Sleepless in Seattle? My stay above a major music venue at Hotel Crocodile
At most hotels, blasts of music in the middle of the night would result in a few noise complaints. But Hotel Crocodile is not most hotels. It's home to one of Seattle's most storied music venues: The Crocodile.
The Croc has been a fixture in Grunge City for over 30 years. Big-name artists like R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Patti Smith have brought down the house and, more recently, it has hosted stars such as Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Snoop Dogg and Sia.
After a relocation and lengthy renovation, The Crocodile reopened in the fall of 2021 as a three-story establishment with two performance venues — and the namesake hotel above it all. You can stay in the same small hotel (which offers just 17 rooms) as your favorite band when they come to perform downstairs.
At present, The Crocodile has a comedy club and movie theater called Here-After, a small performance venue called Madame Lou's, and a music main stage that's also known as The Crocodile.
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What would it be like to stay in this kind of hotel? Would I be sleepless in Seattle?
There was only one way to find out.
With Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" playing in my head, I booked a room.
The Crocodile is located in Belltown, an artsy downtown Seattle neighborhood. It's just a 10-minute walk down the street to Pike Place Market and the first Starbucks, so guests can get their tourism fix pretty easily. The waterfront is also just a few blocks away, where travelers can take in stunning views of the harbor and walk along Alaskan Way, a route that leads to Seattle's sculpture garden.
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It's a short walk to several King County Metro bus stops, but Seattle's Link system — the light rail — is a bit farther away from the hotel. I used the bus (which is a zero-emission service) to get around, allowing about five minutes to walk from the hotel to the nearest stop. Bus and light rail fares are $2.25 per ride.
If you're flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, you can either take public transportation or use a ride-hailing app like Uber or Lyft. You can take the light rail from the airport to Westlake Station on the edge of Belltown and walk just under a mile to the hotel — the whole trip should take about an hour. The drive is about 25 minutes and will cost around $50 if you're using a ride-hailing app.
If you're traveling to Seattle by car, there's plenty of street parking in the neighborhood. There are also several paid lots nearby. And if you've got another kind of wheels, Hotel Crocodile offers a secure bike rack on site.
The Crocodile has stood the test of time — and the test of stubborn landlords. In November 2020, The Crocodile reluctantly relocated from its previous stomping grounds on Second Avenue. The current First Avenue location has a history of its own: It used to be home to the Sailors' Union of the Pacific Hall.
Booking with Hotel Crocodile is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of deal. The rooms feature artwork by different local artists, making each stay unique and eclectic. The hotel describes the rooms as "oversized" and "upscale."
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When booking your room, you can peruse and compare room prices, themes and amenities. While most rooms were priced at around the $250 mark, there's about $40 extra to pay in service and tax fees. While my deluxe queen room was listed at $249, the total came to $291, which is fairly standard for an upscale hotel. Whether we consider this hotel to be upscale will be covered later.
If you're looking to book about two months in advance, rooms like my deluxe queen would be as low as $189, before service fees and tax. So if you want lower prices, plan ahead!
To enter Hotel Crocodile, you need to punch in a code on the door, Airbnb-style. The code is sent to you 24 hours before your check-in time.
I walked up a narrow stairwell, passing a chandelier and a mural of a crocodile, to reach the hotel lobby. I entered a carpeted room furnished with suede emerald green chairs, a disco ball and a giant crocodile sitting in a faux swamp.
Despite the skylights, the room was dim and felt more like a basement than a second-story hotel lobby. I walked over to the front desk — which doubled as a minibar — and waited for a staff member to come by.
I later learned that Hotel Crocodile has a "semi-remote guest services team" who can be reached by email. When a friendly staff member arrived, he took my bags and — indulging my curiosity about the hotel — gave me a quick tour.
Since every room at Hotel Crocodile is different, it was cool to see a few of them in person. All of them were big enough for a post-show dance party.
While I was fascinated by the interior design of each room, I noticed one thing off the bat: This was not an upscale hotel. It looked more like an artist's basement than anything else. Don't get me wrong — I love a quirky low-budget hotel or hostel; had this property been a hostel, it easily would've been one of my favorite hostels I've stayed in. And the scrappiness of Hotel Crocodile is part of its charm. But it wasn't a hostel — it was a $300 hotel.
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As promised, my room was enormous. With the framed band poster and retro furniture, the room felt exactly as Hotel Crocodile had intended: like a backstage green room.
My room was easily the most unique hotel room I've ever stayed in — how can you top leather couches and fur throws? I'm not exactly sure where the local Seattle art in my room was — maybe it was the brass bull skull mounted on the wall or the beige carpet on the floor.
Even in the early evening, I could feel the thrum of the sound system warming up downstairs. I wondered if I'd be using the complimentary earplugs later that night.
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Food and drink
I checked out the bar in the hotel lobby before heading down to dinner. Since I was there midweek, I didn't encounter any other hotel guests during my stay, but on a busier day it's normal for guests to socialize in the lobby — and maybe even meet their favorite musician. As a bartender squeezed limes for a mixed drink at the front desk/minibar, she told me about a girl who was raving about her favorite band, only to see that the lead singer was standing right next to her.
Hotel Crocodile offers three other bars downstairs. There's The Society, a bar right next to the entrance to the club; the Here-After, an eclectic bar in the basement where you can grab drinks before seeing a film or comedy show; and there's also a bar in the back of The Crocodile club. Rest assured: There's plenty to drink.
I grabbed a pre-show dinner at The Society, where I chatted with friendly locals and got to know the bartender. There's a strong sense of community at The Crocodile; it feels like a small neighborhood joint where old friends come to catch up.
All guests get two guaranteed tickets for shows during their stay. You still have to pay full price, though. My main stage ticket was $25.
I ended up seeing Devin The Dude, a rap artist from Houston, and a handful of other talented rappers, musicians and DJs who opened for him. By the time Devin The Dude came on, the club was full of people.
Rolling Stone named The Crocodile one of the best small clubs in America for a reason: It's a fun, offbeat way to experience Seattle. It's not every day you go clubbing under a 40-foot crocodile skeleton. As a small venue, it provides an intimate music experience with enough room to still dance. Several of the openers joined the audience after they'd finished their set, dancing among the sea of fans.
The community feel of The Crocodile carried over even in the crowded club — there were some out-of-towners, but most of the people I met were Seattleites. While hitting touristy stops on a trip is fun, there's nothing like immersing yourself in a local hot spot to get a feel for the community.
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If you're staying upstairs in the hotel, you don't have to worry about a long trek to your bed at the end of the night. When you're tuckered out, you simply step out of the club and head upstairs.
As I got into bed, I could feel the bass pumping through the floor. But to my surprise, there wasn't a noise problem, just physical vibrations. I couldn't hear the actual music or cheers from the audience — I didn't even touch the earplugs. Whoever soundproofed the place is a genius.
As Hotel Crocodile says on its website, this is somewhere where you can "get lost in the rock and roll and drift away." And I certainly did drift off quite easily.
The verdict was in: I was not sleepless in Seattle. In fact, I had a peaceful, uninterrupted night's sleep in the most comfortable hotel bed I'd ever slept in. I'm not sure what they stuff the mattresses with, but it seriously felt like a cloud.
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Shortcomings: A hostel at a hotel price
Although Hotel Crocodile offers a quirky way to experience Seattle, it left some things to be desired in terms of hotel staff accessibility. I discovered halfway into my visit that my room's door had stopped automatically locking from the outside, but there was no engineer on hand, which you'd expect at this price tag. The faulty lock seemed a glitch rather than a symptom of a broader issue, but if something does go wrong during your stay, you might have to deal with it yourself.
Since it's only a 17-room hotel, there's no need for a ton of guest services support — hence the semiremote guest services team. Still, visitors should be aware of this before they make a reservation.
You don't have to stay where you play
If you're coming to see a show at The Crocodile, you can always consider going somewhere else to sleep and store your belongings, especially if you want an experience with around-the-clock guest services and more security. Luckily, Belltown has you — and your wallet — covered.
If you want a revelrous experience without the high price, opt for the Green Tortoise Hostel down the street. For $70, you can book a private room with access to an individual bathroom unit. Or you can pay $36 and share a room. The hostel — which is ironically themed around another green river-dweller — has someone at the front desk 24 hours a day. If you're traveling alone, having a hotel staff member nearby can provide a sense of comfort and security. Hostels win out for me yet again: If I ever see another show at The Crocodile, I think I'll try out the Green Tortoise. I won't get as good a night's sleep, but I can use the money I save to go on a whale watching tour.
Alternatively, Belltown (and much of Seattle) is home to a plethora of hotels, many of which you can book with points — there's a Hilton Garden Inn, a Hyatt Regency, a Kimpton and many other large chain hotels around the neighborhood. While guests at Hotel Crocodile are guaranteed tickets to shows, there's no discount. So it might be worth it to drop $25 on the tickets and save on lodging elsewhere.
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A stay here makes sense if you have a flexible budget and are open to a grungy, scrappy hotel experience built around partying. If you're not using points and are planning on spending upward of $250 on a hotel anyway, you might as well stay at Hotel Crocodile. Plus, your money will support an iconic local business.
If you travel to Seattle — regardless of where you stay — it's fun to pop into the swamp in Belltown. While the comfortable (like, really comfortable) beds, easy access to quality music and spirited community feel are all reasons to stay at Hotel Crocodile, you can still experience the venue without sleeping there. Either way, you're sure to meet plenty of friendly Seattleites, drink delicious cocktails and experience the thrill of live music.
My stay at Hotel Crocodile was memorable and, honestly, pretty heartwarming. The Crocodile is a place that brings people together, whether they're old bandmates meeting up for a drink before a show or hotel guests shaking their favorite artist's hand in the upstairs lobby. And, come on: How often can you say you slept in a hotel above a club? And how often does your hotel room come with leather couches?
Most importantly: If you stay at Hotel Crocodile, you will not be sleepless in Seattle. Not today, Nora Ephron. Not today.