Seattle's Child

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Bellevue Botanical Garden

Walking on the suspension bridge at Ravine Experience, Bellevue Botanical Garden. (All photos by Jasmin Thankachen)

Bellevue Botanical Garden: Come for the bridge (and stay for intriguing sculptures)

Can you find the Hobbit door? Kids explore, get hefty dose of nature and art.

If you’re looking for your spring fix — and a little hope that winter is coming to a close — you’ll want to take your family to the Bellevue Botanical Garden. The park is teeming with spring blooms, and has sculpture gardens and even a suspension bridge. It does not disappoint. With so many things to see, it’s easy to keep little legs moving along paved pathways to catch the next attraction.

My kids enjoyed their time so much that “That’s so cool!” and “Mom, this smells really good” were all I heard on our trip around the garden. We highly recommend this park for a day trip and outing, rain or shine.

Location, location, location

East of downtown Bellevue and connected to Wilburton Park (a must-see with large playground structures AND a zip line), the garden welcomes you with tree-lined paths, a colorful, moving sculpture and a waterfall wall. After running up to the wall, my kids stick their hands in the water and squeal at how frigid the water feels.

Garden layout, small doors and waterfalls

The Bellevue Botanical Garden park is divided into specialty gardens — native, perennial, rock and water gardens — each exhibiting the diversity of plants and flowers that grow in the Pacific Northwest. We take a turn to the left and walk up a ramp into a lush forested grove, heading into the Native Discovery Garden. Along the way, we use my phone and the QR codes posted around the park to learn more about the foliage.

Hopping over to the other side in the Japanese Garden.

Daffodils and tulips have started to emerge out of the ground. Rhododendron buds bulge from the tips of stems, and the last of the dried leaves and flowers that survived through the winter fall to the ground. We follow a path to the Yao Garden, entering through a traditional Japanese gate. (The Yao Garden honors the sister-city relationship between Bellevue and Yao, Japan.) We find a Japanese lantern to sit by in this peaceful space, taking in the scenery, enjoying the maples, huge basalt stones and other greenery.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

Spring blooms at the garden park.

Exiting the garden, we spot waterfalls and a curious door built into a stone wall. The door is locked, but we decide that it must be a Hobbit door and imagine all the wonderful places it leads to. We spot another curious statue, a chair aptly named “The Nature of Sitting.” We take turns sitting on the sculpture, “I’m the King of the garden!” claim both kids.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

The Hobbit door

Moving on, we pass through the Native Discovery Garden and observe ducks dunking their heads into the ponds and run to see a sculpture of an owl, about to take flight, with a fierce look on its face.

The Ravine Experience

Signs point us to The Ravine Experience, which is really the reason we had come to the park! A 150-foot suspension bridge hangs over a rushing stream, surrounded by native foliage and tall trees. We walk along the bridge, which sways under our feet, and stop in the middle to take pictures and look down into the ravine. We walk back and forth a few more times and eventually head off back to the Lost Meadow Trail.

The Lost Meadow Trail and interactive sculptures

The trail is a 1/3-mile loop through ten acres of woodlands, meadows and wetlands. We spot birds and squirrels, balance our way back and forth on moss-covered stone garden hedges and see many sculptures. We have many favorites – one in particular is “Night Blooming,” a structure resembling a beehive with an opening so visitors can check out the inside. We buzz ourselves into the sculpture and find the afternoon light passing through the tiny gaps inside, creating a remarkable image. We stay a while, sitting on the ground, just looking up.

“Night Blooming”

Inside the “Night Blooming” sculpture

Continuing on the trail, we see many more sculptures. Some we sit in or on, touch and investigate. The loop brought us around to the front of the park near Waterwise Garden, the Urban Meadow and the Rock Garden. Passing through by the cafe, we see there are tables and chairs so visitors can take a rest, as well as a large green lawn where visitors can set out a picnic. We also see photographers scattered around, taking photos, since it’s a special place for family pictures, .

Last Looks

Heading back out to the parking lot, my kids can’t resist getting another splash of water at the waterfall wall and taking another look at the statue “Large Galaxy” at the main entrance. The flowers on the path that leads to the parking lot smell so good, visitors should be sure to stop at these potted plants for another sensory experience.

Like many garden parks, the Bellevue Botanical Garden is worth checking out more than once a year, with blooming flowers, changing leaves and plenty of wildlife passing through. We know we’ll be back soon for another visit. Maybe next time, the Hobbit will have made his way back.

Know Before You Go

  • The visitors center is currently closed.
  • The Trillium Store, the gift shop, is open on the weekends. Appointments and online shopping are also available.
  • The Copper Kettle Coffee Bar serves sandwiches, snacks, coffee, tea, juices and treats. Food is available for takeout. You can picnic at benches located around the park or bring a blanket to spread out on the grass in front of the cafe.
  • Supervise children and stay on pathways and lawns at all times.
  • Do not enter plant beds or climb on rocks.
  • Pets are not allowed. (Service animals only.)
  • No bicycles, skates, scooters or skateboards allowed.
  • Parking and admission are free.
  • The paths are stroller-friendly.
  • Restrooms are open.
  • Be COVID-safe. Face masks are required at entry and in congested areas of the park.

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About the Author

Jasmin Thankachen

Jasmin is an Eastside mom of two boys and enjoys parenting with lots of love and laughter. Co-Founder of PopUp StoryWalk, she also loves children's picture books, essay writing, and community stories.