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In Seattle, the arrival of December means lots of lights up everywhere, shopping in the city, and drinking lots of Starbucks holiday beverages in festive red cups. The dreariness of November’s rain turns into festivity. Christmas in Seattle is special. Suddenly so much to do that you barely even notice the rain anymore. Hurray for Seattle Christmas events!
To keep you and your family entertained in December, here are some of our favorite Seattle holiday events. Updated for the 2020.
Visit the Teddy Bear Suite in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. Your kids will be in awe from the moment you walk into the Fairmont lobby, as it’s decorated with gorgeous trees, wreaths, and gingerbread. After a short ride up the elevator, you’ll be ushered into a suite of rooms with teddy bears of every shape and size. Your kids will love hugging lots of new friends and parents will have a great time snapping lots of pictures of the kids in this beautiful setting.
On your way out, grab a candy cane. Also, consider making a donation–the Teddy Bear Suite raises money for Seattle Children’s Hospital. The Teddy Bear Suite is open daily (including Christmas!) during the holiday season. This is one of the must see Christmas activities in Seattle.
Note: The Teddy Bear Suite will be a virtual event in 2020 due to Covid-19. The teddy bears will take over the hotel’s Facebook page and host some fun giveaways.
While at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, stop by the Festival of Trees display in the lobby. Over 20 festively decorated Christmas trees honor heroic young patients from Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Then head to the lower lobby to visit the life-sized gingerbread house. Just make sure your sweet tooth doesn’t get the best of you so others can enjoy the candy creation as well! Donations to benefit the Seattle Children’s Hospital are accepted for these attractions as well.
Note: The Festival of Trees is adjusted for 2020. Trees will be displayed in the hotel windows along the sidewalk on 4th Avenue. One of the In addition, the windows will feature a miniature version of the Gingerbread Olympic House.
Note: This event has been cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19.
Another must-do of the Seattle Christmas events is at the downtown City Centre building. Visitors are wowed by an amazing Gingerbread Village. The theme varies every year. Past themes have included “25 years of Cheer: A Celebration of Seattle” and “May the Holidays be With You: Star Wars.”
Each year local architects and the culinary staff at the Sheraton Grand Seattle try to out-do each other with wondrous creations. You’ll mostly wonder how on earth they made such amazing things out of gingerbread and candy!
If you’re moved to make a donation, money raised goes to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. The Gingerbread Village is open 24 hours per day during the holiday season.
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While you’re in downtown, check off another one of the amazing Seattle Christmas activities. Swing by Westlake Park for a ride on the Holiday Carousel. This wooden carousel offers lots of beautiful animals for your kids to ride. It lights up so beautifully.
As a bonus, in between carousel rides, you can get a start on that holiday shopping list. Check the schedule of events as Westlake Park is the home of one of Seattle’s holiday markets. Check out the home-made gifts.
Just like the Teddy Bear Suite and the Gingerbread Village, proceeds from the Holiday Carousel go to charity. And, don’t miss the chance to look at the tree lights adorning the huge Christmas tree in front of Westlake Center!
A plus for visitors, Westlake Park is less than a mile from Pike Place Market.
Note: As of 11/5/20 the Downtown Seattle Association has not updated their website for the 2020 holiday season. We feel it is safe to assume the Holiday Carousel is not happening.
New for 2020, the Woodland Park Zoo is hosting the WildLanterns, an event filled with large and beautiful glowing animal lanterns along paths throughout the zoo. There will be Living Northwest, Jungle Lights, African Savanna, and SeaMazium- themed sections of the experience.
WildLanterns is a ticketed event. You can reserve your tickets here.
ZooLights will take place at Point Defiance Zoo November 27, 2020 through January 3, 2021. It is also a ticketed event. Expect to see 3-D animal light displays and over 700,00 holiday lights total.
The zoos open to guests during the evening hours. Bundle up the kids with their hats and gloves for an awe-inspiring time. After dark, thousands of lights make the grounds glow with Christmas spirit.
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Closed for 2020.
How about some ice skating to celebrate the holiday season? In Seattle, head over to the ice rink at Seattle Center, located on the ground floor of Fisher Pavilion. Skating fun is open throughout the holiday season (Closed Christmas Day, hours vary by day). Skate rentals are available and the entrance fee includes the rentals.
Enjoy slipping and sliding during this chilly and heart-warming Seattle Christmas event. Bring the camera to catch the little ones as they figure out how to stay upright and the twirls of the more experienced kids.
Seattle Center has a whole host of other great Christmas activities as well. Winterfest is a month-long party right under the Space Needle. It runs from the day after Thanksgiving through to New Year’s Eve.
Your child (and you too, honestly) will love checking out the huge Winter Train and Village. You may even want to stick around to take a turn at the controls!
While enjoying Winterfest, enjoy the amazing music performed by local schools and other groups. You can find them on the stage in the Seattle Center Armory (formerly called the Center House) throughout the season.
Note: Winterfest is a mostly virtual event for 2020 due to Covid-19. Check the Winterfest website for dates and times for these virtual events.
The newer production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is one of the popular, though pricey Seattle Christmas events. It is located in McCaw Hall. We’d also recommend Seattle Children’s Theatre’s acclaimed theater adaptions. There is always a quality show running during the Christmas season for families. All theater performances are cancelled for 2020.
Want to celebrate the holidays while on the move? Argosy Cruises celebrates with the Christmas Ship Festival, with lots of lights and caroling, in 45 communities around the Puget Sound during the Christmas season.
Book either a ticket on one of the boats in the festival or watch from shore! There’s not anything like watching as lights seem to float all by themselves on the water. Cancelled for 2020.
If a train is more your speed, head up to North Bend and take a ride on the Santa Train weekends from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
For 2020, the regular Santa Train is now Yuletide Express, a 25-minute train ride to Snoqualmie Falls. Ticketholders will receive two cookies and each child will get a small gift from Santa. Advance tickets are required.
Also popular is the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad’s Polar Express Train. Both Christmas activities are complete with hot chocolate and visits from Santa Claus himself! Watch as the kids eyes light up with the magical sparkle of the season. Cancelled for 2020.
Another local favorite is The Lights of Christmas at Warm Beach Camp. With over 1 million Christmas lights spread out over 15 acres, it’s the biggest light display in the area.
As if the lights weren’t enough, the event offers pony rides and train rides, too! Don’t forget to see Santa.
Families enjoy the entertainment, petting the animals, trying tasty snacks like donuts, and generally having a great time. Plus, grown-ups can get a little holiday shopping done.
For 2020, The Lights of Christmas will be a drive-thru event. It will take place on select dates November 27- December 30, 2020. Advance tickets are required.
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Pin this to bookmark all the holiday fun; we update it yearly:
Special thanks to Tiffany Vaughn for updating this article for 2018 and Heather Erquiaga who updated it for 2019.
Lead Photo by: Bigstock/f11photo