Chinatown (International District)
Ping Pong Table
Corner of King and Maynard
Hing Hay Park is located in Seattle’s Chinatown. It isn’t a typical park where you go to do typical park type things. It’s a brick-paved community square, which is reflected in its name. Hing Hay Park means “park for pleasurable gatherings.”
The main attraction is the traditional Chinese pavilion, which was donated by the mayor of Taipei after he visited Seattle in the early 1970s. The pavilion is beautiful, painted in bright colors with lots of interesting detail.
Other features of the park include a chess table in the pavilion, a ping-pong table on the west side of the pavilion (bring your own paddles and balls), a dragon mural on the building on the north side of the square, and benches on the east and south sides of the park. Trees around the edges provide welcome shade in warm weather.
In the summer tables and chairs and games, like a giant chessboard, are added to the square. Tai Chi classes are also taught here.
Throughout the year, but especially in summer, dozens of cultural events are held in Hing Hay Park, including live music, dances, performances, and small festivals.
When I arrived at the park I was surprised to see that it has doubled in size. The building on the west side has been torn down and the park extended west to 6th Avenue. The new section was still fenced off from the public at the time of my visit in early May, but it should be open by now.
The new half of the park is very modern looking, but maintains the central purpose of serving as a community gathering spot. Wide cement pathways curve between raised cement planting beds. The walls around the beds provide places for people to sit to talk with friends or enjoy takeout lunch from a nearby restaurant.
From the park you can see part of Smith Tower and the Columbia Center, which makes for an interesting urban backdrop.
If you enjoy Asian food you have your pick of places across the street from the park and in the surrounding blocks. You’ll find everything from full Chinese restaurants to tiny specialty places selling things like noodles, dumplings, and sushi.
For most people Hing Hay Park doesn’t have enough going for it to make a special trip to see it. (Online reviews contain a lot of “there’s nothing to see” type comments.) But it makes for a good stop when visiting the Seattle International District in general. Photographers will probably appreciate it most.
A Note for Tourists
Chinatown is in the oldest section of the city and is part of Seattle’s International District. The neighborhood has historical and cultural significance for Seattle, but it’s not a tourist attraction in the way Chinatowns in many big cities are, such as in San Francisco.
If you’re already nearby and want to wander through there are some interesting things to see and several neat little shops. If you’re wanting Asian food this is definitely the place to go. But if you’re expecting cute souvenir shops and ornate Chinese-themed architecture (other than the park pavilion and gate) you’ll likely be disappointed.
A Pacific Asian museum two blocks east of the park on King St. The $17 admission fee includes a walking tour of area historic hotels. The museum also offers other district walking tours for an additional fee.
Half a block south of the park on Maynard. The museum has a rotating display of functioning pinball machines from old to modern. The admission fee is $15 and you can play as long as you like, no quarters needed.
Two blocks south and two blocks east of the park on Weller and 5th. Uwajimaya is a giant Asian food and gift market. The village also houses a bookstore, food court, and other shops. If you spend at least $10 at any of the shops you can park for an hour in their lot for free, spend $20 and get 2 hours free. If you’re going to spend money here anyway you might as well take advantage of the parking and then walk around the area to see the sights.
Two blocks west of the park on King Street. A traditional Chinese gate at the west entrance to Chinatown. Also note the dragon on the nearby light pole at the corner of 5th Street.
Things to Know
6am – 10pm
Benches on the park perimeter.
Tables and chairs in summer.
Stools in the pavilion.
Cement planter walls in the new section.
Public bathrooms are located at Uwajimaya Village and Union Station during business hours.
Street parking on Maynard, King, and 6th.
Street parking is metered so you have to pay during normal hours.
Street parking can be difficult to find much of the time. If you don’t want to use a more expensive pay lot, or just want to avoid paying altogether, free street parking is often readily available further up the hill on Jackson Street under the freeway.
Sunday mornings when no events are scheduled are a good time to go. Street parking is free, parking hasn’t filled up yet, and there are more spaces available because some spots are restricted on weekdays but open to the public on weekends.
A pay lot is located at the intersection of King and 6th across from the southwest corner of the park. Entrance to the lot is on King Street. The rates are $6 for one hour, $8 for two hours, flat rate of $6 evenings after 5pm.
Hing Hay Park is primarily used by people who live and work in the surrounding area. Special events draw in people from further away, and tourists also wander through, especially in summer.
My visit was on a somewhat cool Sunday morning in early May. I specifically chose to go then because I didn’t want parking to be a hassle. Four other people were in the park, and a handful more wandered through during the short time I was there. I got the sense that was typical activity for a spring Sunday morning.
My guess is that activity picks up later in the day on weekends, and that more people make use of the park on weekdays (especially around lunch time) and in warmer weather.
You can expect a lot of people (and difficult parking) on days when events are scheduled.
Pavilion, murals, buildings, people.
Best light: morning and afternoon
Kobe Terrace, Chinese Gate, Union Station Fountain, Wing Luke Museum, Pinball Museum, Uwajimaya, Asian restaurants.