Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

The Rapier-Harris family enjoys an open-air Scrabble battle at Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill. Photo by Joshua Huston

50 ideas for outdoor fun all summer long

It's time to get outside and have a blast. Here's how.

Outdoor fun: We really do get good weather in the Seattle area! (Shhh, don’t tell everyone else. It’s our secret.) Let’s delight in perfect July and August days, vivid blue skies and the lack of humidity — and enjoy all the natural beauty our region does best. Here’s how!

Play a game in the park

Pick a favorite park, pack a picnic lunch, bring along a blanket and a board game and you’ve got a lovely day ahead. Seattle’s Child staff favorites include checkers and chess (with big, chunky pieces that will stay put) as well as Connect 4, Trouble, Carcassonne, and even card games like Uno, Sleeping Queens and Exploding Kittens.

Take a ferry trip

Need to get away from dry land for a bit? Take a fun (and cost-effective) round trip on a ferry from downtown Seattle and end up feeling many, many miles away. In addition to riding the Bainbridge Island car ferry, which always invites pedestrians, you can try a foot ferry – take the new route to Southworth or head to Bremerton or Kingston, all three destinations across Puget Sound on the Kitsap Peninsula. It’s like owning a yacht share (for about an hour and a half). wsdot.wa.gov/ferries  — Jillian O’Connor

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The Baerwaldt family gets ready to take in a screening of “Back to the Future” at Marymoor Park. (Photo by Joshua Huston)

See a movie by moonlight

The drive-in theater, a 1930s American invention, made a quick comeback during the pandemic. Older parents likely remember the many drive-ins in the U.S. during their childhoods: kids piling into the car with sleeping bags, in their jammies. In the Seattle area, we’re fortunate to have a couple of traditional legacy drive-in theaters, as well as newcomer drive-ins from organizations that made a quick pandemic pivot, serving families’ needs for COVID-safe entertainment.

Here are some great options in Seattle for seeing flicks in your car this summer:

BECU Drive-In Movies at Marymoor Park
6046 West Lake Sammamish Parkway NE, Redmond, epiceap.com/movies-at-marymoor/

Vasa’s Drive-In Theatre
3549 West Lake Sammamish Parkway SE, Bellevue, vasaparkresorteventcenter.com

Discover Burien Drive-In Theatre
610 SW 153rd St., Burien, discoverburien.org

Rodeo Drive-In
Highway 3, near the Bremerton Airport, Bremerton, rodeodrivein.com

Blue Fox Drive-in Theater
1403 N. Monroe Landing Road, Oak Harbor, bluefoxdrivein.com

Skyline Drive-In Theater (since 1964)
182 SE Brewer Road, Shelton, skylinedrive-in.com

Wheel-In Motor Movie Drive-In (since 1953)
210 Theatre Road, Port Townsend, ptwheelinmotormovie.com

— Jillian O’Connor

More on drive-ins: Head to the drive-in for movies under the stars

Deception Pass (Courtesy of Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission)

Road trip: Don’t pass it up

Need a day trip that will knock your socks off? Deception Pass State Park is about 90 minutes north of Seattle, and with nearly 4,000 acres of forest, lakes and saltwater shoreline, there’s fun for every kid. Pro tip: Maybe skip going the whole way over that stunning, iconic bridge with very little ones, who can instead delight in trying to spot a Sasquatch elsewhere in the park. — Julie Hanson

Road trip: Go east to the Old West

If you’re looking for a change of pace and scenery, Winthrop couldn’t be more different from Seattle. Depending on which of two scenic routes you choose, the drive should take around four hours – and it won’t be boring. In tiny Winthrop, kids and families are sure to get a kick out of the Old West-themed town, the new Homestream Park, the National Fish Hatchery and Pearrygin Lake State Park, which has a great roped-off swim area. — Julie Hanson

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A gnome in Maple Valley. (Photo by Jasmin Thankachen)

Find the gnomes

Want an enchanted summer? Wander into a forest in Maple Valley or on Bainbridge Island and look for gnomes! (Well, statues of gnomes.) A Maple Valley park area has a delightful half-mile Gnome Trail, while the Bainbridge Island gnome homes are more far-flung: A mysterious builder has installed shoebox-size gnome homes in parks all over the island and left clues on the Instagram account PNWGnomeHome. You can hop the Bainbridge Island ferry and go find the gnomies hanging out in B.I. parks – on the Fort Ward to Blakely Harbor Trail, Peter’s Trail and the Forest to Sky Trail, among others.

Where to find Maple Valley gnomes: 25719 Maple Valley Black Diamond Road SE.

— Compiled from reports by Natasha Dillinger and Jasmin Thankachen

More on gnomes: 

Gnomes’ sweet home: A visit to Maple Valley

Day trip (or longer) with kids: Look for gnome homes on Bainbridge Island

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(Photo by Jasmin Thankachen)


Rent an RV

This summer, consider renting an RV – a home on wheels! It’s a vehicle that offers the flexibility to travel on your own time with your own shower, toilet, kitchen and beds. But remember, you’ll need a place to park it. Many campsites have full hookups (electricity, sewer and water services), which truly helps make the RV – wildly popular during this pandemic – your roving home away from home. You’ll likely all be sleeping in one area, so don’t forget earplugs for sleeping, just in case. — Jasmin Thankachen

More on RV life:

The newbie’s guide to a family RV adventure

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(Photo by Allison Holm)

Stock up at a farmers market

Nothing says “summer is coming” like the opening day of a Seattle-area farmers market. Shop locally grown produce, browse bountiful bouquets, and chat with the hardworking farmers at your favorite stands. Here are 10 favorite Seattle-area farmers markets:

Columbia City Farmers Market (Wednesdays, 3 pm to 7 pm)
37th Avenue South and South Edmunds Street, just off Rainier Avenue South in South Seattle
seattlefarmersmarkets.org/ccfm

Queen Anne Farmers Market (Thursdays, 3 pm to 7 pm)
Queen Anne Avenue North and West Crockett Street, Seattle
qafm.org

Ballard Farmers Market (Sundays, 9 am to 2 pm)
Ballard Avenue NW between Vernon Place and 22nd Avenue NW, Seattle
sfmamarkets.com/visit-ballard-farmers-market

Mercer Island Farmers Market (Sundays, 10 am to 2 pm)
7700 SE 32nd St., Mercer Island
Mifarmersmarket.org

Redmond Farmers Market (Saturdays, 9 am to 2 pm)
9900 Willows Road NE, Redmond
redmondsaturdaymarket.org

Kirkland Farmers Market (Wednesdays, 3 pm to 7 pm)
25 Lakeshore Plaza, Kirkland
kirklandmarket.org

Renton Farmers Market (Tuesdays, 3 pm to 7 pm)
Piazza Park, 233 Burnett Ave. S., Renton
rentonfarmersmarket.com

Tacoma Farmers Market at Point Ruston (Sundays, 10 am to 3 pm)
5105 Ruston Way, Tacoma
tacomafarmersmarket.com

Edmonds Farmers Market (Saturdays, 9 am to 2 pm)
5th and Bell St., Edmonds
historicedmonds.org/summer-market

Everett Farmers Market (Sundays, 11 am to 3 pm)
2930 Wetmore Ave., Everett
everettfarmersmarket.com

— Natasha Dillinger

More on farmers markets: 10 picnic-perfect farmers markets in the Seattle area

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Enjoy ice pops on the steps

You can pour some pink lemonade or orange juice into an ice-pop mold, or you can go fancy.

“I make simple ice pops out of fruit and whatever else I feel like blending up. I make them for a few weeks and store them in our chest freezer. Then, we choose our preferred flavor and eat them out on our front steps after the kids ride their bikes,” says Caroline Wright, a local cook and writer who blogs at The Wright Recipes (carolinewrightbooks.com).

Here’s her delicious recipe for icy treats:

Broiled Apricot and Honey Pops

Makes 10 pops per flavor

Preheat broiler. Halve and remove pits from 1 pound apricots (about 10) and arrange on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle apricots with 2 tablespoons honey and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and another of ground cinnamon or cardamom. Broil on top rack until charred in spots and softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer apricots and 1 cup heavy cream into a blender jar. Blend until smooth. Pour pop base into 10 (2.5-ounce) pop molds, leaving ½-inch space at the top. Freeze according to mold manufacturer’s instructions. — Sydney Parker

More on this recipe: Ice pop ’til you drop

Road trip: Visit an ancient fossil bed

At the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Center, see an ancient fossil bed as you hike a 1.25-mile interpretive trail, and look out for nearly two dozen exposed petrified logs at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, which spans 7,124 acres, roughly 140 miles east of Seattle. Fun fact: petrified wood is Washington’s official state gem. There’s also a campground at Wanapum Recreation Area, inside the park.
4511 Huntzinger Road, Vantage. — Jillian O’Connor

Road trip: Coast on down to Oregon

It feels like a small town, but there’s still lots to do. Oceanside, Oregon, is a town with beautiful, quiet beaches, great hiking options and fun nearby attractions. You can rent a house or stay in a condo, steps away from the cool water and ocean breeze. Local restaurants Roseanna’s Cafe and the Blue Agate Cafe offer seaside dining.

About 10 miles east, the Tillamook Creamery offers amazing, rich dishes like hot, gooey mac and cheese and fried cheese curds. A self-guided tour will make you an expert in the factory line – slicing, dicing and packaging the cheese. The kids will love “driving” the company van. They’ll love the large factory ice cream shop, too. — Jasmin Thankachen

Enjoy a stroll and an outdoor meal

Explore the lovely concept of a walk followed by a stop for sustenance at a place with kid-friendly outdoor dining. Here are a few of our favorite Seattle-area spots to stretch your legs, see some sights and then have a treat.

Some favorite pairings:

Downtown Seattle waterfront and Pike Place, then Old Stove Brewing, 1901 Western Ave., oldstove.com

West Seattle’s Alki Beach, then Pegasus Pizza or Cactus. 2768 Alki Ave. SW, pegasuspizza.com; 2820 Alki Ave. SW, cactusrestaurants.com

Explore Burien’s Eagle Landing Park, then stop at Elliott Bay Brewhouse. 255 SW 152nd St., elliottbaybrewing.com

Walk Magnolia’s Discovery Park, then visit Dirty Couch Brewing, 2715 W. Fort St., dirtycouchbrewing.com

Hike the Des Moines Creek Trail, then hit Quarterdeck. 22307 Dock Ave. S., quarterdeckdm.com

Stroll through Beacon Hill, then stop at Perihelion, 2800 16th Ave. S., perihelion.beer

Walk Green Lake, then hit Bongos Cafe for Caribbean food, 6501 Aurora Ave. N., bongosseattle.com — Julie Hanson and Jillian O’Connor

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(Photo by Jillian O’Connor)

Book a last-minute camping trip

If you yearn to go camping, but you find every campground you usually visit is completely booked in advance, there’s hope. Even if you don’t have a reservation, there are quite a few first-come, first-served campsites on public lands in Washington.

Be prepared – and flexible. Pay attention to the campground’s amenities; you might need to pack water. Fun fact: Olympic, North Cascades and Mount Rainier national parks all offer some first-come, first-served spots.

These state campsites are ALL first-come, first-served. (For more parks that offer some, but not all, sites as first-come, first-served, visit seattleschild.com.)

Joemma Beach State Park: 19 primitive tent sites on the Key Peninsula in the middle of south Puget Sound.

Mount Spokane State Park: eight standard sites and more than 12,000 acres to explore in Eastern Washington.

Obstruction Pass State Park: Small Orcas Island park with 10 primitive sites; take your car on the ferry or arrive by boat or kayak.

Sucia Island Marine State Park: Horseshoe-shaped island in the San Juan archipelago; 60 standard sites accessible only by watercraft.

Wallace Falls State Park: You’ll need to set out early to score one of the two prime sites at this park in Snohomish County. — Julie Hanson

More information:

Find a last-minute campsite

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(Photo by Joshua Huston)

Koree and Kamryn Cotton get up close with slippery seaweed during low tide at Carkeek Park. (Photo by Joshua Huston)

Explore local tide pools and spot the sea creatures

A few days a month, Seattle’s beaches offer a glimpse into a world we seldom get a chance to see. Extreme low tides decrease the water level, revealing a colorful, varied group of plants and animals that spend most of their time under the surface of Puget Sound. Almost any of the beaches that line our city’s coastline can reveal wonders, if you know where to look.

Eight great beaches to explore at low tide are Richmond Beach Saltwater Park in Shoreline; Carkeek, Golden Gardens, Discovery Park, Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint, Me-Kwa-Mooks Park and Lincoln Park in Seattle; and Seahurst Park in Burien. For even more fun, check to see when and where Seattle Aquarium naturalists will be out to sneak a little learning (and more fun) into your beach walk: seattleaquarium.org/beach-naturalist-program — Fiona Cohen

More on tide pools: 

8 great Seattle-area beaches for families to explore at low tide

Your guide to exploring Seattle-area beaches at low tide

Get out on the (mini) green

Here’s an activity the whole family can do together, whether you want to be competitive or just have fun. You can enjoy a beautiful natural setting or play through a quirky fantasy land at a variety of Puget Sound-area courses.

Golf is a fresh-air activity well-suited to social distancing. Check policies at any place you choose to go.

Family Fun Center, 7300 Fun Center Way, Tukwila.

Kent Valley Ice Centre, 6015 South 240th St., Kent.

Seattle Parks Department: Green Lake Pitch and Putt, 5701 East Green Lake Way N. New for 2021: Tee times are required, and must be made by phone (206-632-2280).

Interbay Miniature Golf, 2501 15th Ave. W., Seattle.

Rainbow Run course at Willows Run Golf Course, 10402 Willows Road NE, Redmond.

Mike N Terry’s Outdoor Fun Park, 6326 113th Ave. Court E., Puyallup.

Parkland Putters Mini Golf, 10636 Sales Road S., Tacoma. — Wenda Reed

More on mini golf:

Best places to play mini golf with kids around Seattle


Teach your child to ride a bike

You remember learning how to ride a bike; most adults do. The rattle of training wheels, the first wobbly attempts at pedaling forward without them, the apprehension at the feeling of being unsupported, the many failures – and the euphoria upon succeeding.

Now, there’s a better way to teach it: No training wheels. No pedals.

Instead of clattering around on bikes with training wheels, beginners learn to kick, coast and balance, either on specially made coaster bikes or bikes with the pedals removed; only when they have the feel of how the bike should move do they attempt pedals.

With beginning cyclists, it’s essential to provide them time and space to mess around on their own and get used to their bikes.

“The more time you let your kids ride around a little bit and try out, the better,” says Amy Korver, an education instructor at Cascade Bicycle Club. — Fiona Cohen

More on teaching bike skills:

Teach a child to ride a bike using these 4 steps

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(Photo by Jillian O’Connor)

Make a sand castle

Step 1: Get a bucket.

Step 2: Find a shovel.

Step 3: Find water near sand. (See our list “Find a sandy wading beach!”) Step 4: Fill up said bucket with sand and a little water and build. Use your imagination and play all day! (Make sure to bring a hat and sunscreen.) Warning: Some kids might not ever want to leave the beach. — Jillian O’Connor

 

outdoor fun

Green Lake Boathouse offers many options for getting out on the water. (Photo by Joshua Huston)

Get out on the water

One quintessentially Seattle summer must-do: Boat rentals and tours. With so much of our city surrounded by water, trying your hand at sailing (or at least one of those foot-pedal boats) is a rite of passage. Here are 5 great ways to get out on the water in the city.

Agua Verde Café & Paddle Club: Kayaks and stand-up paddleboard rentals. 1303 NE Boat St., aguaverdepaddleclub.com

Boat rentals at the Green Lake Boathouse: Two- and four-seater pedal boat rentals. Also rowboats, sailboats and stand-up paddleboards. 7351 E. Green Lake Drive N., greenlakeboatrentals.net

Stand-up paddleboard rentals at Surf Ballard: 6300 Seaview Ave. NW, surfballard.com

UW Canoe and Rowboat: Rentals at UW Waterfront Activities Center, directly behind Husky Stadium. Rent canoes or rowboats. washington.edu/ima/waterfront/boat-rentals/

CastOFF! Sunday Public Sail at the Center for Wooden Boats: Various wooden boat rentals, plus free one-hour wooden rowboat rentals. 1010 Valley St., cwb.org/public-sail

And across Lake Washington:

Mercer Slough by Canoe, canoe rentals. 3519 108th Ave. SE, Bellevue; ci.bellevue.wa.us/mercer_slough.htm or canoe-kayak.com

Sit back and sail away

If you want to enjoy your time in the water without risking a single blister, try out these options. (They’re also perfect for babies and kids too young to play captain.)

Seattle Water Tours Ice Cream Cruise: Departs from the northwest side of the Museum of History and Industry in Lake Union Park. seattlewatertours.com/ice-cream-cruises

Emerald City Pirates Family Treasure Cruise: Meet at Lake Union Park on the northwest side of MOHAI (see above). emeraldcitypirates.com/cruises

Electric Boat Company: Electric boats for rent on Lake Union; you’ll be driving yourself. 2046 Westlake Ave. N., theelectricboatco.com

Argosy Cruises: Harbor cruises and Blake Island ferries departing from Pier 55. The Locks Cruise departs either from Pier 55 or from the AGC Marina on South Lake Union. argosycruises.com

West Seattle Water Taxi: On weekdays, departs every 35 minutes from Pier 50 in Seattle and Seacrest Park in West Seattle. On weekends, the schedule is reduced to hourly sailings. Beautiful views of downtown. kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/water-taxi

— Taryn Zier and Natasha Dillinger

More on boating:

On the water: 11 options for Seattle boat rentals and tours

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Views from the Electric Boat tour. (Photo by Natasha Dillinger)

Bike the Burke-Gilman

Once your little one gets the hang of riding a bicycle, take it out for a spin! The Burke-Gilman Trail, which wraps around the northern segment of the city from Ballard to Bothell, offers a 27-mile-long expanse, with no cars allowed. It’s for bikes, bladers, runners and non-motorized scooters only, but be on the lookout for motorized bikes and scooters. — Jillian O’Connor

See a garden that’s so much more.

The Bellevue Botanical Garden, not surprisingly, is teeming with flowers, but it also has sculpture gardens and a suspension bridge. With many things to see, it’s easy to keep little legs moving along paved pathways to catch the next attraction. Some highlights: Waterfalls, a curious little door built into a stone wall, a chair statue named “The Nature of Sitting” and the Ravine Experience, that 150-foot suspension bridge hanging over a rushing stream, surrounded by native foliage and tall trees. Bonus: “Night Blooming,” a huge hivelike structure that captivates child and adult visitors alike. Open from dawn until dusk daily; parking and admission are free. 12001 Main St., bellevuebotanical.org — Jasmin Thankachen

More on the garden: Bellevue Botanical Garden: Come for the bridge (and stay for intriguing sculptures)

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Walking on the suspension bridge at Bellevue Botanical Garden. (Photo by Jasmin Thankachen)

Take a self-guided art tour of Fremont

Check out the two ivy dinosaurs that live almost canalside in Fremont. They roam the earth by the Burke-Gilman Trail, just south of North 34th Street and Phinney Avenue North. While you’re in the area, make sure to say “Hi” to the Fremont Troll (on 34th under the Aurora Bridge) and the six people and a dog waiting for the bus (“Waiting for the Interurban” by Richard Beyer) on North 34th Street near the Fremont Bridge. Look out for the Fremont Rocket and the planet Saturn! And tell them Lenny sent you. (You’ll see that colossal, puzzling, oh-so-Seattle statue of former Soviet Premier Vladimir Lenin near the corner of 34th and Leary.) — Jillian O’Connor

Visit a food forest

The Beacon Food Forest is open to all for self-guided walks from dusk until dawn. And for harvesting! Visitors to the Beacon Hill farm are welcome to come and forage at any time in the open harvest zones. Remember to take only what you need, make sure it’s ripe, leave plenty for others and clean up when you’re done! 15th Avenue South and South Dakota Street, beaconfoodforest.org  — Jillian O’Connor

Visiting dinos at Woodland Park Zoo. (Photo by Natasha Dillinger)

Zoo adventure: See a show, with towering dinosaurs

The Woodland Park Zoo is welcoming evening guests back to the meadow this summer for its 37th annual ZooTunes concert season. During the day, children and their adults can check out the 22 life-size robotic dinosaurs that are staying in the zoo all summer, including the 35-foot-tall brachiosaurus… and a truly amazing Tyrannosaurus rex. zoo.org

Go to a dog beach

If you’ve got a dog with great recall, and a child who follows instructions well, you’ll love scenic Double Bluff Beach on Whidbey Island, where you can let your pups run free on about 2 miles of beach. Another great bet is the Off Leash Area Edmonds, where unfettered canines can swim and make new four-legged pals, too. whidbeycamanoislands.com, 6325 Double Bluff Road, Freeland; 498 Admiral Way S., Edmonds, olae.org — Jillian O’Connor

Chalk it up

Here’s a fun community-building effort: Make sidewalk chalk art! Create a giant rainbow in your driveway for pedestrians to enjoy, or (practicing letters and handwriting) spell out happy messages and decorate them with colorful doodles. — Leah Winters

Make a fairy garden

Kids love fairy gardens almost as much as fairies – and they’re quite simple to make. Find a secluded and protected area in your backyard or a park. Decorate the area with a simple fairy house by using a plain birdhouse and glamming it up with moss, real or fake flowers and other decorations. Fill the area with small trinkets, yarn and shiny objects. This is one project that should be as unique as your child. — Rebecca Mongrain

More backyard ideas: Create a backyard oasis of childhood fun

Open a flower stand

Since COVID-wary patrons might be a little hesitant to purchase lemonade outside this season, your child can instead consider creating a stand for flowers. We might as well not let all those local blooms go to waste, and truth be told, neighbors are often delighted even to see dandelions for sale. If your kid has a small table or box and a few jars, they’re in business! — Jillian O’Connor

Rock out with painted rocks

Take a walk around the neighborhood and collect a few smooth rocks that fit in the palm of your (or your child’s) hand. Use paint or paint pens to decorate them, then hide them again on your walking route. Leaving little treasures for others to find is a great way to build community. — Leah Winters

More ideas: Stay home and make art

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Sunriver’s marina. (Photo by Jillian O’Connor)

Road trip: Sunriver

In the summer, Sunriver is sunny and warm and dry and just what some non-Northwesterners need to feel like summer is really here. (Native Seattleites might even find it too hot, as the average summer temperatures stay firmly in the 80s.) Sunriver, a planned community in central Oregon that dates back to the 1960s, attracts families and keeps them coming back with a great mix of kayaks, canoes, bike paths, pools, water slides, horses, deer, stargazing, walking, sun in the summer and snow in the winter. Oh, and incredible hikes at nearby lava fields, a milelong cave, obsidian paths and pristine Paulina Lake. “A kid wonderland!” one excited Seattle parent told me years ago, just after we discovered this idyllic vacation rental destination for families. It’s a 6-to-7-hour drive from Seattle, and just a 20-minute drive south of Bend, another family favorite. — Jillian O’Connor

More on Sunriver: Parent review | An all-season kid paradise for Seattle area families

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Isa Salazar and Nathanael Cardona-Rosado pitch a tent in Isa’s Everett backyard, complete with a digital campfire. (Photo by Joshua Huston)

 

Camp in your own backyard

Sleeping under the stars is delightful as a child (and for some, as adults). Let your kids set up camp with a simple tent and some blankets. If you’re worried about soggy ground, set them up on a patio, deck or use old wood pallets covered in blankets. Dress them up with twinkle lights for a real show-stopping tent. (For extra excitement, make it a movie night with a screening on a tablet, a laptop or – if you have access to one – a big outdoor screen.) — Rebecca Mongrain

More on backyard camping: Create a backyard oasis of childhood fun

Road trip: Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is a gem on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and a perfect place for a family trip. It’s sprawling and varied, home to mountains, a rainforest, beautiful lakes and hot springs, to name just a few attractions. There are many, many ways to explore and enjoy it all. If your child is up for a long drive the first day, one great short vacation itinerary is to start at Kalaloch Lodge and see the park; next head to Port Angeles, followed by the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and Port Townsend the next day. Finally, catch the Kingston-Edmonds ferry back. — Julie Hanson

More info: Your guide to a family trip to Olympic National Park

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A snowy part of Mount Rainier on a July day. (Photo by Jillian O’Connor)

Road trip: Mount Rainier

Get to the mountain, up close! Highlight for parents: The easy Nisqually Vista Trail affords spectacular views of our crown jewel of mountains in the Pacific Northwest – 14,411-foot Mount Rainier. The only catch, of course, is that it’s about a two-hour drive to get to the park from Seattle, so if this is a day trip, you need to be prepared for a long day of travel. The farthest point provides the best and final viewpoint with signage describing the Nisqually Glacier, which has receded greatly in recent years. On foggy days, you’ll be able to walk amidst the clouds. Cloud cover can be disappointing, but patience pays off as morning clouds often dissipate by afternoon. Fairy Pond will entice young hikers. If you’re lucky, there may still be a few wildflowers to be spotted. — Rebecca Mongrain

More on Nisqually Vista Trail: Short hikes for short legs

Take a day trip to a small town

Take a ferry to Winslow on Bainbridge Island, drive to La Conner, or hop on over to Ellensburg: Simply spend a day in a new place, wandering the streets and spoiling the family with milkshakes and silly souvenirs. You’ll come back with a little bit of buyer’s remorse and a lot of great memories. — Naomi Tomky

More ideas: 14 things to do before summer ends

Road trip: Jetty Island

What’s 2 miles long, a three-minute ferry ride from shore and loads of fun? ­Jetty Island! A quick jaunt from Everett, the island offers an expanse of sandy beach, tidelands and saltwater marshes to explore. (Swimming is allowed on the west shore, but there are no lifeguards.) The ferries run starting on July 5, then continue from Wednesday through Sunday from July 7 through Labor Day. Reservations required. Fee: $3 per person. Kids under 2 free. Departs from Jetty Landing, adjacent to the boat launch at 10th Street and West Marine View Drive in Everett. visiteverett.com — Taryn Zier

More information: Everett’s Lovely Jetty Island is just a Ferry Ride Away

Go for a scoot

Grab a scooter and a helmet and see your park (or even just your block) in a whole new way. Some fun, flat places to get rolling near the beach are Seward Park in southeast Seattle, Golden Gardens in Ballard and Matthews Beach Park in northeast Seattle. For a beginner skate-park experience, try Jefferson Park in Beacon Hill or Dahl Playfield in Wedgwood. — Jillian O’Connor

Play tourist in your own city

If you don’t already have visitors coming, there’s no reason not to pretend that you do as you tour your city’s finest features. Look out at the cityscape from Kerry Park, meander through Pike Place Market (go early to avoid the crowds and snag a tasty breakfast), and go for a walk through the locks in Ballard. — Naomi Tomky

More ideas: 14 things to do before summer ends

outdoor fun

The Mengistu family takes in the views on a hike at Lincoln Park. The park’s level trails are perfect for tiny hikers. (Photo by Joshua Huston)


Go for a hike

Whether you’ve got a big kid or a little one, there’s a trek for you. There are fantastic hikes under 2 miles to be found at Snoqualmie Falls, Franklin Falls, Tiger Mountain, Carkeek Park, Schmitz Preserve Park, Lincoln Park and Mount Rainier. For big kids ready for a greater challenge, try these steeper, much longer trails: North Bend’s Annette Lake (7.5 miles), Boulder River Wilderness (8.6 miles), Little Si (4.7 miles) and Talapus Lake (6.2 miles). — researched by Rebecca Mongrain and Annalise Bender-Brown

More on little kid hikes:

Short hikes for short legs

More on big kid hikes:

Hikes within 90 minutes of Seattle

outdoor fun

Cookbook author Hsiao-Ching Chou and her kids, Shen Riddle, 12, and Meilee Riddle, 14, enjoy a meal in their backyard. (Photo by Joshua Huston)

Prepare for picnics

Impromptu picnics will happen more often if you get organized early and keep your supplies stocked. Gather reusable plates, utensils, napkins, a picnic blanket, lots of food storage bags and a cooler. Be extra prepared with sunscreen, a first-aid kit, masks and hand sanitizer. Pack it all in a picnic basket and you’ll be ready to picnic at a moment’s notice! — Rebecca Mongrain

More on picnic prep:

Tips and ideas for a fun, easy, kid-friendly picnic

A ‘Chinese Soul Food’ picnic

Grab fish and chips with a view

Ivar’s is the Seattle classic with its multiple locations and “Keep Clam!” sense of humor. Feed the seagulls (yes, it’s allowed!) at its Alaskan Way fish bar. Watch the boats and city skyline from the deck at the Salmon House on Lake Union. See Lake Washington and Boeing from the Renton location. Multiple locations, ivars.com

Alki Spud Fish and Chips also has a long history and prime spot. Bring a blanket in case you can’t nab a picnic table on the beach. 2666 Alki Ave SW, Seattle, alkispud.com.

Burien Fish House serves a variety of fish (plus to-die-for fish tacos) in a strip mall. 133 SW 153rd St, Burien, theburienfishhouse.com.

West Seattle Fish House (no relation) draws fans to its little storefront spot along 35th Avenue SW. 9005 35th Ave SW, Seattle.

Emerald City Fish and Chips on Rainier Avenue adds a Southern touch – including crab puppies and shrimp po’boys – to a Northwest favorite. 3756 Rainier Avenue, Seattle, emeraldcityfishandchips.com. — Julie Hanson

Make a mud pie

Get ready for some messy, muddy, pie-in-the-sky fun! Don’t throw out those old pie pans, ladles, whisks, muffin tins and mixing bowls; they’re the perfect tools for an outdoor mud kitchen. Here’s how to set that up: Use an old bench or crates as a surface. Mix dirt with water and scoop the mud into pans. Add rocks for the pie’s “berries,” pat down the tops and bake the mud pies in an imaginary oven. Serve mud pie on plastic plates for a “delicious” pretend treat. — Jasmin Thankachen

Plant a garden

Plant cucumbers, melons, berries, tomatoes, peppers, beans and greens this summer! It’s too late for seeds, so you’ll need starts to do this in summer. Purchase plant starts at a local nursery and use nutrient-rich soil to feed your veggies. (Fun fact: Container gardening is a convenient way to garden while keeping the bunnies and deer away.) Help little ones dig holes in pots or in the ground, place the plants, and cover them with soil, then water. On hot summer days, water the plants in the evenings to help with moisture retention. After a few weeks, pick your fruits and veggies for a feast! — Jasmin Thankachen

Do the park circuit

This summer, make it a point to visit a new park. Or get ambitious and try for one every week. Here are some must-see parks in and around Seattle: Wallingford Playfield (which has a fort!); Juanita Beach Park (a brand-new, all-abilities park with a sandy beach!); Bellevue’s Inspiration Playground (a super-imaginative park built for all abilities); Exploration Park in Mill Creek (which is nature-themed); Jefferson Park and Othello Playground (both in South Seattle, both with super-cool slides);  Miner’s Corner in Bothell (which is shaded, with cool climbing structures, and is good for all ages); and Forest Park in Everett (which has a small animal farm and spray park). — Allison Holm

outdoor fun

Jefferson Park (Photo from seattle.gov)

Splish and splash: Find a spray park, play in a wading pool

Spray parks and wading pools are gold for parents of the under-5 crowd. Little sunbathers can splish, splash and paddle without the risks of a deep end or sudden drop-offs. While you can find both spray parks and wading pools all over the Seattle area, here are a few tried-and-true faves.

Spray parks

  • Crossroads Spray Park, Bellevue
  • Grasslawn Park, Redmond
  • Forest Park, Everett
  • Willis Tucker Park, Snohomish
  • Tukwila Spray Park, Tukwila
  • Jefferson Park, Seattle
  • Northacres Park, North Seattle

Wading Pools

  • Green Lake wading pool
  • Lincoln Park wading pool
  • Volunteer Park wading pool

— Allison Holm

More on spray parks: Spray parks are back! 15 Seattle-area spray parks to cool off in this summer

More on wading pools: Wading pools are open: 11 places to dip your toes

Go wading at a sandy beach

Here in the PNW, we’re used to rocky beaches. They’re great for tide-pooling, but not so much for building sandcastles. But who says you need to hop a plane to Hawaii to find soft sand and warm(ish) water that stays shallow 100 yards out? Kirkland’s Juanita Beach is perfect for toddlers and kids just learning to swim: the water stays fairly shallow all the way out to the wrap-around dock. Further east, Idylwood Beach Park on Lake Sammamish is beautiful: There’s crystal-blue water, white sand and a great playground. Angle Lake in SeaTac has sandy, shallow waters, plus a cool spray pad, and Jetty Island off the Everett waterfront has an ideal sandy beach. It’s a commitment to get there, as the island is accessible only by boat (you can take the $3 foot ferry). But the long stretches of sand and warm, shallow water make carrying beach chairs and cooler bags well worth it. (See “Road trip: Jetty Island” in this issue.) — Allison Holm

Pick your own summer berries

Visiting a U-pick berry farm is the quintessential summer activity, and we have many great berry-picking options around Puget Sound. July and August yield blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, all of which you can pick straight from the plants at a local U-pick. Here are some of our favorites: Biringer Farm and Bryant Blueberry Farm and Nursery (both in Arlington, both have small playgrounds). Remlinger Farms, Harvold Berry Farm, and Blue Dog Farm (all in Carnation). Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm in Bellevue, and Canter-Berry Farms in Auburn. Most U-picks provide containers. It’s a good idea to have cash on hand. Always make sure to check the farm’s website to confirm when it will be open. — Allison Holm

Biringer: 21412 59th Ave. NE, Arlington, biringerfarm.com

Bryant: 5628 Grandview Road, Arlington, bryantblueberries.com

Remlinger: 32610 NE 32nd St., Carnation, remlingerfarms.com

Harvold: 5207 Carnation Duvall Road NE, Carnation, harvoldberryfarm.wixsite.com/harvoldberryfarm

Blue Dog: 7125 W. Snoqualmie Valley Road NE, Carnation, bluedogfarm.com

Larsen: Larsen Lake, 700 148th Ave. SE, Bellevue, bellevuewa.gov
Canter-Berry: 19102 SE Green Valley Road, Auburn, canterberryfarms.com

Go for a spin on a mountain bike

Issaquah’s Duthie Hill Park, one of the country’s first progressive mountain biking parks, has a mountain biking trail for all skill levels. The easiest trails, designed for the most novice riders, build up to expert trails. Each trail takes about 10 to 15 minutes to ride and meets back up in the central clearing, making it easy for families with varied abilities to split up and connect again later. 26300 SE Issaquah-Fall City Road, Issaquah. — Naomi Tomky

More on mountain biking:

Go wheels-up in Issaquah

Alexandria Wallace and her son at Frankie and Jo’s. (Photo by Joshua Huston)

Find a frozen treat. Eat it!

Seattle doesn’t have all that many really hot days, but it does have a delightful array of frozen-treat options to enjoy when the sun starts beating down. Whether you’re reconnecting with your kids after picking them up from day camp, or taking a pit stop between weekend activities, these times over ice cream are great moments to bond and chat. Here are some favorite spots.

Bottega Italiana

1425 First Ave., Seattle, bottegaitaliana.com

Laina’s Handmade Ice Cream
9701 Rainier Ave S., Seattle, lainasicecream.com

Full Tilt Ice Cream
Locations in White Center, Columbia City, and Ballard, fulltilticecream.com

Frankie & Jo’s (all vegan)
Locations in Ballard, Capitol Hill and University Village, frankieandjos.com

Husky Deli
4721 California Ave. SW, huskydeli.com

Bluebird Ice Cream
7415 Greenwood Ave. N.

Seattle Pops
1401 N. 45th St. (also at farmers markets), seattlepops.com

Sweet Alchemy Ice Creamery
Locations in University District, Ballard and Capitol Hill, sweetalchemyicecreamery.com

Sapling Gelato
1223 McKenzie Ave., Bremerton, saplinggelato.com

Milk Drunk
2805 Beacon Ave. S., Seattle, themilkdrunk.com

Medzo Gelato Bar
917 SW 152nd St., Burien, medzogelatobar.com

D’Ambrosio Gelato
5339 Ballard Ave. NW, dambrosiogelato.com

Fainting Goat Gelato
Locations in Wallingford and Fremont, faintinggoatseattle.com

Molly Moon’s
Multiple locations in Seattle and on the Eastside, mollymoon.com

Salt & Straw
Locations in Ballard, Capitol Hill and Totem Lake, saltandstraw.com

Nutty Squirrel Gelato
Locations in Magnolia and Phinney Ridge, nuttysquirrel.com

— Fiona Cohen

Cama Beach State Park (Photo by Jillian O’Connor)

Road trip: Whidbey and Camano islands

Whidbey Island: Accessible by ferry or car. To the north, Deception Pass Bridge boasts some of the most stunning views you’ll ever see. Fort Ebey State Park’s west-facing shoreline is a must. Next, head over to adorable Coupeville to see its historic waterfront and wharf. Just east of town, the Price Sculpture Forest, a whimsical blend of nature and art, spans 16 acres. To the south lies Langley, the “village by the sea.” Grab a pint at the Whidbey Island Distillery, and learn about whales at the Whale Center. (Don’t miss: Whidbey Island Fair; July 15 to 18.)

More on Whidbey Island: Parent review | Hidden fun at Whidbey’s Price Sculpture Forest

Camano Island: No need for a ferry. Camano is just a 50-minute drive from Seattle. The island is home to two state parks – Cama Beach State Park (check out the 1930s-era fishing cabins and the Center for Wooden Boats) and nearby Camano Island State Park. Build driftwood forts at sandy Iverson Beach or spot gnomes along the Hobbit Trail at Iverson Spit. Make sure to stop by Freedom Park for playground time before the drive home. — Allison Holm

More on Camano Island: These waterfront beach cabins may be just the change of scenery your family needs

Road trip: San Juan Islands

The San Juans are home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the U.S. and are a must-do for anyone visiting (or living in) the Pacific Northwest. Summertime offers plenty of camping options: Orcas Island’s Moran State Park features more than 30 miles of hiking trails, five freshwater lakes and gorgeous views from the top of Mount Constitution. Friday Harbor on San Juan Island bustles with plenty of shops and restaurants. (Downriggers offers kids’ menus and a view of the harbor, and you can find the makings of a picnic at Kings Market.) Drive to the island’s west side and whale-watch from Lime Kiln Point State Park. Lopez Island – nicknamed “the friendly isle” – is a bicyclist’s dream with its gently rolling landscape. Check out Shark Reef Sanctuary, where you’ll be sure to spot sea lions basking in the sun. — Allison Holm

This feature was produced by staff and contributors, from new and archival material from Seattle’s Child magazine and SeattlesChild.com.

July/August 2021

This story and more are in the July/August 2021 print edition, available at bookstores and newsstands starting on July 1, 2021.

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