Forced into Nature at the Washington Arboretum in Seattle

My parents dragged us to parks as children. If you could drive to it from our house, we were there. Nature preserve, wildflower fields, garden or arboretum, it didn’t matter. If it was free you could bet my mom was packing up lunches for a day outdoors.

Hoagies and potato chips will always be my preferred hiking fuel.

Oh, how my sister and I would complain. You never saw such labored feet trekking back up a hill, or heard the likes of my high pitch whine asking, “why did we park so far away?”

Get the picture?

And then I had my own kids…

I’ve dragged Dek to every plant refuge, flower nursery and alpine meadow within a 2-hour driving radius of Seattle.

The irony is not lost on me.

I thought it was quite appropriate that we brought my parents to the Washington Arboretum when they came out for a visit after Ty was born. It was close by our house. It was free. Most of all, it would get Dek outside and worn out before naptime.

Dek and I had already explored the Japanese Garden, which was on the south side of the park.  I wanted to stroll down Azalea Way, a trail within the arboretum. Spring was in full bloom; the colors would be glorious.

Not only did blinding yellow, luscious orange and bashful pink blooms greet us, but the Japanese maples were also showing off their feathers. I had no idea maples came in so many colors.

A mama duck was taking her little ones out for a stroll; a lone turtle sat on his rock watching the duckling parade go by.

One thing was missing from this foray into nature.

Where was the whining?

Chasing grandpa in the trees

Dek didn’t make a peep. And why would he? His grandparents were giving him their undivided attention. He played hide and seek with grandpa in the trees. He jumped down steps, threw rocks in the pond and found a very friendly dog to chase after.

To a toddler this was the perfect way to spend the day.

I know I must have reacted the same way to nature when I was Dek’s age; before the hormones took over and friends were more important than spending quality time with my family.

I’m glad we have this time together before Mike and I aren’t cool enough to hang out with our boys. One day I too will force them to join us in a little family bonding time. Hopefully they won’t resent us too much.

I don’t blame my parents for the (looking back on it now) amazing adventures in nature preserves that we all had together. It brought us closer and made me appreciate all the cool (and free!) things I can do with my kids.

Now I just have to wonder… where’s my hoagie?


  • Washington Park Arboretum (part of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens)
    • 2300 Arboretum Drive E, Seattle, 98112
  • Admission is free
  • Arboretum hours: Open from dawn til dusk daily
    • The Graham Visitors Center is open 10:00 AM-4:00 PM daily, except UW holidays
    • Maps, restrooms and gift shop in the Visitors Center
  • What’s there? 230 acres of gardens, natural areas and wetlands
  • Strollers? Paths are accessible, but it would be easier to carry the kids in your Ergo or other baby carrier of choice. Hills aren’t too steep for little legs to tackle.

13 thoughts on “Forced into Nature at the Washington Arboretum in Seattle”

  1. The Arboretum looks beautiful – love the gorgeous flowers and the family of ducks! I’m sure the boys will whine one day about hanging out with you in places like this but that stage will pass and then you’ll get to see them taking their kids to similar places when they’re grown and have families of their own. Right now you’re planting the seed that spending the day with nature is a fun thing to do and that’s what will stay with them (even when they’re whining about it).

    By the way, I’d like to know why it’s always sunny with clear blue skies on your outings – isn’t it supposed to rain a lot in Seattle? 🙂

    1. © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      We like to trick everyone into thinking we get nothing but rain here. Keeps the population low 😉 Actually, it’s more that I don’t take as many pictures on our rainy day outings or I feature inside spots cause I don’t want to get my camera wet!

  2. Awww….look at those ducklings. What a great outing, you are such a good mama!

  3. Sonja

    Every trip I wonder if it will be the last one my children don’t complain about having to hang out with their parents. We leave in 3 weeks on this summer’s trip and the kids are now 16 and 13 – with no complaints yet. You still have time. Enjoy every minute.

    1. © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      Sonja if your kids ever complain about going to Europe I am ready and willing to take their place at a moments notice 😉

  4. It was scenic drives for us. My dad loved the scenic route and nothing was more boring than when my grandparents decided to take us all for a drive in the days before seatbelts, portable electronics and air conditioning. Now I love the scenic route too and I have already endured plenty of whining from the back seat. I have fun am optimistic that my kids will torture their own children this way.

  5. Mom

    You know how thrilled I am that the traditions continue. Your grandparents took me mountain climbing in NH and for walks along the Hudson. We took you to Bowman’s Wildflower Preserve, Tyler State Park and the Morris Arboretum in PA. You loved the little log cabin at the arboretum. Throwing rocks, skipping from stone to stone and locating frogs and turtles was the best in the Preserve and at Tyler. And, of course each visit was topped off with an ice cream cone…no whining then!

    1. © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      How could I forget about the ice cream! Especially after Tyler park! Thanks for taking me to so many amazing places mom. Even if I did hang on dad’s arm to make it back up those hills 🙂

  6. Andi at The Particular Traveler

    Oh, all of those “horrible” things our parents made us do! Those are some of my favorite childhood memories now 🙂

    The arboretum looks so beautiful, your little family is adorable, and I just love that picture of Dek chasing his grandpa.

  7. Becca@R We There Yet Mom?

    I love this sweet story! I was the bratty teenager hating going long with my parents outings but now I look back on them as a blessing as it taught me to love & appreciate all the area you live in has!

    Thanks for linking up- have a great weekend!

  8. Tonya @ The Traveling Praters

    I’m one of those parent’s that has forced my children to visit every outdoor spot in our neck of the woods and on the road. The only one that whined when they were little was my daughter. My husband ended up carrying her more times than I care to count. I thought she’d never finish a hike on her own.

    I don’t hear too much complaining and grumbling from them now- once I get them out of the house. That’s the key for teenagers. Make them get outside. Once they’re there, they love it.

    The arboretum looks great. I wish I would have found your site BEFORE our trip to Seattle. 🙂

  9. Missy

    You made me smile. I did the same thing as your parents and now my children take me to gardens and nature parks when I visit them and the frandchildren. They have annual passes to some. I hope and expect their children will do the same.
    BTW – Thanks for taking us along with you on this walk.

  10. Athena at Minerva's Garden

    What a fun outing this must have been–thank you for sharing it with us!

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