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Seattle’s Best Pocket Parks

May 15th, 2024

Seattle has some great parks, and a plethora of green space in general!

With mountains and forest just a short drive away and sprawling green spaces like Discovery Park so close to home, there’s no shortage of opportunity to get out and into the fresh air. But zoom in a little more on your maps and you’ll find that the city is covered with tiny little pocket parks, some measuring no more than half an acre in size!

These pocket parks play an important role in urban living, especially as the sprawling metropolis gets busier and more populated. These small green spaces offer a reprieve and a chance to reset during our busy days.

Here’s all you need to know about pocket parks, why they are so important and, of course, where you can find them right here in Seattle!

What is a pocket park?

Pocket parks — also known as vest-pocket parks or mini-parks — are small, publicly accessible green spaces found in urban areas typically occupying no more than a quarter-acre of space. These small oases of greenery can be as simple as a few potted plants tucked into an alcove, as peaceful as a small water fountain or as complex as a manicured garden in an old alleyway. Whatever size or shape they may take, pocket parks in general are designed to bring much-needed green spaces to dense urban areas where vast open spaces are in short supply. 

The concept of the pocket park emerged in the 1950s in Europe as a response to the scarcity of park space in rapidly growing cities, as well as a need to rebuild war-torn areas with limited funds and space. Faced with a growing urban population and shrinking open areas in the post-World War II United States, city planners saw pocket parks as a way to bring the benefits of nature closer to big city residents.

New York City is credited with pioneering the pocket park movement, with the first official vest-pocket park established in Midtown Manhattan in 1967. The privately-owned Paley Park was built where the old Stork Club building used to stand before its demolition in 1965, and now it’s considered to be one of the finest examples of urban green space in the nation!

Despite their small size, pocket parks offer a surprising range of benefits. First and most importantly, they provide a much-needed respite from the concrete jungle, offering a place for residents and visitors alike to relax, socialize or simply enjoy a breath of fresh air among the hustle and bustle of city life. Some pocket parks also incorporate small play areas for children, while others might feature benches or seating areas for meditation or quiet contemplation. They might feature public art or sculptures, or they might include waterfalls to drown out the sound of traffic. The sky’s the limit! 

Pocket parks can also serve as valuable green corridors that encourage walking or cycling through the city. And, of course, the greenery attracts birds and pollinators who would otherwise be lost among the bland grays and browns of urban architecture. 

Studies have shown that access to green space can have a significant positive impact on mental and physical well-being, too; both for us and for our pets! And when faced with the issue of space, a small park is certainly better than nothing at all. These pocket parks can help contribute to reduced stress levels, improved air quality and increased physical activity, while also reducing noise levels and regulating ambient temperature. Public green spaces can also foster a sense of community, providing a neutral meeting ground for people to connect and interact. 

The real beauty of pocket parks lies in their infinite adaptability. Because they can be built on small, often irregularly-shaped plots of land, they offer a creative solution for utilizing neglected or overlooked urban spaces. This makes them a relatively inexpensive way to revitalize a neighborhood by turning old parking lots, empty plots, slivers of sidewalks or oddly-shaped corners into well-loved usable spaces. 

As cities continue to grow and green spaces are being carefully taken into account, pocket parks are likely to play an increasingly important role in future urban planning. Parks can’t always be sprawling lawns and canopy-lined walkways, but miniature parks can still offer residents and pedestrians valuable green spaces in which to relax and reconnect. 

All that being said, Seattle has got more than a few of its own pocket parks scattered in its nooks and crannies. These are just a few of them, but they’re certainly worth checking out!

12 great pocket parks in Seattle

Waterfall Garden Park

219 2nd Ave. S.

This little pocket park in Pioneer Square is built on the former site of the original United Postal Service headquarters, then called the American Messenger Company, and run by the founder’s foundation since 2007. The enclosed garden features a 22-foot waterfall, picnic tables, benches, lush greenery and a quiet respite from the busy downtown area. 

SUN Park

4606 NE 47th St.

This park’s name stands for “Saving Urban Nature,” which is what pocket parks are all about! This tiny sliver of land near the Seattle Children's Hospital has been transformed into a beautifully-landscaped park with benches, informative plaques and pathways.

Denny Blaine Lake Park

100 Maiden Lane E.

This park in the Central District is almost entirely water, thanks to a quaint little duck pond and covered picnic shelter. There are also plenty of flowers and trees that make this little park a great spot to do some birdwatching.

6th Avenue NW Pocket Park

606 NW 76th St.

This sweet little park in the Whittier Heights/Greenwood neighborhoods features a lawn, picnic tables, a sandpit and some mural-covered arches. 

Pinehurst Pocket Park

11700 19th Ave. NE

The park may be small and there may be practically no space for parking, but this pocket park serves as an important green space to Pinehurst and Victory Heights residents who need some open space to bring their kids, pets and families.  

Parsons Gardens Pocket Park

650 W. Highland Drive

At only 0.4 acres in size, this tiny slice of greenery is a real haven for anyone wanting a shady picnic or a breath of fresh air. This little Queen Anne park is beautifully manicured and features flowers, landscaping and lawns that will bring you back time and time again.

Kobe Terrace

650 S. Main St.

This little hillside terrace is tucked alongside the Danny Woo Community Garden in the International District, just south of the city center. The name honors Seattle’s sister city in Japan, Kobe, and the park features a number of statues, plaques, lanterns and art pieces to honor the neighborhood and the international ties across the Pacific. 

Ballards Corners Park

1702 NW 62nd St.

Arguably, the main draw of this little Ballard park is the living-room-set-style statue collection, featuring two leather couches, a side table, a lamp and a rug — all made of concrete. 

It’s like being inside… but, outside… woah. 

Fremont Peak Park

4357 Palatine Ave. N

It may be small, but the views from this half-acre park are anything but. 

With public art, landscaping and an unobstructed view of the Fremont Cut, Lawton Park and the Olympic Mountains, this tiny pocket park is the perfect spot to catch a sunset or watch the night lights sparkle. 

Oxbow Park

6427 Carleton Ave. S

This teeny pocket park nestled between the King County International Airport and the Industrial District has some big shoes to fill.

No, really. There’s a giant pair of boots and a hat there, that gives off major Texas vibes. So much so that most people call it Hat & Boots Park!

Thomas C. Wales Park

2401 6th Ave. N

This park is a great example of how pocket parks can make any old space more green and community-minded!

Prior to being turned into a park, the East Queen Anne space was used as a gravel pit and material storage area. Then, thanks to collaborative effort between the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Seattle Parks and Recreation department, the space was transformed into a green haven featuring artwork, landscaping and plenty of space to relax and soak in the views. 

Terry Pettus Park

2001 Fairview Ave. E

Named for the individual who saved Lake Union’s unique houseboat legacy, this little waterfront park in Eastlake is the ideal place to sit by the lake and check out the unique houseboats nearby.

If you live in or near our luxury Seattle apartments and need a quiet break from the hustle and bustle of city life, head to one of these pocket parks and soak in the greenery at these little slices of heaven!


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Featured photo by Hal Ozart on Unsplash

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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