Widely considered to be one of the best places to live in the States, beautiful Bellevue lies just to the east of Seattle, tucked away in between Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish. Although it is usually overlooked in favor of Seattle, it is a pleasant place to visit and has a wealth of phenomenal parks and picture-perfect nature spots to enjoy.
Home to some of the world’s leading technology companies, there are also boasts outstanding, if upmarket, dining and shopping scenes to delve into. With a handful of interesting historic tourist attractions and museums, as well as all its incredible outdoor activities, there are plenty of things to do in Bellevue. This pleasant city makes for a great day trip destination or quiet weekend getaway. Plus there are all of Seattle’s stunning sights nearby.
12. KidsQuest Children’s Museum
A fun, family-friendly place to visit, the brilliant KidsQuest Children’s Museum lies a short drive north of downtown. Home to all kinds of interactive exhibits, it primarily focuses on the fields of science, technology and engineering, as well as the arts and mathematics.
Opened in 2005, it occupies a distinctive green and gray modern building with massive play structures and themed areas dotted about its two floors. Everywhere you look there are exciting hands-on exhibits with model trains and building blocks, art stations, water features and galleries full of intriguing machines.
In total, there are over twenty-five innovative exhibits and areas to explore. The creative displays and challenges are aimed at children up to the age of ten and their families.
11. Lake Sammamish
Boasting excellent outdoor activities, picturesque Lake Sammamish marks the eastern edge of the city’s limits. Dwarfed by Lake Washington to the west, its scenic shores and reflective waters offer umpteen recreational opportunities for locals and visitors alike.
The long lake stretches over 7 miles in length, and reaches a maximum width of about a mile, with pretty parks and idyllic waterfront communities lying along its tranquil shores. Here you can enjoy fantastic hiking and cycling or go to lovely lakeside cafes, restaurants and concerts in the summer months.
On top of this, the lake’s beautiful blue waters also lend themselves perfectly to swimming, fishing and rowing while countless watersports can be tried at its various marinas, boat ramps and resorts.
10. Newcastle Beach Park
If you’re looking to sunbathe and swim when in town then Newcastle Beach Park is certainly one of the best places to head. Set twenty minutes’ drive south of the center, its sun-kissed sands and gorgeous green spaces lie next to the shimmering waters of Lake Washington.
Due to the extensive array of amenities, calm swimming spots and sandy beach, the park is a popular family destination. On the sprawling site you can find a playground and picnic areas, while a nature trail weaves its way amidst little pockets of lush woods and shrubs.
In addition to lounging about and enjoying the peace and quiet, visitors can venture out along its 300 feet floating dock to either fish, sunbathe or jump into the lake’s refreshing waters.
9. Day Trip to Seattle
As The Emerald City, and all its enticing attractions, lie fifteen minutes’ drive away, it is well worth going on a day trip from Bellevue. Seattle has everything from amazing museums and microbreweries to exquisite art galleries, architecture and iconic landmarks; there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
The largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is set in a scenic spot on a narrow isthmus in between both Lake Washington and the Puget Sound. While plenty of leafy parks dot its diverse neighborhoods and endless waterfront area, fabulous views can be enjoyed of the sparkling waters and snow-capped mountains off in the distance.
Aside from strolling around and taking in the multicultural city’s vibrant feel, visitors can delve into its thriving dining, brewing and coffee shop scenes or stop by top tourist attractions like Pike Place Market and the soaring Space Needle.
8. Kelsey Creek Farm
A world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Seattle is the quiet and quaint Kelsey Creek Farm, which offers up a fascinating glimpse into Bellevue’s rural past. Located right in the heart of town, its barns, fields and farmhouse lie within a huge community park, surrounded by magnificent forests, meadows and wetlands.
Built in the early 1900s, the working farm now highlights what life was like back in those days with its historic old barns and pristine pastures housing pigs, cows, sheep and chickens. Besides seeing all the farmyard animals, there are playgrounds and picnic areas to make use of and countless trails to hike along through the nearby woods and fields.
During the summer, Kelsey Creek Farm runs educational programmes for children with pony treks and farm experiences to be enjoyed alongside art, science and nature camps.
7. Bellevue Zip Tour
If you’re after an exhilarating and unforgettable experience, then look no further than the Bellevue Zip Tour. At its scenic and secluded site, visitors can shoot through the treetops at great speeds and cross swaying suspension bridges with resplendent nature and views lying all around.
Established in 2006, its challenge courses, climbing walls and zip lines have proved very popular with locals and tourists alike. There are seven thrilling zip lines and two lofty suspension bridges to navigate strung up between the trees.
Among its atmospheric old Maple and Douglas Fir forest you can zip along at speeds of up to 55 kph. You can often spot Mount Baker and Glacier Peak through the canopy.
6. Meydenbauer Bay Park
Also boasting gorgeous scenery and views is Meydenbauer Bay Park in the center of town. Lying along the serene shores of the big bay of the same name, it offers a host of great outdoor activities, as well as a picture-perfect beach and long pedestrian pier.
Formerly a landing site for passenger ferries in the late 1800s, the lakeside location later became Bellevue’s first park in 1953. Recent renovations have not only extended and expanded its sandy beach but also added a curving pier, which further protects the park’s calm waters and is ideal for ambling along peacefully.
Besides sunbathing, swimming and basking in the phenomenal vistas over Lake Washington, guests can enjoy a pleasant picnic on its viewing terrace, or wander along its nature trails. A play area, canoes and kayaks are also available.
5. Bellevue Arts Museum
Just a short walk from both the park and bay is yet another of the city’s top tourist attractions: the outstanding Bellevue Arts Museum. Packed with interesting artworks and exhibits, it lies just across the street from the massive Bellevue Square shopping center.
Unlike almost all art museums, it doesn’t have a permanent collection. All its unique works and thought-provoking exhibitions are temporary in nature. While it is particularly known for its amazing installations by Pacific Northwest artists, the museum is also noted for the extensive number of hands-on classes and workshops it puts on for the community each year.
Founded in 1975, it occupies a striking modern building with its rotating exhibits focussing on everything from fine arts and visual design to cartoons, contemporary crafts and ceramic sculptures.
4. Bellevue Square
The best place to shop, dine and go out in the city is undoubtedly the ever-popular Bellevue Square, located right next to both the art museum and Downtown Park. With cosmetics and accessories, high fashion clothes, jewellery and luxury items, its endless array of stores certainly have you covered.
Since first opening in 1946, it has expanded enormously and now impressively has over 200 shops and boutiques for visitors to peruse, with both Macy’s and Nordstrum anchoring the mall. Here countless cafes and restaurants serve up delicious dishes from all around the world, with outdoor and open-air dining both being on offer.
Besides shopping ‘til you drop and sampling tasty treats, you can also go bowling, stop by its state-of-the-art cinema or enjoy some splendid live music at one of its numerous bars and clubs.
3. Mercer Slough Nature Park
Another picturesque spot where you can immerse yourself in nature is the lovely, lush Mercer Slough Nature Park. One of the largest parks in the city, it sprawls across a huge site with wonderful wetlands and woods to be found alongside charming creeks, open meadows and agricultural areas.
Despite lying only five minutes south of the center, the park actually protects the largest remaining patch of natural freshwater wetlands around Lake Washington. Weaving their way amidst its murky swamps and waterways are plenty of paths and boardwalks to explore. There is also a fantastic water trail which you can kayak along.
Aside from enjoying its spellbinding scenery and awesome outdoor activities, visitors can check out Mercer Slough’s historic blueberry farm or the 1929 Mission-style mansion which houses its Visitor Center. To learn more about its history and nature, make sure to visit its excellent Environmental Education Center.
2. Downtown Park
Dominating and defining the city center is the delightful Downtown Park that acts as a green and blue oasis among all the high rises, offices and apartment buildings. A popular place to relax and unwind, it has gloriously leafy spaces and lawns for visitors to enjoy with pretty water features also on show.
As downtown was growing and developing at a rapid pace, the city stepped in to protect one of its last remaining green spaces in the early eighties. Since then, the park has been lovingly landscaped with a circular promenade, canal and formal gardens now lining the large lawn at its center.
In addition to all this, playgrounds and picnic areas can be found next to a reflecting pool, twinkling waterfalls and outdoor performance venues, while the city’s skyline and the soaring Mount Rainier can be spied off in the distance.
1. Bellevue Botanical Garden
Although the city boasts attractive outdoor spaces and nature areas, the beautiful Bellevue Botanical Garden is certainly the pick of the bunch. Home to all kinds of colorful plants, flowers, trees and shrubs, its paths are a treat to stroll along with ponds, wetlands and wild areas dotted here and there.
Founded in 1992, it has scenic sections to explore with flower-filled meadows and verdant woodlands located alongside exquisitely manicured gardens. These include, not only the Japanese-themed Yao Garden, but a Native Discovery Garden full of native plants from the Pacific Northwest.
Other than visiting during its stupendous, but seasonal, Dahlia Display, the most memorable time of year to explore the gardens is during winter when thousands of fairy lights magically illuminate its paths, plants and ponds.