Seattle gets its nickname, “The Emerald City,” from its abundant, year-round greenery. The temperate climate and plethora of evergreen trees make for one of America’s most verdant cityscapes. And luckily for visitors and guests alike, Seattle has a vast system of parklands—totaling nearly 7,000 acres—to keep it emerald for years to come. Here’s our guide to some of the best parks in Seattle.
For the lunch break: Denny Park
Seattle’s oldest park, this swath of tree-shaded grass on the edge of downtown and South Lake Union neighborhoods has been an escape from city stress since the 1880s. Today, the park’s wide, rhododendron-lined paths converge on a central circle, surrounded by maples and pines.
For the Exploring: Discovery Park
At 534 acres, Discovery Park is the largest park in Seattle, making up 1 percent of the city’s entire land area. There are more than 11 miles of trails here, traversing forests and fields, along with beach areas and coastal bluffs. Regular wildlife spottings include harbor seals, sea lions, endemic (and adorable) Townsend’s chipmunks, and hundreds of bird species.
For the bonsai: Washington Park
Most of this park in eastern Seattle comprises the Washington Park Arboretum, along with the Seattle Japanese Garden. The 230-acre arboretum showcases plants arranged by theme, from a New Zealand forest area to a woodland garden with one of the largest collections of Japanese maple trees in North America. In the Japanese Garden, which surrounds a pond fed by a natural spring, manicured plantings are in the style of formal “shin” gardens from the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
For the lake views: Seward Park
In its plan for Seattle’s park network, Boston-based The Olmsted Brothers—the landscape architect firm behind New York’s Central Park—surprised locals by their calls for turning this peninsula south of downtown Seattle into a park. It was far enough removed from the growing city at the time that few thought it needed protection. Thankfully, the city listened, and today Seward Park provides 300 acres of wooded trails jutting into Lake Washington. Take the paved perimeter path for sweeping lake views, but don’t miss the interior trails, which walk through some 120 acres of Old Growth forest (trees that are at least 200 years old).
For the city views: Gas Works Park
On the northern shore of Lake Union, Gas Works Park is a unique example of how cities change with the times. The former coal gasification plant, which closed in 1956, is now one of Seattle’s most popular, and iconic parks. Head here for views straight across Lake Union to the downtown skyline.
For the sunset: Kerry Park
On a hilltop in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, Kerry Park overlooks downtown Seattle and the waterfront, with snow-capped Mount Rainier in the background. Head here for epic sunset views as the last light of day reflects off the glass high-rises. (Bonus: Kerry Park may look familiar—it makes frequent cameo appearances in the ever-popular, Seattle-set drama Grey’s Anatomy.)