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Columbia City: Small Town in Seattle

Happy 100th birthday, Columbia City! You're lookin' great! Walking around the Columbia City Landmark District feels like visiting a small town miles away from any city. With a true village feel, the entire boutique shopping district of Columbia City is on one street (Rainier), for about three blocks. Even the Columbia City Cinema looks like somewhere Sally and Johnny would go on a date after sipping one Coke float from two straws.

You'll find quality shops and restaurants, and great shopping for the family ­ Columbia City's the commercial hub for the Rainier Valley. We love how close it is to Seward Park and Lake Washington. We also love the international flavor in the many Pho restaurants, next to stores selling goods from faraway places, like Gambia. Street parking is pretty easy but you can eliminate all stress and park for $1.00/two hours by taking a left off of Rainier at Ferdinand.


Farmers Market
4801 Rainier Ave. S at South Edmunds St. , click on "markets," then "Columbia City" Wednesdays, May through October, from 3:00 pm ­ 7:00 pm You don't have to wait for the weekend to hit up the U District or Ballard Farmers Markets ­ try Columbia City's forty farmers and small food vendors on a Wednesday afternoon. There's plenty of street parking for this farmers market, with lush produce, honey, meat, jam, bread, flowers, and more. The environment is lively and reflective of the many cultural groups that make Columbia City home. There's even live music and kids' crafts. Fresh and fun!

Seattle Public Library Columbia Branch
4721 Rainier Ave. S scroll in the locator for the Columbia branch Bordering on Columbia Park, which has recently undergone improvements to enhance its "village green" quality, the Columbia library feels as if it could rest at the center of any idyllic small town. The children's section is large and features signs in English and other languages. Story time follows the Seattle Public School schedule (none in the summer) and takes place at 10:30 am on Fridays. It's followed from 11:30 am ­ 1:30 pm by Play & Learn group, led in both English and Spanish.

Rainier Community Center
4600 38th Ave. S

Most of the year, you can bring your Little One (infant to age five) to play in the supervised Toddler Gym at Rainier Community Center for just $2 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. It's a great place to kick balls, climb a play structure, and learn social skills. It's closed during the summer, but who wants to be inside then, anyway? The RCC is great outdoor destination, too, with a huge lawn (with picnic tables) and outdoor play structure. Did you know RCC is the second largest community center in Washington? Go check it out, and grab a brochure of all the fun activities.

Honorable Mention
Rainier Valley Whirligig Arts Project
Keep your eyes up as you walk around Columbia City; you'll notice sculptures atop posts. They were made by students from Franklin, Rainier Beach, and Cleveland high schools with mentoring from artist Carl Smool, as a way to celebrate the cultural diversity of South Seattle.

Columbia City Beatwalk
First Fridays from May through December, from 7:00 pm ­ 10:00 pm, you can experience a world of music in the restaurants, shops, and galleries of Columbia City. Adults, $5 or season pass for $35; kids, free.

Brighton Playfield
6000 39th Ave. S
Plans are underway to add science-learning elements to Brighton Playfield, but in the meantime, enjoy the play structure, volleyball net, ballfields, tennis courts, and hills that are perfectly sloped for rolling down. There are restrooms, too.

Lakewood Playfield
5013 S Angeline St.
This pesticide-free park features one of the best trike and small bike areas we've seen, and an inviting play structure. It's on the way to Seward Park, and has a restroom.



Retroactive Kids
4859 Rainier Ave. S
Retroactive Kids is settling into their new location, a space they share with West Seattle Kids, a hair salon where kids can get a cut while riding a motorcycle. The store is awesome for its retro vibe in both new and vintage gear (vintage Levis, $13). It's owned by two moms, Beth Reyes and Trisha Gilmore, and you'll love outfitting your fam in their gear as much as they'll love selling you all their adorable stuff. We especially love dresses from local designer zuzu petals. Don't forget that they also have an art lab with a schedule for kids and grown-ups.

Kate Quinn Organics
5609 Rainer Ave. S, in the back, unit B
The colors of Kate Quinn's fair-trade designs are so adorable, you'll want to fill Baby's whole wardrobe with her onesies (from $14). Little One's closet will be brighter, too, with hoodies, tees, dresses, and pants (for boys and girls, up to size six). Kate's also got a full line of bedding, and cozy hooded towels. She's garnered more national attention than local, but we're the lucky ones who can visit her show room, and we still get to browse her online shop if we prefer. Guess what? Mom will be able to get in the action this fall, with items like a roomy wrap dress. Hallelujah!

4908 Rainier Ave. S
Andaluz caters to the women in Columbia City, who love Blue Platypus T-shirts, all things Queen Bee, and bags from Crystalyn Kae. It's not all about the grown-ups, though. You can find lots for kids and babies here, -- even baby tattoos, temporary of course ($5 for a huge sheet). We love two items imported from Thailand: Koonin Family Pets, whimsical one-of-a-kind key chains that are animals and monsters made my hand by all the members of the actual Koonin Family ($10), and Stringdoll Gang buddies ($8.50). We also adore the $26 art prints of animals (monkey with a banana, woo!) by a local artist, and the kid-size aprons from Saucywear, which come with a cookie cutter.

Honorable Mention
Sweet Pea's
4820 Rainier Ave. S
Sweet Pea's is the place to find gently used clothing (infant to size twelve), and kids' gear, like strollers. They've also got a good selection of Robeez shoes, Smartwool socks, Kate Quinn Organics clothes, and other locally designed items.

Bookworm Exchange
4860 Rainier Ave. S
Buy, sell, or trade at this well-stocked used bookstore. The kids' section is impressive with an especially large selection of both paperbacks and hardbacks for a second-hand store. Also sells new books at 25%-30% off.

KC's Flowers
4873 Rainier Ave. S
Rose petals grace the sidewalk in front of this cute 100-year-old flower shop, where you'll also find balloons for celebrating Little One's big day, gorgeous wrapping paper from Snow & Graham, and even stuffed animals. They even sell onesies for Baby.



Tutta Bella
4918 Rainier Ave. S
Of course kids like pizza ­ who doesn't? At Tutta Bella, they can get cheese with apple juice. Tutta Bella was opened by Joe Fugere, a certified pizzaioli who brought the Neapolitan style of Naples to Seattle and even got approved by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, a standard which sets him apart from all other Seattle pizzerias. Which means? The pizza is good. So you'll enjoy it, too. Which we think you've already figured out, judging from the satisfied crowds. They've already opened a Stone Way location (near Wallingford) and are about to celebrate a new downtown location (above the new Whole Foods in South Lake Union).

Geraldine's Counter
4872 Rainier Ave. S
This modern counter eatery with a city vibe welcomes kids so much that they even sell their own onesies. The kids' menu includes pancakes, grilled cheese, mac & cheese, pb&J, and chicken fingers. The environment is comfortable and clean, and there's a delectable menu for the adults among us (salads, omelets, sweet potato fries). Prize-winning in NW Source and aol City's Best, they serve breakfast til 3:00 pm. Can we just say, there's chocolate cake sitting on a pedestal and it would be a crime to ignore such a cake?

Columbia City Bakery
4865 Rainier Ave. S
This bakery rocks. To go with your Café Vita coffee, you can buy a variety of tasty breads, like crusty white, multigrain sunflower, rosemary focaccia, challah, brioche, burger buns, ciabatta, and Columbia City sourdough. The deliciousness doesn't stop there. How about a chocolate croissant? Don't mind if we do. You can also order cakes ­ house chocolate, carrot, lemon meringue, mocha, and coconut ­ in a variety of sizes, and cupcakes. Not to mention the tortes and cheesecakes. Oh, boy. Kids especially love the pretzel rolls ­ some locals are known to make "pretzel Twinkies" by filling them up with mustard.

Honorable Mention
El Sombrero
4868 Rainier Ave. S
This award-winning (aol City's Best 2005 and 2006) family Mexican restaurant features a huge menu that's sure to satisfy. Prices are moderate and the menu includes a glossary of Mexican food words.

Jones Barbeque
3810 S Ferdinand St.
This popular barbeque spot started in South Seattle and now has three family-friendly locations. The sauce is a distinctly southern flavor, and when they say hot, they mean it. (Not for you? Go mild or medium.)

Verve Wine Bar & Cellar
3820 S Ferdinand St.
Okay, this is really just for Mom and Dad, but we wanted you to know that there's a shi-shi wine bar in this little neighborhood. It features unique wine and beer from around the world, and has a wine club.

Susan's Fifty One Hundred
5100 S Dawson St.
It's not technically in Columbia City, but we adore the old-school diner feel of this restaurant, whose dinner menu's upscale options offer a pleasant surprise. It's on the way to glorious Seward Park, and worth a stop. Kids' menu features pb&j, eggs and toast, grilled cheese, and French toast.