When we told people we were moving to Seattle a little over 4 years ago, most of the comments we got were about how we were going to adjust to “all that rain.” While I don’t really think it rains that much more than when we lived in San Francisco, the great thing about regularly occurring rain is that the city is generally well-equipped for it (except for the drivers, because they’re terrible on any day, but especially in the rain). Many are concentrated on weekdays, but there are also plenty of good weekend options. I started out researching ideas for our adventures on ParentMap’s excellent article, so some of these places will repeat, but I’ll add our experiences with them as well.
Indoor Play Areas and Classes
Seattle Community Center Toddler Gyms – these are FREE and open to parents and kids under 5 (or under 4 for the smaller Toddler Rooms). It’s basically a bunch of play equipment that you probably don’t have (or don’t want to have) in a big open space, so your kiddo can run around and enjoy. We’ve loved the Ballard Toddler Gym, which is quite large and mostly full of balls and wheeled toys, as well as the Green Lake Toddler Room, which is smaller, but has more things to climb or build with. Most parents are busy trying to make sure their offspring don’t ingest the toys, so you probably won’t meet your mommy soulmate there, but you will be able to interact with other adults to the extent you put forth the effort.
Swimming – we usually take advantage of a mid-winter break in traveling or hosting guests to enroll Julia in swimming lessons (the parent-tot class is offered at most Seattle pools and is currently about $90 for 12 weeks), but it can be hard to find convenient times for drop-in swimming. Enter the Mountlake Terrace pool. They have a “happy hour” (currently 3-4 p.m. on Mon-Thurs, with a few other times throughout the week) where each person over 12 months is $2.25. The pool is a bit warmer than our local Green Lake spot and has a small lazy river and a graduated entry area with some toys and water features.
OmTots – on weekday mornings, the Wallingford location of OmCulture opens up to kids under 5. There are trampolines, a balance beam, bouncy balls, swings, and even a little “high bar” for your budding gymnast. For $10 on a drop-in basis, your mini me can explore the equipment to their heart’s content. Towards the end of the allotted time, they have a short circle time with some songs and musical instruments. Parking is pretty limited in the area, so be prepared to walk a little bit to get inside.
PlayDate SEA – a jungle gym area with a big space for slightly older kids and a smaller, gated spot designated for toddlers. We’ve been here for a birthday party on the weekend and it is CUH-RAZY! However, on the last Wednesday of the month, there’s free admission if you bring in 2 canned goods and it was calm and perfect for Julia to explore without worrying about being trampled. If your little one wants to visit the bigger space, be prepared to crawl in there with them, but otherwise relax with a cup of coffee and a snack (you can’t have outside food if I recall correctly).
Mall Play Areas – our favorites are the Northgate Mall and the Southcenter Mall, but shopping centers around here seem to come equipped with a closed off area filled with soft play structures. We usually start with a running lap around the mall before landing at the play area for 20 minutes. There’s also a great little covered spot at the University Village shopping center.
Seattle Holistic Center – I went here regularly for prenatal yoga in the 2 weeks before I had Julia and loved the familial feeling of this studio on Aurora Ave. It’s also one of the few studios I’ve found that regularly offers classes that include your child. The schedules seems to change fairly regularly (I think they’re still figuring out the best times since most of the family teachers also have kids), but we’ve done Mom & Baby Yoga, Toddler Gym, and Family Yoga and enjoyed them all. If you’re a new mom and need some real yoga, the teachers are happy to hold your baby if he or she gets fussy while you enjoy your downward dog. Classes are currently $20 to drop in, and are available in packages that reduce the per class rate.
Little Gym – we did a free drop-in class at the Maple Leaf location. Julia had a great time bouncing on all the gymnastics equipment (toddler attention spans are not conducive to a real class) and there’s a great coffee shop across the street (Cloud City Coffee, see Cafés below). The commitment for a series is rather long and expensive, so we haven’t made that leap yet, but they were really open to making it a slightly shorter package and they occasionally post drop-in hours on their Facebook page.
Library Story Times – I’m grouping this with play areas because after the designated activities are done, the story time rooms turn into a little free play area where kids can enjoy the books and toys that are stored there. We’ve done story time at the Northeast branch, the Greenwood branch, and the Ballard branch and enjoyed all of them. In addition to the book of the day, there are usually a few songs and games to get your kiddo’s energy out. I’ve also found that I can flex the recommended age a bit to make the timing work with nap time. Julia went to a preschool story time at age 1 because it was the best time for us and while she wasn’t as focused as the bigger kids, she listened well to the story and enjoyed watching others participate.
Woodland Park Zoo – we have definitely gotten our money’s worth out of this membership. Our local zoo has a large indoor play area (Zoomazium), but also has smaller covered nooks (visit the brown bears/otters, the meerkats, and the African Village for some of them) that are good for a break. See my other blog post for more reasons to love the zoo.
Bowling – our favorite is Acme Bowl down in Tukwila, but we’ve also loved Round 1, and plan to visit Kenmore Lanes. All of these places have ramps so your little one can have fun pushing a ball towards the pins. I haven’t seen it advertised on their website, but on our recent trip to Acme on a Sunday morning (they open at 9 a.m. on weekends, which is crazy early for a bowling alley), there was an early bird special and each name for a game was only $2.50. It’s a great way to practice counting and taking turns, and Julia loved seeing the older, more experienced bowlers knock down all the pins. We also loved that Acme Bowl had table service, so you don’t have to rip your child away from a riveting bowling game to prevent the hangries, or juggle kids, sippy cups, wallet and pizza while struggling back to your lane.
Seattle Symphony – Take your kid to the symphony? Yep, you read that right. We haven’t been to the Tiny Tots series yet, but my husband took Julia on a daddy-daughter date to the Family Concerts Series performance of Firebird last October and she loved it! Dressing up with daddy, climbing the stairs and seeing the instruments were all fun and exciting experiences for her. They stayed for almost the entire performance, and no one gave them the stink eye when they left a little early to make nap time.
Seattle Art Museum – I wanted to take Julia to see the Infinity Mirrors exhibit so badly! We tried twice, but hadn’t purchased advance tickets and the line circled the block, so we just visited the regular exhibitions and still had a great time. There is a small and not very widely advertised kids play area on the top floor, as well as a lovely wide open modern art area on the second floor and a Native American art area where your child may enjoy seeing the intricate masks and totem poles.
Fox Hollow Farm – While not strictly indoors, this family farm that opens a little before Easter every year has an indoor barn area where you can pet baby animals, as well as several impressive two-story playhouses that are fun to run around in for all ages. I’m already looking forward to bringing Julia back again this year.
Seattle Pinball Museum – we took Julia to this International District gem when she was less than a year old and she had so much fun! We kept her front facing in a baby carrier (and flipped her around for a nap when she got tired) and she really enjoyed seeing the lights and tracking the ball(s) as we played. I just saw that kids have to be 7 or older to play, but if you have a small baby that can hang out in the carrier, this would be a great choice.
Seattle Children’s Museum – in addition to multiple themed play areas for kids (including a toddler area with a water feature, a stage, and an international village), the Children’s Museum also has regularly scheduled guests that perform in one of their side rooms. We saw a performer demonstrate beat boxing on one of our recent visits, which really boosted Julia’s raspberry-blowing game. The museum is located in Seattle Center, which means parking is very limited, so we don’t make it down to visit as often as we should, but Julia enjoys it every time we go. Under 1s are free and the local PEPS group sent us a packet with a free pass just before her first birthday, so there are opportunities to visit for a reduced cost.
KidiMu (Bainbridge Island) – We love to combine activities! Taking the ferry over to Bainbridge is so much fun, even on a windy/rainy day. Once you get there, you can walk or drive to KidiMu, a two story kids museum with activities for most young age groups. The bottom floor has a treehouse and a small town with some neat features sponsored by local businesses (like a bank with a working ATM, a doctor’s office, and a grocery store). The top floor lets kids explore science concepts with light-up pegs, a magnet wall, and stations to observe gravity in action. There are also several tasty restaurants along the main street and re-entry privileges, so you can take a break for lunch and come back to play some more.
Tacoma Children’s Museum – this museum is a little bit further of a drive for us, but we loved our visit when we happened to be in the area. There are several large climbing structures, a few of which are even baby friendly (we visited when Julia was just over 1 year old), as well as areas to focus on water play, dress-up, art and science.
Green Bean Coffeehouse (aka “choo choo coffee”) – Julia is most familiar with two coffee shops (this one and Cloud City linked below) and at less than 2 years old, she differentiates between them as the “choo choo coffee” and the “playground coffee.” I think that makes us Seattleites to the core. The Green Bean has a dedicated kids area with a train set and some books/games, easy parking, and it opens at 6 a.m. on weekdays (7 a.m. on Saturdays and 8 a.m. on Sundays). Julia has a recent habit of waking up at 5 am. (not appreciated), so we frequently find ourselves here before work because she always seems more cheerful playing with toys that aren’t hers. This coffee shop also supports a rotating cast of local non-profits, so you don’t have to feel guilty when you need a second cup to get you past the 5 a.m. wake-up call (oh, is that just me?).
Cloud City Coffee (aka “playground coffee”) – right up the street from the Maple Leaf Reservoir Park and across the street from a Little Gym, Cloud City has a selection of toys and books and a carpeted area with a couch to perch while your little one makes friends and practices sharing. Their bacon and egg breakfast sandwich is delicious and they are extra accommodating of dietary restrictions (they offer a wide variety of milk alternatives, will specially clean the espresso machine to avoid cross contamination, and offer several gluten free and paleo-friendly food options).
Phinney Market Pub & Eatery – this gem is right up the street from the Zoo and offers delicious food (I recently had a steak salad with beautiful greens and watermelon radishes; Julia prefers the mac and cheese with fruit) and a train area for kids to play while their parents enjoy wine, beer or coffee with their meals. They also have one of the better kids’ menus that I’ve seen, with sides of fruit or veggies and kids’ utensils.
Queen Mary’s Tea Room – when you’re in the mood for a splurge, this is a wonderful spot to practice manners and offers a wide variety of snacks that can even tempt picky eaters. When Julia rewarded me with a 3 hour nap one weekday afternoon, I returned the favor and we had a great time sitting together and sipping from china cups while munching on our tea sandwiches and scones. Maybe it’s the atmosphere and the way you frame it up (or I’ve gotten lucky a couple of times), but Julia was on her best behavior and we had a lovely little chat about the things we were eating. If you feel like living on the edge, I suggest starting with a quiet weekday before you have to compete with the bridal and baby showers that pack their weekends.
There are still quite a few places on my “to visit” list (many of which we haven’t been to because they take place during nap time, like the Seattle Gymnastics Academy Indoor Playground), so I’ll be sure to add another post in the future with more indoor activities.
What are some of your favorite places to bring your little one on rainy days?