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  • "How to deal with lack of sunshine in Seattle"

Jessica Quintana

Westminster, Colorado

How to deal with lack of sunshine in Seattle

How do you deal with the lack of sunshine in Seattle?  I am considering moving there from Denver, CO, where there is year round sunshine.

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16 Answers

  • Tony Wright

    top answer by

    It's a trade-off. First, if you aren't a fan of extreme temperatures, you're in luck. Seattle is incredibly mellow. It has nearly 3x the "pleasant" weather that Denver does (“pleasant” here means the mean temperature was 55° - 75° , with a min-temp of 45° and a max of 85°,and there was no significant precipitation or snow depth). Source for that is here.

    And, Seattle gets less rainfall than NYC-- so you're right in focusing on the lack of sunshine.

    The good news is that there is GREAT sunshine during the summer months (late June thru September). Lawns get brown and the weather is just stunning.

    Here's some good month-by-month sunshine data for Seattle.

    So how to deal with it? First, get out regardless. I play Ultimate frisbee 2-3x per week year round, usually wearing shorts. How cool is that?

    Second, get the heck out during Nov/Dec/Jan. 45min east you can ski at Stevens Pass Ski Area, Crystal Mountain Resort or Alpental Ski Area. 1.5 hours north you can pick up a ferry to San Juan Island (the sunniest place in Western Washington?). And, of course, SeaTac International Airport is right here, so a long weekend on LA/Hawaii/Mexico is more do-able than you might think if you budget for it.

    And finally, enjoy the color green. Seattle weather makes for some gorgeous rainforest hiking.

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    • Jessica Q.

      Jessica Q.

      Fantastic answer! Thanks for the sources too. · (0 likelikes)

    • Tony W.

      Tony W.

      You bet! Hopefully it helps when your friends say, "Moving to Seattle?! Hope you enjoy rain!" · (0 likelikes)

    • Desiree F.

      Desiree F.

      One clarification is, especially having grown up in Salt Lake which I believe shares similar snow and access to resorts as Denver, don't expect the same quality. Snoqualmie Pass is the closest to Seattle at 45 minutes but the snow is poor to slush. The best resorts are significantly farther, 1.5-3 hours one-way, which is fine for most but not necessarily for those used to a number of excellent slopes within an hour, like Denver / Salt Lake. · (1 likelikes)

    • Tony W.

      Tony W.

      @desiree Great point. It ain't perfect but it IS close... And at least it's a different collection of colors than "grey + green" that Seattle offers in the winter. :-) If you want world-class skiing, you have to run to Whistler (4.5+ hours, depending on border time!) · (0 likelikes)

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  • S Stickles

    answered by

    You do get used to it. Believe it or not. The summers are so wonderful it makes you forget about the lack of sun in the winter. You can always take a day trip to Eastern Washington to get a little sun on the weekends!

    There are so many great places to explore in the Pacific Northwest. Our favorites are the San Juan Islands and the Lake Quinault Lodge.

    Good Luck with your move!

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  • Zach Hale

    answered by

    First, you make the most of all the sunny days we do have! Second, you learn to do outdoor activities when it's crappy out. Third, microbreweries.

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  • Natala Menezes

    answered by

    I had a three-prong strategy when I lived in Seattle that helped me:

    1. Enjoy the outdoors year-round. Regardless of the weather, I spent a lot of time outside and the positive, uplifting endorphins I got from that made me happy and the fresh air was always refreshing. My favorite place was Discovery Park but we'd also go out to the mountains in the winter and spend time on the lakes in the summer.
    2. Take a vitamin D supplement. I would get my levels checked regularly, but this is a definite downside of living in a darker area and something to track because it does impact your mood/energy levels.
    3. Go to Hawaii / Mexico. There are easy direct flights on Alaska, so I made a point to go to either Hawaii (Kauai!) or Mexico at least once if not twice a year for a sunshine-vacation, usually in February/March, but often also in December/January. Seattle is a very affordable city so I often felt like this additional "vacation" cost was just part of the cost of living in Seattle :)


    Seattle is an amazing city -- hope you love it as much as I did. Discovery Park

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  • Ben van de Vusse

    answered first by

    I guess it depends on the individual. If you're frustrated with the lack of outdoor activities in the sun, I'd consider moving to a sunnier place. However if you are feeling down all the time, it's possible you suffer from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder - and you could consider getting a UV-A/UV-B lamp to help recover.

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  • Meghan Kiernan

    answered by

    Most of us take lots of vacations to sunny places throughout the year! There are lights you can get to help with the vitamin D too. It's a great city overall!

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    • Suzi P.

      Suzi P.

      Agree on the vacation aspect! I spend as many long weekends as I can in sunny places :) Also, eastern Washington in the summer time gets to be super warm and sunny, and it's just a 2-3 hour drive east of Seattle. · (0 likelikes)

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  • Desiree Furness

    answered by

    It's hard. And, after 11 years, I had to move. But, a lot of people stay and love it there.

    I can say that the summers are gorgeous and the 3 months of summer is well worth the 9 months of dreariness. Plus, you don't even notice the darkness those first two years after moving there. The third year you notice but then summer hits and you're over it.

    But, if you get screwed one year, say the summer never really shows up as it should (which happened at least twice during my 11 years there), then the following winter is really hard because you've had basically 2 constant years of dreariness.

    Also, the summers never get blistering hot so, on top of the dreary winters, you don't really have any no-jacket nights in the summer. But, once the temps hit 60F or higher people start sunbathing in parks because it actually does feel really hot, especially with the sun.

    Winter sun vacations are good. Taking up a winter sport might help. You're able to hike / bike year round, less maybe 2 weeks of freezing temperatures / light snow fall. I used my scooter year round.

    There are definitely positives to the climate but the darkness - and near constant wetness - of the winters was definitely the hardest for me to get over and probably the only reason I moved.

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  • Michael McKinnon

    answered by

    I've lived in Western Washington my entire life. Yes, it can rain daily for about a month, but the rain might be intermittent or light or misty more often than unremitting. A waterproof jacket with a hood and a pair of waterproofed walking shoes will serve during the wetter seasons. A fleece vest and, maybe, a pair of gloves will bring you through the colder days. I carry a compact umbrella in my daypack. I haven't used it in a few years. It only comes out when I'm stuck outside in a movie line or if the bus stop shelter and nearby doorways are occupied. One doesn't often see drenching storms. Some winters in Seattle are snow-free; a 6" snowfall might come along twice in a decade if you live near Puget Sound.

    There have been times when I've taken a moment to see how many shades of green I can distinguish in a park or my backyard. I try to adjust my perspective to appreciate a gray-green-rusty brown color spectrum until blue skies and flower gardens bloom and Mt. Rainier appears in all its glory. In the meantime, one might see rhododendrons in bloom from January to June.

    Seattle is a great movie town if you want a two-hour respite from the clouds. Pubs that offer microbrews on tap and tasty pub grub are found in every neighborhood. Coffee shops are ubiquitous, and cocktail aficionados have their own favorite haunts.

    As other folks have mentioned, a vitamin D supplement and/or a trip to Phoenix for Seattle Mariners Spring Training help many Seattlites survive non-daylight-savings-time days.

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  • Todd Bernave

    answered by

    Hmm ... well, it all depends on you! Some folks hate the gray ... and really, there is just no way around it. You can use sun lamps and such, but I'm not sure how well that works?!

    Honestly, you need to embrace it ... find the beauty in it, that's the only way to make it feel like home. It's what makes this part of the world green and beautiful all year. I love misty gray mornings, and big Pacific storms. It can get very old, but you just go out in it and enjoy. Go hiking, go skiing, head over to eastern Washington for a weekend and go wine tasting ... whatever makes you happy!!

    I love it here, but it's not for everyone. Mountains, rivers, lakes, Puget Sound ... it's all here ... you have to come to piece with the gray though, no way around it!!

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  • Alissa Vaughn

    answered by

    Sure, it can be gray a lot of the time, but the area is filled with so many activity options like kayaking on Lake Unionand visiting the wineries in Woodinville that I don't seem to notice very often. Seattle also has the best clouds. You'll see. :)

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  • Suzi Pratt

    answered by

    It's definitely tough not having much sunshine in Seattle, but the truth is we get probably a good 4-6 months of really awesome, warm sunshiney days in Seattle.

    To answer your question about how to cope with it, I suppose it depends on what it is about sunshine that you really enjoy. If it's getting your vitamin D (which people seriously lack out here!), take vitamin D supplements. This will keep you mentally healthy in the winters. If it's the warmth, we have great sauna and spas here, particularly the Russian style spas where you pay for a day pass to use a variety of warm saunas and steam rooms to cleanse your pores and bask in warmth.


    I hope this helps!

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  • Yi Molina

    answered by

    First you need to have the right expectation, yes, it is going to be less sunny than Denver, and there is no change of that. Now that we got that out of the way, we can go ahead on what to do to deal with the lack of sunshine. January and February are the worst month, lots of rain. You can take winter vacations to sunny places, or stay in town and ski. The closest ski resorts is only 40 mins away, we started skiing this year, and would go at least once a week and the winter flied by. You can ski from December to April, technically. (You can also take short weekend trips to eastern washington, where is much sunnier. ) In April, you can start hiking, we have so many great trails here. And you can golf too, all the way into November. Summer here is great, weather is mild, never too hot and there is tons to do. Then comes the fall, which is still not bad, some rain with sunny days sprinkled here and there. I don't think it is as bad as people think, I have met people who moved from Chicago, Austin, etc, and love the weather here. But again, it is totally up to you. Maybe you can come visit and see for yourself. Good luck!


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  • Mark Blazek

    answered by

    The only way is to travel a lot......otherwise, it's quite tough. Some people, coming from places like Calif or Denver cannot deal with it and don't stay.

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  • Elana Zelony

    answered by

    See rain as an excuse for a good cup of hot chocolate. Try Chocolopolis in Queen Anne neighborhood.

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    • Debbie L.

      Debbie L.

      I like the way you think, lady! :D · (0 likelikes)

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  • Eric Hart

    answered by

    Go skiing December through April.

    It gets beautiful late June or early July. Like the best summers around that typically through September.

    Then falls are the pretty darn nice and candidly you need a break after the full-on summers.

    Rinse and repeat.

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  • Jack Cox

    answered by

    I lived in Colorado for 20 years before moving to Seattle 5 years ago and I had the same concern as you. The truth is that Seattle is such a beautiful place, with the water, the mountains and the greenery everywhere that it's not as bad you might think. In fact, the first time I went back to Denver after living here for about 6 months I couldn't believe how brown and, well, ugly Denver (the city specifically) was comparatively. You do have to get used to the fact that from November to April or so, if you want to be outside, you're going to be in the weather but you get used to that as well. I used to hate being out in the rain in Colorado but I don't think twice about it here now. Like Colorado, having the right gear goes along way. Finally, the summers in Seattle are SPECTACULAR. Perfect temperatures, azure blue skies and amazing scenery. Throw a vibrant and young city on top and I think it blows Denver out of the water.


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