No one chooses to live in the Seattle region because it’s outrageously expensive; we live here because it’s outrageously beautiful. The best part is, you don’t need a waterfront mansion or to belong to an exclusive club to enjoy the views. You can just go to a public park.
We’ve rounded up playgrounds with the most stunning views in the Seattle area. Even with vaccinations underway and the state easing COVID-19 restrictions, remember to keep taking safety precautions. .
Gas Works Park
Like Pike Place Market, Gas Works Park is a must-see when you’re hosting out-of-town guests (back when we used to host out-of-town guests). It’s so iconic Seattle, with the sweeping views of the Seattle skyline, houseboats hugging the edges of Lake Union. Somehow, the rusting metal structures and the fact that it was built on a heap of trash adds to its charm. Located on the edge of Wallingford, you definitely get a sense of that funky Seattle spirit at Gas Works. On a recent weekend, we encountered break dancers, a drum circle, and a horde of electric bikes and Burley trailers parked by the playground.
What a playground! Built in 2018, this one is designed for adventurous kids who love a challenge. The star attraction is an enormous rope climber, and everything around it wobbles or spins in a terrifying, thrilling way. The scariest part of the park, however, is the grassy lawn. Beware: So. Much. Goose poop.
2101 N. Northlake Way, Seattle; seattle.gov/parks
Meydenbauer Bay Park
Less than half a mile from the hustle and bustle of Bellevue Square lies the gorgeous Meydenbauer Bay Park, just completed in 2019. This park is carved out of a very steep lot, which means it’s tough for strollers but, wow, that view! There are lookout points from the street level all the way down to the water, some 70 feet below. Walk along the curved pier jutting out into Meydenbauer Bay and you’ll find a fun surprise at the end.
A nature-inspired playground overlooks a sandy beach with the poshest park restrooms I’ve ever seen. That combination right there is heaven on earth for young families.
9899 Lake Washington Blvd. N.E.; bellevuewa.gov
Ella Bailey Park
Everyone knows about Kerry Park in Queen Anne. It’s usually packed with people taking Insta-worthy selfies. There’s even a small playground directly below the viewpoint, with a climbing wall and slide built into the hillside.
Very few people know about Ella Bailey Park, a quiet neighborhood treasure in sleepy Magnolia. It has a perfect panorama of the Seattle skyline, from the Space Needle to the stadiums to Mount Rainier on a clear day. Ella Bailey is the low-key version of Kerry Park.
The playground equipment is by Kompan, which isn’t my favorite because it’s full of little knobs and bumps I can’t figure out. But we do love the flat, paved path circling the playground. It’s great for beginning bikers (you can watch them circle, you don’t have to chase them). Note that there is no restroom on-site, only a portable toilet.
2601 W. Smith St., Seattle; seattle.gov/parks
Luther Burbank Park
While there are lots of public parks along the water, Luther Burbank is one that really stands out because it has literally everything you could want in a park. Plus, it’s easy to get to (right off I-90, on the tip of Mercer Island) with plenty of parking, two key factors in a successful excursion with kids.
So, about those amenities. Supercool playground with a zip line. The beach. An off-leash dog park for your four-legged babies, including a separate area just for small dogs. A boardwalk through wetlands. Pretty meadows for picnics or family portraits. Nice walking trails. Public art. An amphitheater. Benches to enjoy the water views.
What are you waiting for?
2040 84th Ave. S.E., Mercer Island; mercerisland.gov
Yesler Terrace Park
Yesler Terrace Park sits at the intersection of four dynamic neighborhoods — First Hill, the Central District, Capitol Hill and Little Saigon. From its spot in the middle of the city, you get a 360-degree view from the playground perched high on a terraced lot.
Yesler Terrace is also a place where you can see how rapidly the city is changing. Built in the 1940s as low-income public housing, it’s where Jimi Hendrix and former Gov. Gary Locke grew up. The old two-story town houses are being replaced with shiny modern high-rises, with a fabulous new playground to match.
This playground, circa 2018, is best for kids who love to climb. There’s a huge fort and a web of ropes. The funniest feature is the slide built into the hill, which has rollers like a luggage conveyor belt.
There’s even free two-hour parking at the adjoining Yesler Community Center. (In this part of the city, finding street parking is no joke.)
From the lower level of the park, you can take a newly built staircase/ramp combo down to Little Saigon. It drops you off conveniently right in front of Lan Huê Sandwich and Bakery. Fresh banh mi? Don’t mind if I do.
917 Yesler Way, Seattle; seattle.gov/parks