The perfect postcard scene of a ferry gliding across the Puget Sound can actually hold the key to a new family adventure. We are lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest, where a ferry can transport you out of your neighborhood, and out of your ordinary routine.
Bainbridge Island is a short, 35-minute ferry ride from Pier 52 in Seattle. Your family can easily walk on as passengers and enjoy a day's worth of activities, all within walking distance from the dock. If you plan to visit some of the parks on the island, you might consider driving onto the ferry.
The banners on Bainbridge read, "Small Town, Big Heart." We soon discovered this to be true. Bainbridge offers many family-friendly places to spend the day.
Be sure to put the Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu) at the top of your list. How does a giant Lite-Brite sound? At KiDiMu, it was as impressive as you can imagine. Walk into this museum, and you will have to look up to find your kids; chances are they will have already scrambled up the ladder and into a pirate tree house. Next they will glide down a slide into an exhibit called "Our Town," a kid-sized replica of a town featuring such familiar places as a grocery store, clinic, bank and ferry. The possibilities for imaginative play here are endless.
Kids Discovery Museum
Upstairs, under cheerful decorations of colorful hula hoops and giant paper pinwheels, golf balls spin, fly and roll in a series of exhibits that not only educate but entertain. The museum is well designed for children of all ages. There is a hand-operated mechanical dinosaur skeleton, a traveling ball wall for the young engineers, and a soapbox derby car. Hand sanitizer dispensers on the walls and a play area just for children younger than 2 are thoughtful additions.U
The new Bainbridge Island Museum of Art just opened next door, and the Historical Museum is just up the street, offering a great collection of places to add to your visit.
Tonya J. Cunningham
Also within walking distance is the Waterfront Park. Pass the Town & Country Market on your way and pick up a picnic lunch to enjoy as you watch the ferries dock. Waterfront Park features a playground, picnic tables and walking paths along the beach.
Bon Bon Confections, MORA Iced Creamery, Calico Cat Toy Shoppe and Eagle Harbor Book Co. will tempt you to stay in downtown Bainbridge. But, put on your hiking boots and some sunscreen, and visit some of the island's parks. The drive itself is picturesque as you pass an umbrella cart with a hand-decorated sign advertising "Herbs and Flowers" and a quaint art gallery. Grand old houses peer out from behind stately trees.
Drive to Battle Point Park, open the car doors and let the kids blow off some steam at the impressive playground. This kid-designed playground is the result of a major grassroots effort led by the community's support of its children and their dedication to healthy outdoor play. A short trail from Battle Point leads to Grand Forest Park for more hiking. If you brought your bikes, take advantage of the two-mile bike path circling the park. Battle Point Park also boasts an observatory, soccer fields, roller hockey, tennis courts, and, yes, flush toilets and full soap dispensers.
At Fay Bainbridge Park, the beach becomes your child's playground. A harbor seal popped up out of the water to greet us as we observed sea anemones at low tide. Driftwood became a teeter totter. Adirondack chairs invited us to rest among the sea grasses as we tried to spot a whale. Clouds swiftly formed patterns over the water as we searched for the best piece of sea glass and the elusive agate. Be sure to allow your family enough time to explore the beach and enjoy the peace of the waves. There are campsites available at the park, and a beautiful stone picnic shelter, if you wish to extend your stay.
If your family comes home tired with smiles on their faces, a smooth rock in their pocket and sand in their shoes, it was a good day on Bainbridge Island. The best part of the day is simply that you get to spend it together, as a family.
IF YOU GO
Recommended Indoor Stops
Bon Bon Confections: Kids and candy make a happy combination! While I admired the selection of imported candy bars and the whimsical décor, the children hunted for their favorite treats. Fudge is made fresh daily in the store, with samples at the counter. This store was crowded with excited kids, and equally excited parents, waiting to indulge their sweet tooth. 230 Winslow Way E. 206-780-0199; www.bonboncandies.com.
Calico Cat Toy Shoppe: This local toy store carries all of the favorites: Calico Critters, Groovy Girls, Brio, Playmobile and LEGO. These toys aren’t just beckoning from boxes on the shelves, demo toys and displays allow your children to play throughout the store. 104 Winslow Way W. 206-842-7720; www.calicocattoys.com.
The Curious Child: This education-based toy store sells quality new toys, previously loved toys, and an impressive selection of vintage comic books. Browse this welcoming, open space where your children are allowed to touch the merchandise, and leave with a new activity for the car ride home. 1050 Hildebrand Lane N.E. 206-842-2793; www.thecuriouschildsemporium.com.
Eagle Harbor Book Co.: We spent a lot of time at this local, independent bookstore. The kids were content to sit at the mini table and chairs with new books from the well-stocked children’s section. A very large and comfortable chair is the perfect spot for a quiet moment of reading to a child on your lap. 157 Winslow Way E. 206-842-5332; www.eagleharborbooks.com.
Kids Discovery Museum: Leave time for this award winning, hands-on museum for children of all ages. There is something for everyone in your family to enjoy together. 301 Ravine Lane. 206-855-4650; www.kidimu.org.
MORA Iced Creamery: Experience for yourself just how delicious this ice cream truly is. There was a line out the door, but it was worth the wait. You may feel the urge to visit Bainbridge again, just for another taste of this handcrafted from scratch ice cream and sorbet. 139 Madrone Lane. 206-855-1112; www.moraicecream.com.
Recommended Outdoor Spots
Battle Point Park: 90 acres of open space include trails and a large children’s play structure.
Fay Bainbridge Park: Explore this 17-acre marine camping park with a driftwood strewn beach.
Fort Ward Park: Once a place of military importance, it’s now a marine park, with an underwater park for scuba divers. Trails wind down to the beach.
Grand Forest: Enjoy a 240-acre park with hiking trails through wetlands and forests.
Waterfront Park: One of the most popular gathering places for island residents and visitors alike, the park hosts annual festivals, summer performances, special events, picnics and music performances.
Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District: Visit their helpful website to find all of the parks on the island, with information about each one. www.biparks.org.
Check out the special events happening on the island this summer at the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce’s website. As well, ask at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum’s front desk about their scavenger hunt, which sends you visiting historical sites around the island. The Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park offers a monthly planetarium show and stargazing parties, too.
Nearby Places of Note
Tranquility and children aren’t normally a great combination, but at the Bloedel Reserve, breathtaking landscapes and world-renowned gardens may leave your family speechless. Children 12 and younger may enter for free, and the reserve is just a 15-minute drive from the ferry dock. Just beyond Bloedel is the new Suquamish Museum & Arts Center. Chief Seattle was one of the ancestral leaders of the Suquamish Nation. To learn more about him, and much more about this tribe’s legends, arts and customs, visit this fascinating museum. Located on the south end of Bainbridge Island, at the intersection of Point White Drive Northeast and Lynwood Center Road, is Lynwood Center, a newly revitalized area with the Historic Lynwood Theater, welcoming shops and Island Cool frozen yogurt.
Tonya J. Cunningham is a freelance writer and poet living in Lake Forest Park. When her three children aren’t in their usual cleats and ballet slippers, she loads them into the van and leads them on new adventures.