Surrey Downs Park | Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
I may be guilty of over-using the term “hidden gem,” but Bellevue's new Surrey Downs Park really is a hidden gem. Truly. I couldn’t find it.
Google maps show the park’s main entrance coming off 112th Avenue S.E., a major street. All I saw, however, was non-stop light rail construction running parallel to this busy arterial. My GPS frantically directed me to U-turn back to the non-existent entrance.
We drove in circles through the neighborhood side streets looking for this elusive new park until a dad out for a walk kindly pointed us in the right direction. Basically what you need to do is turn onto 110th Avenue S.E. off of Main Street, which is exactly opposite the old Toys R Us store (RIP). Two tiny green signs direct you to the park’s new entrance off of S.E. Fourth Street.
That’s the “hidden” part of this park. Once you actually find the park, you’ll discover the “gem” part.
There’s a thrilling, large play structure, and an accompanying scaled-down version for toddlers. A paved path circles a big grassy lawn, perfect for Wiffle ball and soccer and laps on a bike. There’s a long zip line, a set of swings (including a double-seater) and a basketball court.
Parents will love that there is a parking lot and two clean and modern family restrooms. Two of the three picnic areas are under covered pavilions. My Seattle-ite heart appreciated the separate containers for recycling, compost and trash. The cherry on top is the lovely view of Mount Rainier.
A lot of the newer playgrounds terrify my risk-averse children, but here they were able to find stuff to play with at their comfort level. My 8-year-old fell in love with an elevator feature, and my 4-year-old happily slid down the twisty slide about one million times. The main climbing route is by way of large rope webs, and I saw a little girl crying because she was scared. I’m terrified of heights, so yeah, I’d be crying too. Other parents — not me — carefully trailed their little climbers.
The 10.5-acre park was once the site of an orchard, and then later the location of Surrey Downs Elementary School. The last part of the old school building was torn down in 2015. Now, everything at this park is brand new and super nice: gorgeous landscaping, fresh sod and artificial turf that isn’t all trampled down.
The park has a look-out point where eventually, you’ll be able to watch the light rail zip by (service to begin in 2023). South of the playground is a peaceful grassy field with gentle hills, laced with gravel and paved walking paths.
Looking at this piece of heaven, I immediately thought, what an awesome place to hold a birthday party. (Provided that you can find it.) The thoughtful layout of the park means that if you play your cards right, you could snag yourself a shady spot under the main pavilion, where you can simultaneously keep an eye on the bike loop and both play structures. Parenting win!
Surrey Downs Park is just a few minutes from everything in downtown Bellevue, so when the crew gets hungry, there are tons of options. My kids are partial to the conveyer belt sushi at Sushi Land and bubble waffle cones at Blank Space Café. Lincoln South Food Hall won’t disappoint, either.
If Bellevue is a destination for you, pair a trip to Surrey Downs Park with the other terrific new-ish parks in the neighborhood. Head east on Main Street and it’s a straight shot to Downtown Park and Meydenbauer Bay Park. Both are fantastic, and only about 5 minutes away.
If you’re playgrouded-out, 5 minutes south takes you to lovely hikes at Mercer Slough Nature Park. Personally, we’ll be pairing this playground visit with berry picking at Larsen Lake blueberry farm. (The season typically runs through early September, depending on the weather.) What's a better cheap family date than delicious antioxidants and a fun new park?
If you go...
Open hours: Bellevue parks are open from dawn to 11 p.m.
More Eastside parks and playgrounds to explore: