We’re all nature lovers in the Pacific Northwest. What’s not to love? In addition to the lush green valleys and snow-capped mountains, we’ve managed to capture the natural wonder of the Evergreen state in several botanical gardens closer to town. This itinerary will take you to some of our favorites.

Day 1

Wake up and take a scenic drive along Puget Sound on the way to your first stop, the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden. You’ll know when you’re getting close as the views along the water turn to tall, green trees on both sides of Weyerhaeuser Road.

The Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden is a spectacular introduction to the plant life of Western Washington. During your leisurely stroll through the gardens, you’ll see over 700 species of colorful (and rare) rhododendrons. The tours are self-guided unless booked in advance, and if you’re visiting between March and May, you’re in luck…Spring is peak bloom time for Rhododendrons.

Right next store to the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, is the Pacific Bonsai Museum. Here, the living art of Bonsai is captured in an outdoor facility with 60 beautiful trees from China, Canada, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the United States are on display at any given time. The best part about the Pacific Bonsai Museum is that it’s open year-round and it’s completely FREE to visit!

After your day visiting the gardens to the south, head back to Seattle Southside for an appropriately themed farm-to-table meal at Copperleaf Restaurant. Copperleaf Restaurant is nestled inside the Cedarbrook Lodge, on 18 acres of naturally restored wetlands. Sustainability and local, fresh fare are their specialty as most of their vegetables come from their onsite garden, and virtually everything else is from local farmers and harvesters. The authentic Northwest flavors come to life in front of Copperleaf’s massive stone fireplace and dinner or lunch is always a special occasion in their intimate dining space.

Day 2

Wake up and smell the roses (and daylilies, fuchsias, irises, etc.) at the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden. Immediately after stepping foot into this colorful, multiregional oasis, you’ll forget you’re only a few blocks from the airport. This garden is a hidden treasure in Seattle Southside. People of all backgrounds adore the streams running through lush greenery and a colorful rainbow of various flower species sprinkled throughout the gardens. Enjoy the serenity of the sensory garden, the wild colors of Elda Behm’s Paradise Garden, and find your inner Zen in the Seike Japanese Garden.

If you didn’t take your time exploring the gardens, you might have missed the Seike Japanese Garden at the bottom of the hill past the Daylily and Iris beds. Here, you’ll find a traditional Japanese pond and mountain garden, as well as a look back at the tragic history of Japanese internment in the Pacific Northwest during WWII. More than 100,000 Japanese-American were interned in camps during WWII and Shinichi Seike and his family were no exception. Even though all three Seike sons fought for America during the war, and middle son Toll was killed in action in France, the family was still forced to remain within the confines of their internment camp. After the war, the family constructed what would become the Seike Japanese Garden as a memorial to their son and brother, Toll. This story is told on signs within the garden and in a Seattle Times article.

If the Seike Japanese Garden piqued your interest, you might be interested in The Kubota Garden, only a few miles away. The Kubota garden is unique in that the garden spans 20 acres and it seems to effortless weave the Japanese garden style with native Northwest plants. With all the hills, ponds, and stone architecture peppered throughout the garden, you’ll think you’re spending an afternoon in the Shinjuku prefecture.

By this point, you must be hungry! To continue with the Japanese theme, head to Miyabi Sushi for lunch or dinner. Miyabi does sushi right and they have an extensive menu of nigiri, sashimi, and deluxe rolls with local names like the Southcenter and “Go Seahawks!” rolls. Not to mention, Miyabi’s bento boxes are uniquely packed with hot Japanese entrées like karaage, tonkatsu, and yakiniku, and their signature drinks typically blend sake and a mix of local and international flavors.  

Day 3

BONUS

Day 3 is a bonus as you’ll have a chance to take the garden home with you. Head to Zenith Holland Gardens, the oldest continually operating business in Des Moines. Since 1907, Zenith has grown and sold high quality plants to locals and out-of-town visitors. Their knowledgeable staff will show you around and help you create the garden of your dreams in your own backyard. Plant lovers won’t want to miss this stop!