Seattle holiday events: Where to go in December to get into the spirit

Dec 23, 2023, 2:40 AM | Updated: 2:40 am

Image: People attend the lighting of the holiday tree at Seattle's Westlake Center on Friday, Nov. ...

People attend the lighting of the holiday tree at Seattle's Westlake Center on Friday, Nov. 24. 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Gee & Ursula Facebook page)

(Photo courtesy of the Gee & Ursula Facebook page)

The holiday season is in full swing in Seattle and across Western Washington.

This year’s hottest spots include holiday lights and the Christmas tree at Westlake Center and nightly caroling in Pioneer Square. An ice skating rink just opened in Occidental Park.

Tourists such as Jean and Norman Rolinks came all the way down from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in Western Canada and enjoyed the festivities and shopping at Pike Place Market.

“Seeing all the people out, the decorations. This is wonderful, Norman Rolinks said to KIRO Newsradio.

Musician Thelonious Armandillo measures cheer on the faces of the tourists he plays music for at Westlake Center.

“I work for smiles and the smile business is always good at this time of year,” Armandillo recently said to KIRO Newsradio.

Meanwhile, photographer Tyler Kirschner sees the happiness through his lens at Pioneer Square.

“I see people getting together getting merrier finding all the little things that brings them sparks of joy,” Kirschner remarked to KIRO Newsradio this month.

If you want to get into the holiday spirit in Seattle or the Puget Sound area and want capture some of your own holiday smiles and joy, consider these events and activities through out the month of December:

Winterfest (Seattle Center) — The Seattle Center event’s website states that throughout its five weeks, “those in search of uplifting seasonal spirit or delightful diversion will find seasonal décor, our winter train and village, weekend entertainment on the Armory Stage, and a New Year’s Eve Celebration.” Some areas are free, while other parts, such as the Seattle Christmas Market, require purchasing tickets. The larger area will be open through Dec. 31.

Seattle Christmas Market (Seattle Center) — The market, which is part of Winterfest, “aspires to bring (a) festive Old-World tradition to Seattle. Our market combines colorful décor, authentic gifts, enticing food and drinks, and family entertainment, creating the perfect atmosphere for celebrating Christmas,” its website reads. The market will be open through Dec. 24 and tickets can be purchased here. Passes for the entire season are available here.

Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall) — A favorite holiday tradition in the PNW, the beloved fantasy tale has returned to the stage for a total 37 public performances this holiday season. Featuring Tchaikovsky’s timeless score performed by the world famous PNB Orchestra, PNB Company dancers, young stars from the PNB School and unique-to-Seattle sets, dazzles audiences every holiday season. Head here to buy tickets for upcoming performances. The show runs through Dec. 27.

Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship Festival (Around Lake Washington and the Puget Sound) — A Northwest tradition since 1949, The Spirit of Seattle, the Official Christmas Ship, is decorated with hundreds of white lights and it sails to dozens of different Puget Sound waterfront communities. Those who want to sail can buy tickets for various trips along the water and listen to choirs on board the ship perform. Also, some communities will work with Argosy to host performances that can be heard on shore. Events will be held through the Puget Sound region until the day of the grand finale, which is Dec. 23.

WildLanterns (Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle) — In another beloved PNW winter tradition, lanterns illuminate the area with what the zoo calls, “an immersive, interactive, larger-than-life experience unlike any in the Northwest.” Several areas of the zoo offer unique experiences, including the “family-favorite Interactive Zone where illusions and games galore are sure to cause excitement.” Tickets can be purchased here. The festival runs through Jan. 14, 2024.

Candy Cane Lane (Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood) — The famous neighborhood display involves about 25 homes resides on Park Road, which is off Ravenna Boulevard around 21st Avenue NE in Seattle. In his recent piece about Candy Cane Lane, KIRO Newsradio’s Feliks Banel explained that visitors can drive through in their cars (But turn off your headlights, please.) or walk through on the sidewalk, or on the road during three designated walk-only nights. Remarkably, it’s run by volunteers and is free. But they do collect donations of food and other non-perishable items for the University Food Bank, however. The lights will be on evenings through Jan. 1, 2024.

Reporting live from Seattle’s past: Candy Cane Lane has a long history

For other holiday displays in Seattle, consider walking or driving around other neighborhoods, including Queen Anne, Magnolia and Crown Hill.

Zoolights (Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma) — Pose with butterfly lights, walk the light tunnels, feed the goats, see new displays, revisit old memories and more The South Sound zoo  gets transformed into a “colorful winter wonderland with over 800,000 lights.” Members can buy tickets for the event at a lower price and general admission tickets can be purchased as well. Zoolights runs through Jan. 1, 2024.

Garden d’Lights 2023 (Bellevue Botanical Garden) — The event features over “half a million sparkling lights formed into the whimsical shapes of plants, flowers, birds, animals, and cascading waterfalls set amid the natural beauty” of the botanical garden, the website states. The site also reminds potential visitors that “the display is outdoors on a well-lit pathway and is accessible on foot only.” Head here to buy tickets. Garden d’Lights runs through Dec. 31.

Leavenworth becomes Christmastown — Technically a city in Chelan County, the Leavenworth city website bills the city as “a charming Bavarian village nestled in the picturesque Cascade Mountains.” On Thanksgiving Day, the city transforms into a Christmas lover’s delight as lights and various holiday displays can be seen around town. Live entertainment, including choirs, carolers, and bands, can be seen in the heart of downtown. Also, holiday characters make appearances, with the one and only Santa Claus as part of the mix.

Visitors can go and enjoy the lights and performances for free. But all the gift shops, restaurants and other activities will likely coax some money out of visitors’ wallets. The lights will stay on through February, but the Christmas events wind down at the end of the December. Finally, if you’re not comfortable driving into the mountains to get Leavenworth, the city’s website has suggestions for bus tours and other forms of transportation to get there.

Snowflake Lane (Bellevue) — Head over to the Eastside to “experience the wonder of falling snow, dazzling lights, festive music, toy drummers, and dancers in this complimentary nightly parade of holiday floats,” the Snowflake Lane website reads. Yup, it’s another free Christmas event Puget Sound community members can enjoy. You can just head to your favorite spot on the sidewalk between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square from NE 4th Street to NE 8th Street every night at 7 p.m. to see the show. Take note that traffic picks up considerably for the weekend performances. The nightly parades continue through Dec. 24.

Holiday Magic (Washington State Fair grounds in Puyallup) — What was the Washington State Fair earlier this year, has become Holiday Magic, a “holiday experience with breathtaking lights, interactive displays, festive food and drink and fun for the whole family.” Whether you want to go outside, stay inside a warm building or a bit of both, Holiday Magic provides a plethora of fun, holiday experiences, including the  Twinkle Light Tunnel, Let It Snow Experience, Holiday Selfie Studio and other options. General admission tickets can still be bought here. The event will be open to the public on Dec. 10, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22 and closes on Dec. 23.

Kringle’s Filling Station (Aurora Avenue North, Seattle) — Billing itself as “part arcade, part neighborhood hangout, this vintage magical gas station hits all the marks for holiday fun with loads of activities, treats, and warmth.” The price of admission includes the game garage with ski-ball, holiday karaoke and games, access to Kringle’s private office, slot car races and a cup of their famous gas pump hot cocoa. Tickets can be purchased here and there is a slight discount available for those interested in buying ticket “bundles.” The station will remain open through Dec. 31, but won’t be open Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Gingerbread Village (Sheraton Grand Seattle) — The Sheraton Grand Seattle’s 29th annual Gingerbread Village celebration has returned and, this year, the theme is “The Chocolate Factory.” As the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) puts it online, “Seattle’s top architecture firms, master builders, and the Sheraton Grand Seattle’s culinary teams have created another exciting village for this holiday season!” Gingerbread Village is a free event to the public seven days per week through Jan. 1, 2024. Th event may be free, but donations will be collected at the event to benefit the JDRF’s Northwest Chapter.

Tulalip Lights (Tulalip Resort Casino in Tulalip) — The largest holiday lights display in the state of Washington, they say, has returned and it is twice as big as last year. “Tulalip Lights” returns with a massive showcase of more than six million holiday lights. It is located along Interstate 5 and accessible at westbound exits 200 or 202. Viewing of all the lighting displays is free to the public and they will be up through Jan. 15, 2024.

More from Tulalip: Where to find the biggest display of Christmas lights in Washington

Wintertide Lights (Everett) –Whether it’s downtown, at the Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens or down at the waterfront, there are multiple options in the city of Everett to enjoy festive holiday light displays. The city is decked out and ready to welcome guests. The displays are expected to remain active through December.

“A Christmas Carol” (The Allen Theatre at ACT Contemporary Theatre in Seattle) — “On a snowy Christmas Eve brimming with memorable characters, ghostly apparitions, and visits to the past, present, and future, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge discovers the joy of charity and redemption,” writes the theater’s website about the timeless tale from Charles Dickens that is now in its 48th year there. Tickets can be purchased here. Performances run most days of the week through Dec. 24.

Another version to enjoy: Relive KIRO Newsradio’s telling of ‘A Christmas Carol’

Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” (5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle) — The musical based on the beloved 1954 movie starring Big Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney sees “two veterans, after World War II, begin a successful song and dance act, following two singing sisters to their Christmas gig at a Vermont resort lodge,” the theater’s website states. Head here to buy tickets for an up upcoming performance. The theater warns potential visitors that children under 4, including babes in arms, will not be admitted. In addition, the website currently states that the best upcoming availability upcoming are shows on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday evenings.

“A Very Die Hard Christmas” (Seattle Public Theater in the Green Lake neighborhood) — The musical parody was written by Jeff Schell and the local comedy troupe The Habit, a group that spoofs other film classics. A nod to the legendary action movie “Die Hard” starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman and its place in Christmas movie lore, the Seattle Public Theater website calls the comedy “perfect for those who like their Christmas entertainment with lots of action, 80s jokes, smooth soft rock jams, and snarky German terrorists.” Performances run though Dec. 23. Some tickets are still available and can be purchased here.

Contributing: Luke Duecy, KIRO Newsradio

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