This Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, head to Westlake Park for a fun, festive and not-so-silent night at the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, when dozens of caroling teams will vie for top honors. The event is free, but donations to Pike Market Senior Center & Food Bank are appreciated.
Old Saint Nick keeps very busy this time of year, Before his big night of present delivery, he makes several stops around the city. Through Christmas Eve you can ooh and ahh over twice-nightly indoor snow shows and tap your toes to live musical performances in the atrium at Pacific Place while you wait for your chance to chat with the jolly old man himself.
You wouldn't want to sit on Santa's lap when he visits the Seattle Aquarium from noon and 3 pm every Saturday, Sunday and Monday through Dec. 24, 2017, as he'll be swimming through on of the giant tanks. After watching the diving Santa stick around for enjoy special holiday concerts.
Santa is for everyone, so celebrate diversity this holiday season. On Saturday, Dec. 2, Asian American Santa will visit the Wing Luke Museum in the Chinatown-International District. Black Santa will be on call for wish lists and photo opps at the Northwest African American Museum on Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10.
Seattle Center buzzes with holiday activity during the monthlong Winterfest. Ongoing attractions include a model train wending its way through a charming wintry village, ice-sculpture carving, Victorian-costumed carolers and an ice skating rink. It wraps up on New Year's Eve with a fireworks display at the Space Needle.
Visit the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle to get the warm fuzzies in the plushest room in town at the Teddy Bear Suite, a room packed with cuddly toy bears, then choose your favorite from the elaborately decorated firs and pines at the hotel's Festival of Trees.
The annual Gingerbread Village display (through Jan. 1, 2018) at City Center features sugary structures created by the Sheraton Seattle's culinary team and top local architecture firms. The event is free, but donations to the Northwest Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation are appreciated.
Gallery: Santa and Other Festivities in Seattle
Black Friday draws shoppers to department and big box stores in droves, but the following day, Small Business Saturday is a great excuse to get out, visit your favorite local shops (and discover new ones), and find gifts that stand out from the rest. Check out these small wonders for stylish accessories and stocking stuffers.
Moorea Seal: Seattle-based Moorea Seal is more than a jewelry designer; she's the stylish entrepreneur behind the growing lifestyle brand that carries her name. Seal started making a name for herself as an early pioneer of Pinterest, and it wasn't long before the eye-catching mood boards she created earned her an impressive following. She parlayed her reputation as a tastemaker into a successful online boutique, and later a brick-and-mortar shop. This fall, Seal moved her trove of treasures into new digs in trendy Pioneer Square. In the bright and airy new space, devotees of Seal's style aesthetic can shop for gifts from her own line of jewelry, stationery collection and "52 Lists" journals, as well as handpicked fashion and home accessories from other up-and-coming and established designers.
Baleen: The simple but beautiful jewelry is designed and created in the studio of this Ballard boutique.
Sassafras: This Belltown shop stocks clothing, jewelry and accessories exclusively from Pacific Northwest designers.
Nube: Carefully curated U.S.-made jewelry, accessories and home goods line the shelves at this chic Capitol Hill spot.
Division Road: Along with high-quality heritage menswear, this Pioneer Square shop offers a range of small accessories, including English bridle-leather wallets, key lanyards and wrist bands.
Sharply: Find waxed-canvas shaving kit bags, National Parks baseball caps, woodsy-scented beard balms and more hip goodies at this menswear shop on Capitol Hill.
Maybe you're jet lagged. Or had theater tickets. Or maybe you're just plain not ready to call it quits for the night. Whatever the reason you're looking for a place to grab a bite to eat after the usual dinner hours, Seattle has a spot that will feed your needs.
Zig Zag Cafe
Its tucked-away position right in the middle of all the action makes Zig Zag Cafe a favorite with locals. Located on the Pike Street Hill Climb, the staircase leading from Pike Place Market to Western Avenue, this cozy venue offers a late-night menu of Mediterranean-inspired food and handcrafted cocktails from 11 pm - 1 am nightly. Try the fried pork skins with harissa-yogurt sauce, or for something more substantial opt for the pastitsio, a Greek version of lasagna.
Open till midnight, Pike Place Market upstairs hideout Radiator Whiskey specializes in house-distilled whiskey, but it's more than just a bar—it's a carnivore’s delight. Don't miss the Buffalo-style chicken livers or the lamb neck sloppy joe.
North of the market, the Belltown neighborhood is still buzzing into the wee hours. Star chef Tom Douglas' Palace Kitchen, open till 1 am nightly, dishes up inspired Northwestern cuisine, and its Palace Burger Royale, with local beef chuck and sweet Walla Walla onion on a bun from Douglas' Dahlia Bakery, is legendary. It's big enough to share, but you probably won't want to give up a bite.
The intimate, candlelit tables and shareable dishes like bacon-wrapped shrimp, spicy meatballs and gnocchi with black truffle cream make List the perfect spot to cap off a late date. Food is half-off during late-night happy hour from 9 pm - midnight.
The next block over, Rocco's serves craft cocktails and gourmet pizzas by the whole, half or slice until 2 am. Try the build-your-own shrub cocktails, which allow you to dial up or down the sourness to your own taste.
You can laissez les bon-temps rouler well into the night at New Orleans-inspired Toulouse Petit. This lively Lower Queen Anne restaurant offers a menu brimming with Cajun and Creole classics like gumbo, jambalaya and fried catfish. Dinner is served until 11 pm, with late-night happy hour specials running from 10 pm to close.
Damn the Weather
If you're ending your evening south of downtown in historic Pioneer Square, Damn the Weather is your go-to. Late night happy hour runs 10 pm to close (midnight on weekdays and 2 am Fridays and Saturdays), with indulgent chicken fat fries, meat and cheese plates and outstanding cocktails to tempt you.
Some locals boast that “true Seattleites” don’t carry umbrellas. Maybe it’s part of the hardy Northwestern spirit—or maybe it’s because we don’t want to distract from our fashionable raincoats.
You'll find plenty of ways to stay dry in style at the flagship stores of Seattle-based outfitters Filson in SoDo and REI in South Lake Union, and if you’re looking for a waterproof jacket that stands out in a crowd check out one of the city’s boutique outerwear designers: The waxed-cotton jackets from Feller (available at Clementine’s in Pioneer Square), including the vintage plaid Modern Topper shown below, mix traditional materials with contemporary style. The quest for the perfect rain jacket led locals Scott and Wendy Freeman to design their own; find their old-school inspired collection at Capitol Hill shop Freeman.
Kent, Washington-based Chooka has been helping folks take a stand against soggy feet since the company was founded in 1891. More than 125 years later, the women’s footwear brand has expanded its line to include a range of styles, including pull-on booties, lace-up duck boots and skimmers, in a rainbow of colors and patterns—all designed to take you from city streets to hiking trails. Try on a pair at the Nordstrom flagship store at Westlake Park or order online.
Gallery: Staying Dry in Seattle
When the Denny party, pioneers from the Midwest, arrived in 1851 to settle this area, they first built their cabins at Alki Point. The location proved less than ideal for establishing a waterfront to support the settlement though, so they moved it to the more sheltered harbor of Elliott Bay.
Over the years, Seattle's position on Puget Sound was key to its role in the shipping and logging industries as well as the gold rush, and the waterfront was a rough-and-tumble collection of boarding houses, taverns and gambling halls. Much has changed since then, but the waterfront is still a prime destination for those visiting Seattle.
Choose Your Own Adventure
These days, the entertainment options on and around the docks are family-friendly but just as exciting.
Get an idea of the awesome yet challenging landscapes that greeted those early explorers at Wings Over Washington. Part theater, part ride, this unique experience pairs cutting-edge technology like virtual reality, laser projection and drone photography with seats that change direction and pitch synchronized to the film. Once you're buckled in, you'll feel as if you're flying high above Washington's mountains, rainforest, cliffs and more.
From virtual views to the real thing—the Seattle Great Wheel. The 175-foot wheel's glass-walled gondolas allow passengers 360-degree views during the slow, smooth ride. After dark, the wheel itself becomes a sight to see, thanks to its almost 500,000 LED lights. For holidays and special events, such as Seattle Seahawks games, the lights are programmed with colorful, pulsating displays.
The waterfront also offers a launching point for discovering the Puget Sound area as many early explorers did: by water. Argosy Cruises offers daily cruises of the harbor year-round. For a glimpse into the lives of the area's original inhabitants, opt for the Tillicum Village cruise. The half-day excursion takes passengers to Blake Island State Park to tour a longhouse, stroll beach and forest trails, dine on clams and alder-roasted salmon and enjoy Native American dance and music performances.
For longer excursions, Clipper Vacations offers daily departures to Victoria, British Columbia, where historic buildings, formal gardens and high tea services are all part of the city's colonial charm.
If sea life intrigues you, set aside some time to visit Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59. Its permanent exhibits highlight the underwater wildlife of Puget Sound and the Northwest, including octopi, sixgill sharks, and salmon. Be prepared to fall in love with the sea otters and their playful antics.
Try Today's Catch
Long before the Seattle Aquarium was built, another, smaller aquarium attracted visitors to the historic waterfront. It was opened in 1938 by Seattle icon Ivar Haglund, who charged curious customers a nickel to view his collection of sea life. He soon added a fish 'n' chips stand to his attraction, which proved a great success. He later opened a standalone restaurant called Ivar's Acres of Clams—it's still at Pier 54 delighting visitors with fresh catches and great views more than 70 years later.
You'll never be short of dining options on the waterfront. If it's shellfish you're after, check out a few of our other favorites: Elliott's Oyster House, a Pier 56 favorite since 1975; or The Crab Pot on Pier 57, where "sea feasts" of steamed crab, baked clams and more are served family-style on butcher-paper covered tables. Expect to get messy!
While Seattle is known for its seafood, that isn't the only option on the waterfront. Pier 55 boasts a location of a nationwide burger restaurant you might not have realized originated in Seattle: Red Robin. The chain got its start near the University of Washington in the 1940s as Sam's Tavern, but was soon rechristened Sam's Red Robin after its founder's favorite song. Of course, you'll find the usual menu of gourmet burgers and bottomless fries at the waterfront location—but the bay views are one-of-a-kind.
Kidd Valley, a local favorite that's been serving up burgers and hand-blended shakes since 1975, opened a location on neighboring Pier 54 last month.
Find The Perfect Souvenir
Seattle owes much of its success to its position as a gateway to the Klondike gold rush, when expedition outfitters and other businesses sprung up to cater to the needs of the 30,000-40,000 prospectors who passed through the city on their way to Alaska to find fortune starting in 1897.
Some of those businesses still exist today, including Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Part shop, part museum, the venue houses a collection of oddities like shrunken heads, mummies and taxidermied mythical creatures, along with Northwestern souvenirs that range from the quirky—Sasquatch action figures—to the classic—Native American art prints.
For more traditional reminders of your visit, head to Simply Seattle for T-shirts, "rain globes" and gift baskets of locally produced artisan foods, or to Pike Street Press, where you'll find letterpress postcards, prints and more designed by Seattle artists.
Outdoorsy pursuits are a common interest among many of Seattle’s locals and visitors, whether it's opportunities to be active or just to relax and enjoy nature. Luckily, you don’t have to leave the city limits for any of that. Seattle boasts dozens of urban oases, each with its own distinct flavor.
Just a short walk from downtown, the 22-foot waterfall at tiny and secluded Waterfall Garden Park helps drown out the nearby hustle and bustle.
Cal Anderson Park in the heart of Capitol Hill is a prime spot for posing and people watching—keep an eye out for the impromptu bike polo matches that pop up on the park’s tennis courts.
Set on a bluff above Puget Sound, Discovery Park—the city’s largest at more than 500 acres—rewards visitors with sweeping views of both the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, and features a three-mile looped trail that passes the historic West Point Lighthouse.
Green Lake Park
A popular destination for boating and swimming, the nearly three-mile path that curves around the lake also draws plenty of joggers and cyclists.
Gas Works Park
The industrial structures of the old city gas plant make for dramatic scenery on Lake Union's north shore. Kids will love the play barn, and the park's big hill is perfect for flying a kite.
If you are a hardcore gamer or even just a casual fan of video games, the Emerald City is the place for you. Seattle and the Eastside attract gaming geeks year-round as the home of Microsoft, Nintendo, Valve, PopCap and other major industry players (pun intended).
There are plenty of gaming cafes to find in the city, such as Royal Gaming Cafe in the University District and Meeples Games. Not only that, you can explore the history of gaming and computing—and Seattle’s role in it—at SoDo’s Living Computers: Museums + Labs. The hands-on exhibits include plenty of opportunities to revisit childhood favorites—or have a good chuckle, if you’re a young'un—like Oregon Trail and Space Invaders, learn the basics of game programming, experience virtual and augmented reality and see how these new technologies are influencing the future of gaming.
There are also a number of arcades that you can enjoy with fellow gamers. Here are a few of our favorites:
Seattle Pinball Museum: Your entrance fee to this International District hidden gem covers unlimited play of more than 50 vintage games. This museum has two floors and eight decades of classic and modern pinball games. Passes start at $12 for kids and $15 for adults. No children under 7 years of age. There is also beer and soda. Open Su-M, W-Th noon-6 pm; F-Sa noon-10 pm.
Shorty’s: Coney dogs, slushy cocktails and clown art add to the carnival-like atmosphere at this 21-and-over Belltown arcade. Find pinball and other menu items that include nachos, chili cheese nachos, the Chili Cheese Bigtop and cold beer. Open everyday, noon-2 am.
John John's Game Room: Fill your pockets with quarters and head to Capitol Hill for old-school games and cold beer, as this game room provides hours of fun. The two-floor layout offers a place to both sit and enjoy a drink or play classic pinball machines. Open Su-Th 5 pm-1 am; F-Sa 5 pm-2 am.
With no end of fun things to do, Seattle is the place to spend late summertime soaking up the sun, music and festivities.
End of Summer Bash!: Riesling Revolution
They don’t call Charles Smith the “rock star winemaker” for nothing—Smith was a band manager before he changed his career course and became of the Northwest’s most successful vintners. No surprise then that he’s bringing together two of his greatest passions—wine and rock music—for this blowout event at his Georgetown winery, Charles Smith Wines Jet City. The bash kicks off at 4:30 pm with tastings of Rieslings from 18 (mostly regional) wineries, including his own K Vintners jet City Riesling, which is only available from the Georgetown venue. The fun continues into the night with more wine, Georgetown Brewing Co. beers, food trucks, burlesque shows, and live music from alt-country rockers Calexico and headliners Seattle-based indie-folk band The Head and the Heart, who will perform a special acoustic set. This is one party you won’t want to miss, so get your tickets in advance.
This three-day festival of music, comedy, art, film and all-around good times has been Seattle's most eagerly awaited late-summer event for 45 years. Headlining acts including Weezer, Solange, Lorde, Spoon, Flo Rida will share the Seattle Center stages with dozens more national and local musicians covering the gamut from folk to rap in addition to stand-up stars such as Judah Friedlander, Margaret Cho and Jermaine Fowler. Other entertainment includes a short-film festival, pinball arcade, laser show and modern dance performances.
Washington State Fair
More than a million fun-seekers of all ages will pour through the gates of the Puyallup fairgrounds—35 miles south of Seattle—over the course of this 24-day extravaganza. Expect all the usual sights and sounds of a good old-fashioned fair: farm animal shows, rodeos, midway rides, live music and, of course, food-on-a-stick. Save some energy to rock out in the evening too—the grandstand concert series lineup features country greats Melissa Etheridge, Hank Williams, Jr., Jason Aldean and other top performers like The Beach Boys and Washington state's own Modest Mouse.
Even after the sun sets, there’s still plenty to do in Seattle, from the clubs of Capitol Hill to the bars of Belltown to the breweries of Ballard.
The Best Late-Night Hideouts in Seattle
You’ll be thoroughly entertained seeing the long-running “Le Faux,” a cabaret-style celebrity impersonation show at Julia’s on Broadway on Capitol Hill, where you can have dinner beforehand. The performers are equally talented at Keys on Main in Queen Anne, a dueling piano bar.
If you’d rather be moving than sitting, head to the two-level, multiroom Trinity Nightclub—with three main areas and a luxurious VIP room—or the EDM-focused Foundation Nightclub. For a lower- key evening, Needle & Thread is an elegant speakeasy-style bar hidden behind a bank vault door in Tavern Law, while Rabbit Hole is a fun spot with skeeball and unique décor to complement the food and drinks.
The Best Late-Night Restaurants in Seattle
The 5 Point Café: With potato bacon pancakes and pull tabs, you can’t go wrong at this circa-1929 institution.
13 Coins: The doors never close at 13 Coins, where you’ll find fried ice cream and live music on some nights.
Beth’s Café: The 12-egg omelette served with toast and all-you-can-eat hash browns is Beth’s signature item, so come hungry.
To explore the best Seattle has to offer, use this handy guide to plan your next adventure in the Emerald City.
The Air Up There
Set a good foundation for your vacation by getting the lay of the land. The tallest building to do that from is the Columbia Center, whose Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor rises more than 900 feet in the air, giving an unparalleled perspective of the city.
Closer to the ground but with views just as dazzling, Smith Tower opened 103 years ago in Pioneer Square as the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Here it’s about the journey as much as the destination—the original brass elevator that takes you to the Observatory is still manually run by elevator operators.
For a ride that’s even more thrilling, take a spin on the Seattle Great Wheel, which juts out 40 feet beyond the end of Pier 57 on the waterfront.
To go even higher, Kenmore Air’s scenic seaplane tours that leave from Lake Union make quite an impression.
Once you’ve gotten your bearings, add a little history for context. The Museum of History & Industry, better known as MOHAI, tells you everything you need to know about the area’s origins and influence, from a musical presentation on how the Great Seattle Fire started to a display featuring local grunge bands that shot to worldwide fame—perhaps you’ve heard of a little group called Nirvana?
One of the city’s most formative events was the 1962 World’s Fair, which brought us the Seattle Center, the iconic Space Needle and the Monorail, an official historic landmark that still ferries more than 2 million passengers a year.
After you’ve taken a ride, switch to human-powered transport on a walking tour with the Wing Luke Museum. Explore the International District through the eyes of a local, take a special 2.5-hour rice-themed tour or discover Bruce Lee’s Chinatown—where he launched his first martial-arts studio. If you’d like a little caffeine with your stroll, Seattle by Foot offers a Coffee Crawl that will get you up to speed on the java scene’s pioneers and what’s brewing now.
By this point, you've discovered that water plays a major role in Seattle’s history and culture. All those inlets, lakes and bays may make it more difficult to get from point A to point B, but they definitely make it prettier, too.
Get out on the water with Argosy Cruises, which offers narrated sightseeing tours, or hop in an old-fashioned vessel with the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union, where on Sundays volunteer skippers take visitors out for free.
To watch boats make the switch from saltwater to freshwater or vice versa, head to the Hiram M. Chittenden (aka Ballard) Locks, where the water level can change up to 26 feet as kayaks and big ships alike make the transition.
Only in Seattle
Round out your vacation with some experiences you can only have here. Washington native Dale Chihuly may be known around the world, but there’s no collection of his work as extensive as Chihuly Garden and Glass—a gorgeous museum at Seattle Center dedicated to his glassblowing art.
While libraries are commonplace in every city, design-forward ones like the steel-and-glass Seattle Central Library are not. Don’t miss the views from the 10th floor or the eye-catching corridors on the fourth.
On the quirky end of the spectrum, the Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge is a favorite, and yes, that’s a real VW Beetle in his clutched hand.
Catch a Mariners game at beautiful Safeco Field (order the garlic fries), and leave your mark by adding to the Gum Wall in Post Alley, right under Pike Place Market. If you haven’t been to the market yet, it’s the heartbeat of the city and a must for any trip. Buy a one-of-a-kind souvenir, nibble on fresh produce samples, and watch the fish fly.
For guided exploration, take a tour with Savor Seattle to taste some of the market’s highlights including piping-hot cinnamon-sugar donuts, rich macaroni and cheese and incredibly flavorful Greek yogurt.
For one last parting shot, take your camera to Queen Anne’s Kerry Park, which offers a postcard-perfect view of everything you’ve just experienced. You may not be able to pack Seattle in your suitcase but you can certainly take home the memories.
The only way to take in the true measure of Seattle’s grandeur is to see it from the sky—and a plane isn't even needed.
Seattle is a city defined by geography. Arts, tech and commerce all hold their sway, sure, but at the end of the day the dense collection of lakes, hills, canals and ravines rules the lives of its citizens. We negotiate it with a network of drawbridges and innovative buildings stacked like cracker boxes up steep slopes. In our spare time, the surrounding mountains and water draw us in and leave us with dreams of going back.
It can all be overwhelming—especially when it involves a bizarre five-way traffic interchange on the precipice of the city’s steepest hill. But to truly appreciate Seattle’s incredible topography, one needs to rise above it. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do just that. From man-made wonders to glorious overlooks, here are some of the best places for a bird’s-eye view of the Emerald City.
The most iconic view of the city—the one that makes all the calendars—isn’t from a building, it's with feet firmly planted on the ground at Kerry Park, tucked on the southern lip of Queen Anne Hill. From this vantage point, the skyline, mountains and water form a romantic tableau that draws cheers from the gathered crowd, especially as the sun sets. Best of all, it’s free. 211 W. Highland Drive, Seattle, 206.684.4075.
The Nest at Thompson Seattle
By far the most luxe way to take in the city and sea below is from the new Nest—a rooftop bar perched atop the Thompson Seattle hotel. Featuring savory snacks and house-bottled cocktails, the lounge is filled with elegant furnishings and design, but between the city and seascapes stretching into the horizon, you might not notice. Expect to wait for a seat on sunny days, it’s worth it. 110 Stewart St., Seattle, 206.489.4629.
Sky View Observatory
At 902 feet, Sky View Observatory, the viewing room atop the Columbia Center, is literally the highest you can get above the city without the aid of aircraft. A 360-degree panoramic view offers sweeping views of Mount Rainier, the Cascades, the Olympics, Elliott Bay and all of Seattle spreading over the hills far below. It’s the tallest public viewing area in the Northwest, a glass-walled marvel that will make jaws drop and give height-haters vertigo. Tickets $9-$14.75, under 6 free. 701 Fifth Ave., Seattle, 206.386.5564.
When it opened in 1914, the Smith Tower was the tallest building in Seattle—and the fourth-tallest in the world. It’s since been eclipsed in size, but not in class. It reopened last year and debuted Temperance on the Observation Deck, an elegant bar designed to resemble a 1920s-era speakeasy. Bask in elegant woods and detailed ceiling tiles and enjoy Chinese dumplings, raw oysters or banh mi sandwiches with a period-appropriate cocktail like a Smith Tower Sazerac. Smith Tower Observatory tickets $13.50-$17.10, under 6 free. 506 Second Ave., Seattle, 206.624.0414.
Undoubtedly Seattle’s most famous building, the Space Needle debuted during the 1962 World’s Fair, when it hosted nearly 20,000 people a day. It’s still a number-one destination, and for good reason: An icon of the Northwest, this space-age tower rises 605 feet above Seattle Center and has a world-famous rotating restaurant at the top. With close-up views of the skyline in your face and 360-degree views of the mountains and water, there’s no better way to feel in the clouds. Tickets $14-$24, under 5 free. 400 Broad St., Seattle, 206.905.2100.
The picture-perfect backdrop, the incredible local food scene, the innovative people who live here and create one-of-a-kind experiences—all of these reasons and more make Seattle the ideal place to celebrate life’s big moments. Whether you’re in town to toast an anniversary, a birthday, a job promotion or just because, the Emerald City makes it easy for you to get in the celebratory spirit. Consider this your guide to doing just that. (Oh, and congratulations!)
Dinner With a View
Keep it traditional with a nice meal that comes with a side of jaw-dropping views. The classic entry in this category is Canlis, the crown jewel of Seattle’s fine-dining scene since the 1950s and one of the only places in the area with a dress code. With floor-to-ceiling windows, the mid century-modern building is perched above Lake Union, offering an ambiance that matches both the impeccable service and time-honored Pacific Northwest fare.
Over in Pike Place Market, there are several options for a special meal overlooking the water, including Matt’s in the Market (where you can gaze out on Elliott Bay from behind lovely arched windows), Maximilien (with a romantic, white-tablecloth charm) and Place Pigalle (an appealing meld of French fare with a Northwest sensibility).
For a view looking back at the city’s skyline, Salty’s on Alki Beach is legendary for its location and its brunch buffet—with crab legs, eggs Benedict, freshly shucked oysters, carved-to-order prime rib, house made mac and cheese, butterscotch pudding and a chocolate fountain. You’ll leave with full bellies and happy hearts.
Sitting in a plush booth, surrounded by twinkling lights, gazing upon a stage framed by gold accents—this is the experience you'll enjoy at The Triple Door. Throw in the act that’s onstage and the acclaimed Asian cuisine from next-door neighbor Wild Ginger—both always high-quality—and you’ve got the makings of a great night out.
Across the street at Benaroya Hall, the award-winning Seattle Symphony never fails to put on a good show. It’s also worth checking the schedules at The 5th Avenue Theatre and the Paramount Theatre to see if there’s something special playing while you’re here.
For a sure bet, The Pink Door in Pike Place Market always has nightly entertainment in the dining room; while you savor the lasagna or pappardelle al ragù Bolognese, enjoy performances from the likes of a trapeze artist, an Eastern European jazz trio or a singer-songwriter with a guitar and a gift for lyrics.
Take a Trip
The area just outside the city limits holds plenty of treasures, too. A day trip to Woodinville, where there are a whopping 90-plus wineries, is a fun way to taste the flavors of Washington wine country. To make it even easier, go on a tour—Bon Vivant Wine Tours, Big Woody Limos and Seattle Wine Tours all have options that will keep your focus solely on sipping and not the logistics.
Also on the Eastside, Snoqualmie Falls is a breathtaking waterfall that’s impressive no matter the weather. Bring your camera and prepare to be awed by nature. Even if you can’t stay the night at the adjacent Salish Lodge & Spa (but you should if you can squeeze it in!), stop by one of the restaurants and order something with honey in it—the bees are kept on-site, so it’s as local as can be.
If you can’t get enough of the water, step aboard a Washington State Ferry bound for Bainbridge Island and walk around the quaint downtown area there known as Winslow. Be sure to dine at Hitchcock, beloved for its sustainably sourced dishes.
For most of its history, Seattle has existed off the country’s radar—but no more.
While Starbucks, grunge rock, Microsoft and “Frasier” did their part to elevate the Emerald City’s profile, an unprecedented tech boom has made it one of the five fastest-growing cities in America. That’s 15,000 new neighbors last year alone, on top of the 37-million-plus tourists who visit every year.
Thankfully, you don’t have to share it with every one of them. Seattle’s unique culture of adventure and introversion has given rise to a city full of secrets—off-the-map bars and restaurants, hidden parks and beaches, and fantastic arts and culture still thrive far off most travel itineraries—if you know where to look. That’s where we come in—we’ve interviewed local experts and slinked through the vibrant city to uncover some of the best sights for solitude, wonder and fun away from the crowds.
In such a dynamic, growing city, it’s no surprise that Seattleites prize access to green spaces and fresh air. But sometimes it feels like the whole city is there, too.
“What’s great about Seattle is that it’s a city of outdoors freaks—you can go to Golden Gardens on the worst weather day and share it with a hundred other people,” said Seattle resident Amelia Urry. “But if you know where to go, you can step off the road and have all that same ocean to yourself.”
Seattle’s 200 miles of shoreline offer ample opportunity to get on the water. While the majority of visitors congregate at parks like Magnuson or Lincoln, 149 streets end in “shoreline street ends"—pocket parks that offer access to water and beaches. Secret Beach off 39th Avenue East near Denny Blaine Park offers the best Lake Washington access, with a soft-sand beach and a cove with views of Rainier and the Cascades. To get to the impressive West McGraw Street End, located at the bottom of a bluff, visitors can take either a precipitous stairwell from Magnolia Boulevard or drive dark, twisty Perkins Lane West. A gravel path leads to a rocky beach with views of the Olympics, Rainier and the city skyline, while a concrete jetty lets visitors walk out into Puget Sound toward Fourmile Rock, where eagles sometimes perch.
Those secrets extend inland, too. Historic Pioneer Square is one of the city’s busier places but Waterfall Garden Park (219 Second Ave. S) offers a quiet sanctuary mere steps away. Here, an impressive 22-foot-tall manmade waterfall cascades down boulders, drowning out city sounds. A two-tiered patio with tables and chairs gives visitors a place to read, rest or contemplate.
Visitors journeying from downtown to Capitol Hill can just walk up Pike or Pine—but they’ll miss one of the best outdoor secrets in the city. Freeway Park (700 Seneca St.) offers a unique combination of greenery and brutalist architecture straddling I-5. Concrete pathways lined by hydrangeas and rhododendrons culminate in giant blocks of concrete stacked like Legos.
Secret Bars and Speakeasies
Seattle’s history as a bootlegging hub during Prohibition meant it was a town of speakeasies. That tradition continues to this day—though purveyors’ wares are thankfully legal now. Secret bars and restaurants dot the city, offering craft cocktails to in-the-know diners. Knee High Stocking Co., accessible through an unmarked door, finds bartenders spicing up Prohibition-era cocktails with rare cordials.
Needle & Thread (1406 12th Ave.), hidden inside Tavern Law, is one of Seattle’s better-known speakeasies, but the novelty of getting in never wears off. Visitors phone ahead for reservations, and, if successful, they enter the 25-seat bar by calling in from a phone next to the steel safe door that conceals the spot. Inside are great craft cocktails and bites.
Back in Pioneer Square, E. Smith Mercantile is a dry-goods store celebrating the artisanal craftsmanship that reigned when the Square was first built— and the hidden, speakeasy-style communal bars that were often tucked in back.
“This is a new take on an old idea—it’s always existed, from a time when there was only one store in town or on the block,” said Jessie Poole, E. Smith Mercantile co-owner. “My great-grandfather [and store namesake] Elmer Smith was a gold miner—he had that Americana backbone. I wanted a place that could curate heirloom products, crafted by hand, along with natural wellness products and pre-Prohibition medicinal cocktails.”
Favorites here include the Miner’s Campfire (Scotch whisky, tequila, grapefruit, honey and smoke bitters).
The Hottest Secret in Seattle
Seattle is famous for the Vietnamese noodle soup pho, but it also boasts an impressive selection of another soup—the Asian hot pot. It’s a little bit like fondue; a giant bowl of broth gets brought to the table to share and diners cook meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu or noodles in it before spooning out spicy bowlfuls of mix-and-match stew.
“I love going to get hot pot in the International District,” said Seattle native Sam Horn. “It’s like pho on steroids.”
Best of all, hot pot extends to many cultures—there’s Korean hot pot, Japanese shabu-shabu and Chinese varieties. At the International District’s Sichuanese Cuisine, diners dip beef, lamb, fish, broccoli, cabbage and glass noodles into a broth featuring mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns.
“You can’t come to Seattle and not have hot pot,” said musician Jonathan Pease. “It might just be my favorite meal in town.”
Starbucks might be the most famous and widespread food or drink brand that was started in Seattle, but it’s far from the only one. From creating chocolate treats to cocktail ingredients, Seattleites are getting to work in the kitchen handcrafting tasty creations for all to enjoy.
Like several popular food products, Jonboy Caramels got started at farmers markets around the city. (Rachel’s Ginger Beer also started at farmers markets, and it now has two Seattle locations, including one at Pike Place Market.) These caramels use local ingredients—making some varieties seasonal—and no corn syrup. Find unique flavors like absinthe with black salt, balsamic berry, Ceylon cinnamon and whiskey with smoked salt. Find the caramels at Seattle-area Whole Foods stores and at specialty shops, or online.
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
When visiting Pike Place Market, don’t forget to peek into the windows at the corner of Pine Street and Pike Place. It’s the kitchen for the original Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, a market staple since 2003. See local milk transformed into the Flagship, Marco Polo or Just Jack cheese. Head inside for paninis, soups or the decadent mac and cheese. Beecher’s also has locations at Bellevue and Sea-Tac Airport (find it in Concourse C to stock up before flying home) and a store in New York City.
Bitters can add the finishing note to a cocktail, and in his search for the perfect ingredient, Seattle bartender Miles Thomas developed his own line of bitters in 2008. Now Scrappy’s Bitters, still made in small batches in Seattle, is available in stores around the world. Varieties include the flagship lavender blend, grapefruit, orange, cardamom, celery, lime and even chocolate. There are two gift sets available, with small quantities of four flavors—a great option to find your favorite.
San Juan Island Sea Salt
Bring a bit of the area’s ocean home with you in the form of San Juan Island Sea Salt. After leaving his San Juan Island home for college in Seattle, Brady Ryan returned to the family farm and started making salt by evaporating seawater in greenhouses. The resulting product makes a fabulous finishing salt for food and a fun gift for anyone who loves to cook. Find the salt in Seattle at Sugarpill, The Pantry, The London Plane and more locations, as well as online.
One of the sweetest Seattle-made products is created by hand in Georgetown. Fran Bigelow and her company, Fran’s Chocolates, have been perfecting the art of chocolate since her first shop opened in 1982. Now, truffles, chocolate bars, caramels and more are churned out daily from the brand's headquarters. Visit the shop to see the production process, sample some chocolate and buy gifts. There are also boutiques downtown, at University Village and in Bellevue.