Eat and Run: Seattle Playgrounds with Kid-Friendly Lunch Spots Nearby

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We love a good PB&J as much as the next desperate parent—that is to say, it’s a step above week-old leftover chili and just below chow mein gobbled right from the fridge. But sometimes, we all need an excuse for a midday meal that isn’t a sad afterthought or hastily thrown together picnic. Take advantage of the warmer weather to pair a park outing with a lunch worth leaving the house for—you’ll get some good eats, the Littles will run like crazy and everyone will go home happy.

CRDT-kidsplay-14, outdoors, playground

photo: Brooke WIlliams via flickr

Maple Leaf Park and Cloud City Coffee
This sunny neighborhood park with plenty of street parking opened just a couple of years ago, so the equipment—though not the fanciest in town—is good quality. Bigger kids particularly love the zip line, and tinier ones dig the sandpit in the corner. Bring along the bikes and balls: there’s a circular track just north of the playground, plus pickle ball and basketball courts. The one flaw is that there’s only a few picnic tables (split between lower and upper parks), so if you’re planning to get your lunch to-go, you may want to pack a picnic blanket.

Cloud City is the resident favorite for eat-in or take-out options—a delightful café where the food is 10 times better than it needs to be. Breakfast means hot, made-to-order breakfast sandwiches under $5 and fat, gooey cinnamon rolls on weekends; lunch offers a menu of sandwiches, quiches and salad (the grilled cheese is top-notch). If the rain chases you out of the park prematurely, you can also sit here with a coffee and let your young ones play with the books and toys they have on hand.

Maple Leaf Reservoir Park
1020 N.E. 82nd St.
Seattle, Wa 98115

Cloud City Coffee
8801 Roosevelt Way N.E.
Seattle, Wa 98115
Hours: Daily 6 a.m.-6 p.m.

Maple Leaf Playground

photo: Amy H. via Yelp 

Ravenna-Eckstein Park and Vios Café
Vios Café, located inside Ravenna’s wonderful Third Place Books, is a well-known staple for kid-friendly eats, thanks to their all-day menu that starts with coffee and baked goods and ends with smaller portions of Greek mac and cheese or falafel or chicken and rice at dinner. If you’ve got a roaming eater, you can also perch at the counter circling the walled little kid pit and let your energetic kiddo play with the books and toys inside. Stop after a trip to nearby Ravenna-Eckstein Park, though, any excess energy shouldn’t be an issue. The park is tucked behind the bookstore about a block, next to the Ravenna-Eckstein community center. With two different play structures—one better suited for the tinier set—and plentiful ball courts, there are more than enough opportunities to work up an appetite for souvlaki after.

Bonus feature: The Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center has an indoor playground full of toys that’s great for toddlers and costs just $3 for admission. It also has generous open hours (click here to check out times), making it a great backup option.

Ravenna-Eckstein Park
6535 Ravenna Ave. N.E.
Seattle, Wa 98115

Vios Café at Third Place Books
6504 20th Ave. N.E.
Seattle, Wa 98115
Hours: Daily 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

cal anderson park pic_sherill y

photo: Sherill Y. via Yelp

Cal Anderson Park and Rancho Bravo Tacos
Is there a better pairing than a sunny day and tacos eaten al fresco? We think not. Capitol Hill isn’t always the city’s most kid-friendly neighborhood, but if you keep it off your radar, you’re missing one of Seattle’s best parks. Cal Anderson is huge: more than seven acres that feature an impressive playground, a fountain and wading pool, oversize chessboards, lighted athletic fields and plenty of grassy knolls for sitting.

You’ll need sustenance to power through a park of this size, and while there are a dozen decent places to grab lunch in the ‘hood—Oddfellows Cafe+Bar, Gnocchi Bar, Panera Bread, and Ian’s Pizza, to name a few kid-friendly spots within walking distance—we recommend Rancho Bravo Tacos, just to the southern entrance of the park. The no-frills taqueria is reminiscent of the fast-food chain that previously occupied the building, but the food is a step above: tasty hard- or soft-shell tacos, tortas, burritos and other Mexican staples. Kids go crazy for the quesadillas and this writer’s little foodie particularly loves the rice and bean bowl.

Bonus feature: The wading pool and spraypark are open from July 1 through Aug. 21, 2016 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between noon and 6:30 p.m.

Cal Anderson Park
1635 11th Ave.
Seattle, Wa 98122

Rancho Bravo Tacos
1001 E. Pine St.
Seattle, Wa 98122
Hours: Sun.-Tues., 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Wed.-Thurs., 10:30 a.m.-midnight; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 a.m.-3 a.m.

international children's park pic_monica b

photo: Monica B. via Yelp

International Children’s Park and King Noodle
Occupying a quiet corner lot in the International District, this petite park is less a destination on its own and more a convenient place to run off the crazies after you carbo load at King Noodle. The aesthetic here mirrors the rest of the neighborhood—grass and sand form a yin-yang shape in the middle of the park, and a bronze dragon acts as a fun gym for little climbers. The real draw is what you can find at nearby businesses—aisles of Japanese snacks at Uwajimaya, boba tea at Ambrosia, manga and gel pens at Kinokuniya, retro video games at Pink Gorilla. And though they’re not ideally set up for wee little babies, King Noodle—a mere 4-minute walk from the park—is an oasis for both daring and selective diners. Each bowl of noodle soup is customizable, so you pick your noodles (flat rice noodles, cylindrical udon noodles, thin vermicelli, etc.), type of broth and toppings, which include a variety of meats and veggies. Don’t be turned off by the availability of pork kidney and beef tripe—your bowl can be as spicy and adventurous or safe and predictable as you’d like. It’s all delicious.

International Children’s Park
700 S. Lane St.
Seattle, Wa 98104

King Noodle
615 S. King St.
Seattle, Wa 98104
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-midnight

madison park pic_yordan m.

photo: Yordan M. via Yelp

Madison Park and Madison Kitchen
Madison Park’s eponymous park is worthy of having a ‘hood built around it—eight grassy acres that house a stellar playground and summertime swimming beach (complete with lifeguards) on the shore of Lake Washington. There are climbing structures galore, with plentiful bench seating for mom or dad to keep an eye on little daredevils. The very walkable little strip of shops and restaurants nearby makes grabbing lunch a pinch, but we particularly love the sandwiches, soups, salads—and, let’s be real, the baked goods mostly—at Madison Kitchen. We recommend stopping pre-park and ordering enough for a picnic, then taking your spread for a leisurely day in the park that stretches from late morning to early afternoon. You’ll all be ready to go home for naps.

Bonus: If Madison Kitchen has it, grab a bag of “puppy chow” to take with you—it’s a mix of pretzels, peanut M&Ms and coconut flakes and it’s amazing!

Madison Park
4201 E. Madison St.
Seattle, Wa 98112

Madison Kitchen
4122 E. Madison St.
Seattle, Wa 98112
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

kirke park pic_erik m.

photo: Erik M. via Yelp

Kirke Park and Take 5 Urban Market
This writer’s love for Take 5 knows no bounds—it is easily the most underrated minimart/lunch spot in town. So it was particularly exciting in 2012, when Kirke Park opened just a couple of blocks away. This neighborhood park is a quiet one, with one large play structure, a short slide for smaller kiddos and a sandbox where you can always find a few dump trucks and shovels. There’s a sweet little community garden, where budding gardeners may enjoy identifying the growing veggies (though please, no picking!). Lunch should absolutely be purchased from Take 5, a corner store that has a few pantry staples like eggs and milk and Snickers bars, plus an impressive beer selection and well-curated wall of wine. The sandwiches are among the best in Seattle—we love the Reuben and the BLATT, though there’s a daily sandwich special as well as a daily dinner entrée like pot roast or lasagna. The brick of penne mac ‘n’ cheese is a kid favorite, for good reason. Though there are only a few seats in the shop, everything can be packaged for a park picnic.

Kirke Park
7028 9th Ave. N.W.
Seattle Wa 98117

Take 5 Urban Market
6757 8th Ave. N.W.
Seattle, Wa 98117
Hours: Daily, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Everyone has their favorite neighborhood hangout. Where do you take your tots for lunch and play? Tell us in the Comments below. 

— Chelsea Lin

If you’re on the Eastside, be sure to visit our favorite parks and playgrounds with nibbler-friendly lunch spots nearby.

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