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The Tower of Volunteer Park

Posted by Johnine Larsen on October 22, 2015
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Volunteer Park is one of my favorite parks in the city. It’s one of Seattle’s oldest parks, and it’s been getting people outdoors since 1887. Volunteer Park has a century-old conservatory, a music pavilion with outdoor concerts, and the SAM’s Asian Art Museum, but its best feature—something you can’t find anywhere else in Seattle— is the water tower.

This thing is incredible. It’s a giant tower that looks like part of a medieval castle, but with its own uniquely American take. It’s massive, standing 75 feet above the ground. Two narrow staircases wind their way up the inside of the tower, and those 107 steps take visitors to the observation deck, where you’ll get views of Mt. Rainier, the Space Needle, the downtown skyscrapers, and some truly majestic Capitol Hill homes. It’s the highest point on Capitol Hill at 520 feet (for comparison, the top of the Space Needle is 725 feet). Not a bad reward for a little climb. Not bad at all.

Here are some photos from my latest visit up the tower:


The Volunteer Park tower is a water tower built in 1906, but like no other water tower I’ve ever seen. It’s a throwback to an earlier era, an era before Amazon or Microsoft or I-5. It almost feels forgotten, this relic hidden amid the trees.

For all its glory, the tower is pretty unknown. You’ll usually only share the observation deck with a few other people, at most. It’s a great spot to escape the daily routine, or an even better spot to watch the sunset with your spouse. And did we mention it’s free? One of the best views in the city, and it doesn’t cost a time.

While you’re there, the rest of Volunteer Park is no slouch, either.


The Volunteer Park Conservatory has five different houses, including a cactus house, palm house, and exotic fern house. The Asian Art Museum is worth a visit, too (free on first Thursdays and second Thursdays 5pm–9pm). The park also boasts sculptures and statues, beautiful landscaping, and lovely lawns for picnicking.

And for the brave (and probably illegal), there’s always this option:


Anyone up for some rock climbing??