Hey, we can’t all live in Seattle, where Puget Sound is ten minutes off the freeway, islands are quick ferry trip away, mountain rivers are accessible after an easy hike, and camping at the seashore is an easy weekend activity. Sorry Midwesterners (oh, and we don’t have mosquitoes either. Not to rub it in). Anyways, if you don’t live on the coast or are too lazy to leave the city you’ve still got some water-based options. Since swimming pools are passé, most cities are creating splash parks, kiddie pools and fountains. Grab your plastic watering toy and head out.

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Splash Parks

Avoid if:

  • You have small toddlers who don’t like to be splashed or knocked over: Splash parks are a bit rambunctious. My little ones and I tend to find the smallest spout and hang out there, but even that can get over-run pretty quickly.

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  • You prefer to do your splashing in the morning or evening: Most parks keep afternoon hours, and some have an off period during the middle of the day.
  • You have one kid who loves water and another who loves swings: Most splash parks are part of a larger playground. This is part of the appeal for my kiddos – we start at the swings, dig in the sandbox, and then cool off at the splash pad. However one of my kids isn’t old enough to voice her opinion yet so things may be more complicated next summer.

Go if:

  • You’ve just bought your kid an arsenal of water guns.
  • You are in charge of your children and all of the friends. They’ll be somewhat contained at a splash park and you won’t have to worry about anyone drowning.

North acres

Check out:

  • Willis Tucker Park: Technically in Snohomish, but it’s north of the valley behind Silver Firs. There is also a sandbox, covered picnic tables, a playground with a rope jungle gym, trails, off leash dog park, playfields, a community center and a farmer’s market on Friday evenings in the summer.
  • North Acres: This is a good one for keeping watch over a bunch of kids because the splash park is in a little bowl and parents perch on the grassy hills above, stadium style. This park also has trails and two playgrounds – one for toddlers and one for older kids.

Small fountains

Ballard Commons

Avoid if:

  • You have older children, as these are pretty lame according to the kindergarten and above set.
  • You actually want to play in the water as well.

Go if:

  • You are headed somewhere else and you don’t want the kids to get totally soaked.

Check out:

Wading Pools

Avoid if:

  • You have a little one still crawling. The bottom is usually concrete. Plus my little one would have happily crawled in over her head if we let her.

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Go if:

  • You want to get in the water and cool off too, but you don’t want to wear a bathing suit.
  • You like water! I’ve seen toddlers, young kids, and pre-teens all have fun at these little wading pools.

Check out:

  • Wallingford Playfield: The pool has a shallow (think 2 inches) and “deep” (less than a foot) end. Playfields and a playground are part of the park.
  • Green Lake Wading Pool: By far my favorite place! Tons of grassy areas next to the pool are shady, so it’s great for a picnic on a hot day. It’s also great if you have a tiny baby who can snooze in the shade while the other one plays in the sun.

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Before heading off to China I was lucky enough to bask in a perfect (although cloudy) Seattle day: a run around Bellevue Park, brunch at Z’ Tejas, a jaunt through Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, and a Mariners game. My friends had their cousin in town so I tagged along on the tourist trail.  

 My oh-so-eastside friend hadn’t even crossed the I-90 bridge before embarking on her usual diatribe about dirty, grungy, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing Seattle and the “bus smell” that permeates Pike Place Market.

“Ugh! This is exactly what I’m talking about!” She exclaimed upon crossing Pioneer Square to discover what I’m going to call tree-sleeves.

Fiber artist Suzanne Tidwell was not wearing Birkenstocks as she sat on a bench weaving décor for her next tree. “I’m just trying to heightened awareness,” she commented. She’s not alone. Yarn bombing has exploded worldwide from Bali to Paris to Denver. TIME Magazine even reported that firefighters in Vancouver were adding knit blossoms to cherry trees.   

 We soldiered on past the Harbor Steps to Pike Place Market wherein we joined the masses to watch people catching fish (“Good enough to wear, good enough to eat,” chanted the rubber-overall-wearing salesmen when a flying fish smacked a young tourist in her face.) before heading to Le Panier for a quick French pastry.

Heading back to Safeco Field we participated in pre-game festivities (i.e. eating clam chowder and drinking beer) at Pyramid Alehouse. Right across the street from the field, this is the hangout spot for Mariner fans before and after home games.

Safeco Field added a patio dining area (The Bullpen Market) this spring to the space behind left-center field and Le Creperie has been getting rave reviews. Seeing as I’d already consumed food for three days I just said hi to my favorite bartender (Jay, my hirsute brother) and then hightailed it back to my seat before I missed any more action. Dustin Ackley had hit a triple while I was wandering around and I needed to make sure my stand-in scorekeeper was doing his job right.

 He did just fine, as did the Mariners that night who won in extra innings. A perfect send off as I prepare to head off to a country that has (…dum, dum, dum…) no baseball.