High on a hill overlooking the Space Needle is one of the jewels of the Seattle park system, Volunteer Park. With land purchased in 1876 this 40 acre park includes the usual suspects; walking paths, children’s play area and public art but that’s just scratching the surface. Come spend a day in Volunteer Park and discover all there is to see and do.
Volunteer Park Café
Begin the day by parking anywhere near the entrance off of 15th Avenue. Then take a short walk east to 17th Avenue and Stevens and the Volunteer Park Café for a hearty breakfast. A neighborhood favorite you may stand in line a bit to place your order but it’s worth the wait. Try one of their breakfast Panini’s with egg and bacon or their daily special quiche, if there is any left. They also have fabulous baked goods so see what’s fresh from the oven and still warm like their killer banana bread. The coffee’s hot, the staff is friendly so sit back and enjoy.
After breakfast head back to the park and drop into the Volunteer Park Conservatory and see what’s in bloom. Originally built in 1912 this huge greenhouse is home to cactus, palm, fern and bromeliad house as well as collections of seasonal plants. The variety is breathtaking and you are also bound to learn something from the many informational signs. Bring your camera along for lots of colorful pictures.
Walk over to the hill overlooking downtown Seattle and line yourself up with the “Black Sun” sculpture and have a look at the Space Needle. This is a great spot to do a little sun bathing and relax with a great view of the reservoir below and Seattle beyond.
Next stop is the original home of the Seattle Art Museum, now housing the Seattle Asian Art Museum. This museum has an extensive collection of ancient and contemporary art from throughout Asia and serves as a culture tribute to the many Asian people in the Seattle area. Take your time wandering the galleries and admiring the beautiful Art Deco building, or if you prefer, join up with a tour guided by their many trained docents.
Ready for a little cardio? Walk over to the brick water tower built in 1906 and take a winding walk up 106 steps to the 520 foot high observation deck. After you stop panting, enjoy the view and photo ops of Capitol Hill and downtown.
After you climb down from the water tower find a park bench to relax for awhile or pick a path and wander through the park and enjoy seasonal gardens, lily ponds and the beautiful trees. It is a great park and a place where Seattle families love to hang out and play.
After a day in the park it’s time for some libations and a bite to eat so head down the one of the hippest neighborhoods in Seattle, Capitol Hill. The Hill is home to dozens of great bars and restaurants but go to 10th and Pike and settle in at Quinn’s. With a complete bar as well as micro brews on tap Quinn’s a comfortable place to have a few drinks then try out their eclectic menu of small or large plates. Quinn’s offers the stuff you’ve seen on Iron Chef and always wanted to try like bone marrow, oxtail, and wild boar. High end products at reasonable prices and, if you’re not feeling adventurous, they have an amazing cheddar, bacon burger or yummy fish and chips.
If you aren’t ready to call it a day, Capitol Hill has great shops to browse and some of the best music and dance venues in town. It’s also home to most of Seattle’s gay bars if that suits your needs.
Spend a day in Volunteer Park to relax, enjoy nature, art, and history all in one wonderful place.
What and Where:
Volunteer Park (1247 15th Ave E)
Volunteer Park Café (1501 17th Ave E; 206-328-3155)
Quinn’s (1001 E. Pike St; 206-325-7711)
How to get there:
Volunteer Park, 1247 15th Ave E
Driving directions: From I-5 Northbound
- Take the East Olive Way Exit (exit #166)
- Bear right on East Olive Way
- East Olive Way merges into East John St
- East John comes to a T at 15th Ave E
- Turn Left on 15th Ave E.
- In about 3/4 of a mile, the entrance to Volunteer Park will be on your left
Marion L. Head is an educator and freelance writer who lives in Seattle, WA. Marion has published fiction in various anthologies and nonfiction on various websites. Marion is author of South Dakota: An Explorer’s Guide for Countryman Press.