There’s nothing like the comfort of Seattle’s autumn leaves and a warm pumpkin spice latte, but the second I wash the last of the dishes on Thanksgiving night, it’s like a switch flips inside me—the Christmas season is officially here! From that moment on, all things fall get shelved for peppermint mochas and Christmas everything, and I dive straight into all the amazing Christmas activities in Seattle going on.
Honestly, trying to pack in all of Seattle’s Christmas events feels like a sprint. You’ll find me dashing from one Seattle Christmas event to the next, sipping my peppermint mocha like it’s a magic elixir that powers my Christmas spirit. Ever watched those Christmas ships glide gracefully across Lake Washington? If “magical” had a picture in the dictionary, that would be it.
There’s so much to do during this time; one weekend, it’s the Pike Place Market, blending the harmonies of carolers with the buzz of the crowd. The next, I’m at Woodland Park Zoo, taking pictures of all the amazing light displays. One thing’s for sure – you won’t be bored at all during this time of year.
That said, grab your calendar during Christmas in Seattle and start writing down all these amazing Christmas events in Seattle!
1. See the Seattle Tree Lighting Celebration
Date: November 24, 2023
Time: 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Address: 400 Pine Street
As Christmas time comes around, one of the Seattle Christmas events that’s synonymous with the festive season in Seattle is the lighting of the 12.2-mile-high tree at Westlake Center. Starting on the day after Thanksgiving, this celebratory lighting heralds the official kick-off of Christmas.
It’s not simply the illumination of thousands of lights that makes this a Christmas activity you shouldn’t miss. An entire showcase includes music, snow flurries, and other festive-themed activities and is the perfect way to Christmas in downtown Seattle.
Before the ceremony starts, you can indulge in the many holiday deals offered inside the shopping center and ensure your Christmas shopping gets done well ahead of time. This is one of the most popular Christmas activities in Seattle, so I suggest you come early for the best possible seats.
My recommendation is to take the Light Rail here so you don’t have to worry about parking – that’s always my way to get around Seattle without a car hassle-free. It’s much cheaper, and you’ll be glad you’re not fighting other people for parking spots.
Craving more lights? Head to the mountains to see the festive things to do in Leavenworth at Christmas.
2. Celebrate Christmas with the Macy’s Parade
Date: November 23, 2023
Time: 9 am to 10 am
Address: 7th and Pine Street to 5th Avenue to University Street and 4th Avenue
If you want to ring in Christmas, there’s no better way than by witnessing the famous Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving Day, which is one of the best Seattle holiday events. A genuine display of pageantry, the parade includes marching bands, many colorful floats, costumed characters, and more.
Major sports teams also take part, but the show’s real star is Santa Claus. As the grand marshal of the parade, he leads the way, and eventually, as the extravaganza ends, he takes his seat at Macy’s store.
Once here, you shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to take a selfie or two with the man himself, and don’t forget to hand him your wishlist. To end the day, a massive fireworks display highlights the annual lighting of the Macy’s star. I always consider this one of the best Christmas events around Seattle that officially starts the season.
Halloween in Seattle is another fun holiday to be around for.
3. Visit the Annual Winter Festival & Crafts Fair
Date: December 2 – December 3, 2023
Time: 10 am to 5 pm
Address: 6532 Phinney Avenue North
There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to Christmas shopping, but who said all of it needs to be done inside a shopping center? That’s exactly where the Winter Festival & Crafts Fair comes in, which is one of the best Seattle Christmas activities in 2023 if you love arts and crafts.
Held at the Phinney Center, you’ll find dozens of stalls where more than 120 artists and vendors display various possible gifts. The options are endless, selling everything from jewelry, clothing, homeware, pottery, and other Seattle souvenir items.
As much fun as Christmas shopping is, the Crafts Fair also hosts numerous live music shows and dance performances. It wouldn’t be a genuine fair if you couldn’t indulge in delicious baked goods, but thankfully there’s plenty of that to go around.
4. Immerse Yourself in Christmas Cheer at Winterfest
Dates: November 25, 2023 – December 31, 2023
Time: 10 am to 8 pm
Address: 305 Harrison Street
Known to always have something going on, the Seattle Center certainly doesn’t slow down its event calendar for Christmas, even after some of the amazing things happening in the fall in Seattle. Alongside its many festive showcases, Winterfest takes the first place prize for Christmas events in Seattle.
During the spectacle, the entire center is decked out with lights and illuminated displays, but special happenings change annually. There’s plenty to do here, including the Winterfest ice skating rink, which is the perfect place to bring the entire family. I started coming to this downtown Seattle Christmas activity several years ago with my kids, and now they always request to go back.
Our favorite part is the Winter Train & Village that you’ll find within the Seattle Center Armory. It features a mini-village brimming with characters and animated scenes, and I literally had to pull my kids away from this. Here’s a tip: grab some food from the food court, sit at a table next to the train display, and you’ll actually get to relax while your kids stare at this in awe.
Buying a Seattle CityPASS is a great way to save money on ticket costs, as you’ll be able to see multiple Seattle attractions for one price!
5. Admire the Gingerbread Village
Dates: November 21, 2023 – January 1, 2023
Time: 9 am to 9 pm
Address: 1400 6th Avenue
You can’t experience a true Seattle Christmas without seeing the Annual Gingerbread Village hosted at the Sheraton Grand Seattle, which is one of the best Christmas things to do in Seattle. Here, some of the city’s best architects work with the hotel’s culinary team to design breathtaking gingerbread masterpieces.
Intricate and massive, these displays feature candies and treats waiting to be found. The event’s proceeds go directly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s local chapter.
What makes this a must-visit attraction is the changing overarching theme for each year’s village. As you make your way through the town, you can also vote for the display you like the most as one of the best Christmas activities in Seattle in 2023. I’m not the most crafty person, but this always inspires me to make my own gingerbread house at home.
6. See a Christmas Lights Display
Dates: November 25, 2023 – December 31, 2023
If you, like most, admire the dedication that some put into going above and beyond to transform their homes into shimmering spectacles each Christmas, then you definitely have to check out the many Christmas lights displays around Seattle.
Homes around the city put on a festive jacket as thousands of homeowners pour their time, love, and attention to detail into creating visual art. You don’t need to be an enthusiast to appreciate the displays, but after seeing a few, you’ll turn into one.
Considering how much Seattle loves Christmas, it’s no surprise that there are dedicated interactive maps that show you exactly where you can find the biggest and best light exhibits. Curiocity includes private residences that put on displays and public spaces such as Westlake. I find this so helpful, as it seems harder and harder to find large neighborhoods with decorations like it was back when I was little.
Looking for the ultimate Seattle travel guide written by a local that tells you all the best places to go and what to see? My new ebook is now live, so click here to buy your copy!
7. Get Festive at Pike Place Market
Date: December 1, 2023
Address: Pike Place Market
As one of the most iconic places to visit in Seattle, it’s no surprise that come Christmastime, Pike Place Market goes out of its way to ring in the festivities. Starting on the final weekend of November with the “Magic in the Market” event and running through the end of December, this is one of the best Seattle Christmas events in 2023.
You can participate in ornament and glassblowing workshops, enjoy cookie decorating, sign up for a Santa Claus meet and greet, indulge in holiday drinks and treats, and marvel at the evening lighting ceremonies. I think it’s fun to visit at night, as the area takes on a completely different vibe.
Coloring the market with Christmas cheer, there are countless unique decorations that can even make the Grinch smile. That’s not all, though, as live holiday music performances create quite the atmosphere.
Want to come back during the day? You’ll love this chef-guided Pike Place Market food tour.
8. Marvel at Snowflake Lane
Date: November 24, 2023 – December 24, 2023
Time: 7 pm
Address: Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square
Kicking off on the evening of November 24, 2023, Snowflake Lane brings the joy of Christmas to both Bellevue and Lincoln Squares. It’s a wondrous display of Christmas fanfare where artificial snow falls from the sky to the tunes of live music each night.
It’s easy to fall in love with Christmas in Seattle, as Snowflake Lane also brings together toy drummers and dance troupes that parade along the streets outside the Bellevue Shopping Center.
The best bit? Seeing the magic of Snowflake Lane is completely free, as Bellevue opens up its parking garages at no cost.
However, I recommend arriving early, as spots fill up quickly and the sidewalks fill up even quicker. My best tip is to come to the area for an early dinner somewhere like Duke’s Chowder House or Wild Ginger and then claim your spot on the sidewalk.
9. See The Nutcracker at McCaw Hall
Dates: November 24, 2023 – December 24, 2023
Showtimes: 12:30 pm, 2 pm, 5:30 pm, and 7:30 pm
Address: 321 Mercer Street
There is no shortage of holiday shows in Seattle, but one that stands head and shoulders above the rest is The Nutcracker. This classic, performed at McCaw Hall, is not only a Christmas classic; it’s also a stunning production you’ll quickly want to see again. I remember coming here when I was a little girl to see this play, and it’s still just as magical this time of year.
The Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra’s performance of the score showcases the best of Tchaikovsky, and the set and costumes are extraordinary. A night out watching The Nutcracker can’t be beaten if you want something a little more high-end for your Seattle Christmas activities in 2023.
Showtimes differ depending on your chosen date, with two performances on most days starting on November 24, 2023. For a full event schedule, check out the official site for McCaw Hall.
10. Enjoy the Winter Beer Festival
Dates: December 15, 2023 and December 16, 2023
Address: Magnuson Park
Whoever said that Christmas activities are just for kids obviously never went to the Winter Beer Festival, held by the Washington Brewers Guild every December. The event, which is adults-only, focuses on celebrating the holidays with homebrew in hand.
Filling up Hangar 30 of Magnuson Park, you’ll find stalls from more than 50 local Seattle breweries, all bringing along their best seasonal brews. It’s one of the more unique Seattle Christmas events, as the festival is all about dark, wintery beers, barrel-aged to perfection.
There’s more to it, with local vendors also bringing a whole collection of unique crafts you can buy, each delivering a distinct take on the holidays. What makes this a fun time out is that, while festive attire is recommended, it’s a treat to go all out for their ugliest Christmas sweater and Christmas hat competitions.
11. Indulge in Some Ice Skating
Dates: November 1, 2023 – December 31, 2023
Address: Location Dependent
When Christmas comes around, few winter activities in Seattle come close to the amusement that ice skating offers, and while Seattle doesn’t see much (or any) snow, it does get a few pop-up ice rinks.
Beginning around the weekend of Thanksgiving, you’ll find numerous rinks dotting the landscape of the city, but some draw bigger crowds than others when looking for things to do in Seattle for Christmas. The Winterfest Rink at the Seattle Center is a fan favorite, and it’s the best place to see people tumble and celebrate Christmas.
Other rinks include the Bellevue Downtown Ice Rink, the Kraken Community Iceplex, Holiday Magic at the Fair Rink, and the Sno-King Ice Arena. Some of the rinks also provide free skate lessons, and the Bellevue rink also hosts special events such as the Ugly Christmas Sweater Skate Day.
12. Experience the Festival of Trees
Date: November 18, 2023
Times: 5 pm to 10 pm
Address: Fairmont Olympic Hotel
The festive season is about many things; to some, it’s about the joy of gift-giving, while for others, it’s about the opportunity to give to those less fortunate. This is where the Seattle Festival of Trees Guild comes in with the annual Festival of Trees.
This is an umbrella term for a few events held from the end of November up until the end of December, kicking off with The Festival of Trees Gala held at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel when looking for holiday things to do in Seattle.
Aside from that, you can take time to wander around the lobby of the hotel to see dozens of designer Christmas Trees. Next up is the cute and furry-themed Teddy Bear Suite, where two suites in the hotel showcase armies of teddy bears, Christmas trees, and fairy lights. My kids absolutely love this, so you’ll want to go if you’re looking for family-friendly Seattle Christmas activities!
Finally, The Festival of Trees Celebration is a free, family-friendly event where storytellers entertain the kids, choir performances serenade the evenings, and Santa Claus is always ready for a selfie.
13. Admire Creative Christmas Flower Arrangements
Dates: December 10, 2023 – December 18, 2023
Address: Pacific Place
Hosted at Pacific Place, if you want to experience something a bit different for Christmas activities in Seattle, Fleur De Ville’s mesmerizing world brings extraordinary flower arrangements to life. This exhibition invites the very best florists in the city to showcase their talents with a festive twist.
It’s the ideal way to spend an afternoon as you immerse yourself in the captivating displays of more than 20 floral arrangements. Each year follows a different theme, so no two years are the same when you’re in Seattle for Christmas.
If you’ve ever wanted to see reindeer come to life in vibrant blooms, mannequins wearing extravagant dresses made of flowers, and other interactive displays, this is the spot to do it.
14. Go on a Ride on the Christmas Ship
Date: November 26, 2023
Address: Departs from the Seattle Central Waterfront
Throughout December, Argosy Cruises runs The Christmas Ship Festival, delivering one of the most fantastic holiday attractions in Seattle. Launching the event with the Spirit of Seattle, a massive vessel decked out from bow to stern in lights. I just did this last year and had a blast
Seeing the ship set sail is one thing, but boarding it for three hours of festive-themed cruising is an experience you won’t soon forget. There are a few ways to participate in the Christmas Ship Festival, as you can book a ticket on the ship itself or on the 21+ boat that follows it.
You can also wait on the shore for the ship to pass or for the annual Parade of Boats on Lake Union. Here, dozens of twinkling boats sail around the lake in a flurry of lights. I love coming down here at night to practice my photography with a tripod as the boats go by.
15. Visit Kringle’s Filling Station
Date: November 25, 2023 – January 1, 2023
Address: 8211 Aurora Avenue North
Easily one of the coolest Christmas experiences in Seattle, Kris Kringles Filling Station is a must-visit. Set within an old gas station, the entire design is constructed to resemble what most imagine Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole to be.
As you arrive, two masterful toy makers, namely Otis and Sparky Kringle, welcome you with hot chocolate served directly from vintage gas pumps. Inside, you can tackle a number of activities, including ski ball, karaoke, and letter writing to Santa. It’s one of the best things to do in Seattle during this time of year, and I try not to miss it.
The show’s highlight is the unveiling of the latest model of Santa’s sleigh, which differs every year. Admission prices start at $15 and include one complimentary cup of hot chocolate.
16. Wander Around a Christmas Market
Seattle has no shortage of Christmas markets that will quickly fill up your festive season. In contrast to what most imagine when thinking of these markets, Seattle’s Christmas markets are slightly less cute than their European counterparts but just as fun to visit.
Celebrating the diversity of the city, the markets in and around Seattle bring together cultures and traditions in a marvelous way. Local artisans bring their best as they sell unique, one-of-a-kind gifts that you won’t find elsewhere.
Some of the top markets to visit include:
- Julefest at the Nordic Museum (Address: 2655 Northwest Market Street)
- Winter Solstice Night Market (Address: 7440 Sand Point Way)
- United Indians Native Art Market (Address: 5011 Bernie Whitebear Way)
I’ve been going to Ballard’s Julefest for years, and I love having the chance to try traditional Norwegian food and drinks (even if aquavit may not be my favorite, it still feels festive). It’s also the perfect place to get unique Christmas gifts if you’re still shopping.
17. Watch A Christmas Carol
Dates: November 24, 2023 – December 24, 2023
Address: ACT Theater
If you don’t know the heartwarming tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, who goes from a Christmas-hating monster to the most generous and loving man in London, you’ve obviously never seen A Christmas Carol. That’s okay because while you’re in Seattle, few activities come close to watching the production at the ACT Theater.
Running from November 24, 2023, until December 24, 2023, the spectacle aims to delight all ages, but especially young children. Stage design and costumes, paired with incredibly talented actors and actresses, make it a show you shouldn’t miss.
If you’re after a more adult-oriented version for Christmas activities in Seattle, Unexpected Productions puts on A(n Improvised) Christmas Carol, where the audience can provide suggested prompts to the characters for a genuinely different experience.
18. Explore the Woodland Park Zoo WildLanterns
Date: November 10, 2023 – January 14, 2024
Address: 5500 Phinney Avenue North (Woodland Park Zoo)
Woodland Park Zoo puts on one of the most whimsical Christmas displays among the many exhibits for animals from around the world.
It’s an enchanting experience where, one moment, you’re admiring animals from countries in South America or Africa, and the next, you’re marveling at large-scale lanterns depicting an even larger variety of animals.
Here you’ll get to wander through displays totaling more than 800,000 lights set up to mimic various animals and landscapes. Some of the highlights to watch out for include the giant Pacific octopus, the Flame Tree, and the Giant Tiger Face.
I’ve been coming here every year since I’ve had kids because they’re absolutely amazed by it. A few expert tips – bring a wagon for younger kids so they can take breaks when needed, and pack plenty of snacks so no one gets hangry.
19. Head on a Festive Cocktail Tour
Dates: December 5, 2023 – December 11, 2023
Address: 16 Independent Locations
Some may call this the best way to spend Christmas in Seattle, or at least those who are old enough to drink, would. Annually, 16 bars and restaurants around the city host Holiday Drink Week.
This festive extravaganza sees the local eateries and watering holes team up to create a boozy winter event as their menus take on a festive vibe. Holiday-themed drinks and meals take first place, and to get the most out of the week’s craziness, most revelers try and visit each spot at least once.
Starting on December 5, 2023, and lasting until December 11, 2023, it’s the perfect opportunity to bar-hop as you make your way through the 16 different establishments. Each bar goes out of its way to come with truly crazy concoctions, so why not indulge in all of them? Responsibly, of course.
20. Experience a Different White Christmas
Dates: November 25 – December 16, 2023
Time: 7:30 pm
Address: 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 5th Ave
Everyone dreams of a white Christmas, and while some might not get the chance to experience it, those of you in Seattle during December get to do so from a unique perspective. Welcome to White Christmas.
This musical theater performance at the 5th Avenue Theater puts on a grand showcase of music and dance. The storyline? An epic tale of people coming together to uplift others while spreading the joy of the festive season.
Local stars Bob Wallace, Phil Davis, and sister act Rosemary and Vera-Ellen Clooney aim to entertain, and they do just that. Beyond the main act, the grounds of the theater also provide some holiday fun as stalls and mini-concerts take place beginning the morning of the 3rd.
You’ll love all the Christmas activities in Seattle there are to do!