Celebrating Christmas in Seattle

10/12/2023 | by Andy | Local Activity Guide

Seattle’s unique blend of natural beauty and urban charm is a delightful place to celebrate Christmas. This Pacific Northwest gem offers a variety of seasonal experiences that make the holidays truly special when staying at a Seattle Vacation Home.

From the possibility of a snowy wonderland to dazzling light displays, festive parades, and local favorites, here’s what you can expect when spending the holidays in Seattle.

Winter Weather in Seattle

When you visit Seattle, you will undoubtedly be doing a last-minute check of the weather! One of the most common questions about Christmas in Seattle is whether it’s snowy.

The answer is both yes and no, as Seattle’s weather during the holiday season can be unpredictable. While the city doesn’t guarantee a white Christmas every year, it does get its fair share of snowfall, especially in December.

Snow-covered streets and rooftops can create a picturesque scene straight out of a holiday postcard. With an average high of 43°F (6°C) and low of 34°F (1°C), make sure to bring your winter coats, scarves, and boots!

Dazzling Light Displays

Grab one of Seattle’s famous cups of coffee and your camera! One of the quintessential experiences of Christmas in Seattle is the breathtaking Christmas lights that adorn the city. Each year, Seattle goes all out to bedeck its streets, parks, and buildings with millions of twinkling lights. Here are some must-visit light displays that have become local traditions.

1. WildLanterns at Woodland Park Zoo

Photo Credit: Seattle Channel via Flickr CC 2.0

Nothing will get you in the holiday spirit more than a walk through this visual fantasy land. Woodland Park Zoo hosts WildLanterns, a mesmerizing light show where visitors can stroll through brilliantly illuminated animal displays, catch sight of carousel rides, and enjoy hot cocoa by a roaring fire.

You can glimpse giant light structures of animals, nature, and even mythological creatures. Don’t skip the Interactive Zone that visitors, young and old, will love. WildLights is a perfect outing for families and wildlife enthusiasts alike.

2. ZooLights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Photo Credit: LDELD via Flickr CC 2.0

Located a short drive from Seattle in Tacoma, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium showcases ZooLights, an enchanting display of over 700,000 LED lights. Marvel at the spectacular underwater displays and enjoy holiday treats while wandering through the park.

3. Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden

Photo Credit: Al Garman via Flickr CC 2.0

A quick trip across Lake Washington to Bellevue leads you to the Garden d’Lights, where botanical gardens are transformed into a magical world of colorful, twinkling lights. The artistic displays include everything from flowers to animals. A true labor of love, the garden is built by volunteers over the course of 11 months of the year, all so that Seattlites can enjoy the breathtaking glow come winter.

4. The Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition

Photo Credit: Erin Kohlenberg via Flickr CC 2.0

This festive event, held annually in Downtown Seattle, features caroling teams singing their hearts out to raise money for the Pike Place Market Senior Center & Food Bank. You can get sightseeing and local culture all in one at the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition! Come to the lit-up Pike Place Market for a heartwarming evening of enchanting music.

Festive Parades and Events

Christmas parades and events are an integral part of the holiday season in Seattle. These events not only showcase the city’s vibrant entertainment but also provide opportunities for families, friends, and communities to come together and celebrate.

1. Snowflake Lane in Bellevue

Photo Credit: GoToVan via Flickr CC 2.0

This is one of the most popular holiday events in Seattle! Head across the lake to Bellevue for Snowflake Lane, a nightly parade featuring holiday lights, live toy soldiers, lit-up Christmas trees, and festive music.

This festive event transforms Bellevue Way into a winter wonderland. Witness the enchantment of falling snow, radiant lights, joyful melodies, toy drummers, and dancers in this nightly holiday parade of floats.

Attend the spectacle on the sidewalks between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square from NE 4th to NE 8th Streets every evening at 7 p.m. This is also a great spot for last-minute holiday shopping. There’s even free parking!

2. Nutcracker Ballet

Photo Credit: Scott Moore via Flickr CC 2.0

Catch a performance of “The Nutcracker” by the Pacific Northwest Ballet at McCaw Hall for a real dose of holiday magic. This classic holiday ballet is a tradition that brings the magic of Christmas to life. Many families have made special memories bringing their little ones to this performance, and plenty of adults have also enjoyed the iconic ballet.

Tickets sell out quickly, so make sure to book yours as soon as possible!

Local’s Favorite Seattle Traditions

Seattle locals have their own beloved traditions for celebrating Christmas that add a touch of authenticity to the holiday season.

1. Christmas Eve on Alki Beach

Photo Credit: Shauna Alexander via Flickr CC 2.0

Many Seattleites gather on Alki Beach on Christmas Eve to watch the sunset and share a sense of community. Bonfires, caroling, and beachside strolls make for a cozy and heartwarming experience during the Seattle Christmas season.

2. SantaCon

Photo Credit: Jeremy Reding via Flickr CC 2.0

SantaCon is the ultimate holiday fun for those 21 and above. Get ready to dress up as Santa Claus and join a global gathering of festive folks. In Seattle, the downtown area becomes a playground for Santas, hitting up pubs, bars, and restaurants.

With a wristband, you can enjoy free admission at certain times. Don’t forget to capture the magic with a group photo at the iconic Pike Place Market Center and Occidental Square.

3. Argosy Christmas Ship Festival

Photo Credit: Shutterbug Fotos via Flickr CC 2.0

This highly anticipated event lights up the Seattle waterways. During the Parade of Boats night, boats will gather in Lake Union and start their procession westward through the Fremont Cut.

The Argosy Christmas Ship Festival makes stops at various locations to perform caroling, spreading holiday cheer from the water. You can enjoy the glittering lights and carols from the Christmas Ship, participate in the parade with your own decorated vessel, or watch from Evanston Plaza for a panoramic view of the flotilla.

4. Gingerbread Village at Sheraton Grand

Photo Credit: Frank Fujimoto via Flickr CC 2.0

Every year, Seattle’s top architects collaborate with culinary teams to create a jaw-dropping Gingerbread Village on display at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. The attention to detail and creativity in these edible creations is astounding.

Come and feast your eyes on these extravagant and larger-than-life displays. All of that sugar is for a wonderful cause, as these spectacular creations aim to raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Northwest chapter. Each year has a different theme, so it never gets old! Don’t forget to cast your vote for your favorite!

5. Winterfest at the Seattle Center

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The Seattle Center is the place to be for holiday fun! Winterfest is one event you don’t want to miss. Inside the Armory, check out the Winter Train & Village. It’s like stepping into a mini turn-of-the-century village with animated scenes and characters. Hop on the tiny locomotive and take a ride!

Another highlight is the beautiful voices of the Dickens Carolers. You can also marvel at ice skating rink demonstrations or lace up your skates and try out the ice yourself! If you happen to be in Seattle in late November, the tree lighting is an annual post-Thanksgiving tradition not to be missed!

The Seattle Center is always adding to its program, with live music and New Year’s Eve celebrations as well, so check out its website for family-friendly fun details.

Get in the Seattle Christmas Spirit

Celebrating Christmas in Seattle is a magical experience that combines natural beauty, urban charm, and a strong sense of community. Whether admiring the twinkling lights, participating in festive parades, or indulging in local traditions, Seattle offers diverse activities to make your holiday season truly special.

So, book your vacation home, pack your warmest clothes, make your Christmas event game plan, and prepare to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in the Emerald City.