7 Best Sights in Capitol Hill, Seattle

Washington Park Arboretum

Fodor's choice
Washington Park Arboretum
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This 230-acre arboretum may be the most beautiful of Seattle's green spaces. On calm weekdays, the place feels really secluded. The seasons are always on full display: in warm winters, flowering cherries and plums bloom in its protected valleys as early as late February, while the flowering shrubs in Rhododendron Glen and Azalea Way bloom March through June. In autumn, trees and shrubs glow in hues of crimson, pumpkin, and lemon; in winter, plantings chosen specially for their stark and colorful branches dominate the landscape. A 1¼-mile trail that connects to an existing path to create a 2½-mile accessible loop, giving all guests access to areas that were previously hard to reach.

March through November, visit the peaceful Japanese Garden, a compressed world of mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, and tablelands. The pond, lined with blooming water irises in spring, has turtles and brightly colored koi. An authentic Japanese tea house reserved for tea ceremonies is open to the public on Saturdays and some additional days (check  www.seattlejapanesegarden.org for details). Visitors who would like to enjoy a bowl of tea and sweets can purchase a $10 "Chado" tea ticket at the Garden ticket booth.

The Graham Visitors Center at the park's north end has descriptions of the arboretum's flora and fauna (which include 130 endangered plants), as well as brochures, a garden gift shop, and walking-tour maps. Free tours are offered on the first Thursday of each month at 11:30 am. There is a pleasant playground at the ball fields on the south end of the park.

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AMcE Creative Arts

Nestled into a residential neighborhood, this spacious fine art gallery features both big national names with ambitious works in the main gallery and smaller local artists in its "Niche Market" space. The gallery focuses on contemporary art, with an eye to inclusivity and diversity. The exhibits tend to lean toward works with big, bold uses of color, such as by Gegam Kacherian, Johanna Goodman, and Chris Natrop.

Lake View Cemetery

One of the area's most beautiful cemeteries, dating back to 1872, looks east toward Lake Washington from its elevated hillside directly north of Volunteer Park. Several of Seattle's founding families are interred here (names you will likely recognize from street names and public places); the graves of Bruce Lee and his son Brandon are also among the most-visited sites.

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Madison Park

In the late 19th century, Madison Park was the most popular beach in the city, with a promenade, floating bandstands, gambling halls, and ship piers. Now it's a lakefront park with sloping lawns, a swimming area, playgrounds, and tennis courts. The whole area is usually bustling with activity—there are a number of upscale coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques nearby. As the closest beach to densely populated Capitol Hill, it serves a wide audience. The beach has picnic tables, restrooms, and showers, and lifeguards on duty in summer, and a children's playground across the street. From Downtown, go east on Madison Street; it'll take you straight down to the lake.

Madison St. and 43rd Ave., Seattle, 98112, USA

Madrona Park

Several beach parks and green spaces front the lake along Lake Washington Boulevard; Madrona Park is one of the largest. Lifeguards are on duty in the summer, and young swimmers have their own roped-in area, while teens and adults can swim out to a floating raft with a diving board. The trail along the shore is a great jogging spot. Grassy areas encourage picnicking; there are grills, picnic tables, phones, restrooms, and showers. From Downtown, go east on Yesler Way about two miles to 32nd Avenue. Turn left onto Lake Dell Avenue and then right; go to Lake Washington Boulevard and take a left.

853 Lake Washington Blvd., Seattle, 98144, USA

Vermillion Gallery and Bar

While Vermillion is a fine bar, it is a very good art gallery, and excels most at the way it combines the two into a space that celebrates art, often with a glass of wine in hand. Vermillion takes the spirit of art openings—the way they combine an evening out with the appreciation of beautiful works—and presents it as a nightly event. Visual art exhibits take up the front room, while the back and bar area often host live music or performance art.

Volunteer Park and the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Nestled among the grand homes of North Capitol Hill sits this 45-acre grassy expanse that's perfect for picnicking, sunbathing (or stomping in rain puddles), and strolling. You can tell this is one of the city's older parks by the size of the trees and the rhododendrons, many of which were planted more than a hundred years ago. The Olmsted Brothers, the premier landscape architects of the day, helped with the final design in 1904; the park has changed surprisingly little since then. In the center of the park is the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM), housed in a 1933 art moderne–style edifice. It fits surprisingly well with the stark plaza stretching from the front door to the edge of a bluff, and with the lush plants of Volunteer Park. The museum's collections include thousands of paintings, sculptures, pottery, and textiles from China, Japan, India, Korea, and several Southeast Asian countries.

The Victorian-style Volunteer Park Conservatory greenhouse, across from the museum, has a magnificent collection of tropical plants. The five houses include the Bromeliad House, the Palm House, the Fern House, the Seasonal Display House, and the Cactus House.

A focal point of the park, at the western edge of the hill in front of the Asian Art Museum, is Isamu Noguchi's sculpture, Black Sun, a natural frame from which to view the Space Needle, the Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains.