The Pacific Northwest: vibrant greenery, lush forests, calm clear water. It’s the perfect place to explore the outdoors, even in the heart of the city. With a plethora of unique parks, Seattle is an outdoor playground for little ones—especially toddlers, who offer a unique perspective on surrounding sights and sounds.
A Little Bit of Culture: Kubota Garden
This gorgeous Japanese garden south of the city is filled with streams, ponds, waterfalls and a vast collection of plants. Fujitaro Kubota, a Japanese immigrant, started the garden alongside his gardening business in 1923. His acreage increased as his business grew and the gardens became a place for the Japanese community in Seattle to spread and celebrate their culture. In the 1980s, it was named a historical landmark and the city acquired the land from the Kubota family.
When you arrive, stop outside the gates to pick up a free self-guided tour brochure then head inside. Follow the neatly manicured lawns along the trail that curves off to the left to find the Kubota Terrace. It has sprawling lawns up on a hill overlooking a good portion of the park with rows of blooming flowers and a Japanese gazebo made of large stones and a wood covering. Make your way north in the park, through the nursery plantings of bamboo, birch and native Northwest plants, to reach an area filled with streams and waterfalls. Here, you’ll find two red bridges: the Heart Bridge, modeled after traditional bridges in Mr. Kubota’s hometown, and the Moon Bridge, which symbolizes the difficulty of life—“hard to walk up and hard to walk down.” Let your toddler run up and down these bridges and snap a few photos.
Further north is a path through a “mountainside” landscape, complete with waterfalls. To the east is a garden filled with traditional Japanese plants and a pond filled with koi fish; toddlers can watch the fish swim around from the edge of the pool before you head out to the next park.
Fun, Fun, Fun: Oxbow Park
For some good old-fashioned fun, move on to Oxbow Park. Located in the historic Georgetown community, the park features two massive structures: 22-foot-tall cowboy boots and a 44-foot-wide cowboy hat. Known as the Hat n’ Boots, they were created in the 50s for a local western-inspired gas station. After the station closed in the 80s, local residents banded together in order to save the beloved structures and they were moved to the park.
Children will love climbing on the massive boots—let them hop up for a picture on the toe. There is also a play area that is perfect for kiddos, and a community garden where locals grow their own plants and produce, some of which they donate to local food banks.
Check Out the View: Kerry Park
Lying flat at the top of a hill in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle, Kerry Park has unsurpassed views of the city’s skyline and the glistening bay. A short wall framed by tall plants on both sides provides the perfect frame through which to see Seattle’s skyscrapers (with the Space Needle front and center). Open 24 hours, Kerry Park is a great way to show your kids an outstanding view of the area—whether it’s bathed in bright sunlight, painted with the pink glow of sunset or sparkling with city lights, the view can’t be beat. There is also a play area for kids as well as a basketball court and a sculpture.
Something Different: Golden Gardens Park
When most people think of parks, they picture sprawling green lawns dotted with shade-providing trees, picnic tables and jungle gyms. While Golden Gardens does have grassy, shaded areas and a playground, there is much more at this beautiful Ballard park. It doubles as a beach with plenty of sand for kids to play in and teens to tan on, or you can walk along the paved path to enjoy the sunshine. The calm waters that splash up on the rock are great for kids to swim in; just watch that they don’t slip when they’re getting in or out.
Take in the amazing views of Puget Sound and the mountains in the distance with a sunset bonfire. Fly kites, play soccer or volleyball in the sand or roast marshmallows over one of the 12 fire pits. You won’t be disappointed if you end your day with this park—it has a little something for everyone and the views are definitely gorgeous.