Next to Woodland Park Zoo
From N. 50th St. turn north on Fremont Ave N.
The zoo parking lot will be on your left and the garden gate on your right.
For a change of pace I decided to step away from scenic viewpoints and parks full of trees, and visit a cultivated garden. A well designed garden has a different kind of beauty and tranquility.
The Woodland Park Rose Garden was established in 1922 and completed in 1924 as a joint project between the Lion’s Club and the Seattle Rose Society. From 1947 until 2010 it was one of only a few certified All-America Rose Selections test sites, where new hybrid rose varieties are tested.
The garden is open to the public every day and there is no entrance fee.
The setting is beautiful and the layout almost perfect. You can take in the entire garden at a glance as you enter through the gates, and then just let your feet (or wheelchair) take you where you wish.
Sitting on 2.5 completely flat acres, the garden is easy to navigate for pretty much everyone, unlike most gardens which usually seem to have some hills or other obstacles. The garden contains 200 varieties of roses and 3000 individual plants.
There is wide a gravel path from the gate to the center fountain. There are also paths at the north and south ends, but they don’t link up to the center path, which is a bit unfortunate.
The rose beds are strategically laid out on lawn, allowing people to wander all around them, getting close enough to literally smell the roses. But even if you are restricted to the center path there is plenty to feast your eyes on.
Whether you just take a quick look on your way into the zoo, or come specifically to spend an hour or two in the garden, it is well worth the trip.
Timing Your Visit
Plan to go between late May and late August in order to see the garden in full bloom.
Then, unless you live within walking or biking distance and can mosey through any time you like, a trip to the garden requires a bit of planning.
During zoo hours you have to pay to park in the lot. The fee is currently $5.25, regardless of how long you’re parked. If you don’t mind paying for parking in order to add flexibility, then the only thing you need to consider is trying to pick a day and time you think the zoo lot won’t be full.
Parking on nearby streets is allowed and it’s free, but open spaces can be difficult to come by during zoo hours in the summer.
The garden is open from 7 am until dusk. Prior to the zoo opening and after it closes parking in the lot is free. At those times getting a space close to the garden is easy. In the summer the zoo opens at 9:30 am and closes at 6 pm.
What this means is you need to pay attention to what time the sun sets to get the most out of an evening visit. That’s why I picked the middle of June for my outing, when the days are longest.
Even so my timing was a bit off. I got there a half hour later than I had planned (about 7:30) and the sun was quickly going down behind some trees. So for the middle of June, trying to get there around 6:30 is a good target.
Not to worry though, even if you’re later than that the garden is still beautiful as you can see from my photos.
Things to Know
7 am – dusk
There is a bench by the gate, some in the center, two in the gazebo, and more scattered around the perimeter.
If you are someone who can’t walk far without needing to sit and rest you can feel confident of having a good outing at the rose garden.
The bathrooms are inside the zoo, so not accessible unless you buy a ticket.
There are bathrooms at the nearby Woodland Park, but I have no idea of the location.
Discussed above in the Timing section.
There were quite a few people there during my visit, but the garden is plenty large enough to not feel crowded.
Almost all were adults, since gardens are pretty boring for kids when there is no play area. Everyone there spoke in quiet voices, so the atmosphere was still peaceful.
My guess is that fewer people go in the mornings when the garden first opens. But that guess is coming from a night owl who rarely does anything in the morning, so take it with a block of salt. If you go in the morning, wear boots or be prepared for wet feet from dew on the grass.
Across the zoo parking lot on the west side is the War Garden Public Park. I didn’t check it out, but if you’re in need of some shade after wandering the rose garden on a hot day you might want to head over there.
Best light: anytime based on personal preferences, but due to trees get there at least 2.5 hours from sunrise or sunset.