National/Local - Parks/Gardens, Seattle
If you want to get off the beaten path, you should really leave Seattle. Hiking opportunities are limitless in the summer. Skiing is a good choice in the winter. Take a ferry to the Olympic Peninsula, admire the wild flowers on Mount Rainier, survey the damage caused by Mount St. Helens. Seattle is only a small, albeit culturally-diverse, part of the state of Washington. Get out and see some other parts for yourself.
On a nice summer evening, Golden Gardens Park fills with neighborhood people. We go there to make a bonfire on the beach, get barbecue going, and watch the sun set behind the Olympics - the water view is just gorgeous! The water is too cold for comfortable swimming, but the beach is used by kayakers for landing and sometimes you see people practicing scuba diving. Even in cold weather it's a nice strolling beach to enjoy the scenery and the fresh sea air.
The park also features a cafe, a boat landing and a fishing pier at the south end. There is an activity center (currently under renovation), and several barbecue sheds. The north end of the park is kept wild, with a small freshwater pond.
Golden Gardens Park is at the north end of the Seaview Avenue, north of Shilshole Bay Marina and Ray's Boathouse/Anthony's Home Port. It's not on any bus line from downtown, although you could take #17 almost to the end (N.W. 85th and 32nd Ave. N.W.) and descend a steep set of stairs through woods to the waterfront; you would have to climb up again though! It has large parking areas, but they fill up on a good-weather day.
There once was a coal-to-gas conversion plant on the north shore of Lake Union, north of downtown Seattle, which stopped operation in 1950s. In the early 60s the city purchased the land for a park, but clean-up took a long time and it was only in 1975 that the area finally opened as the Gas Works Park.
A fun and unique feature of the park is that some of the gas factory installations have been retained and incorporated into its design. Some towers and chimneys were left standing as they were, creating a surrealistic, post-industrial landscape; other installations have been painted in brilliant colors and converted into children's play structures.
The rest of the park is grass-covered; there is a small, grassy knoll just to the west of the gas towers, which has been the mecca for kite-flying in Seattle. From everywhere in the park you get a great view of the downtown Seattle across Lake Union.
Metro bus: #26. Get off at N. 35th St. and Wallingford Ave. and walk south towards the water.
While walking to the Space Needle from the pier/harbor we came across a coloful community garden in full bloom. The gate was open so we took a peek. Definitely a nice patch of green in the middle of the city surrounded by office buildings and high rise condos.
Thanks for the name of the garden Suzanne (vaclava) whereever you may be.
Just get in the car and drive in any direction that your whim takes you. Within 45 minutes you will be in inundated with great hiking options. Just in the Cascades alone, a lifetime could be spent exploring the various hikes.
I spent a lot of time at the Japanese Tea Garden in the Arboretum when I was younger. I'd take a sketchpad or notebook with me and I'd draw or write or just doodle. This traditional Japanese garden changes personality with changing light, but it is always peaceful and beautiful.
My favorite times to visit are on misty, gray days. The colors take on a deep saturated look and the garden looks like a soft painting.
Rent a canoe and paddle through the arboretum.
If you go to the University of Washington's Waterfront Activity Center (just south of Husky Stadium in the same parking lot) you can rent a canoe by the hour, and then paddle over to the arboretum or around Portage Bay. It's a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.
This 20 acre point on the north end of Lake Union was cleared in 1906 to construct a plant to manufacture gas from coal - later converted to crude oil. Import of natural gas in the 1950's made the plant obsolete. The city acquired the site for a park in 1962. The park was opened to the public in 1975. A view of downtown and the Space Needle from the park-
Ride the Burke-Gilman Trail. We rented bikes at the Bike Center 4529 Sand Point Way NE. There in the phone book(call to find out which bus go past the shop...I forgot!) The trail is just around the corner. If you go south on the trail you ride through the University of W. and end up at the Gasworks Park. If you take the trail north you ride along Lake Washington for many miles...very scenic.
Take the Tillicum Village Tour, its a 4-hour adventure to Blake Island, includes a one-hour, 8-mile narrated harbor tour w/ magnificent scenery from downtown Seattle to Blake Island Marine State Park.
Go ANYWHERE but Seattle. South of the city go through Roy-Yelm (my favorite)-Rainier and into Olympia. North go into the San Juans. West go to the Olympics (Highway 101 is a GORGEOUS drive) East, of course is the Cascades. Great little towns with nice people and wonderful food. Also make the Northern Cascade drive from I-5 to Mazama and back. Another neat thing is to drive into Rosyln where they filmed 'Northern Exposure'. The town WAS the set. Very Cool. Go in the Brick and have a beer and buy a hat!
While staying at our hostel we saw a slide show by bearfoot tours of various mountains in the area (Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier were a couple). We booked the tour and even though the weather was not the best we had a great time. Worth while checking out local tours.
It's small but quaint, ask where to find it.
It is to be found at the Washington Park Arboretum.
The Japanese Garden is open March through October 10am untill sunset.
Amazing products of all the moisture Seattle et al is know for. Mountains, hot springs, and rain forests are just part of the amazing view.
Explore the natural beauty of the region. Drive to the mountains and be astounded by mountain meadows and streams, enormous trees and abundant wildlife.
Pictured is the spectacular Mt. Rainier.