Funny Thing Happened at Seattle’s Chinese Garden


Over the past year I’ve done a lot of research on things to do in Seattle that are free, beautiful, obscure, fun, off the beaten path and/or just plan silly to even think about doing with a toddler (traipsing through a cemetery looking for Bruce Lee comes to mind.) Last summer I came across the Chinese Garden in West Seattle. It sounded beautiful so I added it to my list.

The hours were a little wonky; what garden doesn’t open until noon? These days we can’t seem to make it out of the door before 10am. A late opening isn’t a problem, it’s sometimes a necessity. I am still trying to remember how to pack up an infant for a morning out. Wrangling a toddler into clothes and the car only adds to our delays.

On one of Mike’s days off we decided to use all of these delays to our advantage and headed over the bridge to West Seattle. With the kids packed up in under an hour, a personal record for us I think, we were on our way.

Never miss a trip to Bakery Nouveau when you are headed to West Seattle

No trip to West Seattle would be complete without a stop at Bakery Nouveau.  I’m a bottomless pit these days as I feed not only myself but Ty as well. I happily chowed down on a caprese sandwich and got one of their famous 2x Baked Almond Croissants to bring with us to the garden. Mike raved about the bacon maple brioche. “Not too sweet but just sweet enough” as he put it. Dek munched on a monster-size butter croissant, leaving the floor covered with more flakes than I think made it into his mouth (sorry!)

Fueled up we were ready to figure out just where the Chinese Garden was. I knew it was on the grounds of the South Seattle Community College. Unfortunately the GPS on my phone could only get us so far. For once my post-pregnancy brain did not fail. Before we left the house I looked up directions on the garden’s site and printed them out. Score 1 for mom. That was the end of my winning streak.

The school was pretty quiet; we found parking right at the garden entrance. Dek popped out of the car ready to explore. I strapped Ty into the Ergo and we headed into what apparently was the South Seattle Community College Arboretum. I’d never heard of it but it sure looked pretty. The Chinese Garden was located just next door. Well, maybe “garden” was too lush a term for what we encountered.

Oh there was a beautiful Chinese-inspired building all right, even a pavilion, but where the heck was the garden? Did I miss something? Wasn’t there supposed to be plants in the ground and some landscaping? I’d seem a few Chinese gardens over the years, this was lacking a bit of foliage.

A bit of a foliage, mostly overgrown, could be found out back near the pavilion

Peonies just waiting to be planted

As we moved through the property I realized I’d missed a memo somewhere along the way. There were several peonies in pots waiting to be put in the ground. Mike and Dek even found a huge stone koi fish in a crate that still needed to be unloaded. Apparently we had arrived too early. The Chinese garden wasn’t finished yet! Maybe I should have read their website a little more in depth. I did notice that they only had construction photos from when the building went up, but I just assumed they were old images.

When I went back to the web site after our visit and actually READ the home page I found out that there was a huge plan in place for this garden. What we had seen hadn’t even scratched the surface of what was to come. Eventually there would be 12 buildings, including a banquet hall and an 85-foot Floating Clouds Pavilion.

A Pavilion and main building were all that had been built so far. There was still so much more to come.

Sounds like a pretty incredible place huh? Too bad we showed up several months, or possibly years, too early to the party. Well, the way I figure it, we got to visit the garden in its infant stage; a peak at the garden as it was built from the ground up. Fundraising is still happening brick by brick so this could take a while. If only I could track down their targeted completion date I’d be happy to start planning our next visit.

The trip wasn’t a total loss though. Dek got outside, always the #1 goal on a non-rainy day. Mike and I got to check out a garden that will one day be overrun with tourists if the website predictions are accurate.

Even though the Chinese garden was, by all accounts, a bit of a bust, we were able to take an unexpected side trip into the arboretum; something I never even knew existed. As we headed home I was also content in the knowledge that I still had an almond croissant to tackle. I planned to munch on it in front of my computer while I research a new place to discover. Hopefully it will be complete by the time we get there.

There may not have been a garden but there were fish, which is all Dek needed to be entertained

Know Before You Go

  • Seattle Chinese Garden, 6000 16th Ave. SW, Seattle, 98106
  • Entrance is free for Seattle residents, SCG members, and children under 5. Otherwise: Adults $6, Seniors 62+ $5, Students $5. Pay at the Visitor Center.
  • Parking on the school grounds is $2 per car per day
  • No pets are allowed in the garden
  • There is a small gift shop in the visitors center


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Showing 11 comments
  • InsideJourneys

    It looks beautiful now but I imagine it’ll be more so when it’s complete. Hope you get to go back then and share your photos with us.

  • Lisa

    Well it sounds like it will be lovely – and you may be the only person with before and after photos! Glad you enjoyed your day out anyway – I’m sure that it was worth getting packed up and out the door just to get to that bakery!

  • Dick Jordan

    Another place for me to visit next time I’m in my old hometown!

  • Reply

    This looks like a promising place for a beautiful garden and complex. I’m actually hung up on your tasty treat photos. Not good to be looking at when I’m about to sleep. Love the last photo.

  • Jenna

    The bakery looks divine, and it looks like you had fun even though the garden wasn’t ready yet. You’ll have to go back when it’s done!

  • Lisa

    Funny! At least you know what’s ahead, so you can return for a visit to the finished garden.

  • jade

    The black and white photos compared to the vibrant fish photos are really cool- great shots!

  • Jeremy Branham

    Sounds like a little bit of a disappointment. I guess the good news is that there is more on the way. However, opening a noon is a little late if you have kids that still need naps 🙂

    • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      Jeremy- the noon opening is why it has taken us so long to get down there. We have to be home by 1:30 for naps. Luckily there is enough to do in West Seattle that we could head out early, grab a bite to eat and then head to the garden 🙂

  • Michael Figueiredo

    Great shots! I especially like the black & white ones.

  • Sabrina

    Despite the lack of plants it sounds like a fun trip 🙂 It’d go just for that bakery!

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