When it comes to finding spectacular fall colors, we know New England can’t be beat. But believe it or not, there’s plenty to see right here in the Pacific Northwest. From vibrant reds and oranges to brilliant golds and yellows, we’ve put together a list of fall foliage hot spots around Seattle as well as a few day (and weekend) trip destinations worthy of some oohs and ahhs.

ballard locks

photo: Kristina Moy

Greater Seattle Area

Bellevue Botanical Garden
A wonderful gem located right in downtown Bellevue, with 53 acres of display gardens, meadows, wetlands and woodlands. The 1/3-mile Lost Meadow loop trail offers picturesque fall color; be sure to also stroll through the Dahlia Garden as flowers should be in full bloom through mid-November (or the first frost). The Botanical Gardens are free and open from dawn to dusk every day.

12001 Main St.
Bellevue, Wa 98005
Online: bellevuebotanical.org

Discovery Park 
Seattle’s largest park takes up 534 acres on Magnolia Bluff, including colorful wooded areas, meadows, sand dunes and dramatic cliffs (in other words: plenty of photo opps with the kiddos!). With 11 miles of trails, a children’s playground, plenty of picnic tables and a beach and lighthouse, there’s something here for everyone.

3801 Discovery Park Blvd.
Seattle, Wa 98199
Online: seattle.gov/tour/discov.htm

kubota garden

photo: Anton B. via Yelp

Kubota Garden 
Stroller friendly, dog-friendly and serene, Kubota Garden in south Seattle is a hidden gem within the city. Kids will love seeing the waterfall and the fish pond and you’ll appreciate the stunning array of Japanese maples. The Garden is free to visitors and a detailed self-guided tour map is available online and in a metal box near the kiosk.

9817 55th Ave. S.
Seattle, Wa 98118
Online: kubotagarden.org

Lincoln Park
With 4.6 miles of walking paths and a mile of seawalled rocky beaches, you’ll find plenty of trees blazing with orange, red and yellow leaves along the paths and mixed in with the kelp on the beach. Bring the jogging stroller so you can take the trails through the grassy forests and meadows, along the bluffs and down to the beach. With five picnic shelters, two playgrounds, and acres of playfields, this West Seattle gem is a popular spot for families and a great place to spend an autumn day.

8011 Fauntleroy Way S.W.
Seattle, Wa 98136
Online: seattle.gov/parks/park_detail.asp?ID=460

kid with dog

photo: Melinda Wong

Union Bay Natural Area
With 74 acres and four miles of shoreline along Lake Washington, the Union Bay Natural Area is a public wildlife area just a stone’s throw away from the shopping mecca of University Village. Gorgeous grasslands and wetlands combined with the backdrops of Husky Stadium, Lake Washington and Mount Rainier add to the diverse fall scenery. A popular bird watching destination, bring the binoculars and either a heavy duty jogging stroller or a backpack for the wee ones, as the gravel trails tend to get muddy this time of year. Plenty of parking is available at the adjacent Center for Urban Horticulture.

3501 N.E. 41st St.
Seattle, Wa 98105
Online: depts.washington.edu/uwbg/research/ubna.shtml

Washington Arboretum 
First stop: The Graham Visitors Center (where you can treat the kids to Adventure Packs ($7 for two hours) backpacks supplied with field guides, scavenger hunts, magnifying lenses and activity ideas for children in grades K–6. Stroll through Azalea Way (.75 miles) past the Woodland Garden, Japanese Maples and Asiatic Maples and end up at the Japanese Gardens at the south end (which has an entrance fee of $4-$6; kids 5 and under are free).

2300 Arboretum Dr. E.
Seattle, Wa 98112
Online: depts.washington.edu/uwbg/gardens/wpa.shtml

kids and fall leaves

photo: Melinda Wong

Woodland Park
Yes, of course the zoo is here, but did you also know that Woodland Park continues on the east side of Aurora down to the south end of Greenlake? The best fall color can be found near the many picnic areas and the large, wooded dog off-leash area.

1000 N. 50th St.
Seattle, Wa 98103
Online: seattle.gov/parks/park_detail.asp?id=292

mount rainier fall_kckellner via Flickr

photo: kckellner via Flickr

Day and Weekend Trips

Because color changes will vary depending on when and where you go, call the Washington State Fall Foliage Hotline at 1-800-354-4595 for the most up-to-date information.

With Leavenworth Oktoberfest on the horizon (October 2-3, 9-10 & 16-17, 2015), this may be a great excuse for a weekend trip. The scenic drive alone via Highway #2 or Highway #97 will be loaded with vibrant fall colors. Book at night or two at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort and take the kids on a horse-drawn carriage through town, tour the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery or visit the local fruit stands, farmers market or farm parks.

Mount Baker Byway
Beginning just west of Bellingham and winding up to the breathtaking Artist Point, the Mount Baker Byway is the only road to Mount Baker, a destination in and of itself, offering adventure for the kids along the way. Make sure you’ve got plenty of room on your camera’s memory card.

mt rainier fall_rachael brandon

photo: Rachael Brandon

Mount Rainier 
If it’s been awhile since your last trip to Mount Rainier, fall is a stunning time to go. Crowds and bugs aren’t as plentiful and the landscape never disappoints. A number of suggested day trip itineraries for families are available online, or you can check out park service recommended hikes. Psst! The Rainier Festival in Ashford take place Sept. 19-20, 2015.

Where is your favorite place to take in Seattle’s vibrant fall colors? Tell us in the Comments below.

— Kristina Moy & Allison Ellis

feature photo courtesy of Waponi via Flickr