Just to the east of Seattle and separated by Lake Washington lies the college town of Bellevue. This city makes a great side trip from Seattle or a good base for those wanting to explore the Puget Sound region. Enjoy Bellevue's thriving downtown scene, natural outdoor spaces, and family-centric locales, like the children's museum and the public market. Hanging out in this hipster town will give you a true feel for the Pacific Northwest, complete with metropolitan amenities and the Olympic Mountains looming in the distance.
Bellevue offers some of the best shopping in the entire Pacific Northwest. And while most of the core shops are downtown, by venturing into the city's neighborhoods you'll find interesting local stores and eateries. Spend a day exploring The Bellevue Collection which includes the Bellevue Square Mall, Lincoln Square, and Bellevue Place and stores like Nordstrom, Macy's, Pottery Barn, and Williams Sonoma. While there, take advantage of amenities like casual dining, a movie theater, and several bars and lounges. Lincoln Square hosts art galleries and salons, as well.
Just northeast of downtown, The Bravern provides an open-air mall experience, home to luxury shops like Neiman Marcus, Brooks Brothers, Jimmy Choo, and Louis Vuitton. And south of Bellevue Square, Old Bellevue has charming boutiques and provides a nice alternative to the hustle-bustle vibe of the mall.
Located between two lakes—Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish—Bellevue is home to many parks and outdoor spaces. Enjoy the views, stroll along the waterfront, or hike through nature. At Mercer Slough Nature Park, one of Bellevue largest parks and lake Washington's largest wetlands, you can enjoy seven miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, a canoe launch, and a blueberry farm. This park even boasts a unique interpretive canoe trip and a place to purchase seasonal blueberries from the farm.
Meydenbauer Center performance venue hosts shows and art education programs from numerous cultural organizations. The 410-seat theatre offers an ever-changing calendar that includes classical music concerts, plays and musicals, ballet and dance recitals, and documentaries and film showings. Catch a show from the Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestra, Lyric Opera Northwest, the Bellevue Chamber Chorus, or The Attic Theatre. An events calendar and ticket information is available on the venue's website.
Focusing on fine craft and design, this downtown Bellevue museum displays the work of artists from both the Pacific Northwest and around the world. During your visit, browse ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and sculpture exhibits that rotate throughout the year. You can also attend various talks, tours, workshops and kid programs. And don't miss the outstanding gift and bookstore—great for grabbing a classy piece of vacation memorabilia.
Throughout the seasons, the Pacific Northwest is rich in regional festivals, and Bellevue is no exception. The Wintergrass Bluegrass festival in February comes complete with performances, workshops, and dancing opportunities. The Bellevue Jazz Festival in May features both regional and national acts. Kick off the summer with Bellevue's Strawberry Festival, complete with agricultural exhibits, vendors, and a mini-museum. Bellevue's Independence Day celebration includes family-centric activities and fireworks. And the Bellevue Arts Fair in July is actually three fairs in one, showcasing the works hundreds of artists.
Bellevue's neighboring towns and national forests offer daytrippers access to many activities just outside city limits. Hop in the car and take a 30-minute drive (traffic dependent) to Snoqualmie Falls, a small park that overlooks a grand waterfall and a misty river canyon. Directly to the north lies Woodinville, western Washington's primary wine region. Tour over twenty vineyards, complete with wine tastings, but make sure to have a designated driver or call Uber for a lift home. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the hiking and biking trails at Marymoor Park on the Sammamish. And Downtown Kirkland boasts charming local shops, galleries, and eateries on the shore of Lake Washington.
Even though Bellevue has no direct access to the ocean, the plethora of sandy beaches along the shores of Lake Washington offer a great way to cool off and enjoy Nature. Check out Enatai Beach Park, complete with a swimming area, a swimming dock, and seasonal canoe and kayak rentals. The larger Chism Beach Park actually has lifeguards. And Clyde Beach Park, located off of Lake Washington Boulevard, offers a convenient option for a quick afternoon dip.
Operated by the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society, the Bellevue Botanical Gardens is made up of several different gardens, as well as a visitor's center and an educational facility. Stroll through fragrant flowers and trees, stopping to smell the fuchsias, the rhododendrons, various wildflowers, and mountain hemlock trees. Discover species of ground crops you didn't know exist. And then, top it off with a trip to the garden store, complete with garden-inspired gifts.
Just inside Mercer Slough Nature Park sits Kelsey Creek Farm, a historic family farm facility that provides farm animal education and the experience of seeing farm animals up close. Children can take a pony ride, pet a chicken or bunny, or take part in sensory farm programs. You can contribute to the animals by adopting a critter and supporting its maintenance and feeding throughout the year.
The Kid's Quest Children's Museum isn't just for little kids. With adult programming and STEAM-powered (science, technology, engineering, and math) summer camps, school-age kids and their parents can join in the fun. Visit the Art Studio, the Recycle and Rebuild shop, the Learning Lab, and the Atrium Climber (a kid's favorite). Or, drop your kids off for an afternoon program while you enjoy some downtime at the neighboring Bellevue Library.
Bellevue is a renowned stop for anyone who loves to skate. With three outdoor skateparks and one indoor facility, skaters of all ability levels have a place to call their own. The city-operated indoor park hosts a series of camps and drop-in sessions and offers rentals and professional demos. Cruisers will enjoy Crossroads Park Skate Bowl, complete with empty swimming pools to shred. And those who love taking it to the street will enjoy the 13,000 square-foot Highland Outdoor Skate Plaza, which replicates favorite around-the-town features.
Shop, dine, or enjoy a vintage carousel ride at Crossroads Bellevue, the city's own public market. The facility's food-hall-style international restaurants provide fast and affordable authentic cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. Shop the local boutiques and national chains that reside on the premises. Or, hit up Stone Gardens, the area's finest rock climbing facility. The Bellevue Farmer's Market sets up shop here every Tuesday afternoon from June through September for a peek at the region's finest produce.