Ruby Slipper makes Eastside home for kids’ fun


By Lindsay Larin

Parents of little ones on the Eastside can stay close to home while enjoying a bundle of fun activities on this side of the bridge. In 2007, Bellevue moms Michele Johansen and Lexie Tigre created the website, while searching for activities around Bellevue and the Eastside, but coming up empty handed.

Ruby Slipper Guide has now become a go-to for locating fun and educational kids activities including preschool drop-in play at the Bellevue community center, story time at Common Folks Kids and open play at Dizzy’s Bus Stop in Bellevue.

“The Ruby Slipper Guide started out as a resource for Lexie and me. We were tired of taking our kids to the same places and wanted to find new areas and activities,” Johansen said, a former preschool teacher turned stay-at-home mom. “There were plenty of suggestions for what to do in Seattle, but that wasn’t what we wanted. So we started making a list and then decided to share our findings with other Eastside parents.”

To reduce the hassle of making it a day trip to lug the kids down to Seattle, Johansen and Tigre decided to focus their website exclusively on the Eastside. The website covers activities and events happening along the I-405 corridor starting north at the King County border and running down to near Renton. Parents can sign up for a free weekly e-newsletter announcing upcoming sales, events and company announcements.

What started out as a hobby during their kids nap time, has grown into a useful resource for thousands of parents on the Eastside.

“In the beginning it was a little easier to manage the site, now it’s all about finding balance. It’s challenging, but fun,” Johansen added.

The power moms search the Internet, local publications, and use word of mouth to locate upcoming events to post on the website. The calendar section also allows for submissions on a regular basis.

“A lot of people don’t believe it’s just two moms running this site,” Johansen joked. “I just tell them to meet us for our weekly business meeting in the park, I’ll bring the apple slices while the kids play.”

In 2008, the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce awarded the website the “Spirit of the Eastside” Award as part of the Eastside Business Awards.

In celebration of the upcoming two-year anniversary, is presenting a “Best of the Eastside” survey and contest focusing on kid-friendly activities from Renton to Bothell. Now through March 18, parents can submit their own opinions on categories like the “best place to go with kids on a rainy day” and “best place for drop-in play.”

On March 23, the results of the “Best of the Eastside” contest will be announced at

“We have been blown away by the numerous sponsors who generously donated items for the contest. The local businesses have been so supportive,” said Johansen.

Along with the winners in each category, Ruby Slipper Guide also will share the names of all the other nominees to spread the word about the great finds. Both Johansen and Tigre focus their site on promoting small and local community based businesses.

“We want this to be a way for parents to share ideas with each other. There are so many great places on the Eastside, why not announce them all?” Johansen said.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at 425.453.4602.