Visiting Seattle in January – Best Things to Do in Winter

Photo by Brigitte Tohm, Unsplash

Visiting Seattle in January? Hear me out!! I know, it’s the middle of winter. The holiday season is over, and you are looking for a quick getaway. You may have already visited Seattle in the past during the warmer months, and had a great time. And I’m not going to lie, summer is when we really shine. But even in winter, Seattle can be gorgeous. If you’ve never visited my beautiful city, you may be wondering whether there will be enough to see and do while visiting Seattle in January.

Rest assured, Seattle has so much to offer, even in January, and even after the holiday season. With tons of indoor and outdoor activities and events available year-round, you don’t even have to be a lover of winter to enjoy visiting one of the most beautiful and lively cities in the Pacific Northwest; Seattle is one of the best places for finding fun things to do that can be enjoyed during rainy days.

Part of the advantage of visiting Seattle in January is that the bustling city will definitely be less crowded at this time of year, with fewer tourists swarming the streets and visiting the attractions. You will also find some of the best rates for your accommodation in January, since it is the offseason. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, museum lover, wine or coffee drinker, seafood foodie, or shopper, the largest city in the Pacific Northwest has a variety of attractions to help you out or the post-holiday blues!

Seattle Weather in January

Photo by Thom Milkovic, Unsplash

Seattle’s temperature in January ranges from 36-49 degrees Fahrenheit (2-7 Celcius) with a daytime average temperature of 47F. Seattle’s rainy season is generally from early October to March, with December being the wettest month. 

To prepare for the weather when visiting Seattle in January, it is a good idea to pack some warm layers, an umbrella, a light jacket that is waterproof, a thick winter coat, a hat, and some waterproof boots.

Of course, you can also save packing these items and hit up one of Seattle’s expansive shopping centers upon arrival, such as Pacific Place, Westlake Center, or Westfield Southcenter. Or keep your money local and check out one of our many vibrant thrift stores to find a truly unique piece. Goodwill always has good finds, or for designer labels, visit Refind in Madison Park or Between Friends in Issaquah.

Visiting Seattle in January – Winter Activities

With a huge variety of both outdoor and indoor activities to choose from, there is something for everyone to enjoy in the Seattle area in January. 

If you are planning on being in Seattle for a few days, I would suggest purchasing a Seattle CityPass, which gives you great deals on tickets for multiple attractions. Many of the activities covered in this article are included in the Seattle CityPass, and the savings will make the buying the pass well worth it! Read on to find out some top suggestions for a variety of activities that can be enjoyed in January.

Seattle’s Iconic Attractions

Space Needle

Best for: children and adults who are not afraid of heights

The Space Needle, built 605 feet high for the World’s Fair in 1962, is Seattle’s iconic landmark, located at Seattle Center in the Uptown Neighborhood. With the world’s first and only rotating glass floor, you can not only see amazing views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains through the tall glass walls, but also beneath your feet! 

To enjoy the experience even during the winter months, there is an indoor observation deck, as well as the option to go bungee jumping through a virtual reality experience!

If your group doesn’t include children, save your visit for the evening, when guests 21+ can visit The Loupe, a sceney bar and restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. Dress to impress at Seattle’s version of Atmosphere, the restaurant at the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (complete with dry ice presentations and fancy cocktails).

Pike Place Market

Best for: older children and adults

Pike Place Market is the hot spot for tourists visiting Seattle, and rightly so. However, this means that in high season, it is typically super packed with visitors. If you are a person who dislikes crowds, January is one of the best months to visit the market. Fewer crowds mean no long lines, and you have the perfect opportunity to fully enjoy everything the market has to offer. 

Here are some top spots to visit in Pike Place:

  • Pike and Western, Seattle’s oldest wine shop- if wine is one of your favorite things, go for a tasting or become a member! 
  • Stop at the gum wall in Post Alley and make your contribution! The gum wall makes our list of the best photography spots in Seattle.
  • Marketfront Plaza, which opened in 2017, has an expansive deck that provides stunning views of Mount Rainier and Elliott Bay.  Among the many fantastic venues in this plaza is Old Stove Brewing- if you happen to be in Seattle on New Year’s, you can enjoy a delicious festive brunch while looking out at panoramic views of Puget Sound. 
  • For the chocolate lovers, check out Indi Chocolate Cafe and Factory-they have tons of cacao-based concoctions to try, including teas, mixology kits, and body care products- this cafe has been voted as one of Eater’s Best Chocolate Destinations in America!

Insider tip: Skip the original Starbucks, located across the street from Pike Place. It’s really nothing special, and nowhere near as fun as the Starbucks Roastery, which does make our list. Keep reading for more on that!

After your afternoon at the market, unwind at The Fog Room, Seattle’s only true all-season rooftop bar, which overlooks Pike Place. Enjoy stunning views of downtown and Puget Sound while sharing a plate and sipping on a craft cocktail. This would be the perfect ending to a great day spent downtown in the heart of Seattle. We recently did a full roundup of the best rooftop restaurants and bars in Seattle – check it out for more inspiration and winter-friendly options. 

Starbucks Roastery

Best for: coffee-loving adults and kids who love assembly lines

Starbucks roastery

We love our coffee shops in Seattle. For all the visiting coffee lovers out there, Starbucks’ first-ever Reserve Roastery in the bustling area of Seattle’s Capitol Hill is a must-see. Just a few blocks away from the original Starbucks in Pike Place, you will witness why Seattle is the top spot for all things coffee.

At the Roastery, you can take a private tour with a Lead Barista and learn about how a coffee bean makes its way into your coffee cup, and follow it with a coffee tasting. The classy and modern atmosphere containing hand-crafted decor is enough to please the senses, before you even decide on one of their many coffee varieties to try. For example, you can taste some of the rarest coffee beans in the world, with flavors such as Uganda’s sun-dried red cherry, or Ethiopia’s Kayon Mountain Farm, or opt for a delicious latte, such as their hazelnut bianco latte. 

You can also sample their many iconic flavors by ordering a coffee flight! If it’s getting close to happy hour, The Roastery also serves coffee-infused cocktails, which can be paired with delicious palate-pleasing plates from their large selection of menu items.

I know I said this is best for adults, and it is. I will say, however, that my older son loved visiting when he was a toddler. He loved to watch the beans move through the machines and get roasted right in front of him, so don’t shy away from visiting if you’ve got kids with you.

Visit the Spheres 

Best for: children and adults (there are many stairs so make sure you and your group are okay with this)

Photo by The Spheres, Instagram

A visit to The Spheres would be a great choice on a rainy day in Seattle, where you can enjoy some beautiful nature under a dry roof! Housing over 40,000 plants from around the world, The Spheres are an impressive trio of contemporary glass domes built as part of the Amazon headquarters. Inside you will find a 60 foot vertical garden, containing 200 different plant species, a fish tank, and meeting spaces. Only open to visitors on the first and third Saturday of every month, you will need to book a reservation in advance. 

Explore the Waterfront and Take a Ride on the Great Wheel

Best for: Children and adults of all ages who are not afraid of heights!

Photo by Seattle Great Wheel, Instagram

The Seattle Waterfront is a great place to start when you visit the city. Along it you will find a variety of seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, and piers with beautiful views. The large ferris wheel at pier 57 on Elliott Bay will arguably provide some of the best views of the waterfront and of downtown Seattle. If you want to make a date night out of it, you can even have a private four course meal and a bottle of wine in one of the cabins, provided by The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar.

Fair warning: If it’s really foggy, as it often is in January, you won’t get views of much. It’s still a picturesque way to spend a half hour or so, but you may want to hold out for the clearest day you get on your trip if you’re hoping for the classic mountains-and-water-and-ferry view that Elliott Bay is known for.

Visit a Museum

Seattle Art Museum (Photo by Brett Wharton, Unsplash)

Seattle’s museums are extraordinary and unique experiences, often providing awe-inspiring exhibits and engaging hands-on activities. Visiting Seattle in January provides the perfect opportunity to spend some time indoors in one (or a few) of the city’s renowned museums. 

Seattle Children’s Museum

Best for: children ten and under

The Seattle Children’s Museum provides a hands-on experience for your little ones to explore arts, science, and cultural education. With exhibits such as a children’s theater, market, veterinarian’s office, fire station, and orca cove, this museum will be sure to keep your children busy for hours.

 The Seattle Children’s Museum also puts on special exhibits and events throughout the year, such as their seasonal winter market, so be sure to check it out. Definitely add this stop to your itinerary if you have younger children with you on your trip to Seattle!

This is an easy one to combine with a visit to the Space Needle, MoPOP, or other attractions at Seattle Center, as it is located in the old armory building. It’s a great way to pace littler kids who may not care much about iconic views, but for sure will enjoy running off some steam and playing make believe. 

On the upper floor of the museum is a food court, so it’s easy to get lunch before or after your visit. During the holidays, the main area is transformed into a winter wonderland for Winterfest, which includes amazing miniature train scenes, which my kids adored when they were young. You’ll just miss it if you visit in January, but if your visit spans December and January, it’s definitely worth a stop with kids in tow.

Kidsquest Children’s Museum in Bellevue

Best for: children ten and under

With over 25 galleries and exhibits featuring activities in science, technology, engineering, art and math, your kiddos will be entertained at Kidsquest for hours!

Located in Seattle’s eastside, Bellevue is a quick 15 minute drive from downtown Seattle. It is a desirable area with beautiful parks and gorgeous views from the waterfront, and its downtown area is a bustling technology and shopping hub. 

You can easily turn Bellevue into a day trip- let the little ones explore this interactive children’s museum in the downtown area, and follow it with some shopping and dining.

If the weather cooperates, across from the shopping center is a circular park with a large water feature and many resident geese and ducks. Kids love running on the vast open spaces, checking out the waterfalls, and interacting with the geese.

Pacific Science Center

Best for: children and adults of all ages!

The Pacific Science Center is the perfect place for the whole family to get lost in for an afternoon. This museum contains the largest IMAX theater in the Pacific Northwest, and it plays first run movies in an extra-impressive space.

The museum has a dinosaur exhibit, tropical butterfly house, a planetarium, and a Makerspace, among others. 

Museum of Pop Culture

A guitar installation at MoPOP

Best for: children and adults who love sci-fi, music, and movies

Known as MoPop, this attraction is so much more than a museum- it is a world-renowned pop culture experience for the senses, inviting its visitors to interact with some of the most iconic moments in music, television, and science fiction.  With exhibits ranging from Jimi Hendrix, to Nirvana, to Hip Hop, this museum has an experience which will appeal to any age.  MoPop puts on ever-changing workshops and museums, so be sure to check out their website for events that will be happening during your stay in Seattle. 

One of the best things about this museum is their implementation of sensory-friendly programs, which allow adults and families who would enjoy the museum with decreased volume and light levels to visit.

MoPOP is part of the Seattle CityPASS, along with the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, the aquarium, and more.

Museum of Flight

Best for: children and adults who love aviation

With one of the largest air and space collections in the US, the Museum of Flight has an array of interactive tours and exhibits for the whole family. The Aviation Pavilion, which covers decades of American aviation innovation, features an Original Air Force One, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and numerous other impressive and historic aircraft.

It also contains a Children’s Art and Flight zone, with a hands-on area for children to learn and try out the controls in the cockpit of a plane, a 3D movie theater, and a place for children to test their pilot skills in a hang gliding simulator!

Burke Museum

Best for: older children and adults with an interest in history, plants, and animals

Located in the University of Washington campus in Seattle, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture has a collection of over 16 million artifacts and specimens. The museum, which doubles as a research center, provides hands-on science and culture education. It has exhibits featuring dinosaurs, fossils, plants and animals, Pacific Northwest art, and cultural pieces from all over the world. You can often catch students and other academics working in the labs at the museum. 

While you are there, be sure to check out Off the Rez Café, serving delicious, handmade Native American cuisine. Dedicated to sustainability and seasonal menu items, and rated one of the top 25 food trucks in the US by the Food Network, it is worth visiting this museum just for a bite to eat at this café!

What I like about this museum is that it feels like just the right size for kids. Kids can stay interested long enough to see the whole thing, and you don’t have FOMO feeling like you’re missing things by rushing through before they lose patience.

Parking can be a bit tricky here, so plan ahead or take public transit. The closest parking is the paid lot N1 on the UW campus.

Seattle Art Museum

Best for: older children and adult art enthusiasts

With three floors of art to wander, this museum is best for those with a love for art. It has a large collection of contemporary art and rotating art from around the world. Aside from its main facility in the heart of downtown Seattle, the Seattle Art Museum also operates the Seattle Asian Art Museum on Capitol Hill, and Olympic Sculpture Park on the waterfront.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Best for: older children and adults who like contemporary art

Right next to the Space Needle you will find Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, showcasing the glass artwork of Dale Chihuly. It brings together many elements of his work, including drawings, glass, large architectural pieces, and other personal collections of his. You can learn about the intricate process of glassblowing by watching artists shape molten glass into beautiful pieces of artwork, right in front of you.

Check out Chihuly in combination with other CityPASS attractions.

Seattle Aquarium

Best for: animal lovers of all ages!

Located on the Elliott Bay waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium is a great place for animal lovers. Embrace your inner marine biologist and visit all the underwater creatures at the Seattle Aquarium. Here you and your little ones can see giant Pacific octopus, get up close and touch sea cucumbers and urchins, and surround yourselves with sea creatures by taking a walk in the Underwater Dome. 

As a bonus, the aquarium’s waterfront location also means you’ll get amazing views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains on clear days. Enjoy the aquarium as part of the CityPASS, and easily combine it with the Great Wheel.

Check Out These Seattle Tours

Set Some Energy Free at an Indoor Gym

Playdate SEA

Best for: Ages 1-12

Indoor play places are always a hit with kiddos, and are perfect for escaping the cold weather while letting some energy out. Playdate SEA is a three-story indoor playground that features two dance floors and a cannon ball area. A unique feature is that it has a dining room catered not only to children, but also to parents; so often these places have very limited concession-type food.  This is the perfect indoor play place to bring your children for some fun and to burn off some energy.

It can get a little chaotic, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on younger children to make sure they have a safe and fun time.

Wiggleworks Kids

My younger son living his best life at Wiggleworks

Best for: Ages 1-5

Do you have little ones in tow? Bellevue has the perfect indoor playplace for toddlers. With a moving ‘playscape’, the soft, toddler-friendly equipment at Wiggleworks Kids spins, bounces and swings, giving your little one the ultimate experience in free play, while staying safe. Put this at the top of your Seattle itinerary if you have toddler aged kiddos with you.

There is a maximum height restriction of 48 inches, so this one is best for toddlers and preschoolers. My kids were no longer interested once they hit grade school, even though they were small enough in kindergarten.

Family Entertainment Center at Arena Sports Issaquah

Best for: children and adults of all ages

Want to play a game of golf or baseball in the middle of winter? At Arena Sports, it is possible to play your favorite sport with their variety of simulators! They also have an arcade, laser tag, escape rooms, an inflatable funzone, a restaurant, and a full bar- what more could you ask for in a day of indoor fun?

Top Golf in Renton

Best for: older kids, families, and friend groups

I was a regular visitor at the OG Top Golf in Alexandria, Virginia, back in the late aughts, and the experience has only gotten better since then. Top Golf in Renton (south of Seattle) is an RFID-enabled driving range, turning a normally reserved activity into a raucous, competitive good time. Each bay can hold up to 6 people, and you can reserve adjoining bays if you have a larger group.

There’s a huge menu of classic bar food and drinks, as well as golfing simulators, and though the golf bays are open air, they are covered from bad weather with heaters, and you can stay comfortable even in winter.

Check out a Hockey Game or a Show

Seattle Kraken NHL Game, Climate Pledge Arena

Best for: sports lovers

Seattle now has their own NHL team! You can go cheer for the Seattle Kraken at the Climate Pledge Arena, and enjoy the perfect indoor winter activity. Find the perfect seat with our comprehensive guide to the best seats at Climate Pledge.

Just around the corner from the Climate Pledge Arena, you can grab a delicious wood-fired pizza and a craft beer at The Masonry before the game. Or, check out the Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge for a hip spot with New Orleans flair, and try out some of their delicious Cajun-Creole food. With a diverse Northwest-meets-French wine list and a great selection of cocktails, the food and drinks here will be a great kick-off, (or ‘puck drop!’) to your evening. 

Photo by Benaroya Hall, Instagram

Live Shows at Various Venues (Climate Pledge Arena, Benaroya Hall, Paramount Theater, 5th Avenue Theater, Tacoma Dome)

Best for: older children and adults generally (depending on the show)

The Seattle area has a plethora of venues and theaters playing live shows and modern and classical symphony concerts throughout the year. If you plan on visiting Seattle in January 2024, you can see shows such as:

Visit this link for a schedule of all of Seattle’s upcoming shows!

Immersive Live Experiences

I love the trend in the last few years of popup live experiences like the Van Gogh immersive art experience and other limited-run productions. Seattle is lucky enough to get several of these events a year. If you’re visiting Seattle in January 2024, you can see:

Harry Potter: Magic at Play

Harry Potter fans will love the Magic at Play experience, where the Wizarding World comes to life. This one is fun for adults but even better for children. Aspiring witches and wizards can visit Privet Drive, Platform 9 ¾ , find their Quidditch position, and even make magic at Hogwarts.

Astra Lumina: A Night Walk Among the Stars

Astra Lumina is a multisensory immersive live experience for kids and adults, where visitors walk through the Seattle Chinese Garden at night to discover the wonder of visiting the stars. As the night unfolds, the stars regenerate, rise, and reunite in the night sky, to shine brighter than ever before.


Seattle in January – Outdoor Activities

Photo by Visit Seattle, Instagram

Seattle is known as the Emerald City because of its lush greenery year-round, largely thanks to the evergreen trees. It is one of those majestic cities that has a beautiful cityscape combined with a stunning backdrop that can only be created by nature. It is always a good idea to spend some time outside in the Seattle area, especially with a number of fun outdoor activities to choose from. 

If you spend any time in Seattle, you quickly realize that we do not let the weather keep us inside. My mom is constantly amazed that we just suit up in rain gear and head outside year-round. One of our favorite local sayings is, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”

If you’re up for the challenge, check out these outdoor activities in Seattle in January.

Woodland Park Zoo

Best for: children and adults of all ages

Animal lovers in the family? The Woodland Park Zoo is a great destination, even during rainy or snowy days. Just ten minutes north of downtown Seattle, it is located in a beautiful park-like setting that feels like it is much further away from the city. Many of the animals and exhibits can be seen from indoor viewing areas, such as the gorillas and savannah animals, as well as the tropical rainforest. 

An advantage of visiting in the winter months is that some animals, which tend to be hard to spot during the summer months, are more active and easier to see during colder weather, such as snow leopards and red pandas.

Aside from the many animals to visit, the Zoo has an expansive indoor play area for children, complete with a theater, climbing structures, slides, a tree house, as well as projects for guided learning. My kids adored the indoor playground when they were toddlers and preschoolers. It maxes out around 6 or 7 years old, but is brilliant for littler kids. 

Additionally, there are strategically placed covered viewing places throughout the zoo, so you can pace yourself and escape bad weather before venturing out again.

Woodland Park Zoo is an optional addition to your Seattle CityPASS, so you can visit at a considerable discount.

Discovery Park Hiking

Best for: children and adults of all ages

There are actually many advantages to going hiking in the winter months. The terrain will be very lush from the cooler, wetter weather, and streams and waterfalls will be flowing fast and allow for beautiful pictures. You also won’t sweat so much!

Discovery Park is five short miles from the Space Needle, yet its beautiful beaches and wildlife give you all the glorious nature vibes, and you will feel like you are well out of the city. Choose from eight different trails of various lengths – a favorite being the Lighthouse loop, an easy 4.5 mile trail.

Whale Watching

Best for: Children and adults of all ages 

The San Juan Islands in Washington, just a short trip from Seattle, are one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Beautiful orca whales live in the surrounding waters, the Salish Sea, year round. Although you are not guaranteed to see whales in January, orcas, gray whales, humpback whales and minke whales can still be sighted, and the scenery itself is magnificent. Check out my article for all the best places to go whale watching in the Seattle area. Even if you don’t catch a whale sighting, you won’t regret seeing the beautiful views during a tour!

Outdoor Winter Adventures 

Mount Rainier (Photo by Lucas Davies, Unsplash)

Mount Rainier National Park

Best for: winter sports lovers

Less than a two hour drive from Seattle, you will find Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in Washington and of the Cascade Mountain Range. From Seattle, it provides a beautiful snow-capped backdrop, and up close, it is equally as beautiful. Aside from the obvious outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, you can head to this National Park for some winter horseback riding, or take a truck tour and visit hundreds of Rocky Mountain Elk as they are feeding. This would be a great family activity that your animal-loving kids would enjoy! There are also a number of tours you can book that will take you from Seattle to Mount Rainier, and experience some of the best things it has to offer. 

Snoqualmie Pass

Best for: winter sports lovers

Known as Seattle’s home mountain, Snoqualmie Pass is less than an hour away from the city. There are winter activities such as nordic skiing, snow tubing, snowshoeing, and the latest winter activity, snow-bike riding. New to skiing or snowboarding? There are private or group lessons available for both. You can check out all the options  on their website.

Hot Tub Boat Cruise

Best for: Date night or a group of friends

Looking for an outdoor activity where you will be sure to stay warm? What better way to stay toasty than enjoying the warmth and relaxation of a hot tub, as you cruise around Lake Union in one of their hot tub rentals! As the first and only wood-fired hot tub boat rental business in the United States, this unique experience is great for a fun date night or a group of friends to enjoy 360 degree views of Lake Union and Seattle. Visit Lake Union Hot Tub Boats for information on booking and partaking in this European spa experience, right in the heart of Seattle!

Day Trips from Seattle in January

Visit the Town of Leavenworth

Best for: a pop of Europe in Washington

Leavenworth is a beautiful Bavarian-style village in the Cascade Mountains that will truly make you feel like you are in a European winter wonderland. There are a number of tours available that will take you the two hour drive from Seattle to Leavenworth, where you can see some beautiful scenery, stroll through some of the cutest European style shops, and taste a variety of amazing European cuisine. There is also an abundance of  trails surrounding Leavenworth to be explored in the winter, which can be explored by snowshoeing, nordic skiing, or snowmobiling. 

Go Wine Tasting in Woodinville

Best for: wine-loving adults!

Did you know Washington is now the second largest producer of wine in the United States? Woodinville, a short drive from Seattle at just 30 minutes, is one of the top wine tasting destinations in Washington State, with over 120 wineries in the area. Wine enthusiasts from all over the world enjoy coming to the area, and if you’re visiting Seattle in January, it is the perfect time to go in order to avoid long tasting lineups. 

There are four wine tasting districts in Woodinville: Warehouse, Hollywood, West Valley and downtown. You can spend days touring all the different areas, so if you are just taking a day trip from Seattle, plan on one region to spend your time in. Guided tours are also available. Take a look at my top recommendations on where to go wine tasting in Woodinville.

Visiting Seattle in January

Seattle is a vibrant cultural destination year-round. Whether you’re looking to stay inside or you’re willing to brave the rain, there are endless opportunities for fun, learning, good eating, and live experiences. Though we shine in summer, visiting Seattle in January is a treasure all its own.

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I'm Ashley, the founder of Wanderlux and a travel junkie. When I'm not at home near Seattle, Washington, you can find me on the beach in Mexico or traveling the world. Wherever I am, I aim to travel respectfully, show my kids new things, and learn more than I teach.




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