Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

gardens with kids

Scott, Elizabeth and Julie Hanson explore Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden. (Photo by Joshua Huston)

8 gardens to grow young minds … and souls

Stunning spots that are just right for springtime strolls with kids.

Botanical gardens are places where art works with nature, and people sculpt the landscape to please the senses and spark the imagination.

In a year when most schoolchildren routinely spend hours staring at computer screens for remote learning, we need this kind of refuge for the mind and body more than ever. 

Here are some great botanical gardens to visit with kids of all ages in the Seattle area.

Washington Park Arboretum
2300 Arboretum Drive E.
230 acres
Free
The most impressive spring show is along the three-quarter-mile Azalea Way, which wows through March and April with daffodil beds, flowering cherries and dogwoods. The azaleas bloom in time for Mother’s Day. botanicgardens.uw.edu/washington-park-arboretum

Seattle Japanese Garden
1075 Lake Washington Blvd. E.
3.5 acres
$8 adults, $4 youth 6 to 17. Free for age 5 and under
This beautifully tended garden opens in March with flowering cherries, and continues through the spring with other blooms, including an arbor dripping with wisteria. The footbridges and koi pond entertain kids and parents too. Great place for family photos. seattlejapanesegarden.org

Kubota Garden
9817 55th Ave. S.
20 acres
Free
It’s not as closely groomed as the Seattle Japanese Garden. In a way, that’s a good thing. With its meandering paths, ponds, bridges and colorful rhododendrons, Kubota Garden is a perfect place to let your kids run and play. kubotagarden.org

Seattle Chinese Garden
6000 16th Ave. SW
4.5 acres
Free
The prime time to visit? May and June, when the garden’s huge collection of peonies is in bloom. seattlechinesegarden.org

Here’s what one family enjoyed most in a recent visit to this garden.

Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden
13735 24th Ave. S., SeaTac
10.5 acres
Free
The must-see here is the Seike Japanese Garden. Don’t miss the interpretive sign outlining the story behind the garden and the Japanese-American family who built it. The garden itself has a twisty path with stepping stones and tiny bridges that are sure to delight small kids. highlinegarden.org

Bellevue Botanical Garden
12001 Main St., Bellevue
53 acres
Free
Even on a wet Thursday, you can find families waiting their turn for a walk on “The Ravine Experience,” a 150-foot suspension bridge crossing a fern-lined forest gully. Another highlight: the sculpture collection. bellevuebotanical.org

Kruckeberg Botanic Garden
20312 15th Ave. NW, Shoreline
4 acres
Free
This haven for native plants has a portion set aside for kids to play in the shade of tall Douglas firs. There’s a climber made of the roots of a redwood, and look out for buckets of shells, cones and other materials for kids to use to make fairy houses. kruckeberg.org

Bloedel Reserve
7571 NE Dolphin Drive, Bainbridge Island
150 acres
$17 adults, $10 ages 13 to 18, $6 ages 5 to 12, 4 and under free
In a year when trailheads are often alarmingly overcrowded, Bloedel Reserve remains tranquil, offering timed entry and clean bathrooms. An easy 2-mile walk leads through woods, wetlands, a daffodil-covered meadow and a Japanese garden that feels like something from a Studio Ghibli movie. bloedelreserve.org

This story was originally published on March 1, 2021.

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About the Author

Fiona Cohen

Fiona Cohen lives in Ballard with her husband, two teenagers, a big vegetable garden and an absurd cat. She is the author of "Curious Kids Nature Guide," and is working on a new nature book for kids, to be published by Little Bigfoot in 2022.