tips for visiting seattle in winter

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Just came off of the most fun holiday season! We loved having our kids home and Seattle is brimming with so many things to do, even in the cold winter months. Often we get asked for tips for visiting Seattle–what is the weather really like here, how should I dress for Seattle sightseeing, and most commonly, do we have ideas for what to do in Seattle?? We love sharing all the incredible things this amazing area has to offer, and with having older kids, we’ve become experts on ideas that appeal to all ages.

Here’s experiences we’ve recently enjoyed doing with our kids during a Seattle winter:

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Strolling through the Enchant Seattle light maze–anything with colorful lights gets us in the holiday mood!

our top tips

Holiday lights:

We were fortunate to be able to take both our families to experience Enchant Seattle this year. To make it more enticing for older kids, we both started with dinner at Pyramid Brewing Co. Alehouse, which is a short walk from the stadium (and has free parking!). Once inside the stadium, the Enchant Christmas light maze is geared towards younger kids, but it’s a fun photo opportunity and the ice skating trail appeals to all ages. We ended the night with a festive drink and a browse through the market. A fun way to kick off the holidays! For a less expensive alternative, find a neighborhood holiday light display to walk through and get the same effect!

If you’re here before Christmas, check out the Christmas ship festival, Zoolights or even a day or overnight trip to Leavenworth.

Ice skating:

The perfect activity when it’s pouring rain outside! If everyone’s got cabin fever and you need something physical this is the perfect activity. Seattle has several temporary ice skating venues set up before the holidays, but for anytime skating, check out Highland Ice Arena north of Seattle or Kent Valley Ice Centre south of Seattle.

Hiking:

Seattle is known for it’s amazing nearby hiking trails. Access is obviously limited in the wintertime, but we’ve discovered several low-land options that are now favorites:

hike/walk suggestions:

  • Point Defiance trail: Walk the 5-mile loop and finish off at Anthem Coffee in the Point Ruston waterfront area.
  • Walk around Lake Union: We love doing this when we want a longer walk or want to show someone the heart of Seattle. This 9-mile loop takes you across the Fremont Bridge, into Gas Works Park, and past the most beautiful views of the Emerald City.
  • Redondo Boardwalk: A pleasant 1-mile stroll along the waterfront. Time your walk to end up at Salty’s (located at the end of the boardwalk) for happy hour!
  • Dash Point trails: Walk, run, or bike these trails that can even take you all the way to the beach. Treat yourself with coffee or a healthy smoothie at Poverty Bay Cafe afterwards!
  • Franklin Falls: If temperatures are cold, the impressive falls freeze over and create a spectacular sight. It’s an easy hike if you have proper snow boots, and a relatively short drive from Seattle.
  • Poo-Poo Point: When higher elevation trails are snowy, this one is usually still clear. There’s a nice view from the top of the surrounding Seattle area.
  • Walk around Greenlake: An old standby–this is a pleasant 3-mile loop around an inner-city lake. There’s plenty of restaurants and cafes nearby for after your stroll.
  • Alki Beach: A sandy beach that makes you forget you’re in Seattle when the weather is hot and sunny! It’s still fun in the winter and it has gorgeous views of the Puget Sound and Seattle along with lots of eating options.
  • Burke-Gilman trail: Walk along this trail before or after a visit to the Ballard Locks and/or Theo’s Chocolate factory.
  • Ruston Way Waterwalk along Tacoma waterfront: We usually park at Point Ruston, grab a hot drink at Anthem Coffee and then walk for as long as we want! You can also rent fun pedal cars to ride along the path.

Snow fun:

Within 90 minutes you can be at Snoqualmie Summit, a full ski resort and 550 ft. sledding hill with tube rentals. Also consider renting snowshoes at REI and having a fun trek on a dedicated snowshoe trail. Look for trails at Snoqualmie Pass to be the closest drive from Seattle. On the drive to or from Seattle, you could stop at North Bend for outlet shopping, go a few more miles to check out Snoqualmie Falls, or grab some lunch (or coffee!) in the nearby charming town of Snoqualmie.

Ride a ferry:

This is always a must for our first-time visitors to Seattle. Typically we take a ferry from downtown Seattle to nearby Bainbridge Island. It’s a short 30-minute ride and the views of the Seattle skyline can’t be beat. Plan to walk around the cute streets of Winslow and grab lunch or an afternoon snack!

Explore downtown:

You have to take at least one day to explore the iconic sights of Seattle! We always start by parking along the waterfront. It’s easy walking distance to both activities & shops along the water and the downtown core. To organize your day, it helps to break the Seattle city activities into three sections:

three Seattle areas to explore

Shopping:

Other than downtown Seattle, our two favorite places to shop in Seattle are University Village, an open-air mall, and the Bellevue Collection, a traditional mall with tons of great stores!

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Our favorite store in Seattle? Hands down, Nordstrom!

Shows:

Enjoying a special night out can be super fun with older kids. Check out these venues to see what’s playing when you come–Benaroya Hall, Triple Door, Theatre Sports, 5th Avenue Theatre. Grab dinner at one of our favorites before the show: Wild Ginger, Pink Door, Toulouse Petit, or pizza at Tutta Bella .

Coffee:

Sorry, but everything we suggested above has to be accompanied by coffee, before or after, that’s just the Seattle way! You can do it up big at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, or swing by any of the zillions of Starbucks locations. Personally, I (Julie) like to mix it up and check out other local cafes near wherever we’re going. It’s no lie–the Seattle coffee scene is amazing! When you’re at Pike Place market, skip the original Starbucks store crowd and hop upstairs to Storyville Coffee for high-quality coffee and the best view!

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You can always stay warm and dry in Seattle or Tacoma coffee shops! We just enjoyed a delicious cupcake at Hello Cupcake in Tacoma.

Museums:

MOHAI, Seattle Art Museum, and Nordic Museum are excellent and nearby other fun things to do like the Ballard Locks, Discovery Park, and the Theo’s Chocolate factory (fun tasting tour!). Make it a whole day excursion and finish off with dinner at one of the many cool neighborhood restaurants!

Oh yeah!:

Can’t believe we almost forgot the most amazing thing to do of all! Attend a Seahawks or Sounders game! Super fun and exciting, but of course, EXPENSIVE! Next best thing? Watch the game at a local grill or grab party food and watch the game wherever you’re staying!

Are you planning a visit to Seattle anytime soon? Let us know! Seattle (and Washington state!) are worth visiting and we hope this encourages you if your trip is planned during a colder time of year–there’s still so many fun things to do!

xoxo Julie & Krista

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