Seattle has a generous amount of open, green areas in its neighborhoods, but as locals, the Washington Arboretum and Japanese Garden is a special place we never get tired of. This large park consists of a collection of over 2,000 botanical species; a true arboretum. It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, Mother Nature will have something to show you. Cherry Blossoms are dazzling you currently with their sweet frothy pinkness, and the show continues with late April sweet-smelling clethra, rhodies in May for Mother’s Day, all the way through to the Arboretum’s winter garden that boasts blooms even in the dark of January.
The paths through this amazing place twist here and there and take you from open and sunny Azalea Way to woodsy little grottos were you would expect to see woodland fairy creatures, and makes a great place to enjoy the outdoors with your kids. Let them lead the way, and have snacks and drinks ready when they tire.
Near the visitor’s center (on the hill), they have display gardens, and down toward Lake Washington from there, they have a wetlands trail/boardwalk that you can follow through Foster Island toward Husky Stadium and the Montlake Cut to watch the pleasure boat traffic.This makes a soggy springtime walk, so bring the Wellies, but as the season progresses, it DOES dry out.
A favorite summertime outing includes a blanket and a good book in one of the Arboretums sunny meadows. Add some snacks, and it makes for the perfect, lazy summer day.
While the large Arboretum is free, the Japanese Garden at the south edge does have an entry fee of $6 per adult and additional $1 to feed the koi (prices subject to change). It’s a lovely little piece of the larger park and an excellent example of Japanese landscaping. The garden took a pretty significant hit from the winter ice storm but caretakers have repaired and it was ready for its annual first-viewing ceremony in early March.
There is a large pond with turtles and the aforementioned (well fed) koi, and all types of Japanese plants that are beautifully maintained in the Japanese style. A handout is available that lists the plants and meanings of certain aspects and symbolizations of the garden. There is also a formal Japanese tea ceremony program available here during summer months.