winter in seattle

Seattle in the Winter: 17 Unique And Fun Things To Do

Many people talk about Seattle being a dreary and rainy place, but I, for one, can vouch that that’s not always the case. Seattle has its fair share of nice days, and I mean REALLY nice days.

Sure, there are some cold and rainy days during the winter but knowing what to do during these days separates the Seattle lovers from the Seattle haters.

Taking a trip to Seattle in the Winter is not something to avoid; you just need to know how to make the most of the day.

There’s a lot of benefits to visiting cities that frequently get rain showers. First of all, it’s not the first time these places have experienced rain.

Therefore, they have mastered the art of great indoor activities, from museums and coffee shops to breweries and enjoyable tourist attractions. Visiting Seattle in the winter is actually a great time to visit.

Here are some of our favorite things to do in Seattle in the winter. But before we get there let’s cover a couple of the basics about visiting or exploring Seattle during the winter months.

Seattle Weather in the Winter

SEATTLE WEATHER

How Much Rain Does Seattle Get?

Seattle gets its reputation as the rainiest city due to the number of days with precipitation. However, Seattle has more drizzly days than actually pouring rain days, making it pretty easy to continue with your normal activities. 

When the winter sun does shine, it provides some spectacular days when many locals still go outside. This means you don’t have to be concerned about what to do in Seattle in the winter because you can still go outdoors.

How Cold Does it Get in Seattle in the Winter?

Sometimes it’s the dampness that makes the weather in Seattle feel cold. The truth is that the temps don’t get too low compared to other places in the states. The typical winter temperature in Seattle is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, with a few unexpected sunny days in the ’50s.

How Much Snow Does Seattle Get in the Winter?

Seattle isn’t known for getting a lot of snow, but it’s definitely something to be aware of if you are heading to Seattle in the winter. Typically only a few inches drop in Seattle. Still, when the snow does come down, the city is a bit debilitated because it’s hard to get around all of the hills.

However, you can go to one of the numerous mountains in the state to quench your thirst for flurries.

What to Pack for Winter in Seattle

You may be asking yourself, “do I need to bring an umbrella to Seattle?” If you want to look like a tourist, go for it, but if you want to look like you’re from the Emerald City, a good rain jacket will do.  

In all the years I lived in Seattle, I never owned an umbrella. August, born and raised in Seattle and commuted by bike to the UW for school and work, settled on a good rain jacket.

  • Rain jacket – Skip the umbrella and go with a jacket instead
  • Rain boots – Touring any city isn’t fun with wet feet! Keep those toes warm and toasty with these fabulous boots
  • Scarf – Not only do scarves help you stay warm while walking around Seattle in the winter, but they’re also trendy.
  • Down Coat- Cut the crisp cold air with a cozy coat
  • Gloves-This may or may not be something you need. But for me, why hands are ALWAYS cold.

Looking For Other Fun Things to do in Washington

Wander through Pike Place Market

Just because it’s raining or a bit chilly outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the vendors of Pike Place Market. In fact, this may be one of the best times to visit because it’ll be less touristy. This iconic market is open year-round and is a great place to try different foods, purchase some flowers or even gawk at the fishmongers.

When you arrive at the market, be sure to check out the iconic neon Pike Place Market sign above the entrance.

Our Favorite things to do at Pike Place Market:

  • Daily Dozen Doughnuts
  • Fish Mongers
  • Gum Wall
  • Buy Fresh Flowers
  • Rachels Ginger Beer
  • Beechers Cheese
  • Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt
  • Mee Sum Pastry

Chihuly Glass Garden

Chihuly Gardens and Glass is a great way to spend a winter day in Seattle. This stunning glass garden features the works of Seattle’s very own Seattle artist/glassblower Dale Chihuly.

The glass sculptures in the museum are both beautiful and intricate. Many of the works in the museum require an entire room to themselves.

The museum houses eight galleries of art and three “Drawing Walls,” which are glass pieces mounted on the walls. Each gallery and wall will push your perception of glass art to new heights.

Coffee Shops

If you know anything about Seattle, I hope you know that coffee shops are Seattle’s claim to fame. Seattle has hundreds of coffee shops all over the city. So if you’re a coffee fanatic, you’ll love your time in Seattle because there’s no shortage of deliciousness here. 

On a chilly, rainy day in Seattle during the winter, sit down in one of the city’s many coffee shops to read, work, or meet up with a buddy.

Here are a few must-visit Coffee Shops in Seattle:

Metier Coffee– This is a unique location to grab a coffee or meet a friend for coffee! It’s a super cute bike shop/coffee shop with excellent service and a lovely ambiance. Honestly, any shop that sells bike gear and coffee is a win for me.

Seattle Coffee Works is a coffee shop that has locations throughout Seattle. Our favorite Coffee Works location is Ballard Coffee Works, in the downtown Ballard area.

Storyville Coffee Pike Place Market- This place is bomb-diggity; the coffee, the vibe, and the views are all spot on. But… if you’re on a budget, this may not be the place to grab an affordable coffee. The coffees at Storyville are on the pricier side.

Victrola has a couple of locations throughout Seattle. Our favorite spot is their Capital Hill location. You’ll find a friendly and cozy vibe, a large funky open space, and of course, great coffee.

Museums

Seattle is a very artsy community, so it’s not a surprise that Seattle has some fantastic museums situated throughout the city. For many around Seattle, a winter day at the museum is a perfect way to pass the day.

 Here are some of the most popular museums to check out during a winter day in Seattle.

Seattle Art Museum

seattle art museum

The Seattle Art Museum is a wonderful place to visit. It has a substantial modern-art collection, with both permanent and changing exhibits. They also have special late nights once a month where they transform the lobby into a swanky lounge with music and beverages.

Museum of Modern Pop

Music helped define Seattle’s identity, and the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is a tribute to that history. In addition to exhibits on grunge legends and a towering collection of Jimi Hendrix guitars, MoPOP features rotating exhibitions. Many people enjoy heading upstairs into the recording studio, where you can play instruments and practice your musician skills.

Take a Ferry Ride

Hopping on a ferry and heading to one of the local islands is a fantastic way to spend a rainy day in Seattle. Many Bainbridge Island residents commute via ferry to work downtown Seattle, so it’s worth checking out how the locals live (city life vs. island life).

The Washington State Ferry system is a prominent feature of the city of Seattle. The ferry link important islands and peninsulas within and around the city, surrounded by water.

Keep your eyes peeled for sea creatures while on the ferry. In the winter, resident orca whales journey down into central Puget Sound, a true bucket list thing to see. Other common things to see are harbor seals, sea lions, personal sailboats, yachts, and lots of massive vessels importing and exporting goods. 

Take a City Tour

Seattle offers some really great tours for people of all ages. If you don’t want to tour alone, there are lots of Seattle tours to take advantage of in the winter.

Seattle Hop on Hop off Tour– From the scenic Puget Sound waterfront to the Space Needle and pretty much everything in between, get a full perspective of Seattle with this tour! With stops strategically placed along the route, hop on and off the City Sightseeing Bus Tour to fully explore one of America’s most lively cities.

Brewery Tour– One of our favorite tours is one that includes craft beer. Of course, you can do a brewery tour on your own but signing up for a guided tour is always fun because you learn things you wouldn’t learn going on your own.

Underground Tour- Take a look at the city from a new perspective and explore Seattle’s past. Discover what lies beneath Pioneer Square through three subterranean passageways that were originally constructed in the 1890s.

Free Seattle Walking Tour– Yes there are Free and Cheap things to do around Seattle and a Seattle walking tour is one of them. You can choose between a Seattle 101 tour or a Pike Place Market Tour. The great thing about these is you only pay what you’re able to pay for these tours.

Enjoy Some Clam Chowder or Other Comfort Food

I love New England-style clam chowder; if you do too, be sure to grab some while you are in Seattle. If you’re looking for some other food that will warm you up after spending a day rainy day in Settle during the winter, here are a couple of suggestions.

  • Pho than
  • Pike Place Chowder
  • Duke’s Seafood

Cheers your Way Through Some Breweries

If you’re visiting Seattle in the winter, sometimes the best way to spend your day is to hit up a brewery or two. Seattle is known for its famously crafted PNW beers, and if you enjoy these kinds of beers, you’ll love your time drinking in Seattle.

A couple of our Favorite Seattle Breweries that are worth a visit are:

  • Optimism
  • Cloudburst
  • Holy Mountain
  • Stoup Brewing
  • Rooftop Brewing

Sip Your Way Through Some Wine Tasting Rooms

If you’re into wine, you can explore some of the fantastic tasting rooms that Seattle has to offer. When we lived in Seattle the only wineries that we knew about were the Woodinville wineries but fast forward many years and Seattle has some fantastic wine tastings right in the city. The great thing about these urban wineries and tasting rooms is that they are dispersed in different areas throughout Seattle so you’re bound to have one close to you.

Here Are a Couple of Seattle Urban Wineries Worth Checking Out

  • Cloudlift Cellars
  • Kerloo Cellars
  • Locus Wines

Woodland Park Zoo

One animal you’ll see a lot less of at the zoo in the winter is people! Because there are fewer tourists in the winter, you won’t have to wait in lines at the feeding stations or the carousel. You also won’t be stuck in line waiting for your turn at a viewing window.

When people think of zoos, they typically think of outdoor settings, but at the Woodland Park Zoo, there are more than a dozen indoor areas and sheltered observation places in the zoo.

The most popular thing to do during the winter and holiday months at Woodland Park zoo is the WildLaterns Display. This is an immersive experience featuring large-scale animal and nature scape lanterns representing wild places from around the globe! You’ll see the zoo in a whole new “light” during this experience. The pathways are all lit up with colorful lights, and there are plenty of places that are Instagram-worthy to pose for a family photo.

Visiting the zoo is a great thing to do in Seattle, especially if you’re looking for cheap things to do in Seattle.

WildLanterns runs from approximately Middle of November till the End of January. It’s an excellent choice for visitors to Seattle in January since most holiday activities have come and gone.

Seattle Aquarium

When things are wet and cold outside, head for cover at the Seattle Aquarium to see all the fish, sea creatures, and intriguing marine life. Visiting the aquarium is a great thing to do during the winter in Seattle because you’ll stay warm and toasty inside the aquarium.

Catch Dinner and a Show

Seattle has a great assortment of places where you can watch performances over a fantastic dinner if you’re looking for jazz, head over to Jazz Alley for dinner and jazz.

If you’re looking for a fun and sometimes provocative show, head over to the Can Can Culinary Cabaret within the Pike Place Market downtown. You’ll enjoy a show, art, music, choreography, and dinner all in one.

Elliott Bay Book Store

Elliott Bay Book Store is more than an inviting book store offering an awesome ambiance and a fantastic cafe. The independently owned book store hosts approximately 250 readings a year, and the best part is the majority of these readings are free. Check out their schedule to learn more

Take Advantage of the Snow in the Mountains and go Skiing

There are a handful of great ski mountains situated all around Seattle. Some of these are a couple of hours away, making for a full day of recreation, but Snoqualmie pass is just an hour away out I90 and is a great place to ski if you’re looking for some fun in the snow!

Other options include Stevens Pass, which is about two hours northeast of Seattle, and Crystal Mountain, which is 2.5 hours southeast of Seattle.

Snowshoeing or Cross Country Skiing

Access to the snow is a short day trip from Seattle (actually, you can hit Snoqualmie pass in about an hour). Nordic skiing at The Summit of Snoqualmie is a unique outdoor escape for cross-country skiers. It provides access to over 40 miles of groomed trails.

Take a winter trek through the snowy Central Cascade Mountains and soak up the forests’ gorgeous beauty, wildlife, and peace. If you don’t have any snowshoes, not to worry because the summit rents snowshoes to make your adventure easy. A trail ticket is included with your rental to use the Summits trails. If you’re looking to rent equipment, you can do so at Summit East Nordic Center.

Head Over to Leavenworth

In my opinion, visiting Leavenworth in the winter and specifically around Christmas is one of the best times to see this charming Bavarian village. Leavenworth is a little over 2 hours from Seattle, but it makes for a fantastic day trip or a long weekend. If you’ve never seen the hundreds of Christmas lights and the holiday cheer of Leavenworth, add this to your bucket list of things to do in Seattle.

Take Advantage of the Space Needle in the Winter

Your odds of being in a long line or waiting in a crowd to go to the top of the space needle are significantly less likely to happen if you do it during the winter. Sure, you may not get the bright blue skies and hot weather, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the Seattle skyline.

Seattle Winter Events

  • Lights at Seattle zoo
  • Seattle Restaurant Week
  • Drive-through lights: Wild Waves
  • Winter at Seattle Center
  • Pike Place holiday
  • Seattle Marathon
  • Christmas tree lighting

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