If you’re looking for your garden fix — and a little hope that summer is finally here to stay — you’ll want to take your family to the Bellevue Botanical Garden. The park is teeming with flowers, trees, 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.
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.
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.
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. There are lots of favorite sculptures – one in particular is “Night Blooming,” a structure resembling a beehive with an opening so visitors can check out the inside. My kids pretend to be bees and 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.
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. We were 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, .
Heading back out to the parking lot, my kids can’t resist getting another splash of water at the waterfall wall. We took 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 closed until further notice.
- The Trillium Store, the gift shop has seasonal hours. Please check the website for the latest hours of operation.
- The Copper Kettle Coffee Bar serves sandwiches, snacks, coffee, tea, juices and treats. Food is available for dine-in or takeout. You can picnic at benches located around the park. Bring a blanket to spread out on the grass in front of the cafe. Closed on Tuesdays.
- 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.
Originally published March 10, 2021 and updated June 2022