Seattle's Child

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Great gardens without crowds

Photo by Joshua Huston

Tucked away: Great gardens without the crowds

We’ve made it through the dead of winter and I know my family’s ready for some springtime fun! What better way to ring in the new season, than to visit local gardens not overrun by large crowds? These hidden gems are some of Seattle’s best-kept secrets, full of history and opulence. With their year-round blooms and foliage from native trees and exotic plants, these parks educate and amaze. 

Dunn Gardens

Nestled in a north Seattle neighborhood, this private garden offers both self-guided and docent-led tours. Designed by the famous Olmsted Brothers (think Central Park in New York City), the garden paths meander through collections of rhododendrons, dogwoods, azaleas, hostas and other perennial plants. A hidden path leads to a Woodland Garden nestled beneath a canopy of lush green trees and a tangle of tree trunks winding their way into the ground. Catch a glimpse of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains on a clear day. Find a quiet space on the great lawn or in the courtyard. Children will love the open spaces and beautiful colors and learn that the Dunn Family helped make the rhododendron Washington’s state flower. 13533 Northshire Road NW 98177;

Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday (call/email to make appt)
Admission: non-members: $10/person
Parking: Park on Northshire Road and enter white gates
Fun fact: Great space for events and photos! This garden is not stroller-friendly.

Highline Seatac Botanical Garden

Hop, skip and jump across the bridge at the Japanese Garden, then follow the sounds of the stream to an open pond – a great place to read or explore. Play peek-a-boo around the Greek columns on the lawn. Highline Seatac Botanical Garden is a great place to learn about plants as well as do some plane spotting: Manmade “birds” fly over the park that’s near Sea-Tac Airport. Maintained by volunteers, the botanical garden is home to thousands of plants. Many plants were donated from homes demolished by Sea-Tac’s third runway project. Every display garden has an interesting story you won’t want to miss! 13735 24th Avenue South, SeaTac 98168;

Hours: Open daily, dawn to dusk
Admission: Free
Parking: Onsite and free
Fun Fact: Bring a book to exchange at the little free library.

Kruckeberg Botanic Garden

Is there a garden perfect for nature play? Yes, indeed! Look for the Woodwave sculpture in Kruckeberg Botanic Garden — it’s a tangle of branches that interweave together — and get ready to climb! Build gnome and fairy houses in the wooded area of the garden. An awesome destination, Kruckeberg contains a mixture of native and exotic plants and trees. Bring your binoculars to spot more than 40 species of birds! Make your final stop at the nursery and grab a few native plants for your own yard. 20312 15th Avenue Northwest, Shoreline, 98177;

Hours: Friday to Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: Free with a suggested donation of $5/person
Parking: Onsite and free
Fun Fact: Free family-friendly event on March 19-20 and throughout the spring and summer

Seattle Japanese Garden

Journey through the landscapes of Japan at the Seattle Japanese Garden. where cobblestoned gravel paths encircle a central pond. Here the koi fish surface with mouths gaping and ready for a treat. Settle at a bench and talk about the maple trees and their ever-changing colors. Be on the lookout for blue herons and other birds that visit the park. Located within the Washington Park Arboretum, this garden is a slice of heaven. 1075 Lake Washington Boulevard East, Seattle, 98112;

Hours: Seasonal hours; see website for details
Admission: Adults, $10; youth 6-17, $6; kids 5 and under, free
Parking: Onsite and free
Fun Fact: Check out the large maple tree by the entrance: It has been there for more than 60 years!

Woodland Park Rose Garden

Roses are red, violets are blue, don’t miss this little garden right by the zoo! The Woodland Park Rose Garden is home to more than 3,000 roses of 200 different varieties. Follow butterflies along the maze of paths in this 2.5-acre groomed plot. It’s time to stop to smell the roses! Or, sit by the fountain, look for fish in the lily pad pond, and have a picnic on the concrete benches. Don’t miss the sensory garden, tucked away in the back corners of the park. Listen for wind chimes and explore the trail to find new plants and flowers of every season. 750 North 50th Street, Seattle, WA 98103;

Hours: 7:30 a.m.-dusk daily
Admission: Free
Parking: Pay to park while the zoo is open, free when closed
Fun Fact: The pesticide-free garden makes the roses a lovely treat for zoo animals, especially the gorillas.


More kid-friendly garden excursions:

Bellevue Botanical: come for the bridge, stay for the cool sculptures

8 Seattle-area gardens to grow young minds, and souls


About the Author

Jasmin Thankachen

Jasmin is the Associate Publisher at Seattle's Child and an Eastside mom of two boys. She 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.