Few cities can claim to be as environmentally endowed as this little gem, which is wedged between lakes, natural reserves, and leafy parklands.

Bellevue by name, Bellevue by nature. If we’re going to be honest, Seattle’s western neighbor feels more like a secret garden than a city. Hemmed in by the moat-like waters of Washington and Sammamish lakes, Bellevue is like a leafy oasis. Sure, Bellevue may be Washington’s third-largest city, but even its highest skyscrapers are dwarfed by the solemn snow-dusted peaks of the Olympic and Cascade mountains.

Take a load off and let Seattle’s satellite city show you how it’s done. A walk around downtown Bellevue will lead you through a jumble of chic cafés and artisan bakeries. Just like its neighbor, Bellevue is serious about coffee, and even the most humble hole-in-the-wall will take pride in its own batch brew. In summer, you can check out the seasonal offerings at the Bellevue Farmers Market on Thursdays and Saturdays. The paddock isn’t far from the plate in this corner of Washington, so make the most of Bellevue’s farm-fresh produce. Feel like flashing your plastic? Listing more than 200 retailers, Bellevue Square is a good place to start. With restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, it’s also the city’s major draw for dining and entertainment.

Speaking of summer, Bellevue has got some straight-up gorgeous places to enjoy the sunshine. If we listed them all we’d be here all day, so we’ll just let you in on the top hits. The centrally located Downtown Park is our pick for a mid-afternoon break from city strolling, while Bellevue Botanical Garden is perfect for a low-key picnic. If you’ve got kids in your crew, Bellevue has got some top-notch nature retreats. Go kayaking or try blueberry picking at Mercer Slough Nature Park. If you’d prefer to unleash your inner Tarzan, sign up for Bellevue’s Zipline Tour. Rainy day? No problem. With interactive museums, craft workshops, and indoor shopping malls, you won’t even notice Washington’s signature drizzle.

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