8 Gardens to Visit around Seattle & Tacoma

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Gardens to visit in Seattle & Tacoma

8 Gardens to Visit in Seattle & Tacoma

The Pacific Northwest is known for being an outdoor lover’s paradise with the abundance of beautiful mountains, unique islands, driftwood beaches & many trails & hikes all around the area. The Puget Sound area in Western Washington also has quite the wealth of beautiful gardens to visit. Everything from the more European style formal gardens to the Japanese gardens with the beautiful bridges over ponds. A number of these are totally free to visit, too. Ideally, the spring or summer are the best months to see the peak blooms, but fall would be another fun season to visit to see the changing colors with all the trees. And if you want somewhere to go for a peaceful walk, winter would be a great time to visit as well.

Kubota Garden – Seattle

Seattle Japanese Garden Bridge

Location: Seattle
Cost: Free to visit
Times to Visit: 6am – 10pm (always check the website to see current times)
Pet Friendly: dogs allowed on leash

The Kubota Garden in Seattle are an urban garden oasis right in the middle of the Rainier Beach neighborhood in south Seattle. This is a stunning Seattle Japanese garden on 20 acres surrounded by neighborhoods. Fijitaro Kubota, a master landscaper & horticultural pioneer, established these gardens at his home estate in 1927, as a way to merge Japanese design techniques with the Northwest native plants. In 1987, the city of Seattle acquired the property & turned it into a city park, so it is completely free to visit.

Waterfall at Kubota Garden in Seattle

This Seattle Japanese garden feels so much bigger than it is because there are so many unique aspects to this park & such beauty at every turn.  There are 2 striking Japanese red bridges & 9 ponds. Kids will love looking for koi in the ponds – the ponds are such a highlight of these gardens. These gardens would honestly be beautiful any time of year, even winter, due to the different aspects featured such as streams, waterfalls, ponds & bridges & more.  {Make sure to check the ponds for the large koi fish, too – kids will love looking for the fish!} They have vibrant pops of color in the spring & summer (30 varieties of hydrangeas blooming in the summer) & fall would be gorgeous with the changing colors as there are 140 maple varieties.

While this is going to be a much busier park, due to its location within the city & being a city park, it still feels like there is plenty of space to enjoy it. (During the busy seasons, you may want to head there on a weekday, though, as weekends will be quite busy on pretty days). We went on a busy Saturday, but honestly never felt crowded. Another bonus to this park’s location is that it is just a 5 – 10 minute drive to Seward Park, another Seattle city park. Seward Park is located on the shores of Lake Washington & I highly suggest you pair it with a visit to the Kubota Garden in Seattle as there are so many beautiful walking trails along the lakeshore & the forest on this point.

Rhododendron Species Garden

Rhododendron Gardens grounds

Location: Federal Way
Cost: $8/adults & children 12 & under are free. Military members are free too. Seniors are $5/ea
Times to Visit: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 4pm (always check their website for current times)
Pet Friendly: no pets allowed

The Rhododendron Species Botanical Gardens (RSBG) are located in Federal Way, literally right off the I5 freeway, so these gardens are easily accessible & a great stopping point if you are doing a longer drive & want a pretty destination to get out & stretch your legs & enjoy some beautiful gardens. They are open year-round for visits, with 22 acres of gardens & grounds. They  boast the largest collection of varied Rhododendron species in the world & mid March to mid May is the peak season for these blooms.

The gardens are actually a living museum, meaning that they are not only a public garden destination, but they also share their international collection of rhodies with the scientific community for research purposes and they offer quite a few educational events. They have a nursery open year-round with many of the unique & different species of rhodies that you will see in the gardens, if you want to take any home with you to plant at home.

rhododendron gardens in federal way

We visited the Rhododendron Gardens on Mother’s Day one year & it was the perfect destination for a relaxing stroll thru the beautiful flowers. I love that rhododendrons can be so vibrant with bold color so it makes for a colorful walk thru the blooming garden in the spring. While they do have so many rhododendron plants all over the grounds, these are not the only pops of color as there are many other blooming flowers you will find as well, such as camellias, magnolias, poppies & more.

There are quite a few different areas of these large gardens, including a large gazebo with sitting to sit out & look over the gardens. One of my favorite areas is the pond & the flowers & trees surrounding it filled with various colors as well & such full foliage.Another unique aspect to these gardens is the largest public Stumpery. These are a number of stumps all placed around an area with ferns, hostas & groundcovers spilling over the mossy stumps & logs.

Pacific Bonsai Museum

On the same grounds as the Rhododendron Gardens is the Pacific Bonsai Museum. This is a small museum, but it’s fascinating to see the bonsai trees, both large & small. There are some unique bonsai creations & the detail is fascinating to see. Definitely worth a visit to see these unusual trees! Make sure to check out our Des Moines guide for some delicious restaurants & more outdoor adventures nearby, as well.

PowellsWood Garden

Powellswood Gardens Pond

Location: Federal Way
Cost: $7/adults, Children 12 & under – free
Times to Visit: Tues – Sat 10am – 3pm (closed holidays except Mother’s Day) – always check the website for most accurate info. No reservations needed.
Pet Friendly: no pets allowed

PowellsWood Garden is located in Federal Way near Dash Point State Park. It is a 40 acre nature preserve – the actual gardens are about 3 acres but they are then nestled against 35 acres of native forest. So, it combines the beautiful flower gardens with the beauty of the native plants & forest. They have nice trails to walk thru the woods and enjoy the different varieties of native plants.

Powellswood Gardens by the Creek

There are about 5 specific garden areas, but there are more areas to walk thru with flowers all around the grounds & they should be blooming at different times throughout the spring as it seemed like they had a great variety of plants & flowers in different stages of bloom. There is a stream & pond inside the gardens as well, which is always popular with kids. I just loved how lush this garden feels & with the woods surrounding it, it feels very serene & such an oasis to escape to for quiet & beauty. You are also welcome to bring a picnic lunch if you’d like to sit & enjoy the gardens longer (just pack out your trash)

We visited the gardens on Mother’s Day, as well (Are you sensing a theme for our Mother’s Day?) as they often have a Mother’s Day tea on their patio. It was the perfect place to visit during the prime time of the spring flowers and enjoy tea & desserts. {I’m not sure if they will have a tea this year, but keep watch on their social media or website as it’s such a nice way to spend the afternoon.}

Bellevue Botanical Gardens

Bellevue Botanical Gardens Stepping Stones

Location: Bellevue
Cost: Free
Times to Visit: Open daily, dawn to dusk
Pet Friendly: No dogs allowed

The Bellevue Botanical Gardens are one of my favorite gardens around the Puget Sound area. They just have such a great variety of flowering plants, with plants blooming all different times during the spring & summer to provide lasting color throughout the garden. Plus there are so many water features such as mini waterfalls & streams all throughout the garden, making it interesting for kids & adults. The gardens are 53 acres, which are made up of multiple different garden areas. The gardens include a Fuschia garden, Native Discovery garden, Rhododendron Glen & more.

Bellevue Botanical Gardens Walkway

In the back area of the gardens is the Ravine area, which has a 1/3 mile nature trail thru this area of forest, and is highlighted by a 150 ft unique suspension bridge (this was definitely a favorite for our girls, walking on the suspension bridge). We also loved that they offered a large lawn area in the middle of the gardens where you could bring a picnic blanket & enjoy a coffee or food from the nearby coffee shop in the main building. Leading up to the lawn area was one of my favorite garden areas, the Dahlia display, with their bold & colorful blooms in all different shades.

The Bellevue Botanical Gardens are definitely another very popular garden to visit – we went on a beautiful May day & there were definitely people all around, but these gardens are well spread out, that it never felt crowded. It was prom weekend, though, so this was the place to come for prom pictures. So just keep that in mind for your visit that you might want to come on a less crowded day if you want uninterrupted time or the best photo opps of the gardens.

Just a few minutes away from the gardens is an awesome park to visit with your kids, too, called the Wilburton Hill Park, a Bellevue city park & it has an awesome playground kids will love for a chance to run off some energy. There is even a cool zipline, too! So definitely add that to your list after the gardens if they need to burn some energy after a quieter time at the park.

Bloedel Reserve

Garden pathway at Bloedel Reserve

Location: Bainbridge Island
Cost: $20/adults, $15 for seniors/military, $10 for students (13-18) & $5 for kids ages 5-12 (4 & under free)
Times to Visit: Tuesdays – Sundays, 10am – 4pm (those are winter hours, check back for summer hours); timed tickets required right now
Pet Friendly: No pets allowed

Bloedel Reserve is located on Bainbridge Island on the Kitsap Peninsula. It has 150 acres & 23 different kinds of landscapes to visit and check out. There is a loop trail that is around 2 miles long with a combination of bark, gravel & paved roads that bring you through all the different areas of the gardens and it is such a peaceful, quiet stroll. {They estimate that it will take around 2 hours for this walk but of course that also depends on your pace & how long you want to stop & enjoy the flowers & views}.

Since 2020, they have designed the loop trail to be a one-way trail with timed tickets, so that you can have more time to enjoy & explore the grounds without crowds. You’ll explore everything from large meadows (filled with wildflowers in the summer) to a boardwalk over marshlands where you look & listen for various birds, ducks & geese in the water. You’ll also find pretty shaded pathways filled with gorgeous flowers next to a small creek as well as more formal gardens closer to the residence grounds.

Bloedel Reserve Residence & Pond

The main residence is a beautiful building, built in the 18th century French tradition. When we visited, the home was not available to tour, but it looks like it is now open to tour the first floor dining room, living room & library, which I think would be so fun to go inside & check it out.

View of Puget Sound from Bloedel Reserve Residence

From the back yard & patio, there is a gorgeous view of the water, too, so it’s a great spot for photos. Once you pass through some of the trails & pathways into the woods, you’ll find a Japanese guest house that overlooks the Japanese gardens.

Bloedel Reserve is a great place to visit for someone with limited mobility, too, to get out & explore nature as they have a shorter route through the gardens along a paved road that is a 2/3 mile long trip (& complimentary wheelchairs available at the Gatehouse, too, if needed). This will still take you by the best highlights of the gardens & the buildings to see the beauty of the park.

Boardwalk Area at Bloedel Reserve

Bloedel Reserve is definitely one of my very favorite gardens around the Puget Sound area as I felt it just had such a great variety of different areas to visit & explore. It kept all of us interested with the variety of options to see & such different landscapes all in one park & grounds. It is definitely the most expensive gardens to visit on our list, but it absolutely felt worth it to me & we did spend a good several hours there exploring when we visited in May. Spring was a gorgeous time to visit, but I’d love to visit in the summer, too, to see all the different flowers blooming at that time, too. And honestly, even in the off-season & rainy weather, this place is just such a serene & relaxing place to visit & see the beauty any time of year.

Pro Tip: Since Bloedel Reserve might be a longer drive or ferry ride for you, we enjoyed combining it with a trip to the darling town of Poulsbo, a cute little Norwegian town on the Kitsap peninsula. We highly recommend visiting the Burrato Bistro & Paella Bar, too – it was a delightful restaurant with small plates/tapas & they have covered outdoor seating on the back patio too.

Location: Seattle near University of Washington
Cost: Free to visit (with the exception of the Japanese Gardens, all other areas of the Arboretum are free to visit)
Times to Visit: Dawn to Dusk (they follow Seattle Parks & Rec times)
Pet Friendly: Yes dogs are allowed on leash (but dogs are not allowed in the Japanese Gardens)
The Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle is just across the canal from the University of Washington & Husky stadium. This is such a large, beautiful park filled with so many varieties of flowers & plants.There are over 230 acres of gardens, natural areas & wetlands. Miles & miles of trails you can walk, run or bike (although bikes are only allowed on the paved trails). Before you visit, you may want to download or screenshot a picture of the map of all the trails as it can be a bit of a maze of trying to figure out where to go as you explore all around the Arboretum.
Cherry Blossoms at Washington Park Arboretum
The Arboretum is home to a world class collection of oaks, maples & camellias (which are gorgeous in the early spring), as well as a beautiful winter garden. During cherry blossom season, there are a variety of cherry trees scattered throughout the grounds of the Arboretum. If you are wanting a shorter walk, park at the Graham Visitor Center (which is closed currently for spring of 2021) & walk across the street  & you’ll find some gorgeous cherry trees. It was a popular spot when I was there for photographers taking photos with their clients under the blossoms. You’ll find many more trees, though, as you walk through the arboretum, so don’t worry if there is not an opportunity to get photos under the closer trees.
I love the Arboretum because even though it is such a popular place & many people visit to enjoy the grounds, there are so many various trails, you can always find a way to travel so it’s not crowded. Just take some of the less traveled paths thru the grounds & you’ll find some hidden gems, too. I love the little ponds that are nestled in among the trees & part of the Arboretum is also located on Lake Washington, so you could take a walk down to the lake as well. If you check out the map & trails page, they have some great suggestions for trail ideas. For example, you can take the 1 mile loop between the Woodland Garden & the Lookout Garden, which will have interpretive signs about the Arboretum’s history & important plants & trees along the way, to give you more education about what you are seeing.

Lakewold Gardens

Lakewold Garden Formal Garden & House

Location: Lakewood
Cost: $10/adults, $8/seniors (62+), students & military, $5/youth 6-17, & children 5 & under free (online tickets only at this time). You can also get a free museum pass from the library for 2 adults & 3 kids
Times to Visit: Wednesday – Sunday,  11 am – 5 pm
Pet Friendly: no pets, although dogs can visit on the last Tuesday of the month during Dog Days

Lakewold Gardens are 10 acres of gardens & buildings that were part of an estate first built back in 1908 on the shores of Gravelly Lake in Lakewood as part of what was known as the Lakes District. On the grounds is the Wagner House,  which is a gorgeous Georgian home. I just visited the gardens for the first time this week, which is still just the start of spring, so the blooms are just starting to peek out. But looking at the pictures & knowing the beautiful grounds, I can’t wait to go back when the flowers are in full bloom as it’s such a beautiful space.

What makes Lakewold Gardens unique is that you have views of the lake all around the grounds as you meander through the gardens, so that really adds to the beauty. There is a large, expansive green lawn to enjoy & relax on, too.  These gardens are smaller than some of the others I’ve mentioned, but still very beautiful & well worth a visit as the gardens have such a variety of flowers & plants.  You’ll see the more structured European style gardens as well as more natural gardens closer to the water, too.

Bug Hotel at Lakewold Gardens

We also found a “bug hotel” which I have never seen before. Near the bug hotel, they have a little station with books, nature/plant guides & magnifiers that your family can use as you wander around the gardens.

You can check out a Pierce County library pass if you are local & that will save on the admission costs for a no-cost visit for you & your family. Plus, once a month, they are going to continue their dog days on the last Tuesday of the month. They also have a Mother’s Day event for the weekend on Sat & Sunday, so make sure to check out all of those details as well. We love visiting gardens on Mother’s Day & it will be such a pretty spot with everything in bloom.

Highline Gardens

Highline Gardens Bridge

Location: SeaTac/Tukwila
Cost: Free
Times to Visit: Open dawn to dusk daily (always check their website for current times)
Pet Friendly: Yes – dogs on leash are welcome

If you are short on time & would love to see a pretty, smaller garden, the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden is so convenient as it’s located just a few miles north of SeaTac airport just a few minutes from I-5 near Southcenter Mall. Even though it’s such close proximity to SeaTac & it’s an urban garden in the city, when you are there, it feels like a little hidden oasis of peace & beauty. It’s just 10+ acres, but these peaceful gardens still have some gorgeous spots to relax & unwind or get some fun photo opps.

HIghline Gardens Lily Pond

We actually visited in late September, but it was still full of lots of color even then, so I can imagine that it would be so pretty in the spring. There are gazebos, ponds, meandering creeks & water cascading over the rocks. There is also a rose garden that I’m sure would be beautiful to walk thru in early summer (or late spring).  They do have docent led tours if you are interested, they are $5/person, but need 10 or more people to host this.

Admission is totally free to these gardens, so it’s a great place to stop over for a visit if you are driving thru the Seattle area or maybe heading to SeaTac & you got there early. Or there are plenty of fun things to do in the Seattle Southside area. We have information about family activities in Seattle Southside, as well as a guide to the Des Moines area, just south of here, if you want to visit some fun outdoor spots by the Puget Sound & take in some delicious eats.  {Spice Bridge, one of our favorite new places to eat, is just down the road from the gardens, too! Read our review on the Des Moines guide!

If you’re headed up to Victoria, BC – the ultimate best garden I’ve ever been to is Butchart Gardens too! It’s absolutely gorgeous in the spring!

Here are a few more gardens on my list to check in the future – I’d love to know if you have been to any of these & what you thought of them:

What are your favorite gardens around the Puget Sound area?

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