The view from the seventh floor Sound Bite Lounge at The Sound Hotel in Seattle’s funky-chic Belltown neighborhood is as iconic and stunning as they come: There, through the window wall onto the patio, the Space Needle stands in the near-distance, its spindly long legs capped by a flying saucer-esque platform, looking as futuristically fabulous today as it did when it debuted at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
It’s early evening and the bartender is infusing a local Woodinville made rye whiskey with smoke, and gray clouds envelop her, momentarily.
Coincidentally, the next day a smoky-looking heavy fog obscures Space Needle’s saucer. Gradually, the eerie mist lifts, revealing the capsule elevators zooming up to the saucer. It looked like a scene from a Gerry Anderson sci-fi “Supermarionation” show. You could almost hear a Theremin’s electronic wail.
The Sound Hotel is about a 10-minute easy walk to the Seattle Center, where Space Needle stands, flanked on its northern side by the hilly Queen Ann neighborhood, which has been showing off some amazing bronze and gold fall foliage the past few, sunnier days.
Seattle isn’t all evergreens and rain, and though the mountains and eastern Washington receive a fair amount of snow, winters here are usually quite clement, compared to those in Massachusetts. With most tourists visiting during the summer, a winter trip means soaking in the city with fewer lines for attractions, lower hotel rates and airfares. February’s Museum Month adds half-price tickets to most of the area’s 40 museums, and what better time than winter to hunker down inside among great cultural artifacts?
It’s simple: Request the Museum Month package when checking into a participating hotel — which is most, actually, including The Sound Hotel, part of Hilton’s boutique Tapestry collection. The pass is good for up to four people, includes Lyft discounts, and the hotels often have restaurant specials, too.
Marked by a giant two-dimensional silhouette sculpture of an ironworker wielding a hammer, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is the city’s main arts institution. But unique ones such as the Living Computer Museum and Snoqualmie’s Northwest Railway Museum, located outside the city, also take part in Museum Month.
Washington’s oldest museum, The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, dates to 1899, but reopened last year in an adjacent impressive new building on the University of Washington campus in the U-District.
Over at the Seattle Center, fall’s golden maples have colorful competition at the Chihuly Garden and Glass. While dedicated to the work of master glass art maker Dale Chihuly, this indoor-outdoor space also includes some of his personal collections of Native American-inspired Pendleton blankets, woven baskets and prints of rare historic Native American portraits.
The Sound Bite lounge — the hotel’s name riffs on Puget Sound and Seattle’s massively influential rock music scene — has a mini museum on its shelves: some of the formative, iconic grunge albums from bands such as Green River, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and Nirvana are joined by those from other Seattle music makers, Jimi Hendrix notably among them. The Seattle rock scene is no longer a marginalized trend, but part of the city’s cultural makeup.
In the late 1990s, Microsoft co-founder, the late Paul Allen, an avid music and Hendrix fan, broke ground on what was originally the Experience Music Project. The museum morphed into the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop), which stands between the Chihuly and the Space Needle, and houses pop culture artifacts from horror movies to sci-fi epics; and from Prince to Pearl Jam. The Pearl Jam hall welds that band’s history to the city’s — a sign over one exhibit reads RKCNDY, referring to the mosh-pit heavy club that once stood nearby.
A stunning futuristic-apocalyptic Frank Gehry building, MoPop’s undulating walls drape over the Monorail tracks that run from the Seattle Center to Westlake Center, downtown. This is how city travel was envisioned when the Monorail opened in 1962 to transport visitors to the World’s Fair grounds.
Space Needle might look unchanged from the outside, but its original restaurant is gone, replaced by The Loupe, the world’s only revolving glass floor viewing platform.
The Loupe opened in 2018 and while that is an experience, it doesn’t top the original top-floor panoramic viewing platform overlooking Puget Sound and all the way to snow-covered Mount Rainier to the South: Art and nature, always a winning combo.
Eat and drink in Belltown
Midway between downtown and the Seattle Center, Belltown has long been Seattle’s coolest neighborhood: Sip smoky Manhattans at The Sound Bite Lounge and breakfast on a grain and acai bowl with a dollop of protein-rich almond butter at Currant, downstairs (Fourth and Blanchard, www.thesoundhotelseattle.com); eat the best crab cakes in the world at Dahlia Lounge (Fourth and Virginia, www.dahlialounge.com); and experience funkily reimagined pasta and Italian dishes at Tavolàta (Second and Battery, www.ethanstowellrestaurants.com).
For more information on Museum Month, visit www.seattlemuseummonth.com.