1. Where to Stay
Save 50 percent off peak summer rates at the Alexis Hotel (from $175), luxe boutique digs located near the bustling downtown scene. Rooms feature artwork curated by the director of the Seattle Art Museum.
Admire more local art at the Hotel Max (from $129), where colorful guestrooms feature commissioned original works from 39 Northwest artists and photographers.
Ask for a corner room at downtown’s Hotel Vintage Park (from $169) to enjoy an up-close view of Rem Koolhaas’s space-age Central Library. Sample Washington State vintages at the hotel’s daily free wine hour between 5 and 6 p.m.
2. Where to Eat
Avoid the tourists at Pike Place Market and instead enjoy Seattle’s fresh catch at Pike Street Fish Fry, a hole-in-the-wall spot in Capitol Hill. Eat fish and chips from newsprint with curried ketchup and a slice of fried lemon (from $7). Pints of Fat Tire are $2 and the fries are free on the third Friday of every month (5–7 p.m.).
E.N.D. wine bar, opened last year and is the accessible alternative to the hard-to-get tables at adjacent Elemental@Gasworks. Elemental’s entire menu is available à la carte, and rotating weekly seasonal items like escargot ravioli are priced between $10 and $15. Choose from among 100 wines offered at $15 per half-bottle.
Order a sandwich from Mario Batali’s sister at Salumi. Sandwiches are layered with house-cured culatello, guanciale, and mozzarella made fresh every morning (from $7.50).
Dig into the Indian-inspried thali—a platter of several small dishes—to sample slow food prepared by a James Beard award-winning chef at Poppy. The seven-dish “smali” is $22, and most snacks at the bar, like duck confit steamed buns, cost less than $10.
3. What to Do
See art for free at the galleries clustered around Pioneer Square. Glasswork legend Dale Chihuly and other Pacific Northwest artists show in Foster/White’s new 7,000-square-foot gallery. Find the latest in edgy graphic design at Electric Coffin Studio, or admire the rotating roster of local photographers on exhibit at Ouch My Eye. Admission to the Frye Art Museum is free, and its eclectic collection ranges from American masters like Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer to the Bronx-based artist-activist Tim Rollins.
Save dollars by skiing after dark at nearby the Summit at Snoqualmie, one of the largest spots to go night riding on the West Coast. The mountain has 54 night trails open, and evening lift tickets are $20 cheaper than day passes. Take advantage of their carpooling program to save gas money on the 45-minute trip (night-lift tickets $38, 4 p.m.–10 p.m.).
See a show for free at Sonic Boom Records on Capitol Hill, a record store turned miniature concert spot. (Recent acts include Heartless Bastards, Vampire Weekend, and Marissa Nadler; check their Facebook page for upcoming shows.) At night, head to the newly renovated Crocodile Café, once the home of “Seattle Sound” bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, and still the best place to catch up-and-comers on the indie rock scene for under $10.
4. Insider’s Tip
Skip the overcrowded Space Needle and get your bearings from the 35th-floor observation deck at Smith Tower, where you’ll get comparable panoramic city views for half the price (weekends only; $7.50).
5. Oddball Day
Take an eating tour of Bainbridge Island. Catch a ferry ($7, hourly) from Pier 52; on a clear day the 35-minute trip includes views of the Seattle skyline, Mount Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains. Hike up the hill near the ferry landing for a latte and slice of Grand Marnier–spiked hazelnut cake at Blackbird Bakery (210 Winslow Way East). Visit the shops along Winslow Way, picking up handmade jewelry and organic-fiber clothing at Skookum, browse titles at Eagle Harbor Book Company, or score under-$30 vintage-clothing finds at Kennedy and Kate. Eat a late brunch at cheerful Café Nola, where seasonal options like caramel pecan French toast with bourbon butter, and Dungeness crab-topped eggs Benedict, are served. Work it off by renting a bike from Classic Cycle ($25). Ogle the shop’s collection of vintage bikes before embarking on the island’s “Chilly Hilly” course. The 33-mile loop draws thousands of Seattleites plus riders from sixteen states every February to do a scenic charity cycle through the hills and along the coast of the island. Follow their lead or chart your own course with this online map, then warm up with dinner at the Four Swallows, a renovated farmhouse serving a revolving daily menu that focuses on local ingredients. Cap the day with an espresso at Pegasus Coffee House and Gallery, where local singer-songwriters perform every weekend evening.
Make your meals even cheaper by visiting Stranger Mart before you go for half-price gift certificates to a wide range of Seattle restaurants.
Get the lowdown on local bands and upcoming concerts from Sound on the Street.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau’s SeattleSuperSaver site offers a database of the best available rates at 83 local hotels, with no booking fees.
For last-minute ideas, Seattle Magazine’s Scoop blog publishes a helpful “Weekend Must List.”