Your Guide to a Socially Distanced Weekend in Seattle: Crystal Mountain's Opening Week, Thanksgiving Prep, Holiday Magic at Swansons, and More

November 19, 2020
Snow-sport season is a go at Washington State's largest ski resort, Crystal Mountain. If you don’t have lift tickets for the weekend, read on for more things to do. (Courtesy of Crystal Mountain)

What better time to add some variety to your life than another cold, dark weekend of self-isolation? Gathering in groups outside of your household is extremely dangerous right now, so we've rounded up some suggestions that you can do from home or in a socially distanced manner that complies with new regulations. See them all below, from a holiday foliage shopping experience (by appointment) at Swansons Nursery to a Face Mask Pop-Up at the Fremont Sunday Market, and from places to get booze for Thanksgiving to places to find stationery supplies for your snail mail needs. For even more options, read our guides to the best online events this week, the best movies to watch this week, and the best things to do all month long.

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SEASONAL

Head to Swansons Nursery for a "magical" holiday shopping experience. If you're looking to fill your home (and garden, if you've got one) with the aroma of freshly cut Christmas trees and seasonal native foliage, this Ballard plant haven—which is all decked out in pretty holiday lights—has your back. In addition to holiday ornaments and evergreen wreaths, this Saturday will see the first batch of its holiday trees. If you're waiting until December for that, they also have a supply of fall plants available, like Norfolk Island Pine and red twig dogwood. They're open for in-person shopping by appointment

Get some board games for your Thanksgiving Zoom sesh. Even in pre-corona times when we could safely gather with our families, friends, and distant acquaintances under the same roof, Thanksgiving has always benefitted from tabletop games as means of a) mellowing whatever tension has accrued during dinnertime conversation and b) giving you something to do while you wait for your tryptophan-induced coma to kick in. This year, games can also serve as an antidote to the inherent blandness of Zoom, the platform many of us will be gathering on. Before your Turkey Day video call, head to a local store to pick up something you and your remote guests can play together—Queen Anne's Blue Highway Games has a great list of options that suit the platform. Other great spots to check out: Gamma Ray, Phoenix Comics & Games, or Mox Boarding House, which also has good suggestions for two-person games, if you opt for an in-person game night with your quarantine buddy. 

Get a lift ticket to Crystal Mountain. November 18 marked the beginning of Washington State's largest ski resort's 2020/21 ski and snowboard season. That means you can now buy a lift ticket to shred the Mount Rainier Gondola, Rainier Express, Green Valley, Chinook Express, Forest Queen Express, Quicksilver, and Discovery slopes, bruh. Indoor food service will not be available at the lodges in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions, but they will have to-go options.  

Other weekend events worth noting:

Christmas Tree Sales at El Centro de la Raza
Find your fresh, organically grown Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush at El Centro de la Raza's annual sale. They stock Nordmans, Nobles, and Douglas Firs in various heights. If you already have a tree, you can also purchase one to donate to the home of a low-income family.
El Centro de la Raza, Beacon Hill (Starting Sunday)

Drive-Thru Holiday Spectacular
Get amped up for post-Thanksgiving merriment at this free, one-night-only holiday drive-through, where you'll take in laser light shows, live musical performances (including from American Idol's Johanna Jones), stilt walkers, a grand entrance from Santa, and more.
The Landing, Renton (Saturday)

Fantasy Lights
Spanaway Park will bring back its festive light displays for drive-through spectators to enjoy.
Spanaway Park (Starting Saturday)

Seattle Festival of Trees
The historic Fairmont Olympic hotel will celebrate the winter season this year with a virtual gala and auction (Sat Nov 21) benefitting Seattle Children's Hospital, Uncompensated Care, and Seattle Children's Autism Center, where you can bid on the extravagant Christmas trees on display in the hotel's windows, viewable from the sidewalk along Fourth Avenue (through Dec 2). Plus, in lieu of their Teddy Bear Suite, they'll be offering teddy bear and treat giveaways on Facebook (Nov 21).
Fairmont Olympic, Downtown (Saturday-Sunday)

WildLanterns
The Woodland Park Zoo is taking a more realistic approach to its beloved annual holiday light display by lining its paths with glowing lanterns in the likeness of tigers, snow leopards, aquatic creatures, zebras, and other exotic animals.
Woodland Park Zoo, Phinney (Friday-Sunday)

FOOD & DRINK

Visit local takeout windows with food (and booze!) Indoor dining may be verboten right now, but that doesn't mean you can't still (safely!) sate your appetite for novel dining experiences outside your home. Some beloved local bars and restaurants have opened new walk-up takeout windows to help you do just that. This summer, the Maple in Maple Leaf opened an outdoor "banana stand" (cue the Arrested Development jokes) doling out frozen cocktails, and now they've updated it to be winter-ready with hot cocktails, hot soup, and hot food. In Wallingford, the Octopus Bar, which closed last November and plans to reopen nearby in its new home soon, has launched a new nautical-themed takeout window called the Salty Shack, serving sandwiches, hot dogs, and drinks, like the "No Ship Sherlock" (Jameson, ginger beer, apple cider/rosemary/cranberry syrup) and the "Knot Too Shabby" (pear and elderflower Absolut vodka, vanilla lemon syrup, soda). And finally, Beacon Hill's Mediterranean hot spot Homer has launched the spinoff window Milk Drunk down the street, slinging fried chicken sandwiches, seasonal soft serve, slushies, cocktails, and wine.

Get ready for Thanksgiving with wine, cocktails, and mocktails. Whether you're opting for a solo Thanksgiving, communing virtually, or celebrating with your quarantine mates, don't forget that the right beverage pairings have the power to elevate your feast. If you're game to play amateur mixologist, check out a selection of appetizers and cocktail kits from Artusi and Spinasse, or grab some covetable spirits from Canon before it hibernates for the winter on November 25. Alternately, grab some curated wine pairings that will go swimmingly with a turkey dinner from Mioposto, Mainstay Provisions, or Vif. And for some zero-proof pairing ideas that won't leave anyone feeling deprived, check out Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You're Not Drinking for Whatever Reason by Julia Bainbridge, available at Elliott Bay Book Company or Book Larder. Plus, don't forget to check out our guide to Thanksgiving dinners available for takeout.

Celebrate National Bread Month. It turns out that November is National Bread Month—who knew? As The Stranger's Matt Baume writes, "Given that lockdown rules just got tightened up, we’re all going to have a lot of at-home time over the next few weeks — so, good God, what are you waiting for? Time to celebrate carbs!" You can observe the occasion by baking at home with pointers from the Washington State University’s Bread Lab, as he suggests, or try seeking out some superlative loaves from Sea Wolf Bakers, Tall Grass Bakery, or Bakery Nouveau.

Have a French night at home. If your wanderlust has reached an all-time high and you're daydreaming of absconding to France, try recreating some of the Gallic magic at home. The New York Times recently published a guide on how to pretend you're in Paris tonight, complete with suggestions for baking, performances, virtual museum tours, reading, and more, as well as a list of ten movies that can transport you there. We suggest renting a couple of their picks, like the French New Wave classic Breathless or the Agnes Varda gem Cleo from 5 to 7, from Scarecrow Video or streaming them online. Or, check out SIFF and TV5MONDE's online film festival French Cinema Now. If you're looking for an immersive experience, channel a Parisian bistro in your kitchen with cheesy French onion soup kits from Cafe Presse and Le Pichet or take-and-bake apple galettes from Coyle's Bakeshop. And of course, wine is a surefire way to get into a French state of mind. This Thursday, November 19, was Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the day celebrating the arrival of the first bottles of this year's vintage for Beaujolais Nouveau, a beloved fruity red wine. You can pick up Nouveau offerings at L'Oursin, Bottlehouse, or Wide Eyed Wines while supplies last.

Bolster your spirits with cozy comfort food. Even though in-person dining is cutting back again, you can still fight the drizzly gray Seattle weather with hygge offerings from local restaurants and bars. Our guide to cozy, COVID-mindful drinking and dining this fall has options for pickup and delivery, like Addo's "Let's Get Hygge" kit, Biscuit Bitch's down-home fare, and Champagne Diner's mashed potatoes and barbecue sandwiches. 

Work up an appetite for the last days of Restaurant Week. This year's spring Seattle Restaurant Week, originally scheduled to start March 29, was one of the first events to be canceled due to COVID-19. For the fall edition, though, it's back and bigger than ever: To give the restaurant industry a much-needed boost, Seattle Restaurant Week is featuring more dining options and is extending the event to last an entire month, and it's wrapping up Saturday. Like usual, restaurants will create a variety of special meal offerings as $20 lunches and/or $35 dinners, but this time, those will take the form of make-at-home meal kits, food and cocktail takeout packages, in-house three-course meals, and more. SRW will also be partnering with Plate of Nations this time around, an event run by the MLK Business Association to highlight southeast Seattle businesses. There are nearly 150 restaurants participating, but if you're overwhelmed by the long list, don't worry: We've rounded up our suggestions.

Other weekend events worth noting:

Oyster New Year
The apotheosis of the Pacific Northwest's unofficial regional pastime, slurping oysters, is the eco-friendly Oyster New Year at Elliott's Oyster House. This year, in place of their typical in-person bash, you can order oyster and wine kits to enjoy at home.
Elliott's Oyster House, Downtown (Friday-Saturday)

SHOPPING

Stock up on snail mail supplies from local shops. The internet is always there when you need to connect with people through a pixelated screen, but there's nothing like busting out your favorite writing supplies, putting the kettle on, and penning a letter or a holiday card to a loved one (or a stranger) to drop in the mail. If you're short on hard-copy materials, hit up local shops to pick up everything you need. Central District letterpress Grapheme, whose products are available online for curbside pickup on Fridays and Saturdays, offers tasteful items like thank-you cards, stationery sets, and vintage postage stamps. If your best epistolary musings require the perfect writing utensil, the Pioneer Square bookshop Peter Miller offers plenty of fancy pens, available online or in-store. The Japanese-based retailer Kinokuniya in the ID will never let you down, nor will the Ballard gem Lucca Great Finds, which offers a nice selection of John Derian postcards and pen packs. For holiday cards, Elliott Bay has some cute box sets, and the UW Center for Urban Horticulture's Hyde Herbarium makes some lovely pressed flower cards in the likeness of holiday trees. If you're lacking a pen pal, try out the free service Postcrossing—it allows you to send postcards to people all over the world (and receive them, too).

Other weekend events worth noting:

Face Mask Pop-Up
Ten local shops will sell their colorful, brightly printed masks at the Fremont market.
Fremont Sunday Market (Sunday)

Mercer Island Harvest Market
Discover plenty of locally sourced produce, artisan goods and specialty products, handcrafted gifts, holiday-themed items, and more at this open-air market.
Mercer Island Farmers Market (Sunday)

OTHER PICKS & HAPPENINGS

Check out local museums' digital offerings. Museums are closed until at least December 14 under reinforced distancing guidelines, and while online activities don't compare to wandering through exhibits in the flesh, the digital offerings on hand at local institutions are definitely worth checking out. We're thinking of the family-friendly art activity videos on Burke Museum website; the History at Home series from the Museum of History & Industry; the Northwest African American Museum's virtual exhibitions of work by Hiawatha D and Christopher Shaw; the articles, videos, and music on the Seattle Art Museum's blog; the National Nordic Museum's virtual yuletide extravaganza Julefest this weekend; the Bellevue Arts Museum's curator tours, the Frye Art Museum's guided meditation and artist talks; and last but not least, the Seattle Aquarium's soothing harbor seal and sea otter cams.

Submit films to SPLIFF and HUMP! The Stranger’s annual short film festivals dedicated to stoner culture and amateur porn, respectively (which is not to say the two don't cross over), are hitting a computer screen near you in 2021. But they need films first! If your interests lie in the latter, send in five minutes or less of original smutty footage by January 8 for a chance to be featured in the 16th annual online program, whose "extra credit" items this year are bubbles, a photo booth, and Carol Channing. For SPLIFF, you have until March 5 to send in on your cannabis-induced work of art, whose "extra credit" items are cutoff jean shorts, polaroids or Instax, and a macrame plant hanger. Before you hit send, be sure to read all the stipulations and requirements for HUMP! here and SPLIFF here. If you need inspiration, HUMP!’s greatest hits are currently available to stream online, as are SPLIFF's 2019 and 2020 films.

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month. Not just home to Thanksgiving, November is also a time to celebrate the cultural traditions and contributions of Native communities around the country. For Native American Heritage Month, many local organizations are holding panel discussions, performances, and other events that you can experience online. We've rounded them up here, where you'll find suggestions for local Native musicians and performers, local Native-owned businesses, and more. 

Watch the first installment of The Stranger's Film Club, a new biweekly video column centering Black films with Stranger film experts Jasmyne Keimig and Charles Mudede. They kick things off with Anton Fuqua's Olympus Has Fallen, which you can stream on Netflix, rent on Prime Video and iTunes, or pick up at Scarecrow Video.