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Amazing (and mostly free) parks you have to visit in Washington!

Before transferring to Cornell University, I spent my first year studying at the University of Washington, Seattle. During my time there, I had the opportunity to visit many beautiful public parks and arboretums with my friends and family friends. As someone who is very passionate about nature and outdoor activities, I frequently went on hiking trips and visited parks on the weekends and even at night on the weekdays. Since transportation was so readily available in the area, I did not have to worry about commuting from one place to another at all. I mostly took the bus, light rail, or walked when I needed to. This article is not your typical guide to the parks in or nearby Seattle; rather, it is a list of parks that I have visited with tips and interesting insights to guide you. If you are ever in the area, make sure you visit at least one of these parks! I promise you it will be a worthwhile experience!

1. Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park is my favorite park in Seattle. Located just 1.5 miles from the University of Washington, it is a popular place for UW students to have a picnic, eat BBQ, or go on dates. During the school year, I typically strolled to Gas Works Park with my friends to enjoy the night view. My friend and I have also gone there for photography projects. The place was just perfect for taking photos and gazing at the stars. The night time is the best time to visit for relaxation, and just for a quick study break. If you are planning to visit the park at night, remember to dress warm and bring a friend (and umbrella) for safety. The Burke Gilman Trial also traces along the park. During the summer, you can hike on the Burke Gilman Trial, which is a 27-mile multi-use recreational trail that takes you to popular neighborhoods from Ballard, Fremont, all the way to Bothell.

2. Kerry Park

Before I left Seattle, I am glad I took on the opportunity to visit Kerry Park because it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been during my time there. If you enjoy watching the night view and want to get a good view of the city lights, Kerry Park is the to-go place. As the park sits on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill, you can see the entire view of Seattle, from the space needle, downtown area, to Mountain Rainier. The best time to come is right before the sunset because you can see the view of both the sunset and night; however, remember to dress in layers as it gets colder at night on high altitudes!

3. Golden Gardens Park

Although this park is located farther from downtown, the bus can take you close to the park and you simply have to walk about 10 minutes before arriving at the destination. Not only does the Golden Gardens Park have a beach, but also a firepot, a lovely playground for kids, and a port. The locals love coming here in the summer as it is a perfect place for everyone to find something enjoyable to do, whether it is playing beach volleyball, eating BBQ, or simply hanging out. Although it was still chilly when I visited there in the spring, I really enjoyed walking on the sand and gathering around the bon fires with my friends. I would recommend visiting this place as a group as it is way more fun!

4. Woodland Park Zoo The Woodland Park Zoo is a family-friendly place that has many exhibits such as the Tropical Rain Forest, Northern Trial, and African Savannah. Each exhibit hosts different animals with different themes and landscapes to complement with the exhibit. My friend and I were really lucky to visit the place on a sunny weekend so the weather was just perfect to dress in light layers and wear sunglasses. The park was very well-organized so it was easy to navigate and explore different parts of the park. As there are many restaurants and places to sit down, don’t worry about having to rush through the whole place at once! We spent about 4-5 hours strolling through the park and were able to see everything in that afternoon. If you have the whole day in Seattle, visit the Woodland Park Zoo for some adventure!

5. Washington Park Arboretum

The Washington Park Arboretum is one of the largest parks in Seattle. While my friends and I only had the time to tour the Japanese Garden, located at the south of end of the Arboretum, we were amazed by its tranquility and atmosphere. The Japanese Garden is a 3.5-acre urban sanctuary, filled with Japanese trees and decorations, as if it is actually located in Tokyo. For those who are interested in seeing exotic gardens and places, this is the place to go.

6. Volunteer Park Conservation

Located in Capitol Hill, this park has a 75-feet tall tower that makes it the highest point on Capitol Hall. The best part of this park is that you can climb up the stairs to the top of the tower to view the entire city view of Seattle. While not a lot of people know about this place, Volunteer Park is definitely worth the visit at night to see the city lights.

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