30 Perfect Summer Nights in Seattle
When it comes to endless summer nights, Seattle has the bragging rights sewn up: Around here, sunlight lingers into end of day (we’ll have 16 hours of daylight on June 21!), making for long, languid evenings that seem to stretch on forever. Sure, our nights are seldom hot—some years, we just settle for dry—but the city comes alive at night during this season, with myriad options for after-hours adventures. Whether you’re seeking ways to play, eat, drink or explore the outdoors in the dark, this is your guide to the best summer nights Seattle has to offer.
Hot Tub Boats
Imagine bobbing along on Lake Union in a floating, diesel-powered hot tub. That, um, dream is now reality, thanks to Seattle-based HOT TUB BOATS. Created by local shipwrights with an entrepreneurial bent (and, apparently, a sense of humor), these floating tubs (patent pending!) will take to the lake with as many as six people on board. The good news? A diesel-fired boiler keeps the water hot during your voyage. And you can steer while submerged. The bad? No alcohol or nudity is allowed. Sheer decadence or extreme dorkiness? We’ll let you decide. At press time, rental fees were not available; hottubboats.com.
While a way a summer evening on one of THE ELECTRIC BOAT COMPANY’s 21-foot-long, 100-percent electric-powered (eco!) canopied boats launched from the west side of Lake Union. Hop aboard with friends (limit 10 passengers), some BYO beverages (beer or wine only), food and music, and motor yourself on a little tour of our city’s waterways. Each boat has plush seating and cocktail tables, and can be enclosed, should it rain on your summer parade. “A lot of people like to check out the Alaska crabbing boats at Fishermen’s Terminal and stop at Chinook’s and get takeout,” says owner Jennifer Towne. Especially cool after dark: the Venetian-like channels offering a glimpse into Seattle’s luxe houseboat community, Roanoke Reef, on Lake Union in Eastlake. Big spenders, ask about the luxury boat. 2046 Westlake Ave. N, Suite 102; 206.223.7476. Summer hours: Mon.–Thu., noon-9 p.m.; Fri.–Sun., 10 a.m.–10 p.m. $89 per hour plus tax, with a two-hour minimum. Luxury boat rents for $175 an hour, two-hour minimum, plus a deposit. Renters must be 25 years or older; driver training provided. Photograph by Hayley Young
Spa Summer Nights
Kick off your heels and bask in the setting sun at The Spa at Willows Lodge (Woodinville, 14580 NE 145th St.; 425.424.3900; willowslodge.com). During the summer months, the newly revamped spa pops open the umbrellas on two outdoor cabanas for side-by-side manis ($35–$45) or pedis ($55–$75); open late (until 7 p.m.), which gives you just enough time to slide into the lodge’s Fireside Cellars for a pre-treatment happy-hour drink (4–6:30 p.m.).
Rock the House
Hitting the town with a pack of friends? End the evening in a private karaoke room at Capitol Hill hot spot ROCK BOX (1603 Nagle Place; 206.302.7625; rockboxseattle.com. Rooms seat 1–15 guests; $7 per person per hour). Not only is the experience more authentic to original Japanese karaoke, it’s the perfect social compromise: Serious singers can perform as many tunes as they want without long waits, while more bashful crooners have a comfy place to relax and spectate until they’ve imbibed enough liquid courage (or until the core-shaking power of Wilson Phillips harmonies can no longer be denied). Karaoke nerds love the award-winning design of the place and accessing the song library via iPad; everyone else can just focus on the Bluebird ice cream ($5), savory and sweet small plates and, of course, the daily happy hour.
Dance with Abandon
There’s more to life than noodle dancing in front of a band. Pick up some moves on a summer evening spent salsa-ing your cares (and extra calories!) away. At the Century Ballroom (Capitol Hill, 915 E Pine St.; 206.324.7263; centuryballroom.com), drop-ins are welcome at beginning swing, tango and salsa lessons offered at 9 p.m. most nights (8 p.m. on Saturdays; $7–$15), followed by dancing, and perfect after-hours people-watching on the surrounding streets. Or kick it to live music at one of Ballard’s long-held dance traditions: Monday-night square dancing at the Tractor Tavern (the second and fourth Mondays of each month; 5213 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.789.3599; tractortavern.com). C’mon, no one’s watching!
The decades-old Post Alley gem THE PINK DOOR (Pike Place Market, 1919 Post Alley; 206.443.3241; thepinkdoor.net) is a fail-safe for a memorable night out in any season. Combine delicious, Old World atmosphere with sustainably sourced, classic Italian fare; add to that a rich menu of free live entertainment, including trapeze artists, aerialists, music, burlesque and even tarot card readings (check website for daily schedule). The evening cabaret scene is delightful, but arriving early for happy hour, before the spectacle lets loose, can feel just as decadent—especially if you get a patio table during the golden hour before sunset. In which case, sip a simple but satisfying French 75, soak in the peekaboo views of Elliott Bay and sing to yourself: “I’m in heaven.”
A brand-new festival is bringing live music, theater and art to the Seattle waterfront this summer, for the first time since Summer Nights at the Pier sank 10 years ago. For three weekends this summer, ARTS ON THE WATERFRONT will offer art displays and free events to the pier south of the Seattle Aquarium, including a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, followed by moonlit dancing to local bands. Fridays through Sundays, 6/15–7/1. 7 p.m. artsonthewaterfront.com
Creatures of the Dark
Night owl, meet your match on a guided walk in the dark to spot owls, bats and other nocturnal critters. On summer nights, the Audubon Society hosts BAT WALKS & TALKS and OWL PROWLS ($5; sewardpark.audubon.org). If you’d rather stalk mammals, take the 75-mile drive to Tenino for a shivery evening at Wolf Haven International. There, HOWL-INS feature eerie wolf calls, sanctuary tours and live music, beginning at 6 p.m. ($17/adult, $10/child; overnight camping available; wolfhaven.org). One caveat for romance seekers: Kids, like critters, tend to be plentiful at these events.
There’s nothing quite like the creepy-cool thrill of FLASHLIGHT HIKING in deep local forest, and these long summer evenings make it easy to bag a peak after work. Choose a well-traveled trail (we like the Chirico Trail to Issaquah’s Poo Poo Point; wta.org) and a trustworthy flashlight and head to the top, where you’ll watch the sun set while eating a well-earned picnic dinner. Exploring the outdoors at night is addictive; next, try night kayaking. Sign up for a FULL-MOON TOUR at Agua Verde Paddle Club, leaving from Seattle’s Portage Bay and heading into the Washington Park Arboretum ($40; aguaverde.com).
Enjoy the Silence
The Artist not only swept the Oscars last February, it inspired a whole new craving for silent films. Sate yourself at Silent Movie Mondays ($10. 7 p.m. 7/9, 7/16, 7/23, 7/30. The Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St.; 877.784.4849; stgpresents.org), which in July focuses on “Opulence and Epics,” screening Ben Hur and King of Kings, among others. And don’t worry about hearing a pin drop—films are accompanied by Seattle organist extraordinaire Jim Riggs, who ups the cinematic excitement with swells and subtle cues on the Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ.
Lights, Camera, Beer!
What makes a good night at the movies great? Having a drink and a snack while you watch. Seattle offers several venues in which do so (many are ages 21 and older). Try Central Cinema in the Central District (all ages. $8/$6 advance. 1411 21st Ave.; 206.328.3230; central-cinema.com) for a raucous, indie vibe, beloved old flicks and, this month, National Lampoon’s Vacation and I Know What You Did Last Summer. For a chic tiki take, first-run films and delicious flavored popcorn, Belltown’s Big Picture (21 and older. $11. 2505 First Ave.; 206.256.0566; thebigpicture.net) can’t be beat. National chain Cinebarre’s Mountlake Terrace outlet (21 and older. $12; 6009 244th St. SW; 425.672.8163; cinebarre.com) screens current films and offers chairside service of beer, wine and goofy menu items (including desserts such as Princess Leias—a plate of cinnamon rolls); check out its $5 Tuesdays. Finally, for the swankiest option, visit Redmond Town Center’s iPic Theaters (21 and older. $18.50 or $27 for premium seating. 16541 NE 74th St.; 425.636.5601; ipictheaters.com), a national company that offers first-run films in the comfort of plush recliner seats, with pillows, blankets and food service. While such accoutrements can’t make a bad movie any better, they certainly make it easy to suffer through in style.
Backyard Box Office
Coming to a backyard near you: a traveling outdoor movie extravaganza courtesy of new Ballard company Cinefresco (packages start at $500; cinefresco.com). Springing forth from her van, decked out in a vintage ticket-taker uniform, owner Kelli Bielema brings in a monster pop-up screen, projector, vintage film reels and even a Hollywood glam-style concession stand. An evolution of her own private annual brew-and-view kegger parties (known as The Pitcher Show), Bielema launched Cinefresco this spring as a retro-funky side service to her year-old event planning company, Shindig Events. She brings the caramel- or truffle-flavored popcorn; you provide the delighted guests.
Dog’s Night Out
Snag a blanket, grab your AM radio and put the pooch in the car for a double feature at the old-school Valley 6 Drive-In (Auburn, 401 49th St. NE; 253.854.1250; valleydriveins.com). The dog-friendly drive-in shows current movie releases ($9 for two movies) starting at sunset—even when the sun doesn’t set until after 9 p.m. Gates open at 8 p.m. If you need a little help keeping wet noses at bay, visit the box office for a dog biscuit—but keep your pooch on a leash.
Photograph by Hayley Young
Late-night Happy Places
The late-happy-hour trend seems designed for the long days of summer. When late-night cravings hit, head to Poppy from 9 p.m. to closing, Sunday through Thursday, for a delicious “naanwich” ($6) and an Artifizz cocktail ($6 for the happy-hour special). Or slide across town to Frank’s Oyster House & Champagne Parlor (Ravenna, 2616 NE 55th; 206.525.0220; franksoysterhouse.com) from 10 until 11 p.m. It’s not the largest spot, but the goat-cheese deviled eggs with paprika oil ($2.75) and the English Violet cocktail ($6 if it’s the day’s special) balance out any bustle. For a delicious after-hours drink, go incognito inside Rob Roy’s loungy dimness (Belltown, 2332 Second Ave.; 206.956.8423; robroyseattle.com); it’s ideal for conversing well into the wee hours and drinking luscious concoctions like the Playmate (Pineau des Charentes, Fever-Tree tonic and a grapefruit twist; $10). Or head to Madison Park’s Luc for a quiet—but still convivial—after-hours atmosphere, scrumptious potato soufflé crisps ($9) and a delightfully dry Lucatini ($10).
The Inn Crowd
The 103-year-old hotel, The Sorrento, is so beautiful that reading alone in the lobby seems like a special affair. (In fact, “Silent Reading Parties” have actually been popular here.) But look to the hotel’s programming (it’s not just for guests) when you want a cocktail and an excuse to get a little dressed up. Every second Wednesday, bartenders and spirits experts host “Drinking Lessons,” lively 90-minute lectures on the history and preparation of classic libations (6 or 8 p.m. $50; includes class, drinks and small bites). If you prefer unstructured fun, order in the super-cozy Fireside Room, where Steffan Soule will bring magic tricks right to your table (second and fourth Thursdays; 5:30–8:30 p.m.; Downtown, 900 Madison St.; 206.622.6400; hotelsorrento.com).
Art and About
Most of Seattle’s boroughs have a monthly ART WALK, where for one evening businesses and galleries host casual receptions for local artists displaying work. A fun social scene for some; for others, a rare sample sale hiding valuable undiscovered treasure. For the richest and most reliable sampling, try the Downtown First Thursday art walk, starting at the Tashiro Kaplan triangle (Yesler Way at Prefontaine Place) or at Seattle Art Museum (1300 First Ave.), with free admission. Blitz! art walk on Capitol Hill (second Thursdays) always rewards with an eclectic mix, with highlights at Ghost Gallery (Denny Way and Summit) and Vermillion Art Gallery Wine Bar (1508 11th Ave.). Calculate your walking route so you can grab a cocktail at one of the many nearby bars (we recommend Café Presse or Canon). For more info on all of the city’s neighborhood art walks, including Georgetown’s Art Attack and Art Up Phinneywood, visit seattleartwalks.org.
Sit Down & Dance
For those of us whose mosh-pit days are a thing of the barely recalled past—but who still manage to engage in spirited chair dancing to live music—The Triple Door (216 Union St.; 206.838.4333; thetripledoor.net) is a godsend. With intimate, chic seating that facilitates talking with friends, eating, drinking (and yes, chair dancing), the downtown music and performance venue makes for an excellent night out. This month, the one and only Sandra Bernhard hits the stage (6/21–6/23; times and prices vary) with her new show, “I Love Being Me, Don’t You?” for which she’s backed by a live band.
One of Seattle’s greatest summer-evening assets are its two—two!—Shakespeare in the Park theater companies. GreenStage and Seattle Shakespeare’s Wooden O theater mount a total of four different free matinee and evening productions in area parks each summer; this year, don’t miss Twelfth Night for twins/shipwreck/mistaken-identity hilarity, or go for a tragic vibe along with King Leontes in The Winter's Tale (times and dates vary; seattleshakespeare.org). If heavy-duty historical drama's your thing, catch Henry VIII; but we'll be tossing down our blankets for the unlikely but loveable The Taming of the Shrew (greenstage.org).
Live & Local
One of the newest and most exciting music venues in town, The Royal Room (5000 Rainier Ave. S; 206.906.9920; theroyalroomseattle.com) opened in December to rave reviews. Located in Columbia City, the laid-back, welcoming space is committed to local music and features performances that showcase Seattle’s immense range of musical talent, including jazz, classical, alt-rock, funk, big band and experimental (Thursday–Sunday; catch national touring acts on Tuesday and Wednesday). This month, don’t miss the “Memphis Soul Stew” (6/14, 8 p.m.), featuring the music of Stax/Volt Records. And speaking of stew, the menu includes jambalaya, catfish and cheese balls (yes, rolled in pecans)—hearty fare for soaking up the draft beers you consume while marveling at the music. Bonus: no bad seats in the house!
We’re torn. Our stingy side hesitates to even mention Madrona’s Bottlehouse (1416 34th Ave.; 206.708.7164; bottlehouseseattle.com), because it is such a perfect summer evening destination that we’d like to keep it to ourselves. But our magnanimous side wants to shout it from the rooftops. Hosts and owners Henri and Soni are so warm and welcoming, the vibe is so chill, the Parisian-style sandwiches ($7.50) are so delicious, the wines go down so smoothly (sangría with fresh fruit on tap!), and the intimate deck is like something out of a movie set—it’s just wonderful. And in the summer, Bottlehouse ups the ante with live acoustic music (Wednesday–Saturday; times vary) and a sweet tradition known as the “Songwriters Salon” (first and third Tuesdays of the month).
Photograph by Mike Sedam
For bracing fresh air and sheer gorgeousness of vistas, nothing beats a NIGHTTIME FERRY RIDE spent topside. Sure, you’ll pay for the thrill ($19 for car and two adults to Bainbridge Island; ferries run well into the night, visit wsdot.wa.gov/ferries for schedule), but the hour spent frolicking aboard one of our city’s floating bastions of retro-kitsch won’t be wasted, whether you’re swilling a swell tap beer in the cafeteria or whipping up a fierce hairdo on deck. Those slatted benches, that unrelenting rumble, that ferryboat smell—it’s a truly Northwest experience, and you’ll fall in love with Seattle a little bit more when you see its sparkling lights reflected at night on Elliott Bay.
Wind down on Woodinville winery Novelty Hill–Januik’s elegant patio (14710 Woodinville-Redmond Road NE; 425.481.5502; noveltyhilljanuik.com), open until 8 p.m. on summer Wednesdays. Along with sips of signature wines (and bottle discounts), a band plays in the corner while the staff fires up the wood-burning oven, flinging pizza pies as friends convene by the mod firepit or get competitive on the bocce ball court.
Photograph by Hayley Young
Tucked away at the base of an Eastlake apartment complex, Little Water Cantina’s perfect deck (2865 Eastlake Ave. E; 206.397.4940; littlewatercantina.com) is flush with glittering views of Lake Union and the muscled crew teams rowing away. Park yourself at a picnic table, order some guac and tortilla chips, and you might end up witnessing a post happy-hour jam session—local bands such as Minus the Bear and Squirrel Butter have been known to plug in and play. >> For more hidden patios and great decks, visit our archives.
Root for the Home Team
A freshly grilled Bratwurst, the distinct crack of bat meeting ball: There’s nothing quite like spending an evening at the ballpark. While Safeco Field is always a home run, for appealing small-town flavor, try spreading your blanket in the lawn seating section ($7)—or, for just $25, sit behind home plate—at the Tacoma Rainiers’ newly remodeled Cheney Stadium (2502 S Tyler St.; 253.752.7707; tacomarainiers.com), then impatiently wait for the Friday-night postgame fireworks.
Photograph by Chuck Pefley
Broaden Your Horizons
For art appreciators, there’s no better place to watch the sun sink below the craggy Olympic mountain range than Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park (Free. 2901 Western Ave.; 206.654.3100; seattleartmuseum.org), which stays open until dusk. Begin your sunset countdown at the water’s edge, near Roy McMakin’s “Love & Loss” sculpture (can you solve the word puzzle?). Walk up the zigzag pathway, pass through Teresita Fernández’s colorful “Seattle Cloud Cover” installation on the bridge over the railroad tracks, plop down in a red chair next to Alexander Calder’s proud, red “Eagle” and watch the sun (poof!) disappear. Shoot for a summer Thursday evening, beginning on July 12, when the park features food trucks, live music and wine tastings.
Splendor in the Grass
Nothing says “summer’s here” like an evening spent lolling on the lawn, soaking up the sunset and the sounds at an outdoor concert. Options abound this time of year, from free (we love to go alt at KEXP’s free concerts at Seattle Center’s Mural Amphitheatre; kexp.org) to well worth the price (Chateau Ste. Michelle winery’s summer concert series is spendy, but brings big names to its lovely Woodinville lawn; ste-michelle.com). Visit Redmond’s Marymoor Park (marymoorconcerts.com) for sun-drenched dancing and seats from cheap (patch o’ grass) to sitting pretty (in a chair). You can also groove gorilla-adjacent at BECU ZooTunes (zoo.org/zootunes). Note: The hottest shows sell out fast; visit websites for tickets.
We’re bound to get some rainy nights this summer, which is an excellent reason to don a pair of silly shoes and hurl a ball down a gutter. Open since 1996, Garage Billiards and Bowl (1130 Broadway; 206.322.2296; garagebilliards.com) is a sleek bowling alley with a festive vibe. Friday and Saturday nights are the most crowded (and most expensive, at $25/hour per lane), so consider a Sunday or Monday night ($10/hour per lane), or make bowling the grand finale of your evening with the late-night happy hour (Sunday–Thursday, 10 p.m.–2 a.m.), when a lane only sets you back $5/hour.
After nearly shuttering in 2011, the Intiman Theatre is bouncing back. The 2012 Intiman Summer Festival will offer a taste of this new direction with four shows performed repertory style, by Marya Sea Kaminski, Nick Garrison and other local actors of note. Expect fresh and fierce interpretations from the giants: William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and, coming a little out of left field, sex columnist (and Seattle mag Most Influential Person of 2011) Dan Savage presents an original piece titled Miracle! about a young drag queen. Also, the UW’s Valerie Curtis-Newton directs John Patrick Shanley’s Dirty Story, a sharp satire in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is embodied by a sado-masochistic couple. The season is a bold experiment that could potentially reinvigorate Seattle’s professional theater scene. Bonus: On some evenings, two runs will be presented, with the “happy hour” performance starting at 5:30 p.m. and a second show at 8 p.m. 7/11–8/26. Times and days vary. $20; 2011 Intiman subscribers get in free. 201 Mercer St.; intiman.org
Photograph by Hayley Young
All the fun of golf with none of the skill (or fab pants) can be had at Redmond’s Rainbow Run putting course ($9; 10402 Willows Rd. NE; willowsrun.com). Open until 10 p.m. most nights in summer, the 18-hole putt-putt adventure features nifty water hazards, bear sound effects and lots of chutes to keep even duffers happy. Next door at Willows Run’s Fire Creek Grill, buy a cocktail to go and take it along to improve either your odds of getting a hole in one, or your odds of not caring.
Stock a picnic basket with local delectables for an al fresco dinner extraordinaire in your favorite city park. Here are some of our favorites:
Appetizers: Dinah’s cheese from Kurtwood Farms ($9/half; $18/whole), served with Columbia City Bakery’s walnut toasts ($4.25) • Mt. Townsend’s Seastack cheese ($12), served with Sardinian flatbread with truffle salt from Macrina ($6.25); Main course: Picnic’s kale and heirloom bean salad with preserved lemon vinaigrette ($7) • DeLaurenti’s Parma sandwich ($5.99) Dessert: Dahlia Bakery’s chocolate truffle cookies ($2.50) • Strawberries from Skagit Sun (about $4/pint) • A bar of Theo dark chocolate (about $4) Drink: Wild lime or blood orange Dry Soda ($12/12-pack) • A bottle of chilled Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Eroica (about $20)
WRITTEN BY KRISTEN RUSSELL, BRANGIEN DAVIS, KATE CALAMUSA, BOND HUBERMAN, RACHEL HART AND A.J. RATHBUN