17 Things to Do in Seattle During Winter: Your Cozy City Guide

Seattle transforms into a winter wonderland during the colder months, offering a unique array of activities catering to the chilly weather enthusiast and those looking to stay warm indoors.

Visitors and locals alike find the city provides an enticing mix of outdoor adventures and cozy indoor spaces.

From the glistening lights of festive holiday markets to the serene quiet of nearby snowy trails, Seattle proposes an enriching winter experience amidst its Pacific Northwest landscape.

The city’s cultural heartbeat persists even as temperatures drop, with museums, art galleries, and concert venues presenting a robust calendar of events.

Families enjoy the hands-on exhibits at the Pacific Science Center, while art aficionados appreciate the latest collections at the Seattle Art Museum.

Moreover, the iconic Pike Place Market remains a hub of activity, where the scent of fresh pastries and coffee wafts through the brisk air, complementing the vibrant displays of local crafts and seasonal produce.

For those willing to embrace the cold, outdoor pursuits abound.

Skiers and snowboarders can hit the slopes at nearby resorts, and there are ample opportunities for snowshoeing and hiking in the region’s vast parklands.

Ice skating rinks pop up throughout the city, offering a charming way to spend an evening under the stars.

Whatever one’s winter preference, Seattle delivers a diverse range of activities to make the season memorable and engaging.

Warm Up at a Coffee Shop

During Seattle’s brisk winter months, coffee shops offer a delightful refuge. They’re not just about the caffeine; they’re about the cozy ambiance and the local charm.

Conveniently Located Seattle Coffee Shops for Tourists:

  1. Starbucks Reserve Roastery: Unique for its interactive coffee experience, visitors can witness the roasting process.
  2. Storyville Coffee: A coffee shop conveniently located near tourist attractions, with a 3-sip love it or get refunded guarantee on their coffee.

If you’re a local looking for a new spot to try, check out this list of top Seattle Coffee Shops.

These coffee havens provide more than just warmth; they offer a taste of Seattle’s rich coffee culture.

Connoisseurs should try single-origin pour-overs to savor unique flavors.

Those looking for something sweet might enjoy seasonally flavored lattes.

For patrons preferring an alternative to coffee, most shops serve a selection of herbal teas and hot chocolates.

Seattle’s coffee shops are an ideal setting for reading a book, catching up on work, or simply watching the rain with a hot drink in hand.

Skiing at Snoqualmie Pass

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Snoqualmie Pass is a premier skiing destination, located just about an hour’s drive from Seattle. It provides skiers of all levels a chance to enjoy the winter snow.

Ski Areas:

  • Summit West
  • Summit Central
  • Summit East
  • Alpental

Each area offers a unique experience with various levels of terrain ranging from beginner to advanced.

Lift Tickets:

Prices for lift tickets may vary based on age group and time of purchase. It’s often best to buy online in advance for discounts.

Ski Lessons:

For beginners or those looking to improve their skills, ski lessons are offered. Instructors cater to all age groups and skill levels.

Equipment Rentals:

  • Skis and poles
  • Snowboards
  • Boots
  • Helmets

Renting in advance is advisable to ensure availability.

Amenities:

  • Dining options
  • Lounges
  • Ski shops
  • Repair services

Due to its proximity to Seattle and a wide range of facilities, Snoqualmie Pass is an ideal spot for skiers looking to enjoy the winter season.

Get Cozy in a Hot Tub Boat

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During the chilly winter months in Seattle, visitors can find warmth and relaxation on the waters of Lake Union by renting a hot tub boat. These unique vessels combine the comfort of a hot tub with the adventure of boating, providing a memorable experience.

Location and Booking:

  • Where? Lake Union, Seattle, WA
  • Reservations? Advance booking recommended

Features of the Hot Tub Boat Experience:

  • A private, heated hot tub that accommodates up to six passengers
  • Stunning views

What to Bring:

  • Swimwear
  • Towels
  • Waterproof bag for personal items

Duration and Price:

  • The trips typically last two hours.
  • Prices vary based on day and time; check the company’s website for current rates.

Visitors should be prepared for the weather by wearing appropriate attire before and after their soak.

The company ensures the water is toasty, offsetting the crisp air of Seattle’s winter.

Renting a hot tub boat offers a unique perspective of Seattle and a fun way to enjoy the water, regardless of the cold.

It’s a social activity that’s perfect for families, friends, or romantic outings.

Snowshoeing Trails

In the heart of winter, Seattle’s nearby trails beckon outdoor enthusiasts with the promise of pristine snowy landscapes. Snowshoeing offers a unique way to explore these terrains with ease.

For those seeking a guided experience, local outfitters offer tours that can enhance one’s adventure with educational insights about the surrounding ecosystem.

Before heading out, adventurers should check current trail conditions and weather forecasts.

It is also important to have the proper gear, including waterproof boots, insulated clothing, and of course, snowshoes.

Safety is paramount, therefore always let someone know your itinerary and expected return time.

These trails exemplify the beautiful snowshoeing experiences available in the Seattle area, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the serene beauty of winter.

Seattle Art Museum Exhibits

During winter, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) showcases a variety of exhibits that cater to diverse artistic tastes. Visitors can immerse themselves in a world of visual arts, from classical masterpieces to contemporary works.

Mark Your Calendars: Save money by visiting museums on free admission days.

For those interested in interactive experiences, SAM offers:

ActivityDescription
Art WorkshopsHands-on activities for all ages.
Guided ToursExpert-led tours of current exhibits.
Meet the ArtistOccasional events where artists discuss their work.

Note: It’s recommended to check the museum’s calendar for specific dates and times of workshops and special events.

For the latest information on exhibits, visitors can also visit SAM’s website or contact the museum directly.

Go Tubing

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During the winter months, Seattle offers a unique, family-friendly activity: snow tubing. The Summit at Snoqualmie is a popular destination, located about an hour’s drive from downtown Seattle.

Visitors can glide down well-groomed hills on inflatable tubes, experiencing both thrill and laughter.

  • Hours of Operation: The Summit Tubing Center typically opens from late November to early April, depending on snow conditions. It’s important to check the current schedule online before planning your visit.
  • Ticket Information: Buying tickets in advance is recommended as sessions can sell out quickly. Prices for tickets may vary depending on peak times and age groups.
  • Dining Tip: The Summit Pancake House serves up delicious eggs benedict and Swedish pancakes.

The area caters to all ages, and no prior experience is necessary, making it a perfect activity for both the young and young at heart.

They provide tubes, so there’s no need to bring your own.

Visitors should remember to dress warmly and in layers, as temperatures can be quite cold.

  • Safety Guidelines: Helmets are not mandatory but are recommended, especially for children.

The staff ensures that all participants follow safety instructions to help create a safe environment for everyone.

Nearby, guests can also warm up with hot beverages and snacks in the lodge, turning a day of tubing into a cozy winter experience.

With Seattle’s stunning landscapes providing a picturesque backdrop, snow tubing is a delightful way to enjoy the winter season in the Pacific Northwest.

Christmas Ship Festival

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The Christmas Ship Festival is a cherished Seattle tradition that brightens the winter season. One can witness a fleet of ships adorned with festive lights that sail around Lake Union and Lake Washington.

Dates: The festival typically begins in late November and runs through December 23rd.

Activities include:

  • Parade of Boats Night: An impressive parade where boats of all shapes and sizes exhibit their holiday spirit with dazzling lights and decorations.
  • Special Events: Dockside tours and choir performances on the lead ship bring holiday cheer to onlookers.
  • Bonfires: Community gatherings around bonfires at various beaches provide warmth and a place for spectators to enjoy the festive lights.

Ticketing: To join the flotilla, one may purchase tickets for the Christmas Ship or the follow boats, where they can enjoy onboard choirs and warm beverages.

Charity: The Christmas Ship™ Festival participates in the “Special People’s Holiday Cruise,” dedicated to offering a memorable holiday experience for people with disabilities.

The weather can be chilly, so they should dress warmly and arrive early to secure a good viewing spot. The festival provides a unique experience that brings the community together and spreads holiday cheer throughout Seattle.

Try Delicious Cocktails

Seattle’s winter is the perfect time to warm up with some of the city’s most delightful cocktails. Many local bars pride themselves on their unique and seasonal offerings.

Canon is renowned for its extensive spirits library and innovative cocktails, perfect for those who love to try new things.

Rob Roy is another gem where cocktail enthusiasts can find solace. Their Director’s Cut cocktail is a must-try, with flavors like raspberry, white chocolate, and egg yolk.

For those who prefer a cozy, laid-back atmosphere, Zig Zag Café serves up classics to perfection. The bartenders there are well-versed in concocting drinks to suit any palate.

Not only do these venues offer excellent drinks, but visitors also enjoy the ambiance that comes with the dim lighting and intimate seating arrangements—ideal for the chilly Seattle winter.

Visit Leavenworth

Leavenworth, a charming Bavarian-styled village in the Cascades, transforms into a winter wonderland. Snow-dusted buildings and twinkling lights set the stage for festive activities, perfect for visitors.

Winter Activities

  • Sleigh Rides: Glide through the snow-covered countryside with local companies offering tours.
  • Skiing and Snowboarding: Nearby Stevens Pass provides slopes for all skill levels.

Holiday Events

  • Christmas Lighting Festival: The town lights up every weekend in December.
  • Christkindlmarkt: This traditional German-style Christmas market features crafts and hot foods.

Culinary Delights

  • Bavarian restaurants serve hearty meals like schnitzel and bratwurst.
  • Warm up with local artisan hot chocolate or mulled wine.

Relax and Unwind

Leavenworth offers cozy accommodations from family-run B&Bs to luxury resorts. After an active day, visitors can relax by a fire or soak in a hot tub while enjoying alpine views.

Watch the Seattle Kraken

Winter in Seattle brings the thrilling opportunity to experience professional ice hockey. One can watch the Seattle Kraken play at the Climate Pledge Arena. The Kraken, Seattle’s NHL expansion team, offers an electrifying atmosphere that hockey enthusiasts shouldn’t miss.

Location: Climate Pledge Arena

Schedule:

  • Home Games: Check the official Kraken schedule online for dates
  • Away Games: Available for viewing at local sports bars

Merchandise: Fans can purchase jerseys, hats, and accessories at the team store or online.
Transport: Public transit options include buses and the monorail service.

Before a game, one might enjoy dining at nearby restaurants or exploring the Seattle Center. The energy in the arena during a Kraken game is palpable, as fans cheer in unity wearing the team’s deep sea blue and ice blue colors. An individual or a group can partake in this winter sport tradition and be part of the city’s growing hockey culture.

Winterfest at Seattle Center

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During the colder months, Winterfest emerges as a beacon of celebration at the Seattle Center. Attractions range from festive lights to ice sculpting, ensuring that visitors of all ages find joy in the winter activities.

Ice Rink and Entertainment:

Winterfest features an indoor ice rink where visitors can glide across the ice, surrounded by the magical backdrop of twinkling lights. Adjacent, the Armory Stage offers a variety of free, family-friendly live performances.

Model Train & Village:

A holiday tradition, the elaborate Winter Train and Village display captivates audiences. Visitors can watch the miniature trains wind through a turn-of-the-century village, and with a small donation, anyone can take a turn at the controls.

Ice Sculpting:

Master ice sculptors transform blocks of ice into glistening works of art. These temporary sculptures are a testament to the beauty and transience of winter.

Winter Hiking

Seattle’s winter landscapes offer hikers crisp air and stunning snowy vistas. Those looking for a serene nature escape will find solace in the city’s proximity to several winter hiking trails.

Discovery Park Loop provides a gentle hike within the city. Its 2.8-mile loop is suitable for hikers of all levels. Hikers can enjoy views of Puget Sound and see the iconic West Point Lighthouse, often dusted with a light snow in winter.

Tiger Mountain Trail is for the more adventurous hiker. While conditions can be quite muddy, the trek up to Tiger Mountain offers a rewarding challenge with panoramic views at the summit. Hikers should be prepared with waterproof boots and layers.

Snoqualmie Pass, located about an hour from Seattle, is a winter wonderland for hikers. Snowshoers can explore the area’s trails, which are well-maintained throughout winter. Recommended trails include:

  • Gold Creek Pond: an easy 1-mile loop with minimal elevation gain.
  • Franklin Falls: a 2-mile hike to a spectacular frozen waterfall.
Trail NameDifficultyDistanceElevation Gain
Discovery ParkEasy2.8 miMinimal
Tiger MountainModerateVaries2,000-3,000 ft
Gold Creek PondEasy1 miMinimal
Franklin FallsEasy2 mi400 ft

Always check trail conditions before heading out and prepare for sudden weather changes. It’s imperative that hikers have the appropriate gear: warm clothing, waterproof layers, and potentially traction devices for their boots. Those venturing into the mountains should carry the Ten Essentials for safety.

Aquarium Exploration

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During the winter months, the Seattle Aquarium offers a warm escape where visitors can discover a diverse array of marine life. The Aquarium is home to a variety of exhibits that showcase species from the Puget Sound and beyond.

Notable Exhibits:

  • Window on Washington Waters: A massive 120,000-gallon exhibit featuring local marine life.
  • Underwater Dome: An immersive 360-degree view into a Pacific Northwest habitat.
  • Marine Mammals: Get up close with sea otters, harbor seals, and northern fur seals.

Activities: Visitors can engage in touch pools, daily diver shows, and feeding demonstrations. The touch pools offer a hands-on experience with sea stars and urchins, while the diver shows provide unique insights into the aquatic environment.

Tips:

  • Online ticket purchases are recommended to ensure entry.
  • Weekdays tend to be less crowded, offering a more relaxed visit.
  • Check the Aquarium’s calendar for special winter events.

Warm attire is suggested since some exhibits, such as the outdoor otter exhibit, are not fully enclosed. The Seattle Aquarium, with its enchanting exhibits, makes for an enthralling and educational outing for all ages during the chilly winter season.

Kerry Park Views

In Seattle’s wintertime, Kerry Park becomes a dazzling spot for picturesque views. The park, nestled on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill, offers unobstructed sights of the cityscape and the iconic Space Needle. When the weather is clear, the Olympic Mountains serve as a majestic backdrop, especially enchanting during sunrise and sunset.

Accessibility: Kerry Park is easily accessible, and visitors find ample street parking nearby. The park’s facilities are simple, featuring benches and a few sculptures, making it an ideal location for quiet reflection or a casual photo session.

Winter Magic: Although the temperatures drop, the crisp air often enhances the clarity of the panoramic vistas. On a snowy day, the city transforms beneath a blanket of white, offering a unique visual treat.

Useful Tips for Visitors
Dress warmly for the chilly air
Best views are at dawn or dusk
Tripods allowed for photography

Visitors can often see photographers lined up to capture the quintessential Seattle snapshot. Locals frequently recommend the park as a must-visit for first-time guests when showcasing the beauty that the Emerald City has to offer during the winter months.

Discovery Park Walks

Discovery Park, located in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, offers tranquil walks for visitors during the winter season. Visitors can enjoy a variety of trails that boast breathtaking views of Puget Sound and the surrounding mountains.

The Loop Trail, a 2.8-mile paved path, encircles the park and is ideal for those looking for a leisurely stroll. The trail is mostly flat, making it accessible for visitors of all ages and abilities. Along the way, one can enjoy the sights of frosted meadows and quiet forests.

For those interested in birdwatching, the South Beach Trail leads to a pebble-strewn shoreline where an array of winter migratory birds can be spotted. The trail descends through a canopy of evergreens and is a little more challenging due to its steep sections.

  • North Beach Trail – Offers a more secluded walk along the park’s northern beaches.
  • Hidden Valley – A less-traveled path featuring dense woodlands and a sense of solitude.

All trails are well-marked, and maps can be found at the visitors center or various trailheads. Here’s a brief overview:

Trail NameDistanceTerrainNotable Features
Loop Trail2.8 miFlat/pavedEncircles the entire park.
South BeachVariesUnevenBirdwatching opportunities.
North BeachVariesVariedQuiet, less crowded.
Hidden ValleyVariesForestedSolitude and peace.

Though temperatures can be cool, walkers should dress warmly and in layers. It’s important to check weather conditions before heading out, as trails can be slippery after rainfall or if there is a frost. Keeping to designated paths protects the park’s ecosystem and ensures the safety of all park visitors.

Try a New Beer at a Local Brewery

In Seattle’s chilly winter months, visitors can wrap their hands around a frosty pint of locally brewed beer. With an impressive craft beer scene, the city has myriad breweries that offer seasonal specialties and year-round favorites.

Fremont Brewing Company is a must-visit for beer enthusiasts. They can cozy up in the urban beer garden and enjoy the Abominable Winter Ale, a hearty brew with notes of caramel hoppy spice

  • Location: 1050 N 34th St, Seattle, WA 98103
  • Seasonal Highlight: The Winter Ale

Pike Brewing Company offers a dive into Seattle’s beer history. They often craft winter-themed beers, such as the Pike Auld Acquaintance, a spiced holiday ale with orange peel, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

  • Location: 1415 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
  • Seasonal Brew: Pike Auld Acquaintance

Beer fans can also explore smaller, neighborhood breweries like Stoup Brewing in Ballard, known for their rotating taps and welcoming atmosphere. Their winter selection often includes rich porters and stouts perfect for colder weather.

  • Location: 1108 NW 52nd St, Seattle, WA 98107
  • Winter Recommendation: Robust Porters and Stouts

For those who favor exotic flavors, Cloudburst Brewing is the spot to taste experimental ales. Their rotating tap list might feature anything from hazy IPAs to coffee-infused stouts.

  • Location: 2116 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
  • Must-Try: Hazy IPAs and Experimental Ales

Spend the Evening at a Jazz Club

Winter evenings in Seattle glow warmer at the heartbeat of local jazz clubs. The city boasts a vibrant jazz scene with venues that cater to aficionados and newcomers alike.

One can immerse themselves in the soulful sounds at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, a long-standing institution known for hosting internationally acclaimed artists.

More Places to Enjoy Jazz:

  • Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club
  • The Royal Room
  • Egan’s Ballard Jam House

Remember to check the individual club schedules and book in advance as winter shows tend to fill quickly.

About the author

My name is April, and I’m a Seattle-based writer, traveler, and foodie. I started this travel guide blog to share my passion for Seattle with fellow travelers and locals alike.

Whether you’re looking for the best coffee shops, the trendiest restaurants, or the most scenic hiking trails, I’ve got you covered.

When I’m not writing or exploring Seattle, you can find me watching movies with my husband, reading, or gardening with my dog in the backyard.

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