Ever have one of those days when you feel like you’ve done everything there is to do in your own ‘hood—nothing new in your local toy store, same old pepperoni at your local pizza place, not-quite-working-for-ya caffeine jolt at your neighborhood coffee shop? Then pack up the kiddos and head to the cutest and happening-ist little neighborhood in Southeast Seattle— always entertaining, always delicious Columbia City!
Columbia City’s totally cute and awesomely diverse historic business district (added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980) is only a few blocks long, stretching along Rainier Avenue South from approximately South Alaska Street to South Hudson Street, but what is lacks in size it most certainly makes up for in quality and quantity of utterly awesome shops, restaurants and kid-tastic adventure! And bonus–it’s small-town feel also makes it completely walkable with the 5 and under set, so bring along the Bob and prepare to stroll.
Ready, Set, Stroll!
Park along the side streets (or take Light Rail) and get ready to browse—a hand crafted espresso pairs perfectly with a fresh-from-the-oven Danish for you and a bearclaw for the kiddo when you begin your neighborhood endeavor at local favorite Columbia City Bakery, open every day at 7:00 am. Park the stroller at one of their outside tables and do some people (and pup) watching, or if you’re stomach’s still growling, head to another favorite breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) destination Geraldine’s Counter. With their all day breakfast (biscuits and gravy? Bacon, egg and arugula sandwich? Their famous French toast with the topping of the day?) and a sure to please kids’ menu (complete with crayons), you simply cannot go wrong at this little corner of comfort, open every day but Monday.
While you’re happily digesting whatever delicacy you chose at Geraldine’s, take some time to wander down Columbia City’s main street to one of the many kid-tastic shops. We guarantee your kiddos will beg to become permanent residents (or at least visit once a week).
Drool over the adorableness at just opened vintage and resale kids’ boutique Chrysanthemum, where you can relive your childhood while you check out the antique Fisher-Price toys (you know, the cool versions your mom saved for the grandkids) and the vintage suitcases, classic books, gently used high-end clothes and tchotchkes owner Christina Morehouse (who doubles as a labor and delivery nurse) has carefully collected over the years. Plan ahead and bring your nearly-new clothes, shoes or vintage toys, and she will purchase suitable items for store credit. Still enjoying that latte? Take a seat in the retro orange chairs by the entrance and sip to your heart’s content while your littles head to the well-stocked playroom tucked away in the back of the store. Christina hopes to also use that space for kid classes and tot-friendly events in the future, so keep an eye on her Facebook page for more info.
Plan on spending at least an hour checking out Retroactive Kids, a small store stocked to the gills with the coolest in retro, new vintage and just plain awesome kids’ toys, books and games this side of Lake Washington. From the latest Playmobil for your budding architect, gossamer wings for your little fairy princess or the perfect science experiment for the nutty professor in your crew, Retroactive Kids caters to those who want toys or games you can’t find elsewhere, and is the place to go to ensure your gift is the birthday kid’s favorite. And check this out—if your kiddo pays for an item with their own money, they get 10% off!
When your mini-shopaholic runs out of allowance money, kill two to-do’s with one stone and get your little Shaggy’s hair cut at Columbia City Cuts, which shares space with Retroactive Kids, and features a vintage fire truck barber chair to calm even the squirreliest of kids.
Did Someone Say Lunch?
From adventurously ethnic to good ol’ kid pleasing standards, Columbia City restaurants will please the picky and the foodie in equal measure.
If your kid’s palette is of the carbs and dairy variety, the hand tossed, thin crust Neopolitan pizza at Tutta Bella is a tot’s dream, while El Sombrero delivers up kid-friendly quesadillas (and mom-friendly margaritas), stat. For the kiddo who covers everything in Sriracha (or just likes to try new foods), head over to the Spice Room for delectable Thai food (complete with a kids’ menu), Wabi Sabi to get your sushi on (kids’ bento boxes include fruit and steamed veggies) or Island Soul for delicious Caribbean cuisine, including tot-pleasing sides like chicken wings, mac and cheese and coconut corn muffins. (Check out their weekend brunch for even more gastronomic goodness.) You’ll be planning your next play date (or date night) in no time with options like these!
If shopping and strolling don’t tire out your tots, Columbia City offers a variety of places to nurture future naptimes, or at least relax for a couple hours.
Seattle Gymnastics Academy’s Columbia City location provides parents with multiple movement options, from Indoor Playground time Monday through Saturday for the 12 month through five years set, to various gymnastics classes, to $2 Tuesdays (bring along a canned good for the Rainier Valley Food Bank) and Parents’ Nights Out (kids 5 and older, first and third Fridays of the month). Check their website and calendar for more specifics.
If a movie sounds more up your crew’s alley, head over to Ark Lodge Cinemas, a recently reopened and renamed independent theater showing first run movies (kid-friendly films play often; check their website for the latest). Besides movies, the Lodge hosts Art for Kids on Saturdays from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm, and an Arts & Crafts Fair every 4th Saturday from 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Check out their website to sign up for their newsletter, and you’ll automatically get a coupon for a free popcorn. And be sure to keep your receipt—after the movie, head over to totally family-friendly Rookie’s Sports Bar & Grill, show them your receipt, and get half-off an appetizer. Your mini Russell Wilson will appreciate the many TVs and funky sports décor that line the walls.
If quiet time is what soothes your savage beast, head over to the gorgeous Columbia City Library, where kid-friendly story times happen on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, or let your tot run along the peaceful paths in the adjacent Columbia Park.
Ice Cream Social
And of course, you need that final treat before you wander your way back to the car, right? Look no further than hipsteriffic Full Tilt, where the ice screamers can get their lick on at the coolest ice creamery in town, with creative flavors like Thai Iced Tea and kid-favorite Blue Moon, which tastes exactly like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of Froot Loops—seriously! No dairy? No problem! Full Tilt’s vegan flavors won’t make you miss the milk. Don’t forget your quarters—the kiddos will also be screaming to play a vintage video or pinball game or upon arrival.
Columbia City loves their kiddos, and the holidays are the perfect time to check out the cheer and charm.
If baked goods are what get you into the holiday spirit, grab your creative kiddos and head to Geraldine’s Counter on November 11th for their 6th Annual Cookie Decorating Party, where a $25 ticket (required for anyone consuming cookies) gets you a dinner of their famous mac & cheese, salad and drink, plus cookies from local bakeries to decorate (or just eat), with all (yes, all) proceeds going to the Rainier Valley Food Bank. Bring a bunch of canned goods, and you may just win a prize. That sounds like a win-win-yum to us!
No neighborhood is worth its salt without a holiday celebration, and Columbia City doesn’t disappoint. From November 20 through December 31, the Columbia City Gallery hosts the Festival of Ornaments, the largest display of local and handmade ornaments in the south end, perfect for your tree, mantel or holiday table. Head down to the corner of South Hudson Street and Rainier Avenue South on December 7th at 6:00 pm, where twinkly lights, steaming cider and hot chocolate, kooky caroling with the Beaconettes and even an appearance by Old Saint Nick will have your littles envisioning dancing sugarplums in no time.
We dare you not to fall in love with Columbia City.
Do you think you’ll visit Columbia City soon? Which stop will you make first? Let us know in a comment below!
Photo credits: Columbia City Business Association (CCBA) website; Mandy S on Yelp, Chrysanthemum/Christina Morehouse, Retroactive Kids website, Debra L on Yelp; Ark Lodge Cinemas Facebook page; CCBA website; James G on Yelp; CCBA Facebook page