Expert-led tours can help make a vacation fun, active, and informative. Exploring with a guide can remove any stresses you might feel about getting lost and make you feel more relaxed. Knowledgeable tour guides have also immersed themselves in the history of the attraction and have tidbits to share you probably won’t hear anywhere else. Plus, other members of your tour group often ask intriguing questions, and you can quiz your tour leader about where the locals like to eat or play to assist in your post-tour plans.
In Bellevue, there are a variety of these outings to choose from, as well as a couple of self-guided options.
Bellevue Botanical Garden offers docent-led tours of the garden grounds April through October. These journeys through this serene oasis amid a buzzing city can be customized according to what the group wants to see. The garden is lush with history — dating from its inception when Cal and Harriet Shorts deeded their home and 7.5 acres of land to the City of Bellevue in 1981, asking that the land be used as a public park, until the 1992 opening of the Bellevue Botanical Garden and beyond. Discover maples, azaleas, Japanese lanterns, and more — even a suspension bridge.
Tours are free, but a $5 donation is suggested. Groups of up to 50 can be accommodated, children 6 and older are welcome with an adult. Advanced reservations are required.
A guided winery experience at Chateau Ste. Michelle will delight any palate. The oldest winery in the state, Chateau Ste. Michelle has been around for more than 100 years, since about the same time Prohibition was repealed. The lavish French-inspired estate provides a very “gram-able” backdrop. Open seven days a week, this winery is all about experiences, most of which focus on sampling the award-winning wines more than walking tours of the grounds or operations.
Sip a glass or a bottle during a Twilight Hours event from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday or Saturday, or sample four different wines during one of the daily Feature Flight Tastings. Learn what shape and size of glass will best accentuate the true flavor of given wines at a Reidel Sensory Tasting. Become a winemaker for a day or enjoy a glass and the winery’s beautiful grounds with the Sunken Garden Experience. Explore these, as well as many other options, on the winery’s Experiences page on their website. Prices vary and reservations will save your spot.
What better way to explore nature’s flora and fauna than from the waters of Lake Washington? REI Co-op operates two boathouses in Bellevue, at Meydenbauer Bay Park and Enatai Beach. While each location has paddleboard and kayak rentals by the hour or day, the Meydenbauer Bay location also offers classes and fully guided tours.
Scull slowly so you can enjoy views of Bellevue’s skyline and Mt. Rainier, wildlife sightings of bald eagles, osprey, and resident turtles, and sights of the magnificent homes along the shoreline. The guided experiences are great for beginners or those looking to expand their skillset in a fun, informative way. Tours begin in May. Reservations are required, and prices include the equipment rental.
Glide through the water aboard one of the four whale-watching vessels run by Puget Sound Express. On every tour, naturalists narrate the sights and sounds for you. Some of the naturalists have lived in the Northwest and have been in the industry for decades, while others have traveled the world viewing and studying wildlife. These knowledgeable guides not only share information about the marine life and other wildlife you see on a tour, but they also relate some history and details of the region, including how certain weather systems affect the area.
The type of whales you’re likely to see depends on the season. Gray whales make their way up the coast in early spring. April is all about orcas and humpbacks. During May and June, there’s a chance you might see several whale varieties on one tour.