24 things to do in Seattle for the holidays
Looking for something to get you into the holiday spirit? Look no further — there’s plenty to do in and around the greater Seattle region to help spread that holiday cheer.
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If you enjoy looking at old Seattle homes decorated in thousands of twinkling lights, you’ll want to brave the traffic for this tradition. Neighbors have been hosting Candy Cane Lane since 1949. It’s free to drive through, and you’re invited to bring non-perishable food for a food drive.
The holiday star has been on display for decades on the side of the Macy’s building in downtown Seattle. New building owners promise to display the star in true holiday tradition, as they did in 2020. Bring a tripod to snap a picture for the ‘gram and check out the tree lighting at Westlake Plaza on Nov. 26.
The zoo brings to life large animals from around the world in its new Wild Lanterns festival. Of course, you can still grab some hot cocoa and walk the zoo’s WildLights Trail. Stop in for a Tianyu Art Performance or mingle with an ambassador animal.
Nov. 25 – Dec. 23
Various locations around the Puget Sound
The Argosy Cruise ship travels all across the Puget Sound during the holiday season, dressed up in hundreds of lights with a choir or quartet on board. Be part of the fun on board, or stand on shore with your family and friends to wave. There are two parades on Lake Union, which include several boats dressed up in holiday décor.
West Seattle’s Junction is bustling for the entire holiday season with shopping and a holiday art walk. Elvis hosts the tree lighting and night shopping on Dec. 4, you can donate a gently used coat during the Coat Drive the next day, and then meet Santa when he visits the farmers’ market on Dec. 19.
Stop in for some shopping, holiday music, and to visit Santa at the Holiday Magic Village. You’ll probably run into Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, too. Reservations are required for photo sessions.
The Nutcracker at McCaw Hall for the holidays is a tradition that will create a lasting memory. Watch the magic unfold on stage as Clara and her nutcracker light up imaginations.
Hundreds of lanterns will illuminate the pathway around Green Lake on Dec. 11. Bundle up the family, pack a thermos, decorate the wagon with lights, and a enjoy a stroll around the lake.
Take the kids to see ice sculptures every Saturday. They make a great backdrop for photos. Check out the winter train and village display inside the Armory. While you’re there, catch a live performance and grab a bite to eat. Of course, the entire grounds will be decorated in twinkling lights.
Get a good spot on Bellevue Way and wait for the snow to swirl around downtown. The nightly holiday parade starts at 7 p.m. with toy drummers, dancers, festive music, and holiday floats.
Santa stops in at the Cougar Mountain Zoo every day in December to check on his reindeer. Get a photo with Jolly St. Nick and his sleigh. The Reindeer Festival admission is free with zoo admission.
Even if you’re not a fan of flowers or foliage, a trip to Woodinville to see the poinsettias is worth it. Check out the giant red tree made of poinsettias and all the different varieties of poinsettias.
All aboard the Santa train! Climb aboard one of two trains with Santa and his elves — the Yuletide Express, or the Santa Limited. On the Yuletide Express, you’ll get a 25-minute ride from the Snoqualmie Depot west to Snoqualmie Falls. Each child gets a small gift from Santa. On the Santa Limited (which is already sold out), passengers travel 2 hours from North Bend to the Railway History Campus for a tour of exhibits.
Leavenworth is maybe a little further than “the Eastside” as you know it, but it’s worth the drive up snowy Highway 2. This year is a little different — there’s no flipping of the switch every Saturday and Sunday since the lights will shine bright every day of the week. Pop into the toy shop and get your picture taken with holiday characters.
The new baby armadillo is reason enough to visit Point Defiance Zoo, but Zoolights is a tradition and cornerstone of the holidays for many locals. Take a selfie in front of the lit-up butterfly wings or just wander around, looking at the giant octopus or Narrows Bridge wrapped in over 800,000 tiny lights.
Enjoy live music, twinkling lights, and the winter refreshment station. Cozy up with your friends and family in a horse-drawn carriage, or stop in for some hand-crafted gifts made by local artists.
Visiting a mansion built in the 1890s is already a magical experience, but when it’s decorated for the holidays, it’s a delight that’ll create lasting memories. Take a tour and imagine you’re living a Victorian Christmas.
Take the kids to the North Pole at the Fair to burn off some holiday steam. This pint-size holiday village is set up for kids to stretch their imaginations.
Find the perfect vantage point along Vashon Island Highway or meet at the Vashon Theater to take in the (walking) Santa Parade. The tree lighting takes place at 6 p.m. at the Vashon Village.
An annual tradition in the North Sound gives the whole family an opportunity to enjoy the season. This will again be a drive-thru Christmas. Listen to holiday music and wave to Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Head to the Peninsula for a day in Port Gamble and enjoy the tree lighting and fireworks. Stop in to Santa’s workshop and take a wagon ride before enjoying dinner and a little holiday shopping. While you’re in Port Gamble, breathe in the fresh salt air and admire the historic homes.
Snohomish was basically designed for a month-long celebration in December. Drop off a gift at one of the beautifully decorated giving trees, shop in several stores in the historic district, or browse the window displays ahead of the contest. Santa arrives on Nov. 27 — stop in to say hello at the Riverfront Gazebo. Chase the Grinch out of town or try to find all of Santa’s reindeer.
If strolling through Fairhaven decked in thousands of lights isn’t enough, stick around for the light bike parade or visit Father Christmas and Mrs. Claus. The Holiday Market features local businesses and holiday treats.
Come for the food trucks and holiday wares from local businesses, and stay for the annual tree lighting and holiday music. Members of Miss Aquafest court will pass out the limited-edition city ornament.