Water bottles, check. Sunscreen, check. Ready for adventure? Check.
We spent more time on the freeways this past month than in all of 2020, and we couldn’t have been happier driving around to scope out all the new playgrounds in the Seattle area. While we were staying home and staying healthy last year, the playground elves have been busy at work building new spaces for kids to explore.
We love playgrounds because they’re free and superfun.
Take advantage of these warm, sunny days to visit these eight fantastic Seattle-area playgrounds that opened within the past year.
Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in Renton wins! This beautiful park stretching along the south end of Lake Washington really has it all. The centerpiece of the playground is one sprawling fort with many ways up, in and around. There is also a separate fort for tots, a web climber and three banks of swings. There are teeter-totters and spinners that a whole mess of kids can pile on, and there are other teeter-totters and spinners designed for one or two. My kids counted 12 slides here — their favorite was the tall slide with a spiral ramp.
When you’re worn out from the playground, there’s a sandy, lifeguard-attended beach and even a Kidd Valley and Ivar’s right in the park.
1201 Lake Washington Blvd. N., Renton
Most terrifying for parents/thrilling for kids
Some people like wine pairings; I’m into playground pairings. Sunset Neighborhood Park is a six-minute drive from Gene Coulon Park, making it an easy twofer.
There’s a ton of new construction going up around Sunset Neighborhood Park. Imagine how amazing it would be to live in one of the completed units, just upstairs from the Renton Highlands Library and across the street from a 30-foot-tall rope climber. The top of that pyramid is level with a nearby four-story building! There’s a squishy rubber ground surface, but still, I nearly had a heart attack while my kids had a blast.
The three rope webs are connected for maximum Spidey fun, and the brand-new on-site restrooms are an extra bonus. If heights aren’t your thing, try out the cool misters, the smaller play fort and a set of exercise equipment.
2680 Sunset Lane N.E., Renton
Most creative idea
We’ve never seen another one like it: The playground at West Fenwick Park in Kent is laid out like a life-size board game. It’s called Slides and Climbers, aka the nontrademarked version of Chutes and Ladders. A rainbow path interspersed with ladders, slides and spinners along the way leads you to a finish at the base of a tunnel slide.
3808 S. Reith Road, Kent
Best day trip
“Fast-ER! Fast-ER!” the kids chant and I think for sure someone’s going to hurl, but instead they just laugh and shriek as the merry-go-round spins faster and faster. Unlike most merry-go-rounds, this one is level with the artificial turf and wide enough that kids in chairs can wheel right on.
The new accessible playground at Forest Park in Everett is designed so kids of all abilities can play here. There’s even a summer camp for kids with special needs at an adjacent building. In addition to the We-Go-Round, other awesome features include ramps, a wide rocking boat and a set of musical instruments at ground level. In the middle of the play area is a giant elephant sculpture, a nod to the days when the park housed a zoo.
Pack a picnic, bring bathing suits and towels, and make a day out of Forest Park. The spray park isn’t new, but the fencing around the back is — super helpful if your kids are runners. Activate any of the sprinklers for instant cool fun.
Note: The animal farm and swim center in the park are closed indefinitely. Bummer.
205 Park Road, Everett
The new playground at Juanita Beach Park in Kirkland is hopping with kids. The original design included an open twisty slide coming down from the three-story fort; it’s since been replaced with a tube slide kids can’t fall out of. Parents will also appreciate the brand-new bathhouses right next to the playground.
The beach is watched by lifeguards and absolutely pristine; we even saw off-duty lifeguards picking up litter. You can borrow life jackets for free, and rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks. Or just go for a walk around the semicircular pier to take in the beautiful views of Lake Washington.
9703 N.E. Juanita Drive, Kirkland
Totally out of this world
Aspiring astronauts will have a blast at the new space-age playground at the North Kirkland Community Center Park, just a three-minute drive from Juanita Beach. They can run around Saturn’s rings, explore the surface of the moon and wobble on an alien spaceship. Even the climbing gym here fits the theme — it’s made of connected rings, so you can pretend you’re exploring the solar system.
12421 103rd Ave. N.E., Kirkland
Another elevator playground!
My kids’ favorite playground feature is the “elevator”: When you step onto a little platform, it gently sinks to ground level. There’s one at Surrey Downs Neighborhood Park in Bellevue, an older version at Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island and now there’s one at the new Totem Lake Park playground in Kirkland.
The Totem Lake playground is very similar to Surrey Downs. It’s set up like a ropes course on eye-catching artificial turf. You can’t help but feel happy when you see the brilliant colors. (Parents will be even happier when they see the sparkling family restrooms.) There are no swings, no zip line here, but we’re willing to overlook that omission because of the Salt & Straw conveniently located a block away.
12033 Totem Lake Way, Kirkland
Loyal Heights Playfield, located next to Loyal Heights Community Center in Ballard, is smack in the middle of a neighborhood teeming with young families. This new playground couldn’t have been more welcome. It’s a classic playground setup — big fort, little fort and a row of swings. The one mistake we made was visiting while the summer campers at the community center were out at recess (i.e., a very low kid-adult ratio).
2101 N.W. 77th St., Seattle