Updated October 30, 2019

Yeah, yeah we know winter doesn’t have the best reputation. Between having to dig out every sweater and scarf that you own and the sun setting shortly after your lunch break, it’s easy to see why this season isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite. Fortunately, Seattle handily counters those winter woes with spectacular snow-capped mountain views and an abundance of rainy day refuges. We managed to narrow down our must-see list to 25 things to do in Seattle this winter, so read on and get planning!

1. Enchant Christmas

Back again this year, the show-stopping holiday extravaganza known as Enchant Christmas will be taking over T-Mobile Park! With a new, locally curated food and Christmas Market experience created in collaboration with Urban Craft Uprising, a larger ice skating trail, live entertainment every night and much more, Enchant will make all your winter wonderland wishes come true. Kiddos will love exploring the lit-up maze (the world’s largest!), almost as much as they’ll love rewarding their efforts with a yummy hot chocolate.

Lace up your skates and glide around Enchant’s glimmering ice skating trail! Photo courtesy of Enchant

2. Visit Leavenworth

If it’s sensational sparkle you’re after, then a visit to the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth is an absolute must! Hop aboard a deluxe motorcoach to ride over the Cascades into the heart of this charming mountain town. Packed with half a million glittering lights, it’s sure to provide no shortage of holiday cheer!

Grab a brat and a beer at local favorite Bären Haus, then browse the quaint local shops for holiday gifts and one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Come sundown, join the merriment of The Lighting Ceremony when the lights are flipped on and the whole town is aglow with the Christmas spirit!

3. Space Needle

No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to the Space Needle! Beyond being the defining feature of the city’s skyline, it boasts some of the best views of downtown, Puget Sound and the snow-dusted peaks of the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier. With their recent 100 million dollar makeover, including the world’s first and only rotating glass floor, a stop at the Needle is all the more essential on a trip to the Emerald City!

Enjoy the incredible view from the top on a visit to the Space Needle. Credit: Chad Copeland

4. Argosy Christmas Ship Festival

Make the most of Seattle’s waterfront location and hop aboard Argosy’s Spirit of Seattle for a dazzling holiday cruise! Glide through Elliott Bay as the Official Christmas Ship™ joins a caravan of boats cruising around seaside communities performing classic tunes during the Argosy Christmas Ship Festival. Plus, with a portion of all proceeds going to the Seattle Times Fund for the Needy, joining in the festive fun helps spread holiday cheer in more ways than one!

5. Museum of Pop Culture

Never met a bar trivia tournament you didn’t like? Then the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is the place for you! Before entering, take a moment to soak in the design of the building – a colorful creation of visionary architect Frank Gehry. Then, enjoy an afternoon of experiential exhibits covering everything from the Sci-Fi filmmaking to Jimi Hendrix to an ode to horror flicks.

MoPOP’s futuristic design is constructed of more than 21,000 aluminum and stainless steel shingles, and 280 steel ribs. Credit: Brady Harvey

6. Explore the Neighborhoods

From the city’s countless coffee shops, like La Marzocco in Queen Anne, to local distilleries like OOLA Distillery in Capitol Hill, to slurp-worthy ramen at Wallingford’s Ramen Man, Seattle’s chock-full of secret spots waiting to be discovered. Take care of some holiday shopping while you explore the city and use our neighborhood shopping guide to chart your course.

7. Gingerbread Village

Festive, frosted creations take center stage at the 27th annual Gingerbread Village hosted by Sheraton Grand Seattle. This year, the city’s top architecture firms, master builders and Sheraton Seattle culinary teams have come together to create a larger-than-life village inspired by Santa’s faithful assistants – elves! Whatever the culinary constructors come up with, they’ll surely light up your kiddos’ faces (and yours!) with awe.

8. Theo Chocolate Factory Tour

Did someone say chocolate? Just walk near the Fremont factory of Seattle’s favorite fair-trade chocolatier, Theo Chocolate, you’ll pick up the aroma of sweet cocoa beckoning you inside. Learn about the process of taking chocolate from bean to bar, and get a taste of their product hot off the line with a factory tour!

Experience the transformation from cocoa into what we know and love as chocolate on Theo’s factory tour. Credit: Ell Duke

9. Gates Foundation Discovery Center

Spend an afternoon at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center to learn how the world’s largest private philanthropy works in Seattle and abroad. After a visit, you might even be inspired to help change the world yourself!

10. Become a Pinball Wizard

Thanks to the Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show (going on its twelfth year in Seattle) and the world’s largest weekly pinball tournament at Fremont’s Add-a-Ball, the Emerald City is something of a pinball haven.

Transport yourself back to your childhood days of arcades, lights and pinball flippers at the Seattle Pinball Museum. Or gather up some quarters and head to Shorty’s, a dive bar in Belltown credited with igniting Seattle’s pinball fever.

Situated in the heart of Chinatown, the Seattle Pinball Museum is sure to make you feel like a kid again. Credit: Amber Case

11. Pacific Northwest Ballet

Starting November 29th, the curtain rises on one of the must-see events of the holiday season. Featuring choreography by George Balanchine, The Nutcracker is presented by the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Showcasing Tchaikovsky’s cherished score played live by the PNB Orchestra, with gorgeous scenery and costumes by celebrated author and illustrator Ian Falconer (Olivia the Pig), this is a Christmas tradition that should not be missed.

12. Catch a Show

Though Seattle’s grunge days might be over, the city is still breaking new ground in the music scene. Catch shows from both local and international artists at Belltown’s Crocodile, Capitol Hill’s Neumos or Tractor Tavern in Ballard.

13. Seattle Waterfront

Wondering what to do after exploring every corner of Pike Place Market? Descend the Pike Street Hill Climb and stroll along the Seattle Waterfront! Dotted with fun activities such as the Seattle Aquarium and Seattle Great Wheel, there are tons of things to discover along the banks of the Puget Sound.

Packed with exciting attractions (and our Seattle terminal!), the Elliott Bay waterfront offers a full day of family fun. Credit: Montane Productions

14. Wings Over Washington

Take a ride in Wings Over Washington’s state-of-the-art “flying theater” and allow it to transport you on an aerial adventure high above Washington! 5K Cameras and Mushroom VR make for an immersive and lifelike experience as you soar over the state’s most scenic landmarks.

15. Dig Some Crates

There’s nothing more satisfying than unearthing a rare gem in a dusty stack of albums, and fortunately, Seattle has no shortage of record shops. If you’re in Ballard, Sonic Boom Records is a must-visit, even offering an impressive lineup of in-store performances and events. Easy Street in West Seattle is another local favorite, also doubling as a diner café! Vinyl and hash browns, is there anything better?

Explore the eclectic interior of West Seattle’s Easy Street Records. Credit: Patrick O’Brien

16. Pacific Science Center

Spend an afternoon at the Pacific Science Center! With a tropical butterfly house, a planetarium and hundreds of hands-on science exhibits, there’s more than enough to keep the whole family entertained. At night, two IMAX theaters and one of the world’s largest Laser Dome theaters provide hours of entertainment.

17. Seattle Public Library

Strolling down 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle it’s hard to miss the geometric, futuristic design of the Seattle Public Library. The real treat is inside, where colorful hallways and escalators add to the sensory experience.

The Seattle Public Library’s 11-story glass and steel building is eye-catching, to say the least! Credit: Ming-yen Hsu

18. Plan a Romantic Dinner

It’s no secret that Seattle is a city with a wealth of incredible dining options, which makes it an ideal place to be when Valentine’s Day rolls around. For dinner with a view, try Six Seven, with its sweeping vistas of the Olympic Mountains or fine dining institution Canlis, set into the hillside above Lake Union. For an intimate atmosphere, grab a table at The Blue Glass in Ballard or Single Shot in the heart of Capitol Hill.

19. Savor Seattle Chocolate Indulgence Tour

‘Tis the season for indulgence! Learn about where chocolate comes from, how it’s made and pick up tips on what’s best to pair with this crave-worthy confection. Luxuriate in 15+ decadent chocolate tastings on the ultimate chocolate lover’s tour of Seattle. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

Sample delicious chocolates and other sweet treats at some of Seattle’s finest confectionaries. Credit: Savor Seattle

20. Seattle Museum Month

Celebrate the diversity of Seattle’s museums and cultural institutions throughout February during Seattle Museum Month. Guests of participating hotels around downtown Seattle have access to the region’s top museums for half-price.

With a museum ready to be explored in nearly every neighborhood, it’s the perfect way to duck the raindrops for an hour or two. Map out your route with our top picks for must-visit exhibits!

21. Central Cinema

Lights, camera, snack-ick tion! Central Cinema brings together some of Seattle’s best qualities – great beer, great food and top-notch rainy day entertainment. As one of the first theaters in the area to add dinner and drinks to your moviegoing experience, they have this model down. Order bites from the wait staff, then choose from draft beer, cocktails or wines to wash it all down!

22. Seattle Aquarium

Learn all about the fascinating wildlife of Puget Sound at the Seattle Aquarium. Stroll through immersive underwater exhibits like their 400,000 gallon Underwater Dome or reach into the touch tank to feel the spiky back of a sea urchin!

Learn all about the colorful world under the surface of the water at the Seattle Aquarium. Credit: Flickr user Christine A

23. Children’s Film Festival Seattle

Hosted by the Northwest Film Forum, the Children’s Film Festival Seattle celebrates the best and brightest of international cinema for children. Each year, films from dozens of countries are chosen and featured at this cinematic extravaganza, alongside live performances, animation tutorials and immersive educational workshops, all curated with care for the next generation of movie lovers.

24. Beneath the Streets Tour

Get a whole new perspective on the city with a trek through the subterranean corridors of Seattle’s historic underground! Learn about the city’s origins and how it was rebuilt after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, which buried what was once the hub of downtown 20 feet below the streets we know today. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

25. Renegade Craft Fair

We dread it each year. The throngs of people, long lines, endless traffic and not to mention the outrageous cost of last-minute holiday shopping! Well, fear not, present procrastinators! The Renegade Craft Fair is coming through town just in time to offer you an artisan alternative to crowded shopping malls and unoriginal gift-giving.

With two days’ worth of meaningful, handmade goods from all around the Northwest, the Craft Fair makes unoriginal gift-giving a plight of the past. Go ahead and finish off all your shopping in one go, your friends and family will thank you!

Spend an afternoon browsing through one-of-a-kind goods at the Renegade Craft Fair. Photo: Sam Majerowicz

Though wintertime in Seattle is known for being a bit dreary, that doesn’t have to mean a bleak calendar. From eclectic cultural experiences to local cuisine that will broaden your palate, the Emerald City is bursting with winter activities to keep your mind, belly and schedule fulfilled!

 

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