San Francisco may hold the title for most lesbian-friendly west coast hub, but this winter Seattle is a tough competitor. Sure, everyone knows about the Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and the original Starbucks, but Grunge City is also home to thriving (and ever-growing!) lesbian nightlife. Women’s parties and activities keep Seattle so hot that the city only has one or two snowy days a year. In fact, with year-end temps averaging in the mid-40s (and the notorious Seattle rains), this Pacific coast town stays green year-round. So fuel up on high-octane espresso and drink in Emerald City’s great lesbian scene (it ain’t Kansas, honey!).
Seattle is a diverse city and full of contradictions: the home of “grunge” music, yet spotlessly clean streets; conservatively-dressed liberals walking arm-in-arm with disheveled hipster millionaires; SUV’s with Greenpeace bumper stickers; and so on. Miraculously the differences don’t divide the city but instead create a sense of diversity and appreciation that also applies to the LGBT community. Overall, Seattle is not just tolerant, it’s accepting. This includes almost all of the hotels in town, where same-sex couples can check in without raising an eyebrow.
This is especially the case at the women’s-only Seahurst Garden Studio ($65, 13713 16th Ave SW, Burian, 206-551-7721, seahurststudio.com), a private garden apartment-style studio
in the home of Alice Goodman and her partner Jane Martin (just a short 20 minute drive outside of downtown Seattle.) Operating since 2003, their clientele is mainly lesbian (although straight female visitors are welcome). “Our goal,” Goodman says, “is to provide a safe and comfortable travel destination for women…and to provide access to community resources.” One or two women may rent the studio for as few as two nights and up to six months. The main room looks out over an enormous garden, ideal for peaceful walks to the pond, bird watching at the fountain, or lazy afternoons swinging in the hammock under the weeping willow.
Comfortable and friendly hotels are also easy to find in the heart of the city. The Alexis Hotel ($150–300, 1007 1st Ave, 866-356-8894, alexishotel.com) offers total luxury and an eclectic art-filled décor. It’s main-level gallery, an attraction even for locals, is rotated quarterly by the hotel’s curator. Part of the gay-friendly Kimpton group, Alexis rooms range from the economical to the lavish, with fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs and kitchens available.
Located on Elliot Bay’s Pier 67, the aptly-named Edgewater Hotel (2411 Alaskan Way, Pier 67, 800-624-0670, edgewaterhotel.com) is truly the most romantic spot in town. Velvety-pink sunsets put on a nightly show just outside the window of your suite, framed by the glistening water directly below and the majestic Olympic Mountains in the distance. If it weren’t for the breathtaking view, you’d think it was a tranquil cabin resort in the woods due to the river-rock fireplace, quaint knotty pine furniture, overstuffed chairs and luxury amenities. Do try to tear yourself away at some point—don’t forget that the hotel is conveniently located in a major metropolis! You’re just steps from excellent dining, shopping, and downtown sights like Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, the Seattle Symphony at Benarova Hall, harbor cruise ports, the Experience Music Project, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Aquarium, and the art galleries of the Pioneer Square Historic District.
While the touristy attractions are definitely worth a peek (especially for first-time visitors), there is plenty to do in and around Seattle that doesn’t involve a line or a crowd…or even a roof! Mt. Rainier is nearby to hike and ski; rent a kayak on Lake Union or take a scenic ferry ride to Bainbridge Island; and for a relaxing way to enjoy the Pacific Northwest’s unique natural beauty, take a stroll through the renowned Washington Park Arboretum or the Woodland Park Zoo.
If mixing with the locals is more your style, get your flirt on at one of the most popular lesbian hotspots in town: the off-leash dog run at Marymore Park! If you can’t find it, just ask where the “Dyke and Dog Park” is—it’s notorious. Hiking Snoqualmie Falls (approximately 45 minutes east of Seattle) is also a favorite way for sapphic sisters to spend a lovely afternoon; and while sports fans will want to catch a Seattle Storm WNBA game (wnba.com/storm), you should definitely also take in one of the many softball games taking place around the city. There are over 36 women’s teams in the all-gay Emerald City Softball League (seattlegaysoftball.com), including the 2005 champs sponsored by Girl4Girl. If you’re into fast women, check out Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls (ratcityrollergirls.com). Although they skated the championship rounds on October 21st, they’ll be back to ring in 2007 with a bang as hosts of New Year’s Eve with the Wenches. Usher in the New Year rockin’ & rollin’ with Seattle’s first and only all-female roller derby team, plus live burlesque performances and other debaucherous distractions. The mayhem begins at 8pm on December 31st at Highway 99 Blues Club (1414 Alaskan Way, 206-382-2171, highwayninetynine.com).
Various activities for just about any woman’s interest are happening year-round, and Seattle’s only full-time lesbian bar, Wildrose (1021 E Pike St, 206-324-9210, thewildrosebar.com), is chock full of nightly events from karaoke and spoken word to Taco Tuesdays and pool tournaments (free pool on Sundays). Women-owned and -operated since 1984 (currently by 10-year Wildrose employee Martha Manning and her business partner), “but open to all,” Manning says that the bar contributes to lesbian life in Seattle because “it’s important to have a place open seven days a week where women can meet.”
If you’re the type of gal who’d rather cut a rug, check out the Century Ballroom’s Out Dancing Gay Nights (915 E Pine St, 206-324-7263, centuryballroom.com) on the third and fourth Friday of every month. Salsa, swing, and other hot-steppin’ dance music is sure to get your blood flowing. Hosted by MC Koop, the evening features a dance lesson at 7:30pm and then turns into an all-out shake-down an hour later. For a little less formal dancing, get your boogie on at the raging GIRL4GIRL parties. This popular monthly event (held every third Saturday) takes place at The Fenix Underground (1700 1st Ave S, 206-382-7877, www.girl4girlseattle.com) and includes a hedonistic night of go-go dancers, musical acts and amazing DJs. Free singles bracelets offered at the door eliminate the guesswork, so move freely about the dancefloor and bust a move! Pssst: GO got the inside scoop that Ellis and Bitch will be performing at the November 18th party.
Seattle’s girls-only activities are not only for the young girls; hostess Pauline Miriam presents Hot Flash dance parties at Neighbours Nightclub (1509 Broadway, 206-324-5358, hotflashseattle.com) the first Saturday of every month for lesbians 36 and over (although Miriam won’t turn anyone away, even if Hot Flash is meant for a more mature crowd). The dances originated in Portland, Oregon when Miriam outgrew 20-something crowds in bars and wanted a fun way to meet lesbians closer to her age. “There’s a need in the community,” she said, “that [wasn’t] being met.” Even the Hot Flash venue is no new kid on the block; Neighbours Nightclub is the oldest gay bar in the Pacific Northwest, entering its 24th year of business.
Notorious for being a serious music town, Seattle appropriately has plenty of bars & clubs that cater to just about every taste. The ladies like to frequent the Tractor Tavern in Ballard (5213 Ballard Ave NW @ 20th Ave, 206-789-3599, tractortavern.com) and The Crocodile Cafe in Belltown (2200 Second Ave, 206-441-5611, thecrocodile.com); both of which often showcase lesbian acts and female rockers. Seattle’s active LGBT community makes beautiful music together too! Alice Goodman (owner of the Seahurst Garden Studio) is one of the many sweet voices in the Seattle Women’s Chorus (seattlewomenschorus.com), which has upcoming performances December 15–17 (with special guests Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch); and the Rainbow City Band (rainbowcityband.com) is playing at Bastyr University Chapel (14500 Juanita Drive NE, Kenmore) on December 3rd (free) & December 10th ($10). Founded in 1998, the Rainbow City Band is a community orchestra for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and gay-friendly instrumentalists, conducted by Jo-Ann Christen.
Unofficially the “gayborhood” for shopping, dining, drinking and just hanging out is the centrally located Capitol Hill district (NW area of downtown, around Broadway, Pike, and Pine Streets). Perk up while girl-watching at the Espresso Vivace Sidewalk Bar (321 Broadway E, 206-860-5869, espressovivace.com) or TNT Espresso (328 Broadway E) coffeehouses, both known to have way better joe than that Seattle coffee chain store…Star-something? You’ll want to be fully caffeinated to hunt for some treasures at the many thrift and vintage shops along Broadway and Pine Streets, including Red Light Vintage Clothing (312 Broadway E, 206-329-2200), Le Frock (317 E Pine St, 206-623-5339), and Vintage Chick (303 E Pine St); while club kids will definitely want to spend a few hours digging through the stacks at Platinum Records (915 E Pike, 206-324-8032, platinum-records.com), a DJ’s paradise with over 500,000 platters plus equipment, lighting, cases and more. Be sure to stop in at Babeland (formerly Toys in Babeland) (707 E Pike St, 206-328-2914, babeland.com), the original outpost of the dyke-owned toy shop, providing the same friendly service and sex-positive workshops that we have come to know and love at their New York stores.
Dining options are overwhelmingly varied and delicious in Capitol Hill, so we asked Chris Chappon (owner of Girl4Girl Productions) to make some recommendations. Two of her faves that are “unique, fabulous, always busy and fun—with a diverse clientele and great ambiance” are the Broadway Grill (314 Broadway E, 206-328-7000) for a guaranteed good time and good food; and Galerias (611 Broadway E, 206-32-5757, galariasgourmet.net)—unbelievably delicious authentic Mexican food and margaritas plus décor that even Frida Kahlo would say is muy caliente! Maharaja Cuisine of India (720 E Pike St, 206-320-0334) is a great destination for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Meals here can be somewhat overpriced, so balance out your tab with the underpriced cocktails; all-night happy hour keeps the stiff drinks flowing late into the evening. For dinner with a little extra kick, check the lineup at the Pink Door (1919 Post Alley @ Virginia St, Seattle, 206-443-3241), an informal Italian restaurant with mediocre food, old-school waitstaff (“wattayahave sweetie?”), a beautiful view of Elliot Bay (be sure to get a table on the deck), and amazing acts which range from risqué burlesque to cabaret, or eye-popping trapeze acts to tap-dancers.
Unfortunately this Emerald City is not accessible by skipping down a yellow brick road. Luckily, American Airlines (aavacations.com/rainbow) will transport you there in around six hours (so will United, US Air, and a few others) from NYC. For more info about LGBT Seattle, click: thegayplaces.com, outinseattle.com, girl4girlseattle.com/links, visitseattle.org and sgn.org (the Seattle Gay News).