Given all the coffee its residents drink, it shouldn’t be surprising that Seattle stays up late.
I was tipped off to this by my sister, an inveterate night owl and Seattlephile who starts her day when most people are winding theirs down. She and my brother-in-law take their morning coffee around 5 p.m., then look for things to do while everybody else is at dinner. And that’s how I discovered that Seattle’s most hallowed attractions are all the more attractive after dark.
What could be more romantic, for instance, than a panoramic 360-degree view over the starlit city, its bridges sparkling, lights twinkling and shimmering in the black expanse of Elliott Bay? That’s the after-hours experience at Seattle’s fabled Space Needle, where the observation deck is open for visitors until 11 p.m. (11:30 on weekends).
True, snow-capped Mt. Rainier and the majestic Cascades are visible only until dusk. But twilight brings thinner crowds and can be quite pleasant, if brisk, on a clear, cloudless fall night. If it’s too chilly outdoors, the SkyCity restaurant has the same 500-foot view enclosed in glass.
There’s much more glass next door at the visually spectacular Chihuly Garden and Glass, which opened in 2012 as a showcase for the art of Washington native Dale Chihuly. Chihuly, who has done a lot of work in Israel and has a large Jewish following, favors the kind of vibrant hues that are particularly effective when lit up against the night sky.
So it’s convenient that this museum is open until 8 p.m. (9 on weekends) — allowing visitors to bathe in the electrified glow of flame-colored poppies, vermillion flames and other large-scale installations. You wander through the glass greenhouse, gazing up at the vitreous flora, then stroll through the interactive garden, where the otherworldly forms change hue and emit an eerie chorus as visitors move past.
There are plenty of less-eerie musical options in Seattle — including the Seattle Jewish Chorale, which was holding auditions on a recent weekend, and the renowned Seattle Symphony, which is offering a series of free community concerts around town all fall. And in the town that grunge made famous, live music animates the 1st Avenue bar scene well into the night.
Stroll from 1st Avenue toward Puget Sound, and you have an excellent sunset option: the Olympic Sculpture Park, which opened several years back as an extension of the Seattle Art Museum.
Large-scale forms by Calder, Bourgeois, Serra and others form a picturesque tableau against the western-facing waterfront, a particularly lovely sight at sunset. Best of all, this nine-acre park is free and open every day until a half-hour past dark.
But even my sister has a few hours to kill before night sets in. Food and shopping were on the agenda, and we found both at Pike Place Market, Seattle’s answer to the Boquería.
This historic spot was a destination for fresh Pacific salmon and farm produce long before the foodie movement. Today it feels fresher than ever, peppered with purveyors of lavender, honey, soap and other Northwest specialties.
Kosher dill pickles may not sound like they belong on that list. But Britt’s Pickles, a Pike Place mainstay, invites shoppers to sample and peruse a kosher-certified smorgasbord of briny products including sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented lemons. (Since this is the eco-conscious West Coast, you get a discount if you bring your own pickle jar.)
Were I a Starbucks drinker, I would make a pilgrimage to the original Starbucks outlet across a cobbled alley from the market. But I am not — and since Dunkin Donuts is still as exotic a concept as seltzer out west, the next best caffeine option just might be Fremont.
Fremont is a quirky, hilly neighborhood with a lot of character and some really good coffee at Milstead & Co., whose expert baristas help you select from an array of local roasters. It’s near the Flying Apron, a cute bakery whose fare is all gluten-free and vegan — of course.
Fremont is known for its canals, which are romantic at any time of day. But unlike the marine corridors of Venice — Italy or California — Seattle’s waterways are home to a community of houseboats, which bob on the current alongside bike lanes and dog-walkers.
And Lenin. Immortalized in bronze, the Communist revolutionary looms incongruously over a leafy Fremont plaza, periodically bedecked with Christmas lights or feather boas by local ironists.
Perhaps he chose the neighborhood for its view toward his Slavic homeland. You can’t quite see Russia, but from A. B. Ernst Park, you can watch the sun set over Aurora Bridge. Modern-style amphitheater benches offer an ideal spot to nosh that gluten-free pastry, contemplate the gardens — and caffeinate for another night out in Seattle.