15 Ways to Survive Seattle’s Winter

Curling up with a good book in front of a fire isn’t the only way to get through Seattle’s long, dark winter. That works too, but we’ve found plenty of other ways to brighten your days

By Seattle Magazine Staff

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January 20, 2017

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Seattle Magazine.


Image by Lara Swimmer

Let There Be Light
How to illuminate your winter day
The James Turrell Skyspace, called “Light Reign,” landed at the Henry Art Gallery ($6–$10) on the University of Washington campus in 2003 and has been a part of the museum’s experience ever since. A cylindrical room of vertical glass panels embedded with computer-controlled LED lights, the installation is a vivid, glowing spectacle from the outside after dark; inside, you’ll get a new perspective when you look up—the oval opening at the top frames the changeable Seattle sky and plays with the light inside. Chihuly Garden and Glass ($14–$22), at Seattle Center, is a similarly stunning spectacle, both indoors and out, of the glass artist’s organic pieces, which both blend into and stand out from their surroundings. When the sun goes down and lights come up, the pieces positively glow against the night sky. NIKI STOJNIC

Henry Art Gallery, University District, 15th Avenue NE and NE 41st Street; 206.543.2280; henryart.org
Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St.; 206.753.4940; chihulygardenandglass.com


Image by John Keatley
Wear bright colors and a butterfly might alight on you at the Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House


Image by A. Meade (conservatory)
Exotic plants at the Volunteer Park Conservatory 

Visit the Tropics
Jungle-like places in the city
Enter a world of color at Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House ($11.75–$19.75), a 4,000-square-foot habitat for imported and locally raised butterflies, where it’s always warm and humid. Don’t be surprised, as you walk among them, if a few butterflies touch down on your arm or shoulder. Then watch as butterflies emerge from their chrysalises behind a window; new butterflies are released into the house daily. At the Volunteer Park Conservatory ($2–$4), stroll through a literal glass house, where artfully arranged exotic plants, tropical and otherwise, dwell in the polar opposite of winter’s damp chill. Rooms are set up according to plant types: bromeliads, palms, cacti and seasonal plants. On the last Saturday of every month, kids ages 4–7 can settle in and listen to volunteers read during a story time. NS

Pacific Science Center, Seattle Center, 200 Second Ave. N; 206.443.2001; pacificsciencecenter.org
Volunteer Park Conservatory, Capitol Hill, 1400 E Galer St.; 206.684.4743; volunteerparkconservatory.org


Image by Ashley Bragg
A cup of cocoa from Chocolati and a few chocolates can make all seem right in the world

Drink It In
Desert for breakfast at Chocolati
On the darkest of mornings, few things have the power to lure you out of bed, but the promise of dessert for breakfast is surely one of them. Technically, Chocolati’s signature hot chocolates may not be dessert (no spoon required!), but the decadent drinks are certainly more than you’ll find at your neighborhood coffee shop. Sure, you can order a basic, whipped-cream-topped hot chocolate, made here with melted chocolate rather than powdered cocoa, but the half dozen or so chocolate drinks with exotic ingredients ($3.30–$4.45) are the real treats. Cayenne, for example, has a wicked after-burn that hits the back of your throat and makes for an addictive, if slightly masochistic, experience. Sweet plus heat equals a surefire cure for the winter-morning blues. CHELSEA LIN

Multiple locations; chocolati.com


Image by Trophy Cupcakes
Macarons are the perfect accompianment to afternoon champage at Cafe Trophy

Afternoon Delight
Stop and indulge at Cafe Trophy
“But first, champagne!” reads a sign on Cafe Trophy’s wall—a motto to live by if ever there was one. In fact, this glittery dessert den on The Bravern’s ground floor is the perfect stop after a leisurely window-shopping excursion through Bellevue’s ultraluxe shopping center. There are savory foods, too—a first for the Trophy Cupcakes empire—but the sweets are where it’s at. Choose a glass of bubbly from the half dozen options and settle in with a colorful pastry (or three). Although the cupcakes are a safe bet, we’re particularly fond of the jewel-like macarons—such as the sprinkle-adorned PB&J flavor—and stunning square tarts. For a moment, you can almost forget the rain outside. CL

Bellevue, 700 110th Ave. NE; 206.632.7020; trophycupcakes.com

Dream On
A good night’s sleep can be written in the stars
Winter’s long nights can make us want to hibernate, and that’s not a bad thing, says Capitol Hill–based astrologer and wellness consultant Stephanie Gailing (stephaniegailing.com), who suggests that maximizing your indoor R&R might be the best New Year’s resolution you can make. Gailing, who has degrees from Cornell and Bastyr universities and studied archetypal dreamwork with Laurence Hillman, notes that throughout history, civilizations have used sleep and dreams as a method for healing. “In ancient Greece, people would visit healing temples to engage in all of these rituals around sleep,” Gailing says. “Once awake, the priest/physician would analyze their dreams. There are testaments of people going in infirmed and walking out healed. These temples…they’re like our modern-day medi spas.”


Stephanie Gailing

Gailing’s personalized sessions combine astrological insights—she says the January 12 full moon is prime time to turn our attention to finding new ways to balance our work and home lives—and self-care strategies, such as relaxation practices, dietary guidance and other holistic approaches, to maximize well-being. Her tips for improved sleep? Get into a routine. “Sleep should be something that we have this orientation and reference for, in the same way we anticipate the daytime,” she says. “A couple of hours before bed, have a cup of chamomile or lavender tea. Unplug from your iPhone. Really make a point of slowing down and preparing for sleep.” A benefit of quality sleep is access to the valuable subconscious insights of our dreams, she says. “It’s that inner listening we can’t indulge during the day. I’ve had clients who have seen in their dreams a course of action in resolving both physical and emotional challenges. Answers to questions like ‘What do I want the year to yield?’ The dream can bring those to voice.” Definitely something worth shedding light on. JENNIFER MCCULLUM 

The Quest for Quiet
Peace and wellness awaits in a pool of water
Float tanks (or sensory deprivation tanks) have been around for decades, promoted for various New Age–y reasons. Current proponents suggest that the experience, which involves lying (preferably in the nude) in a shallow pool of body-temperature water that’s saturated with magnesium-rich Epsom salt (which allows you to effortlessly float) is a wellness tool. 

Devotees report a variety of health benefits. “Everyone can find respite in floating, whether it’s relief from arthritis and lower back pain to less anxiety and improved sleep,” says Jonathan S. Murray, founder/owner of Uncharted Waters Float Center in Tacoma. “People come out of the tank and say that they haven’t felt that level of calm and relaxation since they were children,” says Brandon DeCuir of LifeFloat in SLU. NS

Float Seattle/Bellevue: $39 first time, $79 subsequent sessions. Green Lake, 408 NE 70th St.; Bellevue, 11101 NE 12th St.; 206.673.5132; floatseattle.com
Cocoon Float Pods: $89. Bellevue, 12400 SE 38th St., Suite 201; 425.747.4421; cocoonfloatpods.com
Life Float: $50 first time, $90 subsequent sessions. South Lake Union, 213 Yale Ave.; 206.624.1264; lifefloat.com
Rubicon Float Studio (opening late January): $125/2 free sessions for first-timers. Kirkland, 9715 NE 119th Way; 866.356.2888; floatrubicon.com
Urban Float: $45/$89. Fremont, 3420 Fremont Ave. N; 260.257.4333; urbanfloat.com 
Uncharted Waters: $70.Tacoma, 3837 S 12th St.; 253.330.8815; unchartedfloat.com


Image by Wings Over Washington
Go to thrilling new heights on the new ride at Pier 57 

There’s nothing that sucks you out of a rut more—during winter or otherwise—than a good jolt to the system. That’s exactly what the latest ride on Seattle’s waterfront delivers. Wings Over Washington ($13–$17) from the folks who brought us the Seattle Great Wheel, is akin to the Soarin’ Around the World ride in Disney’s California Adventure Park. And, it may be the closest you’ll ever get to flying. 

The adventure begins with a campy but entertaining safety video (hold on to your flip-flops!) in a room designed to look like a high-tech Pacific Northwest park ranger station, then moves into the 33-seat theater. There, you’ll strap yourself into ski-lift-like benches that “fly” over the state’s landmarks (seaside cliffs of Olympic National Forest, Snoqualmie Falls, mountain bikers tearing up a trail) via a multisensory movie. Scenes were captured with 5K resolution cameras by drone and helicopter—and despite some orcas breaching on cue and a few other cheesy CGI elements, it’s an exhilarating ride that’s over all too soon (18–20 minutes, including safety video). But big bonus points for the well-timed 4-D special effects: spritzes of water and pine fragrance. The other winter bonus: lines are short this time of year. RACHEL HART

Get your thrills late into the dark hours of winter: open until 10 p.m. or midnight on most nights. Must be at least 40 inches to ride. Waterfront, Pier 57, Miner’s Landing, 1301 Alaskan Way; wingsoverwa.com

Game Night
Pull up a chair for some old-fashioned fun
Playing a board game with friends is the social equivalent of reading in front of the fire: It’s a cozy way to while away a winter day or evening. When you take a seat at the table at one of these spots, you’ll find a warm ambiance and a killer game selection for a night out that feels like a night in. 

For both committed and casual gamers of all ages, sibling stores Mox Boarding House and Card Kingdom include restaurants where you can play everything from Magic: The Gathering (a trading-card game) to Yahtzee while noshing on all-American small bites and entrées, or come for one of the many gaming events. Bonus: If you play a game you can’t live without, you can buy it and take it home. 


Image by Capitol Cider
Gather with friends on a cold night for drinks and games at Capitol Cider, or below, pick up a putter for mini golf at Flatstick Pub

Test your board game strategy at one of the regular events hosted by Blue Highway Games. Choose from hundreds of amusements during Saturday Board Game Night, when staff members are on hand to teach you the rules. If you win the monthly Board Game Challenge tournament, featuring a different game each month, your name will be added to the trophy wall. Beer and Board Games Night features a different local brewery each month ($5). Beer and hard cider are available during all store hours for players 21 and older.

Filled with homey mismatched furniture, Beveridge Place Pub is a comfortable spot for a night of playing Parcheesi, Stratego or chess while enjoying beer, wine, cider or mead. Bring food from home or enjoy bar snacks that include popcorn, pretzels and nuts. Bonus: Pool, shuffleboard and foosball tables are also available. 

Uptown Espresso and Gameporium is exactly what it sounds like: a coffee shop and a game store in one. Here you can get your morning jolt while also learning how to play a new game from one of the game experts on staff.  

At Capitol Cider, a gluten-free eatery and bar, play Battleship, Cards Against Humanity, Clue and other games while sipping the eponymous drink or a cocktail. Come on Tuesdays for Cider and Games Night, when the restaurant is guaranteed to be a little quieter, all the better for planning strategy while enjoying a few pints. 


Image by Brie Braun
Flatstick Pub

Flatstick Pub, with locations in Kirkland and Pioneer Square, is an indoor miniature golf sanctuary, with local beer on tap and many odes to Seattle sprinkled from hole to hole. The Kirkland location even welcomes dogs and has a pup-centric “Yappy Hour.” REBECCA RATTERMAN

Mox Boarding House, Bellevue, 13310 Bel-Red Road; 425.362.3050; moxboardinghouse.com 
Card Kingdom (Café Mox), Ballard, 5105 Leary Ave. NW; 206.436.0540; moxboardinghouse.com 
Blue Highway Games, Queen Anne, 2203 Queen Anne Ave. N; 206.282.0540; bluehighwaygames.com
Beveridge Place Pub, West Seattle, 6413 California Ave. SW; 206.932.9906; beveridgeplacepub.com
Uptown Espresso and Gameporium, West Seattle, 3845 Delridge Way SW; 206.933.9497; velvetfoam.com
Capitol Cider, Capitol Hill, 818 E Pike St.; 206.397.3564; capitolcider
Flatstick Pub, Kirkland, 15 Lake St., Suite 100, 425.242.1618; and Pioneer Square, 240 Second Ave. S, 206.682.0608; flatstickpub.com


Image by Hyatt
Lounge first and then jump into the saltwater pool at Olive 8 hotel’s Elaia Spa

Lounge and Swim Indoors
The weather outside may be frightful, but inside the pool water is warm and inviting
At a few local spots, going for a swim can feel like a mini vacation. The eco-conscious Elaia Spa at the Hyatt at Olive 8 hotel features a 65-foot saltwater lap pool (far better for your skin than chlorine; $40 for pool only, Monday–Thursday) located in a light-filled room with floor-to-ceiling windows. After your swim, dip into the hot tub, visit a sauna or get a massage. Also downtown, the luxe Fairmont Olympic Hotel opens its pool to day visitors ($20). Enclosed in a solarium, it’s washed in light by day and illuminated by city lights at night. Grab a bite poolside; the hotel’s room service menu is available at the recently updated health club, and morning swimmers get free coffee and fruit. Also check out one of the two dry saunas with hot stones and eucalyptus oil. 

Visit the North Shore Lagoon, a delightfully flora-filled, tiki-themed indoor pool at McMenamins Anderson School, a hotel and entertainment complex in Bothell. Water cascades from bamboo chutes above into the 89-degree pool water below. Bothell residents (and hotel guests) can swim here for free; other adults pay $8 for a two-hour open swim or lap session. Once you’re done, grab dinner and drinks in the upstairs South Seas pub—featuring more than 80 rums—overlooking the pool. The hotel also has a brewery and a new-release movie theater. 

Want to enjoy a film while you float? Head to the Central District’s Medgar Evers Pool for the monthly Friday movie (7–8:30 p.m.; $5.25) or to Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center for the monthly Float & Float Movie Night (5–7 p.m.; $7). The deep end is closed off so movie fans can relax as they watch a film, playing on two screens, and then enjoy a root beer float (served in another room)—it almost feels like it was summer. NS 

Elaia Spa, Hyatt at Olive 8, downtown, 1635 Eighth Ave.; 206.676.4500; olive8.hyatt.com
Fairmont Olympic Hotel, downtown, 411 University St.; 206.621.1700; fairmont.com/seattle
McMenamins Anderson School, Bothell, 18607 Bothell Way NE; 425.398.0122; mcmenamins.com/AndersonSchool 
Medgar Evers Pool, Central District, 500 23rd Ave.; 206.684.4766; seattle.gov/parks
Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center, Bainbridge Island, 8521 Madison Ave.; 206.842.2302; biaquatics.org

Climb Every Mountain
While you’re waiting for the weather to clear, have an adventure with The Dirtbag Diaries

Fitz Cahall is a storyteller who calls Seattle home and the West’s mountains, deserts and forests his office. In 2007, he created a podcast, The Dirtbag Diaries, to share stories of outdoor adventurers who ski, surf, bike or climb; later, he also founded the outdoorsy digital storytelling agency Duct Tape Then Beer. Listening to a Dirtbag tale isn’t the same as climbing a mountain or running a marathon, but it just might tide you over until your next outdoor escapade. 

How did The Dirtbag Diaries come about? Ten years ago, I was working as a freelance writer when I realized I wasn’t going to have great success with that industry. I had always loved the radio style of storytelling, so I recorded a podcast and sent it to 30 friends. Then I checked the counter on how many people had listened and watched it grow to 300, to 3,000. That was the moment I knew my life changed. By the fourth episode we had sponsors, which were rare, and I kept working and searching for stories.

What kind of stories? It’s a podcast geared towards the outdoors, but that doesn’t mean they’re the most epic tales. We wanted a space that allowed people to tell their own stories, so we have a series called “The Shorts.” We like to have stories that share what it means to be happy, fulfilled. We all crave the freedom of being removed, which is what makes this podcast appeal to everyone.


Image by Darren Aronofsky
Dirtbag Diaries podcast host Fitz Cahall

What’s your favorite episode? “Help Wanted” has been a really popular one. It’s about climbers Disney hired to climb the side of the Matterhorn Mountain [at Disneyland] while people are on the ride. Recently, we collaborated with REI for the National Parks Centennial and we got some great stories from that.

What is your advice for surviving the winter blues? Take solace that it’s not that bad. If it’s raining in the city, you know that it’s snowing up in the mountains. The winter is a good time to make plans and reset. It’s when I will be reading my guidebooks and doing research for trips in the next year.” SARAH MURPHY 

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