Tips + Trends

Northwest Traditions: A Guide to Holiday Fun in and Around Seattle

Seattle takes its winter holidays seriously. From an enormous decorated tree downtown to an impressive fireworks display at the Space Needle on New Year’s Eve, there’s plenty to keep the entire family entertained in the Emerald City even if the weather outside is frightful.

Traditional Tree Lighting

This annual tree-lighting celebration at the Westlake Center helps kick off the holiday season on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Santa Claus makes an appearance in the Macy’s Holiday Parade alongside marching bands, costumed characters and floats. The event culminates with the lighting of Macy’s star at 5 p.m.

Let It Snow

Snowflake Lane at The Westin Bellevue involves some serious holiday pageantry. Each night during the holiday season, there’s a parade of live toy-soldier drummers, music, animated snow characters, glittering lights and “snow” falling on spectators just outside the hotel’s front doors.

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Pay a visit to Snowflake Lane. (Photo: Getty Images)

Gingerbread Fun

For more than 25 years, the Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel has been one of the most cherished holiday traditions in the city. Seattle’s top architecture firms, master builders and Sheraton Seattle culinary teams have come together to recreate the city’s historic past and imagine the future—with gingerbread as their medium.

Santa Time!

Photos with Santa at Nordstrom Downtown Seattle are a fixture in the childhoods of many locals. Nordstrom offers a magical—and all-inclusive—experience, with appearances by African-American, Asian-American and ASL-fluent Santas.

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Set sail this holiday season. (Photo: Getty Images)

Holiday Fun on the Water

Argosy Cruises‘ signature holiday event, the Christmas Ship Festival, involves a two-hour cruise aboard decorated boats, a choir singing carols, kids’ activities and a meet-and-greet with Santa Claus, who reads ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker

The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker is celebrated across the region. The holiday classic features iconic choreography by George Balanchine and Tchaikovsky’s beloved score with unique costumes and sets by Ian Falconer.

A D’lightful Display

Each year, the Bellevue Botanical Garden unleashes its Garden d’Lights, with more than a half million holiday lights illuminated every night from the end of November to the end of December.

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Keep an eye out for holiday lights atop the Space Needle. (Photo: Getty Images)

A Taste of the Wild

For a holiday light display in a non-traditional setting, head to the Woodland Park Zoo for WildLights, starting Thanksgiving weekend and running through Jan. 1. You can visit the zoo animals at night, enjoy caroling and hot chocolate even play in a bit of (fake) snow.

Holiday Magic

Organized by the Downtown Bellevue Association, Magic Season incorporates seven weeks of holiday events centered around downtown Bellevue, including live music, ice skating and other holiday-related activities geared towards the whole family.

Ringing in the New Year

The fireworks show at the Space Needle is the ultimate way to cap off the holiday season. At midnight, fireworks explode from the base of the needle, illuminating Seattle’s iconic attraction. The display is visible from multiple points in the city, so you don’t need to be close by to view it.