Seattle's got plenty of bars at ground level; what we need is more bars with a view. The Space Needle had a bar in the sky (a rotating bar in the sky!) one million years ago, but in an act of sheer moronism, it was abolished. The Columbia Tower has a bar way up high, but you have to be a member of the Columbia Tower Club to rest your wealthy behind there and have a drink kingly-style, acting blasé. For the general populace, there was nothing—until Visions Lounge.
Visions Lounge is on the 28th floor of the Renaissance Seattle Hotel, the Marriott property where Madison intersects I-5. The Renaissance Hotel is most notable for its concrete-block architecture; if you made a Venn diagram of the actual Renaissance and the Renaissance Hotel, the overlap would be woefully small. A Venn diagram of Renaissance fairs and the Renaissance Hotel would be likewise, but it'd make you feel better about being at the latter instead of the former. But the thing that will make you feel most better about being at the Renaissance Hotel is Visions Lounge.
Visions is not all great. It's a wall-to-wall carpeting kind of place, with nondescript dark wood paneling that fails to have its intended elegantizing effect. The paintings on one wall are terrible; they are of lilies. The paintings on another wall are slightly less terrible, because they are limes; a poorly painted lime is, at least, somewhat funny, while a poorly painted lily is just sad. The patrons at Visions tend toward the business traveler, and if you laugh too loud or too often, they will move to a different table farther away. In case you are unfamiliar with Marriott cuisine: Do not come to Visions for the food. There are typical snacks—quesadillas, wings, miniburgers, crab cakes—that will fill a snack-shaped void. They are practically free at happy hour, though still not quite worth it. If your food takes a long time (are they making it in the basement and bringing it up in the elevator? Because it's also not hot), your server may offer you another drink at happy-hour price ($5 for a large well cocktail). It is a humane gesture in a corporate setting.
Visions is about the view. It's set in the northwest corner of the building, embedded among downtown's skyscrapers, where the city looks more citylike than ever before. Between two tall buildings, the sun sets on the Sound. Through two more stands, improbably, the Space Needle. As it gets dark, whole floors of office lights are extinguished, one after another, though a few here and there stay on. To the north, I-5 makes a red and white ribbon of lights; it's very pretty when you're not in it.
Visions Lounge, 515 Madison St, 583-0300