More than a walk in the park: six public gardens to explore with kids
Seattle Japanese Garden
Photo courtesy Seattle Japanese Garden
Our great, green-minded city has no shortage of public gardens. Indeed, there’s one to suit nearly every interest, whether learning about urban farming, petting sheep, peering at beehives or meditating amid moss. Here’s a handful to visit this spring and summer.
For kids of all abilities: Seattle Children’s PlayGarden
What: This 1-acre gem at the old Colman Playfield allows kids with special needs and disabilities (along with their typically developing siblings) to both safely and adventurously engage with nature. There’s an edible sensory garden, water features, a tree fort, an interactive music installation and a menagerie that includes resident geese and chickens.
How: The PlayGarden is open to the public sunup to sundown, except when summer camps are in session. Look online for those hours and for info about its preschool program, art classes and more.
1745 24th Ave. S.
To get your hands dirty: Children’s Garden at the Good Shepherd Center
What: Built in an abandoned pool, Seattle Tilth’s original children’s garden in Wallingford hosts hands-on educational tours and summer camps for kids that focus on growing food. The site also features a Community Learning Garden with solar greenhouses, a rain garden, fruit trees, berries and a pollinator border.
How: The garden is open to visitors anytime but Tilth recommends attending a tour, camp or class to get the most out of the experience.
4649 Sunnyside Ave. N.
For a dose of culture: Seattle Japanese Garden
What: This 3½-acre formal garden located inside the Washington Park Arboretum was the earliest postwar Japanese-style public garden on the West Coast. It has trails for peaceful strolling, and kids love crossing the small footbridges and spotting koi in the pond. Family Saturday programs provide family-friendly cultural experiences every month and offer free admission to the garden for youth 12 and under from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
How: Admission free for children under 5, $8 for adults, $6 for City of Seattle residents with ID, youth 6-17, disabled, seniors and college students with ID. Hours vary by season.
1075 Lake Washington Blvd. E.
For busy bees: West Seattle Bee Garden
What: Within the P-Patch in the northwest corner of High Point Commons Park, you’ll find a pollination garden and dozens of beehives within a 8-foot-tall, open-roofed Plexiglas enclosure. For children (and adults) afraid of bees, a few minutes spent watching these fascinating insects do their work and reading the educational signage should help.
How: Anyone can visit the Bee Garden at any time. It also offers donation-based “field trips,” which entail up-close looks at honeycombs, pollen and more. On May 19, it will host the annual West Seattle Bee Festival (10 am to 3 pm), which includes food, music, activities and a sustainability-focused street fair.
31st Ave. SW and SW Graham St.
For a day trip: Bloedel Reserve
What: This tranquil 150-acre site on the north end of Bainbridge Island includes 12 distinct environments, from forested woodland to a bird marsh to a fairyland-like moss garden. Groomed trails snaking through the property encourage spontaneous meandering. Bloedel is considered a “living museum” and as such, eating food, picking flowers and wheels of any kind aren’t allowed; the experience is more zen than zoo.
How: Bloedel is open year-round Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for older students, $5 for children 5-12 and free for children 4 and under.
7571 NE Dolphin Dr., Bainbridge Island
For a taste of farm life: Kelsey Creek Farm
What: Tucked away a few minutes from downtown Bellevue, this picturesque farm features ponies, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs and more.
How: Maintained by Bellevue’s Parks and Community Services Department, Kelsey Creek is free and open to the public every day. From 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, watch the animals graze in the pasture, and enjoy a picnic area and playground from dawn ’til dusk.
410 130th Pl. SE, Bellevue