National/Local - Parks/Gardens, Seattle
Seattle actually has two Japanese Gardens: one of them is in Washington Park on the east side of downtown Seattle, and the price there is $5 to get in.
Kubota Gardens is slightly less cultivated, somewhat larger, was created by a very ambitious Japanese immigrant on his own land and later aquired by the city due to citizen activism, and as of this writing still free to enter.
Autum is certainly the time to visit these gardens! The colors are amazing.
Pathways lead in all directions through the gardens on a hillside, and there are a number of water features (ponds, waterfalls, etc.) with various types of Japanese style bridges over them. Walkways are steep and narrow in places, and in others broad and somewhat flat.
Some ponds are crossed with stepping stones.
At the top of the hill, you will find a monument rock stuck back behind a number of trees, and very hard to find. This is a monument to the creator of the garden.
Having emigrated from Japan in 1907, Fujitaro Kubota started the Kubota Gardening Company in 1923. In 1927 he purchased 20 acres of vacant land (formerly a forest but it had been recently logged) south of downtown Seattle and started turning it into his dream garden. He died in 1973, leaving a legacy of amazing proportions in a number of places in the region. His home garden was almost not one of them: it had become a target for developers, wanting to replace it with a vast tract of housing. The core garden was designated a historic landmark in 1981, and by 1987 the land was acquired by the city of Seattle and incorporated into the parks system.
I have put additional photos into a Kubota Garden Travelogue.
By far the most iconic view of Seattle is that famous post-card like view with the Space Needle with downtown Seattle behind it, and towering behind that Mount Rainier. There are only a very few locations in the Seattle area with such a view, and by far the most famous of those is Kerry Park, at the south end of Queen Anne, or just north of the Space Needle / Seattle Center.
Obviously, if it isn't a clear day, you won't see Mount Rainier, but even so the view of the Space Needle with downtown in the background is certainly still an attraction here as it is one of the few places where you can get these two icons of Seattle to line up like this in the same photo. You will find that this is a busy tourist destination during most hours of the day and night, and even when the weather isn't so great you will probably see people here.
Most people who come here just come, jump out of their cars, take a photo or two of the view, and leave. However, I definitely suggest exploring the neighborhood around the park as you will find some unexpected treasures here that the vast majority of tourists miss. To the west of the park you will find several other viewpoints overlooking Puget Sound, and in the background on a clear day you will be able to see the Olympic Mountains from them. Also, the Queen Anne neighborhood has a number of interesting and eccentric structures, both modern and historic.
So, if you visit here, I suggest walking five blocks west to Marshall Park /' Betty Bowen Viewpoint, which does not provide the Mount Rainier and downtown Seattle view that is so famous, but the view from there is of a much different nature. Here, especially at sunset, you can be treated to a view of the Olympic Mountains. Some of the places along nearby 8th Place West also have good views on a clear day. You can also walk down the hill a little ways and visit Kinnear Park which has one or two viewpoints as well but nothing quite like Kinear Park.
Along with the great view, Kerry Park also boasts a reasonably complete playground (photo 5 is from the viewpoint, looking down into the rest of the park) and a fairly good sized sculpture at the viewpoint. Most of the park is on a hillside, and the vast majority of tourists probably don't even take notice of the expanse of park below the viewpoint wall.
This park is one of the few parks in Seattle that is open 24 hours a day, rather than closing at 11 at night. So, the views from here may be enjoyed at all times.
The park land was donated to the city of Seattle in 1927 so that all may enjoy the view from this location. The sculpture in the park was donated to the park in 1971 by the children of the donors.
Several photos from my Queen Anne travelogue from 2009 feature more photos from this park, as well as nearby viewpoints. (Queen Anne is the name of the area in which Kerry Park is located).
Streets stop running along the Seattle waterfront north of Alaskan Way and Broad Street. At that intersection, there is a fountain, and north of there, past the fountain, a mixture of narrow waterfront parks allow people to enjoy the waterfront, ride their bikes without fighting traffic, or otherwise take advantage of the wonderful location.
The park at the south end of this location is called Myrtle Edwards Park, which is also intermixed with features that are actually part of the Olympic Sculpture Park. North of this park, the park is joined by Elliot Bay Park, (owned by the Port of Seattle) creating a continuous linear park between Alaskan Way north all the way to the Magnolia Bridge and Garfield Street.
Myrtle Edwards Park (which is owned by the City of Seattle Parks Department) is has picnic tables, benches, and paved walkways (one for bicyclists and one for pedestrians). There are also artistic features, including items that are part of the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park, which also joins this chain of parks at the south end. For example, the bicycle pathway and grass strip are part of Myrtle Edwards Park, while the preserved sand bank and beach and bay are part of the Olympic Sculpture Park and owned by the Seattle Art Museum.
Further north, a large stone sculpture is located in the park, but predates the Olympic Sculpture Park by several decades.
The official address is listed below, but the only way to directly access this park is either through the Olympic Sculpture Park or by entering the park from the south (Alaskan Way and Broad Street) or the north (from the Magnolia Bridge and Garfield Street), or one of two pedestrian bridges: the Amgen Helix Bridge or a currently unnamed bridge near 3rd & Thomas.
More photos and information are located in the Olympic Sculpture Park or Elliot Bay Park sections that I have written.