How to Get Weird After Dark in Seattle

No one would mistake Seattle for The City That Never Sleeps, especially if you're Downtown after 6pm or so. You wouldn't even mistake it for Portland, with its thriving late night food cart scene, a surprisingly inclusive strip club culture, and whatever else they have. 

Admittedly, we don't have an amazing nightlife scene and there are some reasons for that. There's Seattle's famously anti-social attitude; the so-called "Teen Dance Ordinance" that effectively turned Pioneer Square -- once the city's premier nightlife district -- into a ghost town after dark; as well as a flourishing food scene, which has shifted Seattle into a town way more interested in a good happy hour than a big night out. Hell, geography probably even has something to do with it. For what seems like most of the year it gets dark earlier here than any other major city in America. So, after a while, 8pm can actually start to feel pretty late. 

But just 'cause Seattle's not New York doesn't mean there isn't anything to do late at night. In fact there are at least 19 super fun things -- everything from playing 8-bit video games to taking in iconic views -- you should totally do in Seattle when the sun sets. Or you know, after it's been dark for a few hours. 

Let's start with the obvious: See a show

Live music is more than an integral part of Seattle nightlife, it's part of the fabric of the city. Which is another way of saying it's everywhere. On any given night there are too many live shows to possibly keep track of (unless you're the Stranger. Good job guys!), but if you stick to legendary venues like The Tractor, The Crocodile, Neumos and a handful of others, you'll be just fine.

Space Needle | evenfh/Shutterstock

Act like a tourist

The iconic Space Needle is the 2nd most instagrammed place in Seattle for a reason, and is open daily until 10pm, offering stunning views of the city at night. However, if that's not late enough for you, the similar -- if much less iconic -- Great Wheel on the waterfront is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday and is pretty great. Unless, like two Thrillist editors did, you try to allegedly sneak alcohol on and get kicked off mid ride. Allegedly! 

Enter the Laser Dome

Just below the Space Needle, Seattle Center's Laser Dome has been shining light on the ceiling set to popular music for decades -- with shows starting as late as midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and a variety of performances to choose from, there's pretty much something for everyone, which is great since everyone in Seattle has to do this at least once. It's like a rule.

SPIN (Seattle, WA)
SPIN (Seattle, WA)

Play kid games

In the last few years, games you grew up playing in your garage, or at trashy suburban fun parks have become the focus of stunning new Seattle bars: SPIN is a stunning subterranean bar filled with Ping Pong tables, while Flatstick Pub in Pioneer Square is… a stunning subterranean bar filled with mini golf holes. Both are open ‘til 2am on weekends and midnight most other nights giving you plenty of time to work on your game. Or pretend to. 

Play video games

Unless you JUST turned 21 you probably remember going to arcades as a kid. Thankfully there are several Seattle bars that share that nostalgia, including the Hillside Bar on Capitol Hill, which boasts a mezzanine packed with gaming cabinets; West Seattle's Vidiot, which has packed the old Heartland/Benbow space (pirate-ship bar included!) with old school games; and Fremont's Add-a-Ball -- a basement arcade inside an old scooter repair shop that'll sell you a tallboy when you go to the counter for quarters.  

Rock Box
Rock Box

Sing some Karaoke

There are a surprising number of Seattle bars that offer weekly -- or sometimes monthly -- karaoke nights, including one of Seattle's best dive bars, The Waterwheel, where they turn the mic on at 9pm four nights a week. There’s also the iconic (and colorful!) Unicorn/Narwhal in Pike/Pine, which does it every monday until 1am. But the best place in the city is Japanese-style Karaoke lounge Rock Box, which is open until at least 2am every night and 4am on weekends. 

Hit a pot shop

There are a ton of good places to buy weed in Seattle (here's some of our favorites to get you started), and the best thing is that most of them are open pretty late. Not like, "I just shut down the bar now I'm gonna go buy some weed" late, but often until 11pm or later. 

Knock down a few pins

A decade ago there was really only one place to go for truly late night bowling -- Sunset Bowl in Ballard. But sadly, thanks to gentrification, the sun set permanently on one of Seattle's most beloved afterhours destinations in 2008, which has mostly left The Garage on Capitol Hill to pick up the slack. Thankfully, the stylish former commercial spot with multiple bars and 20 lanes, is more than capable. Despite only staying open 'til 2am on weekends.

Ride a ferry

Washington State has the largest ferry system in the county (the fourth largest in the world) and some of the boats sail right from Seattle. The shortest trip is to Bainbridge Island, a bucolic escape from the city just 35 minutes away, and boats leave the city as late as 1:15 in the morning. Be careful though, the latest one back leaves 20 minutes earlier

Get deals during late night happy hour

Sure, traditionally happy hour started right after work, but that's long been a thing of the past. Nowadays there are any number of places offering deals that last until close, including Thrillist favorite Re:Public in South Lake Union, which offers an extensive food menu (wild boar bolognese), and Queen Anne's Toulouse Petit, where they claim to have "the best happy hour menu in the nation.” And they just might be right.

 13 Coins Restaurant
13 Coins Restaurant

Eat at an all night diner 

After dancing 'til 2am, you'll probably want something to eat, but 24-hour restaurants are surprisingly rare in Seattle. Despite moving last year, local institution 13 Coins immediately springs to most people’s minds, but there are other options, including the excellent Lost Lake Cafe -- just a block or so from the previously mentioned Q Nightclub, and where they'll occasionally keep the party going with DJs and other performers. 

Eat a bag of dicks

Sir MIx-A-Lot took his posse there; Macklemore danced on the roof; and just about everyone who's up at 2am is probably gonna stop there on the way home. And why not? Dick's Drive-In has always been there for you

Can Can Culinary Cabaret
Can Can Culinary Cabaret

See some burlesque

Seattle boasts a thriving cabaret culture, with bars across the city frequently hosting events and regular performances at places like The Pink Door (one of Seattle's best Italian restaurants), where performers swing from a trapeze above the dining room. But the best place to see some baudy entertainment is The Can Can a small subterranean dinner theater below Pike Place Market where they put on multiple shows a day. 

See if you're any good at (Theatre) sports

Under Pike Place Market there's a doorway in Seattle's infamous gum wall that leads to a theater, where every Friday for more than a generation a competitive improv comedy show called Theatresports has been getting the audience involved in improv, and helping launch the careers of people like Joel McHale.

Go to one of Seattle's few genuine Night clubs

It seems like someone is always trying to make night clubs a thing in Seattle. Some, like Trinity in Pioneer Square, endure, while most other come and go -- either shut down by police, or just suddenly shutting down for no obvious reason. What's left are a handful of actually exciting clubs bringing the best in electronic and other dance music to Seattle including Q Nightclub on Capitol Hill, and the Monkey Loft in SoDo.

Dirty Dog
Dirty Dog

Try a Seattle dog

These cream cheese and grilled onion-covered delights don't need an introduction (but here's one just in case). What they do need are more late night purveyors -- the best bet is Monsterdog outside Neumoes every night until 2:30am, or Dirty Dog which posts up a block away 'til 3am every Friday & Saturday night. 

Sneak into a speakeasy

Ok, so you're not really "sneaking in" since ultimately these places want to be found. And even if they didn't, someone's got a convenient list of all the best ones, and tips on how to get in, which occasionally involve calling/texting ahead, but usually just involve knowing where to look. 

Hang out in the park

Seattle boasts some excellent parks, but there are only a few that stay that way after dark. There's Cal Anderson Park, which thanks to its proximity to Seattle's busiest nightlife district in Pike/Pine, is often incredibly lively until it closes at 11:30pm. But your best bet it Kerry Park on Queen Anne -- it's basically just a wide place in the road so it never closes and offers a stunning night time version of Seattle's most famous view no matter how late.

Have a REALLY early breakfast

Yes, we could have included places like Beth's Cafe and the 5 Point Cafe with the aforementioned all night diners, but these spots are a little different. Beth's is a Seattle tradition which serves massive omelettes and one of the city's most unusual and underappreciated breakfast dishes, Dutch Babies, 24hours a day. And the 5 Point is one of the city's best dive bars and boasts a breakfast happy hour from 6-9am that's perfect for anyone who hasn't been to sleep yet. Which definitely includes you if you're trying to do all the stuff on this list.

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Bradley Foster is a former Thrillist editor who thinks going to Dick's is appropriate pretty much any time of day.