For those looking for a breath of fresh air without having to leave the towering buildings and city lights behind, the Seattle Center SkatePark offers a well- designed and useful arena for skateboarding on warm summer days and nights. Bring your board or stretch out on a courtyard bench and enjoy the sunshine and shady trees. The park is open from dawn until dusk. Free. Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., 206-684-7200.
Play poker with the ponies at Bridle Trails Park Foundation's "Party in the Park," which features equestrian demonstrations, pony rides for kids, and—best of all—a new kind of poker that somehow incorporates horses. Curious? The equine fiesta includes activities for all ages and abilities, and all proceeds go toward preserving and maintaining the park. Sat., July 10. Prices and times vary. Bridle Trails State Park, Northeast 53rd Street and 116th Avenue Northeast, Kirkland, 206-459-2664.
If you're an animal lover, then all trails should lead you directly to the Woodland Park Zoo's Jungle Party for an evening of wandering among animal cages, participating in silent and live auctions, and enjoying dinner and live entertainment. What could be better? A huge outdoor party, raising money for wildlife conservation and educational programs, and monkeys! 4:30–10:30 p.m. Fri., July 9. Ticket prices vary, for info go to www.zoo.org/jungleparty/index.html. Woodland Park Zoo, 601 N. 59th St., 206-733-9749.
If you're tired of just floating on your board in the kiddie pool, now's the time to catch some local waves at one of Washington's many surfing hot spots. Grab your board wax and sunscreen and check out the beaches at Westport (close to Aberdeen) and Fort Ebey on Whidbey Island, then visit www.wannasurf.com for more locations. Who needs Maui?
Is regular sailing a little too mellow for you? Sign up for the Lake Union Duck Dodge or the Kirkland Friday Night Series and participate in sailboat races that will make your hair fly in the wind and your pulse race. Experience isn't necessary but costumes are suggested, as some races are themed (think "Prom" or "Pirate Night"). Duck Dodge: 6–9 p.m. Tuesdays, May 23–Sept. 5, $75/person. Friday Night Series: 6–9 p.m. June 2– Aug. 18, $75/person. Seattle Sailing, 2000 Westlake Ave. N., Suite 46, 206-979-9016.
The Waterfront Activities Center at the University of Washington is the place to make a splash when it's toasty outside and your wallet is feeling light. Be sure to arrive early and miss the afternoon crowd when you rent one of WAC's many canoes or rowboats. 10 a.m.–9 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m.– 9 p.m. weekends. $7.50/hour ($4/hour for UW students). Montlake Boulevard and Pacific Avenue N.E., 206-543-9901.
Before hitting the lake and paddling your heart out, check out Paddling 101 at REI. This is a basic clinic for those interested in paddling canoes and kayaks. REI instructors will provide information on equipment, safety, ideal paddling locations, and local resources. 7 p.m. Wed., June 2. Free. 222 Yale Ave. N., 206-223-1944.
Hop on a wagon just after sunset at Seward Park. Soon you'll find hay in your hair and bats flitting overhead. And after this bat-watching hayride, you'll forget all the urban legends surrounding bats, having experienced the sound of their (((sonar))) firsthand through special bat detectors supplied by hayride staff. 8–9:30 p.m. Fri., June 4, and Sun., June 20. $3. 5902 Lake Washington Blvd. S., 206-684-4396.
For a discreet camping spot, hike or motor your way to the Sol Duc Campgrounds. Once a little-known hideaway, this site has become increasingly popular among campers—and once you take a dip in the hot springs, you'll know why. Besides soaking up the minerals in the springs, you might want to hike and fish as well. Individual sites cost $12 per night; group sites go for $20 per night and $1 per person, plus $10 per vehicle. (A senior discount is available.) Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave., 360-327-3534 (reservations for group site only).
REI plans to—ahem—unpack the mystery of backpacking in a show-and-tell session titled Backpacking 101. Trail-savvy instructors will cover the essentials: choosing a pack, selecting proper clothing and the right footwear, and knowing how to use the gear you need. 7 p.m. Sun., June 9. Free. 222 Yale Ave. N., 206-223-1944.
Craving something other than hot dogs on your camping trip? Join REI and dozens of camp-food vendors for the Bite of REI, an outdoor feast of freeze-dried and energy foods! (Trust us: It's better than it sounds.) 10 a.m.– 3 p.m. Sat., June 19. Free. 222 Yale Ave. N., 206-223-1944.
Do you relish the feeling of the wind as you speed along on your beloved bike? Learn how to get that rush every day at REI's Cycling in the City workshop. REI staff will offer tips for safe and comfortable cycling, whether you're riding to work, doing errands, or heading out for a joyride. Get your biking questions answered and learn about the Bicycle Alliance's Bike Buddy program. 7 p.m. Tues., June 29. Free. 222 Yale Ave. N., 206-223-1944.
Plants are not just plants—they're good medicine, too. Learn all about herbal and native plants, from history to harvesting, and find out how to collect these plants in an earth-friendly manner. As public interest in herbal medicine grows, native flora is at risk of being overharvested. Spend the day with a Skagit Valley herbalist and commercial grower to learn proper techniques for choosing and using plants in the Pacific Northwest. Sat., June 5. $65. North Cascades Institute, 810 State Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, 360-856-5700, ext 309. www.ncascades.org.
Instead of bringing flowers to that special someone, why not bring that special someone to the flowers? These wildflowers only peak once a year, so you'll want to find out where you can see them. Get the inside scoop from Karen Sykes, hiking columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; she's presenting a slide show on the best wildflower hikes in Washington. 7 p.m. Thurs., June 10. Free. REI, 222 Yale Ave. N., 206-223-1944.
Discover your own secret garden at Dunn Gardens in Seattle. At Dunn, reservations must be made ahead of time; also, the address of this Olmsted-designed treasure—part of the estate of Edward Dunn, a past president of the Arboretum Foundation—is kept top secret until you call. Woodland gardens, perennial borders, and fields of green grass are meticulously cared for, and they change along with the seasons. Please note: Children under 12 are not allowed. Tours run through July and take place at 1 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m. Saturdays. $10 ($7 for students and seniors). Call for location: 206-362-9033.
Make some arboreal magic by crafting your own garden fairy furniture at an Arts Council of Snohomish County class. Employ unusual pruning techniques as you build little fairy chairs with mossy cushions, fairy pearwood sofas adorned with miniature violets, and fairy dogwood headboards. 6–8 p.m. Wed., July 7, and Wed., July 14. $40. 1507 Wall St., Everett, 425-257-8380.