Things to do (and eat) on your winter trip to Seattle

Seattle Washington City Skyline

When a winter trip to Seattle beckons, there are plenty of good reasons to answer the call. The food (it’s a mecca for Vietnamese cuisine), the city’s music history, great Instagram-worthy views everywhere, and day trips that will knock your socks off.

While we’re talking about winter travel in Seattle, it’s best you know that the city’s light rail has heated seats. So you’ll need to be prepared for a chilly introduction to the Emerald City. But the other thing is a nicer thought. The light rail designers were courteous enough to consider the temperature of your butt and how it could be made more comfortable with the addition of a heating device applied directly to it. It was an omen for me on my ride from Seattle’s airport to the city. From that moment on, everyone I met in Seattle was lovely to me, which was comforting since this was the first trip I took after moving to California, and I was doing it all on my own.


I could wax lyrical about visiting Seattle all day – it feels like my spirit city, if I enjoyed the rain a little more. It might be different things to different people, but for me Seattle was a huge 1990s themed park, which is my favourite decade by far. I got to recapture my teenage years and try things I’d never done before – like snowshoeing. If I could give you any advice it would be not to put off a trip to Seattle just because you’re worried about the snow and the cold weather. It’s beautiful any time of year. But we’re focusing on winter right now.

1.Visit The Museum Of Pop Culture

MoPOP museum in Seattle
MoPOP has something for every pop culture aficionado.

Where the music lives. If Seattle is the home of grunge then the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is the place it’s documented in detail. I loved it every second of it – from the epic funnel of guitars, keyboards and drums, all the way to the Hello Kitty exhibition. MoPOP has specialised spaces dedicated to Jimi Hendrix and another to Nirvana, a giant screening of a Hendrix gig and so many sound-proof booths for you to record your own drumming, vocals, guitar, keys and bass. I was in heaven. I can’t actually play any of those instruments, but I had so much fun making noise like a toddler on his parents’ pots and pans.

Tip: If you know you’re going to visit for sure, buy your tickets online, they are a few dollars cheaper there.

As the name suggests, MoPop isn’t just about music. The non-profit museum also showcases contemporary pop culture exhibits, from science fiction to fantasy, horror, fashion, sports and video games and comics. If you can think of it within the pop culture realm, they’ve got it.

Address: 325 5th Avenue N, Seattle.
Cost: Walk up prices quoted, Adults $28, Seniors $25, Students $25, Military $22, Youth $19.
Hours: Daily 10am-5pm.

2. Eat A Piroshky Pastry (or two)

Russian Pirosky pastry
How could you resist that delicious-looking flaky pastry?

It’s cold outside, which means you get to eat whatever you want to stay warm. Your body needs fuel and there’s no better place to get it than Piroshky Piroshky. So nice they say it twice. Don’t be deterred by the line that snakes out of the tiny shop and onto the street across from Pike Place Market. It moves deceptively quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be standing at the counter wondering how you’re going to choose just one! The Russian Pirosky is sort of like the English Pasty – a parcel of pastry with savoury or sweet fillings. But these can come in any shape or size, and like most traditional dishes, each Polish family seems to have their own ‘best’ recipe.

Tip: If you’re wary of the lines, don’t visit on a Sunday morning. It was packed between 10am-11am when I visited. But the line moved quickly.

Fear not, because you can find them all in this bakery, from a chocolate cream hazelnut roll, to a bacon hashbrown cheese and egg piroshky. We weren’t kidding when we said they have a bit of everything!

Address: Pike Place Market, Seattle.
Cost: Varies depending on filling.
Hours: Monday to Friday 8am-7pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am-7.30pm.

3. See Seattle From Above At The Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle at sunset

The Space Needle truly is the best place to capture that bird’s eye view of Seattle and its surrounds. It used to be the tallest building (or structure) west of the Mississippi River, standing at 184 metres tall, but even though that record has since been broken, it’s still a great place to visit. Don’t worry about visiting on a windy day either, it was built to withstand winds of up to 320km/h and earthquakes up to 9.0 on the Richter Scale (are there any other scales?

Tip: Visit the Space Needle on Thanksgiving Day. You won’t find the usual crowds of tourists waiting in line for tickets or up on the observation deck.

The main observation deck is 160 metres above sea level and will give you views of the Seattle skyline, and a ton of mountains like the Olympic, Mount Rainier, and Mount Baker. Elliott Bay and the islands around it are also visible from the deck.

Address: 400 Broad St, Seattle.
Cost: Based on general admission. Adult $32.50-$37.50, Senior $27.50-$32.50, Youth (5-12) $24.50-$28.50.
Hours: Daily 10am-8pm.

4. Witness The Macy’s Holiday Parade

My scrambled brain thought that this was a Thanksgiving Day parade, so I showed up a day early for no reason. Luckily the parade route is in the centre of the city so I was able to get some shopping in (more on that later). The Black Friday parade includes inflatable floats, marching bands, characters from cartoons and TV, sports teams and Santa Claus! Be ready to share some body heat though, because the crowds can really pack themselves in. On the bright side, it’s warm and if you’re a solo traveller like me, you tend to make a few friends.

Tip: Come back later to see a 161-foot high star and Westlake Center’s Christmas Tree being lit for the first time (5pm).

Address: Macy’s Downtown Seattle, 1601 3rd Ave, Seattle.
Cost: Free.
Hours: 9am-10am.

5. Check Out A Candy Factory

There are no shortage of chocolate and candy factories to satisfy your sweet tooth on your winter trip to Seattle. If you’re looking for the oldest, head to Liberty Orchards. Opened in the late 1930s by Armenian immigrants, Liberty Orchards began manufacturing a type of Turkish delight, now known as Aplets and Cotlets. The Aplets were originally made from apples and walnuts, but they are are now available in lots of different fruit and nut flavours. You can do a tour during the week in the winter time and see the simmering candy and how it’s all put together. Plus you get to taste test some of the treats for yourself!

Address: 117 Mission Avenue, Cashmere.
Cost: Free.
Hours: Monday to Friday 8.30am-4.30pm.

6. The Seattle Public Library (Not Just For The Books)

Seattle Central Public Library
Seattle’s Central Public Library is as beautiful on the inside is it is out.

Booklovers should flock to the library anyway, but if you’re more about architecture or just appreciate buildings that look a little bit different, then the Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library is for you. The 11-storey building is made of glass and steel. It’s built to look as though those 11-storeys are floating platforms.

Did You Know? The Seattle Library has space for almost 1.5 million books and has over 400 computers.

The architects decided to let function dictate the building’s form, so a major section is built in a spiral, to allow the non-fiction titles to be displayed on one unbroken series of shelves that span four floors. It even has a living room to sit in and read or chill out and escape the cold weather for a bit. The library was voted one of the top 150 favorite structures in the US, by the American Institute of Architects.

Address: 1000 Fourth Ave, Seattle.
Cost: Free.
Hours: Monday to Thursday 10am-8pm, Friday & Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm.

7. Run The Seattle Marathon

The Seattle Marathon
There’s tons of fun to be had at the Seattle Marathon.

It makes so much sense. Why be one of those spectators freezing on the sidelines, decked out in coats, sweaters and mittens, when you could be creating your own heat by running the Seattle Marathon? I started off as a walker because of an injury but the atmosphere was just stellar, for the most part because of the awesome volunteers, that I ended up running a fair chunk of the half marathon. And I was warm. So very warm.

Address: 5th Ave + Harrison St, Seattle.
Cost: Full Marathon from $95-$170, Half Marathon from $85-$160 depending on when you book.
Hours: Full Marathon starts at 7am and the Half Marathon goes at 7.30am.

8. Take A Stroll In A Park

VIew of Seattle skyline
The view from Kerry Park is beautiful, but the climb to get there is hectic.

I ended up in Kerry Park, which was a good two mile walk from where I was staying. At least half of it was uphill. I don’t care what the weather is like, I challenge anyone to keep a jumper/sweater on as you go up that incline crafted by the devil. Diabolical. But you are rewarded with an unimpeded skyline view of Seattle, and some interesting street art to go along with it. You might want to stop and catch a breather before starting your descent though.

Address: 211 W Highland Dr, Seattle.
Cost: Free.
Hours: 4am-11pm.

9. Take A Day Trip To Mt Rainier

Mt. Rainier in Seattle

Strictly speaking, this one is outside of Seattle but you can hire a car or take a tour bus on a day trip and I rate it as a must-see. Mount Rainier is Washington’s highest mountain and stands at 4.392km above sea level. It is also the highest peak in the Cascade Range, a strip of volcanic mountains stretching from Washington down throw Oregon to northern California. The active volcano last erupted in 1894 and is made up of many glaciers. During winter the National Park is blanketed in snow and the lodge museum is a great place to soak up some heat after snow shoeing or snowboarding down the slopes.

Address: 55210 238th Avenue, East Ashford.
Cost: $30 per vehicle.
Hours: See the National Parks website for more information.

10. See A Gingerbread Village You Won’t Forget

The Sheraton's gingerbread village made to resemble Star Wars
The Sheraton’s pastry chefs have their work cut out for them every year.

This one takes a lot of awe and mixes it with a dollop of goodwill to produce a holiday display that will get you into the spirit. For the past 22 years the Sheraton Seattle’s kitchen staff get together with architecture firms to dream up and create a Gingerbread Village. With all that sugar involved, of course all viewing donations go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  I visited a few years back when it was Star Wars themed, focusing on pivotal scenes across the Star Wars saga. You know it’s good because I haven’t even really seen the Star Wars films and it was still worth waiting an hour in line for.

Previous displays include Whoville from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Emerald City of Seattle, and the Wizarding World.

Address: 1420 Fifth Ave. Ste 450, Seattle.
Cost: Donation to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Hours: Monday to Thursday 6.30am-11.30pm, Saturday 8am-12.30am, Sunday 8am-11.30pm.

11. Warm Up With Vietnamese Pho

Seattle has one of the highest Vietnamese populations in the US so it stands to reason that the Vietnamese food is fantastic. It’s impossible to walk very far without coming across a Vietnamese restaurant. My favourite place was right next door to the Green Tortoise Hostel, and across from the main entrance to Pike Place Market, but unfortunately it’s closed down now.

12. Buy A Few Trinkets At Pike Place Market 

Pike Place Market in Seattle

This market is probably one of the most oft-photographed and iconic images of Seattle after the Space Needle. Set in the heart of Seattle and on the water front, Pike Place Market is made up of a vibrant Farmer’s Market bursting with fresh produce, as well as the wares of artisans, florists, craftspeople and other small businesses. The building sprawls across nine-acres and it’s a great place to grab a quick meal on the run or a souvenir or two to take home. There’s also an awesome comic book shop downstairs.

Address: 1st Ave and Pike Street, Seattle.
Cost: Free except for your shopping.
Hours: Various, see the website for more details.

13. Bow At The Feet Of Jimi Hendrix

Music lovers already know that Jimi Hendrix was (and still is) one of Seattle’s favourite sons. So it stands to reason that they have a bronze statue to honour him as well. Unveiled in 1997, the statue shoes Hendrix absolutely whaling on his guitar. He was born in Seattle in 1942 and began playing guitar when he was 15. But he didn’t start playing gigs until he moved to Tennessee, where he got into Little Richard’s backing band. His career soared when he had three UK top 10 hits, but he died in 1970 from accidental overdose.

Address: 1604 Broadway, Seattle.
Cost: Free.
Hours: Anytime.

Everything you need to see, do and eat to have a great #winter trip to #Seattle

29 thoughts on “Things to do (and eat) on your winter trip to Seattle

  1. Oooh, I like the idea of the EMP project and will definitely visit the Space Needle but the only place I'm running a marathon is away from one! My goddaughter lives in Seattle so I definitely want to visit one day. #CityTripping

  2. I am still reeling from the heated seats -wow! I didn't realise it has such a high population of Vietnamese – I love Pho, far more than running a marathon or climbing up that epic hill. I visited Seattld many years ago but was only there for a couple of days. Would love to go back. Thanks for linking #citytripping

  3. I had to stand for 3/4 of the tram ride into the city but once I got a seat it was totally worth the wait! Haha, so very fancy.
    Yeah, the marathon portion doesn't seem to be getting many votes 😉 but I loved it. The pho is so worth it though!

    1. LOL, the Gingerbread village was a highlight for me as well. And that half marathon almost killed me. So the gingerbread wins by a landslide 😉

  4. I loved looking at your photos of Seattle as I’ve never been there. I did get to a Macy’s Parade in New York though. Running in winter is definitely better for me than summer in Queensland but then I don’t have to run in snow. Have a beautiful week and enjoy your summer over there while you can 🙂

    1. Wow, the Macy’s parade must have been packed! But it’s great to be able to say that you’ve seen it. I can imagine that running in a Queensland summer would be a nightmare. I have a few running friends in Queensland who seem to wear summer running gear year round.

  5. Well, there is NO doubting this post..sure was W I N T E R! I remember that Frasier was set in Seattle. I also must have been following you via Lee’s group back then because I recall you mentioning this trip. Gosh, nearly 2 years ago huh! Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek 29/52. Next week: Birth Order.

    1. Hahaha, I was going to link up with my summer camping post but I thought it would be too mean to the rest of you going through the depths of winter over there. So I sent you Seattle snow instead. Yep, this trip was a long time ago, but it feels like just yesterday!

  6. That Queen Anne Hill is diabolical – I don’t think I’ve ever walked it, but the view is worth it! Did you make it all the way up to Queen Anne neighborhood at the top? Adorable up there! I went to college in Seattle in the early 90’s – and yes, I was 14 when I attended – I’m mad smart like that – wink, wink – so you’re making me all sorts of nostalgic. Glad you had fun. A big bowl of Vietnamese pho is perfect on a winter day in the Emerald City!

    1. I made it all the way up Queen Anne Hill to the park. And after that I almost died so I rolled back down the hill. It was quite the hike.
      LOL, I am now imagining that you’re a child genius because there’s NO WAY you’re old enough to have attended college in the 90s at a regular age 😉
      And now I want some pho!

  7. We loved Seattle and you did so much cool stuff. Now I want to go back and work my way through your list – especially the half marathon (if only I could get into shape!) I love a good run-cation. Did you go to Chihuly? That was awesome and I can definitely vouch for those piroshkys – they were definitely one of my edible highlights of my time in Seattle!

  8. We loved Seattle and you did so much cool stuff. Now I want to go back and work my way through your list – especially the half marathon (if only I could get into shape!) I love a good run-cation. Did you go to Chihuly? That was awesome and I can definitely vouch for those piroshkys – they were definitely one of my edible highlights of my time in Seattle!

  9. So many great tips on this post!! I was in Seattle in the summer the one time I visited. So if I ever go back in the winter I NEED to check out that gingerbread village!!

  10. What a fun post! I’ve lived in Seattle for 5 years now and there are still a handful of things here I haven’t done yet. I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit!

  11. Wow. I bet that’s the most beautiful public library in the United States. I would love to spend a day reading there and enjoying the changing light. I bet winter is a great time to see Mt. Rainer, too. I feel like mountains are always more beautiful and crisp in the winter months, but maybe that’s my biased experiences speaking. I love the idea of visiting the Gingerbread Village. I always have the best of intentions for things like that, but I’m really not good at it. lol. Better to leave it to the professionals. 😉

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