Paddling along the canal at Mercer Slough Nature Park. Photo by Merrill Images.

These days, convention attendees are looking to return home from their trips with much more than pages crammed with notes, stacks of business cards, and brains bursting with ideas. While the programming is certainly still a crucial component of the event, attendees also desire to step outside the meeting venue and experience the destination.

Bellevue is blessed to be located at the heart of the Puget Sound region, surrounded by a plethora of natural beauty. We believe there is no better way to experience our region than by getting outside and face-to-face with nature. Offering a group canoe tour is an excellent way to give attendees a true taste of our corner of the country.

Experience the Pacific Northwest at Mercer Slough

Believe it or not, just a mere minutes from the glistening towers of downtown Bellevue sits a tranquil 320-acre wetland. Because of its close proximity to the convention center and hotels, the wetland – Mercer Slough Nature Park – is an ideal playground for out-of-town visitors looking to embrace their inner adventurer.

The park contains numerous trails; one of which is a canal trail that can be explored via watercraft. Arranging a group canoe tour provides attendees a fun and memorable experience in Bellevue. Led by Bellevue park rangers, the tour will take your group on a 4 mile (approximately 3 hour) journey that starts at Enatai Beach Park on the shores of Lake Washington and winds up through the Mercer Slough canal to the Kelsey Creek Fish Ladder.

While your group is out and about, be sure to keep your senses tuned to see how many wildlife species you can spot or hear. The slough is home to a diverse habitat of more than 170 animals including otters, herons, turtles, frogs, beavers, and countless species of birds. A canoe trip through the slough provides an up-close look at an ecosystem in action and if you’re lucky, you might even spy a Great Blue Heron snatching his dinner right out of the water.

Those who would rather explore the park by foot (or who just haven’t gotten their fill!) can venture along the 7+ miles of interconnected boardwalks, soft surface trails and asphalt paths that wind through a variety of habitats including meadows, marshes, and wooded areas. During the summer months, the park’s U-pick blueberry farm offers another engaging excursion and visitors love to pick berries and purchase local produce.

Mix Up Your Meeting Space

Mercer-Slough-Environmental-Education-Center-Exterior---Courtesy-City-of-BellevueThe park is also home to the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center, a complex located on an elevated boardwalk overlooking the Slough.

The Center has meeting and event rental spaces, making it a fun location for small group sessions. In keeping with the park’s environmental focus, the Center incorporates numerous green building features and was constructed using renewable, recycled, and local materials, as well as sustainably harvested wood.  The complex boasts a visitor center with interpretive displays depicting the park’s history as well as local wildlife and plants.

If you’re looking for a fun way to mix up your next event and get your attendees out-and-about exploring Bellevue, then we highly recommend spending a day at the Mercer Slough!

Great Blue Heron photo courtesy Bellevue Parks & Community Services / Colin Walker; Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center photo courtesy of City of Bellevue.