What’s the best Seattle view that is free? I suppose many will say Kerry Park on Queen Anne, which is an iconic view of the skyline – but finding parking and dealing with the traffic headaches make it a tad annoying.
Instead I give to you: The historic water tower at Volunteer Park.
The tower, which was built in 1906, looks something like a castle and features 107 steps to the top. You are afforded 360-degree views of Seattle, the Olympic Mountains, the Cascade Mountains, the Bellevue skyline and Mt. Rainier in the distance.
Volunteer Park is located on Capitol Hill, features tons of parking and has more than just a pretty view (sorry Kerry Park).
I recently visited before a Yankees-Mariners game I was going to with my family. Rather than sit in traffic and arrive at game time, I decided to head to Seattle in the early afternoon and while looking for something to do, stumbled upon Volunteer Park.
Am I ever glad I did.
The park which was built by the city of Seattle and fine-tuned by the Olmsted brothers from 1904-1909 features not just the tower, but lots of open fields to play in, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Volunteer Park Conservatory, a pair of ponds and the famous Black Sun statue that offers distinct views of the Space Needle.
I parked outside the park and made my way to the water tower initially. I get a bit of the vertigo when climbing structures, but I figured I didn’t drive all the way up to Seattle by myself to just look at the tower from the base. So up I went. It’s a pretty short climb, really.
The history of the park is told on signs at the top of the tower, and the sunny weather made for spectacular views.
After descending, I wandered around checking out some of the spectacular old houses nearby on 14th street. The art museum wasn’t open, so I was content in just looking at the statues out front. I skipped the Black Sun statue as there were tourists all over it.
While I didn’t have time to sit and read a book, or just enjoy the sun, there were plenty of folks doing that. The trees and open fields of the park make for a sublime place to spend an afternoon. I have a feeling it would also be amazing in the fall, as the street through the park is lined with deciduous trees.
I decided a quick trip to the conservatory was in order before I left for the game, so I paid my $4 and checked it out.
The only conservatory I have visited previously was in Wright Park in Tacoma, which is smaller than this one. The star of the show is the Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum). This rare flower takes 7-10 years to bloom for the first time and then varies from 3-10 years to bloom again. The bloom only lasts 48 hours.
Beyond that death flower, there were tons of interesting cacti, tropical plants, carnivorous plants, ferns and more. It is really worth a visit for all the colors and smells.
So, if you want the best free view Seattle has to offer and some cool museums to boot, be sure and visit Volunteer Park.
– Craig Craker