By Sarah-Mae McCullough, The Seattle Times
Last year, the Seattle area saw a measly seven rain-free weekend days during the Big Dark — the period stretching from November to March when the sun sets before 5 p.m.
Hopefully this season will go easier on us, but wet weather is bound to sometimes put a damper on even the toughest Seattleite’s plans. For days when you want to be both out of the house and out of the rain, try one of these indoor itineraries built around delicious pastries, adorable cats and other comforts.
- Baked goods and a movie, in Columbia City
- Cats and books, on Capitol Hill
- Coffee and plants, in West Seattle
- Baked goods and a movie, in Columbia City
Meandering down Rainier Avenue South, it would be hard to miss the small, bright red Columbia City Bakery — a homey neighborhood spot owned by James Beard Outstanding Baker semifinalist Evan Andres.
Take in the art hanging on the wall, order from the baguettes, pretzels, desserts and other tasty items piled behind the glass, and enjoy the smell of fresh bread. Then perhaps grab a stool by the window to watch passersby on the often busy avenue outside.
If you want a quick meal (ready in six to seven minutes, according to the menu), you can order hot sandwiches for $7.50 to $14 or an $8.82 hand pie in which a flaky pie crust is stuffed with seasonal fillings (currently sautéed mushrooms and chorizo are on the menu), and a variety of hot and cold drinks.
You’ll probably understand why the bakery was listed on Seattle Eater’s “16 of Seattle’s most perfect bakeries” this fall, praised for its “assortment of outrageously good breads.”
When the post-treat sleepiness starts sinking in, wake yourself up with a 300-foot walk down the block to the old-timey, white brick building that holds Ark Lodge Cinemas.
Running since 2012 in a building that’s been around since the 1920s, the independent theater is what film critic Moira Macdonald called “a fixture of the Columbia City neighborhood,” loved for its colorfully painted walls and the comfy velvet armchairs in its Prestige Room theater.
If you’re not pressed for time, make a few stops on the one Rainier Avenue block between these two destinations. You’ll pass the Italian grocery store and restaurant Persephone, with bright pink walls, string lights and yellow vintage armchairs; Gather Consignment, a women’s clothing and accessory shop; Olympia Coffee Roasting; and the neighborhood’s Molly Moon’s ice cream parlor.
If you go to Columbia City Bakery: Open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 4865 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle;
If you go to Ark Lodge Cinemas: Open 4-8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, noon-8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, closed Monday-Wednesday. Check showtimes online. 4816 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle;
Cats and books, on Capitol Hill
With warm-toned hardwood floors, matching wooden book shelves and high ceilings, the 50-year-old Elliott Bay Book Co. feels both spacious and cozy.
As you meander through two floors of shelves in the iconic Seattle shop, you’ll find displays of recommended and bargain books, handwritten notes sharing staff picks and a few dining room-style tables where you can settle down.
At the back of the store is a children’s play area, a short story dispenser (a creative kiosk that prints out short stories for free) and the Little Oddfellows cafe, which offers coffee, tea, wine, beer and sandwiches.
Once you’ve purchased your books, head west down East Pine Street, across multiple rainbow crosswalks and pass SIFF Cinema Egyptian (another good rainy-day destination), Blick Art Materials and a handful of restaurants. After about five minutes, you’ll reach NEKO Cat Cafe, a partially underground space that might easily be missed if not for the sign that enticingly promises “Lots of cats” and “Drinks, too.”
When you head downstairs into the brightly lit space, accented with pink, look through the big glass window on the left to see the main attraction: a small room filled with 12 to 15 cats sleeping in baskets or playing and up to nine people admiring them.
Past the play area, in the cat pun-filled cafe, you can order drinks including coffee, tea, juice, beer, cider, wine and sake, plus a more limited range of food options such as cake pops decorated like cat faces and barbecue pulled pork.
The main cat room experience — 45 minutes of petting and playing with the cats, with a max of nine visitors in the room — costs $22 per person. Or you can rent out the room for up to 11 cat lovers for $176 on weekdays and $295 on weekends.
Bonus Capitol Hill adventure: Combine cats and books into just one stop at Twice Sold Tales, a used bookstore along Denny Way with four live-in cats.
If you go to Elliott Bay Books: Open 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; 1521 10th Ave., Seattle;
If you go to NEKO Cat Cafe: Open 9 a.m.-9:45 p.m. Friday-Sunday and 10 a.m.-9:45 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday. Book your session online in advance. 519 E. Pine St., Seattle;
If you go to Twice Sold Tales: Open 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; 1833 Harvard Ave., Seattle;
Coffee and plants, in West Seattle
Walking into West Seattle’s C & P Coffee Co. feels more like entering a friend’s home than a food service establishment — if your friend were hosting dozens of people studying, drawing, playing board games and gossiping while sipping hot drinks.
Inside the coffee house (which is inside an actual house), a fireplace sits front and center. The assorted, often mismatched dining room and coffee tables, couches and armchairs add to the impression that you’re in a cozy, if somewhat chaotic, home.
Head to the left to find the counter where you can order coffee, beer, wine and baked goods, including vegan and wheat-free options. (The food options are light, so don’t come too hungry.) The coffee shop also has a backyard, decorated with potted plants and prayer flags, and a deck with space heaters. Dog owners can find an outdoor-facing counter to order from without trekking muddy paws inside.
Unlike some cafes where you may feel obligated to avoid lingering too long after ordering, C & P is a hub for those who want to nestle in with their laptop, journal or a book. As its website states, “Bring a friend or your laptop and make yourself at home!” But if you want a more eventful visit, the shop also hosts open mics, live music and other gatherings.
Although you can soak in some greenery in C & P’s backyard, for even more plant-inspired endorphins, walk about five minutes down California Avenue Southwest to West Seattle Nursery & Garden Center.
The nursery offers all the expected gardening essentials including tools, seeds, soil and lots of plants to ooh and ahh over. (Ferns! Succulents! Young and adorable deciduous trees in pots!) But even those without a green thumb may enjoy browsing the gift shop, a greenhouse filled with indoor plants and aesthetic displays of jewelry and household goods, plus a coffee bar. The center also sells a range of books and puzzles.
If you go to C & P Coffee Co.: Open 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. 5612 California Ave. S.W., Seattle;
If you go to West Seattle Nursery & Garden Center: Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. The coffee bar is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. 5275 California Ave. S.W., Seattle;
More cozy Seattle-area spots, recommended by readers
If you’re still looking for a cozy outing, readers wrote in with their favorite spots to try in and around Seattle. Here are several of their suggestions:
- Big Picture (35 W. Sunset Way, Issaquah) — a 21-and-older dine-in movie theater with cocktails. “Whether you’re interested in taking in a first run movie in their amazing 33 seat theater or desire to simply chill in their comfy lounge — complete with plush chairs and couches — you won’t be disappointed!” Peter Mayer said. “Oh — I highly recommend the white cheddar and truffle popcorn! The next best place to my living room!”
- Hotel Sorrento’s Fireside Room (900 Madison St., Seattle): Jason Cheung recommended the cocktail lounge featuring a fireplace and comfy couches and chairs.
- Sky Nursery (18528 Aurora Ave. N., Shoreline): “On a cloudy, chilly, winter day this natural light filled space feels like spring!” Julie Hogenson said. “A greenhouse cafe serves warm beverages and tasty pastries to boost your winter mood.”
- The Cozy Nut (123 N. 85th St., Seattle): “It’s in the name!” Bailey W. said of the tavern and bar. “The Cozy Nut in Greenwood is my favorite. After that, it’s a short walk to either The Dark Room or Ruby lounge. In Ballard, Little Tin Goods & Apothecary makes me feel like I’m in a secret garden. If you’re downtown, The White Horse is a staple stop.”
- Bottle House (1416 34th Ave., Seattle): “The house that acts as the restaurant is dimly lit and surrounded by beautiful art and wine,” Annemarie Francis said. “It pulls you into finding your corner. My favorite spot is near the entrance next to the window to watch the rain while enjoying a flight of red wine paired with a charcuterie board that warms the Seattle soul.”
- The rock ‘n’ roll bar Busy Body (2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma): “The space is built out with lots of cozy nooks, everything on Musangtino’s menu there is delicious, and it has a strong community vibe welcoming you to stay as long as you like,” Gwen McKenzie said.
- Mercer Street Books (7 Mercer St., Seattle): “I’m a sucker for string lights and the shop’s twinkling lights in the front window always draw me in,” Elena Arakaki said. “It feels safe and warm inside, and it’s my first stop when I’m in search of a book.”
- The Chocolati coffee shop near Green Lake (7810 E. Green Lake Drive N., Seattle) is cozy with a “combination of the dark wood and the view out on Green Lake,” Nick Fraser said.
- Amy Summers recommended two Seattle bars: Mount Baker’s Velvet Elk (3605 S. McClellan St., Seattle) where “the upstairs has comfy chairs and sofas, is warm, cozy, funky and intimate”; and Madison Park’s Red Onion Tavern (4210 E. Madison St., Seattle) where “you can snuggle up in a little sofa by the fireplace and watch sports and drink beer.”
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