Located across the lake from Seattle, Bellevue is a unique place to visit, home to the Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue Botanical Garden, Mercer Slough Nature Park, and other great attractions. Family favorites include KidsQuest Children’s Museum and Kelsey Creek Park and Farm. Here are the best things to do in Bellevue, Washington.
1. Bellevue Arts Museum
© Bellevue Arts Museum
Spend your day surrounded by art at the Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM). Bellevue is a unique art museum where there is no permanent collection showcased. Instead, the museum focuses on education and hands-on art through a variety of programs and events. Here, you can talk and meet with artists and hear about the creation of their art step-by-step.
There is a wide range of programs available for everyone, making for a family friendly day out. Take a tour around the museum, hear about the history of the establishment, and discover the highlights of the current exhibitions. With constantly revolving exhibits, no two visits to Bellevue Arts Museum are ever the same.
510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004, 425-519-0770
2. Bellevue Botanical Garden
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Bellevue Botanical Garden is a breathtakingly beautiful urban oasis featuring 53 acres of restored woodlands and natural wetlands mixed with romantic cultivated gardens. All the plant collections feature plants that live and thrive in the Pacific Northwest. Visitors can get lost in this serene space walking along the Lost Meadow Trail, exploring Rhododendron Glen, or relaxing in the contemplative Japanese Yao garden.
If you visit between November and January, the yearly Garden d’Lights that transform the Bellevue Botanical Garden into a winter wonderland with more than half a million little lights will mesmerize you. While a visit to the garden is a pleasure in and of itself, you can also attend regular seasonal plant sales, take part in a gardening course, or attend a lecture or a summer concert.
12001 Main St, Bellevue, WA 98005, 425-452-2750
© Courtesy of Edward Bruns - Fotolia.com
Nobody needs it more than busy professionals stuck in their cubicles day in and day out: a green oasis that occupies 21-acres of the expensive downtown real estate, a respite from the stress and pressure, a space to regenerate and recoup. It is elegant and simple, with a half-mile long promenade shaded by two rows of mature trees and a canal that brings you to the magnificent 240-foot wide waterfall that splashes into a deep reflecting pond.
You can stretch out in your business suit on the ten-acre manicured lawn, have a picnic, or even throw a Frisbee to your dog while enjoying the silhouette of Mount Rainier and the city skyline. The park also hosts numerous celebrations and community gatherings.
10201 NE Fourth St, Bellevue, WA 98004
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Bellevue Square is one of the most popular and oldest malls in Bellevue. Built in 1946, it has grown with the city and today has 180 retail stores, ranging from Macy's and Nordstrom to Tiffany's, Armani Exchange and Hugo Boss to Lego, the Microsoft Store, and Victorinox Swiss Army.
Some of the most popular city restaurants are also at Bellevue Square such as P.F. Chang's, Red Robin, The Cheesecake Factory and Ruth's Chris Steak House. There is a great play area for the kids to enjoy while their parents are busy browsing and shopping. A skybridge links Bellevue Square with Lincoln Square.
575 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004, 425-454-8096
5.Mercer Slough Nature Park
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Located just minutes from downtown Bellevue, Mercer Slough Nature Park is set on 320 acres of wildlife habitat, agricultural land, forests and freshwater wetlands, making it the perfect place for a family day trip. There are plenty of things to see and do – bike or hike the trails or canoe the rivers.
You can also take one of the many boardwalks and paths that wind through the park. Visit the blueberry farm and pick fresh blueberries or sit in the sun on the lawns outside the historic Winter’s House. Every Saturday, the park offers a free guided tour, which offers you the opportunity to see some of the parks 170 wildlife species.
1625 118th Ave, Bellevue, WA 90012, 425-452-2565
6.Kelsey Creek Park and Farm
© Kelsey Creek Park and Farm
Another hidden gem in Bellevue is the Kelsey Creek Park and Farm. Dating from the 1930’s, the farm is picturesque, with large barns, white rail fencing, rolling paddocks, and large play fields. Home to ponies, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, rabbits, and waterfowl, the park provides the ideal family friendly visit.
Completely free, the farm allows children to visit with the animals and play on the playground, and families can take advantage of the picnic tables and facilities. You can take a tour with Farmer Jayne and gain hands-on experience with the animals, or you can even celebrate your birthday at Kelsey Creek Park and Farm.
410 130 Pl SE, Bellevue, WA 98008, 425-452-7688
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7.KidsQuest Children's Museum
© KidsQuest Children's Museum
It’s all about the kids at KidsQuest Children’s Museum. The museum is a highly interactive, hands-on museum designed for children to explore the worlds of science, technology, engineering, art, and math via interactive displays and challenges. There are a ton of exhibits, including the Treehouse, which invites imaginative play, and Waterways, which explores water through hands-on learning.
For those with younger children, visit the Backyard, which offers tactile exhibits and invites exploring. For family fun, try The Garage, which explores the world of science and entertains adults and children alike. There are so many exhibits to explore and adventures to be had by those who are young and young at heart.
1116 108th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004, 425-637-8100
8.Chism Beach Park
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Set on 18 acres of wide-open spaces, established towering forests, a sandy beach, and pristine waters, Chism Beach Park is a firm family favorite. Nestled on the shores of Lake Washington, the park offers an unobstructed view of the Seattle skyline across the lake, making it the perfect location to watch the sunset with your family and friends.
The park allows visitors to engage in several recreational activities and has a dedicated fishing area, swimming and picnic areas, and non-motorized watercraft activities. Swim with the backdrop of the natural scenery of the park behind you and the Seattle skyline ahead of you.
9,600 SE 11th St, Bellevue, WA 98004, 425-452-6885
9.Cactus Southwest Kitchen and Bar
© Cactus Southwest Kitchen and Bar
Cactus Southwest Kitchen + Bar has been one of the Seattle area's favorite Mexican joints since 1990, offering five locations throughout the city today, including a flagship Bellevue location opened in 2013. The lively, upbeat restaurant is known for its innovative Mexican and Southwestern specialties, including Spanish-style tapas and handcrafted south-of-the-border cocktails. High-quality entrees served up throughout the day include poblano chile rellenos, sizzling skillet fajitas, oversized chimichangas, and chorizo fried chicken with pico de gallo and spicy mashed potatoes. Varied taco and enchilada menus feature meat, seafood, and vegetarian concoctions, including meatless options like butternut squash enchiladas and jackfruit tinga tacos.
535 Bellevue Square, Bellevue, WA 98004, Phone: 425-455-4321
© Meydenbauer Center
Meydenbauer Center is one of Bellevues premier convention centers and is the second largest in the Greater Seattle area. Every year the center hosts over 300 events that range from conventions, corporate meetings, and events to fundraising galas and a range of consumer and trade shows.
The event space is over 54,000 feet, providing plenty of space to host your next event. A 410-seat performing arts theatre serves as a venue for music, dance, and theatrical performances that are open to the public. They have a full calendar of events, so make sure you visit their website for more details.
11100 NE 6th St, Bellevue, WA 98004, 425-637-1020
Seastar’s understated elegance makes it upscale without being pretentious. Discrete art pieces and muted colors give the place a soothing and relaxing feel. Chef/owner John Howie has developed an inspired menu that focuses on fresh seafood, but also offers high quality steaks, pastas, and chicken. All items on the menu depend on seasonal availability, as everything is made from the freshest ingredients.
The menu has a great selection of small plates, which are perfect for sampling a bit of everything, but the most popular choices are the shared plates. Bring a bunch of foodie friends and try the Seastar Iced Shellstock Bowl with freshly shucked oysters, Dungeness crab legs, scallop ceviche, Alaska king crab, and grilled and chilled black tiger shrimp. Seastar has an award-winning wine selection, and there is something for every taste and every pocket.
205 108th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004, 425-456-0010
Flo is very Japanese, from the elegant simplicity of the décor to the artistry of the bento boxes they put together for your lunch. This very traditional sushi restaurant and sake bar offers a large selection of sushi and sashimi that shows true respect for the simplicity sushi represents, with the freshest possible ingredients, authentic Japanese condiments, and a few nods to the Western palate they cater to. This fine balance between Japanese tradition and Western taste is uniquely Flo’s.
There is enough for the Japanese food connoisseurs and purists – try horenso gomae (wilted spinach with shaved bonito and roasted black sesame) – and Westerner’s favorites such as the California roll or the Washington Roll, a local favorite. If you want to really give yourself a treat, go for Omakase, the chef’s choice with a sake pairing.
1150 106th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004, 425-453-4005
13.The Shops at the Bravern
© The Shops at the Bravern
Inspired by European style shopping, The Shops at the Bravern are a destination in and of themselves. Luxury is the key here, with upscale retailers and restaurants and valet parking. The center boasts beautiful clean architecture, with fountains and flowerbeds, aesthetically pleasing statues, and state-of-the-art technology.
Spend your day amongst fashion icons such as Neiman Marcus, Gucci, Prada, Jimmy Choo, and Louis Vuitton. After a busy day shopping, head to one of the several restaurants serving upscale contemporary cuisine such as Mairposa at Neiman Marcus and custom steaks from John Howie Steak.
11111 NE 8th Street, Bellevue, WA 98004
14.John Howie Steak
© John Howie Steak
You have to be a true meat lover to appreciate the quality of the offerings at the John Howie Steak. It is not a restaurant – it is a shrine to beef. You can choose from 28, 35, and 42 day aged USDA prime beef from Omaha, Nebraska, the American Wagyu from Snake River Farms in Boise, Idaho, Australian Wagyu from Cabassi & Co, Brisbane, Australia, and the Japanese Wagyu from Kyushu, Japan.
Prepared to absolute perfection on mesquite charcoal or an Applewood grill that adds a touch of smoky flavor with sides such as wild mushrooms foraged in the local woods and locally sourced produce, you will find yourself in a kind of foodie heaven. Great food and upscale décor attract celebrities and other “beautiful people,” so be prepared to be distracted from your exquisite steak. The wine list is excellent, extensive, and a bit expensive, but worth every penny.
11111 NE 8th St #125, Bellevue, WA 98004, 425-440-0880
15.Newcastle Beach Park
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Beautiful tree top canopies, wide-open spaces, and a large sandy beach await you at Newcastle Beach Park. There is so much to do as a family here – take advantage of the expansive field and toss the Frisbee around or take part in a friendly game of football.
Cool off with a dip in the water or build sand castles on the shore. Meander down the ¾ mile nature loop over wooden bridges and canopied forests with sunlight dappling on the paths. Walk quietly and hear the birdsong and see small animals scurry about. A floating swimmer’s dock offers the perfect place to cast your fishing line or sunbathe in the summer sun.
4400 Lake Washington Blvd SE, Bellevue, WA 98006, 425-452-6914
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Located in Tysons Galleria, Maggiano’s Little Italy will charm you with traditional checkered red tablecloths, high ceilings, and shining chandeliers, with blues or country music playing in the background. It is spacious, comfortable and old-world elegant, a perfect place to bring the whole family for a fabulous meal. Cozy leather booths will allow you privacy around your table, where you can enjoy classic Italian meal prepared using many old family recipes.
Everything is made from scratch, from pastas and sauces to tiramisu and cannoli. You will find all your favorites such as chicken parmesan, fabulous lasagna, and sinful flatbreads (their name for pizzas.) With a nice selection of wines from Italy and the new world and sinful Italian desserts, you are sure to have a memorable evening.
10455 NE 8th St, Bellevue, WA 98004, 425-519-6476
17.Willburton Hill Park
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Situated on what was once a bustling logging town, the 120-acre Willburton Hill Park is now a haven for wildlife and nature lovers. The park is dedicated to preserving nature areas, forests, and wildlife habitats, and it includes a botanical garden that showcases native Northwest flora.
Head down to one of several large playing fields where you will find people playing soccer and football, or one of the several tennis and basketball courts. Those with families will appreciate the numerous picnic facilities and a large children’s play area where young people can enjoy their free time. With over 3.5 miles of trails to explore, Willburton Hill Park offers plenty to see and do.
12400 Main Street, Bellevue, WA 98005
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17 Best Things to Do in Bellevue, Washington
- Bellevue Arts Museum, Photo: Bellevue Arts Museum
- Bellevue Botanical Garden, Photo: Courtesy of yaswanth - Fotolia.com
- Downtown Park, Photo: Courtesy of Edward Bruns - Fotolia.com
- Bellevue Square, Photo: Courtesy of Jdubsvideo - Fotolia.com
- Mercer Slough Nature Park, Photo: Courtesy of Anna Jurkovska - Fotolia.com
- Kelsey Creek Park and Farm, Photo: Kelsey Creek Park and Farm
- KidsQuest Children's Museum, Photo: KidsQuest Children's Museum
- Chism Beach Park, Photo: Courtesy of takieshtuchki - Fotolia.com
- Cactus Southwest Kitchen and Bar, Photo: Cactus Southwest Kitchen and Bar
- Meydenbauer Center, Photo: Meydenbauer Center
- Seastar, Photo: Seastar
- Flo, Photo: Flo
- The Shops at the Bravern, Photo: The Shops at the Bravern
- John Howie Steak, Photo: John Howie Steak
- Newcastle Beach Park, Photo: Courtesy of Mon AjFthly - Fotolia.com
- Maggiano's, Photo: Maggiano's
- Willburton Hill Park, Photo: Courtesy of Pakhnyushch - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Andy - Fotolia.com