Words and photos by Laura Lawson Visconti
When W Bellevue invited me to experience their grand opening festivities, I relished a homecoming to the fog and the pines. It’s been years since I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest, and I miss it. I hadn’t spent much time in Bellevue before, and was excited to get to know it better with W as my home base.
After driving over the world’s longest floating bridge into downtown Bellevue, I instantly fell in love with the rebellious free spirit of the city. With companies like Boeing, Microsoft and T-Mobile calling Bellevue home, the city is a haven for adventurous trendsetters and rule-breakers, keeping in-step to the heartbeat of nearby Seattle’s food, music, and tech culture. Bellevue’s fashion especially surprised me — the Pacific Northwest arguably started the urban lumberjack trend, but style is noticeably more tailored here.
The lakehouse-inspired W Bellevue only reinforces this attention to detail, of course. With custom murals adorning every other wall, and hidden surprises around every corner, I delighted in simply exploring. My favorite details were the A-frame ceilings, coffee flour bread, and Sasquatch taking a selfie.
To kickoff the grand opening celebrations, planned activities started with a HIIT class from SoulCycle instructor Evan Arbour, followed by an incredible seaplane experience above the Puget Sound via Kenmore Air. Next up was a tour of Guardian Cellars Winery. My husband Nick and I happen to be friends with the production winemaker, so this was a pleasant surprise on all accounts. The festivities concluded with a posh cocktail party and a fantastic performance from Betty Who back at the hotel.
When the revelries concluded, Nick and I had a day to ourselves to explore. I used the W Insider Guide to help me map out the day, and made a few discoveries of my own along the way. The W is conveniently positioned in the heart of Lincoln Square with easy access to many amenities including shopping, a movie theatre, and top-notch restaurants. After waking up groggy, Nick and I stumbled out the hotel’s front door and approximately 12 steps later were at Dote Coffee Bar, where we fueled up on cappuccinos and truffles.
Where to Hike
One of the best things about staying in Bellevue is the quick access to innumerable hiking trails. After coffee, we made the easy drive to the trailhead of Rattlesnake Ledge, only 30 minutes from W Bellevue, and one of our all-time favorite hikes (we even got married there years ago!). Rattlesnake is popular, and for good reason: after a quick two-mile jaunt up, covering around 1500’ elevation gain, you’re greeted with a spectacular Instagram-worthy view. At the bottom of the trail is Rattlesnake Lake — bonus points if you get there early in the morning and catch the famous Pacific Northwest fog wafting through the tree stumps adorning the lake.
After our morning hike, we drove back into the city for some window-shopping. Downtown Bellevue is full of the usual suspects: department stores, kitschy boutiques, and endless happy hour options. With a green concoction from Pressed Juicery in hand, I happily explored. But it was the surprises I loved the most: wandering into the gift shop at the Bellevue Arts Museum; discovering a gorgeous Dale Chihuly glass installation outside the movie theatre; the photogenic walkway connecting W Bellevue and the adjacent Westin.
The W Bellevue Insider Guide mentions a genuine hole-in-the-wall record store called Puget Sounds, and after a little searching, I found it. You could spend hours listening to owner Tom Wilcox’s stories and still feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface. Unfortunately, we were running late for our dinner reservation, so we had to leave before too many stories could unfold — the perfect excuse to come back for a visit.
99 Park Restaurant
Perhaps the highlight of the entire day, dinner at the casual-chic 99 Park Restaurant was unbelievable. Top-scoring dishes were the Seared Albacore Tuna and Painted Hills Grass-Fed Burger, which I paired with Guardian’s Newsprint Red Blend, from the winery we had visited the previous day. Over the course of the meal, I ended up chatting with a lovely gal at the table next door who turned out to be the restaurant owner’s wife. Her passion and pride in their family business was inspiring, and made the already-delicious meal that much better.
After dinner, we headed back to the W for nightcaps at Civility & Unrest, a speakeasy downstairs from restaurateur Jason Wilson with specialty cocktails and plenty of cool design details to spark conversation — the perfect finale to a memorable trip to Bellevue.