14 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Bellevue, WA
We may earn a commission from affiliate links ()
Bellevue is immediately east of Seattle in Western Washington, across the waters of the massive Lake Washington. While it offers a slower and less-crowded pace than Seattle, it's still one of the most populous cities in the state. And despite not always being the first city associated with King County, it continues to be a staple of Pacific Northwest culture.
Much of the city's attractions center around the downtown district, including the eye-catching Bellevue Downtown Park. This charming public space offers bountiful green grass and a perpetual waterfall sculpture, all framed by the downtown skyline. Other downtown tourist attractions include shopping malls, art museums, and several options for local dining.
And Bellevue's appeal extends beyond the downtown center, especially in the form of natural spaces. Within the city limits and nearby, the Pacific Northwest beckons to be explored at places like Bellevue Botanical Gardens and Mercer Slough. And the city is an excellent launching pad for bigger adventures, including excursions to Mount Rainier National Park.
Discover more great places to visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Bellevue.
1. Bellevue Downtown Park
The 21-acre Bellevue Downtown Park was first conceived in 1984, and today, it provides central open space among the urban sprawl and continues to be a central part of the Bellevue community.
Downtown Park is a great place for a casual stroll during the day or a planned picnic outside. The entire space is a beautifully landscaped circular lawn with a waterfall sculpture as its border. A wide dirt promenade circles the park next to the rushing water, interspersed with several benches. These sitting spots offer an excellent view of the downtown skyline.
The Inspiration Playground at the park is quite a sight and provides an engaging place for kids to climb and explore the art-inspired play space. The park also hosts a huge number of community events, including the annual Fourth of July fireworks and a summer series of outdoor movies.
Address: 10201 NE 4th Street, Bellevue, Washington
2. Bellevue Arts Museum
Referred to simply as BAM, the Bellevue Arts Museum hosts an impressive display of artworks from regional and international artists. It's located among the bustling streets of the Bellevue downtown district, only a few blocks away from Downtown Park.
The museum has several large permanent installations hanging from the ceiling and draped across the walls. But primarily, BAM features rotating exhibits that display masterful art pieces. The museum also gives visitors a glimpse at the artistic process with behind-the-scenes looks at how the art was created.
Self-guided tours are available Wednesday through Sunday when the BAM is open, and trained curators also offer private tours. The museum also hosts several educational workshops for kids, teens, and adults, and special lectures and presentations. On the first Friday of each month, admission is free.
Address: 510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, Washington
Official site: https://www.bellevuearts.org/
3. Bellevue Botanical Garden
Though Bellevue isn't lacking in natural attractions, perhaps the most concentrated view of Pacific Northwest flora can be found in the 53 acres encompassing the Bellevue Botanical Garden. This urban display of botanical beauty is on Main Street and is open daily from dusk to dawn. Admission is always free.
Special places to visit at Bellevue Botanical Garden include the decorative Rock Garden and seasonal Dahlia Display. But the entire property is a masterpiece of landscaping and horticulture. Garden layouts ensure that something new is blooming every month of the year, offering several reasons to visit. Locals and tourists also have the opportunity to tour native plant species and learn a bit more about their environment.
Besides simply walking among the many gardens and displays, the best way to use this natural space is by participating in the classes and tours the garden provides throughout the year. The garden is home to a few events each year, including a special Garden d' Lights that occurs every winter. This festive event features over a half-million lights carefully placed throughout the area.
Address: 12001 Main Street, Bellevue, Washington
Official site: http://www.bellevuebotanical.org/
4. Explore Mercer Slough Nature Park
Mercer Slough Nature Park is Bellevue's largest city park and contains over 320 acres to wander throughout the year. The park has more than seven miles of trails that explore the surrounding wetland environment. A 2.6-mile water trail also winds its way through the park, accessible via canoe.
Mercer Slough Nature Park also hosts an on-site blueberry farm, which sells seasonal produce. And the Winters House Visitor Center is a 1929 Mission-style mansion at the park and is on the National Historic Register. These two park attractions are accessible with a connecting hiking trail.
Besides the wetland scenery, perhaps Mercer Slough's biggest tourist attraction is the collaborative Environmental Education Center hosted by the city of Bellevue and the Pacific Science Center. This hands-on facility provides classes, programs, and exhibits to enrich a Mercer Slough sightseeing experience.
Address: 1625 118th Ave. SE, Bellevue, Washington
5. Spend the Afternoon at Meydenbauer Beach Park
The Meydenbauer Beach Park is not only a hidden gem of natural space in Bellevue, it also serves as a significant point in the city's history. Located on Meydenbauer Bay, on the shores of Lake Washington (King County's largest freshwater lake), this area was once the landing site for ferries running from Seattle. This historic ferry spot was pivotal in the development of Bellevue.
Nowadays, the Meydenbauer Beach Park is tucked away in a residential neighborhood. It provides a place for locals and tourists to get some sand between their toes or spread out the blanket for a picnic. Meydenbauer Beach Park is also a popular place to swim in the summer months when the water is warm enough and lifeguards are on duty.
The park is beautifully landscaped, with a tiered walkway that leads down to the water. Here, a modern playground entices younger members of the family. The park also has a unique walkway that leads out to the middle of Meydenbauer Bay, presenting a panoramic view of Lake Washington.
Address: 419 98th Ave NE, Bellevue, Washington
6. Go for a Hike at Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park
Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park offers a wild space to explore less than 10 miles southeast of Bellevue. This wild environment encompasses over 3,000 acres and over 35 miles of maintained trails.
Mountain bikes aren't allowed at Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, but some trails support horse riding. Many of the trails lead to stunning views of Lake Sammamish and the Cascade Mountains.
For more to explore, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park connects to Squak Mountain State Park via Cougar-Squak Corridor Park. This narrow park and valley adjoin the two public spaces, collectively known as the Issaquah Alps, and provide more than 15,000 acres of forest to explore.
Address: 18201 SE Cougar Mountain Drive, Renton, Washington
7. KidsQuest Children's Museum
The KidsQuest Children's Museum is every child's dream come true. This family-friendly play space features a two-story Atrium Climber for kids to climb in, on, and around, plus eight other interactive exhibits designed to encourage development in children.
Focusing on the key areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and math, the KidsQuest Children's Museum isn't about sitting down at a desk and writing on the blackboard. Instead, this educational institution focuses on hands-on interaction with the different moving parts of life.
KidsQuest is specifically designed for children ages 0-10 and features more than 650 programs offered throughout the year. Available programming includes summer camps and whole-family science workshops.
Address: 1116 108th Ave NE, Bellevue, Washington
Official site: http://www.kidsquestmuseum.org/
8. Shop and Dine at The Bellevue Collection
The Bellevue Collection is three distinct shopping areas in the Bellevue downtown district. These shopping areas provide a dense concentration of shopping, dining, and overnight accommodations. Alongside unique and name-brand shopping opportunities, the Bellevue Collection also offers seasonal events that draw a crowd.
The Bellevue Collection includes the Bellevue Square shopping mall with more than 200 retail locations. Lincoln Square is another distinct area filled with several cultural dining destinations. The third shopping area, Bellevue Place has some of the best places to stay the night, including the four-star Hyatt Regency Bellevue. The Bellevue Collection hosts everything you need in a few blocks to keep yourself busy for many long weekends.
This part of town is especially festive during the holiday season. The Bellevue Collection organizes Snowflake Lane throughout December. This family fun celebration is outside the Bellevue Square shopping mall, where the street is alive with glittering lights, electronic animations, and always falling snow.
Address: 575 Bellevue Square, Bellevue, Washington
Official site: http://bellevuecollection.com/
9. Lake Sammamish
While Lake Sammamish may seem like a puddle compared to the far-spreading waters of Lake Washington to the west, this body of water provides important recreational opportunities for Bellevue residents and its connected communities. On the north end of Lake Sammamish, Marymoor Park is connected to the city of Redmond and provides awesome outdoor concerts throughout the year. A public water-skiing slalom course is also on the north end of the lake.
In Bellevue, on the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish, Vasa Park Resort provides picnic areas; boat launches; and a perfect spot to swim, with diving boards and waterslides. Vasa Park is also a popular spot to pitch a tent or park an RV. On the southern shore, Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah offers outdoor adventures throughout the year.
Address: 3560 W Lake Sammamish Pkwy SE, Bellevue, Washington
10. Sneak in 18 Holes of Golf
Several of Western Washington's top golf courses are in or within a short drive of Bellevue. These courses serve the region as a whole and not just Bellevue residents, so advanced tee times are always recommended.
The Golf Club at Newcastle offers arguably some of the best golf in the Pacific Northwest, less than a 12-mile drive from downtown. This club is open to the public and offers 36 holes of championship golf. The facility encompasses 350 acres perched atop the foothills of Cougar Mountain Regional Park. This high vantage point lends to incredible views of the Seattle skyline and landscapes, including Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains.
Bellevue also maintains the Bellevue Golf Course. This public course offers more affordable rates closer to town. It doesn't skimp on scenery, though, and the course has a reputation for its well-maintained landscaping and greens. A popular driving range is also on-site.
The city also oversees the Crossroads Par-3 Course on the east side of town. This nine-hole putt-and-chip course is open from April through October. It's a great place to visit for a quick golf outing, and caters to experienced players looking to perfect their short game or those new to the sport.
11. Bellevue Zip Tour
For a unique way to explore the natural side of Bellevue, the Bellevue Zip Tour takes visitors speeding among Douglas firs and broadleaf maples as they explore the scenery from above. This city-owned facility consists of 6.5 ziplines, ranging from 70 to 450 feet, and operates every season except the winter.
the Bellevue Zip Tour is just west of the South Bellevue Community Center. Whether looking for a fun time for the whole family or a great place for a group getaway, the Bellevue Zip Tour provides a fast-flying way to see some Pacific Northwest nature from a new perspective.
Address: 450 110th Ave. NE, Bellevue, Washington
Official site: http://www.bellevueziptour.com/
12. Day Trip to Seattle
It's only a 15-minute drive across Lake Washington to the Emerald City from Bellevue or a 30-minute bus ride. If you're visiting Bellevue and have some extra time on your hands, it's well worth the trip to check out this cultural capital of the Pacific Northwest.
Between iconic tourist spots like the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, and more off-the-beaten path adventures like Bill Speidel's Underground Tour, Seattle warrants some extended travel. For summer fun, the best beaches in Seattle are a great place to cool off. Other top attractions of the city include the Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Museum of Flight.
For an overnight trip to Seattle, our guide on where to stay in Seattle offers accommodations for every type of traveler.
13. Whale Watch from Bellevue
A big appeal of visiting the Pacific Northwest and the Puget Sound region is the opportunity to spot wild whales in the water. The summer is the best time to see whales, approximately between May through October. Bellevue is a bit too inland to spot any of these massive mammals from the city, but several sightseeing options aren't far away.
It's possible to see whales from Seattle without boarding a boat. Public areas lining the Puget Sound shoreline, like Golden Gardens and Alki Beach Park, offer the necessary panoramic views across the water. It helps to know what to look for and to have a bit of patience when spotting whales from the land. It also helps to utilize community resources like the Orca Network.
Another popular option is booking a boat tour. This ups the chances of seeing whales tenfold, and some companies even guarantee a sighting or they'll give out a free voucher for another trip. Puget Sound Express is a reputable and family-owned tour company, with boats that depart from Edmonds, approximately a 20-mile drive from Bellevue.
14. Weekend Trip to Mount Rainier National Park
The mighty Mount Rainier can easily be seen from Bellevue on clear days. And the massive national park surrounding this iconic mountain of Washington is accessible from the city with a 60-mile drive. The park is a great place to visit for a day trip, and the many campgrounds at Mount Rainier National Park also facilitate memorable overnight adventures.
Mount Rainier National Park features waterfalls, mountain meadows, and stunning hiking trails. The Northwest Carbon River Entrance is the closest to Bellevue, though the Southwest Nisqually Entrance tends to be the more popular route. The Nisqually entrance of the park is accessible with a two-hour drive, and features more amenities, like a visitor center, and is open throughout the year.
Official site: https://www.nps.gov/mora/index.htm
Where to Stay in Bellevue for Sightseeing
Bellevue has several quality hotels to choose from. Some of the best hotels in Bellevue are in the heart of downtown near Bellevue Downtown Park. Other places to stay are east of the downtown district and lining the 405. Hotels in Bellevue range from four-star accommodations oozing with style to budget-friendly options that don't skimp on quality or service.
The Best Luxury Hotel in Bellevue:
- One of the best four-star hotels in Bellevue is the Hyatt Regency Bellevue. Connected to Bellevue Square via skywalk, and a block from Bellevue Downtown Park, this upscale establishment features stylish rooms and suites. Visitors often appreciate the resort-like amenities of the hotel, including the expansive breakfast bar and fully equipped fitness studio.
The Best Mid-Range Hotel in Bellevue:
- Popular with families and business travel, the Silver Cloud Inn features comfortable accommodations at an affordable price. Near a quiet neighborhood park, Silver Cloud Inn is also located within walking distance to restaurants and dining in downtown. The comfortable aesthetics of the lobby and common spaces of the hotel extend into the rooms, where guests are known to get a good night's sleep.
The Best Budget Hotel in Bellevue:
- Bellevue offers several budget hotels. Not all the most affordable hotels in Bellevue offer the same quality of service. The Extended Stay America, located just east of downtown across the 405, offers both an exceptional value and a first-class stay. Great for extended vacations or one-night budget accommodations, the Extended Stay is often the first choice for a budget-friendly stay.
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
More Washington Cities to Explore: For other cultural attractions on the west side of the state, the charming university city of Bellingham features waterfalls, historic districts, and great views of the San Juan Islands. The state capital of Washington, Olympia, is also on the west side of the state not far from Bellevue and provides several fun things to do. To properly explore Eastern Washington, the city of Spokane is a great place to start.
Exploring Washington's Wonders: The state of Washington is blessed with many beautiful landscapes. The best state and national parks in Washington highlight these regions with campgrounds and hiking trails. The top hot springs in Washington have a steamy appeal and tend to help alleviate any sore muscles. For some wintertime activity, our guide to Washington ski resorts will have you tackling the black diamonds in no time.