A few weeks ago we had a “June gloom” Saturday morning that made it less exciting to head outside, so I took Julia to the Flying Circus trampoline park in Tukwila. I’d wanted to visit for a long time since they do an “Under 6” special from 9-10 a.m. on Monday through Saturday. During that time slot, there are only smaller kids and the pricing is less expensive (you get one free adult per paying child and just have to pay for the special grippy socks the first time you go).
It took us forever to get out the door and traffic wasn’t ideal, but the extremely nice front desk said not to worry about it and let us come in at 9:30 and still stay for an hour at the less expensive price. Check-in was really easy with waiver completion stations at the entrance. You just hand your little “receipt” showing you’ve signed a waiver to the front desk and they get you all set to go in a few moments. There are lots of lockers to leave personal items in, although they’re pretty small, so a lot of people took up several.
Julia is the perfect age for a trampoline park – she spends a lot of time jumping around at home, so having a giant facility with lots of surfaces to bounce on safely was great. The building is divided up into a few sections: some long trampolines and foam pits at the front, followed by a grid of smaller trampolines, an obstacle course, a climbing wall and a trampoline dodge ball area. There were also some other areas we didn’t venture to because Julia was too busy, but there was a zip line and some more foam pit areas. I appreciated that there was at least one employee overseeing each major area to make sure everyone was generally acting safely, but they weren’t overbearing.
We jumped for literally every minute of our time slot. Most of our energy was spent on the grid of trampolines, but when the area opened up to bigger kids at 10, we moved to the long trampolines and foam pits towards the front that seemed to be less busy for some reason.
A friend of mine took her kids for a birthday party recently and said it was pretty busy in the late afternoon, so I highly recommend the earlier morning time slots if you can get there.
Julia loved it so much that she’s been asking to “go jumping” regularly ever since. I’m almost looking forward to a rainy weekend day when we’re in town so I can take her again.
In addition to searching Red Tricycle Seattle and Parent Map’s events every week, our daycare sends out a list of events (mainly compiled from those sources, but sometimes including others) every Friday, which is how we ended up visiting the Burke Museum’s “I Dig Dinos” event this past weekend. On the last Sunday of every month through Memorial Day weekend, they’re having special themed days for kids to come and learn about dinosaurs. They also have a “Dino Days” event this coming weekend, but that seems more formal and likely to be busier.
This weekend’s theme was a “Dino Days Preview” and even though the website says it’s geared for kids aged 3-7, our nearly 2 year old had a great time. The museum is located on the University of Washington campus and is free for kids under 4, with general admission costing $10, so it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other local museums. Parking is also free on Sundays, and there’s some street parking available that’s also free.
We kicked off the morning with breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe, which has a location about a 15 minute walk from the museum. Their pancakes are phenomenal (try the butternut squash with pear butter) and include a trip to the fruit bar that Julia thinks is the best thing since sliced bread. Brunching around 9 a.m. also meant that we beat the rush of UW students.
The event runs from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., but the museum opens at 10 a.m., so we were there with time to check out the other exhibits. Julia liked pointing at the fossils and casts on display, particularly the “elephant” (woolly mammoth) and the whale.
The museum’s permanent exhibits aren’t huge, though, so we spent a lot of time doing dinosaur-themed puzzles in the discovery lab.
We also checked out the Work In Progress exhibit that shows how museum employees are packing up specimens to move to the new Burke location. Julia was mostly interested in climbing in and out of the crates, but did like seeing a T-Rex skull that is being excavated.
The main event was in the Burke Room by the front entrance and was well set-up for families with small kids. There were plastic dinosaurs to play with, dinosaur tails to try on (Julia was not interested), a photo booth, a spot to sort Dinosaur vs. Not Dinosaur pictures (toddlers + sorting = love), and a very popular digging pit. Julia loved it, but I think a 7 year old would get bored quickly.
In the main lobby, you could also decorate a dinosaur mask (I can’t recall the dinosaur’s name, but nothing I recognized). Julia loved it and has been carrying her dino mask around with her all week.
I don’t know that we would make a regular trip to the permanent exhibits, but our visit to the Burke Museum for this special event was so much fun (ok, Daddy was bored, but I’ll bring more snacks for him next time) that it’s reminded me I need to keep better track of local museum-sponsored events.
Are there special exhibits that you’ve particularly loved with your little ones?
The second in a series of posts about Seattle Museums with a toddler. Check out the Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Aquariumposts for more museums to visit with your little one.
After seeing a Seattle Times article about the new Seattle Art Museum (SAM) exhibit, Figuring History, Julia and I took advantage of one of my half days to go check it out. On weekends, the museum provides discounted parking in the Russell Investment Center garage, and we’ve used the Target parking lot (free parking for about an hour with a $20 purchase) before, but this time we took a bus downtown to make it a bigger adventure.
The museum doesn’t open until 10 a.m., so we started off with a visit to The Crumpet Shop. It was our lucky day because the table right next to the windowed area where they make crumpets freed up minutes after we placed our order. We shared a Vermont crumpet (maple butter, walnuts and cream cheese, which I always replace with ricotta) and an egg/English cheese/ham crumpet while we watched the action.
Eating crumpets in layers
Front row seat to the crumpet-making action
We wrapped up breakfast just as another hungry family started hovering around our table and walked a block to SAM. It was a really cold day, so we checked our bundle of coats, hats and gloves with the stroller at the complimentary coat check and picked up our member tickets (if you’re a member, don’t forget to pick these up because they need to verify your card). I’ve never had an issue before, but today the security guard objected to the size of our diaper bag. I showed her that it fit within the green rectangle on their sign about bags, and she protested that it was too puffy, but eventually was nice enough to let us in as long as I promised to carry it cross-body instead of just dangling at my side. They do have tiny blue canvas totes you can borrow for essentials, but the whole reason I bring a diaper bag is because toddlers have so many essentials and unpacking/re-packing is a pain. I think we could have schlepped all our stuff if we’d kept the stroller, but the elevator is slow and often full with people who actually need it (wheelchairs and the elderly), so I opted to take what I thought would be an easier route.
I knew we would have limited time with a toddler attention span, and we’ve been to the permanent exhibitions before, so we took the escalator straight to the top floor for the main event. Julia was only marginally interested in looking at the actual art, but did love looking at the beautifully bright colors in many of the paintings. I loved the way the artists re-imagined some classic works (like Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait) to make statements about black history. Julia’s not quite 2 yet, but some of the pieces also allowed us to have age-appropriate conversations about race. I’m still learning how to do these, but we talked about the beautiful black women portrayed in Mickalene Thomas’ work, and how it’s okay for a black person and a white person to love each other (there was a painting specifically focusing on interracial relationships), or a man to love another man (not depicted, but seemed appropriate to talk about all love being wonderful).
Climbing the seating area while Mommy looks at the art
Loving the pink dresses
Julia’s favorite part of the whole exhibition was the living-area-like seating in front of Le déjeuner sur l’herbe: Les trois femmes noires. She wanted to read all the books and sit on all the seats, as did the other 3 kids that filtered through while we sat there. I took the opportunity to set the heavy diaper bag down and read the back covers of the books so I could look them up at the library later.
Our last stop before heading out to catch the bus home was a visit to the children’s play area (the Knudsen Family Room) on the 3rd floor. It’s hidden away in a little corner behind the American Art section (there are restrooms with water fountains and changing tables on the opposite side of the same floor), so no one seems to mind if Julia gets a little noisy with her “Mine!” and “No!” We were lucky to have a couple of other kids there to visit with, and Julia decided to serve all of us tea. We love our visits to the art museum – it has been a great way to spend rainy/cold days and try to insert some culture into Julia’s life.
Have you visited art museums with your small children? What kinds of conversations do they spark?
The second in a series of posts about Seattle Museums with a toddler. Check out the Woodland Park Zoo post if you missed it!
I didn’t visit a lot of aquariums growing up, so having a membership to theSeattle Aquariumhas been a fun new experience for me as well as for Julia. It’s located just below Pike Place Market on Alaskan Way, so it’s easy for us to stop by for an hour or two on a weekday if I can leave work a bit early. We joined as members when she was about 6 months old. Even at that young age, she could stay glued to the smaller tanks of fish in the Pacific Coral Reef and focus on their bright colors.
Her favorite exhibits have changed a bit over the year and a half that we’ve been members so far. It started with that coral reef and the Underwater Dome, where she could just quietly observe from the comfort of her baby carrier. As she’s gotten older, she’s enjoyed the tide pools (now that she can reach while being held, feeding anemones pieces of seaweed has been a recent hit) and the play areas that allow her to pretend to be a jellyfish, or arrange sea creatures on a felt background. The front desk staff can be a little gruff (they see a LOT of customers, so I can understand), but the volunteers in the museum are incredibly nice and they know so much about the sea creatures that they’re eager to share if you’re interested. We were lucky enough to get some quality time with one of the giant Pacific octopuses on a recent trip. There was almost no one there, so when the octopus came out to swim around, Julia was able to get right up close and see the tentacles. One of those legendary volunteers came around and told us how octopuses taste with their tentacles, so it was fun to get Julia to pretend to taste with her hands (better solution than letting her continue to lick the glass, I think!).
We’ve done the Diving Santa show at Christmas, but it’s nice just to make the regular show in their Window on Washington Waters exhibit. Julia will listen attentively for about 2 minutes, but she’s still not old enough to understand most of the talk. However, after the show, she loves getting up close to the diver and giving high fives or pretending to touch the bag of food they use to feed the fish.
Individual admission is rather pricey (currently $29.95/person over 12; kids under 3 are free), so this is another spot where we find the membership to be a good value ($69 per named adult for a year). Once you’re a member, you can deduct your membership fee on your taxes, so don’t forget to add it to your list if you itemize (nerdy accountant tidbit from their website). You’ll also typically get an e-mail a couple of months before your membership is set to expire that gives you a link to renew for a 14 month period (2 months free).
The cafe upstairs is reasonable (we’ve had good chowder, crab cakes, and sweet potato fries), but we usually prefer to park at the Hillclimb Garage across the street (validate your parking if you’re a member for $1 off/hour for up to 3 hours) and take a hike up the steep stairs to Pike Place Market to snack on some smoked salmon, Ellenos yogurt, or a crumpet at the delectable Crumpet Shop (the Vermont with maple butter, cream cheese and walnuts is my absolute favorite and Julia adores watching them make crumpets through the window into the kitchen).
We typically drive in and park (it’s harder than I would like to take public transit with a toddler), but if we make a fun day trip out of it, we also enjoy taking the bus to Westlake and walking, or parking in West Seattle and taking the water taxi (especially if we can eat delicious Marination tacos while we wait for the boat).
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?