Explore White Center: A Diverse Community with a Quirky Nickname

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Located just south of West Seattle is where you will find the diverse community of White Center aka Rat City (the nickname given to the neighborhood during WWII). While the neighborhood’s rodent-style nickname is still a matter of dispute (some say it came with the war and others say it came with “roller rats” who frequented the Southgate Roller Rink), the community has retained most of its original buildings and it’s where you will find delicious eats, eclectic offerings and places to keep your tykes entertained.

white center sign

photo: Rose George

Parks & Playgrounds

Steve Cox Memorial Park
With a super playground including a tot play structure, slide, hurricane spinner and swings to fit all ages, the Steve Cox Memorial Park has something for everyone. Pack a picnic lunch and take advantage of the large grassy space, perfect for picnicking or playing catch and be sure to hit the basketball hoops, tennis courts and the reflexology walking path for an afternoon of outdoor fun.

1321 S.W. 102nd St.
Seattle, Wa 98146
Online: kingcounty.gov/recreation/parks/inventory/stevecoxmemorial.aspx or map it


photo: Helen Walker Green

Lakewood Park
For disc golf, tennis or a walk around the lake and a picnic, take your crew to Lakewood Park. With wide open spaces and Hicklin Lake at the center, this park feels like a getaway from the city. If you want to take a go at playing disc golf, visit Chainbangers Disc Golf Shop in the park. This is where the professionals will show you how to play as well as rent you the discs—$5 for a set of 3 (putter, mid range and driver). Psst! The Golf Shop also has a small snack shack for a before or after game pick-me-up.

S.W. 108th St. and 10th Ave S.W.
Seattle, Wa 98146
Online: visitwhitecenter.com/biz/lakewood-park or map it

Chainbangers Disc Golf Shop
11050 10th Ave. S.W.
Seattle, Wa 98146
Online: chainbangers.com or map it


photo: Helen Walker Green

White Center Heights Park
White Center’s “secret” park is tucked away and not even on the map. There’s a short loop trail that crosses a floating bridge over wetlands (watch out for tree frogs and dragonflies). Can you spot the turtles sitting on the logs? There’s also lots of room to kick a ball around, play frisbee or even practice Tai Chi. And if you run out of ideas, there’s a sign in the park to give you suggestions on how to enjoy the space. Psst! If you go to the park at dusk you may just see bats flying above you, as this park is home to several bat houses.

Good to Know: The park has street parking only, but there are ample spots available. It’s also home to a pig pit for roasting pigs à la Pacific Islander style.

S.W. 102nd St. and 7th Ave S.W. (south of White Center Heights Elementary)
Seattle Wa 98146
Online: visitwhitecenter.com/biz/white-center-heights-park or map it


photo: Helen Walker Green

Indoor Play

Roxbury Lanes
Roxbury Lanes is cheap and cheerful bowling at its best. It may not have all the bells and whistles of some of the modern bowling alleys around town, but it’s clean, the staff are friendly, the prices are good and there’s a great choice of food on the menu. (Hint: the Salt n’ Pepper Wings are their specialty). Lighter weight bowling balls are kept in the back, so be sure to ask the staff for one for your mini bowler.

Good to Know: Sunday is Family Day with $2 games from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Also, check out Kids Bowl Free for free bowling during the summer months.

2823 S.W. Roxbury St.
Seattle, Wa 98126
Online: roxburylanes.com or map it


photo: Helen Walker Green

Southgate Roller Rink
Strap on your skates and head to this roller rink that has been entertaining families since 1937. It’s the original home of roller derby league Rat City Rollergirls and its old-fashioned roller rink—perfect for all ages—is what keeps families coming back again (and again). Psst! Family Skate, which takes place every Friday night and on weekends, includes family-friendly music and games. View the rink’s current schedule online.

Good to Know: Not so steady on those wheels? Want to improve your spin? Southgate Roller Rink offers beginner and intermediate roller skating lessons for $10 (and the price includes Family Skate afterwards).

9646 17th Ave. S.W.
Seattle, Wa 98106
Online: southgaterollerrink.com or map it

Southgate Roller Rink

photo: Southgate Roller Rink Facebook page

Evergreen Community Aquatic Center
If you’re looking for a wet ‘n wild good time, the Evergreen Community Aquatic Center is the place to splash, play and swim in White Center. There’s plenty of pool noodles in supply and you are welcome to bring your own pool toys as well. Swimming lessons are also available for tots and older kids (with a 4:1 student/teacher ratio) and the fun instructors come highly recommended.

Good to Know: This is a 1970’s era pool, so you won’t find family changing rooms here, but you will find locker rooms with showers, lockers and restrooms for men and women.

606 S.W. 116th St.
Seattle, Wa 98146
Online: evergreenpool.org or map it


photo: Helen Walker Green

Places to Eat

Best Roasted Corn on the Cob
If you’re cruising through White Center, you gotta stop at this little food stand that serves delicious Elotes Asados any way you want ’em! Be daring and try the Mexican (corn with mayo, cotija cheese, chili powder and lemon) or go for a plain roasted and buttered cob. You can get your corn on a stick or chopped up in a bowl—the bowl is less messy but the stick is more fun! Little Red Tricycle testers say, “it’s the best corn they’ve ever tasted.” And at just $2.50 each, you can always have seconds. Psst! The stand also serves shave ice to cool you down after the spicy corn.

Good to Know: Pick out a mango at their shop and they’ll carve it and put it on a stick for you, with some spicy seasonings if you like. Just be sure to bring the green because this is a cash only stand.

9811 15th Ave S.W.
Seattle, Wa 98106
map it
Hours: noon-10 p.m


photo: Helen Walker Green


Zippy’s Giant Burgers
If you’re looking for an authentic burger, Zippy’s Giant Burgers are made with 100% chuck ground on site every day and are cooked to order by burger technicians. And just like their name, these burgers are GIANT as well as juicy and delicious. All Zippy’s burgers come with the restaurant’s tasty Secret Sauce including their awesome vegetarian Black Bean Burger. For the Littles, there are some great pint-sized options on the menu including Zippy the Yum Yum Burger Boy’s Wacky Meal (a Lil’ Zip burger with cheese, half order of fries or tots and a Capri Sun). Zippy’s also serves a selection of vintage sodas or you can go for one of their hand-dipped shakes, malts or root beer floats. Psst! To keep the kiddos busy while you wait for your order, look for the pinball and Ms. Pac-Man machines located to the left of the order counter.

Good to Know: Kids 11 and under can get a free Wacky Meal on Wacky Wednesdays (every Wednesday from 3 p.m.-6 p.m) with the purchase of one regular combo meal. Adults can also get the grownup equivalent of a Wacky Meal—a burger, a side and a beer!

9614 14th Ave. S.W.
Seattle, Wa 98106
Online: zippysgiantburgers.com or map it
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.-9 p.m

zippy's burgers

photo: Zippy’s Giant Burgers

Proletariat Pizza
This pizza establishment, located in the heart of White Center, serves the pizza that made White Center famous. The family run restaurant makes delicious thin crust pizza, made with hand-mixed dough, and sells their pies as whole pizzas, half-pizzas or slices. We recommend the White Center White with ricotta cheese, fresh chopped garlic, oregano, mozzarella cheese on an olive oil base or The Real Hawaiian with SPAM or prosciutto, pineapple, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. Psst! The restaurant has a great kids’ area with games to keep the Littles busy and delish vegetarian and vegan menu options.

Good to Know: Proletariat Pizza has their own app for iPhone and Android.

9622A 16th Ave. S.W.
Seattle, Wa  98106
Online: proletariatpizza.com or map it
Hours: Mon.-Sun., noon-close

proletariat.pizzaphoto: Helen Walker Green

The Salvadorean Bakery and Restaurant
Sisters Aminta and Ana wanted to share their Central American meals and customs with everyone, so they opened this popular bakery and restaurant in White Center. The Pupusas are a big hit—handmade tortillas stuffed with your choice of filling and served with homemade curtido (aka pickled cabbage) and salsa. Psst! The desserts here are to die for—cookies, sweetbreads and did we mention the Tres Leches cake?

1719 S.W. Roxbury St.
Seattle, Wa 98106
206 762-4064
Online: thesalvadoreanbakery.com or map it
Hours: Daily, 7 a.m.-8:30 p.m.


photo: Helen Walker Green

Places for Sips & Snacks

3.14 Bakery
3.14159265… it’s the “pi” bakery and just like the numbers in pi, you won’t be able to remember all the special treats they make. From sticky buns and cinnamon rolls, to handmade pies and special occasion cakes, all of the treats made in the 3.14 Bakery are made from scratch and smell wonderful. In addition to sweets, 3.14 also makes savory pastries including sausage rolls. Psst! This is a great place for families. While you sit and sip your espresso or slump in the comfy sofa, the Littles can play with the many toys on hand.

9602 16th Ave. S.W.
Seattle, Wa 98106
Online: On Facebook or map it
Hours Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.


photo: Helen Walker Green

15th Ave Bakery & Cafe
Delicious bubble tea is just around the corner at the 15th Ave Bakery & Cafe. Whether you like your bubble tea milk style or smoothie style, you’ll find something sweet on the menu to suit you and your tot’s taste buds. 15th Ave Bakery & Cafe also serves tasty Vietnamese sandwiches and pastries and makes creative cakes for special occasions (you may just see some fancy wedding cakes on display when you visit). Psst! Be sure to try the grownup customer fave–Vietnamese Coffee and Special Sandwich Combo.

9988 15th Ave. S.W., Suite A
Seattle, Wa 98117
Online: facebook.com/pages/15th-Ave-Bakery-and-Cafe/144377095634577 or map it
Hours Mon.-Sun., 8 a.m.-7 p.m.


photo: Helen Walker Green

Caffè Delia
If you love coffee, head to Caffè Delia to find the coffee that made White Center famous. Caffè Delia started out as a pop-up coffee shop inside Proletariat Pizza, but has grown and is now located next door in its own space. Serving up smooth hand-crafted coffee from Velton’s Coffee, a small local roaster, is what put Caffè Delia on the map. Psst! Most of Caffè Delia’s pastries are handmade by Delia herself. Be sure to try the scones, a local favorite with adults and kiddos alike.

9622B 16th Ave. S.W.
Seattle, Wa 98106
Online: caffedelia.com or map it
Hours Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-2 p.m


photo: Helen Walker Green

Full Tilt
Full Tilt’s delicious handmade ice cream is a surefire hit with the kids. There are all kinds of flavors to choose, from vegan Orange Marshmallow to Girl Scout-inspired Thin Mint. There’s also vintage sodas and ice cream floats to drink and Northwest beers for the grownups. As if that weren’t enough, you can enjoy your ice cream cones while playing pinball or skee-ball. Psst! Full Tilt is decorated with eclectic artwork and old records which will give you a chance to educate your youngsters on the good ol’ days of vinyl.

Good to Know: Full Tilt is a great place for a birthday party. Along with games to play, the birthday kiddo will get to concoct his or her own special flavor of ice cream.

9629 16th Ave. S.W‎.
Seattle, Wa 98106
Online: fulltilticecream.com or map it
Hours: Mon.-Sat., noon-10 p.m.; Sun., noon-9 p.m.


photo: Helen Walker Green

What’s your favorite White Center spot? Tell us in the Comments below.

— Helen Walker Green