Seattle's Child

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Explore the Arboretum: Cool Kits for Kids, Families Help Guide the Way

The end of summer doesn't mean it's time to head indoors. September brings some of the most pleasant weather of the year, perfect for exploring the outdoors and the spectacular change of seasons from summer to fall. You'll find plenty to discover at Washington Park Arboretum, where you and the kids can take self-guided tours of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens.

The Explorer and Family Adventure Packs include backpacks stuffed with field guides, magnifying lenses, scavenger hunts and tips on activities for children in grades kindergarten through six.

Families can choose the Wetland Wonders pack and experience Foster Island with binoculars, field guides and games. Or pick up the Family Tree kit to explore the 230-acre Arboretum at your own pace with field equipment, maps and suggested activities. The two-hour rentals accommodate up to five people and are $7 or free with an Arboretum membership. They're available at the Graham Visitors Center (2300 Arboretum Dr. E., Seattle) on a first-come first-served basis.

For larger groups of up to 15 children, check out one of the Explorer Packs, which are free from April to June. During the rest of the year, they're $20. There are two year-round packs: Marsh Madness and Tree-tective. The three seasonal kits are: Signs of Spring, Autumn Adventures and Sense of Winter. It's best to call and reserve a pack at least a week in advance.

The Arboretum celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and is hosting many events throughout the year. Be sure to call or e-mail ahead of time to make sure that you're not setting out for a quiet day of exploring the woods, only to find them rocking with celebration.

Consider arriving early to scan through the pack and familiarize yourself with its contents. It may help the self-guided tour go a bit more smoothly. A few other tips: Dress for weather. Bring a picnic and make a day of it.



Where: Washington Park Arboretum, 2300 Arboretum Dr. E., Seattle. Visit the Web site at

When: Some kits are available year round, others are seasonal. Kits can be picked up at the Graham Visitors Center between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily. You’ll need to leave a license at the information desk while you go on your two-hour tour.

Cost: Family Packs are $7 or free with membership. Explorer Packs are $20, but are free from April to June.

Contact: Washington Park Arboretum; 206-543-8801 or email at

Melanthia M. Peterman is a Seattle writer and mother of a toddler.

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Melanthia M. Peterman