An Afternoon Date at Bellevue Arts Museum

Plus other fun stuff to do in “The City in a Park” 🌲

The exterior of Bellevue Arts Museum on a sunny winter's day

📸: Courtesy Bellevue Arts Museum

Ahh, Bellevue. The glittering city across the lake. This up-and-coming metropolis is host to a lot of cultural activities, the best among them, to me, being the Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM). Located right in the heart of downtown, the museum routinely puts together shows featuring local artists in a gorgeous building designed by an internationally renowned architect. And although the Seattle-Eastside light rail connection might be delayed for a couple more years, that’s no excuse not to see what BAM and Bellevue are all about. Grab a friend and jump into your car—it’s time to head east for an afternoon art date. 

An aerial view of the Meydenbauer Park playground on a cloudy day.

📸: Courtesy Bellevue Parks & Community Services


But first, go touch grass🌲

Before you start taking in a world of paint and mixed media, first bask in the natural. Meydenbauer Bay Park is located only a 12-minute walk from Bellevue Arts Museum, boasting woodlands, a playground, benches, and unrestricted views of Lake Washington. Originally serving as a landing site for Seattle-Bellevue passenger ferries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Meydenbauer Bay Park was inaugurated as Bellevue’s first park in 1953. Since then it has undergone extensive renovations, with the addition of a viewing terrace and a really cool 400-foot curved walkway that jets right out onto the water. Take a selfie and don’t disturb the ducks!

Meydenbauer Bay Park
📍419 98th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004

📸: Courtesy Bellevue Arts Museum


Take in the arts 🖼️

Once you’ve bathed in the sounds and smells of Lake Washington, it’s time to mosey over to the Bellevue Arts Museum. And notice that it’s “Arts” and not “Art” in its name. BAM’s mission is to specifically engage with the public via—mostly local—“art, craft, and design.” As such, their exhibitions aren’t just limited to painting or sculpture, but very often extend into different mediums. 

For that you don’t have to look further than the museum’s main forum. Have a seat on one of Tricia Stackle’s playful and colorful wool benches designed to mimic children’s toys. And, if you look up, you’ll spot one of Ko Kirk Yamahira’s meticulously deconstructed canvases hanging from the ceiling. Currently in the gallery themselves is Preston Wadley’s Abstract Truth, an in-depth survey of his mixed-media sculptures composed of bronze books, found objects, and vintage photos. There’s something for everyone here.

It’s also important to note that BAM is a little different from other museums in the area. The museum takes inspiration from a kunsthalle, a German term for a space that hosts art exhibitions without a permanent collection. Meaning every few months, BAM completely changes up all the art displayed within its halls. It’s refreshing

Bellevue Arts Museum
📍510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004

Look up 👀

In addition to housing works of art, BAM’s three-story building itself is a work of art. Designed by architect Steven Holl, it’s made of a unique combination of aluminum, textured concrete, and glass assembled in a way that specifically underscores the architect’s interest in light. Hidden terraces and skylights abound, many of which BAM thoughtfully activated with art. Pay attention not just to what’s on the walls, but to how your body feels in the space. 

A spread of food from Istanbul Cuisine on a table. There are super mixed gozleme, cig kofta and cheese gozleme.

📸: Courtesy Istanbul Cuisine


Your eyes ate, now it’s time for your belly 🥙

After all that art seeing, I’m sure you’ll be hungry. Good thing Bellevue Square is within spitting distance of the museum. And while there are delicious places to eat inside the mall, I think Istanbul Cuisine is the place to go. Located outside Macy’s—you can literally see it from BAM—the food stand serves delicious street foods from Turkey. The star is their gozleme, a flavorful dish of Turkish flatbread stuffed with beef, spinach, or potato that comes with dipping sauces. Paired with their baklava, it’s the perfect handheld food to chow down on to refuel for the rest of your afternoon. 

Istanbul Cuisine
📍405 Bellevue Square, Bellevue, WA 98004

An exterior shot of the L'Occitane storefront in Bellevue Square.

📸: Courtesy The Bellevue Collection


Let’s go smell stuff 👃

After you’ve stuffed yourself with delicately flavored meats, walk into Bellevue Square Mall for another snack and a quick peruse around. Open since 1946 and part of the Bellevue Collection, the mall is home to over 100 stores. I’m totally biased since I grew up in the area, but there’s something special about Bell Square. It’s light and airy and perfect for a nice stroll. 

Grab a soft pretzel from Auntie Anne’s or a coffee from The Woods, then go sniff things at L’Occitane and look at scarves at Uniqlo. 

Bellevue Square
📍575 Bellevue Square, Bellevue, WA 98004

Cherry blossoms at Bellevue Downtown Park.

📸: Courtesy Bellevue Downtown Association


Last park, I promise 🚶

After you’ve finished getting your consumer on, walk over to Bellevue Downtown Park, a wide-open 21-acre green space smack dab in the middle of downtown and right across from the mall. There is a huge playground in one corner of the park, but the main event is the giant ten-acre lawn surrounded by a circular walking trail and a very cute, alligator-less moat. Take a turn on the pathway then plop yourself down on one of the many benches and bask in the sunshine. 

Bellevue Downtown Park
📍10201 NE 4th St, Bellevue, WA 98004

Not ready to leave Bellevue? 🚗

I recommend two further options, should you so choose to remain in the 425. You could either go to a blockbuster at Lincoln Square Cinemas (they have nice chairs!) or drive a couple of minutes to the Bellevue Botanical Garden to see their in-season blooms. 


An author pic of Jas Keimig. They have blue braids.

Jas Keimig

Jas Keimig is an arts and culture writer in Seattle. Their work has previously appeared in The Stranger, i-D, Netflix, and Feast Portland. They won a game show once and have a thing for stickers.

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