Seattle kids struck it big this past year. Innovative companies opened, new playgrounds sprouted up around the city, trendy bake shops moved into town and new indoor play spaces took Seattle tots by storm. Here are our picks for the 12 best things to arrive on the kiddie scene in 2017.

Two New Playgrounds in West Seattle

Families in West Seattle looking for new places to play in 2017 found delight in two new openings—a redesigned play area at Lincoln Park and the White Center Bike Playground. 

Like any good hideaway in the woods, Lincoln Park’s brand new north play area was where Seattle kids found exciting new things to explore. In addition to a tree house with multiple escape routes, a slide-winder, curvy slide, ladders, ropes, Lincoln Park's first official Club House and rope bridges (perfect for traversing between the three awesome play structures) kept tykes of all ages busy. But it was the group saucer swing and the speedy zip line that was a huge hit with older kids and parents alike! 

Little pedalheads looking to test drive their road skills and bigger cyclists looking to brush up on them, hit the White Center Bike Playground—the first one to open in our state! With stop signs, intersections, a one-way street and even a roundabout for kids to navigate, this totally safe, car-free environment is where you could find kids, rain or shine, cruising on their bikes in 2017.

Lincoln Park North Play Area (next to the wading pool)
8011 Fauntleroy Way S.W.
Seattle, Wa 98136
Online: seattle.gov/parks/find/parks/lincoln-park

White Center Bike Playground
Dick Thurnau Memorial Park (formerly Lakewood Park)
11050 10th Ave. S.W.
Seattle Wa 98146
Online: kingcountyparks.org/2016/10/03/bike-playground-dick-thurnau-memorial-park

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photo: Helen Green

IKEA Renton

Seattle parents did a happy dance when the new supersized IKEA Renton opened its doors in early 2017. The new 399,000-square-foot store debuted as a traditional IKEA: two stories loaded with furniture and a restaurant on the top floor, plus a Marketplace and checkout area below along with convenient escalators and elevators to navigate between floors. But is was the 1,600 new parking spaces (with more in the works) and five electric re-charge stations, that kept Seattle parents coming back again and again. IKEA's Småland also received a major makeover, and shoppers of all ages were encouraged to be hands-on which meant testing out the furniture (bunk beds, anyone?), checking out the new merch on the shelves and giving the new activity stations around the store a try. 

IKEA Renton
601 S.W. 41st St.,
Renton, Wa 98057
888-888-4532
Online: ikea.com

photo: Helen Green

The Community General Store

From snowshoes and backpacking gear, to ice cream makers and chocolate fountains—if you needed it, you could find it at The Community General Store which opened its doors in the Delridge neighborhood of West Seattle in February of 2017. Along with access to a variety of objects, members participated in experiences such as Make n’ Mend sessions, meditation classes and daily “any weather” walks which made this new vibrant community space a popular spot for many Seattle families. 

The Community General Store
5214 Delridge Way S.W.
Seattle, Wa
443-995-9269
Online: thecommunitygeneralstore.com and on Facebook

photo: Jennifer Davis

Snip-its of Bellevue

In 2017, Crossroads Bellevue Shopping Center became home to Snip-its of Bellevue. On any given day, kids in need of a cut, trim or style, could pop into the bright, exciting space and expect a magical experience. From the highly trained stylists and the walk-in, relaxed vibe, to the Magic Box filled with cool prizes, computer tablets available during haircuts and fun accouterments (think: sparkles, washable hair color and hair tinsel), Snip-its of Bellevue became a destination Seattle kids couldn't wait to visit. 

Snip-its of Bellevue
Crossroads Bellevue Shopping Center
15600 N.E. 8th St., Suite F-4
Bellevue, Wa  98008
425-429-2570
Online: snipits.com

photo: Eric Riddle

Portal – Virtual Reality Arcade & Lounge

When we heard about Seattle's first virtual reality arcade opening in April, we knew it was going to be good. And we were right! Portal – Virtual Reality Arcade & Lounge was the only place in town where kids and their parents could travel to space, risk their lives walking the plank high above a busy city, get lost in a snow storm and finish off a few zombies in an old mine shaft in under an hour. Portal also proved to be one of those rare places in town that catered to all ages at the same time. And the best part? Parents never had to worry about entering a space that was blasting loud music or filled with annoying beeps and sounds. 

Portal – Virtual Reality Arcade & Lounge
2601 N.W. Market St.
Seattle, Wa  98107
206-494-0102
Online: portalvr.us

photo: Jeffrey Totey

Despi Delite Bakery

Something sweet, delicious and delectable arrived in Everett in 2017. Despi Delite Bakery was the second location using the Despi name (the original has been serving the Beacon Hill neighborhood for over 20 years) and proved to be a huge hit for families in the North Sound. Kids loved lining up for the large maple bars (with or without bacon), the apple fritters with the nice and crispy outsides and soft and squishy insides and the delicious cream-filled pastries, tarts and pies. But what families really couldn't get enough of was the purple ube-filled doughnuts. Delish! 

Despi Delite Bakery
3713 Broadway
Everett, Wa 98201
425-249-2295
Online: despidelitebakery.com and on Facebook

photo: Jennifer Davis

Bellevue Downtown Park Inspiration Playground

Eastside parents rejoiced when the redesigned Bellevue Downtown Park playground finally opened in July of 2017. Built in collaboration between the City of Bellevue and Rotary Club of Bellevue, the playground featured new interactive elements that not only engaged kids' senses, but created inclusiveness and accommodations for children of all abilities and their caregivers. Rain or shine, the playground provided a space for older kids to hang, a splash pad (perfect for hot summer days), a rockin’ music area, a climbing wall, beautifully designed climbing vine, large-scale play structure, swings and an in-ground trampoline—making this the coolest outdoor space to play at this year. 

Downtown Bellevue Park and Inspiration Playground
10201 N.E. 4th St.
Bellevue, Wa 98004
Online: parks.bellevuewa.gov 

photo: Jennifer Davis

We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym

Families searching the Eastside for a fresh, new, indoor play space in 2017 found delight in We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym. Located in Bellevue, this awesome gym provided a space for kids of all ability levels to play and grow together through “safe sensory experiences” and was the first kid’s gym in our area to offer this all-inclusive philosophy. Located inside a large warehouse-type room, kids spent their summer break swinging, climbing, jumping and playing on 10 specialized pieces of sensory equipment that fostered motor skill and strength development. Other highlights of this space included the zip line with a “crash pit” filled with foam, a giant screened-in trampoline, an indoor climbing play structure, a variety of sensory-based toys and a separate area for crafts and quiet rooms. But best of all, the gym’s philosophy - “Finally a place where you never have to say I’m sorry" - was at the heart of this nurturing, open environment. 

We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym
1910 132nd Ave. N.E., Suite #7
Bellevue, Wa 98005
425-223-5585
Online: werockthespectrumeastsideseattle.com

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Next Level Burger

Burger connoisseurs and vegetarians alike crushed on Seattle’s new plant-based burger joint, Next Level Burger, when it opened at the Roosevelt Square Whole Foods at the end of August. Like many great inventions, Next Level Burger was born out of necessity after owners, Matt and Cierra de Gruyter, had their first child. Day and night, Next Level Burger served up “burgers for a better world" by redefining the classic American burger with responsibly-sourced, organic, GMO-free, plant-based ingredients.

Parents and kids alike quickly discovered that creative combos like the Bleu BBQ (featuring tempeh bacon, blue cheese and BBQ sauce) and the All American (topped with tempeh bacon, cheese and mayo) seamlessly meshed with impostor ingredients like egg-free mayo, dairy-free cheese and meatless bacon. And the fries? Next Level served up pounds (and pounds) of their standard crinkles, tots and sweets (all with the option of being oven baked or deep fried in sunflower oil to help families make healthy choices). But it was their “Fries with Style” (dressed up vegan versions of those drool-worthy combos you normally pass up thanks to the calories) that were a huge hit with Seattle families along with their coconut and soy based ice cream shakes. The best part? Parents of picky eaters fell in love with the Kids Meal menu which was chock-full of hidden veggies, beans and other good stuff, so parents could relax and let their tots order whatever tasty treat looked good that day. 

Next Level Burger
1026 N.E. 64th St.
Seattle, Wa 98115
206-319-0026
Online: nextlevelburger.com

photo: Kristina Moy

Sugar Factory at The Shops at The Bravern

A floor-to-ceiling candy dot wall, milkshakes dripping with candy, glow in the dark drinks garnished with gummy candies and lollipops, a confectionary shop with more than 300 candies and sweets, outrageous donut concoctions and a chocolate lounge. No, this was not Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but it was pretty darn close. It was Seattle's first Sugar Factory which opened its doors in September at The Shops at The Bravern. The 15,000-square-foot restaurant, composed of two spaces, debuted as part restaurant, part confectionary shop and part lounge, and it was where sweet fanatics of all ages satisfied their sugar cravings in 2017. 

Sugar Factory American Brasserie Seattle 
The Shops at The Bravern
11111 N.E. 8th St., Suite #120
Bellevue, Wa 98004
425- 454-0313
Online: sugarfactory.com/location/bellevue

photo: Jeffrey Totey

Diagon Alley

Sure, Universal Studios has "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” but Ballard was home to the next best thing in 2017 – Diagon Alley. Dubbed by some as “the coolest dad ever,” Jon Chambers built a replica of the fictional shopping district found in the Harry Potter books (in his own driveway!) and invited Muggles of all ages to see it for themselves. 

Located on a quiet street in Ballard, Chambers (a former tech exec and dad) said that up until 2017, his family didn’t get many, if any, treat-or-treaters on their doorstep, so he wanted to create something that would entice them to drop by. Well, guess what? It worked. Thousands (and thousands!) of people visited Chambers’ walk-through replica of Diagon Alley. The attention to detail was incredible, and many of the buildings had crocked corners and bent drainpipes and every shop had amazing singage. But the best part? Chambers was able to collect and donate thousands of dollars to pancreatic cancer research.

Diagon Alley
7514 13th Ave. N.W.
Seattle, Wa 98117
Online: diagonalleyproject.com

Well, that was an awesome year, wasn’t it? What was your highlight of 2017? Tell us in the comments below!

— Kristina Moy