As a travel destination, Seattle has it all (except tropical beaches). While winter weather can be dreary, the city makes up for it with an abundance of fun festivities that will put the twinkle in your holidays.
First things first: Where to stay? Many downtown hotels offer surprisingly good off-season rates. A little online research can reveal some great deals, and, if you have flexibility on travel dates, you might lock into a room rate you can’t resist. For example, at Moxy Hotel, located in downtown’s vibrant South Lake Union district, you’ll find stylish and playful surroundings. Moxy originated in Europe, was purchased by Marriott and expanded to the U.S.—think playground with a bar. Yes, that is an adult-sized teeter-totter in the lobby just waiting for you to reclaim your childhood. And, yes, the receptionist and the bartender are the same person. Moxy delivers where it really matters: the guest rooms. These cozy, contemporary spaces are cocoons of comfort, with Netflix.
After you check in, enjoy refreshments at Ba Bar (conveniently located next door to Moxy), a casual eatery whose menu is an homage to Vietnamese street food. Then, start your holiday getaway on the right foot with an evening at Safeco Field, where you’ll experience Enchant Christmas. Work your way through the World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze, glide across the ice-skating trail and enjoy live entertainment and holiday food and drink.
This morning, grab a latte to go at Moxy and head out on foot for a day of exploring Seattle’s downtown. Your first stop: brunch at Portage Bay Café, an iconic Seattle favorite, just a few blocks from Moxy. Here, you’ll feel particularly good about breakfast, because, in true Seattle fashion, the food is locally sourced, organic an sustainably grown. Fuel up on dishes like a benedict sampler on house-made English muffins—one with a Dungeness crab cake and one with smoked salmon—or Swedish pancakes and lingonberries with a visit to the breakfast bar for more fruit, nuts and fresh whipped cream.
No Seattle getaway is complete without a visit to historic Pike Place Market, your next stop. Work off breakfast by heading to the market on foot or grab a cab if the weather is bad. Pike Place Market is the center of the universe when it comes to local color. Be sure to explore not only the main arcades on the upper floors, but also the shops downstairs in the bowels of the market. You might even do some holiday gift shopping at the craft market and artisan food stalls. Plan to snack your way through the market; some favorite grab-and-go nosh spots are Mee Sum Pastry, Pike Place Nuts, Ellenos Real Yogurt, Country Dough (for Szechuan flatbreads) and Piroshky-Piroshky, to name only a few. Before you leave the market, grab a table at the acclaimed Pike Place Chowder and a sampler of chowders (be sure to try the smoked salmon chowder).
When you’ve had your fill of Pike Place Market, stroll into downtown’s main shopping core to take in some Seattle holiday traditions. First, stop by Macy’s on 4th and Pine to check out the iconic Holiday Train window display. You don’t have to be a model railroad geek to appreciate the model village and train as it rolls along the track. Across the street at Westlake Center, marvel at Seattle’s holiday tree. Next, walk the few blocks to the Seattle Sheraton Hotel on 6th and Pike, to view the elaborate Gingerbread Village display, a 26th annual exhibition that, this year, will occupy three display rooms in the hotel.
Next, catch the monorail to Seattle Center to experience Winterfest 2018. Here, you’ll enjoy a wonderful celebration of holiday-season traditions with classic holiday foods, ice sculpting, family activities, free concerts and more holiday-themed exhibits.
Time for some bubbly while you rest after all that exploring. Take the monorail back downtown and walk to RN74, located at 4th and Pike. Throughout December, this acclaimed French restaurant features an extensive list of Champagnes by the glass, and you can munch your way through their happy hour menu or make reservations for the dining room.
For today’s brunch, head to Seattle’s Chinatown-International District for traditional dim sum, a meal consisting of Chinese dumplings and both savory and sweet pastries. There are several dim sum houses within a few-block radius, each serving similar fare for comparable prices. One of the best is Honey Court Seafood Restaurant. When the servers roll the carts around to your table just point to what looks good.
After brunch, stroll the few blocks to historic Pioneer Square, Seattle’s first neighborhood, and browse the boutique shops and galleries for one-of-a-kind gifts for the special people on your list. From there, walk to the waterfront, and head north along the promenade. You’ll be tempted to partake in the tourist attractions along the way. Give in to the temptation—the Great Seattle Wheel, Wings Over Washington and the Seattle Aquarium are all worthwhile.
At the north end of the waterfront, Olympic Sculpture Park is home to a world-class collection of outdoor sculptures, a great place to take in some culture and city views at once—and there’s no admission fee.
Stop in at Six Seven Restaurant in the city’s famed Edgewater Hotel for dinner timed with the early sunset at this time of year. Located on the waterfront, cocktails, seafood and a water view will accompany your Seattle sunset.
After dinner, take a departure from all that holiday cheer with a journey to Seattle’s dark side. You’ll experience a chilling true- crime tour with Private-Eye on Seattle Tours and learn the sordid and ever-gory details of the city’s most notorious misdeeds right at the crime scenes. Your host will be Jake, a retired gumshoe that cracked many a case wide open. Pickup and delivery are in the South Lake Union district within walking distance of Moxy Hotel.
Stroll to breakfast at Serious Pie & Biscuits, a cozy spot in the South Lake Union district that specializes in fluffy buttermilk biscuits with an array of toppings, like catfish cake
or fried chicken and gravy or peanut butter, banana and honey. You get the picture. You can even build your own. Depending on your hunger, build one that’s a simple nod to the classics or that’s stacked to the heavens with a dizzying list of add-ons.
Speaking of the heavens, wave goodbye to Seattle at one of its iconic landmarks, the Space Needle. Newly renovated with a $100 million “spacelift,” the “new” Needle has 200 percent more glass and the world’s first and only revolving glass floor, “the Loupe.” The revolving glass floor allows views of the Needle’s unique architecture and landscape below and new floor-to-ceiling windows make an already great view even greater. The upper observation deck features glass barriers that tilt outward to match the angle of the building, allowing for seamless sight lines. New “Skyrisers,” 24 slanted glass benches on the outer observation deck give you the intense feeling of floating above the city. A cantilevered grand spiral staircase connects the two observation levels at the top with no visually apparent supporting structure. The renovated Needle is a must-see for every local and visitor alike.
After you’ve loaded your social media channels with photos, head back to Moxy, check out and say farewell to the Emerald City.
This article appeared in our November/December, 2018 issue.