Winter in Seattle isn’t just about grey and gloom; it’s a time when the city comes alive with its own brand of magic! Sure, it isn’t called the Emerald City for nothing, with buckets of regular rain creating some of the lushest forests on the continent. But visiting Seattle in winter offers travelers plenty of cozy charm, too.
Seattleites know how to embrace winter’s cozy side. You’ll find charming coffee shops on every corner, perfect for sipping a latte while watching the rain dance on the windows. Plus, locals love to cozy up in bookstores and galleries, making it the ideal time of year for you to do the same.
Winter’s a great time to explore Seattle’s world-class museums, like the Museum of Pop Culture and the Seattle Art Museum. Dive into the city’s vibrant arts scene and get inspired by some seriously cool exhibits at art galleries around the city.
Rain or shine, Pike Place Market is a must-visit. Fresh seafood, artisanal goodies, and quirky shops await you. You can watch the famous fish-throwing show and catch a street musician’s captivating performance if you’re lucky.
Don’t let the rain stop you from soaking up the scenic views. Even in winter, Seattle’s skyline and natural beauty are breathtaking. Head to the Space Needle for panoramic city views, or take a ferry ride on Puget Sound for a different perspective. The grey skies add a certain mystique to the Emerald City’s charm.
Ready to get going? Bundle up, grab your umbrella, and hit the city with this complete Seattle winter activities guide!
Weather in Seattle in winter
Winter in Seattle lasts from December through March. Average temperatures range from lows of 16°F (-8°C) in January to highs of 56°F (13°C) in March. Seattle’s winter isn’t your typical frigid, snow-covered affair. Instead, it’s a tale of gray skies and drizzly days.
Rain reigns supreme during this season, with Seattle living up to its reputation as the Emerald City. Expect drizzles, showers, and the occasional downpour. November to February are the wettest months, so don’t forget your trusty umbrella.
While snow can be a rare treat within the city limits, the surrounding mountains, like the Cascades and Olympics, receive plenty of the white stuff. If you’re a winter sports enthusiast, these are your playgrounds, just a short drive away from Seattle.
Seattle’s sky often wears a thick, cloudy blanket during winter. Don’t be surprised if you go days without glimpsing the sun. Although it’s hardly an ideal time of year to travel to Seattle, on the bright side, the gray skies lend a certain cozy charm to the city’s atmosphere.
Must-do winter activities in Seattle
Dazzle at the WildLanterns at Woodland Park Zoo
Step into an enchanting winter fairy tale at the WildLanterns at Woodland Park Zoo. Dazzling, larger-than-life display of wildlife-themed lanterns whisk you into a world of illuminated wonder at this iconic zoo.
WildLanterns is a magical journey through the animal kingdom with lanterns as your guides. It’s a brilliant display of colorful, glowing sculptures representing various animal kingdom creatures. Towering giraffes, majestic lions, and graceful seahorses, each lantern is a work of art crafted with intricate details that capture the essence of the animal world.
Enjoy live performances that add a touch of magic to your evening. The entertainment is as dazzling as the lanterns, from carolers to dance troupes. Step into the Snowmazing maze, a delightful twist on a winter classic. It’s a perfect spot for kids and the young at heart to play and explore. Warm up with a cup of hot cocoa or cider from the on-site concessions.
WildLanterns typically kicks off in late November and runs through early January. It’s the perfect way to add some extra sparkle to your holiday season.
Explore the nooks and crannies of Pike Place Market
Embrace the vibrant spirit of the city while you fill your tummy with delicious treats at the Pike Place Market. Exuding a warm winter charm, the iconic market is a sensory delight that showcases the best of Seattle’s culinary scene and artisanal talent.
Perched right on the edge of Puget Sound, Pike Place Market offers breathtaking views of the bay and beyond. The market’s open-air stalls continue to brim with fresh produce, seafood, flowers, and artisanal goods even during winter. You’ll find seasonal treats like roasted chestnuts and hot apple cider to warm your soul.
Pike Place Market’s restaurants and food vendors are culinary playgrounds. Savor everything from clam chowder and gourmet sandwiches to delectable pastries and the world-famous Pike Place Fish Market. Keep an eye out for the famous fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market. If you’re lucky, you might witness their entertaining fish-tossing antics.
Explore the crafts and artistry of local artisans who call the market home. It’s the perfect place to pick up unique, handcrafted gifts for your loved ones.
Street musicians and performers add to the lively atmosphere. Don’t forget to say hello to the market’s iconic golden piggy bank, Rachel. Rubbing her snout is said to bring good luck – it’s a must-do tradition for visitors!
Get a wintry view of the city from above at the Space Needle
If you’re visiting Seattle during the winter, you simply can’t miss the iconic Space Needle. This futuristic tower stands tall in the heart of Downtown Seattle. It offers spectacular views, fabulous attractions, and a unique winter wonderland experience.
Take the elevator up to the Space Needle’s observation deck, where you’ll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the city, Puget Sound, and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains and Cascade Mountains. In winter, you’ll have the chance to see the city adorned with holiday lights, and on clear days, the snow-capped mountains in the distance make for a picturesque sight. Don’t forget your camera to capture these memorable moments!
The recent renovations to the Space Needle include glass floors on the observation deck, providing a unique and slightly thrilling experience. You can walk on transparent flooring and look down to the city below.
Enjoy a meal at the rotating SkyCity Restaurant. As you dine, you’ll get to see Seattle from every angle. It’s a dining experience you won’t forget.
Visiting the Space Needle during the holiday season is a real treat. The iconic tower gets decked out in festive lights and decorations, making it a perfect backdrop for holiday photos. Keep an eye out for special events or activities that may be happening during this time.
Sip a flight of craft beer at cool craft breweries in Ballard
If you’re looking for a hoppy adventure in the heart of Seattle, head to Ballard for a few brews. This vibrant neighborhood is renowned for its craft breweries, each offering a unique taste of the Pacific Northwest’s brewing culture. With a diverse selection of beers, warm and inviting taprooms, and the chance to meet fellow beer enthusiasts, it’s a fantastic way to spend a chilly day!
Ballard is nestled in the northwestern part of Seattle, and some of Seattle’s finest craft breweries are scattered throughout this lively district. Stoup Brewing on NW 52nd Street is a welcoming haven for beer enthusiasts.
‘Stoup’s taproom exudes a Pacific Northwest spirit with its spacious interior, communal tables, and often-present food trucks. Enjoy a wide range of beers, from crisp IPAs to rich stouts, all while basking in the cozy ambiance by the fireplace.
Head to 14th Avenue NW to find Reuben’s Brews, a family-owned brewery with a diverse selection of brews. Reuben’s Brews is known for its award-winning beers. The inviting taproom features a rotating selection of beers, including seasonal and experimental varieties. Don’t miss out on their barrel-aged releases for something exceptional.
Urban Family Brewing Co. awaits at 52nd Street, specializing in creative and innovative beers. Urban Family Brewing Co. is all about pushing the boundaries of flavor. The brewery’s specialty lies in wild ales, sours, and barrel-aged beers. The intimate taproom provides a unique setting to explore their creative concoctions.
If you’re curious about the brewing process, inquire about brewery tours. Some breweries offer behind-the-scenes insights into their craft. Be sure to ask about seasonal and winter-themed beers at each brewery and savor rich stouts, spicy winter ales, and other specialty brews.
Warm up with a cup of coffee in Capitol Hill
The coffee scene in Capitol Hill is a testament to Seattle’s love affair with caffeine. Whether you’re searching for innovative coffee experiences or seeking a cozy corner to unwind, you’ll find one of Seattle’s favorite cafes & coffee shops on every corner.
Starbucks is a Seattle staple, but the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Pike Street in the Pike/Pine Corridor area takes your coffee experience to a whole new level. It’s not just a coffee shop; it’s a coffee wonderland. Witness the art of coffee roasting as beans are freshly roasted on-site. The machinery and the aroma are a sensory delight.
Explore multiple tasting rooms to sample rare, small-batch coffees brewed by expert baristas. Pair your coffee with delectable pastries, pizzas, and fresh bread from Princi, an Italian bakery nestled within.
If you want a great cup of coffee and a chill setting, head to Analog Coffee, a cozy neighborhood spot on Summit Avenue with a laid-back atmosphere. Analog takes its coffee seriously, offering a rotating selection of single-origin beans that are expertly brewed. Pair your brew with a delicious pastry or baked goods from local bakeries.
Also located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting is a Seattle institution known for its commitment to quality and sustainability. Their espresso is legendary! Try their classic espresso drinks, or go for something more adventurous.
Caffé Vita is deeply connected to the local arts and music scene, making it a hub for creative minds. Keep an eye on the events calendar; you might catch a live performance during your visit.
Go museum-hopping at the Seattle Center
Seattle Center is home to a treasure trove of museums that provide a rich blend of art, culture, and science that can brighten up even the gloomiest of winter days. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair the Century 21 Exposition, the urban park is a creative hub for locals and tourists.
Start exploring the Seattle Center by marveling at the breathtaking glass art of Dale Chihuly at the Chihuly Garden and Glass. Witness live glassblowing demonstrations and gain insight into this mesmerizing art form.
Dive into the world of pop culture at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). Whether you’re a music fanatic, a sci-fi buff, or a movie lover, there’s something for everyone at one of Seattle’s favorite museums.
Enjoy a journey of scientific discovery and exploration at the Pacific Science Center. Experience the cosmos like never before with planetarium shows that transport you to distant galaxies and celestial wonders.
The Seattle Children’s Museum is a winter haven of playful learning if you’re visiting with little ones. Children can explore various themed play areas, from a pretend market to a construction zone, fostering creativity and imagination.
Catch a Seattle Kraken hockey game at Climate Pledge Arena
If you’re a hockey hound, catching a Seattle Kraken game at the Climate Pledge Arena is a must-do! The Climate Pledge Arena is home to Seattle’s NHL team, the Kraken, and winter is prime time for catching thrilling sports action.
The atmosphere at a Seattle Kraken game is electric. From the moment you step inside the arena, you’ll feel the buzz of excitement. The fans are passionate, and the energy is contagious. Witness fast-paced, heart-pounding action on the ice as they battle it out with rival teams.
Kraken games are perfect for the whole family. The arena welcomes fans of all ages, and there are often special promotions and activities for kids. You’ll find plenty of food and beverage options, from classic stadium snacks to gourmet bites.
After the game, explore the surrounding neighborhood of Lower Queen Anne. There are plenty of restaurants and bars where you can celebrate a Kraken victory (or drown your sorrows after a tough loss).
Get active at The Summit at Snoqualmie
When winter rolls around in Seattle, the Summit at Snoqualmie is the place to be. Located just 50 miles east of the city in the scenic Snoqualmie Pass, this winter wonderland is your ticket to snowy adventures and mountain fun.
The Summit at Snoqualmie is nestled in the picturesque Snoqualmie Pass, a quick drive from Seattle. The pass is easily accessible from Interstate 90, making it a convenient winter escape.
The Summit offers fantastic slopes for skiing and snowboarding near Seattle. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or hitting the powder for the first time, there are trails and terrain parks to suit your style.
If you prefer the tranquility of cross-country skiing, groomed trails meander through the stunning alpine scenery. Grab a tube and enjoy exhilarating rides down dedicated snow tubing lanes. It’s an absolute blast for all ages!
If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, consider renting equipment at The Summit. It’s convenient and cost-effective. If you’re a beginner or want to improve your skills, The Summit offers lessons for all ages. It’s a great way to gain confidence on the slopes.
Go for a float on Lake Union in a hot tub boat
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind winter experience in Seattle, set sail in a hot tub boat on Lake Union! This picturesque lake, nestled right in the heart of the city, offers a delightful blend of urban charm and natural beauty, even on chilly winter days.
Lake Union is centrally located in Seattle, bordered by several vibrant neighborhoods, including South Lake Union, Eastlake, and Fremont. You won’t need to venture far from the city center to find this urban gem.
The hot tub is like having your personal floating spa. The water is warm, the bubbles are soothing, and the experience is delightful. You control where you go on the lake, creating a customized and memorable adventure.
As you float along, you’ll be treated to postcard-perfect views of Seattle’s skyline and the charming houseboats that line the shores of Lake Union. It’s a sightseeing tour unlike any other.
When you’re done, take a leisurely winter walk along the lake’s shoreline. The views of the city skyline, houseboats, and sailboats are exceptionally enchanting in the crisp winter air.
Warm up with a steaming bowl of ramen in Pike/Pine
Head to Seattle’s vibrant Pike/Pine neighborhood for an unforgettable dining experience. This trendy district, known for its diverse dining scene, is home to various top-rated Seattle restaurants and eateries serving global cuisine. And if you’re a fan of ramen, you’ve come to the right place!
Located right in Pike/Pine, Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya is a ramen lover’s paradise. The ramen shop serves authentic Japanese ramen with rich, flavorful broths and various toppings. Order their signature Tonkotsu ramen—it’s pure comfort food on a chilly night!
Another fantastic ramen option in the neighborhood, Betsutenjin, specializes in Sapporo-style ramen. Their miso ramen is a crowd favorite, packed with umami goodness. It’s a perfect bowl for Seattle’s cold winter weather.
Menya Musashi Tsukemen & Ramen hails from Tokyo, where they’ve been perfecting their ramen craft for generations. This spot isn’t just about ramen; they’re also famous for their Tsukemen. Tsukemen is a unique style where you dip the noodles into a rich, concentrated broth. It’s a must-try for any ramen lover!
Catch a holiday performance at the Pacific Northwest Ballet
Catch a festive show at the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) for a dose of culture and holiday cheer in Seattle. Nestled in the vibrant Seattle Center, this world-class ballet company offers an enchanting experience worth a standing ovation.
The Pacific Northwest Ballet is based within the elegant McCaw Hall, a beautiful venue located in Seattle Center. The hall’s architecture is as impressive as the performances it hosts. The renowned ballet company transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season, offering enchanting performances for all ages.
Before or after the performance, take a stroll around Seattle Center. It’s a cultural hub with iconic Seattle tourist attractions like the Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, and the Museum of Pop Culture.
If you’re visiting during the holiday season, don’t miss Seattle Center’s Winterfest. It features festive decorations, ice skating, and more—a perfect way to embrace the holiday spirit.
During intermission, visit the lobby to enjoy a beverage, discuss the performance, and perhaps meet some talented dancers. Whether you’re a seasoned ballet enthusiast or new to dance, a night at the Pacific Northwest Ballet promises an unforgettable experience.