If You Like That, You’ll Love This: 7 Alternatives to Your Favorite Spots


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Finding new adventures with your sidekick is what parenting’s all about. But sometimes it’s oh so hard to give up those tried and true favorites. Fear not! We’ve mapped out some delightful doppelgangers that are worth the risk. They pack in enough “same” to know your kids will love them, while mixing in enough “different” to call them a truly new adventure. Read on to find awesome alternatives to your favorite local spots!

Snake Lake Nature Center

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Rhododendron Species Garden
If you like the Washington Park Arboretum… check out the rhodies at the Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way. You and your kidlet won’t be disappointed by the big blooms and winding trails covering this 22-acre garden. The $8 general admission (kids 12 and under are free!) gives you unlimited roaming privileges and all the time you need to check out, and pose for pics in front of, the more than 700 rhododendron species grown here. All you need to make the rounds is the self-guided tour map that changes with each season and some walking shoes. The indoor Conservatory is a great place to start since everything’s always in bloom in there. From there, slip out the back to find the gazebo that overlooks a large swath of the grounds, before dropping down into the Alpine Meadow. Add to that list the Stumpery, where your kidlet will expect fairies to jump out and say hi around every corner, and the Pond, and you’ve got yourself just the right distance to cover with little ones in tow. The majority of the trails here are super stroller friendly so be sure to have one handy in case your kiddo gets tired. Then indulge your wanderlust!

2 kids Rhodie species garden seattle

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Good to Know: The Pacific Bonsai Museum sits opposite the entrance to the Rhododendron Species Garden. It’s free admission and tiny trees that look like they just walked off the pages of a fairy tale make it totally worth a stroll with your minis.

2525 S. 336th St.
Federal Way, Wa 98003
Online: rhodygarden.org/cms

Tacoma Rainiers
If you like watching the Mariners… try cheering for the Tacoma Rainiers! Nothing beats a ball game on a sunny spring day. But between navigating the crowds with your mini me in tow, finding a parking spot anywhere near the stadium and the (let’s be honest) ticket prices, going to Safeco Field takes serious commitment. Why not scale down this big league experience for your little sluggers at Cheney Stadium? It’s less crowded, parking’s a cinch and the reasonable ticket prices are closer to what you’d pay to catch a flick at the local Cineplex (maybe even less!). All this and your future major leaguer still gets to enjoy big time faves like a playful mascot. Rhubarb the Reindeer, the Mariner Moose’s bestie, loves mingling with the crowd. And definitely get in on some base running! After weekend games, little athletes take the field to complete a home run loop while their adoring fans (that’s you, parents!) cheer from the sidelines. We think you’ll hit a home run with this minor league alternate. Play ball!

Tacoma Rainiers game from FB

photo: Tacoma Rainier’s Facebook page

Good to Know: The Rainiers 2016 season includes a newly opened Whiffle ball field and playground built to keep the wiggliest fans happy during the game.

Cheney Stadium
2502 S. Tyler St.
Tacoma, Wa 98405
Online: milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t529

Nature Center at Snake Lake
If you like Discovery Park… try the Nature Center at Snake Lake. Consider this Tacoma Nature Center to be David to Discovery Park’s Goliath, when it comes to size. Although it may be smaller, it still packs a nature-filled punch your little explorer will love. The Nature Center itself is filled with activities and exhibits geared to inquisitive minds, like wild animal costumes kids can wear as they explore through books, coloring pages, magnets and even a beaver slide. There are also a few animals on exhibit here, so kidlets can check out the neighborhood wildlife before hitting the trail to spot them in their natural environs. The 1.5-mile loop is wide and flat (stroller much?) and can easily be broken out into half-mile increments, so you can find that just-right distance for your little wanderer. After you’ve explored this finger lake, hit the Discovery Pond playground for some sliding, climbing and creek jumping in this nature-themed space. There are plenty of spots to sit for a snack or unpack a picnic in this fenced in area, so be sure to bring some noshables along too!

kids on trail at Snake Lake

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Good to Know: The Discovery Pond playground isn’t open if it’s reserved for a party or group, so check the online schedule or call ahead before heading down.

1919 S. Tyler St.
Tacoma, Wa 98405
Online: metroparkstacoma.org/tacomanaturecenter

Imagine Children’s Museum
If you like the Seattle Children’s Museum… play at the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett. Sometimes all it takes is a few new exhibits to rekindle that children’s museum love from your Little. That’s just what you’ll find at this little bit smaller, little bit quieter museum. The Air-Mazing Lab is sure to catch your sidekick’s eye when he first gets there. Plan to spend quite a bit of time shoving scarves and yarn balls through wind tunnel tubes just to watch them shoot out from high above and fall slowly into waiting hands. The newly renovated WaterWorks area is another spot that will hold your wee one’s attention for as long as you want it to. There’s also the Energy Tracks exhibit, way in the back, to keep your busybody busy. This one’s a totally hands-on science exhibit, but don’t tell them that. There are a few special programs to put on your calendar too, if you plan to make the drive. The i-engineers group  meets monthly to tackle scientific concepts through experimentation. If music and language are more your little player’s speed, try the Music with Marco bilingual music class. On Thursdays at 1 p.m. and Sundays at noon, Marco leads little listeners through songs, stories and some hands-on instrument time in English and Spanish.

Imagine Children's Museum with 2 kids

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Good to Know: The museum’s Tall Timbers Rooftop Adventure is out of this world and can’t be beat on a sunny spring (or summer) day!

1502 Wall St.
Everett, Wa 98201
Online: imaginecm.org

Northwest Trek
If you like Woodland Park Zoo… try Northwest Trek. The focus of this South Sound fave is totally local. You won’t see animals from the African Savanna or the jungles of Asia here. But you will find all sorts of northwest natives, like elk, moose and bison roaming freely around 435 acres of this wildlife park. Catch them doing their thing from the comfy seats of the Discovery Tram that scoops the wildlife loop multiple times a day (included with your admission). A naturalist driver narrates as you and your Littles roll along, learning all you’ve ever wanted to know about the Trek property and the animals that live there. There’s also a nature trail that winds around the rest of the property. Here, visitors will find wild cats, lumbering bears and wily wolves in open-air exhibits that give you an up-close view of the lives these animals lead. Follow all this up with trailside talks and animal encounters, and you’ve got one wildly good time for the whole fam!

2 boys at Northwest Trek

photo: Amy Huey

Good to Know: The just-opened Kids’ Trek playscape broke attendance records opening day, and for good reason. It makes this trek totally worth the trip down from the city!

11601 Trek Dr. E.
Eatonville, Wa 98328
Online: nwtrek.org

Harborside Fountain Park
If you like splashing in the International Fountain at the Seattle Center… try Harborside Fountain Park. The journey to get to these fountains is just the beginning of a wild and wet Bremerton adventure. You won’t have to fight crowds here, or scoop the loop a few times to find a parking spot. In fact, if you play your cards right, you can walk on the ferry downtown, then walk straight to these looming fountains that mimic submarines emerging from the depths, when you disembark in Bremerton, with ease. Big kids will love the timed eruptions like underwater volcanoes that send a deluge cascading down on them. And more cautious cuties can just wade in the catch pools, safe from the spray these fountains unleash. Be sure to pack a picnic for your trip because your little water lover will definitely work up an appetite stomping around this water sculpture park. There are plenty of picnic tables and grassy patches where you can lay out your spread on a blanket and keep a watchful eye on your sidekick and even catch a few rays. And if your little mariners need some dry time, there are a few other places to explore just a short walk away!

251 1st St.
Bremerton, Wa 98337
Online: bremertonwa.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/Harborside-Fountain-Park-9

2 kids spalshing harborside fountains bremerton

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Port Townsend Marine Science Center
If you like the Seattle Aquarium… try the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Finding this science center is an adventure in itself! Located on the grounds of Fort Wordon State Park, it’s solidly perched at the end of a pier, like one of the many bald eagles that nest in the area. Staffed by volunteers that really know their stuff, this smaller-scale science center has a casual feel that invites questions and interaction from little learners. And, depending on attendance that day, your mini me may find herself getting an enthusiastically informative one-on-one tour around the many touch tanks and aquariums housed there. And possibly even a sneak peek into the research area! When the indoor exploration is over, be sure to head outdoors to the beach and check out the lighthouse at the point. And definitely keep an eye out for the orcas that frequently pass by the lighthouse point!

Port Townsend Science Center from FB

photo: Port Townsend Marine Science Center Facebook page

Good to Know: The Marine Science Center is located in Fort Worden State Park, so be sure to have your Discover Pass ready when you visit.

532 Battery Way
Port Townsend, Wa 98368
Online: ptmsc.org

Do you have a favorite alternate play spot? Have you tried any of these? Share your ideas with us in the Comments below.

— Allison Sutcliffe

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