Depending on the time of year you visit Seattle, you might be tempted to return home with tales of how the “always rainy” reputation is overblown. I was, over 10 years ago. I visited in May at the height of a botanical explosion, an annual happening I’ve come to rely on for a dopamine rush and many, many Instagram posts.
After moving here, I got to know the other side of Seattle during the persistently gray, oppressively damp season that stretches endlessly from October to April and beyond. I became friendly with the phenomenon known as June Gloom, best explained by local meteorologist Cliff Mass.
With seven rainy seasons behind me, I still marvel that I can wear wool nearly year round, and I don’t lament the months of darkness the way most do. This city speaks to my introverted, romantic soul. The balance, between long stretches of chilly, introvert-friendly weather and sparkling, zero-humidity summers, feels entirely fair.
Here are some of the charms that make the gloom entirely worth bearing.
If you’re even a little bit nerdy, prepare to feel understood. Seattle consistently tops lists of the most literate cities. Bibliophiles will be pleased to see just as many hardcovers and paperbacks as e-readers on public transit. There is a constant stream of conventions celebrating anime, comic books, gaming and more (I’m partial to Geek Girl Con).
Geek culture is built right into our skyline. The by now retro-futurist Space Needle looms large over an IMAX theater, science museum and recently renamed MoPOP, a sprawling, shimmery Frank Gehry-designed church of pop culture.
Follow the smell of sugary cocoa a few blocks south of MoPOP to Cinerama, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
This theater, at once cavernous and cozy, is the ultimate destination for movie lovers. Top-of-the-line tech, a lobby full of original costumes on display, and the most delicious chocolate-glazed popcorn all fall short of my favorite feature: I’ve seen dozens of movies at Cinerama over the years and I’ve never had to glare meaningfully at a fellow filmgoer—it’s a downright reverent crowd.
For a much more laidback night at the movies head to Central Cinema, an eat-in theater with a killer mix of kitsch classics and themed, interactive events like singalongs and trivia nights. Some moviegoers stop by Uncle Ike’s first, just one block over. It’s been a few years now but it still cracks me up that it is legal to visit a budtender and purchase cannabis, in forms that include precisely measured confections from Goodship. Traditionalists can cross the street to Chuck’s Hop Stop for a flight of local beers and a rotating calendar of food trucks.
A Bookish Town
If you prefer your entertainment a little more lo-fi, head to Elliott Bay Book Company on Capitol Hill. I first visited this independent gem at its original location in Pioneer Square, but the new iteration has all the same charms.
Comfy armchairs, pleasantly creaky hardwood floors and a gorgeous cafe recently revamped by restaurant doyenne Linda Derschang.
I’ve come to use Derschang’s name as an adjective describing any comfortable space, styled just so, that invites long conversation and leisurely indulgence.
This is a bit of a premature recommendation, but I’ve spent many happy hours at the Nordic Heritage Museum. The museum will reopen in brand new environs this May, and I have faith that the textile exhibits and knitting books will make it over to the new post. Every other year the Museum puts on a Nordic Knitting Conference that makes a perfect centerpiece to a visit to the PNW.
More Books (+ Architecture)
For a budget-friendly but still bookish sojourn, stop by the Central Library downtown. Savvy knitters may recognize the steely cross-hatched structure as the inspiration behind Jared Flood’s Koolhaas hat.
The stunning building is an architectural marvel in a city that tends to defer to the beauty of the landscape. Once again, the city’s fondness for a future-forward outlook is on display with bold sans serif fonts and maze-like escalators that get narrower as you ascend.
The neon hues and vast ceilings make for excellent FO backgrounds, just saying.
In section 740, you’ll find a very healthy supply of knitting books, including mine, Magpies, Homebodies, & Nomads: A Modern Knitter’s Guide to Discovering and Exploring Style, which Jared Flood shot right in Seattle.
Like a Local
My favorite way to get a taste for a new city is simply to go about my daily routine. A languid weekend routine, but nothing particularly special, no tourist attractions. Coffee, shopping, I even get stoked on an unfamiliar grocery store.
Pike Place Market is considered a Seattle must-do. Even though it’s consistently clogged with visitors, it’s a place I try to work into my routine as a local.
There is just so much there, and if you work downtown, it’s a great place to pick up a huge bouquet of inexpensive flowers, a quick lunch (do not skip the curry beef hum bao at Mee Sum Pastry) and if you’re me, emergency stitch markers for your commute knitting from So Much Yarn.
If you’re embracing the role of tourist, be sure to head to Post Alley to see the (utterly gross) gum wall. The cacophonous mix of colors and smells is a favorite, recently scraped clean but already building back up. Another good spot for FO snapshots! Just don’t get too close to the wall …
My preferred souvenirs are wearable: a practical reminder of travels, and a way to mix up a closet with a bit of out-of-town influence. Andrea Rangel once described Seattle style as “aggressively plain,” but I’ve managed to find some pockets of greatness. She’s absolutely correct that practicality rules the day, and outerwear is here in abundance.
For more eye-tickling fare head to SPACE at the flagship Nordstrom, a concept shop-within-a-shop that carries faux fur in acid hues from Shrimps, mind-bending silhouettes from Junya Watanabe and chunky knits from Acne Studios that will make you want to cast on immediately.
And if you’re in Seattle before May 20, you can pick up a pair of wool sneakers at the Allbirds Pop-In.
The LYS Scene
Lastly, my knitter-specific favorites. Sadly, many excellent shops have shuttered in recent years (RIP Weaving Works, my local haunt). If you’re able to head out of the city limits, Tolt Yarn and Wool is an absolute dream in Carnation. Churchmouse Yarns & Teas on Bainbridge Island is also well worth the trip, and as a bonus, you get to ride a ferry. Truthfully, my stash is … healthy … but I appreciate these cozy, inspiring shops, and heartily recommend them to visitors.
Cirilia’s Local List
It’s good to be a knitter here. I’ve barely grazed the surface of the things you can explore and experience, but I’ve shared the ones I hold dear (plus a few bonus reccos below). Have fun!
Uniquely rugged laces, metal hardware and fur accents.
Deliciously witchy vibes and glittering bowls of beads, gems and fixtures.
Specializing in crafting for the outdoors, I love the patterns and paracord.
Asian snacks, a bustling food court, and covetable Japanese knitting booklets.
Incense, tarot cards and DIY essential oil perfumes.
Local artist Louie Gong’s modern solution to “Native-inspired” goods.
Premium ginger beer with a punch, killer cocktails, and perfect snack pairings.
Pick up a script from your favorite show or an anime figure for your desk.
I regularly mail their Diablo dark roast beans to deserving out-of-towners.
A cathedral of Seattle chic with a shoe wall that will make you go weak in the knees.
Medium-to-easy hiking with spectacular beachfront views, just 10 minutes from downtown.
Modeled after Willy Wonka’s whimsical factory, you’ll have more fun here than you will waiting in line at the original Starbucks downtown.