Seattle Area Christmas Activities for families

Maybe Seattle isn’t the first city that comes to mind for Christmas. But it is actually a great place to celebrate. This beautiful city has tons of great kid-friendly Christmas events you’ll love! And Seattle’s mild winter temperatures and early winter sunsets make outdoor Christmas lights doable and lots of fun, even for families with younger children.

Here are a few of our favorite Seattle area family Christmas events.

1. WildLanterns at Woodland Park Zoo, Everett

Chameleon lantern, blue in color with lighter blue stripes. It is standing on a brown lantern branch, among lantern greenery
Chameleon Lantern at Zoo Lanterns, Woodland Park Zoo

A few years back, the Woodland Park Zoo replaced its ZooLights event with Wild Lanterns, and we have to say, it was a huge upgrade. The lanterns are so detailed, bright, and fun. Plus there are just a million types of lanterns all over the zoo. I think we lantern versions of every animal found at the zoo, plus dinosaurs, giant insects including butterflies and praying mantis, beautiful flowers, giant beasts, fish, a dragon and so much more.

Several of the exhibits were interactive with opportunities to ‘shoot’ the canon, jump on spots on the ground for them to light up, and swing in a glowing swing. Many others had moving parts allowing us to watch a dinosaur ‘hatch’ from an egg or a monster growl at us.

The zoo also has food stands open to get a quick meal or a treat. 

Colorful butterfly lanterns on a lantern tree. Below, children play on colored star lights.
Butterflies and stars that light up when you step on them

A couple of notes: The Zoo Lanterns are spread out all over the zoo, so you’ll need over an hour to take it all in. Bundle up so you won’t be too cold to enjoy this event!

A colorful pterosaur made of lanterns stands on the ground looking down. Children are close to the lit up dinosaur taking in the view.
Dinosaur section of Zoo Lanterns at Woodland Park Zoo

2.  The Nutcracker

The Pacific Northwest Ballet performance of the Nutcracker is absolutely beautiful.  The sets and costumes are bright and sparkly and the dancers and orchestra are flawless and so fun to watch. Watching the Nutcracker is such a fun tradition and we love that there is such a great performance right here in Seattle. I thought it was neat to see that the PNW Ballet Company felt uncomfortable with the stereotyping and costumes used for Tea Dance, so they changed it! The PNW Ballet was given approval by the George Balanchine Trust, who licenses this particular version of the Nutcracker, and the old character was replaced with the Green Tea Cricket with brand new choreography to match.  

The photo shows the legs of 4 ballerinas. All four are wearing white tights and tutus, and light pink ballet shoes. The background painting has snow-covered evergreen trees.
expressive ballet photo

Note: The Nutcracker runs just over 2 hours and has one 25-minute intermission. Because of the length, we don’t recommend it for toddlers and very young children.

Love a live show but not ready for the Nutcracker? Check out the Seattle Children’s Theatre. They do a kid-friendly Christmas play even younger children will love!

3.  Holiday Tea at the Fairmont

Looking for something extra special to do with your kids this holiday season? The Fairmont offers a special holiday afternoon tea during the month of December.  The Fairmont offers the usual cookies, scones, and sandwiches with a bit of a Christmas twist.  Plus, the Fairmont is decked out it beautiful holiday decor for the season.  Prices for Holiday Tea are high, but they do give a discount for children.  It’s a really special way to bring in the holiday season!

Photo is taken from above. In the center, a cup of tea with milk. On either side are scones with jam and clotted cream on white plates. In between is a white tea pot.
Traditional English afternoon tea of scones with clotted cream and jam, along with a cup of hot tea.

Note: There are not a lot of reservations available for Holiday tea so they do go quickly.  Be sure to book early!

4.  Teddy Bear Suite

Visiting the Fairmont for Holiday tea? Don’t forget to check out the Teddy Bear Suite, which is created every year for the holidays.  It’s free to visit, but a donation benefitting Seattle Children’s is encouraged.  The Teddy Bear Suite is SO cute with a ton of teddy bears, large and small, as well as fun lighting and Christmasy decor. Kids will LOVE visiting. 

A room with blue lighting. There is a bed with tons of teddy bears sitting at the top. The bed frame is decorated in lights and colorful bulbs.

5.  Gingerbread houses at the Sheraton Grand Seattle

Every year, the talented crew at the Sheraton picks a theme, like Harry Potter, Star Wars, or the Grinch, and creates an amazing gingerbread house village.  The gingerbread houses are open to the public for the month of December, free, and a ton of fun! The Sheraton also serves holiday- themed drinks and snacks the bar, and has live music every friday and Saturday night.  

6.  Snowflake Lane

Snowflake Lane, located in Bellevue is a super fun little event.  The parade is every night from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve at 7 pm.  It’s free and super cute! You’ll see lots of Christmas characters, including Santa, some of the characters from the Nutcracker, arctic animals, and some just silly Christmas characters.  The costumes and actors are amazing, with lots of dancing and music, making it feel a bit more like a little party than a parade.  And at the end, you’ll even see snow!

A parade float with a cutout of a man in red and white blowing a gold horn. Behind him is a woman in a blue dress on a silvery white float.
Snowflake Lane Parade in Bellevue

Note:  This event is popular so you’ll want to arrive early to find a good spot to watch.  We recommend bringing a blanket to sit on and a hot cocoa or coffee to sip on while you wait.  

7. Garden d’Lights – Bellevue Botanical Garden

This holiday light display is fantastic for all ages, plus, it’s SUPER budget friendly. Adults are $8, and children under 11 are free! You can expect to see flowers, plants, animals and even lakes and rivers made from lights. The little pretend pumpkins and apples are adorable and the flowers make from lights really quick beautiful And an under-the-sea is even included! The gardens are smaller, making it a perfect event for those who don’t want a HUGE night out, or who are visiting with tiny children. Plus, the path is stroller friendly!

8.  Staycation, or vacation downtown!

We love the Grand Sheraton and the Olympic Fairmont and the Hyatt Regency Bellevue during the holidays.  The atmosphere, decor, and special menus make the a stay during the holidays totally worthwhile (even for a staycation).  

Both the Grand Sheraton and Olympic Fairmont are downtown, and are walking distance to each other and lots of other Christmas fun.  You can visit the Teddy Bear Suite, the gingerbread houses, the Westlake Park lights and the holiday carousel.  Plus you can hop on the monorail to get from Westlake Park to the Seattle Center for Winterfest. 

Several gingerbread houses are in the background. The main gingerbread house has a train track encircling it with a candy pond in front. A nutcracker stands in front of the house, along with two mini trees.

The Hyatt Regency Bellevue has its own gingerbread house display, along with tons of beautifully decorated trees and lots of decor. The holiday is located right along Snowflake lane, so you can easily walk down for the Christmas parade.

9. Watch A Very Electric Christmas

The Seattle Children’s Theatre is putting on A Very Electric Christmas this year, and it looks AMAZING. This show features a completely dark theatre special characters created out of lights. This show looks like a ton of fun, and my kids and I are really looking forward to going and checking it out ASAP!

The show is at the Charlotte Martin Theatre, at the SeattleCenter. The show runtime is about 75 minutes without an intermissions, so this might be a bit long for some wiggly youngers. But it is the type of show that even young audiences can really enjoy!

10. Winterfest at the SeattleCenter

If you are heading down to the Seattle Center to watch A Very Electric Christmas, why not make a day of it and enjoy everything else the SeattleCenter has to offer this time of year!

Winterfest at the Seattle Center is a great way to spend your day this holiday season. There are tons of kid-friendly things to do! Check out the Christmas train display and try your luck at the scavenger hunt inside the Armory. Check out the Christmas Market, with tons of unique gifts, snacks, and even Christmas songs. Stick around until dark for the beautiful Space Needle lights. The rest of the park, including the sculptures, are also lit up for the holidays, and there is a special light and water show at the International Fountain.

11. Magic in the Market at Pike Place Market

This special, one-day-only event takes place annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Because it’s just a one day event and it gets crowded, it might be a little bit difficult for families to visit.  BUT it’s worth a mention because it’s a unique, totally Seattle experience that some families will love! Magic at the Market features Santa visits, tons of fun treats and snacks, the annual lighting of the market ceremony, and TONS of photo ops.  

12. Christmas Trains

If your kids love trains and Christmas, there are some really great options this year!

First, check out the Northwest Railway Museum Santa Trains in Snoqualmie, Washington. There are two types available. The first is the short, 25 minute Yuletide Express. Trains are decorated beautifully for the holidays, and riders get to take a quick trip down to view Snoqualmie Falls. Kids will get a small gift from Santa, and a peppermint stick. The second train type is the Santa Limited, which is 2 hours long and offers a bit more- the decorated train, a caboose tour, a Christmas craft, a gift from Santa, and a cookie.

Another Great option, finally back, is the Polar Express at the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad. This train ride is about 45 minutes long. During the journey, guests will be served hot chocolate and cookies, and will hear the book The Polar Express. Then, they’ll be visited by Santa and receive a gift- a sleigh bell!

Kids climbing on a train

Note: These historic trains are beautiful but not well temperature controlled. Dress for the weather to stay comfortable.

13. Argosy Christmas Ships

The Christmas ships are a great Seattle-area tradition. We love that its a unique and special way to celebrate.

There are two ways to enjoy the Christmas Ships, onboard, or onshore.

Onshore, you can enjoy a 20 minute choral performance, which is broadcasted from the ship, enjoy a bonfire hosted by Seattle Parks, and watch the ships from the shore. Check out the schedule here.

If onshore is your preference, be sure to check out the Parade of Boats viewing party, where you can watch a ton of decorated boats while enjoying drinks and treats from one of the wonderful venders.

Prefer to go onboard? Ships leave from 6 different locations, so you can pick a convenient option for you. Note that ships don’t leave from every location every night, so make sure you check the schedule. The boat ride is an hour and half long, and you’ll hear choir performances, a reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas and enjoy drinks and pre-ordered food.

Be sure to dress warm for both onshore and onboard events as it can feel very cold out on the water!

14. The Lights of Christmas in Stanwood, WA

Christmas lighting display

This event is located an hour north of Seattle, but it just may be worth the drive! The event remains a drive through event, but with a couple of activity stops where you can get out of the car for special activities, if you chose. The venue is HUGE, over 15 acres, and there are just so many lights! Even by car, there is a lot to see. We love that there are lighting displays of all kinds- some are classic, some are fun and whimsical, and some have intricate designs. And there are even drive-through snacks!

Christmas lighting display. A man and two children stand under an arch of light.

15. Leavenworth Village of Lights: Christmastown

Trees and lit in up purple, blue and white. Under the trees, people play in the snow with sleds.

OK this one isn’t in Seattle, or even in the greater Seattle area, but it’s totally worth the 2.5 hr drive

The streets of Leavenworth, WA, lit up for Christmas
Leavenworth at Christmas

This beautiful little town, nestled high in the North Cascades east of Seattle, is completely Bavarian-themed, making it fun to visit any time of year. But in the winter, it is transformed into a magical Christmas dream, with the stunning Icicle Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, and 500,000 lights decorating the already gorgeous town. The festivities are kicked off the last week in November with the Christmas market, Christkindlmarkt, which boasts handmade gifts, Bavarian food, and entertainment, among other things.

A child and parent walk up a snow covered hill dragging a large yellow and green tube.
Tubing in Leavenworth

Then, beginning the first weekend in December, and lasting all month, a Christmas Lighting Ceremony occurs every Saturday and Sunday. The city hosts tons of events, including frequent visits from Santa Claus, music and dance performances, and kid’s activities. Plus, you’ll find skiing, sledding, tubing, ice skating, and even a really amazing reindeer farm right in the area making it a great holiday getaway for your family.

A child looks in the distance. Behind him, a reindeer is looking toward the camera
Leavenworth Reindeer Farm

Note:  Leavenworth is a popular destination in December. Expect restaurants to be crowded, and hotels to book up early.  

14. ZooLights at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma

Zoolights at Point Defiance is truly for animal lovers. Most of the lights displays depict animals, including an enormous crab, a huge turtle, and tons of baby animals. Plus kid will have the opportunity to feed goats, and ride a camel, or take a ride on the beautiful carousel. Head over early so that you can experience the zoo and aquarium while it’s fully open, then get a combo pass for a great price.  

Looking for more Christmas fun in the Pacific Northwest? Check out some of our favorites in Vancouver, B.C.

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