Activities & Resources
Washington Park Arboretum050in Seattle, WA 98112
about Washington Park Arboretum:
The best thing to do here with kids is to ramble through the grounds, examining plants and insects, and stopping to snack at any number of pleasant picnic spots.
During spring and summer, the 0.75-mile Azalea Way is a standout walk and picnic spot, a broad avenue of lawn planted on either side with mature specimen trees, cherries, dogwoods, and and (of course) azaleas. It can be accessed by crossing the street in front of the Graham Visitors Center and entering the path there. It does get muddy after a rain - bring those boots. It's also difficult to access with a stroller, especially after rain, since there's no paving of any kind. If you venture out with a baby, we'd recommend taking a pack.
The Shoreline and Waterfront Trails along Duck Bay and Foster Island offer completely different experiences. From the parking lot (see directions below), walk about a 1/2-mile through light forest, wetland areas, and under Highway 520. Watch for ducks, signs of beavers, Great Blue Herons and unique collection trees along the way. This path is easily accessible with a stroller. The entrance to the Waterfront Trail is to the left at the end of the feeder trail where you enter a diverse freshwater marsh. Walk onto a cave-like wetlands trail paved with woodchips that leads to a series of floating walkways. These go right onto the water and afford great views of Lake Washington, Husky Stadium, and boat traffic from the Montlake Cut. Kids love the rolling motion; walkers have sea legs when they get off. Lush vegetation and hidden resting points give Foster and Marsh Islands a mysterious feel, good for games of all kinds. The floating walkways are more difficult to navigate with a stroller - although we've done it with a small-wheeled jogger.
You can walk from Foster Island right to the Museum of History and Industry via Marsh Island or continue past the museum to a public area that overlooks the Montlake Cut. Once you pass the Museum parking lot, look to your right - you'll see protected marshy areas on Lake Washington's shore that harbor many species of waterfowl.
Another way to enjoy the Arboretum is to rent a canoe at the University of Washington Waterfront Activities Center and paddle around under Highway 520 and its abandoned ramps, through marshy inlets, and along Foster Island and Duck Bay. Watch for wildlife hidden among the vegetation.
The Japanese Garden, located just south of the Arboretum, also offers a quiet, although more formal, place for a good walk.
All-day summer programs are offered for children ages six to 12 that integrate art, science, environmental games, and creative writing. For information or to register, contact University of Washington Extension at 206.685.8936 or go to www.summer.washington.edu/syp.
Summer field trip opportunities for day camps, summer school programs, homeschool groups, and family groups of 10 or more are available through the Arboretum Summer Sleuths program. Activities include hands-on wetland exploration, animal adaptation games, adopt-a-tree programs, and outdoor sensory activities. For more information, contact the education department at 206.543.8801 or visit the website listed above.
Seedlings, the Arboretum's newest program for preschool kids, introduces wetlands and trees to young ones. Groups of 8 or more can register for a 60-minute outdoor program that includes a craft and snack by calling 206.543.8801 or sending an email to the address above.
The Saplings School Program introduces students in grades K through 12 to plant growth and development. The Arboretum becomes an "outdoor classroom" for teachers and students as they choose from a variety of topics to explore through a hands-on, inquiry-based program. The program costs $3 per student; educators can sign up at least three weeks in advance by contacting the Education Department at 206.543.8801 or firstname.lastname@example.org