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Seattle in Winter: 17 TOP Things to Do!

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Don’t let the winter chills fool you into thinking Seattle goes into hibernation; quite the opposite! Winter in Seattle is an exciting season, filled with a ton of things to do and explore. 

Having spent countless rainy winters ourselves, we can tell you that there’s more to do in wintertime than just staying indoors snuggling up by a roaring fire.

Brace yourselves for skiing down snowy slopes at Stevens Pass or perhaps some ice skating at Winterfest Icerink. There’s so much to do in Seattle when winter comes around.

So put on your scarf and get ready for a blast. Here are the best things to do in Seattle in winter!

TOP Things to Do in Seattle in Winter

Winter in Seattle means cooler temperatures, usually between 30°F to 50°F. It’s more about rain than snow, so expect plenty of wet days. Snow does happen, but it’s not too common.

Days are shorter, so it gets dark early. It’s a good idea to layer up and have a waterproof jacket handy. This season is great for enjoying indoor activities or exploring the city’s beautiful, misty outdoors!

1. Go Ice Skating and Have a Laugh at Winterfest

Winter in Seattle wouldn’t be complete without strapping on some skates and gliding across the ice. Forget any worries about being a pro – all levels of skate enthusiasts are welcomed with open arms at Winterfest Icerink!

Winterfest has a family-friendly ice rink that opens from November 24 to December 31. It’s $6-8 or $2 for kids under 5.

Musicians playing Christmas music on the Flying Stage at the Seattle Chirstmas Markets.
Musicians playing Christmas tunes from the Flying Stage at Seattle’s Christmas market | Photo Credit: Seattle Center

One of the best ways to get there is by hopping on the Monorail right from downtown Seattle. It drops you off straight into Seattle Center, so no worries about finding a parking space.

Off-rinks, there are plenty more fun activities, too, from enjoying delicious food from nearby stalls to relaxing by seating areas watching others skate smoothly around circles… maybe falling occasionally but still having loads of fun!

There are also family-friendly comedy events and music performances; the best part is that these events are free.

2. Catch a Seattle Kraken Hockey Game

If you’re in Seattle during the winter, catching a game of ice hockey is an absolute must. Specifically, we are talking about watching those giant sea monsters on skates – aka our very own NHL team: The Seattle Kraken! 

They may be relatively new to the league, but don’t confuse their beginner status with bad play because these ‘Krakens’ certainly know how to put up a fight!

If you’re looking to blend in with the local crowd, make sure to familiarize yourself with their ‘Release The Kraken’ rally cry.

Seattle's hockey team the Kraken on the ice warming up before a game.
Catch a Seattle Kraken Hockey Game | Photo Credit by Jenn G via Wikimedia

Grab your popcorn and beer (or hot chocolate if that’s more your style), and cheer along as they play the game. It can get chilly at Climate Pledge Arena, so dress warm, or better yet, wear some stylish Kracken merch.

There’s nothing that gives more excitement than cheering alongside thousands of fans, witnessing face-offs and goals right before your eyes. You can find tickets to the game here.

TIP: Arrive early at the arena for ample parking spots! Nothing would spoil a fun evening faster than having trouble finding a place to park.

3. Visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum

A trip to Seattle in the winter would remain incomplete if you didn’t swing by the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. Trust us. 

This place has ‘eye candy’ written all over it – only instead of a candy shop, we are talking about an exhibit full of gigantic glass sculptures with vibrant colors!

Think towering flowers made entirely out of hand-blown multicolored glass! Cool right? Now imagine these pieces spread across the glass ceiling – got your attention?

Close up of colorful glass art at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum
Close up of a magnificent glass piece at the museum

That’s not even half as impressive as seeing Dale Chihuly’s work come alive at nightfall when they’re lit up, providing one heck of a view.

It’s recommended to park at Seattle Center’s 5th Avenue N. parking garage, which is a little over five minutes from the museum. It will cost $13 for two hours.

TIP: Visit next door at the Space Needle for coffee – not Starbucks (there are many other fantastic independent cafes around!) My personal favorite is Cafe Right, which serves really good Cappuccino for $5. 

4. Celebrate New Year’s Eve with the Space Needle Fireworks Show

If you want to make some incredible memories with your family or friends this winter, you should come and see one of the world’s largest fireworks displays (with a drone show included!)

So get ready for some oohs and ahhs because this New Year’s Eve at 11:59 PM sharp – prepare yourself for fireworks bursting sky-high above downtown Seattle!

Firework display next to the space needle in Seattle over Lake Union.
Fireworks over Lake Union

It may also get crowded, so plan your viewing spot wisely – we all have our favorite secret places! Some of us prefer Seacrest, or Kerry Park, for its lofty viewpoint, or even Gas Works Parks, which offers spectacular views for free.

For those true Seattlites who want an up-close view without battling crowds – booking a table at SkyCity Restaurant right on top of Space Needle itself is perhaps one worth considering. But book early—it’s understandably popular.

5. Hike Through Discovery Park Loop Trail

Distance: 2.8 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 140 feet

Break out those hiking boots of yours. It’s time for a winter adventure! The Discovery Park Loop Trail will lead you through stunning forests and wild meadows without straying too far from the comforts of city life. 

Plus, at just under three miles round trip with moderate elevation gain—this hike is an accessible year-round workout.

West Point Lighthouse with mountain views at Discovery Park, Seattle
West Point Lighthouse at Discovery Park

While hiking along the loop trail, keep an eye out for West Point Lighthouse and glimpses of snow-capped mountains in the distance – a real treat during Seattle winters!

Cold weather can’t compete with adventure. So bundle up and explore Discovery Park Loop Trail because, let’s face it, staying indoors all day is no fun!

You can typically just wear regular hiking shoes on this hiking trail. However, if the snow is over an inch deep, it’s best to wear snow boots or winter hiking shoes. Don’t forget the gloves and beanies! 

TIP: Weekends can get crowded! Try hitting up the trail early in the morning during weekdays when it’s somewhat emptier.

RELATED: 45 Outdoorsy Things to Do in Seattle, Washington!

6. Go on a Sightseeing Harbor Cruise

Experience Seattle from a unique perspective and explore the natural beauty of Puget Sound on an unforgettable 1-hour harbor cruise by Argory Cruises. For those looking to get amazing photos of the skyline, this is the cruise for you! See iconic landmarks such as the Space Needle from a stunning new perspective.

Enjoy listening to amazing stories about Seattle, its past, and interesting things about Seattle now while sipping delicious wine or taking photos of the beautiful views!

Boats on harbor at sunrise on a Seattle tour
For the best cityscape photo op, take a cruise!

The tickets are around $40, and if you’re a Washington state resident, you can save $4 on your visit – just bring your ID!

The cruise departs five times per day, starting at 10:45 and ending at 4:05 PM from Pier 55 on the Seattle Waterfront. Be sure to arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled cruise time for check-in! 

Winter is a great time to come on this cruise because the views of Seattle are especially beautiful when they’re covered in snow and frost. Plus, this boat has both indoor and outdoor seating sections, making it a comfortable experience during any weather.

7. Indulge in the Cafe Culture of Seattle

Cafe culture in Seattle, Washington, is deeply embedded in the city’s fabric, renowned as the birthplace of the modern American coffee scene. With a history rich in coffee traditions, the city boasts a plethora of coffee shops, from famous chains to unique independent cafes.

Eating a donut with coffee in one of many Seattle's Cafes
Can’t leave Seattle without trying some of the best coffee on the West Coast

Put on your coziest sweaters and make sure to make a well-deserved stop at one of the iconic cafes listed below:

  • Seattle Coffee Works: Our personal favorite and easy to get to from Pike Place Market.
  • Seattle Meowtropolitan: Affectionately known as SeaMeow, is a beloved cat-themed coffee shop. It was the city’s first cat cafe when it opened in 2016.
  • Armistice Coffee Pike Place: This is a small, cozy spot with modern decoration and the absolute best maple cinnamon oat milk latte.
  • Ghost Note Coffee: A quirky and creative spot in Capitol Hill area. This cafe is known for incorporating mixology into its coffee-making process. One of their notable drinks is a cold espresso infused with smoked grapefruit rosemary syrup, served neat in a coupe glass. Yum!
  • Moore Coffee Shop: The ambiance here is quirky-vintage, and they serve Mexican mocha, which is an absolute must-try for my chocolate lovers out there.
  • Elm Coffee Roasters: This cafe has the best hazelnut milk lattes in Seattle, especially with their made-in-house hazelnut milk (+$2.00 extra charge, which is a lot for an alternate milk choice, but it’s worth it).
  • Café Allegro: As Seattle’s oldest espresso bar, Café Allegro in the University District offers a cozy, laid-back environment perfect for enjoying their finely crafted espressos.

8. Watch Out for Bald Eagles

Nature lovers, get your binoculars ready! As the light changes and temperatures drop, bald eagles start migrating. They become a lot more apparent during late January and February around Seattle.

Bald Eagle on a branch
Nothing like seeing our national bird in the wild! They’re alot bigger than you’d think!

Be on the lookout for local riverbanks and parks like Kerry Park and Discovery Park. And if you’re open to traveling, take a trip up to Skagit Valley around November if you want to see lots of birds, including bald eagles. 

Although it may be tempting to approach eagles up close for a photo op, you must respect their natural habitat and maintain a safe distance.

9. Visit the Olympic Sculpture Park

Winter or not, the Olympic Sculpture Park is a must-see spot in Seattle. Take a relaxed stroll around this 9-acre outdoor museum offering breathtaking views overlooking Puget Sound with beautiful art installations everywhere. – talk about creating Instagram moments at each step!

The best part is that it’s entirely free to enter, aside from a small $6 parking fee at the PACCAR Pavilion garage.

Space Needle and sculpture at Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle
One of the modern artworks at Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle

Whether you’re an art expert who can appreciate beautiful art sculptures (please don’t touch) or just someone looking forward to some perfect selfies – there’s something here for everyone.

The Olympic Sculpture Park hosts artworks from international artists, and one of the most noteworthy pieces is Alexander Calder’s 39-foot creation titled ‘The Eagle,’ which is colored in a distinct red-orange.

10. See the Lightwork at the Bellevue Botanic Garden

The Bellevue Botanic Garden puts on quite a show during the holiday season with beautiful installations of lightwork. It’s super colorful and, combined with the natural beauty of the Botanic Garden, makes it a great place to take your family and friends to enjoy the holidays. 

Christmas light display at Garden d'Lights in Bellevue Botanic Gardens
Turn on the lights!

Their Garden d’Lights starts on November 25 and ends on December 31. Everything lights up from 4:30 PM to 9:00 PM. 

The paths are wheelchair accessible, so everybody gets their moment here. So, remember to stop and smell the flowers and marvel at the spectacular lightwork.

Fall colors at Bellevue Botanical Garden in Seattle
Bellevue Botanical Garden during the day

You’ll definitely want to bring your camera along, as there will be plenty of photo opportunities for both solo shots and group photos with friends or family.

RELATED: 13 Outdoorsy Things To Do in Bellevue

11. Enjoy Delicious Clam Chowder at Ivar’s Fish Bar

Ivar’s Fish Bar has the most amazing clam chowder ever! It’s cream-based, not potato-based, like a lot of other Seattle restaurants. All their clam chowder packs a lot of flavor, which is why we love this place.

Ivar’s Fish Bar in Seattle, Washington, has been serving clam chowder to locals and tourists since 1938. It was started by local folk hero Ivar Haglund – known for his various stunts like creating underwater billboards or hosting fireworks competitions.

Store front image of Ivars Fish Bar
Can’t get any fresher than this!

The restaurant prides itself on following its original recipe, passed down from generations while using only fresh regional ingredients. This attention to preserving tradition makes this spot quite special!

You won’t find any ordinary clam chowder here. We are talking about thick-cut potatoes and savory clams inside a rich cream base – all served piping hot! Perfect comfort food that provides an antidote against chilly winds outside!

12. Visit the Skyview Observatory

The Skyview Observatory offers the highest public viewing spot in Seattle. This viewpoint is on the 73rd floor of Columbia Center and has 360-degree panoramic views of Seattle, and if the sky is mostly clear, you’ll be able to see Mt. Rainier as well!

The best time to visit is at dusk when you can see the sun dipping and the city lights come alive. 

On the couch looking out of floor to ceiling windows on the top floor of the Sky View Observatory
See Seattle from a bird’s eye view at this 360-degree viewing observatory! | Photo Credit: Sky View Observatory

There’s also a cafe where you can grab a bite or enjoy a drink while still soaking up the views.

Tickets are around $30, although if you want window seats, you can choose the elite experience at a more premium price. 

As for parking, there are many lots and garages near Columbia Center, like the SeaPark Garage, which is a one-minute walk to Columbia Center.

13. Find a Warm Beverage at a Cozy Cocktail Lounge

Seattle, renowned for its chilly, rainy winters, offers a cozy respite in its cocktail bars that serve warm drinks perfect for the season. These bars not only provide a snug ambiance but also feature an array of creative hot cocktails that can warm you up from the inside.

Warm spiced cocktail drink in one of Seattles cozy cocktail bars
Enjoy a nice drink at a warm and cozy cocktail den

From classic hot toddies to innovative creations, these establishments are ideal for those seeking to enjoy a warm, comforting drink in a welcoming environment.

  • Korochka Tavern – A moody Wallingford bar where you can enjoy steamy pelmeni and a frosted glass of beet-infused vodka.
  • The Cozy Nut Tavern – True to its name, this spot in Greenwood offers a quirky yet cozy atmosphere with mix-and-match cvharcuterie plates and a selection of warm nuts.
  • Phocific Standard Time: Known for its funny name and slightly unusual cocktails, it provides an intimate Bohemian vibe incorporating Vietnamese ingredients and flavors.
  • Needle & Thread – A dimly-lit speakeasy in Capitol Hill where bartenders create custom cocktails based on your preferences.
  • Radiator Whiskey: Near Pike Place, this bar is frequented for its unique whiskey selections and craft cocktails.
  • The Sitting Room – A dark festive bar in Queen Anne offering a variety of spritzes and snacks like olives and truffled almonds.
  • Roquette: An intimate craft cocktail bar in Belltown, known for its French-inspired decor and a range of unique drinks, including the popular Chambery Negroni.

Day Trips From Seattle in Winter That Are Most Worth It

14. Ski at Stevens Pass

Winter is the prime time to hit Stevens Pass for some skiing. Known as one of the top ski resorts in the northwest, it offers a wide range of trails suitable for both beginners and expert skiers alike.

Getting there is quite straightforward – just drive east on Highway 2 through Monroe until you see signs for Stevens Pass Mountain Resort. It takes around two hours to get there (give or take, depending on traffic).

Snow falling on Stevens Pass Ski Resort, Washington in winter
Stevens Pass Ski Resort

We recommend renting skis online because there are lots of people at Stevens Pass Ski Resort in the winter. 

It’ll cost you around $70 for all your gear, including skis, poles, boots, and a helmet. Once you’ve booked your vehicle online, just head over to the rental center and grab it – bring along an outfit, too, though, since that’s not included.

Also, if you’re a fairly experienced skier, try skiing at night. Stevens Pass’s lighted night paths make this an incredible experience, especially under clear skies when you can see stars. 

15. Stay Overnight in a Mountain Cabin

Looking for a cozy escape during your winter stay in Seattle? What better choice than to retreat into the solitude of a cabin? OK, fine, this isn’t a day trip from Seattle since you’re staying the night but we still think it’s well worth mentioning!

With breathtaking views of snow-covered pines right at your doorstep, staying in a cabin in the mountains is the ultimate escape. Spend the day exploring nature trails or perfecting your skiing skills on nearby slopes.

Cabin in winter outside Seattle
Winter Cabin photo from Expedia

Remember: if you are deciding to go to areas like Mt. Snoqualmie, Rainier or Baker, having chains or an all-wheel drive is advisable due to heavy snow.

These cabins often come with plenty of amenities, including hot tubs perfect for relaxing after a day in the cold. But beware! Snowy days can sometimes mean unforeseen power cuts – so bring some candles and your favorite board games to keep you entertained. Here is a quick list of our favorites.

  • Rustic Industrial Treetop Cabin: (Near Mt. Baker) – This modern log cabin is nestled in a lush forest, providing a serene escape with a principal bedroom featuring a unique window design and an outdoor hot tub. Imagine staring at the snow falling from your bedroom window.
  • North Fork Cabin Near Mount Baker: Just 30 minutes from the Mt. Baker Ski Area, this is a perfect spot to base your snow sliding activities. Sleeps 6 and your furry friend is allowed to stay as well. What more could you want?
  • The A-Frame Cabin:(Near Mt. Rainier) – Located on the Nisqually River in Ashford, this cabin offers a cozy atmosphere with a fireplace and large windows for enjoying the snowy landscape. It’s also close to hiking trails in Mt. Rainier National Park.
  • Tye Haus, Sky Haus, and Foss Haus: (Near Mt. Baker) – These A-Frame cabins in Skykomish are known for their cozy interiors and fireplaces. Tye Haus and Sky Haus feature hot tubs, and all are close to skiing opportunities.
  • Mount Rainier Cabin With a Hot Tub: Experience the allure of a unique Mt. Rainier cabin just 5 minutes from the main entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. With its 11-foot ceilings, a toasty wood-burning stove, a fully equipped kitchen, and your own hot tub, you can’t go wrong with this pick.

RELATED: 19 Best Cabins in Washington for an Epic Stay!

16. Go Snowshoeing at Snoqualmie Pass

Are you a fan of snowy outdoor activities but not so much into the adrenaline rush that comes with skiing or snowboarding? Then why not try your hand (or should we say ‘feet’) at snowshoeing? Think of snowshoeing as hiking, but with big shoes – it takes a little time to get used to, but it’s one of the easier skills to pick up. 

You can rent snowshoes here for $45 per person – and by renting, you automatically get access to all the trails. The Gold Creek Pond trail and Old Commonwealth trail are favorites.

Two people snowshoeing over a field of snow outside Seattle
A blanket of new snow, fresh open air, with mountains as a backdrop; nothing sounds better to us!

The Gold Creek Pond trail is a laid-back 1.2-mile trail with an amazing photo opportunity when you arrive at Heli’s Pond. On the one hand, the Old Commonwealth trail is a 7-mile trail with a 2,412-foot elevation for those who like a challenge. The viewpoint at the top of Old Commonwealth provides a stunning 360 of the surrounding hills.

If you plan on going during the weekend, bear in mind that Snoqualmie can get crowded, especially post-noon time, so drive there early in the morning and avoid I-90 rush hour traffic.

One warning beforehand is to check the WTA trip report for any avalanche warnings.

17. Check out Whidbey Island and Deception Pass

Visiting Whidbey Island in winter offers a unique charm. The colder months bring a quieter, more serene atmosphere, perfect for exploring the island’s natural beauty, like the snowy landscapes at Deception Pass.

Lighthouse at Fort Casey State Park
Head to Fort Casey and check out the lighthouse!

Winter also provides opportunities for cozy beach walks and witnessing the dramatic Pacific Northwest weather. Historical sites like Fort Casey offer a more intimate experience during this off-peak season.

We LOVE winter in Seattle, and we hope this guide helped you plan your visit!

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