10 Classic Seattle Christmas Activities That’ll Raise Your Spirits

Don’t be fooled by the lack of snow – Seattle knows how to do Christmas right. The festive fever kicks in as early as November, and with December, the Emerald City transforms into a yuletide paradise.

December is among the many prime times for locals or visitors to experience Seattle’s holiday magic. But let’s not waste time on every event; we’re here to dish out the undisputed best Christmas activities in Seattle.

The 10 best Chrismas activities in Seattle are:

  1. Seattle Tree Lighting Celebration
  2. Macy’s Parade
  3. Seattle Center Winterfest
  4. Sheraton Grand Seattle Gingerbread Village
  5. The Nutcracker
  6. Winter Festival & Crafts Fair
  7. Woodland Park Zoo
  8. Gift Shopping at Pike Place Market
  9. Christmas Ship Cruise
  10. Live Music at Benaroya Hall

Where To Experience The Best Christmas Activities In Seattle

If you’re arranging a trip to Seattle for the December holidays or planning to visit loved ones for Christmas, you’ll be in for a treat with all the activities to choose from. From festivals, amazing light shows, and even theatre productions, these activities are just what you need during Christmas festivities:

1. Seattle Tree Lighting Celebration, Westlake Center

401 Pine Street

https://www.facebook.com/DowntownSeattle/

https://downtownseattle.org/about/sponsorship/holidays/tree-lighting

Kickstarting the holiday season in Seattle with a bang is a no-brainer, and here’s the lowdown on the annual tree lighting shindig at Westlake Center. This jolly extravaganza, courtesy of Alaska Airlines, dishes up live music, giveaways, fireworks, and more. Check out the highlights:

  • Lighting Up the Night – It all goes down on the Friday post-Thanksgiving, from 3:00 to 6:00 pm at the heart of Seattle – Westlake Park.
  • Harmony in the Air – Start with a rockin’ two-hour concert featuring local talents like the surf-rock sensations Warren Dunes and some sweet cappella carolers (listings may change for 2023).
  • The Big Countdown – At 5:00 pm, the suspense builds as the colossal downtown Seattle Christmas tree, the dazzling Macy’s Star, and the fiery fireworks all spring to life.
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll Finale – Cap it off with a lively performance by the Dusty 45s, a rockabilly band that’ll have you cutting a rug.
  • Carousel Joy – Can’t get enough? There’s a holiday carousel at Westlake Park, spinning from November 24 to January 13. Open from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm on weekdays and a generous 10 am – 10:00 pm on weekends. A $4 donation per ride spreads the holiday cheer, with proceeds supporting the Treehouse foster care organization.
  • Catch It on the Screen: If you miss the live action or just want an encore, watch it online on the Downtown Seattle Association’s and WARM 106.9’s Facebook pages.

Seattle’s tree lighting bash at Westlake Center is THE ticket to dive into the yuletide spirit. Whether you roll in with your crew or fly solo, it’s a surefire way to soak up the melodies, the luminance, and the pyrotechnics. Just remember, bundle up, and have your camera ready to snap up the holiday magic! 

2. Macy’s Xmas Parade on Thanksgiving Day, Downtown

It begins at 7th Avenue

https://www.macys.com/s/parade/

10 Classic Seattle Christmas Activities That'll Raise Your Spirits

Do you want to kick off your Christmas spirit in Seattle with a bang? Here’s the scoop on Macy’s Parade during Thanksgiving – getting you ready for a festive face-off! It’s always fun to join the community and hear the echos of laughter fun; here’s what you need to know:

  • It’s go-time for the Parade on Thanksgiving Day: precisely on Thursday, November 23, 2023.
  • The parade kicks off at 9:00 am and keeps the holiday vibe going for about three hours. It winds its way along a 2.5-mile route on Fourth Avenue in downtown Seattle.
  • It’s a spectacular showcase – brace yourself for over 25 floats, 16 colossal helium balloons, 12 marching bands, and a troop of talented performers. Expect to meet Santa’s Sleigh, Winter Wonderland, and Toyland among the floats.
  • Ready to be wowed? Look out for celebrities like Paula Abdul, Dionne Warwick, Jordin Sparks, Betty Who, Cam, Fitz and the Tantrums, and many more. And the grand finale? Mariah Carey herself opened for Santa Claus at the end of the parade.
  • Don’t like crowds? You can catch the action live on NBC and Peacock or be part of the crowd lining up along the streets for an in-person experience.

Macy’s Parade in Seattle isn’t just another holiday event but rather a tradition you won’t want to miss. Gather your loved ones, and let the grandeur of this iconic parade light up your Thanksgiving and kickstart the Christmas cheer! Pro tip: To secure a prime spot, get there early and bundle up.

3. Winterfest, Seattle Center

Seattle Center

https://www.seattlecenter.com/events/featured-events/winterfest

Winter holidays bring in a whole new theme: Seattle’s one and only Winterfest. Dive into the festivity of Seattle’s winter wonderland like no other – it has so much to offer!

Starting November 24, Winterfest begins with a blazing Ice Spectacle at the International Fountain. Watch ice artists craft wonders while you cozy up by the fire pits, enjoy carolers, and munch on s’mores.

The Armory Food & Event Hall hosts a charming Winter Train & Village display. Control the late 19th-century model train or hunt for prizes in a festive scavenger hunt.

Also, don’t miss the World Bazaar – Hunt for holiday gifts from a dynamic mix of vendors representing diverse cultures. Discover unique, handmade treasures from near and far.

The Armory Stage rocks with local talent every weekend. Music, dance, comedy – you name it, grooving to the rhythm of the season.

The festive finale wraps up the year at the New Year’s Eve Celebration: music, fireworks, and a thrilling countdown to 2024. Overall, from November 24 to December 31, revel in the lights, fun, and entertainment. And don’t forget to hit up the Seattle Christmas Market at Fisher Pavilion and South Fountain Lawn – open from November 24 to December 24.

4. Sheraton Grand Seattle Gingerbread Village

1400 6th Avenue

https://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR?fr_id=9531&pg=entry

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60878-d10020677-Reviews-Gingerbread

Ready for a taste of Seattle’s sweetest holiday tradition? Brace yourself for the whole edible universe of Sheraton Grand Seattle Gingerbread Village – the little ones will love it!

The Sheraton Grand Seattle Gingerbread Village is an annual fiesta hosted by Seattle Sheraton, supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). This sugary spectacle started in 1992 as a way to back JDRF and has since turned into a cherished Seattle tradition. While it’s free, your donations go a long way.

You can admire these gingerbread wonders from November 21, 2023, to January 1, 2024. Find it at the Sheraton Grand Seattle Hotel, 1400 6th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101.

Local architects, builders, chefs, and JDRF heroes team up to create these edible masterpieces. Thousands of pounds of gingerbread, candy, and icing go into each one.

The 2023 theme? “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Think golden tickets, Oompa Loompas, and the Great Glass Elevator.

Choose your favorite gingerbread house by donating to JDRF. Your support aids the fight against type 1 diabetes.

This gingerbread village isn’t just delicious – but also for a cause. Experience edible art and back JDRF’s mission. It’s a must-see for Seattle’s festive souls.

5. Pacific Northwest Ballet Production Of The Nutcracker

321 Mercer Street

https://www.pnb.org/nutcracker/

If you and the little ones are looking for a dose of a fairy tale and craving some enchantment in Seattle,  look no further than the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker extravaganza. Here’s why you shouldn’t snooze on this:

  • It’s more of a Ballet Brilliance rather than your average Nutcracker. It’s George Balanchine’s rendition, staying true to the classic tale by E.T.A. Hoffman and the magical tunes of Tchaikovsky.
  • With creative genius Ian Falconer behind the scenes, expect a burst of color and whimsy – breathing life into the characters and setting the stage for pure magic.
  • The Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers are in a league of their own – you’ll be captivated by Sugar Plum Fairy’s grace to the Arabian Dance’s mystique.
  • Tchaikovsky’s score, as executed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra, is going to try and pull those heartstrings of yours (through joy and nostalgia).
  • This spectacle runs at McCaw Hall from November 24 to December 27, 2023; tickets range from $25 to $190, and you can even snag VIP Sugarplum Box Seats for $250, with perks like premium seating and a souvenir program.

The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker is the definitive way to kick off the season. It’s a show for all ages, promising allure like no other.

6. Annual Winter Festival & Crafts Fair, Phinney Center

6532 Phinney Avenue

https://www.phinneycenter.org/winterfestival/

The annual Winter Festival and Crafts Fair is a perfect place to find holiday gifts without the hassle – all while enjoying yourself! From jewelry to home goods, it’s a treasure trove. Find presents for everyone, or treat yourself!

There’s so much entertainment, too, like live acts at the Armory Stage. Music, dance, and comedy from local talents – It’s a showstopper!  Your admission fee (only $4 for PNA members, $6 for non-members) supports worthy causes like meal programs and the Greenwood Senior Center.

Don’t forget to grab a suggested food item for the FamilyWorks Greenwood Food Bank and make a difference while you fill your cart. The community is fantastic and connected; you’ll meet artisans, learn their stories, and mingle with fellow shoppers, getting you in the festive spirit.

Hands down, you could easily make this fair your one-stop shop for a joyful holiday experience in Seattle.

7. WildLights, Woodland Park Zoo

5500 Phinney Avenue

https://www.zoo.org/wildlanterns

For a wild holiday experience in Seattle, WildLights at Woodland Park Zoo is where animals and lights collide, and it’s a must-see extravaganza. The details include:

  • From November 24, 2023, to January 1, 2024, the zoo transforms into a dazzling wonderland daily from 5:30 to 8:30 pm (though they are closed on December 24 and 25).
  • It’s like a safari through lights – you witness an enchanting display of illuminated animals – from mighty elephants to tall giraffes (and much more).
  • Live entertainment is always great in Seattle, and every weekend, the North Meadow Stage comes alive with local bands, performers, and all sorts of talents. Music, dance, comedy – you name it.
  • Want to get up and close with animals? Get to know the zoo’s residents better through animal encounters. The zookeepers spill the beans about these fascinating creatures (don’t forget to visit the Day Exhibit for reptiles and amphibians).
  • For those hungry, enjoy festive snacks and drinks, from hot chocolate to cider and all your favorite munchies – you can also bring your own food (no alcohol or glass containers).

Admission starts at $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for kids (3 to 12). From December 14 to January 1, it’s $9.50 for adults. Grab tickets online or at the West Entrance.

There are parking perks: free on weekdays (Monday to Thursday). On the weekends (Friday to Sunday), it’s $5.25, but space can be tight. Pro tip: Consider the bus, bike, or carpool.

WildLights at Woodland Park Zoo is well worth it on its own as the holiday extravaganza in Seattle. A wild world of lights, music, animals, and fun awaits!

8. Gift Shopping At Pike Place Market

85 Pike Street

https://www.pikeplacemarket.org/press_release/pike-place-market-announces-lineup-of-holiday-events-to-wrap-up-the-year/

Get that Seattle-style holiday cheer by ditching the ordinary for the extraordinary with Pike Place Market’s treasure trove of Xmas gifts and events:

  • You can be the ultimate Santa with over 500 small businesses, offering everything from fresh goodies to handcrafts!
  • Open daily from 9 to 6 (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day).
  • Pike Place is no one-trick pony – explore the Main Arcade, home to iconic fish-throwing and the original Starbucks. Also, dive into the DownUnder for antique finds.
  • The market is packed with local talents – Jewelry, pottery, clothing, candles – you name it. Talk to the creators, and feel the passion.
  • As if that’s not enough, the market sprinkles extra magic during the season. Think live music, Santa selfies, and a dazzling 20-foot holiday tree (perfect for the whole family to enjoy after some prezzie shopping).

Pike Place also does good; the Pike Place Market Foundation aids the less fortunate in the community. You can support them or grab a “Pike Up! Piggy Bank” to show your love.

This is the spot to snag your Seattle souvenirs. It’s a shopping trip, a cultural experience, and a community hug all in one. Don’t just visit; celebrate the holidays in community style!

9. Christmas Ship, Argosy Cruises

Ship-to-Shore (various locations)

https://www.argosycruises.com/argosy-cruises/christmas-ship-festival/

For a unique, festive Seattle holiday experience, hop aboard the Christmas Ship by Argosy Cruises. This tradition dates back to ’49, and it’s still rocking the holiday spirit:

  • It’s live from November 24, ’23, to January 1, ’24. Different nights, different adventures. Pick your date on the online calendar.
  • The Spirit of Seattle is a family-friendly cruise with onboard choirs, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas reading, and a snack-filled bar. It’s a 1.5-hour treat that serenades waterfront communities.
  • There’s also a 21+ Follow Boat – this adults-only cruise shadows the Christmas Ship and broadcasts the choir. Snap pics in the photo booth, rock the ugly sweater contest and hit the bar for specialty cocktails, wine, beer, or non-alcoholic sips.
  • Costs vary by date and range from $54 to $74 for adults, $50 to $74 for seniors, $40 to $74 for youth. Kids under three sail free. The 21+ Follow Boat is $72.
  • There is a feel-good factor; part of your admission supports local charities like the Seattle Humane Society, Northwest Harvest, Treehouse, and more.

Join the fun at parks and communities along the route. Welcome the Christmas Ship and enjoy a 20-minute choir performance – don’t forget the dazzling boat parade.

In a nutshell, this is Seattle’s holiday superstar. Sail, sing, and celebrate with your crew. It’s a must-do during the holiday season – don’t let this ship sail without you!

10. Enjoy Live Music At Benaroya Hall

200 University Street

https://www.livemusicproject.org/events/49891/christmas-traditions-at-benaroya-hall

https://www.seattlesymphony.org/benaroyahall

Get your dose of live music at Benaroya Hall, the mecca for classical, jazz, and pop enthusiasts. Here’s what this sonic experience entails:

  • Benaroya Hall, the lair of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, rocks your musical world – beyond symphonies, it hosts a variety of instrumental pleasures.
  • The hall’s architecture and acoustics are pure ear candy – get a lesson in music and the maestros.
  • Open Monday to Friday, 10 in the morning to 6 pm, and Saturday, 1 – 6 pm (closed on Sundays and holidays).
  • Benaroya boasts two titanic auditoriums: S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium seats 2,500, while Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall seats 536.
  • Catch the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Live @ Benaroya Hall series, Seattle Chamber Music Society, and more – ticket info’s all available on their website (usually around $15 per person).
  • You can also dive deeper with pre-concert lectures, Q&A sessions, behind-the-scenes tours, and the Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center.

Don’t miss the Coat Check, Gift Shop, Grand Lobby Cafe, Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby Bar, and Norcliffe Founders Room Lounge. You can even rent a slice of this melodic space for any personal event.

In Benaroya Hall, Seattle’s heart beats with music; immerse yourself in tunes and knowledge in an extravagant setting – a must-visit for all music enthusiasts.

Conclusion

From tree lighting with a bang to gingerbread masterpieces and enchanted mazes, Seattle’s got the holidays wrapped up in lights, laughter, and sheer festive magic. Get out there, embrace the cheer, and make this holiday season unforgettable. Don’t let it slip away – it’s Seattle’s gift to you!

Resources

https://www.facebook.com/DowntownSeattle/

https://downtownseattle.org/about/sponsorship/holidays/tree-lighting

https://www.macys.com/s/parade/

https://www.seattlecenter.com/events/featured-events/winterfest

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60878-d10020677-Reviews-Gingerbread

https://www.pnb.org/nutcracker/

https://www.phinneycenter.org/winterfestival/

https://www.zoo.org/wildlanterns

https://www.parentmap.com/calendar/34397

https://www.argosycruises.com/argosy-cruises/christmas-ship-festival/

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60878-d19329198

About the author

My name is April, and I’m a Seattle-based writer, traveler, and foodie. I started this travel guide blog to share my passion for Seattle with fellow travelers and locals alike.

Whether you’re looking for the best coffee shops, the trendiest restaurants, or the most scenic hiking trails, I’ve got you covered.

When I’m not writing or exploring Seattle, you can find me watching movies with my husband, reading, or gardening with my dog in the backyard.

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