A downtown getaway that lets you curl up with a good book and get out exploring the city
By March, the unrelenting clouds usually start to drive even the supposedly seasonal-affective-disorder-immune completely batty. If you’ve maxed out your library card and are starting to relate to the legendarily reclusive Emily Dickinson, it’s time to get up off the couch and embark on a lit-themed exploration of downtown. Pair beers with books at bars that double as libraries; browse the shelves at bookstores off the beaten path; and cap off your night in a luxurious hotel room that goes beyond a mere mini bar to include its own private library.
Your base of operations is the newly spruced-up, arty Alexis Hotel. Try to score the Author’s Suite, where you can curl up next to a fire with a book pulled from the room’s private library. Look closely and you’ll find signed copies from authors who have stayed in the room. Rooms from $199, Author’s Suite from $275; 1007 First Ave.; alexishotel.com or 888/850-1155.
At Seattle Mystery Bookshop, rediscover favorite Nancy Drews and Hercule Poirots or let the staff nudge you toward contemporary whodunits for your next plane trip or lazy Saturday. 117 Cherry St.; seattlemystery.com or 206/587-5737. Duck into Metsker Maps, near Pike Place Market, to make plans to escape to far-off (and, with any luck, sunny) lands. You’ll find globes, armloads of guidebooks, a wall of old maps, and travel accessories galore. 1511 First Ave.; metskers.com or 206/623-8747. Around the corner, Left Bank Books has enough anarchist manuals, liberal pamphlets, and left-leaning political lectures to bury Bill O’Reilly. 92 Pike St.; leftbankbooks.com or 206/622-0195.
If it’s pouring, head downstairs from your room at the Alexis to the Bookstore Bar and settle into the cozy back nook lined with―you guessed it―more books (bonus: They’re all $5, if something strikes your fancy). The bar also has literary-themed cocktails, like the Mark Twain (Johnny Walker Red Label, lemon, and bitters). 206/382-1506. A short walk from the hotel, White Horse Trading Co. is filled with cushy armchairs, vintage British knickknacks, and shelves of antiquated books, which makes sampling the small but mighty selection of British ales seem like a highbrow affair. Closed Sun; 1908 Post Alley; 206/441-7767.
Slide into a banquette at the Alexis’s sleek Library Bistro for perfectly executed brunch and lunch classics with a Northwest twist, like a hot Dungeness crab sandwich with three-cheese sauce, or brioche French toast. $$; 206/624-3646.
Three more great places (outside your living room) to crack a book:
A friendly pub
At happy hour, when Capitol Hill gastropub Smith is still quiet, toss back a Black Butte Porter and a cone of sweet-potato fries while you knock off a few chapters. Stacks of old books and booths made from reclaimed library doors will put you in the mood. $; 332 15th Ave. E.; smithseattle.com or 206/709-1900.
A cozy cafe
Star Life On the Oasis Cafe is tucked away from the U-District student masses, up a flight of stairs next to the indie Grand Illusion Cinema. Order a coffee and chocolate chip cookie, stretch out on the old sofa near the fireplace, and dream your afternoon away. $; 1405 N.E. 50th St.; 206/729-3542.
A neighborhood joint
The hobbit hole–like Pub at Third Place–is a neighborhood gathering place that’s all gleaming wood. Pick out a novel in the bookstore upstairs or browse the pub’s shelves of used books near the bar for classics and new favorites. The tables in the back nook get you away from the crowd. 6504 20th Ave. N.E.; 3rdplacepub.com or 206/523-0217.