Seattle sparkles during the holiday season. Whether you’re up for an action-packed day trip or a long weekend in the Emerald City, there are so many things to do for Christmas in Seattle, Washington, with kids or without offers some serious west coast holiday fun.
Seattle is just a 2+ hour drive from Vancouver, British Columbia, and a 3+ hour drive from Portland, Oregon. Seattle has great hotels, restaurants, spas, and let’s not forget those shopping opportunities (Hello Nordstrom! HELLO Nordstrom Rack!). Seattle holiday events are a great way to get out during the holidays to enjoy this lively west coast city or find some quality relaxation time before the Christmas madness begins.
Things to do for Christmas in Seattle
Marvel at the WildLights at Woodland Zoo – November 29 through January 5
The popular WildLights at the Woodland Park Zoo is north of downtown Seattle. There are more than 600,000 twinkly LED lights in this impressive zoo lights Seattle display, recreating wild animals and wilder places in two and three dimensions. Kids can pose for a holiday photo with Santa at the Zoo, or practice their snowball-making and throwing skills at the indoor Snowmazium. There’s also a carousel, reindeer, holiday music and dancing light shows.
Visit Pike Place Market
A visit to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a stroll through Pike Place Market. The local artisan stalls are perfect places to purchase unique, handmade gifts and unique food items to bring home. The flying salmon boys delight the crowds, or when we visited, cause local kids to squirm and drop the fish when it was thrown to them. Makes for some great videos.
Near the Market, just down some stairs to an exit alley, is the highly Instagrammable Seattle Gum Wall. City authorities do periodically steam-clean the wall of its 2,350 lbs of gum, but wads of newly masticated sticky goo quickly re-appear as if by some gum-chewing fairy magic. Let’s just say it’s a unique attraction.
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Take a Spin on the Holiday Carousel – November 23 through January 1
Who doesn’t love a carousel? One of the loveliest Seattle Christmas events that even adults can enjoy is a spin on downtown Seattle’s Holiday Carousel at Westlake Park. The Carousel is well-located at the entrance to the Seattle Monorail, which takes you conveniently to Seattle Center in under 5 minutes, where you can enjoy Winterfest. If the weather turns a bit too nippy you can always pop into any number of Starbucks in the area or indulge in a little high end window shopping at Pacific Place.
Enjoy Winterfest at Seattle Center – November 29 through December 31
Seattle Center hosts a bevy of holiday activities with its annual Winterfest event. The tiny turn of the century Winter Train and Village at Seattle Center complete with snow and holiday homes will light up your children’s eyes and make your inner train conductor pop out. Several times a day visitors are able to take control of the rails and take the train for a whirls around the track. Once you have had your fill you can wander through Seattle Center to enjoy ice-skating, ice sculpting, carolers and more.
The Ice Rink at the Fisher Pavilion sponsors free indoor skating. When you’re done, head up to the Space Needle for the best view of the city, even if it’s windy and raining! The Chiluly Glass Museum and the popular EMP Museum are also located in the Seattle Center complex.
Garden D’Lights – November 30 through December 31
Pack the sunglasses; your eyes may need a break from the explosion of LED lights at Garden D’Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden . Over half a million lights take over this eastside botanical garden, creating a sea of flowers, swans, trees and more. Watch the kids giggle with glee as Snap d’Dragon puffs a little smoke from his nose. Be sure not to miss the aquarium in the visitor’s center. You may just want to give these larger than life jellyfish a squeeze.
Get Enchanted – November 22-December 29
Seattle’s Enchant Christmas promises a winter wonderland of festive lights, a Christmas market, and spectacular ice skating trail. Search for hidden gifts in the World’s Largest Christmas light maze, ‘Mischievous’ complete with a 100 foot tall lighted Christmas tree that’s taller than the one at Rockefeller Centre in New York City. And keep toasty with mugs of hot chocolate, with or without a special shot of something special from the Ice Bar.
Admire the Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton Seattle
While you can’t eat these gingerbread houses, you will marvel at how architects and artists manage to create such amazing displays with baked cookie dough. The village scenes are based on holiday carols, such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town and O Little Town of Bethlehem. This is the 23rd Annual Gingerbread Village, with donations benefitting the JDRF Northwest Chapter.
If you have time, check out the Seattle Museum of Flight
Where to Stay in Seattle
There is no shortage of great boutique hotels in Seattle. We stayed at the historic Fairmont Olympic Hotel, which is perfectly situated in the heart of downtown Seattle. This grand hotel is fully decked out in holiday glory. Staff are welcoming and friendly despite the busyness of the season. Our hotel suite was spacious and cosy, with lots of room for our packages parcels after our visit to Nordstrom Rack!
We walked everywhere throughout downtown from the hotel, which is in easy distance to Pike Place Market and the shopping district. The Hotel employs a driver if you book fast enough (he’s in demand during the holidays). This is an excellent service if you want to eat anywhere in the Pioneer Square neighborhood.
While you’re in the Fairmont Olympic, take time to admire the 17 trees of all sizes found throughout the hotel. The tree in the main Lobby is a massive fir that has been treated and fire-proofed to preserve it all season long. It’s the largest tree found in a Seattle hotel, and has been decorated with 3,000+ lights by Camden Gardens.
Looking for other Seattle hotel options?
Where to Eat in Seattle
Break your Fast at Le Panier
Just next to Pike Place Market, a few doors down from the original Starbucks, Le Panier is a Very French Bakery (their words). Having been to France, I would concur that Le Panier is indeed Very French. It offers genuine cafe au lait and sweet and savory baked goodies. Grab a few bags of special holiday cookies as gifts to take home to friends.
Enjoy Holiday Tea at the Georgian, Fairmont Olympic
Fortify yourself for a day of holiday sightseeing with a traditional high tea service at the Holiday Tea at the Fairmont Olympic. The Holiday Tea services is at lunch daily in the gorgeous and historic Georgian room. Choose from a selection of delicious loose leafed teas (tip: try the 1907 custom blend). Enjoy nibbling on exquisite tea sandwiches, sweets, and warm scones with jam and clotted cream.
Share Plates at Palace Kitchen
Palace Kitchen is one of the restaurants in the dominion of Tom Douglas, one of America’s premier chefs. Seating is based on first-come, first-served. Tip: do get there early, as this is a busy restaurant at any time of year. The cuisine is northwest-style, with many dishes grilled in the kitchen’s applewood wood-fire. The food is generously plated and share-worthy, and the atmosphere is bustling and energizing.
Disclosure: Thank you to Fairmont Olympic Seattle and Seattle CityPass for hosting our holiday in the Emerald City. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks to Keryn Means, founder of Walking on Travels, for her local insights.
Photo Credits: Cover, Shutterstock; Keryn Means; Claudia Laroye
Have you been to Seattle during the holidays? Share your comments below.