mores.
> Fort Casey State Park: Investigate big cannons and creepy old army bunkers at this Whidbey Island park, plus miles of saltwater beach and a blufftop kite-flying field to beat them all.
18. Go find the Bubbleman. The Bubbleman, aka Garry Golightly, a Seattle fixture, has been entertaining kids and “kidults” (as he calls them) for more than two decades with his comedic, suds-filled shows. Golightly uses all manner of items to create awe-inspiring bubbles while telling jokes, making puns, singing songs, reading Dr. Seuss and preaching recycling (witness the enormous wand built from 200 six-pack rings that conjures a bubble blizzard). Most days you can find the Bubbleman performing at Carkeek Park in North Seattle from 10 am to noon; to check if he’ll be there, he invites anyone to call him on his cell phone (206-729-6692) to confirm. Or have the Bubbleman come to you — yes, you could wait for a birthday, but why not crowdsource with a group of friends or neighbors, and have a bubblefest just to celebrate summer? Visit his website (bubbleman.com) for more info or call 206-781-6749.
19. For Viking Days, on Aug. 19 and 20, the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard offers a Swedish pancake breakfast (10 am to 1 pm), Scandinavian entertainment on three stages, an Alder-smoked salmon lunch (1 pm until sold out) and a larger-than-life Viking encampment with demos of weapon forging, weaving and more.
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
Isa Salazar and Nathanael Cardona-Rosado pitch a tent in Isa’s Everett backyard, complete with a digital campfire.
20. The idea of backyard camping connotes a pleasant whiff of nostalgia, adheres to the ethos of free-range parenting and, it goes without saying, is far less of a hassle than real camping. Whether or not a parent wants to sleep out there too is up to you (as a headline in The Onion once proclaimed, “74% of Children Tenting Out In Yard Don't Make It Through The Night”). Either way, buy or borrow an outdoor fire pit for hot dog and marshmallow roasting, dig up flashlights for tag or other post-dusk activities and definitely encourage the singing of silly camp songs. Then, let kids steal away to their own tent for secret-sharing, giggling and whatever else, whether it’s for an hour or the whole night.
21. How often does the chance arise to swim in a saltwater pool? At West Seattle’s Colman Pool, you get the same sandy landscape and saltwater buoyancy as you would on Puget Sound’s beaches, but the water is a pleasant 85 degrees and there’s no seaweed in sight. The Olympic-size pool sports a giant tube slide, diving boards, and pool noodles for floating — plus lap lanes if you’re inclined to fit in some exercise while the kids play. — Naomi Tomky
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
Teryn Tate and her daughter Ava take an urban trek.
22 Go hiking... in the city. Seattle parks are scattered citywide and interlaced with miles of hiking trails, streams and peaceful vantages offering an infusion of wilderness minutes — instead of hours — from home. (And yes, your kid can still take a nature pee if necessary). Chukundi Salisbury, trail coordinator with the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, offers these suggestions:
Carkeek Park, northwest Seattle: The 220-acre park has wooded trails that lead to lookouts over Puget Sound, a path to a salmon pond and a trail to a woodland meadow. The best part? You can park your car practically at the trailheads and, Salisbury says, “you can come out of the woods and play at the playground or go down to the beach.”
Camp Long, West Seattle: In addition to rustic, wooded trails, this park has 10 cabins that sleep up to 12 people, available to rent for $50 a night. Camping in the city means less time getting to your destination and more time exploring nature and making s’mores.
Seward Park, southeast Seattle: Everyone knows the paved service road that rings the park and is great for walking and biking. “What a lot of people don’t know,” Salisbury says, “is there are tons of trails up in the wooded area.” The routes wind through wetlands, and the park is home to the 120-acre Magnificent Forest, believed to be the largest stand of old-growth trees in the city.
Lakeridge Park (Deadhorse Canyon), southeast Seattle: At Seattle’s southeasternmost edge sits a park whose original name dates back more than a century and references some pioneer children’s ill-fated pet. Salisbury likes the park because there’s a loop that’s easy to walk with kids in 20 to 30 minutes if you stay focused, or an hour with distractions. There’s also a creek good for tossing rocks into, and patches of skunk cabbage that are sure to inspire some kid commentary. — Lisa Stiffler
23. For kids of a certain (responsible, non-toddling) age, building a beach fire will make for a long-lasting summer memory. Two Seattle public beaches allow fires: Alki and Golden Gardens. Both get very busy in the summer time, so you’re best chance to snag a fire pit would be a (overcast) weekday. Both also attract rowdier crowds as the night goes on, so families will likely want to build a fire early and head out by nightfall. Build your fire only in designated fire pits; use only clean, dry firewood (driftwood is not allowed); when you’re done, douse your fire with water, not sand, and make sure it’s completely covered and no longer smoking.
24. The Ballard Locks, where you can watch boats being lowered and raised when going between Lake Washington and Puget Sound, is fun to visit any time of year. But mid- to late-August happens to be prime time for viewing large king salmon climb the fish ladder on their way to spawn upstream in fresh water. A free viewing area that’s open everyday from 7 am to 9:45 pm lets everyone see the action right up close.
25. Every Friday evening in August, KEXP and Seattle Center host free concerts at the Mural Amphitheater starting at 5:30 pm. Because it’s KEXP, you can expect cool bands you probably haven’t yet heard of, but very likely will enjoy. Tonight’s line-up consists of the Maldives, Industrial Revelation and Emma Lee Toyoda.
26. In the dog days of summer, few things sound more inviting than hiking to an alpine lake. Here are five kid-friendly five ones to check out:
> Mirror and Cottonwood Lakes Two lakes, one hike The option of stopping after a half-mile and just doing one lake — for families unsure of a kid’s hiking stamina — makes this easy, 2.2-mile, out-and-back with nice picnic areas an easy one to commit to. Off I-90 at exit 62, Forest Service Road 5480.
> Tradition Lake Short drive for a longer hike This 2.9-mile loop hugs the lake almost the whole way, making for good scenery — even better if your little is into checking out the old bus partway through. Off I-90 at Exit 20, SE 79th St.
> Gold Creek Pond Stroller-friendly and scenic This ADA-accessible, paved 1-mile loop is perfect for parents of the stroller-bound in need of some pretty scenery: a lake-like pond (paved down to the shore) framed in wildflowers and mountains. Off I-90 at exit 54, Gold Creek Road.
> Boardman Lake Mountain Loop’s most family-friendly Perhaps the shortest, easiest, and closest of the alpine lakes off scenic Mountain Loop Highway, the 1.6-mile hike gives everyone more time to laze at the lake and play in the wilderness. Mountain Loop Highway to Forest Road 4020.
> Sheep Lake Stunning scenery worth the drive It’s a little far and, at 3.6 miles, a little long for younger kids, but if yours are up for it, the wildflower- and huckleberry-lined path offers views down into the deep valleys and up at Mt. Rainier, ending in a gem of a lake. Off SR 410 just past Chinook Pass — Naomi Tomky
27. For a satisfying day trip, set your sights on the quaint town of Port Gamble. Nestled on the Kitsap Peninsula, it’s dreamy in the summer, with sweeping ocean views, streets lined with old, New England-style homes and activities for the outdoorsy and indoorsy alike. To get there, take the ferry to Bainbridge Island, then drive about 30 minutes north. If you’re cycling-inclined, the area has lots of bike-friendly trails and events. Olympic Outdoor Center offers kayak and mountain bike rentals as well as wildlife tours and private paddling classes, and there are plenty of hiking trails just outside town. The whole family will love the Port Gamble General Store & Cafe, a historic space that serves up tasty farm-to-table food along with artisanal cocktails and local wine and beer in the cafe, and in the adjoining store, espresso, chocolate, gifts and souvenirs. Expect a wait for weekend breakfasts; with antsy kids try for lunch instead. visitkitsap.com/port-gamble — Annalise Bender-Brown
28. Kayaks and canoes take muscles. Sailing takes skill. Powerboats can be loud and stinky. Ride the Ducks requires an acceptance of “wacky quackers” — a beak-like noisemaker reminiscent of a kazoo. But a trip on an electric boat requires little more than a sense of adventure and the ability to steer.
“This is the perfect way to introduce children to the water,” said Jennifer Towne, owner of The Electric Boat Company in Seattle. The ride is quiet and smooth, and the kids can even take a turn at the wheel — provided a parent is within reach. Electric Boat rents 21-foot vessels that hold 10 adults or children. The seats are cushy, there’s a table in the center that’s great for picnicking, and the covered cabin is surrounded by plastic windows that you can open in fair weather. The inside of the boat “is truly like a big playpen,” Towne said. Kids wear life jackets and the hull is deep enough that it would be difficult for a child to fall overboard, she said, which so far hasn’t happened.
You set sail from the dock on the west side of Lake Union. Motoring east toward Portage Bay provides a closer look at deluxe houseboats, the chance to watch seaplanes take off and land, and views of the city and Gas Works Park. Tie up at Ivar’s Salmon House below the Interstate 5 Ship Canal Bridge to grab a bite from the takeout window. Or head west, cruising under the Fremont and Ballard bridges. The boats offer a lakeside view of tugs and the Alaskan crabbing fleet when it’s docked at Fishermen’s Terminal.
Towne loves that the boats are great for passengers of all ages, from nursing moms with newborns to grandparents who aren’t up for another trip to the zoo. But be ready for possible tears. When the boats return, “I’ve had children hanging on crying, not wanting to get off,” Towne said. Boat rental costs $99 an hour with a two-hour minimum and four-hour maximum, tax not included. — Lisa Stiffler
29. What’s better than the friendly nostalgia of lacing up funny-looking rented shoes, finding that perfect ball and hearing the satisfying clatter of a strike? Doing that all for free. Thanks to the national Kids Bowl Free program, kids ages 15 and under are eligible for two free games a day, all summer long, at participating centers. In Seattle these are Roxbury Lanes, in South Park, and West Seattle Bowl. WSB is particularly family-friendly, with its programmable bumpers and assortment of 6-pound balls ideal for tiny hands. Note that pre-registration online is required and shoe rentals aren’t covered.
30. At Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island, an hour north of Seattle off of I-5, waterfront cabin rentals offer an affordable getaway (rates run $78-$113 per night and cabins sleep three to six people). The park, along the southwest shore of Camano, has beaches, plenty of picnic tables and barbecues, boat rentals, a weekend’s worth of walking paths, and stunning mountain views. The spare 1930s-era cabins offer basic creature comforts — beds, refrigerator, and someplace to dry out — while keeping guests as close to nature as a traditional camping trip. If the cabins are booked, go for the day — and scout out a cabin to reserve early for next year. — Naomi Tommy
31. Mark the last day of August by making popsicles. Try your hand at Paletas de Pay de Limón (Lime Pie Ice Pops) from Fany Gerson's Paletas (Ten Speed Press).
Paletas de Pay de Limón (Lime Pie Ice Pops)
Makes 8 to 10 pops
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
¾ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 4 large limes)
1 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons lime zest
Pinch of salt
3 cups coarsely crushed Maria cookies, or graham crackers
Put the sweetened condensed milk, half-and-half, lime juice, lime zest, and salt in a bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined.
If using conventional molds, divide the mixture among the molds, snap on the lid, and freeze until solid, about 5 hours. If using glasses or other unconventional molds, freeze until the pops are beginning to set (1½ to 2 hours), then insert the sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. If using an instant ice pop maker, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Spread the graham cracker pieces on a large plate. Unmold the paletas and press each side into the graham crackers, coating completely.
1 Timed nearly perfectly as a last chance to enjoy the summer sunshine, the Washington State Fair (aka “the Puyallup”) offers music, animals, rides, food, and of course, mutton busting. OK, maybe you’re not ready to put your kid on a bucking lamb yet, but a scone and a visit to the piglet palace should definitely be a to-do. —Naomi Tomky
2 Many aspects of the three-day summer finale that is Bumbershoot will suit kids just fine (and its organizers plan on posting a list of kid-appropriate events and exhibitions on the website closer to the event). Starting with getting some food, sitting by the fountain and watching all the people go by. But in addition, there’s Youngershoot, a space curated by the Children’s Museum that’s only for those 10 and under (accompanied by a parent) and will feature interactive activities and special performances.
3 As a kind of ritual cleansing for the new school year, weed out your kids’ bookshelves and your own, and together take the haul to sell at one of the three locations of Third Place Books. Enjoy time browsing while the buyer looks over what you’ve bought then use the funds to buy some fun, fresh reads.
4 What to do to mark the last night of summer? Eat a celebratory dinner, help lay out the requisite first-day outfit and put backpacks by the door. Then grab the whole family and go jump in the lake for one last night swim. Nothing calms frazzled nerves or nervous Nellies more than the magical feeling of cool water on a warm evening. Follow with ice cream and fall into bed with damp hair — it’ll be a while before the chance arises again.