While Seattle is known for misty, cool winters, there is plenty to do indoors when the weather is damp. One of my favorite ways to spend time in Seattle is to take in a concert, swing by the art museum, and of course, stop by a couple of favorite spots for a bite.
The recently renovated lobby bar at the Olympic Fairmont Hotel is one place I always stop in when I am doing a “nibbles and art” afternoon.
Downtown Seattle is hemmed in by water on two sides, which makes it picturesque, but does make finding a place to park a personal car for a reasonable rate challenging.
If coming in from the west, a ride on an iconic state ferry may be your best bet.
When coming in from the south or the north, there is reliable bus service as well as the light rail. Schedules as well as stops and stations are easy to navigate.
I generally prefer the light rail because I can park my car at my preferred station at no cost and then relax on the ride into town.
I can hop off the light rail at the University Street Station, located directly below Benaroya Hall and one block from the Seattle Art Museum, also known as the SAM.
Fairmont Olympic Hotel Lobby Bar
One block east, or uphill, from the light rail station is the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. Comfortable seating options make even a little time here a pleasure.
This has been my go-to place for years, serving as a refuge when I want a special get away, as well as a spot where I can have a pot of tea while I work on writing projects when I am stuck.
A delicious food menu goes along with the well-stocked bar and knowledgeable wait staff.
When I am headed to the SAM or a concert, I build in a cushion for travel time, so I can enjoy a glass of champagne or a cocktail. If I have more time, I can slip behind the bookcase to the Founder’s Club for a little something stiffer to sip slowly.
Sometimes I am feeling more in the mood for artisanal chocolates, so I stop by Fran’s Chocolates for a freshly poured cup of hot chocolate.
Milk or dark versions are both delicious. Founder and owner Fran Bigalow was first famous for her salted caramel chocolates that have been a Seattle staple for over forty years. Today, all the various flavors can be purchased across the Pacific Northwest and Japan.
For me, stopping in at the shop across the street from the SAM entrance for a frothy hot chocolate is a treat to be savored. I can also grab a window seat and people watch.
The cups without handles have the advantage of fitting neatly into my hands, a warm treat on cold days. For those staying at the Four Seasons, the shop is adjacent to the hotel lobby.
The Seattle Art Museum
In addition to the downtown location, there is a nearby sculpture park, as well as the Asian Art Museum over in Volunteer Park.
The Seattle Art Society was formed in 1906, and since then, there have been several locations as the Seattle Art Museum, or SAM, has continuously grown in scope, size, and reputation.
The SAM moved into its current building in 1991, and additional space was added in 2007. The museum feels spacious, with plenty of room for large pieces, like John Grade’s “Middle Fork” which greets visitors as they enter on the first floor.
The museum’s collection ranges across time from ancient to current, with gallery space on both the second and third floors set aside for visiting exhibits.
I try to stop in at least once a month to visit the pieces I love that are on display and to see new special exhibits.
The current home of the Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, opened in 1998. It stretches over the entire city block, with several performance areas and ample support spaces.
The acoustics were designed by Cyril Harris, and it has become a popular venue for audiences and performers alike.
The building is intentionally filled with art, including several pieces by Dale Chihuly, famous for his large form, multi-piece glass creations. Crystal Cascade hangs over the northern and southern entrances to the building.
The lobby allows natural light to stream in through the open, five-story glass front. On sunny evenings, the light from the sunset is especially stunning.
With balconies surrounding the open center, this is a great spot to gather with friends and family prior to a performance. Especially in the darker winter months, this open area provides a contrasting light space.
I like to wait on that outer balcony to watch the people below. Seattle is eclectic in style, so the audience’s fashion show never disappoints.
The main performance hall, the S. Mark Taper Performance Auditorium, not only has spectacular sound, but the view of the stage is unobstructed.
With 2,500 seats, there are plenty of options. I can decide how far I want to be from the stage and how high up I want to sit.
When I want to spend an afternoon in Seattle, the Pops Series includes a 2:00 pm performance on Sundays. That gives me plenty of time to make it downtown, enjoy a bite to eat, and a swing through the SAM.
Purple Café and Wine Bar
Whether before or after the symphony, a trip downtown needs to include a stop at Purple. The staircase winding around the wines on offer is both intriguing and stunning.
There is a full menu of delicious meals, small plates, and desserts, so pairing opportunities are fun and easy.
Of course, there are wine flights of all sorts, and each is accompanied by a card for guests to take home with them. I enjoy trying new wines in flights.
This way I can get a reasonable taste of a new wine, and if I like it, the card helps me to order it again later. It doesn’t hurt that whoever is writing these cards has a cheeky sense of humor, too.
On this occasion, I split a baked brie appetizer with a friend, and thoroughly enjoy a tawny port before walking across the street to catch the light rail home.
I’m always ready to come back for another cozy, indoor Seattle afternoon.
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