We may be fast approaching winter in Seattle, the days are getting shorter, and the cruise ships are long gone. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t lots to see and do around Seattle during the holiday season. If you plan on being in the area soon, here’s a list of 30 things you can do to help celebrate the holidays with friends and family. From Winterfest to WildLights, there’s something for everyone.
See the zoo brighter than ever
November 27, 2015 – January 3, 2016 | 5:30 – 8:30pm
Wildlights, Seattle’s wildest holiday lights festival, returns with sparkling lights and faux snowball fights, Santa, his reindeer and family delights. Open 36 nights! This year, get your photo with Santa.
Featuring Curley the camel, Dasher, and Blitzen
Through December 24, 2015
Experience Swansons Nursery’s holiday pavilion, filled with décor, ornaments, stocking stuffers and gifts for kids and adults. Visit their special holiday guests: Curley the camel and Dasher & Blitzen, two of Santa’s reindeer! Join Curley, Dasher and Blitzen for feedings at 10am and 4pm daily, learn about these incredible animals, and experience a magical photo op!
You don’t even have to get wet!
Saturdays and Sundays | Noon and 3pm | November 28 – December 20, 2015
Come see Santa diving in the 120,000-gallon Window on Washington Waters exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium. Bring your camera, take your picture with Diving Santa and stay perfectly dry! Or have your photo taken by their professional photographer so the whole family can be in the picture. Donations will be accepted to help fund DreamNights at the Seattle Aquarium—evenings dedicated to bringing children who have disabilities, are chronically ill or who have special needs to the Aquarium for a special night of exploring the undersea world in a safe and relaxed atmosphere.
Kids get cuddly in a teddy bear wonderland
November 26 – December 27, 2015 | Mon-Thu, 11am-5pm | Fri-Sun, 10am-6pm | Open Christmas Day
An annual holiday tradition, the Fairmont’s Teddy Bear Suite is a lavishly decorated set of rooms that overflows with hundreds of teddy bears in every size and color. Kids are welcome to cuddle with the bears and look through the stacks of picture books, and family photos are encouraged.
The suite is open daily from November 26th through December 27th. Hours of operation are from 11am – 5pm Mon-Thurs and 10am – 6pm Fri – Sun including Christmas. Donations are highly encouraged and 100% of the proceeds are donated to the Seattle Children’s Hospital!
“May the Holidays Be with You” – a tribute to Star Wars
November 24, 2015 – January 3, 2016 | 7 days a week. 24 hours a day
For 23 years JDRF Northwest Chapter and the Sheraton Seattle Hotel have partnered on the most beloved Seattle Holiday tradition, The Gingerbread Village. Each year local architecture firms collaborate with the Sheraton Seattle culinary team to custom design, bake, and build awe-inspiring gingerbread displays.
This year, Jedi of all ages will marvel at the larger than life gingerbread creations from a galaxy far, far away. The Force is particularly strong in the alliance between the Sheraton Hotel culinary team and top local architecture and construction firms who will design, bake and delight you this holiday season with Star Wars inspired creations. The Sheraton Seattle Hotel 23rd Annual Gingerbread Village is free to the public, with donations benefitting the JDRF Northwest Chapter.
From ship or shore, a sight to behold
Select nights | November 27 – December 23, 2015
Whether you’re a native of Seattle or new to the Emerald City, the Argosy Christmas Ship Festival is one Northwest holiday tradition that never gets old. Starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through December 23, the ship parade route covers over 45 different waterfront communities around Lake Washington and Puget Sound. Grab a seat on the Spirit of Seattle, the designated Christmas Ship that all the other boats follow, and enjoy live choir music, contests and prizes, a children’s activity corner and Santa himself! Snacks, pre-purchased boxed meals and a cash bar. Another option is to hop aboard a Parade Ship; similar to the Spirit of Seattle (sans the choir). Parade Ships follow the Christmas Ship, and all include an onboard Santa, sing-a-longs, craft bags for the kids, contests and prizes and food. Check website for details.
7. Santa Train
Pulled by historic Northwest Rail Museum locomotives
Saturdays and Sundays | November 21 – December 19, 2015
Santa Train is the Northwest Rail Museum’s most popular seasonal program. A Northwest tradition since 1969, the event allows participants of all ages to travel by train from North Bend for a visit with Santa Claus at Snoqualmie and to enjoy refreshments (included with tickets) served from the Museum’s railway kitchen car. Children visiting with Santa receive a small gift and there is time to visit local shops and attractions. While in the Upper Snoqualmie Valley, participants often visit one of the many local holiday tree farms or lots, and the many unique shopping destinations.
Benefits the work of Treehouse
November 27, 2015 – January 1, 2016 | Hours vary by day
Take a spin on the charming, old-fashioned carousel in Westlake Park. The Carousel opens after the Macy’s Holiday Parade (see below), and closes at dusk for the lighting of the Westlake Center Holiday Tree and Macy’s Star, then reopens after the event.
Including lighting of the Macy’s star and fireworks
Friday, November 27, 2015 | Parade from 9-11am | Star lighting at 5pm
Come celebrate the holiday season with the annual Macy’s Holiday Parade and Star Lighting Ceremony. The parade includes festive floats, costumed characters and local community groups, all followed by Santa, who will arrive at Macy’s where he’ll officialy open Santaland for the 2015 Christmas season.
The Macy’s Holiday Parade commences at 9 AM on the corner of 7th Ave. and Pine St., and will then travel west down Pine to 5th Ave., south on 5th to University St., west on University to 4th Ave. and then north on 4th before concluding at the front of Macy’s Department Store at approximately 11 AM.
Be sure to come back later in the day for the official lighting of the famous Macy’s Star at 5 PM, followed by an awesome fireworks display (weather permitting).
Benefiting Pike Market Senior Center & Food Back
Friday, December 4, 2015
Figgy’s fun! Join the Pike Market Senior Center for one of Seattle’s most magical and festive nights – the 29th Annual Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition. This heart-warming tradition attracts nearly 10,000 people every year to enjoy holiday music. Figgy helps. The event raises funds for the Pike Market Senior Center & Food Bank which offer free meals, free groceries, one-one-one counseling and other services to our low-income and homeless neighbors in need.
Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit as dozens of caroling teams sing their hearts out on downtown Seattle street corners in and around Westlake Center. The top teams then compete in a sing-off on the Figgy Main Stage.
A wonderland of sparkling lights, child-sized diversions, and spirited entertainment
November 27 – December 31, 2015
Stroll the grounds of Seattle Center Nov. 27 – Dec. 31, and you’ll discover Seattle Center Winterfest. Winterfest Ice Rink returns, along with Saturday ice sculpting and lively weekend performances.
Visit Seattle Center Armory, all dressed for the season, and you’ll find the enchanting Winter Train & Village, fresh food and drink offered at Seattle Center Armory merchants, and inspiring student showcases. The festival opens with The Dickens Carolers and rings in the New Year with spectacular fireworks and live music by premiere dance band The Machine.
At Benaroya Hall
Monday, December 14th and Tuesday, December 15th | 7:30pm
Looking for a beautiful Christmas concert that celebrates the reason for the season? Look no further! Alleluia, presented by Ensign Symphony & Chorus with guest pianist and recording artist Jennifer Thomas, promises to both entertain and inspire. You’ll hear traditional favorites like “Joy to the World”, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “The First Noel”. You’ll also hear brand new tunes from Jennifer Thomas’s upcoming album Winter Symphony, recently recorded together with Ensign Chorus at Bastyr University. Audience members regularly comment that the annual Ensign Symphony & Chorus concert is their favorite way to start the season. Make it your tradition too!
At Benaroya Hall
December 18 – 20, 2015
Nationally touring artists, The Coats are the Pacific Northwest’s premiere a cappella band. This December, The Coats return to Benaroya Hall for their annual holiday show. The Coats vocal band started on the street corners of Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. Singing for tourists, locals, fish vendors, and fellow buskers, their humble ambitions of earning a few clams to fight off the tuition bills quickly evolved into a full-time international performance career.
The Grandaddy of all holiday shows, at the ACT Theatre
November 27 – December 30, 2015
Join ACT Theatre for a Seattle tradition: a ripping good telling of the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the curmudgeonly businessman who requires the intervention of a few spectral guides to understand the true meaning of Christmas and life. Well over a century after its writing, Dickens’ classic tale of hope and redemption continues to remind us what’s really worth celebrating—at the holidays, or any time!
Presented by Pacific Northwest Ballet
November 27 – December 28, 2015
This November, the curtain will rise on PNB’s new holiday tradition, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™! Featuring glorious new designs by celebrated author/illustrator Ian Falconer (Olivia the Pig), the mighty PNB Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, and PNB’s incredible Company of 48 dancers dazzling in new and familiar roles—George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ will delight the young and the young at heart, all in the magic of McCaw Hall.
Presented by the Seattle Men’s Chorus at Benaroya Hall
November 27 – December 28, 2015
Come home for the holidays to Seattle’s most welcoming celebration of the season. The proud voices of Seattle Men’s Chorus will envelop you in harmony for an evening of heartfelt holiday magic — sprinkled with a festive pinch of fairy dust. They have presents under their tree for everyone: beloved carols, soaring holiday classics, and the cheeky antics you expect from SMC. Bring your friends and family and share in the tradition.
Artistry and ice unite
Saturdays: Nov 29; Dec 6, 13, 20, 27 | 12 noon – 2pm | Outside Fisher Pavilion
Artistry and ice unite in a glorious and temporal expression of the season with Winterfest ice scukpting. Watch internationally acclaimed, award-winning artists at work as they create seasonal sculptures — or stop by later to see the glistening result. Each Saturday an ice master will carve a different design.
Be part of the largest holiday 5K race series aimed to fight arthritis
December 13, 2015 | Westlake Center
Chosen as one of the Most Incredible Themed Races, Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis is a fun and festive way to kick off your holidays by helping others! Wear a holiday themed costume. Tie jingle bells to your shoelaces. Raise funds to help find a cure for arthritis, the nation’s leading cause of disability. Run or walk a 5 kilometer route with your team members and celebrate the season by giving.
It might be raining cats and dogs outside but it’s snowing inside!
Friday, November 28 – Wednesday, December 31, 2015 | 6pm
Who doesn’t love a snow shower, especially when it doesn’t interfere with your holiday shopping? Get into the holiday spirit, amid a flurry of snowflakes, each night in the Atrium at Pacific Place. This festive, indoor holiday activity is a crowd pleaser for the young and old!
Bonus: See free musical performances including traditional choirs and festive jazz to world music from noon to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and every day the week of Christmas ’til Dec. 24.
Explore festivals from around the world at the Seattle Children’s Museum
November 27 – December 30, 2015
Festivals of Light is an annual exhibit, returning each December as we prepare for the winter solstice and the many cultural celebrations that happen during the season.
From the Friday after Thanksgiving through December 30th, Festivals of Light explores a winter holiday celebration from the perspective of a family. Children explore the food, decorations, games, activities and music associated with each holiday as they step into a “household” amidst their celebration.
This unique offering provides families with hands-on multi-cultural experiences. By highlighting several different winter solstice celebrations, Festivals of Light focuses on both the science of the seasons and on the different traditions integral to each festival.