After nearly two years of planning and development, Seattle has a new playground that gives a whole new meaning to adventure time. Artists at Play, located in the Next 50 Plaza next to EMP, is an imaginative, artists-created outdoor playground designed for kids of all ages. With a 35-foot high climbing tower and kid-inspired musical instruments, listening stations and sound swings, kids (and grownups) can engage their senses through play.

RT.SeattleCtrPlayground-7photo: Natalia Dotto Photography 

The Play Equipment
With the Experience Music Project as a backdrop and the Space Needle looming overhead, this new playground is nothing shy of eye-catching. But the first thing that sticks out is the huge climbing structure. At 35-feet high, we’re told it’s the tallest of its kind in North America. And while the climbing tower is sure to raise some parent’s blood pressure, there is netting around the outside of the tower and the suspended bridges. Parents, you know your kids best and if they’re afraid of heights you might want to head over to the music and art elements that are at ground level.

Two huge tube slides are bound to capture a few little dare devils’ attention. The long straight slide is 52-feet long; the curly slide is about 38-feet long, and neither are for the faint of heart. (Psst… Rumor has it that the curly slide is a little scary!). But to slide down, first kiddos have to climb up, either through a spider web of ropes or up that tall climbing tower. And then it’s a matter of crossing swaying bridges high above the ground. After that, it’s a hair-raising ride back down to terra firma. Or for those kiddos who aren’t afraid of heights, think of the view they get of EMP and the surrounding Seattle Center.

RT.SeattleCtrPlayground-8photo: Natalia Dotto Photography  

Engage Your Senses
Kids are sure to get a good workout clambering up and down the ropes and tower, but there is more to this playground. Two artists, Trimpin and Judith Caldwell, collaborated with Site Workshop and Highwire to design a playground built for the senses—think art and music as well as movement. The playful, interactive sculptures designed by Trimpin bring a kinetic and musical presence to the playground and the numerous bronze inlays created by Caldwell, a Pacific Northwest artist and Seattle native, interact with the sculptures, adding whimsical and functional elements to the pieces.

Art Elements
At the Letter Tree, seven letters correspond to seven musical notes. Music lovers of all ages can crank a wheel and hear the note.

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photo: Natalia Dotto Photography

The Rain Stick is a tall yellow column. A crank moves a bar and an a playful acrylic form slides along, accompanied by the sound of rain.

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photo: Natalia Dotto Photography

Listening Stations are placed strategically around the park, so that parkgoers can stand between giant yellow earphones and listen to friends, or is that the Rain Stick?

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photo: Natalia Dotto Photography

Tall yellow pipes containing billiard balls make up the Sound Fence. Pull on the billiard balls, or give them a swat and hear the different sounds.

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photo: Natalia Dotto Photography

The Sound Swings allow little ones to swing on the sculpture. Get enough momentum going and the artwork on top creates movement and sounds. And with an ADA accessible swing, all children can take part in this musical ride.

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 photo: Natalia Dotto Photography

If your tots like to go around (and around!), you will find an ADA accessible merry-go-round, one of only a handful around the country, at this awe-inspiring playground.

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 photo: Natalia Dotto Photography

Your little wanderer can also follow Story Lines throughout the park. The lines are painted on the ground with the words of children who were interviewed and asked their thoughts about sound and art. Follow each of the wavy Story Lines to discover a unique story of sound, motion and adventure, as imagined by children.

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 photo: Natalia Dotto Photography

Good to Know
There is a smaller play structure for the younger set. And while the bigger climbing tower and slides are recommended for children ages 5 and up, parents should use their own judgment as to how much of the playground their child can handle.

Seattle Center took advantage of the playground construction to upgrade the Next 50 Plaza with new landscaping, patios and terracing. A large saddle span tent provides plenty of shade for viewing and picnicking and new signage shares the story of the playground with visitors and provides information and instruction on interacting with the play elements.

Artists at Play Playground
Seattle Center – Next 50 Plaza
305 Harrison St.
Seattle, Wa 98109
Online: seattlecenter.com/news/detail.aspx?id=1932

What do you think of this new playground? Will your child be heading down those slides? How about you? Let us know in the Comments below. 

— Natalia Dotto