Operated by the adjacent University of Washington, the Washington Park Arboretum has one of the most extensive plant collections on the west coast. These are kept in a semi-wilderness environment with a network of trails leading in all directions through the park.
A very interesting feature of the trail network is the connection to the University of Washington. This trail runs directly along Union Bay (part of Lake Washington) through wetlands areas that form the largest remaining wetlands in the Seattle area. This is a popular place with bird watchers, though I also saw some interesting species throughout the rest of the gardens.
Unfortunately, there are two very busy highways that run through the park and gardens. This includes Lake Washington Boulevard and at the very northern edge of the park Highway 520. It can be very difficult to cross Lake Washington Boulevard at any location except the pedestrian overpasses. Highway 520 is even worse, but has pedestrian bridges and overpasses for park access.
The park lands are quite elongated, and the collection is extensive. Depending on how much you like gardens, you could spend quite a long time here. The Japanese Gardens are located at the south end of the park, and the primary visitors center is located at the north end of the park.
Due to the severely different nature of the park along Union Bay, I have covered that section of the park under the name "East Montlake Park" as that is the name given that section of the park on some maps.
Getting Here: The park lands are fairly long. If you come by bus, I suggest getting off at the north end (served by several bus routes near the Museum of History and Industry), walking west then south through the park using the trail network starting at the west edge of the Museum of History and Industry, and end at the Japanese Gardens at the south end of the park. You can then return downtown on one of the bus routes serving E Madison Street without having to cross any busy roads or retrace your steps. If you drive, your options are a bit more limited, as you will have to return to your car by retracing your steps at some point. There are a number of parking lots along Lake Washington Boulevard, and I would suggest parking nearest to what you find most interesting due to the need to retrace your steps back to your car after a fairly extensive walk. The main parking lot near the visitor's center is probably the most important parking lot for the first time visitor. The visitor's center is located near the north end of Lake Washington Boulevard.
NOTE: the address listed below is the official address of the arboretum, but it is NOT their mailing address. See the web site of the arboretum for more information.
It is easy to spend a whole day at this park. Bring a picnic, stake out your own little meadow and lounge. There are many smaller gardens within the park, and miles of walking trails. I love this place (so does my dog). It feels very
I recommend spending several quiet hours at the Japanese Tea Garden ($5) within Washington Park. It is a lovely place worthy of deep attention and meditation. Every bench has an amazing view and every path is a different experience. I also recommend getting a bag of fish food (50 cents) at the entry. It keeps the fish near you so you can enjoy their myriad patterns and personalities.
Washington Park Arboretum
200 acres of trees of all kinds makes this a great place to go and relax.