An influx of design and home furnishings shops and restaurants has infused once quiet Madison Valley with an energy all its own. A stretch of shops filled with gifts, home accents, and garden gear, it shoulders up to Washington Park Arboretum, whose seasonal displays are the perfect antidote to the winter blues.
Madison Valley is east of Seattle's downtown and the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The business district runs along E. Madison St. from about 23rd Ave. E. to 32nd Ave. E.
City People's Garden Store. A nursery with houseplants (look for long-lasting potted orchids this month) plus an irresistible gift shop. Info: 2939 E. Madison St.; 206/324-0737.
Oh Chocolate. Family-run for 20 years, this chocolate shop features addictively rich European hot chocolate and more than 50 kinds of hand-dipped truffles, caramels, and toffees. Info: Mon-Sat; 3131 E. Madison St.; 206/329-8777.
Veritables. Home accents and gifts from vintage vases to contemporary tea sets to jewelry and leather goods. Info: 2816 E. Madison St.; 206/726-8047.
The Essential Baking Company Café. A perfect morning stop for sweet or savory crêpes, croissants, or tea breads. At lunch, homemade soups beat the chill, and salads come with thick slabs of pizza bianca. Info: $; 2719 E. Madison St.; 206/328-0078.
Saint Germain Bistro & Wine Bar. Magnifique bites, most less than $10. Don't miss the list of beautiful Bordeaux. Info: $; Tue-Sat; 2811 E. Madison St.; 206/323-9800.
Crush. A romantic Tudor belies the ultra-modern interior of this sophisticated dinner spot. Info: $$$; Tue-Sat; 2319 E. Madison St.; 206/302-7874.GO
Washington Park Arboretum. Take a walk through the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden when fragrant plants such as daphne, witch hazel, and Sarcococca are in bloom. Redtwig dogwoods, paperbark maples, and berry-laden holly trees put on a colorful show at this time of year. Info: Free; 2300 Arboretum Dr. E.; www.uwbotanicgardens.org or 206/543-8800.
Just up the hill from Madison Valley is Madrona, a quiet neighborhood with turn-of-the-century homes and a compact intersection of eateries and shops. Highlights are Hitchcock (Wed-Sun; 1123 34th Ave.; 206/838-7173), an accessories shop inspired by the icy leading ladies of Alfred Hitchcock's films, and the Hi Spot Cafe ( $; 1410 34th Ave.; 206/325-7905), the place for huevos a la Mexicana, gargantuan cinnamon rolls, and some of the best scones in the city.
To reach the Madrona neighborhood from Madison Valley, go south on Martin Luther King Jr. Way (it intersects with Madison St.), make a left on Union St., and continue until you come to 34th Ave.