Early Bird Entertainment: Finding Urban Fun That Doesn't Burn the Midnight Oil

Seattle no doubt boasts an exciting buzz any time of year, thanks to the city's multitude of thriving scenes–from dining and sports to music and the arts. Whatever your preference and whatever your taste, this town will surely find a way to keep you entertained. The days can be spent wandering the racks at Seattle shops, the gallery walls at city museums or the trails of parks, beaches and mountains that populate this region of the country. 

When the sun sets, however, entertainment options often shift to cozy indoor spaces where delicious dishes and creative cocktails rule the show. Visitors enjoy soaking in the flavors of the Northwest in bustlings restaurants, coffee shops and bars, and afterwards, they choose between activities from concerts and movies to plays and improv shows. 

While late-night options can be found, it's perhaps easier to stumble upon entertainment choices that start early and end early, meaning you're in bed before too late (and consequently refreshed to take on the city again early the next day). This roundup offers suggestions on where to find fun before the 10 o'clock hour; think early bird comedy productions, music showcases and restaurants where the low-key vibe is conducive to being home before the wee hours. Cheers!


This beloved Ballard nightspot features a smorgasbord of impressive music on a weekly basis, and performances range from zydeco, bluegrass and country to rock, folk, jazz and beyond. In addition to great live music, the Tractor also offers a friendly, neighborhood vibe as well as local beers on tap. Completing the distinctly American scene are walls decorated with old tractor parts and farming implements, and cowboy boots dangle from the ceiling rafters. Cash only at the door; Visa and Mastercard accepted at the bar. Square dancing often happens on Monday evenings, accompanied by the music of the Tallboys, who often busk down by the Pike Place Starbucks.

This small divey-hipster music venue slash Flying Squirrel Pizza joint is a favorite among locals for the comfortable atmosphere, ample seating, decently priced covers, and quality of shows by up-and-coming but still obscure rock bands. The stage here is low for a face-to-face experience. Early birds snag seats at the bar for an intimate view of the small stage; tables in the back mean spectators can enjoy food and drinks even after the set begins. The drinks are great and the pizza is even better. Though Ballard has several options for catching live music, this is one of the more intimate and cozy, in our opinion.

Northwest Film Forum
Photo courtesy of Northwest Film Forum

Northwest Film Forum began life in 1995 as a filmmakers' collective focusing on post-production by and for local filmmakers. As the organization expanded, it started showing films, first in conjunction with the historic Grand Illusion Cinema in 1997 and then with the newly-built Little Theatre in 1999. Eventually the name "Northwest Film Forum" was created to describe the organization's myriad exhibition, education, equipment, and production operations. In 2004, NWFF sold its two cinemas and consolidate all aspects of the organization under one roof. The current space is Seattle's first proper "cinematheque," it includes two theaters (one seating 119, the other 48), facilities and equipment for filmmakers, a dedicated space for workshops, and filmmaker offices. The benefit to the public is a schedule of independent, documentary, and art films screened on a regular schedule.

The Triple Door
Photo courtesy of Angela Sterling

Located in Seattle's historic Mann Building, this intimate and sophisticated award-winning music and dinner theater occupies the renovated space that formerly housed the Embassy Theater, originally a 1920's vaudeville house. The Mainstage, downstairs on the lower level, is an intimate candlelit spot with state-of-the-art sound and booths that offer clear sight lines to the stage. Early shows appeal to folks with an early bedtime. An Asian-fusion menu is provided by Wild Ginger restaurant next door, and the same cuisine is available upstairs in the Musicquarium Lounge, where live music, DJ sets, and the happy hour are legendary. Head to the lounge for killer happy deals that remain a downtown hidden gem.

Located at a thriving Pike Street intersection in Capitol Hill, this music club hosts awesome punk and indie-rock concerts and has attracted bands like Black Mountain, Vampire Weekend, Buckethead and The Reconteurs. The space was originally opened as Moe's Mo'Roc'N Cafe; in 1994 and re-launched in 2003 under its current name. The venue prides itself on "an always relevant and carefully curated music calendar, outstanding light production and state of the art sound system." The digs accomodate 800 fans, mostly with standing space, but three bars and balcony seating are available, too. Next door, Moe Bar offers a chill space in which to enjoy food and drinks (and a daily happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m.).

Rhein Haus
Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Smith

As of last year, a little piece of Germany has graced the ever-evolving 12th Avenue corridor in Capitol Hill (and as of this August, the bustling venue got a boost with a brand-new name). Rhein Haus (formerly known as Von Trapp's) reigns as Capitol Hill's very own 10,000-square-foot piece of Bavaria. With the perfect trifecta of bier, bratwursts and bocce, this venue bustlings most evenings. Authentic Bavarian fare here includes house-made sausages and pretzels, naturally accompanied by an extensive assortment of beer (24 drafts featuring both European and Northwestern brews). Flavorful, unique dishes range from pretzel dumpling soup and the German chop salad to beef goulash, pork schnitzel and all varieties of flammkuchen (crispy German flatbread on house-made sourdough). The expansive space includes the main dining room, an 80-seat bier hall, 53 bar seats, an intimate fire den plus two mezzanines that encircle the main attraction – five indoor bocce ball courts. On sunny days, delighted patrons flock to the outdoor biergarten, which also features an additional bocce court and bar.

A favorite day or nighttime haunt of the West Seattle crowd, this friendly brewpub offers a casual setting for mingling with friends or enjoying a bite of pub grub with the family. The spacious seating area is marked by its rustic red brick walls and high ceiling, which combine to give the place the look and feel of a European-style beer hall. Year-round house quaffs include Alembic Pale Ale, Elliott Bay IPA, Luna Weizen and No Doubt Stout, and a variety of seasonal brews are also available. Enjoy tasty dishes that complement the beers too! A loft area upstairs offers a few pool tables.

Pioneer Square

Set literally underground, Seattle's oldest comedy club may be short on atmosphere, but it's long on laughs. Headliners are often nationally or regionally known, and many big names graced the stage during their younger years, including Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres. Drinks are notoriously stiff, and a full menu featuring appetizers, burgers, and the like is available all evening. Shows are nightly at 8pm, with additional shows at 10:15pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Friday and Saturday shows are 21 and over. The Comedy Underground box office opens 30 minutes before a show.

Teatro ZinZanni
Photo courtesy of Teatro ZinZanni

There's no doubt that your experience at Teatro ZinZanni will be just that – an experience. The main event is part circus, part dinner theater. A three-hour tour de force, the evening combines innovative and thrilling feats by a troupe of international "cirque," comedy and cabaret artists with a five-course gourmet meal. Improvisational comedy, music, dance and vaudeville review get blended with pure sensuality, creating a unique and intense new show with each performance. Intimate and fast-paced, the show takes place above, around and beside patrons as they dine and gawk in awe. Ticket costs includes dinner and show; drinks are not included.

Looking for some fast-paced laughs? Head to the Atlas Theatre in Fremont (right off Fremont Avenue, amidst an array of restaurants, shops and bars), where ComedySportz takes improv comedy into the sports arena. Two teams of comedians duke it out in a variety of games, competing for the biggest guffaws from audience members. No two shows are the same; every performance is driven by audience suggestions, so all creativity is encouraged! ComedySportz shows take place every Friday and Saturday at 8pm & 10 p.m. (giving a perfect option for weekend entertainment that doesn't run too late.) Look for an adults-only show the first Saturday of every month.


Meet Corinne Whiting

Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's...  More About Corinne