Places to picnic, beautiful gardens for walking…a MUST DO in the spring. Arboretum at the UW. http://depts.washington.edu/uwbg/index.php.
Beach Naturalist Program sponsored by the Seattle Arboretum. During the summer, knowledgeable and friendly volunteers are out at certain beaches, answering questions and teaching about the all types of beach life. Their schedule for this summer isn’t up yet, but make sure to check it out closer to summer: http://www.seattleaquarium.org/page.aspx?pid=267
Spring: Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. We like to start at the Golden Glen Creamery and take their field tour, but there are numerous fields available (both free and paid). Info can be found at www.tulipfestival.org.
Springbrook Trout Farm, Renton. You’ll have to call them after mid-April to find out their hours (they don’t have a website), but this place is fun! Kids are guaranteed to catch a trout. We’ve brought ours home for dinner (they’re small, but the kids think it’s cool to catch their meal). Open from April-October. 253.852.0360
Summer: Jetty Island. Small ferry ride, beaches, free programs, swimming…our summer fav place! http://www.everettwa.org/default.aspx?ID=503
Fall: Harvest picking (fruits and vegetables). Technically available all year, but this just tends to be the time my family does this. We use the site www.pickyourown.org to find specific orchards.
We also love the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe (late August). It’s just the right size, with plenty of rides and animals. Once my kids got past the nap-stage, we started going for the entire day, but we actually leave around 4 pm and eat dinner in Monroe at Red Robin. Sure, we had to pay for parking twice, but we find this cheaper than eating at the fair…the food prices are ridiculous!
Winter: Lights of Christmas at Warm Beach. Over 1 million lights, a “talking” Douglas fir tree, train ride, carolers and much, much more. www.warmbeach.com (you can go for the evening, but I highly recommend staying overnight.)
Northwest Railway Museum and Train Ride, Snoqualmie: Have fun climbing on some old trains, check out the museum and ride a train. www.trainmuseum.org. This organization also sponsors special train events, such as “Day out with Thomas” and a Santa Train.
Take a Bus. Buses are readily available in both King and Snohomish counties and are always fun for kids (especially if you find a route that uses a “double” bus and you let them sit in the middle.) We like to ride into Seattle and visit the Seattle Public Library (their “stairless” floor system is so cool). But with little ones, start with a short bus ride, just 15 minutes or less.
Ferry Ride and USS Turner Joy Navy Destroyer: Start your day as a walk-on passenger on the Seattle/Bremerton ferry route, and then when you dismount in Bremerton, you are within walking distance of the USS Turner Joy, a retired Navy destroyer-turned-museum. www.ussturnerjoy.org.
Up and Down Fun: When my oldest was 3, we could easily spend thirty minutes at the Bellevue Nordstrom, just riding the escalators up and down. When he got tired of that, we went and took the glass elevator in the mall. When we’re in downtown Seattle, the Convention Center is a favorite place to go ride the escalators (still is…three incredibly long escalators in a row…up and down; up and down….)
Worth the Drive:
CWU Chimposium in Ellensburg, WA. March-November. Must call 509-963-2244 for details about available dates. Hour-long talks featuring CWU’s signing chimps. Worth the drive (less than two hours).
Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad (Steam Engine). In the shadow of Mt. Rainier, but definitely fun to ride a steam engine. Take a picnic! www.mrsr.com
The Reptile Man’s “Serpentarium” in Monroe: An enormous collection of reptiles, many of which your kids can hold (ew!). Their newest arrival…a two-headed turtle! www.reptileman.com.
The Whale Museum. Friday Harbor. If your little one loves these big guys, this is the spot to go! www.whale-museum.org.
Cedar River Watershed Education Center, North Bend. Okay, the name sounds boring, but this interactive center is a blast. Kids follow the many paths a drop of water (ping-pong ball) can take! When you’re done, plan to picnic at Rattlesnake Lake right next to the center. http://www.seattle.gov/util/About_SPU/Water_System/Water_Sources_&_Treatment/Cedar_River_Education_Center/index.asp
The cities of Mountlake Terrace and Federal Way have the coolest indoor pools around. Both of these pools are fantastic fun and both feature a lazy river and a shallow toddler swim and play area. Federal Way pool has a water slide to boot!
Mountlake Terrace: http://www.cityofmlt.com/cityServices/recreation/indoorPool/indoorPool.htm
Federal Way: http://www.cityoffederalway.com/Page.aspx?page=1310
-posted by Donna Venning, who admits that living only a mile away from IKEA has spoiled her…their one-hour playland is a great outing…mom can have coffee with friends while the kids play in the ball room!