Overview The traditional role of this Eastside (i.e., east of Lake Washington) community, scenically wedged between Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, has been that of Seattle’s younger, unassuming sibling. Less than 30 years ago Bellevue was a suburban town, a bedroom community for Seattleites who wanted a little peace and quiet. No more—now there are not one but two impressive downtown skylines within spitting distance of Puget Sound.
Bellevue’s first high-rise rose in 1983. More went up in the 1990s. Today a small (at least by Seattle standards) but growing forest of skyscrapers defines the city’s profile. Take a walk around downtown Bellevue and you'll see steel-and-glass behemoths like the twin 42-story luxury condominium development Bellevue Towers and Avalon Meydenbauer, an upscale high-rise apartment complex, rising like vertical mushrooms from a particularly fertile forest floor.
Bellevue Downtown Park, just west of Bellevue Way N.E. between N.E. 4th and N.E. 8th streets, is an expansive 21-acre greensward in the heart of downtown. A half-mile path encircles grass lawns, and a stepped canal of flowing waters ends in a 240-foot-wide waterfall that spills into a reflecting pool. The big, open lawn is great for kite flying and a nice spot for a picnic. The park is lovely in April when flowering trees are in bloom.
There also are tucked-away little nooks where you can enjoy the Northwest’s robust natural beauty. A prime example is little Meydenbauer Beach Park, perched on the shore of Meydenbauer Bay at 419 98th Ave. N.E. It’s just a couple of blocks west of Bellevue Downtown Park; take 98th Avenue N.E. off Lake Washington Boulevard N.E. (Don’t let the green directional signs leading away from Lake Washington Boulevard and the bay fool you; just follow them and you’ll get to the parking lot.) From there it’s a short jaunt down to the waterfront via a paved walkway that passes beneath tall trees.
A little slip of a beach looks out over Meydenbauer Bay, an indentation along the Lake Washington shoreline. A whaling company was based here until the 1940s; it’s been supplanted by the expensive craft moored at the adjacent Meydenbauer Bay Yacht Club. Tony homes climb the wooded hillsides above the bay. This pretty, well-kept park has a fishing dock, a picnic area and restrooms.
Two cool public art installations are at the Bellevue Transit Center, downtown at 10850 N.E. 6th St. “High Road” comprises three spherical shapes that appear to be walking on stilts; “Windswept” is an illuminated-from-within aluminum sculpture mounted atop an elevated platform that also serves as a bench. Bellevue’s public transportation nerve center is a convenient base from which you can board Sound Transit express buses for travel throughout the Seattle-Tacoma-Everett-Bellevue metro area. Sound Transit's 550 Express makes the run to downtown Seattle in 30 minutes. For schedule and fare information phone (206) 398-5000 or (888) 889-6368.
Visitor Centers Visit Bellevue Washington 11100 N.E. 6th St. Bellevue, WA 98004. Phone:(425)450-3777
ShoppingThe “Bellevue Collection,” which consists of three separate complexes, anchors downtown shopping. Lincoln Square, on Bellevue Way N.E. between N.E. 6th and N.E. 8th streets, has specialty retailers and stores selling upscale home furnishings and accessories. Everything about this complex is sleek, from the post-modern interior design (lots of gleaming stainless steel) to the water that glides in shimmering sheets down a 65-foot vertical glass shaft to a pool bristling with sinuous emerald-green glass tubes (“Lincoln Square Fiori,” the work of Dale Chihuly). Another Chihuly piece, the spectacular, three-tiered “End of the Day Chandelier,” hangs above the Lincoln Way entrance and is strikingly illuminated at night.
A similar lineup of shops is at the adjacent Bellevue Place, inside the Hyatt Regency Bellevue at 900 Bellevue Way N.E. An elevated pedestrian walkway connects Lincoln Square to Bellevue Square across the street. In addition to anchor stores Macy’s and Nordstrom, this destination mall has some 200 shops and restaurants. The Gunnar Nordstrom Gallery, 800 Bellevue Way N.E., is an intimate space that displays contemporary fine art. Regional artist Bill Braun's works are huge favorites here. His trompe l'oeil paintings are incredibly realistic: simply rendered montages of flowers, houses and butterflies that look just like a child's construction paper art project. You won't believe your eyes.
The Bellevue Farmers Market sets up Thursdays 3-7 in the First Presbyterian Church parking lot at 1717 Bellevue Way N.E., mid-May to mid-Oct. Local farmers offer organic fruits and veggies, hazelnuts, honey, fresh seafood and homemade baked goods. Regularly scheduled events include chef demos, hands-on activities for kids and fiddle and banjo hoedowns.
The Shops at the Bravern fills an angled space between N.E. 8th Street and 110th Avenue N.E. Neiman Marcus, Hermès, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tory Burch and other upscale stores are in a landscaped setting reminiscent of a European village.
Just south of the Bellevue Collection is Old Bellevue, a stretch of Main Street where shopping is a stroll-along-the-sidewalk-and-browse affair. The mix of shops and boutiques runs the gamut from quaint to trendy. Stop at Belle Pastry, known for oh-so-fresh-baked baguettes, brioches and croissants.
MarketPlace @ Factoria, just southeast of the I-90/I-405 junction, has the usual lineup of outlet mall stores, from T.J. Maxx and DSW Shoe Warehouse to Nordstrom Rack and Old Navy. Crossroads Bellevue, 15600 N.E. 8th St., is another popular shopping destination, with Barnes & Noble, Old Navy and a farmers market held on Tuesdays, June through September.
Things to Do Bellevue Arts Museum
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