Hooray for spring! We are so excited to see the sun out, the trees blossoming and the playgrounds mercifully reopened.

Vaccinations are underway, but in my family, we’re playing it safe and staying out of closed spaces. Why take that risk now, when playgrounds are free and fun and have lots of air circulation?

Here are some of the coolest playgrounds, with unique features, that we’ve found in the Seattle area. Bring hand sanitizer, mask up and keep your distance from people outside your household. Come and play!

Surrey Downs Park

11177 S.E. Fourth St., Bellevue

At Bellevue’s Surrey Downs Park, Sofi-Bella Paprota, 4, rides the park’s zip line. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
At Bellevue’s Surrey Downs Park, Sofi-Bella Paprota, 4, rides the park’s zip line. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

This hidden gem, which opened in 2019, is hands down our favorite playground. My kids are obsessed with the “elevator” feature — there’s no other playground with one like it that I know of. (If I’m wrong, I would love to know where we can find another one.) It’s like riding down a firefighter’s pole on a little platform, so it’s an “elevator” that only goes down? The playground also includes a rad zip line, beautiful picnic pavilions, a bike loop, a cool double-seater swing and a peek-a-boo view of Mount Rainier.

I try really hard to stay out of most park restrooms, but the two family restrooms here are actually pretty nice.

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Bonus: Surrey Downs Park is just a few blocks from Xiao Chi Jie, a favorite of The Seattle Times’ food critics. Pick up some delicious soup dumplings on your way home.

Seattle Children’s PlayGarden

1745 24th Ave. S., Seattle

At Seattle Children’s PlayGarden, inclusive program director Hannah Gallagher rests on a low play structure designed for kids with disabilities. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
At Seattle Children’s PlayGarden, inclusive program director Hannah Gallagher rests on a low play structure designed for kids with disabilities. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

Magical. There’s no other word to describe Seattle Children’s PlayGarden.

The PlayGarden was designed to be accessible to all children. You’ll notice that the play area, renovated in 2018, has everything set low to the ground so kids who use wheelchairs can use them, too. While usually the PlayGarden is open to all, because of COVID-19, it is limiting visitors to children with disabilities, their parents and their friends, from sunup to sundown every day.

This place isn’t just a playground, it’s an entire special world. Chickens and ducks wander freely, and you can peek at bunnies in their hutch. Silly topiaries are everywhere: a bush shaped like a giant smiley face, a bunny riding a bicycle, a giraffe. The landscaping isn’t just pretty; it’s tasty, too. In the summer, you can snack on the ring of blueberry bushes around the playground. My car-loving kids get a kick out of the old Mazda truck turned oversized planter. 

The PlayGarden just feels like a really happy place made for kids.

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Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park

5361 Yacht Club Road, Tacoma

It only took $75 million, but in 2019, Tacoma transformed a former Superfund site into a stunning waterfront park.

There’s no playground here, per se, but you can take a series of slides and stairs down a 60-foot slope to the marina below. This is a real-life Chutes and Ladders, and it comes with sweeping views of the Sound and a terrific quad workout.

The top of the slides start next to the 605-foot-long Wilson Way pedestrian bridge, which connects Point Defiance Park and Ruston Way. The park also includes 11 acres of beautifully landscaped park above the capped Asarco slag heap, and a paved pedestrian trail looping around the peninsula.

Deane’s Children’s Park

5701 Island Crest Way, Mercer Island

At Deane’s Children’s Park on Mercer Island, Leo Wisniewski, 5, peers in the mouth of a big concrete dragon. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
At Deane’s Children’s Park on Mercer Island, Leo Wisniewski, 5, peers in the mouth of a big concrete dragon. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

Its official name is Deane’s Children’s Park, but everyone calls it “Dragon Park” for the 45-foot-long, 6.5-foot-tall concrete dragon that lives there. Created by artist Kenton Pies, the dragon is part public art, part play structure. This dragon, completed in 2013, replaced an older version that the artist made in 1965 (whose head you can still see resting nearby).

When your brave knights are done slaying the dragon, head over to the appropriately castle-themed fort.

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Carkeek Park

950 N.W. Carkeek Park Road, Seattle

Carkeek Park playground in Seattle has a salmon slide, along with one of the best salmon-watching spots in the city. (JiaYing Grygiel)
Carkeek Park playground in Seattle has a salmon slide, along with one of the best salmon-watching spots in the city. (JiaYing Grygiel)

Carkeek Park is the best salmon-watching spot in the city. Every fall, you can see hundreds of chum and coho splashing their way up Piper’s Creek. The park even has a salmon-themed play area with a giant fish slide. Enter through the big hooked jaws if you dare, and exit by its tail.

The playground doesn’t offer a lot in terms of fort structures, but there’s a big grassy field for flying kites, wooded trails to explore, and the million-dollar view of the Olympic Mountains doesn’t hurt either. Take the pedestrian bridge over the BNSF Railway to the rocky beach. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a passing train.

Jennings Memorial Park

6915 Armar Road, Marysville

Jennings Memorial Park in Marysville has a dinosaur-themed playground, along with a Master Gardener’s demonstration garden, a stocked fishing pond and nature trails. (JiaYing Grygiel, 2019)
Jennings Memorial Park in Marysville has a dinosaur-themed playground, along with a Master Gardener’s demonstration garden, a stocked fishing pond and nature trails. (JiaYing Grygiel, 2019)

Looking for a truly dino-mite place to spend the day? There’s tons to explore at Jennings Memorial Park: a beautiful Master Gardener’s demonstration garden, a stocked fishing pond, nature trails — and a Jurassic-themed playground. Follow the enormous footprints into the play area, and try the ride-on Tyrannosaurus rex and the Stegosaurus climber. 

Our favorite feature is the zip line, which has a seat big enough for younger kids to ride with a parent. Your budding paleontologists can’t help but have a roarsome good time here.