There’s just something about the light drizzle of Seattle rain that feels oh, so romantic! While I grew up in the Midwest, my grandparents were the first Russian Jewish refugees to Tacoma Washington. That meant a whole lot of short and long visits to the area over the years. It also helps that Alaska Airlines flies direct to Seattle from Milwaukee, so I didn't have to add the trek to Chicago into the equation.
And while I’ve never looked at Seattle from a queer lens before my latest trip, it turns out that the city is very, very gay (just as gay, by percentage points, as San Francisco, with 75,000 people living in Seattle identify as LGBTQ). That means that it’s full of “gay” things or things for gays to do. Here are some of the best.
Where to stay
The Maxwell Hotel - Be prepared to spend a lot of time in bed with your sweetie(s) at The Maxwell Hotel, where your dog is welcome, too! A budget-conscious choice, there is so much to love about the Maxwell Hotel, starting from the quirky decor that greets you as you walk in. And it only gets better from there! The hotel room is cozy, with the very best beds I've slept on in the U.S. and fluffy feather blankets that just add to the don’t-get-out-of-bed vibes this hotel gives. It is very close to the Space Needle, a view of which you might have out of your hotel room’s window. The only nitpicky thing with which I had an issue was the water pressure, which I generally find to not be the very best in hotels in general.
Thompson Seattle - If the Pike Place Market is high on your list of must-visit locations in Seattle, you’re going to want to stay at the Thompson Hotel (pictured above). Located just one short block away from the market, the hotel is positively luxurious without being over the top. My hotel room had a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that looked directly over Puget Sound and Pike Market. Relax in a comfy chair as you watch the ferries floating peacefully by and endless views of the sparkling blue sound. To top it all off, the staff at Thompson Seattle are top-notch! Take a stroll down to The Joe Chocolate Co. Mocha Bar for a superb mocha.
W Hotel - The W Hotel is centrally located, making it a perfect hotel for a romantic duo (or more) who are looking for a space that’s a beautiful home base, but aren’t looking to spend a whole lot of time in their hotel room. The massive junior suite was warm and inviting, with a stunning view of the city through half-length windows lining half the room. The room is equipped with a comfortable desk, coffee maker, and a couch for relaxing. While the hotel serves breakfast, I’d skip it and make the 10-minute walk to the market for truly outstanding food.
Pike Place Market
What to do
Classic Tourism - Seattle is filled to the brim with exciting activities and adventures. If you like to mix adventure with the more classic tourist attractions, CityPASS offers a selection of museums, the Space Needle, the aquarium, and others. Packaged into a bundle, it offers a great discounted rate, allowing you to still have room in your budget to add a more elaborate adventure to your itinerary.
Pike Place Market Food Tour - I fell in love with food tours while on my honeymoon in Europe, and they haven’t disappointed me yet. Pike Market (pictured above) is filled with iconic eateries, many with long, long lines. The food tour doesn’t just allow you to learn the history of the market and vendors, it also allows you to skip the line and try some of those finger-lickingly good foods without all the fuss. The tour I took was led by a trained chef and offered in a small group format. The chef dives into what makes the food taste the very best, explaining how whole milk pairs best with chocolate for the very best mocha at Joe's, how the cheese is made and used at Beecher's Handmade Cheese, and so many other useful tidbits.
Blade & Timber Axe Throwing - Nothing quite says romance like learning a new activity and getting a little sweaty in the process. Blade & Timber is the very first Washington ax-throwing facility that serves beer, hard cider, and sparkling water. Don’t worry, the fantastic staff won’t throw you to the axes. Once you’ve signed a waiver, they will guide you through the process, carefully teaching you how to hold and throw the ax, demonstrating for visual learners, and sticking around until you get the hang of the process. The vibe is fairly laid back, with music playing quietly in the background. Expect that you’ll spend a lot of time laughing, and missing the target.
Hot Tub Boat
Hot Tub Boats - Hot tubs might be the most romantic activity of all time, especially when it’s drizzling a little as it often does in Seattle. But take a hot tub, put it into a boat, and float that boat on Lake Union, and now you have a grand experience that no one will forget anytime soon. Hot Tub Boats (above) have a capacity of up to six people, so grab your partners, metas — heck, your whole polycule — and rejuvenate while taking in the beautiful views of Seattle. Bring snacks and a plastic pouch for the phone! Note that the location doesn’t appear to be very accessible, with no railings to climb into the boat, and steep stairs to get down to the boathouse.
Seattle Glass Blowing Studio - For a unique romantic experience, you must consider a glass blowing class at the Seattle Glass Blowing Studio! In just a 30-minute experience, you can make a bowl, ornament, or even a paperweight. A glass blowing expert is by your side from start to finish, allowing you as much hands-on participation as possible. They gently guide, educate, and often correct, allowing you to fully immerse in the experience. Be sure to leave time to browse as the store also serves as a gallery for many glass artists. You might just find something you absolutely can’t live without!
Where to eat
Seattle is full of so much good food! These are a few of the best I tried on this trip but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try as many different cuisines and foods as Seattle is known for.
Mezzanotte - I’ve always been a fan of handmade pasta, but a recent trip to Italy intensified and refined that love. So when I headed to Mezzanotte (pictured above), where gay award-winning chef and Top Chef star Jason Stratton is known for the northern Italian cuisine and innovative handmade pasta, I was both excited, but also a bit apprehensive. Would it live up to my impossible standards? Walking in, all of my concerns were put to rest. The romantic, rustic, former bank environment was both relaxed and extremely fancy. And while a nice environment is fantastic, the food is clearly the star of the show! From burrata to the risotto to the many variations of handmade pasta with protein choices like rabbit, Mezzanotte checks every box.
Shiro Sushi - Shiro's has been our favorite sushi restaurant in the United States since the day my wife and I happened to see it on the Travel Channel. My grandmother, who we were visiting in Seattle, had the show playing in the background, and we were fascinated. The very next day we headed over and got in line for a coveted seat at the sushi counter, for an omakase experience we talk about to this very day. If you’re typically a California roll or salmon sushi lover, omakase will expand your palette, allowing you to discover that there are many other fish that are absolutely fantastic.
Flint Creek Cattle Co - For a classic romantic vibe, traditional steak house flavors with truly mouthwatering twists, you must dine at Flint Creek Cattle Co. Executive Chef Eric Donnelly has a way with wild game, and the venison was the best I've ever had (and I love venison)! A subtle hum and dim lighting greet you when you walk in, with seating available on two floors. The open kitchen layout is inviting, and a conversation started. Desserts were okay, but I’d focus on the star of the show, meat from grass-fed, small-scale farms turned into memorable, flavorful, culinary works of art.
Gyu-Kaku - In our search for a restaurant open on Christmas, we stumbled upon Gyu-Kaku. Not knowing anything about the restaurant, we quickly made reservations and headed to the restaurant. While I later learned that it was a Japanese-owned chain, walking in, it felt cozy, and smelled amazing! I can’t tell you that this is the best Japanese BBQ out there (it’s the only one I’ve ever tried), but in a pinch, it’s a fantastic experience and takes eating to a whole new level. After selecting your meats, veggies, and sides, your server will instruct you as to the very best method to grill your food, yourself, right in the middle of the table. Definitely a romantic wow!
Couple enjoys queer romance in Seattle