UPDATED OCT 3, 2019
Seattle is the outdoor-enthusiast’s dream city. But what’s even better about Seattle is that you don’t have to leave the city to get your outdoor fix. Head to one of these favorite parks or green spaces to get your fill.
So many of Seattle’s parks are worth visiting at least once. But unanimously seated atop the list is Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park. Why? It is the perfect inner city outdoor space. It has stretches of grass to lay out, play ultimate frisbee, or put up your slack line in; the water tower in the southeast corner provides a great cardio stair climb and a gorgeous view of the city; the mini-amphitheater hosts Shakespeare in the Park nearly every summer; and Bruce Lee is buried in the cemetery right next to it. Yup, Bruce Lee. Head there now for a gorgeous morning walk.
Occidental Square Park is tucked smack in the middle of Pioneer Square. One of the first neighborhoods in Seattle, Pioneer Square is known for its grit and history, which is why stumbling upon this quaint, vaguely Parisian-style cobblestone park might surprise you. Surrounded by ivy-choked brick buildings, lined with cafe tables and chairs, and stashed with games like cornhole, ping pong, and a huge chess set, this park is perfect for a lazy Saturday morning coffee and stroll.
With a paved, three-mile loop around the entire lake, Greenlake is a go-to for a long afternoon walk with a friend or for a quick early morning run. Docks, stretches of grass, and picnic tables line the shore, and the surrounding neighborhoods are strapped with coffee shops, restaurants and bars, making this spot a natural pre-lunch or -dinner hang. Not only that, but in the summer, it’s a great place to take a paddleboard out for a spin.
Gas Works Park is iconically Seattle. Mostly thanks to a beloved ’90s rom-com — you know the one we’re talking about. But aside from Heath Ledger-induced fame, the phenomenal views of the Seattle skyline make the visit well worth it. Whether you’re looking for a place to picnic, do some yoga or acro, or marvel at the steampunk-esque, rusted gasification plant (yes, that is a real word), Gas Works Park is a must-see.
Tucked away in the northwest end of Magnolia, this massive park will make you think you’ve traveled hours outside of the city. Winding gravel paths climb over Discovery Park’s hills, leading you to breathtaking views of the Puget Sound, waist-high golden grass fields, the Olympics and the Cascades, and a quaint, late-1800s lighthouse. When you need a break from the rush of the city and your day-to-day life, head here to clear your head.
Washington Park Arboretum is unbelievably picturesque. The landscaping alone makes this Madison Valley spot a city favorite. It has a long, winding path, brightly-colored azaleas in the spring, garden sculptures, and other thoughtfully orchestrated plants, trees, and benches. For a great yoga session or picnic spot, check out the 2.5-acre New Zealand garden at the top of the east hill.
Much like Capitol Hill, Cal Anderson is a bit different than other parks in the city. While there is plenty of space to spread out in, most come for the people and activities. This park has a turf field, which is meant for baseball and soccer, but is often used for people-watching, Molly Moon’s-eating, and acro yoga. It also has a basketball and a skate/bike polo court. With a group of friends and need somewhere to kill an hour? Head here.
Queen Anne’s Kerry Park is always flooded with people—tourists and Seattle-natives alike—with their cameras. And for good reason; this park has one of the best, unobstructed views of downtown. Make your way up the hill and you’ll see everything from the Space Needle to the Ferris Wheel to incoming ferries to the majestic Mount Rainier. Fitt tip: if you can bare to get out of bed, get here early for one of the best sunrises you’ll ever see.
Calling this place a ‘park’ is a bit of a stretch; it even has ‘Freeway’ in the name. But don’t let the name of this downtown spot deter you from visiting this true ‘concrete jungle.’ Here, you’ll find concrete stairs and structures camouflaged by beautiful trees, plants, and waterfalls. This unlikely combination makes for a fun workout, lunch break, or reading spot.
Created by the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), the Olympic Sculpture Park is as gorgeous as it is whimsical. It’s home to both permanent and rotating sculptures, which keep the landscape interesting and make for fun photo or picnic backdrops. Definitely stop by during the summer when SAM hosts free weekend yoga classes and their annual Sculptured Dance performance.
Hing Hay Park is a great change of pace from your typical city green space. Right in the heart of the International District, it has a picturesque Chinese Pagoda in the center, and has a life-size chess set. It’s a great place to people-watch, read, or enjoy a giant bowl of noodles from one of the many noodle shops surrounding the park. And all throughout the summer, it offers free Tai Chi classes and music performances.
This Ballard gem on the Sound is one of the best spots in the city to catch the sunset. Grab a few friends, pack a picnic, and get there early to snag one of the few bonfire pits to stay warm as you watch the sun dip behind the gorgeous Olympic Mountains. Or, if you and your gang are in the mood to move, pack your running shoes for a quick trail run or a volleyball for a game on the beach.
Lake Washington is one of Seattle’s many outdoor beauties. Entirely surrounded by the Lake Washington Loop Trail, you’ll find over 20 parks you can enjoy the views and fresh air from — but our favorite, and one of the closest ones to downtown, is Madrona Park. Right on the water, this is an ideal spot to soak in the sun when it’s warm or enjoy a stroll through when it’s not. With the city behind you and the water and mountains in front of you, you’ll feel like you’ve snuck away for a lakeside vacation.