24 Reasons We Love Seattle Right Now

The days may be darker and wetter this time of year, but there’s no shortage of ways to spend them
Clockwise from top left: Redmond Work & Western Wear; fried chicken Wednesdays at Bookstore Bar; Seattle Pinball Museum; Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park; Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar

Whether your idea of a perfect winter activity is getting out to revel in the chill or holing up someplace warm, you’re bound to find something you’ll love in our list of hidden gems and perennial favorites.

1. Zen Dog Studio

Retired architect Larry Murphy will help you find Zen in a cup of tea at his tea house on 85th Street in Crown Hill
Retired after a 27-year career as a commercial architect, Larry Murphy, 72, left behind a world of high stress and deadlines and now dedicates his life to teas. Murphy lives in and works from Zen Dog Studio & Tea House in Ballard (you’ve likely seen the red Chinese lanterns hanging from the trees in his front yard along NW 85th Street), where he sells 75 different Chinese- and Taiwanese-sourced teas and flower blends, ranging from $3 to $25 an ounce. His best-seller is the Zen Dog House Roast, an oolong he hand-roasts on the premises. Murphy offers tastings (by appointment only) of three teas for $5; an experience rich in ceremony that can last from 40 minutes to several hours, depending on your sense of adventure. Zen Dog Studio is definitely a place to unwind and relax, which means don’t bring your laptop. “We’re not that kind of place,” says Murphy. “It’s for getting your ‘Zen’ on.” Ballard, 2015 NW 85th St.; 206.920.0721; Facebook: “Zen Dog Tea House Gallery.” Zen Dog teas also sold at Ballard Market, Central Market (Mill Creek, Shoreline and Poulsbo) and all 12 PCC stores.

2. Fried Chicken Wednesdays at Bookstore Bar & Café

Executive chef caprial pence says she was channeling “old Southern ladies” while developing her fried chicken recipe for the Alexis Hotel’s cozy café. Let’s just say we hear those ladies down yonder loud and clear in each bite of Pence’s juicy, irresistibly crunchy chicken. Why is it so good? The James Beard Award-winning chef brines the birds, soaks them in buttermilk, and then fries them in duck fat, olive oil and butter. The fried half chicken ($28) comes with mashed potatoes, and collard greens loaded with caramelized onions, housemade bacon and sliced garlic. Did we mention the perfectly flaky biscuit? Dinner begins at 5 p.m. on the last Wednesday of every month and sells out within two-and-a-half hours. Downtown, 1007 First Ave.; 206.624.3646; bookstorebar.com

3. Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park

Go for the gold at this Pioneer Square gem
Those who wish to learn about the historic event that launched the remote city of Seattle into the big time should stop in at this most urban of National Historical Park Sites. Nestled into the ground floor of the Cadillac Hotel Building in Pioneer Square, this visitor center offers exhibits, displays and videos about Seattle’s role in the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush. Spend some time at the bookstore and pick up a map for the 45-minute, just shy of 1-mile Trail to Treasure tour of the Pioneer Square Historical District. Entry is free, but if your visit inspires you to get out and explore the wilderness, you can purchase your National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands annual pass in the adjoining store. Pioneer Square, 319 Second Ave. S; 206.220.4240; nps.gov/klse

4. Soft Serve at Hot Cakes Capitol Hill
Who says you can’t enjoy ice cream in winter? Especially when it is served fireside with toppings like cacao nib toffee, potato chips, candied peanuts and chocolatier Autumn Martin’s smoked chocolate take on Magic Shell. You can get the creamy, organic
vanilla soft-serve in a cup ($4/6 ounces) or in a Drumstick-like cone that’s been dipped in a chocolate shell and rolled in peanuts—the ultimate in dessert nostalgia. The soft-serve is exclusive to the newest Hot Cakes outpost, which is also the only place you can get Martin’s seductive salted caramel pudding. Capitol Hill, 1650 E Olive Way; 206.258.2591;

5. Ruby Chow Park
While most parks offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, Ruby Chow Park’s draw is quite the opposite. Located just off Airport Way at the northern tip of Boeing Field in Georgetown, this tiny pocket park (named after the first Asian-American to sit on the King County Council; Chow died in 2008 at the age of 87) offers up-close views of airplanes taking off and landing—along with the stomach-rumbling jet noise. The park can get crowded during Seafair when Blue Angel watchers are out in full force, but it remains a relatively undiscovered oasis the rest of the year. (Bonus: Charles Smith Wines Jet City is right across the street.) Georgetown, 13th Avenue S and S Hardy Street.

6. Two Shelves Gallery

Francesca Lohmann’s “Time, Space and Taffy” pops up at Two Shelves

Seattle has a long tradition of Capitol Hill residents opening their living rooms to show contemporary art and welcome curious visitors. In the 1950s, it was Zoë Dusanne; in the 1990s, Billy Howard. More recently, Sierra Stinson hosted the wonderful Vignettes gallery in her routinely cleared-out home. On the second Thursday of the month, in conjunction with the Capitol Hill Art Walk, artists Joe Rudko and Kelly Bjork feature some of Seattle’s most important art exhibits on a pair of shelves at their cozy apartment off Broadway. In January, they will show work by Seattle painter Margie Livingston. Capitol Hill, 212 11th Ave. E; twoshelves.tumblr.com

7. Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden
During the most dormant stage of winter, there is a place in Seattle where the sweet scents and vivid colors of flowering shrubs can reawaken senses dampened by the cold, wet air. A short walk from the Graham Visitor Center at the Washington Park Arboretum, the garden is home to witch hazel, winter honeysuckle, camellia, mahonia, daphne, sarcococcas, early blooming rhododendron, hellebore, heath and other blooming plants of the season. Also present are the ghostly forms of leafless maples and birch, soon to break bud. Madison Park, 2300 Arboretum Drive E; 206.543.8616; depts.washington.edu/uwbg

8. Redmond Work & Western Wear

Redmond may be one of the world’s leading technology centers, but hidden within its old downtown is a reminder of the city’s farming, sawmill and horse-loving past. This crowded store has the Seattle area’s best selection of western boots and hats, western-style shirts, rodeo gear and equestrian accessories. Pendleton, Stetson, Resistol, Dan Post, Lucchese, Tony Lama, Wrangler: All the classic brands are here. It also carries Carhartt and other solid clothes for the working man. You can even be fitted for a custom pair of White’s smoke jumper boots, made in Spokane. Redmond, 7829 Leary Way; 425.883.3484; workandwesternwear.com

9. Mike & Mike’s Guitar Bar 

Mike Ball, one half of the guitar genius duo at Mike & Mike’s in Ballard
So much more than a shop (though not quite a bar), this place should be your jam if you’re into guitars. The north Ballard shop has a wide range of vintage and used instruments, and if there’s a back-story to an item, one of the Mikes (Ball or Adams) will be sure to fill you in. If you’re looking to trick out your guitar, there’s also a huge selection of parts and accessories, and both guys—experts after a combined 25 years on the road as musicians—get jazzed about new projects. Ballard, 2418 NW 80th St.; 206.399.8518; mmguitarbar.com

10. November Project 
The al fresco workouts hosted by the November Project, contrary to its name, happen year-round, rain or shine. Every Wednesday, at 6:29 a.m. sharp, a “tribe” of enthusiastic fitness fans gather at Gas Works Park for an energizing, bright-and-early (or should that be dark-and-early?) 60-minute session. All levels are welcome to join the free boot-camp-style workouts, and you’ll find plenty of encouragement to keep going, from positive support (read: there will be hugs) to good-natured ribbing when you miss a session via the November Project website’s “We Missed You” page. Wallingford, 2101 N Northlake Way;november-project.com/seattle-wa

11. Alial Fital

Gibran Hamdan in his Phinney Ridge studio, wearing one of his designs
Many former pro football players go on to become coaches or commentators, but Gibran Hamdan took a different route after retirement: menswear design. The 34-year-old ex-quarterback (he played for several NFL teams, including the Seahawks in the mid-2000s), began designing clothing for his menswear line Alial Fital in 2010, shortly after retiring from a six-year career in football. Always interested in fashion, he bought a how-to book on making clothes, borrowed his wife’s sewing machine and began stitching shirts for himself as a hobby, despite zero formal fashion education. His signature shirt—a short-sleeved polo with a colorful plaid or checkered dress collar—has gained a following of customers across the globe, but they’re designed here, in his Phinney Ridge studio. Hamdan’s clothes are all limited editions; no more than 100 of each are made before the design is retired. Accountants may argue that this approach doesn’t pencil out—especially with a homerun design—but Hamdan is more interested in creating personal relationships with his customers. Each order is shipped with a handwritten thank-you note, and lucky locals will have their orders dropped off by the Vespa-riding Hamdan himself. Phinney Ridge, 6103 Phinney Ave. N; 206.402.5396; alialfital.com

12. Seattle Pinball Museum

At this history museum in the Chinatown-International District, you’re not just allowed, but encouraged, to touch the artifacts. For the price of admission ($10 for kids 7 or older, $13 for big kids), guests may play any game in the Seattle Pinball Museum’s huge collection, no quarters required. On display here is an ever-changing assembly of more than 50 machines, from vintage tables (from as far back as 1960) to brand-new machines. The museum offers guests a selection of snacks, soft drinks and local beers, making it an ideal spot for a nerdy night on the town. Chinatown-International District, 508 Maynard Ave. S; 206.623.0759; seattlepinballmuseum.com

13. The Herbert H. Warrick Jr. Museum of Communications
Ok, so the history of telecommunications may not be a topic that generates enthusiasm in everyone. But for the special few who are dialed in enough to appreciate the elegance of a 19th-century telephone pole or an all-relay PBX switching apparatus (or even just know what that is), the Museum of Communications has got your number. The venue, open on Sundays only, houses an impressive collection of machines, including fin de siècle telegraph transmitters, a Ma Bell utility truck from 1955 and an exact replica of Alexander Graham Bell’s history-making telephone. Georgetown, 7000 East Marginal Way S; 206.767.3012;

14. Living Computer Museum
Don’t worry: The computers here aren’t “living” in the “plotting to overthrow the human race,” Hollywood sense, but in the sense that nearly all the exhibited machines from bygone chapters of the digital age are operational and interactive. Created by Paul Allen, the collection includes a few mainframes (hulking commercial cabinets from the 70s and 80s) and microcomputers, as well as a trove of ancient PCs the public is invited to use. Want to try out Windows 1.0? Want to hold some bulky pre-iPhone portables, such as the Palm PDA? The weirdly-shaped, frustratingly slow machines are sure to give adult visitors a twinge of nostalgia and younger generations laughing fits. SoDo, 2245 First Ave. S; 206.342.2020; livingcomputermuseum.org

15. Wyckoff Porcelain Room at Seattle Art Museum

Calm and collected: SAM’s Porcelain Room; photo:  Lara Swimmer
There’s something comforting and cocoon-like about this little nook tucked away on the fourth floor of Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Perhaps it’s the subdued lighting, or maybe the easy-on-the-eye way the porcelain is ordered by color and theme, rather than date or nationality. The display of more than 1,000 pieces of 18th-century European and Asian porcelain transports viewers back to a time when it was a highly valued commodity. Each teacup and platter on display (culled from the collections of SAM’s late founder Richard Fuller, the Seattle Ceramic Society and private individuals) has a story, from the delicate vase that once held flowers for King Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour to a snuff bottle thought to have been enameled in the palace of Chinese emperor Qianlong. Downtown, 1300 First Ave.; 206.654.3100; seattleartmuseum.org

16. Owl N’ Thistle Jazz Jam 
On Tuesday nights since 1997, Seattle area jazz musicians have met at this well-worn pub on Post Avenue in the basement of the historic Colman Building. After a few sets from a rotating roster of local luminaries led by pianist Eric Verlinde and drummer Jose Martinez, the stage opens to all manner of people holding horns and guitars on the sidelines, some visiting the city from across the globe. Says Verlinde, “Wynton Marsalis came and did a set with us on Fat Tuesday last year. Benny Green, Roy Hargrove, Nicolas Payton, Francine Reed and so many more wonderful musicians have sat in with us.” There’s no cover charge for the show, which kicks off at 10 p.m. Downtown, 808 Post Ave.; 206.621.7777; owlnthistle.com 

17. The Beery House

The McCoy Tyler Band from Santa Cruz, California, play to a packed living room at a recent Beery House Concert; photo: From the Fringes Photography
Think you’re a music lover? How’s this for dedication: About once a month, Max Beery and his family transform their Capitol Hill home into an intimate concert venue, which has provided a stage for an eclectic roster of musicians from near and far, and across a variety of genres, including indie rock, folk and jazz. Each show draws an average of 60-80 audience members (although a few concerts have maxed out at more than 120). “All our shows are public, and in over 19 years, I’ve only had to kick one person out,” says Beery. “We tend to think of this as a community (with world-class performers).” In the spirit of community, all guests are invited to come early to mingle, and to bring a dish to share, potluck-style, with friends new and old. Beery doesn’t sell tickets to his living-room shows, but highly encourages donations, which go directly to the performers. Although he’s just retired from a 42-year nursing career, Beery doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon: “I hope to get to focus more time on this ‘second love’ project,” he says. Facebook: The Beery House 

18. Drinks, Mixed
There are two ways to cope with our damp, cold weather: embrace it, with cozy blankets and roaring fires, or deny it, by cranking up the heat or jetting off to Mexico. The same applies to winter happy hours:
Embrace it: Hot toddy at Teachers Lounge For those inclined to celebrate the season, Teachers Lounge owner and bartender Perryn Wright delivers a hot toddy ($8) that’s sure to take the chill off. It combines bourbon or brandy (your choice) in a warm mug with honey, lemon, a dash of allspice liqueur and hot water, all topped with a clove-studded lemon wedge. Greenwood, 8505 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.706.2880; teachersloungeseattle.com  

19. Deny it:
Balsa Raft at Rob Roy If you can’t book a flight to a faraway island for the winter, order an Uber ride (these are potent potables) to this swish Belltown favorite for a Monday night. During the weekly “Tangaroa Roy” tiki nights, you and your taste buds can get away from it all with a menu of tropical drinks. In our favorite, the Balsa Raft, aged aquavit mingles with pineapple, honey almond orgeat, cucumber and celery in a totem mug. Belltown, 2332 Second Ave.; 206.956.8423; robroyseattle.com

20. Seattle AntiFreeze
How better to counter the notion that the “Seattle Freeze” defines our city, than by celebrating the characteristics that do? On the second Thursday of each month, the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) does just that with its Seattle AntiFreeze events. The free monthly gatherings offer all Seattleites, whether newcomers or natives, a chance to break the ice—and the stereotype that we don’t like to talk to each other—while learning about a subject with local implications. Recent presentations have covered mushroom foraging, tech startups, maritime history and urban gardening. South Lake Union, 860 Terry Ave. N; 206.324.1126; mohai.org

21. The Book Larder

Photo: Rebecca Sullivan
If you aren’t hungry when you come in, you will be when you leave. This culinary bookstore—the only one in Seattle—is a destination for foodies (or aspiring foodies) of the DIY ilk. Beyond its shelves of new and classic cookbooks, the shop also offers books on cocktail mixing and local cuisine, as well as events such as cooking classes, food demos and author talks. Fremont, 4252 Fremont Ave. N; 206.397.4271; booklarder.com

22. Ada’s Technical Books and Café
It’s about time we formally acknowledge that being a geek is cool. Ada’s is a perfect example of the chic geek hangout: Along with stocking new and used titles on math, science (including sci-fi) and computers, the shop plays host to a number of intellect-stretching events, including a bimonthly science discussion club and a monthly puzzle night. For those who crave a quiet spot to tackle a project or assignment, the upstairs co-working space provides a disruption-free office. And if it’s food for thought you’re looking for, the café offers espresso drinks and made-from-scratch comfort classics. Capitol Hill, 425 15th Ave. E; 206.322.1058; seattletechnicalbooks

23. Peter Miller Books

“No cell phones. None at all,” reads a sign in the window. All the better to quietly peruse this shop’s stark white, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, which are lined with a colorful array of architecture and interior design titles. The shop might be small but it isn’t hard to while away hours perusing the carefully chosen selection of books, home accessories and stationery. Owner Peter Miller—a former member of the Seattle Design Commission, and an author himself—is as much a source of knowledge as the books stocked in his eponymous store. Belltown, 2326 Second Ave.; 206.441.4114; petermiller.com 

24. Jack Block Park

Most Seattleites are unaware that their city has a second park system, managed not by the Parks Department but by the Port of Seattle. Perhaps the best-situated of these is the 15-acre Jack Block Park at the mouth of the Duwamish River. The park features a 45-foot observation tower, a children’s playground, a walking pier and a series of trails through the terraced, well-groomed landscape. In summer, it offers visitors a peaceful alternative to nearby Alki Avenue, with its throngs of beach-goers and cruising vehicles, and on clear days year-round, look south for a view of Mount Rainier looming above the West Seattle Bridge and Harbor Island. West Seattle, 2130 Harbor Ave. SW; portseattle.org/parks-public-access/parks

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