Seattle’s Volunteer Park

I look forward to visiting this lovely place again and again.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Seattle’s Volunteer Park for the first time. I don’t know how I missed this gem after living in this county for nearly 6 years. This is definitely a place I’ll be bringing visitors from out of town to from now on.

Volunteer Park was designed by the Olmstead Brothers, the same guys who brought us Central Park in New York City. That had to be the coolest job ever. They got to travel around and design huge city parks that are still appreciated today.

In this era, it’s too late for that. Everything has already been built up. You’re as likely to see a new city park as you are to see a new major airport. I’m glad cities had the foresight to carve out natural spaces while they still could, or no city would be livable today. (But nothing in life is that simple. More about the eminent domain atrocities in Central Park in an upcoming post.)

The City of Seattle bought the land for Volunteer Park in 1876 for $2,000. That land is priceless today. Consider this: This mansion, right across the street from the park, is for sale. You can buy it for a cool 6.3 million dollars. (If you want it, here are the details. My realtor husband can hook you up.)


To design the park, they had to move a cemetery, and I sure feel sorry for those bodies and the people who had to dig them up, because they had been relocated once before. They started in what is now Denny Park, moved to what is now Volunteer Park, and were then shunted right next door to Lake View Cemetery. May they finally rest in peace. (Bruce and Brandon Lee are also buried here.)

Volunteer Park was once called Lake View Park, but folks were confusing it with the cemetery. J. Willis Sayre, who fought in the Spanish-American War, convinced the city to rename it for the volunteers who fought in that war. And it has been so called ever since.

The park is 48.4 acres, and includes lawns and wooded areas, and has a wide variety of trees and flowers. It’s about 1/20th the size of Central Park, but still seemed massive to me. There is a gorgeous conservatory, currently closed due to the pandemic, which was built from a kit purchased from the Hitchings Company of New York. A lovely carriage drive winds through the park, and it is easy to imagine the horse drawn carriages that must have once used it.

The park also has a concert grove with a small stage, and a water tower which I’m told has spectacular views of the city… when it’s not closed due to the pandemic. There’s also an intriguing Seattle Asian Art Museum in a cool Art Deco building, which is, yeah, yeah, closed. There is also a very large and placid reservoir in front of the museum which greatly enhances the view.

Between the museum and the reservoir is a piece of art called Black Sun which I was told inspired the song Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden. If you line your camera up just right (which I did not, exactly), you get a great view of the space needle through this sculpture. (A few years ago, I also visited Seattle’s Sound Garden, which inspired the band’s name. Alas, the wind wasn’t blowing at the time, so the sound garden remained mute.)

Apparently there are also some tennis courts on the grounds of Volunteer Park, but I didn’t see those. In season, there are also dahlia gardens, koi ponds, and a wading pool.

I look forward to visiting this lovely park again and again. Here are some photos that we took during our visit.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! !


Exploring Seattle – Part 10

Just a few short miles from my house sits Warren G. Magnuson Park, a former Navy airfield that takes up 350 acres on the shore of Lake Washington. My dogs are thrilled that I found this place, because it includes a 9 acre off leash dog park that is without a doubt the coolest facility of its kind that I’ve ever seen. It’s like doggie Nirvana. There must have been 150 dogs romping around, of all shapes and sizes, which is the largest group of canines I’ve ever experienced, and yet there wasn’t a single fight going on.

My dog Blue, skittish at the best of times, wasn’t quite sure what to make of this. He spent most of the time walking a pace behind me, shivering in my shadow, with a few brief moments of irresistible exploratory jaunts.

Devo, on the other hand, has never met a stranger, and he made a point of introducing himself to every human being in the park. I had to keep a close eye on him, because he would zoom off to heaven knows where at every opportunity. A couple of times he was almost adopted, but who could blame them?

At the end of a long path we found ourselves at the lake’s edge, and the big dogs in particular were having a blast chasing balls into the water. The little dogs mostly hung out on the periphery and shook their heads condescendingly. Devo, not to be outdone, promptly lay down in the mud and soaked up the sun. Blue, who doesn’t even like to get his paws wet, sat on the bench beside me and looked around in amazement.


The only negative about this park is that there don’t seem to be any water stations for the dogs. At least I didn’t see one, and not all dogs venture all the way out to the lake. There was a whole lot of panting going on. I can’t imagine what it’s like in the summertime.

Right next to the dog park is the NOAA research facility, on whose campus are housed several art installations, including something called the sound garden, which consists of pipe organs that catch the wind and make haunting, natural music. It was also the inspiration for the band of the same name, which is kind of awesome. I was looking forward to checking the sound garden out, but naturally I picked a day that didn’t have even a breath of wind. I’m sure I’ll experience it one of these days. Until then I’ll just content myself with this Youtube video.

After an hour or two of total sensory overload, the boys were happy to go home and take a nap, and so I dropped them off before heading off to my second adventure, which falls under the What’s WRONG With You People??? category.

Simply put, these crazy Seattleites seem to have something against really bad Americanized Chinese food. In Florida, you find a Chinese Take Out joint on every other corner. Here, up to this point, I had only found high-end authentic Chinese restaurants, and even those seem to be as rare as hen’s teeth. And yet you can’t turn your head without spotting a Vietnamese or a Thai place. Don’t get me wrong. Those are wonderful and I love them. But every now and then, a girl wants to tuck into a plate of soy sauce-drenched lo mein and make no apologies, you know? And I was starting to experience egg roll withdrawal. I was thinking of moving back to Florida, I tell you.

But then what to my wondering eyes should appear but a coupon in my mailbox for a place called Super China Buffet in Shoreline, right across from the Central Market, which is a cool high-end grocery store along the lines of Whole Foods.

My mouth is watering even as I describe this buffet of abundance. I wanted to get naked and roll around in the lo mein. I was that happy. But I was afraid if I did I’d be asked to leave and never come back, and that would be tragic. It was bad enough that everyone was looking at me askance due to the stupid grin I had on my face.

Along with the standard Chinese buffet fare such as chow mein and lo mein and egg rolls and general chicken, it also had some unexpected delights, such as eggplant in garlic sauce, sushi, crab, fried zucchini, pizza and crispy chicken wings that nearly made me swoon. I have to admit that I ate so much that I left feeling slightly sick, but I had 6 months of Chinese food deprivation to make up for, after all.

Oh, yeah, I’ll be back. And the best part is I don’t have to move back to Florida after all! Yay!