1. Count down to Christmas with Cocktails
Some advent calendars contain chocolate or tiny toys. Belltown’s Rob Roy counts down to Christmas with a different holiday drink each day until December 24. Traditions like Spanish coffee share the calendar with house creations: an old fashioned with black walnut liqueur, boozy caramel, or maybe hot chocolate spiked with Branca Menta, Fernet’s mintier cousin. Sample all 24 drinks and get a $100 gift card—and probably a worthwhile headache.
2. Find a Skating Partner
Seattle Center Winterfest hits all the must-haves for winter skating: It’s indoors, because this is drippy Seattle—but it feels like the crisp North Pole, thanks to Fisher Pavilion’s ceiling of twinkly lights. Hot chocolate and coffee are for sale nearby and rinkside ice sculpting happens weekends. Best of all, skates aren’t the only things for rent—iffy skaters can stay upright using a contraption that looks just like Grandpa’s walker.
3–5. Skip the Laps to Play in the Pool
3. Rainier Beach Community Center has a giant yellow slide and a lazy river with a whirlpool.
4. Evans Pool on Green Lake hosts daily games of Skwim, a game that marries Frisbee golf with water polo.
5. Queen Anne Pool boasts a rope swing (ask the lifeguard if it’s not out).
6. Bounce with the Balls
Weekends after 7pm Because you can never truly escape dodgeball, there’s now a version played on a giant trampoline (and this version can burn up to 600 calories an hour). Federal Way’s Trampoline Nation also has basketball hoops mounted over springy floors for Air Jordan impressions, plus an extra-bouncy zone for tricks. To avoid bounding over crowds of kids, aim for after 7pm on weekends.
7. Dance for Your Foremothers
Dec 3–6 Since 2012, Degenerate Art Ensemble has stunned audiences with the deep beauty of its Predator Songstress series, where stories of iconic women—from Joan of Arc to Seattle’s Sin Alley madam Gracie Hansen—are interpretatively conveyed through a powder-white dancer who moves in vividly emotive ways to a haunting soundtrack of chanting vocalists and strings. Don’t miss the Seattle premiere of the latest chapter at On the Boards: Predator Songstress: Dictator tells the tale of an antiheroine whose voice is stolen.
8. Enjoy Peak Viewing Experiences
Dec 9–11 Even if it’s another disastrously snow-free winter on the regional peaks, skiers and snowboarders can still get their annual powder fix when the adventurous cinema of the BANFF Mountain Film Festival World Tour stops at the Neptune Theatre*. Besides, a prescreening stop at the concession stand is notably cheaper than a premountain trip to REI.
*Note: 2017's festival tour will be at Benaroya Hall Dec 6–7. The Mountaineers has the scoop.
9. Drink the Best Eggnog in the World
When the rest of us were plotting hilariously topical Halloween costumes, Sun Liquor head distiller Erik Chapman was prepping batches of eggnog to age for a month or more. The alcohol eliminates salmonella fears and breaks down the proteins, yielding the smoothest, silkiest holiday beverage in town. This year’s version is made with bourbon, aged rum, and apple brandy; Sun Liquor’s two bars serve it only on Christmas Eve and Christmas, but the famed nog might make a few surprise popups earlier in the month.
10–12. Track Down a Culty Winter Beer
Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, Reuben’s Brews
Jet black, mildly carbonated, and tasting decidedly of bourbon, this creation materializes at Ballard-based Reuben’s Brews one day each year…most likely sometime in December. Fans queue up an hour before doors open; even with the three-bottle limit, they’re gone in two hours.
Bourbon Barrel Abominable, Fremont Brewing
The souped-up version of Abominable winter ale by Fremont Brewing, known by affectionate (and tipsy) fans simply as B-Bomb, can spend two years soaking up cocoa and vanilla notes inside a bourbon barrel. If you think the lines at the taproom are intense on release day (December 1 this year), try scoring the even more limited coffee-cinnamon version. Though a few bottles do show up on store shelves.
Midnight Still, Holy Mountain Brewing
Beer nerds worship Holy Mountain, which celebrates its taproom’s one-year anniversary January 23 with a rare bottle release of a winter classic—an imperial stout, one of the first beers the Interbay brewers made back in 2014; it’s been whiling away the months inside bourbon barrels ever since.
13. Rock Climb the Easy Way
What’s rock climbing without ropes? (A quick death?) It’s bouldering, basically noodling around nubby structures near the ground with bendy climbing moves. Even the worst fall on the squat 15-foot walls of the Seattle Bouldering Project means just a short tumble onto springy foam. On nice days SBP opens the garage doors of the Beacon Hill warehouse, bringing fresh air to the 300 routes, a castle-shaped kid zone, and a yoga studio. Shoe rental and an intro class for newbies are free with admission.
14. Skydive Inside
While iFly in Tukwila technically takes the sky out of skydiving, it adds four fans that blow up from the floor with 2,000-horsepower engines, creating winds up to 200 miles per hour. Skydiving indoors is as simple—or complicated—as stepping into the wind tunnel and getting horizontal. The in-house pros, with backgrounds in the special forces and Cirque du Soleil, can turn tricks in the air, but merely smushing one’s cheeks up to your ears in fake free fall is exciting enough.
15. Go Ram Hunting With the Hawks
Dec 27 After a crushing overtime loss in St. Louis that set the tone for the Seahawks’ struggles this season, Pete Carroll’s squad seeks revenge when it closes out its regular-season home slate versus the Rams. Bundle up and head down to CenturyLink Field—where the Hawks have won 10 straight games against the Rams—for what will (hopefully) be part of a late season playoff push.
16. Put the Christ in Post-Christmas
Dec 29–Jan 10 Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you returns this day in the city of Seattle a musical, which is The Book of Mormon. Glory in the highest! Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s skewering but warm-hearted Broadway smash returns to spread its irreverent good word at the Paramount.
17. Master a Nonsense Sport
Bumper cars, meet lacrosse. The sport of WhirlyBall is as whimsical as it sounds: a free-for-all as teams of five fight to get a whiffle ball in a hoop, all while crashing into each other in bumper cars called WhirlyBugs. Referees come with the court rental in the Edmonds venue, and a snack bar outside has all the beer, corn dogs, and chicken strips you’d expect of a bowling alley.
Dine by Open Flame
At a restaurant like Melrose Market’s 18 Sitka and Spruce or Pioneer Square’s 19 Bar Sajor, smoky aromas conspire with the glowing hearth and chefs bravely sacrificing forearm hair to build a multisensory tribute to the savories fire can transform—glistening meats, puffed and charred breads, oiled roasted vegetables, even (in the particular case of these two Matt Dillon restaurants) smoked yogurts. In the Wallingford/Fremont district alone, relative newcomers like the French 20 Pomerol, the seafood bar 21 Manolin, and the French seafood bar 22 The Whale Wins feature glowing hearths as both cooking station and decorative anchor. The granddaddy has to be 23 Miller’s Guild, the downtown steak house whose entire back wall is a colossal custom-built, nine-foot fire-breathing beast, the Infierno. Of course small versions of flameside dining exist wherever wood-fired pizzas are made—see 24 Bar Cotto, 25 Veraci Pizza, 26 Via Tribunali, and the new 27 Orfeo downtown, among others—or even at Korean barbecue restaurants like Capitol Hill’s extraordinary 28 Trove, where the heat comes from your own tabletop grill.
29. Binge on Beethoven
Feb 11–14 While the holiday season wouldn’t be complete without the Seattle Symphony’s annual performance of Beethoven’s Ninth (Dec 30–Jan 3), there are bigger things afoot at Benaroya Hall. This season the symphony and conductor Ludovic Morlot embarked on a two-year cycle, performing all of the world’s most famous composer’s symphonies and piano concertos. If you’ve missed the initial installments, Beethoven’s Symphony no. 3 offers a perfect point to jump in and experience this epic classical music journey.
30. Relive Nirvana
For better and for worse, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is the closest we’ll ever come to being inside Cobain’s twisted, brilliant brain. When the winter weather brings you to a “not going outside for anything” halt, fire up HBOGo—you can steal a friend’s password; HBO says it’s cool—and watch documentarian Brett Morgen bring Seattle’s most famous son back to life via his journals, sketches that pop off the screen, home movies, lost recordings, and gorgeous animated reenactments that showcase both his artistic beauty and ugliness.
31. Bump, Set, Spike Inside
It takes more than 250 tons of sand to create the indoor beach at Sandbox Sports in Georgetown, ultrasoft sand that has never been littered with bird poop or broken glass. The fake playa hosts walkup indoor volleyball games on Friday nights, open to beginners but most popular among intermediate players. Spectators can buy beer or attack the Ping-Pong and foosball tables, while dedicated sand spikers play in clinics or leagues.
32. Fly Through the Air (with the Greatest of Ease)
Kari Kirkland is living the dream: She ran away to join the circus. And within a year of ascending the ropes at SoDo’s Emerald City Trapeze for the first time, she married the owner and became a vocal evangelist. Now she insists that anyone can attempt a trapeze catch on their very first lesson—a two-hour affair that spends just 20 minutes on the ground. The school is housed in a former Seattle foundry and factory with a soaring wood ceiling and cozy fireplace lounge, plus trampolines and hanging hoops and the requisite very, very big net.
33. Pluck Oysters off a Midnight Beach
Jan 20 & 21, Feb 6 On three frigid nights each winter, buses shuttle well-bundled passengers to a Totten Inlet oyster bed. Lanterns illuminate a nocturnal waterside oyster picnic you’ll not find anywhere else in the world. Beneath the stars shuckers dispense bivalves, their briny charms enhanced by pours of oyster-friendly wine. Taylor Shellfish and the Puget Sound Restoration Fund put on these Walrus and the Carpenter picnics ($125)—named for the Lewis Carroll poem, no relation to the restaurant—to showcase oysters at their absolute best: ice cold, in high season, a split second away from where they were grown.
34–36. Read These Books
War is Beautiful by David Shields
Dec 10 In a mere three pages of prose, David Shields’s coffee table book with a message argues that the Afghan and Iraqi war photography published on the front page of The New York Times since 2001 promoted institutional power by glamorizing war through artistic beauty. He proves his point by curating A1 photos organized by thematic tropes—nature, death, father, movie—with contextualizing quotes. See Shields in action at Hugo House in December.
The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy by Rainn Wilson
This may come as a shock, but it turns out that before portraying Dwight Schrute on The Office, Rainn Wilson was a socially awkward, nerdy, D&D-playing Seattle kid. Wherever did he draw inspiration for his iconic character? Wilson’s memoir The Bassoon King delivers a humorous hodgepodge of his life (including his Bahá’i faith), behind-the-scenes stories from The Office, and easily readable lists detailing the best TV sidekicks from the ’70s, “Ten Things I Know for Sure,” and more.
Welcome Thieves by Sean Beaudoin
Feb 23 Seattle’s Sean Beaudoin strides past his young-adult novelist niche with Welcome Thieves, a collection of 12 deliciously dark short stories. Get a sampling of Beaudoin’s ex-rocker vibe, which permeates each strange story with profanely humorous and raw musings on modern adulthood, in person at Hugo House.
37. Hardly Even Try
Jan 28–Feb 21 Too few sick days this flu season got you in a sour workplace mood? Laugh away those woes with the 5th Avenue Theatre production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the satirical musical sendup to the madcap world of 1960s business. J. Pierrepont Finch’s comedic and meteoric rise up the corporate ladder mixes Mad Men panache with Broadway flash.
38. Enjoy a Nativity in Black
Feb 6 How about a little dark music for the darkest season? Black Sabbath might be the most influential band in rock history. Black Sabbath is metal. With its pure heaviness and paranoid howling, the group created the template for an entire genre. Throw up the devil horns at the Tacoma Dome as Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, and Geezer Butler rock out one last time on the band’s farewell tour.
39. Attempt a Full Sweep
Sometimes sports are about athletic grace and triumph; other times they’re about running around an ice rink with a broom. Broomball may be the poor, poor wizard’s Quidditch, but Renton’s Sno-King arena rents all the equipment required for a goofy game of pushing a ball toward a goal. The venue even offers helmets for when play veers too far from athletic grace.
40. Experiment with Pho
It’s been Seattle’s warming wintertime default since Pho Bac gave us our first comforting bowls of the meaty broth in the 1980s. But only last year when Crazy Pho Cajun (206-623-5297) opened an International District shop (to join the Federal Way original) did pho become a certified Seattle thrill ride, with its unusual homage starring shrimp, crawfish tail meat, and spicy andouille sausage in place of pink sheets of flank and brisket. Surprise: It’s a natural marriage, born among the Vietnamese emigres to the Gulf Coast, with Cajun meats lending more fire than traditional Vietnamese versions but the aromatics of the broth complicating things nicely.
41. Play War
Ever wish Call of Duty was a little more real? Armed with near-real M4 guns, Virtual Sports laser tag gamers embark on missions in a combined 15,000 square feet of metal walls and chain-link fences in Tukwila. Vest sensors record player stats, but no one actually “dies”—getting hit means tagging out to “respawn.” Drop-in sessions start every half hour, but experts can be drafted into teams owned by the likes of Doug Baldwin, who helped create the elite league and drafted other Seahawks into sponsoring teams.
42–43. Drink by a Fireplace
The remodel that turned the Four Seasons’ restaurant into the Goldfinch Tavern knocked down the wall between the bar and the fireplace in the hotel lobby. Now you can lounge on the curvy charcoal couch with a fireside glass of hot buttered rum (it’s not always on the menu, just ask). Glimpsing the waterfront views through the dining room helps tune out the proceedings at the nearby concierge counter.
The lakeside deck at Westward is hardly a secret. But the fire pit, ringed with Adirondack chairs, still draws visitors even when it’s cold enough to see your breath. Some people are waiting for a table; others simply prefer their drinks with a chaser of snapping flames and skyline views. The restaurant supplies both wool blankets and a cocktail menu to fend off the chill.
44. Start a Riot
Feb 9 History has proven “Don’t invade Russia in winter” is sound advice, but the phrase speaks nothing of trying to take down the hierarchy by sparking a revolution from within. The Russian feminist punk vanguards of Pussy Riot became global heros after being jailed for protesting Vladimir Putin’s oppressive reign, and now band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina travel to town to tell their story and screen the documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer at Moore Theatre.
45. Frequent a Bar Dedicated to Cheese
Capitol Hill’s new Culture Club Cheese Bar—a sibling of Calf and Kid in Melrose Market—provides warmth in the form of wine, beer, or cider flights, all paired with cheeses from independent dairies. But the menu’s two hot dishes offer a potently gooey form of chill busting: mac and cheese made with classic elbow macaroni and five freaking types of cheese or the seasonal grilled cheese sandwich of melty taleggio with sherried mushrooms.
46–48. Sit, Soak, Rinse, Repeat
Spa routines are individual and particular—do you lounge in the sauna first, then shock the system with a cold plunge? Gulp the fragrant air of the steam room before cooking yourself sous vide in the hot tub? Lingering is the whole point of day spa–going, a tradition that goes back centuries in multiple cultures. It’s possible to never go outside again.
Russian spas have all the cool accessories: Seattle’s Banya 5 and Everett’s Downtown Banya both sell veniks—bundles of oak to for self-swatting—and felt sauna hats that keep you cool while making you look like a Dr. Seuss character.
The Korean experience at Lynnwood’s Bella Luna Spa and Sauna includes sauna rooms lined with rock salt, charcoal, clay, and jade, plus an infrared sauna and a chilly “snow room.” The relaxation wraps up with ramen at the in-house cafe.
Women-only spas are the only ones that don’t require a swimsuit, encouraging or even requiring soakers to let it all hang out. Hothouse Spa, tucked under Wild Rose in Capitol Hill, is a tiny bungalow with a modest hot tub and sauna, and cheap admission. Ladywell’s Vitality Spa in Greenwood boasts a pink infrared salt sauna with a sandy floor—it’s like the beach minus the shrieking children and half-buried cigarette butts. Olympus Spa in Lynnwood has all-you-can-drink green tea for $6, and all offer add-on services like scrubs and massages.
49. Save the (Marvel Cinematic) Universe
Feb 18–21 The first couple months of the year are always a dumping ground for subpar new movie releases that lack the gravitas for award season or the pizzazz of summer flicks. Fill the Cineplex blockbuster deficiency at KeyArena with the super-human arena theatrics of Marvel Universe Live! There’s no CGI here, as the narrative stunt show brings together the Avengers, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and more favorites for a family-friendly spectacle of action-packed fight scenes, web slinging, and even motorcycle escapades.