One of the things that drew me to Seattle so many years ago was the fact that the city has so much green space, right within the city limits. For a gal originally from New Jersey, this meant lots of opportunities for walking and hiking without having to drive too far.

Nearly 25 years after moving from the East Coast, I still find wonder in Seattle’s parks and love to spend time exploring them. This is especially true on sunny summer days, (but I’m also OK being outside on a drizzly spring or fall afternoon when I need some fresh air). Here are some of my favorites.

Discovery Park

At 534 acres, this park is the biggest in Seattle. It also is one of my favorites. All this land means plenty of places to explore. And the spectacular views of Puget Sound from Magnolia Bluff are amazing.

Start your visit to Discovery Park at the visitor center to pick up a trail map. All of the trails are quite easy, but you might wish to start with the popular Loop Trail. If you’ve got time and are feeling ambitious, you always can branch out to other paths, such as the ones that take you to the protected beachfront on North and South Beaches.

Viewfinder Tip: Given the propensity for rain in Seattle, wear slip-proof shoes if there’s any chance of wet weather.

In addition to the dirt-and-rock paths that meander through the forested areas of Discovery Park, there are paved sidewalks throughout the park. I often leave my car on an adjacent street, enter from one of the side entrances, and make my way in. Though I encounter people at all times (nearby residents come here to walk their dogs), the park is so large that even on busy days it doesn’t seem as crowded.

Washington Park Arboretum

It’s easy to spend a few hours at the Arboretum because of its beautiful gardens. Located just across the water from the University of Washington, this 230-acre park stretches along Lake Washington Boulevard (a gorgeous drive in and of itself), with a Japanese Garden on one side and Arboretum on the other.

There are pathways throughout, but you’ll likely find yourself meandering through clusters of magnolias, birches, and poplars. Another common activity: Trying to identify all the flowers (there’s almost always something in bloom). All of the flora is well-marked so going to peruse the signs is it’s a bit of an educational experience, too.

The Arboretum is free to enter but there’s a fee for the Japanese Garden.

Puget Sound as seen through trees in Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park

Though far smaller than Discovery Park, Lincoln Park is an excellent spot for a short hike before or after weekend brunch at a nearby cafe. There are several trails around the main area of the park and one that hugs the bluff overlooking Puget Sound (and all of the ferries that come and go from West Seattle).

Take one of the many paths down to the waterfront and you’ll find a paved sidewalk that runs for about a mile from the north end down closer to the ferry dock.

If you want to make a half-day of it, there are lots of places to have lunch by the waterfront, too. It’s even possible to reserve picnic tables for a larger gathering or special occasion—a great way to cap what is sure to be a stellar day outside in Seattle.

What are the best green spaces in your city?