This ingenious feat of urban planning is an offshoot of the Seattle Art Museum and it bears the same strong eye for design and curation. There are dozens of sculptures, dotted around in a calm green space that sprawls out over reclaimed urban decay, with front row views over Puget Sound. It's one of many signs that culturally, Seattle is staking its claim to a seat at the big table, alongside cities such as Los Angeles and New York.
The Olympic Sculpture Park is Seattle's largest downtown green space, an imaginative reuse of former wasteland between the waterfront, the railway tracks and Western Ave. Zigzagging pathways cut between giant sculptural forms and angular steel constructions, dropping down to a shingle beach that is often strewn with driftwood. It's a surprising find downtown, and a symbol of Seattle's progressive attitude to town planning. If you have kids in tow and they need to burn off some calories, a run around the sculpture park should do the trick.
The works rotate regularly, but signature pieces include Alexander Calder's angular Eagle and Louise Bourgeois's Eye Benches. The views over the Sound are almost an artwork in themselves, with huge open skies and giant freighters dodging the ferries shunting commuters across the Sound to Bainbridge, Bremerton and beyond. It's all the more impressive considering that this patch of land was a mess of oil and gas works until 2007.
It makes sense to combine a trip to the Sculpture Park and a visit to the Seattle Art Museum; it's a one-mile walk between the two, and you can stop for lunch en route at Pike Place Market. There's no charge to admire the sculpture park but tickets are needed (and worth booking in advance) for the Art Museum. The park's PACCAR Pavilion is a good place to retreat when it rains – and this being Seattle, it often does – and there's parking on site.
Where to eat near the Olympic Sculpture Park
Bring a picnic, or walk over to Belltown or Pike Place Market and chow down at the following eateries.