“HOOT! HOOT!” My fingers round into a megaphone. I commence a series of sharp owl cries — a means of communication the kids and I developed for when we’re exploring.
I hear giggling and fast-moving bodies zigzagging through the trees like the Lost Boys. Technically, the Kubota Gardens is just outside the Renton border and if you want to split hairs, it’s not really Never, Never Land.
But Kubota Gardens sure feels like a magical place strolling through the abundant bamboo, yew, birch and other flowering trees and mature shrubs.
An unbelievable feast for the hungry eye . . . desperate for summer fun in Renton that’s affordable, kid-friendly and not the same-old, same-old. I reminded myself to thank my friend Dina Davis for turning me on to this little gem.
But now the only sign of the Lost Boys in the vibrant Japanese Garden are the upended dino boots and abandoned Teva’s. Only moments before, Sophie, with a wave of her hand and in the spirit of Peter, commanded her younger siblings off the manicured path and into the wild. It was very dramatic but according to the map they were headed toward the spring-fed pond.
Baby Ty and I held back fingering ferns. I’m encouraged, grateful that Ma Nature is still free and judging by the peals of delight from the peanut gallery still a blast for kids to explore.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, the person I want to thank is Carrie King of Renton for writing me and asking the question . . .
“As a Mama of a Preschooler (Highlands Preschool) and soon to be Kindergartner (Renton Christian School) it sure would be nice to see an article on activities to do with small kids that don’t cost a fortune.”
Carrie went on to list a few of her favorites.
“Picnic at numerous parks, Cedar River Trail Stroll, Library. But what else is out there? Please help.”
As a mama and Renton resident for 10 years, respectively, I have my own cache of favorites. But part of the fun of writing this column is challenging myself to discover new adventures. I, too, wanted to try something new. Aside from Kubota Gardens, I’d never been to the Renton History Museum near downtown Renton.
I’ve always felt I should check it out. But the logo (a coal miner with a lantern illuminated on his head) and a somewhat nondescript white building didn’t feel particularly inviting or kid-friendly.
And when you have four rowdy kids and a mother with a super hero identity: Pippimamma … well let’s just say that the suggestion of going to a museum is a little intimidating.
Not because I don’t believe in museums as wonderful institutions but because of the breakables. There’s not enough art in America today and I don’t want my 3-year-old to be responsible for one less piece.
But I was committed to the task of trying something new.
Sure enough my heart started to pitter patter as we walked through the doors of the Renton History Museum. It was quiet, too quiet — I felt underdressed like we’d just stepped into hallowed ground and I was wearing spiked heels and a spandex body suit. I expected trouble.
I found the people there were extremely attentive, chipper bordering on excited. At the time we were the only guests. As we wandered through the historical displays that included a model train, airplane stuff, a pictorial series on the Duwamish tribe, and staged
scenes with token memorabilia that were meant to show a part of Renton’s history, I got the feeling the place was a tad pole version of the Seattle’s Children Museum. But it wanted to be more.
“Do you want more people to come?” I asked employee Dorota Rahn.
“YES!” she said as if the answer was obvious. And yet here we stood the only customers. Ms. Rahn went on to say, “With a city as diverse as Renton we’re always looking for ways to stay relevant.”
The history was interesting but I was blown away with the arts and crafts room — the shelves were filled to the gills with art supplies. And not the chincy, mismatched and out-to-pasture kind of crayons you’d find in a plastic cup at a tired restaurant.
I’m talking ‘bout glitter, popsicle sticks, all kinds of glue, marker pens, scissors, paper and more. The kids had a ball. And well worth the paltry admission of $6 for our family.
Our next venue was the SpringBrook Trout Farm (just down the street from Valley Medical Center.) On a beautiful summer day there are equal parts shade and sun with chairs-o-plenty. Down-home creature comforts for any fisher woman.
We were greeted by a tail wagging pooch named “Buddy.” An equally friendly lady helped us with our poles, buckets and handed each of the kids little containers of Alpo-like fishing bait that you ball onto the hook — no wriggling worms to impale.
Included in the price of catching a fish is on-site cleaning and gutting of the spring-fed rainbow trout fish and to the delight of the kids who raptly watched as owner Bill Briere (whose wife the nice lady aforementioned I found out is Renton City Council member Terri Briere) laid the-still beating fish heart on the counter. Let me tell you the kids were impressed.
I was busy trying to fish out the lens of my sunglasses that popped out and dropped into one of the three spring fed pools. A passerby Mom stopped pushing her stroller and helped me fish it out. We chatted and she passed along a tip: The Skatebarn in Renton is a great indoor skate park. Another activity to add to my growing list. Which is where an idea was born . . . Carolynslist ala Craigslist.
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark began an e-mail distribution list of friends, featuring local events in the San Francisco Bay area.
And so why not make a Carolynslist where moms and dads can contribute and read about fun places in Renton. For the purposes of this column I had one more new adventure to go.
Our final destination was one I’d been yearning to visit for years. Deb the owner from Jet City had told me about Cascade Canoe and Kayak located at the North end of the Cedar River Trail a few years back.
So off we went, I shared a double kayak with 7-year-old Amelia and 10-year-old Sophie yet again left me in the proverbial Lake Washington dust in her single.
A view of Renton from a different angle–floating on a beautiful lake past a hanger alongside a steel colored Boeing 747. To my right the Renton Airport was a hive of activity as sea planes flew overhead, Sophie paddled toward Seattle in the distance as Amelia and I played I-Spy with the billowy cloud formations. The experience was like taking a dreamy, big slice of life of Renton pie.
To add a favorite place to visit in Renton visit my blog at www.pippimamma.com
I love suggestions! If you know of people or places in Renton that surprise, delight and inspire the community, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow Carolyn on her blog, www.pippimamma.com.
Springbrook Trout Farm
19225 Talbot Road South
Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday
10 a.m. -5 p.m.
Cascade Canoe & Kayak
Cedar River Boathouse
1060 Nishiwaki Lane
Renton Historical Museum
235 Mill Ave S
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday
1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
9817 55th Ave., S.