How to Enjoy the Best of Seattle Nightlife

10/03/2022 | by BuildUp | Local Area Guide

It should come as no surprise that Seattle has the best nightlife in all of Washington State. I’m not just talking bars either. I’m talking about quirky late-night activities, fun tourist attractions, live music venues, broadway and comedy shows, world-class food, and scenery that is out of this world!

No matter what kind of visitor you are, there’s a little slice of Seattle nightlife just for you. Luckily, after you’re night out, you’re certain to have a good night sleep in your comfortable Seattle vacation home rental, making going out even more appealing.

As it’s relatively easy to navigate between the hot spot neighborhoods of Seattle, I decided to break this list into categories based on what kind of experience you are looking for instead. So, find your style and enjoy a customized Seattle nightlife experience just for you!

For the Traditional Tourist

It’s only natural that this list of Seattle nightlife begins with the most popular and “touristy” attractions in the city. Because touristy isn’t always a bad thing.

These attractions have become synonymous with Seattle and visiting the Emerald City without even giving them a cursory glance is a criminal offense.

While most of these sights are probably already on your things to do and must-see list when it comes to your daytime itinerary, you should consider a visit after dark for a more unique Seattle experience.

Seattle Center Park and the Space Needle

400 Broad St, Seattle, WA (Queen Anne)

This otherworldly needle-like design was first doodled on a napkin in 1959 by a famous Seattle Hotel exec who also happened to be a chief organizer for the 1962 World’s Fair. Since its erection, every Seattleite (including Nirvana) has ascended its 500-foot elevator to marvel at the city from above. Today, there’s a glitzy restaurant and bar called the Loupe Lounge slowly twirling high above the city. The best time to visit this Seattle skyline staple is after dark.

The Great Wheel

Photo Credit: dennis.inbliss via Instagram

1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA (Downtown Seattle)

For $17, you can ride the Great Ferris Wheel of Seattle. A massive wheel overlooking the water right in the main hub of downtown Seattle. And it gets even better after dark. Offering incredible views of the Salish Sea and the surrounding city, the dazzling lights of the wheel are worth witnessing even if you just take a peek from pier 57 and don’t leave the ground.

Pike Place Market

Photo Credit: yuyu_us09 via Instagram

85 Pike St, Seattle, WA

If you happen to be visiting during the temperate Seattle summertime, Pike Place Market and the famous flying fish vendors are just as much fun to visit in the early evening. While most of the knick-knack shops close by 5 PM many of the restaurants are open until at least midnight.

Seattle Underground

Photo Credit: Serge Yatunin

The Seattle Underground is a popular tour of the vast network of Seattle’s underground tunnels. A city beneath a city. It’s an interesting segment of Seattle history. You can also opt for the Paranormal version or the “underworld” tour that examines the red light district of Seattle.

Smith Tower Observatory

Photo Credit: thesmithtower via Instagram

506 2nd Ave #35, Seattle, WA

Looking for another 360-degree view of the seaside city? The Smith Tower Observatory has tours, an open-air observatory deck, and a nifty little bar with a great happy hour.

Seattle Sporting Events

Seattle loves sports. People paint their entire homes in the Seahawk 12th man logo and you’ll likely see more than a few Superbowl-themed cars on the Seattle streets. Between the Kraken, the Sounders, the Seahawks, and the Mariners—there’s a sporting event for everyone.

Laughs Comedy Club

Photo Credit: danecodes via Instagram

5220 Roosevelt Way NE #2, Seattle, WA

Whether you visit for a famous comedy show performance or an improv night, Laughs Comedy Club is a favorite way to spend an evening for west coast comedy lovers.

For the Cocktail Aficionado

This is not a list of the best Seattle bars. This is a collection of truly exceptional speakeasies, cocktail lounges, and alcoholic experiences whose libations will stand out as some of the best cocktails you’ll ever drink. Craft cocktails taken up a notch.

Hazlewood

Photo Credit: stacymonster via Instagram

2311 NW Market St, Seattle, WA (Ballard)

Dimly lit and self-described as rustic chic, this once teeny hole-in-the-wall cocktail lounge has made a name for itself and expanded into the neighboring building quadrupling its seating size. Complete with a cozy cocktail loft and an extensive list of craft cocktails this is a high-end bar for all in a truly wonderful local neighborhood.

Canon

Photo Credit: canonseattle via Instagram

928 12th Ave, Seattle, WA (Cherry Hill)

Known for having the world’s most extensive spirit selection, if you have a hankering for something specific— you’ll definitely find it here. But this Top 100 Bars in the World Winner (#6) can whip up a mean eclectic cocktail from its constantly rotating house concoctions if some of the rarest whiskey in the world isn’t your cup of …tea.

Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet

Photo Credit: littletinballard via Instagram

5335 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA (Ballard)

Served alongside an entire menu of tin goods like anchovies and tuna, this greenery-covered lounge is known for its unique craft cocktails with a Hawaiian influence. Little Tin brews its own tinctures and shrubs to make wild concoctions like catnip lavender tincture, fig + cacao infused amaro, and butterfly pea blossom gin.

Sol Liquor Lounge

Photo Credit: solliquor via Instagram

607 Summit Ave E, Seattle, WA (Capitol Hill)

Everyone loves a good tiki bar. Especially when happy hour is involved. Sol Liquor Lounge pays homage to the tiki-style cocktails every Tuesday and offers cocktail flights for those who just can’t decide every day of the week. This bar is for those who want their cocktails in a brighter, more casual setting.

Bathtub Gin & Co.

Photo Credit: summniva via Instagram

2205 2nd Ave #310, Seattle, WA (Belltown)

Beneath the old brick Humphrey Apartments, you’ll find this Seattle speakeasy. Once used as a boiler room, the intimate space is now adorned with warm old-school decor, a small pine bar slinging prohibition-era cocktails with an extensive list of worldly spirits, and a cozy little library for those rainy Seattle nights.

Zig Zag Cafe

Photo Credit: michael_stusser via Instagram

1501 Western Ave Ste 202, Seattle, WA (Downtown Seattle)

Zig Zag is having a moment. It’s one of the hippest bars to visit in Seattle. Right in the thick of the touristy action at Pike’s Place you almost wouldn’t expect such a refined old-school cocktail bar to thrive. But it does. Often heralded as one of the best bars in Seattle, Zig Zag has a patio, vintage bar equipment, and is widely recognized as the pioneer of the classic cocktail revival.

For the Life of the Party

Looking for an all-night karaoke party? A Burlesque show, NSFW Bars, dance clubs, and the hottest music scene in Seattle? This is the category for you. Quirky, fun, and late-night guaranteed, these are the best of the best when it comes to Seattle’s nightlife scene.

Hula Hula

Photo Credit: hulahulabarseattle via Instagram

1501 E Olive Way, Seattle, WA 98122

This tiki bar takes its karaoke very seriously. With cocktails that don’t disappoint and karaoke every single night at 7 PM, this kitschy Seattle classic is the perfect place to make new friends in the city.

El Corazon/The Funhouse

Photo Credit: revenfuego via Instagram

109 Eastlake Ave E, Seattle, WA

Two venues, one building. For hard-core metal enthusiasts only, the lineup on any given night at El Corazon is likely to be mosh-pit inducing.

Q Nightclub

Photo Credit: nightclub via Instagram

1426 Broadway, Seattle, WA

This is one of the largest nightclubs in Seattle. While they typically cater to a more underground electronic music scene, they also are wildly popular with pretty much all 20-somethings on any given weekend night in the city.

Monkey Loft

Photo Credit: _studio44 via Instagram

2915 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA

If you’re looking for an all-night party with chill vibes, monkey loft is your jam. One of the only clubs in Seattle that is often open until 4 AM, this sodo neighborhood staple is a favorite with electronic music lovers.

Kremwerk

Photo Credit: kremwerk via Instagram

1809 Minor Ave #10, Seattle, WA

Get your groove on in this queer-centric dance hall with in-house DJs. Paying homage to the infamous German underground music scene this club is where you should go to hit the dance floor on DJ nights. But it’s also more than a club. A staple in the LGBTQ scene this venue showcases all kinds of queer-friendly artists and shows including comedy!

Unicorn

Photo Credit: shayoniii via Instagram

1118 E Pike St, Seattle, WA

This iconic gay bay in the midst of one of Seattle’s most popular neighborhoods is a local favorite. It could be the drinks, the creepy eclectic carnival theme, drag bingo nights, NSFW vending machines and “unicorn” party hats, variety shows, mimosa drag cabaret, or just the wonderfully weird concoction of it all.

Can Can Culinary Cabaret

Photo Credit: cancanseattle via Instagram

95 Pine St, Seattle, WA

Dinner and a show. Beneath Pike’s Place Market this dinner and brunch space is famous for its broadway-like cabaret and burlesque shows. Brunch shows are even family-friendly.

The Garage

Photo Credit: garagebilliardsbowl via Instagram

1130 Broadway, Seattle, WA

Billiards, bowling, and drinks in an underground venue perfect for large groups! This is a Seattle nightlife attraction that’s fun for all.

New Luck Toy

Photo Credit: dione.dittmar via Instagram

5905 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA

This Chinese restaurant is known for more than its stellar food. Pinball, karaoke, and quirky asian-influenced decor make for a whimsical night out with some friends…or to make new ones.

For the Live Music Fanatic

For decades, Seattle has pioneered the Pacific Northwest music scene. While grunge and other alternative rock genres are what the city is best known for there’s no shortage of folk, indie, metal, hip-hop, and electronic music venues to be found in Seattle. We’re a city that celebrates diversity after all. Here’s a collection of the best Seattle live music venues to spend your evening in.

The Crocodile

Photo Credit: thecrocodileseattle via Instagram

2505 1st Ave, Seattle, WA

This is one of the most celebrated venues in Seattle. A casual environment with a diverse lineup of local artists each evening, The Crocodile ranks #1 for independent music in the Pacific Northwest but it has also hosted an array of world-famous artists over the years like Nirvana, Yoko Ono, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Lizzo, and Billie Eilish.

Neumos

Photo Credit: neumos_ via Instagram

925 E Pike St, Seattle, WA

Indie-rock, hip-hop, and country all in one heavily-graffitied venue. You never know what to expect at the Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room. They have hosted Adele, MGMT, Diplo, The Avett Brothers, and Patton Oswald over the years.

Tractor Tavern

Photo Credit: christopher.mychal.camp via Instagram

5213 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA

A little on the lighter side of the nightlife scene, Tractor Tavern hosts shows nearly every single night spanning genres like reggae, folk, and country. This is one of those really affordable local favorites where you can discover some new up-and-coming names in music.

A few other great local venues to check out are The Showbox, The Paramount, Chop Suey, and Sea Monster Lounge. Visitors who are 18+ but not yet 21, can still enjoy live music at Trinity Nightclub.

For the Elegant Romantic

Not all nightlife has to include a dance floor, DJ, or heavy drinking until the wee hours of the morning. Couples visiting Seattle will find tons of high-quality restaurants with a 5-star ambiance to spend their evening in. Here are some of the most highly recommended in the city.

Canlis

Photo Credit: canlisrestaurant via Instagram

2576 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA

There isn’t a single restaurant experience in Seattle more elegant than Canlis. With a storied history involving three generations of the Kanlis family and an immigrant’s journey through Turkey, Greece, Japan, Hawaii, and eventual landing in Seattle, WA. The menu here is set and plates are small in the traditional fine-dining atmosphere. Wine snobs are in luck because if you can snag one of the coveted dinner reservations Canlis is also one of the best wine bars in Seattle.

Other Romantic Seattle Restaurants

Here are some more delicious and intimate choices scattered throughout Seattle in case Canlis is fully-reserved, out-of-budget, or not exactly the dinner date you’re looking for.

  • Exceptional Steakhouse Experience: The Cut (Ballard)
  • Best Sri Lankan Restaurant: Rupee Bar (Ballard)
  • Classic Seattle Date Spot: The Pink Door (Downtown Seattle)
  • Best Dessert + Cocktails: Pie Bar (Greenwood)
  • Best Tapas: The Harvest Vine (Madison Valley) and Ocho (Ballard)
  • Best Oysters and Seafood: Taylor Shellfish (Capitol Hill), Walrus & The Carpenter (Ballard), Westward (South Lake Union), Palisade (Elliot Bay/Magnolia)

Dinner Cruise through Lake Union

For the most intimate and romantic Seattle evening, you can rent one of the hundreds of small yachts lining the docks of South Lake Union or Lake Washington for a quick dinner cruise through some of Seattle’s best scenery. Although expensive, it’s probably one of the best things to do after dark in Seattle.

For the Dive Bar Dwellers

Seattle is first and foremost a blue-collar fisherman and logging town. Long before the highrises erupted from Pioneer square and the city sprawled out in every direction, breweries and dive bars were the main source of entertainment. They still are today.

I would venture that Seattle actually has some of the best dive bars in any major city in the USA. While it’s equally likely you might be sharing the dinghy bar top with Alaskan crab fishermen as it is Amazon tech bros— they are still a staple Seattleite experience.

Dark, dingy, often offering simple drinks in stained carpeted spaces. I’m not going to describe each bar in detail, but here are some of the best in the city.

  • The Most Historic: The Smokeshop (Ballard). A must-visit now that it has expanded to include pinball and other arcade games.
  • The Hippest: Hatties Hat (Ballard). The food here is old-school diner-fare and shockingly delicious.
  • The Best Games: Jupiter Bar (Belltown)
  • The One with Live Music: High-Dive (Fremont)
  • Other honorable mentions include The Cozy Nut (Greenwood), Sloop Tavern (Ballard), Pacific Inn Pub (Fremont), The Octopus Bar (Wallingford), Olaf’s (Ballard), and Cha Cha Lounge (Capitol Hill).

For the Laid Back Locals Evening

Sometimes the best thing you can do with your night is to just chill, preferably outdoors (when it’s not raining) or with an ice cold locally-brewed Pacific Northwest beer. Here are a handful of laid back nightlife spots where you don’t have to dress up, dance, or break the bank.

Hit a Brewery

Photo Credit: brewerytrips via Instagram

Beer is a big deal in Seattle. Especially in the Ballard Brewing Area filled with warehouse style breweries and vats of creative craft beer and ciders. Some of the local favorites with a cool atmosphere are Stoup, Fremont, Elysian, Old Stove, Pike, and Rueben’s.

Mini-Golf at the Pub

Flatstick Pub isn’t technically a brewery but it is a laid-back beer spot perfect for a nightout. Spend an evening drinking local brews and partaking in some indoor mini-golf on their extensive courses.

Be Outdoors

Seattle residents are blessed with loads of green outdoors spaces. Gasworks Park, Alki Beach, and Golden Gardens are the three unanimous favorites. You can bring a picnic dinner and enjoy unrivaled views of the city skyline or ocean. These parks are quite lively late into the evening and can often have outdoor concerts, yoga classes, and so much more.

Dine at Dick’s Drive-In

Possibly the most quintessentially Seattle to-do on this list. This simple burger and milkshake shack is a staple to cap off any long night out on the town. Open until 2 AM there are few places to get a decent meal after a night of drinking and this is one of them. Depending on your qualifications for “decent”.

Enjoy the Best of Seattle Nightlife

Seattle’s nightlife has a lot to offer. Regardless of the style night you’re after, you’re certain to find the perfect venue while visiting this incredible Pacific Northwest city. Enjoy full bars, elegant restaurants, laid back breweries, or dancing the night away. Wherever the night takes you, we’re sure you’re in for a good time!