Discovery Park: The Best Location for Family Photos

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The Best Seattle Portrait Location

Discovery Park in Magnolia, Seattle, is one of my absolute favorite places to shoot. There is a PLETHORA (I wish I could use that word all the time) of variety and beautiful backdrops. It is the largest park in the city – special emphasis on in the city! Since it’s in town, it is also relatively easy for people to get to.

The sun sets over the water behind the Olympics creating the most dreamy golden hour light. The views from the bluffs are everything you would want from a Pacific Northwest portrait location setting!

There is space for kids to run wild and free. And fewer distractions for pups! It’s popular, but not over-crowded. This means that couples and families don’t feel awkward with people watching their session. (Although we are very likely to run into fellow photographer friends & other sessions going on!)

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Where to Park

My favorite place to park is the South Parking Lot. The stairs spit you out at the highest point of the park, above the historic yellow houses and near the Chapel. Meandering paths along the grasses and trees weave you through different colors and textures before coming out onto the bluff. There are plenty of other options for parking for exploring on your own, but I love the variety I get from this one meeting point! The parking lot is usually not completely full, too, which is a big bonus! Plus porter potty’s if needed – wins all around!

Great in all Seasons

Discovery park is gorgeous in the spring and summer months when the tall wheat grasses create a soft golden blanket across the bluff. It also has beautiful colors in the fall and good tree coverage to duck under if it starts to get a little drizzly.  The landscape still shines even in cloudy weather, creating a muted, very PNW vibe. There are tons of opportunity for creative framing, shade and sun!

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Getting to the Beach & Lighthouse

Be advised, however, that getting down to the beach can be a little tricky. Technically you are required to get a permit to park, and permits are only given to people on a first come, first serve basis with children under 6 and/or physical condition restrictions. There are shuttles in service on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer (and no parking is allowed during this time) from 10am-5:30pm which is before “golden hour” begins – so not offering us much help for photo sessions! But good to know, though, for your own exploration!

You do have the option to hike down to the water from the top bluff. This is a bit of a trek coming back up though. There is about 340ft in elevation gain – so not a ton, but a little more than a “walk in the park” – pun intended! My friend and I called a Lyft from the lighthouse and that worked out just fine! Not necessarily a feasible option for kiddos, though. Including the beach would likely add on a bit of time, so just keep that in mind when planning and booking your session.

The beach does feature gorgeous views of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains and the quintessential West Point Lighthouse. I love the driftwood along the beach and the grassy cliffs that plunge down into the water.

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Choose YOUR Favorite

This all being said, I always encourage my couples and families to choose a location that has special meaning to them. Discovery Park is a gorgeous place to shoot, but if you have a park closer to your home that you love exploring as a family, DO THAT! I love getting to explore new places, and checking out a new park is always inspiring to me! You are at your best when you are most comfortable, so please feel free to suggest somewhere that you love. It’s part of capturing what makes you, you! Check out my blog post here all about choosing your family portrait session location!



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Check out some of my favorite sessions at Discovery Park on the blog here!

Wong Family // Craig Family // Engagement Session

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I believe in all things bright, happy & colorful! Specializing in capturing the JOY of life's greatest adventures!

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