Person Behind The Place:
Courtney Voorhees has been an enthusiastic gardener ever since moving back to the Pacific Northwest. It all started in her mother’s garden in Portland, Ore. where she helped get the garden ready for Hardy Plant Society open gardens day. Like an open house, the garden was a marvel for others to enjoy and ask questions about. When Voorhees moved back to Bellevue, she wanted to be part of something bigger, and something that enhanced the quality of life in downtown; the answer was the beloved Bellevue Botanical Garden. Voorhees joined the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society staff and embraced the idea of working for a nonprofit and continuing to provide a beautiful place for the downtown community. We caught up with her on exciting events coming up and her favorite spots in the Heart of Bellevue.
What does the Bellevue Botanical Garden offer to the community of Downtown Bellevue?
The Bellevue Botanical Garden is 53 acres and offers the community a beautiful, peaceful place to immerse themselves in nature and take a break from urban life. What many people don’t know, though, is that the Garden is a successful partnership between City of Bellevue Parks and Community Services and ten partner groups. The Society is the primary group that raises money for garden development and educational programming at the Garden. This includes an inspiring and relevant horticultural program for adults, the free Living Lab program for elementary-aged children and a renowned lecture series. We also host some spectacular events at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.
How has COVID-19 affected the Bellevue Botanical Garden?
When the pandemic hit, we quickly shifted our programming to a virtual platform. While it was challenging in some respects, we served a much wider audience, and the response was very positive. When our programming was all virtual the Garden experienced more visitors than ever. Amid the pandemic uncertainty and unrest, visitors have enjoyed coming to the Garden to find peace and respite. The community rediscovered the special treasure they have in their backyard.
What is your favorite part about working in downtown?
With growth throughout the city surrounding the Garden, we are in the heart of Bellevue and it's exciting. We see over 400,000 visitors annually and it's wonderful to see people of all ages enjoying the Garden. I love working in a beautiful place within the city that people find so much joy in, especially our many volunteers. We currently have 150 active volunteers that help make the Garden a spectacular destination and a great resource for gardeners. Volunteers are vital to the Garden and they bring a tremendous amount of energy and love to this special place.
What events are you looking forward to before the year ends?
Our Garden d'Lights event kicks off on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It's our 27th year and the community loves this annual event. They were disappointed when it was canceled last year due to the pandemic. This year we are going to online tickets that are date and time specific. Tickets will not be available at the gate. Garden d’Lights runs for 35 nights and wraps up on December 31st. The event is powered by volunteers who work year-round, building, repairing, and working on the lights for the event. It's an amazing event and we look forward to hosting it again.
Any favorite places to dine out in Downtown?
I love to cook but a night off is always fun! I enjoy Din Tai Fung, where we are going for my daughter’s 15th birthday this week. Pagliacci Pizza is my favorite pizza in Bellevue and great for a quick bite. I recently tried Chawla, a tasty Indian restaurant on Main Street. It is terrific to have so many great restaurants in Bellevue. Not long ago we were usually heading to Seattle for great food.
Any hidden gems you'd like to share in the downtown area?
The gems to me are all the interconnected walking and biking trails, and how they connect throughout town. It's nice to be able to look at the growth that is happening here and to know that you can get around on your bike or on foot and really explore the city.
Follow the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society for more updates on programming and events.
Person Behind the Place is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.
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Bellevue Botanical Garden
12001 Main St
Bellevue, WA 98005