Creating a bucket list might feel like a beast of burden. Deciding where to go, what to see, and what to experience in this lifetime can be daunting. We have so many choices! And that’s the beauty. Mother Nature’s Pacific Northwest bounty of treasures feels like it was created purposefully to fill our buckets.
We’ve put together a list of beautiful escapes and conquer-the-beast adventures within and around the sights and scenes of Bellevue. Located across Lake Washington east of Seattle, this city gets its name from the French term “belle vue,” meaning beautiful view. Each one of these excursions reinforces this nod to the allure of the city’s diverse locale, and many offer options for those with mobility constraints.
Take in the Beauty: Flora of the Fall
An urban refuge covering 53 acres, the Bellevue Botanical Garden blooms at the heart of the city. Open from dawn to dusk, the garden is located on the ancestral homelands of the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Indian tribes. Touring the multiple gardens is an activity for all ages and abilities, with ease of access for visitors in wheelchairs or with strollers.
- The Ravine Experience, with a 150-foot suspension bridge, stretches across the forest floor’s unique topography.
- The Dahlia Display provides a kaleidoscope of color summer through fall.
- “Mindfulness in the Garden: Awakening to Autumn” is a guided walking tour utilizing the elements of Japanese forest bathing to restore the mind, body, and spirit.
- Classes — in person and online — allow everyone to learn about such topics as composing compelling nature photographs, making garden art, and growing hardy herbs and veggies.
Conquer the Beast: Whale Watching
Known as a “fast ferry,” the FRS Clipper provides the only whale watching tour that leaves directly from Pier 69. During half- and full-day excursions, onboard experts educate passengers about the dynamic marine ecosystem of the Salish Sea, which has more than 400 islands. This unique body of water is one of the world’s largest and most biologically rich areas, teeming with orcas, as well as humpback, gray, and minke whales. Whale sightings are guaranteed, or your next trip is free. The Clipper can accommodate manual wheelchairs; however, space and boarding restrictions prohibit motorized chairs.
- The half-day tour is a four-to-six-hour venture based on viewing opportunities, which change each day.
- When offered, the full-day tour is a 12-hour escape that travels to the San Juan Islands with a two-hour stopover for eating, exploring, and shopping in the quaint town of Friday Harbor. Check ahead for availability.
- Departing from Edmonds, Puget Sound Express is another popular whale-watching tour service that guarantees whale sightings. Check out The Vue to experience one of their tours with our Bellevue Ambassador Kara.
Take in the Beauty: Trekking New Trails
SR 520 Trail is a 4.9-mile trek (one way) with a 164-foot elevation gain. It stretches from Bellevue along State Route 520 across the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge — one of the world’s widest and longest of its kind, spanning 7,710 feet across Lake Washington. Only a handful of such bridges exist in the US, and Washington boasts more of them than any other region in the world. The wide, paved path is accessible to pedestrians, wheelchairs, strollers and bikes of all kinds. A concrete barrier provides protection from passing cars.
- The trail is open 24 hours a day year-round.
- Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.
- On clear days, Panoramic views from the trail showcase Mt. Rainier on the horizon.
Conquer the Beast: Rock Climbing
Choosing REI Co-op to oversee your bucket list adventures is as close as it gets to a plug-and-play experience outside of virtual reality. Their experts in the field will help you pack and plan for the trip, allowing you to relax and focus on having fun. Known well for their Bellevue boathouses that rent various watercraft at Enatai Beach Park and Meydenbauer Bay Park, REI can also show you the ropes of rock climbing in their outdoor classes.
- “Women’s Introduction to Outdoor Rock Climbing” (ages 14 and up) is a half-day beginner’s class for women to learn the fundamentals of rock climbing in a guided, hands-on training.
- “Natural Rock-Climbing Anchors Class” is a full day of outdoor skill building designed for those with prior top rope climbing experience who can belay others comfortably.
Take in the Beauty: Paragliding
Imagine a bird’s-eye view of Mt. Rainier as you float on the wind with Puget Sound in the distance. The smooth and stable glide of flights with Tiger Mountain Paragliding is comparable to being on a Ferris wheel. No cliff jumping required, just a short jog down a grassy hill before your feet are dangling below as you sit comfortably in a reclined harness. All ages are welcome to give this thrill a try.
- Take home an in-flight HD GoPro video of your flight as a souvenir.
- Tandem flights with Tiger Mountain pilots ensure riders can relax and enjoy the endless landscape of rolling hills and evergreen trees reaching out to the water’s edge.
- Pilot programs for those who dream of soaring solo are available. The cost of your tandem flight can be applied toward your pilot certification.
Conquer the Beast: Zip Lining
Touting extreme sports with their tagline, “Feel Wild in the City,” Bellevue Zip Tour brings their brand of bucket-list-worthy activities to Eastgate Park at South Bellevue Community Center. Tour duration varies from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours, depending on group size. This adventure is for ages 13 and up, and riders must weigh between 60 and 250 pounds. Dress appropriately, as tours zip through the trees rain or shine.
- Take in the grandeur of Mount Baker, with Glacier Peak in the distance, as you fly from tree to tree at speeds of about 35 mph on seven different zip lines that are up to 458 feet long and 80 feet high.
- Brave the span of two suspension bridges as they sway and dip across the ground below.
- Breathe in the intoxicating scents of Douglas firs, broad leaf maples, and western hemlocks on the tour’s two short hikes.
Your bucket will runneth over with the array of options Bellevue has to offer. And with Seattle just across the lake, Bellevue makes an ideal home base for your getaway of a lifetime.