Finding it: 8498 Seaview Place NW, Seattle, WA 98107 // If you know how to get to Market Street in Ballard, you can easily find Golden Gardens. Basically, keep going west. Follow Market all the way past the Locks, Ray’s and the marina and you’ll essentially dead end yourself into the park. There are signs along the way, in case you need some hand holding.
Parking Situation: Let’s have an honest moment here. Parking at Golden Gardens is horrible. Really, really awfully horrible. There are physically dozens of spots, but it just isn’t enough. Here’s the good news — with so many people at Golden Gardens at any time of day, there is high turnaround. Slow down and look for people who are headed to their cars from the beach… then follow them. Turn on your blinker and hold your ground. It might take them 15-minutes to get all of the sand off their feet and their gear in the car, but it’s worth it for that spot. If you have more than on adult in the car, unload the kiddos with one of the grownups, and some of the gear, in the little pull-off section before the playground, while the other grownup goes parking spot hunting.
What the kids loved: The playground is super cool and shouldn’t be passed up — we recommend hitting the playground right when you get there and again on the way back to the car (it will help get some of the sand off of their little bodies!). Our kids loved just being on the beach — we were close enough to the water that they could go explore on their own and of course, being able to have a bonfire, right there in the sand, was such a hit.
What I loved: For me, it was just such a moment. Despite the fact that Golden Gardens is packed to the gills with people most of the time, there’s something undeniable about it. People were friendly, kids were enjoying themselves and the sunset in the background was beyond gorgeous. Sure, you have to overlook some of Golden Garden’s less than desirable qualities to truly enjoy yourself, but it’s worth it. I’m pretty sure the last time I’d been to Golden Gardens was in college and I think that I enjoyed it even more last weekend, even despite the fact that I had three disgustingly dirty children to wash when we got home.
Bring it: Planning on doing an entire beach day? Here’s what you’ll need at Golden Gardens: Food, drinks (um, no alcohol allowed, ahem, wink, wink, WINK.), lots of extra water, at least one blanket to sit on (two is better), stuff to dig in the sand, a paper bag for garbage, BABY WIPES for cleaning gross hands, firewood (one of those bundles from the grocery store is the perfect amount), something to light the fire with, and more food. Wear: Clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty/wet, flipflops that everyone can easily shake the sand out of, sunglasses for that pretty sunset, SUNSCREEN.
Leave it: Don’t bother with a stroller, unless you have a little one who might take a snooze in it as the day goes by. Otherwise, it’s just a hassle to push in the sand when your arms are already loaded with gear. It’s likely that you’re going to have to park pretty far away from where you set up camp, so if you can’t carry it all in one trip, don’t bother bringing it. And, don’t count on your kids to help — they’re going to be beat by the time you leave.
The verdict: Spending the day at Golden Gardens is like a right of passage for Seattle families in the summer. It must be done. Sure, it takes some prep, some planning and leaving your OCD tendencies at the door, but it’s so completely worth it. A couple of notes… Your kids are going to be really really filthy when you leave the beach and so are you. The firewood ashes have mixed with the sand for so long at Golden Gardens, that it’s practically black (not in that amazing, black sand beach in Hawaii way) and your skin is going to covered the instant you set foot on the beach. Let your kids know that baths are mandatory when you get home… hose showers in the backyard would really be best.
Second, it’s so crowded at Golden Gardens that keeping an eye on your little ones as the sun goes down can get tricky. Give them boundaries. When we were there, a mom had lost her three-year old and it was very scary,to say the least, considering the parking lot is so close, as is the water. My hero of a neighbor, Sara, found him, after scouring the beach for what seemed like the longest time. Also, can we chat about how we should help others look when they’ve lost their child? Just do it, please.
When was the last time you went to Golden Gardens with your kids?
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Park #1. Park #2.