The light stuff The holiday tree at 
Westlake sparkles all month long.

Image: Rick Moss

Now that Harry Potter has settled in for a lengthy stay in Pacific Science Center, Seattle’s “It” spot for high-vaulted-ceiling dolphin murals, Hotel Monaco is outing itself as a diehard Hogwarts fan. The hotel bequeaths to would-be sorcerers and weekend warriors a deal for deluxe accommodations and discounted tickets to Harry Potter: The Exhibition. The tickets cover entrance to the Mindbender Mansion exhibit as well, and because its 40 brainteasers are about 39 more than the average person should handle at once, you won’t be asked to solve any more problems during your stay, including parking. The hotel will throw in discounted round-trip monorail passes, thereby eliminating your need to circle the same block 12 times for a spot.

Everyone knows you can’t explore the Gryffindor common room on an empty stomach, and the Purple Café and Wine Bar, two blocks from the hotel, is a great pit stop for Gorgonzola-pear pizza or lobster baked mac and cheese (which, sadly, isn’t baked by a lobster). The floor-to-ceiling pillar of wine bottles flanked by a spiral staircase is a testament to the restaurant’s extensive vino list—so extensive, in fact, that the wine menu fills 64 pages and ends with a five-page glossary of terms, most of which you’d swear weren’t actual words.


The Mayflower Park Hotel on the corner of Fourth and Olive Way welcomes guests with vases of fresh flowers flanked by a gradient of beiges and muted reds underneath a grand crystal chandelier. And that’s just the lobby. The plush couches, wooden armoires, and bathrobes in every room are the kinds of cozy touches that will make you feel like you haven’t even left home (in a good way). Constructed in 1927 and family owned for 38 years, the hotel is on one of the only city corners still made up of all its original structures—among them the wedge-shaped Times building, completed in 1896.

A quick stroll through the hotel corridor lands you smack-dab in the middle of Westlake Center, which hosts the annual Tree Lighting Festival, preceded by the Macy’s Holiday Parade featuring marching bands, drill teams, balloon floats, and more costumed characters strutting down Pine and University than you’ll ever find strutting down Pine and University. (If you’re reading this after November 26, the date of these festivities, they were fantastic, right?)

Through January 7, the Mayflower Park is offering “P Squared,” a package including classic or deluxe accommodations, a 15 percent dinner discount at Andaluca (the hotel’s Mediterranean restaurant), and two VIP passes (no waiting in line!) to the Picasso exhibit now at Seattle Art Museum. They won’t throw in a set of steak knives if you call in the next five minutes, but you can enter a drawing for a chance to win another hotel package. Think of it as the Mayflower Park’s holiday mitzvah.


The door to the Pensione Nichols, near the corner of First and Virginia, is barely a gap in the brick—the sign depicting a boy in a fez the only indication there’s anything of interest two flights up. Proprietor Lindsey Nichols, who opened the boutique bed-and-breakfast in 1989 while her mother ran a small antique shop downstairs, wouldn’t have it any other way. “We’re this little secret…you’re not quite sure what’s at the top.”

What’s at the top, aside from the friendly face of Theo, the owner’s Cavalier King Charles spaniel, is a simple, cozy corridor leading to a simple, cozy dining room with couches, a piano, and a cathedral-grade view of the Sound so awe inspiring you’ll be hit with an immediate desire to confess your sins. And the rooms? Yellow pastel safe havens bright enough to combat the perpetually gray Pacific Northwest sky.

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Holiday tradition Nutcracker takes to the air at Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Staying at the Pensione, you won’t find a good reason to dine anywhere besides Le Pichet—literally steps from the entryway. The restaurant boasts a dinner menu with muscovy duck leg confit and fish with tomato-walnut fumet—classy French terms for which the English translations are still classy and French. And it would be remiss not to mention the hot chocolate: steamy, thick, and decadent—everything you could ever hope for in a winter beverage or a romance novel.

Sure, the air bites like a rabid dog and it gets dark before lunch, but the onset of winter in Seattle means the appearance of sugarplum fairies and a sword-fighting rat king. The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of Nutcracker runs at McCaw Hall through December 27.


On the Eastside, the Bellevue Westin ’s holiday shopping package is almost too good to be true: For each night you stay, you will receive a $100 gift certificate applicable to any shops, restaurants, or activities in the Bellevue Collection, specifically Bellevue Place, Bellevue Square, and Lincoln Square. That means dinner at Palomino, which in turn means—you guessed it—grilled wild forest mushrooms on a bed of mixed greens, Gorgonzola, walnuts, and garlic crostini. After dinner, rent a pair of skates for a postdigestion trip around the ice rink at Bellevue Downtown Park. Emphasis here on postdigestion.

To remedy that distinct lack of twinkle lights in your life (because when can you ever have too many twinkle lights?), the Bellevue Botanical Garden unveils its Garden d’Lights display, featuring over a half-million bulbs. Tickets are $5 per person, and there are a few free entrance days throughout December. From the gardens, it’s a quick drive over to the Kirkland waterfront to catch the annual Argosy Christmas Ship parade, which sets sail nearly every evening between November 27 and December 23. On select trips, the boat leading the glittering flotilla will dock long enough for the onboard choir to spread its merriment to those ashore.

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