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25 Magical Christmas in Seattle Activities & Holiday Events for 2023

Are you planning a trip to Seattle during the holiday season? As a local Seattlelite, Christmas in Seattle is one of my favorite times of the year. The whole city is decorated with lights and beautiful holiday decor, plus there are so many unique places to shop and find that perfect gift for someone special.

christmas in seattle collage of westlake christmas tree santa at the space needle and toy soldier on snowflake lane

For 2023, there are a number of can’t-miss holiday activities including shows, parades, events, and more that your family will love! There is something fun for people of all ages and a variety of indoor and outdoor activities.

If you’re a fan of the holiday season, Seattle is an excellent location to spend it! Today I’m sharing my picks for the most magical activities and holiday events that will make your Seattle Christmas season unforgettable. This post may contain affiliate links, so I may earn a commission if you purchase from my link.

What is the weather like in Seattle during the holidays? 

You can expect colder temperatures in Seattle during the winter months. Average temperatures are typically around the high 30’s – Mid 40’s day to day. It isn’t extremely common to experience snow in Seattle but it isn’t unheard of either. You can pretty much count on having drizzly rain.

A few things to pack before adventuring in Seattle for the holidays:

Here are 25 can’t miss Holiday events and activities in Seattle: 

1. Visit a Christmas Market

christmas market building

Christmas Markets are a great way to spend a winter day with the family. There are a variety of weekend winter markets in the Seattle area offering all kinds of unique crafts and gifts that make for the perfect one-of-a-kind gift!

Additionally, you will find Christmas classics such as sweets, cider, hot chocolate, and so much more. Simply taking a stroll through the market to see the crafts and decor is a favorite pastime for many. 

NEW for 2023! The Seattle Christmas Market at Seattle Center

This year from November 24th to December 24, 2023, the Fisher Pavilion and the South Fountain Lawn located at the Seattle Center will be transformed into a Christmas Market inspired by traditional European markets. Here visitors can enjoy festive decor, live entertainment, and sweet and savory treats including bratwurst, pierogies, roasted nuts, hot chocolate, and mulled cider. 

Other popular Christmas Markets in the Seattle area include: 

● Magic in the Market – Pike Place Market, November 25th

● Edmonds Holiday Market – Located between City Hall and Edmonds Historic Museum, Saturdays

Holidays in the Square – Occidental Square Park, December 8-9

Julefest: A Nordic Holiday Celebration – National Nordic Museum, Nov 18-19

2. Winterfest at The Seattle Center

Winterfest is an annual 5-week event held at Seattle Center every year. Throughout the five weeks, November 24 to December 31, 2023, visitors get the chance to get into the holiday spirit and enjoy fun activities including a late 19th-century model train and village display, an ice carving contest, live entertainment on the weekends, and even a special New Year’s Eve Celebration featuring music and fireworks!

This year the addition of the Seattle Christmas Market makes Seattle Center the perfect place to hang out during the holiday season!

3. Santa at the Needle

santa at the space needle

A visit to the Space Needle is a must when you’re in Seattle. Add in a visit with Santa at the top of the Space Needle and it becomes that much more special. Every guest who visits gets a chance to meet Santa himself and get a special photo op with a fun holiday backdrop. To match the history-making clear revolving floor of the Space Needle, Santa’s sleigh is a completely clear glass sleigh!

4. Ice Skating

Ice Skating is a fun activity that makes for a great family-friendly day during the winter season. Some popular ice skating spots in the Seattle area include:

● Bellevue Square (Nov 17 – Jan 15) – 10201 NE 4th St, Bellevue, WA 98004

● Pacific Ice (Nov 25 – Jan 8) – 1028 13th Street, Everett, WA 98201

Skating Rink at The Village (Nov 25 – Dec 31) – Pleasant Beach Village, Bainbridge Island, WA

● Wintry Weekend Ice Skating Rink in Occidental Square (Dec 8-10) – Pioneer Square

● Kraken Community Iceplex – 10601 5th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98125

5. Christmas Lights at the Zoo 

panda wildlanterns at woodland park zoo in seattle, wa christmas

The Woodland Park Zoo hosts a holiday event each year called “WildLanterns”. This year it is from November 10, 2023, to January 14, 2024, with some closure dates.

This event features glowing giant animal lanterns around the zoo that represent different themes like Land of Winter Wonders, Fine Feathered Friends, and Giant Panda Parkway. In addition to the lanterns, many of the walkways have lighted arches and there’s a fun kid’s activity zone. They also have three sensory-friendly nights to cater to individuals and families of all abilities and requirements

Additionally, you can see the Zoolights experience at the Point Defiance Zoo from November 24th to January 1st. It’s a very different experience from the lanterns at Woodland Park Zoo, as Zoolights features a colorful winter wonderland with over 800,000 lights, some of them shaped into animals.

During both of these events, families can enjoy getting outdoors and walking amongst some fabulous lights while perhaps sipping on a cup of hot cocoa. It’s one of our family’s favorite holiday activities. The Woodland Park Zoo is near the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle while the Point Defiance Zoo is a short drive south to Tacoma. 

6. Visit Santa’s Workshop at Kringle’s Filling Station

This is probably one of the best Christmas experiences in Seattle, particularly if you have little ones. The old gas station, Kringle’s Filling Station, has been transformed into a winter wonderland featuring none other than Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole.

This is such a cool and fun experience for the whole family. During your visit, you can get the chance to meet some of Santa’s toy makers, play fun games, write a letter to Santa himself, and even get a chance to see Santa’s sleigh!

Standard admission includes entry to the event as well as a complimentary cup of hot cocoa, tickets start at $35+, and it runs from Friday, November 24 to Sunday, December 31, 2023. You can find Kringle’s Filling Station at 8211 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103.

7. Seattle Festival of Trees

If you want to see something truly beautiful and meaningful, you have to check out the Seattle Festival of Trees at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. Every year the hotel transforms its lobby with several beautiful Christmas trees displayed throughout and it is open to the public to go in and view each display.

The displays are absolutely beautiful but the story behind the displays is what makes it a can’t-miss experience. The festival is a charity event that is put on each year to benefit the Seattle Children’s Hospital. Each tree is decorated in honor of a patient at the hospital and their story! This year the display will run from November 17th to 29th, 2023.

The display is available for viewing for free with donations recommended. But if you truly fall in love with one of the trees, you can actually purchase that tree to take home with you, and all proceeds are donated to the Children’s Hospital. A truly beautiful way to spread the magic of Christmas!

8. Teddy Bear Suite

In addition to the Festival of Trees, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel also puts together the Teddy Bear Suite yearly. They transform a suite into a fun winter wonderland featuring many teddy bears, perfect for kids of all ages to enjoy!

The suite is available to view from November 23rd to January 3rd, 2024, but isn’t open on Mondays. Entry is free but donations are encouraged and any donations that are given are donated to the Seattle Children’s Hospital and Autism Center.

And for an immersive holiday experience, you can book an overnight Sunday stay in the suite in December. Not only is this a fun and sweet thing to enjoy during the holidays, but it also goes to a great cause! 

9. Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton Grand Seattle

Making gingerbread houses is always a favorite family tradition, but for some, it’s an artistic challenge. To see some expert creations, make a stop at the Sheraton Grand Seattle to see the Gingerbread Village display! This year the display will run from November 21st through January 1st, 2024.

Every year the Sheraton Grand Seattle Hotel transforms its lobby into a jaw-dropping Gingerbread Village available for public viewing during the holiday season. Each year has a new theme, this year it will be “The Chocolate Factory”.

This event is also part of a non-profit fundraiser, and all donations made throughout the event will directly benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Northwest Chapter, jdrfpnw. Enjoy the incredible gingerbread displays and get the chance for a ton of great holiday photos with the family!

10. Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship Festival 

Argosy Christmas Ship on Elliott Bay in Seattle
Photo credit: Argosy Cruises

A tradition for over 70 years, the Argosy Cruise line features a Christmas Ship Festival every year in Seattle. The Spirit of Seattle cruise ship is decked out in full Christmas lights and decor and the festival features a 1.5-hour cruise to various waterfront communities in the area and is a fun holiday experience!

During the cruise, you can enjoy Christmas carolers singing traditional holiday tunes, a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and more fun Christmas traditions for the whole family.

The cruises run on the weekends from November 24th to December 23rd. Tickets are $54 for adults on regular sailing nights and $74 on one of three special event nights. Children and seniors (65+) are $40 and $50, respectively, and children 3 and under are free.

11. Garden d’Lights

Another excellent Christmas lights display is the Garden d’Lights show at Bellevue Botanical Gardens. This display is available from the end of November through the end of December and features thousands of Christmas lights inspired by the gardens themselves. You will see floral arrangements, butterflies, plants, waterfalls and more. This one is great for families as children 10 years and under are free and ages 11+ are $8.

12. Snowflake Lane

snowflake lane in bellevue wa
Snowflake Lane – a nightly parade in Bellevue, WA

From November 24th to December 24th, 2023, take a walk down Snowflake Lane at Bellevue Square to be immersed in the holiday spirit. You can enjoy festive music, performances put on by local dancers, and a nightly parade PLUS the added bonus of the nightly snowfall! (Snow is fake but it is always a blast enjoying the snow in Seattle.)

This is one of the premier classic holiday experiences for families in the Seattle area. You can even make it an overnight experience with a stay at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue, The Westin Bellevue, or W Bellevue, all lovely properties located across the street from Snowflake Lane. And you’ll be right by Bellevue Square, the premium shopping center of the region – perfect for grabbing some gifts and perhaps a photo with Santa.

13. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at McCaw Hall

The Nutcracker is a classic holiday ballet show and has been for many years. If you have never gotten the chance to see The Nutcracker, you won’t want to miss out! The Pacific Northwest Ballet puts on an incredible show and McCaw Hall is a beautiful venue to see it in. The show is approximately 2 hours including a 25-minute intermission, and runs from November 24 to December 27, 2023.

Pro tip: I recommend grabbing your tickets ASAP as it is an in-demand show! Also expect to see a lot of people dressing up, especially young kids!

14. A Very Die Hard Christmas 

One of the greatest debates in film history is whether or not Die Hard is considered a Christmas movie. Well, according to the Seattle Public Theater… it is! During the dates of November 22nd-December 23rd, 2023 you can watch your favorite 80s musical parody filled with action, music, and comedy for a fun holiday-themed show! Grab your tickets in advance as they do sell out.

15. Winter Beer Festival

Sorry kids, adults only for this one! If you’re looking for a fun adult’s night out this holiday season consider a visit to the Winter Beer Festival at Hangar 30 in Magnuson Park. This evening event features up to 30 local Washington state breweries offering tastings. This event is scheduled for December 15-16, 2023.

16. Westlake Park Tree Lighting & Holiday Carousel 

Witness the iconic lighting of the Christmas tree in Westlake Park on November 24th, 2023! After the lighting, you can enjoy a fun ride on the Westlake Park Holiday Carousel. And even if you can’t visit for the tree lighting, Westlake Park is the perfect spot to enjoy some bright Christmas lights in the city all season long.

Pro tip: A ride on the carousel is complimentary but donations are encouraged, the average donation is typically $3. 

17. Visit the Seattle Aquarium

The Aquarium is always a great family-friendly activity to enjoy, and it’s located on the waterfront near plenty of other attractions. During the holidays they decorate the aquarium with festive lights and decor in addition to seeing the species in the various exhibits. But the big draw for the aquarium during the holidays is the scuba diving Santas in the Windows on Washington Waters exhibit.

18. A Christmas Carol

Another Christmas classic is the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Visit the ACT Theatre and get the chance to see a great live-action rendition of a Christmas classic featuring Ebenezer Scrooge! Shows are available from November 24th to December 24th, 2023, they last 90 minutes with no intermission. Children under 5 are not allowed.

19. The Lights of Christmas Drive Thru 

kids in truck riding through christmas lights trees in Seattle
Photo source: The Lights of Christmas

Located in Stanwood, WA, just a short drive from north of Seattle this drive-thru Christmas lights display is one you don’t want to miss. The Warm Beach Lights of Christmas has been a family tradition for us, and it used to be a walk-around light display. But in 2020 they moved to a drive-thru set-up and our family has loved the change!

Jump in your Christmas jammies and ride comfortably through an awe-inspiring lights display with classic Christmas tunes! New for 2023, the event has added back two stops along the route to participate in fun activities during your drive (these are optional). 

Pro Tip: Advanced ticket purchase is required, tickets are provided per vehicle and timed entry. Vehicles holding 1-12 passengers are $32.

20. Visit Santa & His Workshop in Seattle

Each holiday season, Downtown Seattle is transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland with many beautiful lights and displays by area businesses. But for a classic Seattle Christmas experience, head to Nordstrom for Santa Lane Seattle. Santa’s workshop will be set up along the sidewalk with windows so he can keep an eye on all the bustling activity.

While the lines can build for seeing Santa, many believe this is the quintessential Seattle holiday experience to do with kids. Make a day of it in the city and visit some of the other popular activities on this list for a memory your kids won’t forget!

21. Green Lake Pathway of Lights 

The Pathway of Lights at Green Lake Community Center has been a tradition in the city of Seattle for over 40 years. Every year on the second Saturday in December (December 9, 2023) a group of volunteers line the pathway around Green Lake with thousands of lights to create a warm and inviting experience.

Bundle up in your warm rain gear and enjoy a beautiful stroll around the lake while enjoying Christmas music as well as some tasty Christmas treats and warm drinks. This is a great free family-friendly event to enjoy the outdoors and the holiday season. And Green Lake is near the Woodland Park Zoo in case you want to combine two Christmas in Seattle activities.

22. Take a Scenic Holiday Train Ride

A scenic holiday train ride is a great way to enjoy a winter evening with your loved ones. Make a stop at the Northwest Railway Museum for a ride on the Yuletide Express. Riders will board at Snoqualmie Depot and enjoy a scenic ride with Santa and his elves along with a beautiful view of Snoqualmie Falls. The ride is about 25 minutes long and is a short and sweet fun holiday activity!

Fun Fact: Any little ones on board will get a special surprise when Santa shows up to offer them a small gift for the holiday season.

Pro Tip: The Yuletide Express is already sold out for 2023, so add it to your list to check back for 2024.

If you’re looking for a more lengthy train ride, the Northwest Railway Museum also offers a two-hour long ride known as the Santa Limited. You will board this ride at North Bend Depot and the ride will take you along the Snoqualmie River and down through the Railway History Campus. Every rider will receive a complimentary holiday cookie and kids on board will all receive a small gift from Santa himself.

For both train rides, tickets vary from $18 to $36 per visitor.

Another very popular holiday train ride experience is The Polar Express with the Chehalis Centralia Railroad & Museum. Passengers will relive the magic of the classic children’s book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, as well as the soundtrack of the motion picture.

The train travels towards the North Pole where Santa and his helpers board the train and greet passengers. Each child is given the first gift of Christmas – a silver sleigh bell. Chefs aboard each car lead passengers in singing Christmas carols on the ride back to the Depot.

23. SantaCon

seattle santacon group dressed up
Photo source: Seattle SantaCon

SantaCon is an annual event held in many cities throughout the United States, including Seattle. This is another adults-only event so if you are looking for something for the 21+ crowd to do, consider a visit to SantaCon! The event consists of people dressing in their best Santa, reindeer, elves, and other holiday characters as you travel the streets of Seattle and bar-hop through the local pubs in the area. For 2023, there are two dates, December 9th and 16th.

24. The Holidays at Chihuly Garden and Glass

The Chihuly Garden and Glass is such a cool experience on any day in Seattle but during the holidays they offer a special festive display. Last year the exhibit was known as “Winter Brilliance”, which was originally designed for the holiday season at Barneys in NYC. You can expect to see hundreds of incredible hand-blown glass forms that will leave you in awe! I’m excited to see what Chihuly Garden and Glass offers for their holiday display in 2023.

Pro Tip: The Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass are located next to each other at Seattle Center. Consider buying a Seattle CityPASS if you’re planning to visit both and some other attractions as it can save you some money. Seattle Center is also home to the Seattle Christmas Market and Winterfest, so it’s a great place to soak up the Christmas in Seattle spirit!

25. Holiday Trips from Seattle

While there are plenty of great holiday activities to explore in Seattle, there are also some great options for holiday getaways. Two of my favorites are:

Victoria Clipper to Victoria, B.C. & Butchart Gardens

Seattle is really close to Canada, and many of us love to enjoy a little hop over the border to visit our friendly neighbors to the north. One of the fun ways to head north is via the Victoria Clipper boat. You’ll board at the Seattle waterfront and enjoy an easy trip into Victoria Harbor that takes just about 3 hours.

Once in Victoria, you can enjoy all of the gorgeous decorations around town, including the lights and Christmas tree at the classic Fairmont Empress. But my favorite way to enjoy Victoria during the holidays is at Butchart Gardens where they have a 12 Days of Christmas light display.

Leavenworth, WA

Leavenworth is regularly listed as one of the top Christmas towns in the US. The little town is located at the base of the Cascade mountains and is completely Bavarian-themed. During the holidays they have an amazing light display and holiday entertainment, all season long. And year-round they have a Nutcracker museum, which is especially fun to visit during Christmas.

Do remember that it is located in the mountains and you must drive across a mountain pass from Seattle. So if you’re planning to visit, be prepared with winter driving essentials and check road conditions. There is an Amtrak station near Leavenworth if you want to take the train from Seattle, and there are a few various shuttle and bus services.

Seattle is an incredible city and visiting during the holidays is a can’t-miss experience. I hope that this guide has given you plenty of ideas and activities to make sure that you have a great holiday season in Seattle.

Have you spent the holidays in Seattle? Feel free to share your favorite experiences with me!

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