We have many different ways to celebrate Christmas in the Northwest. Our mountains and forests are great places to go choose and cut your own tree or to enjoy snow sports such as tubing and skiing. Holiday parades, tree lighting ceremonies and craft fairs are offered in almost every community, making it a great time for a Christmas-themed getaway.
Christmas Parades in the Northwest
Santa often makes his first appearance of the season at Christmas parades. As many Northwest cities are on or near the water, the Northwest has a tradition of boat and ship parades, where the decorations and lights reflect off the water. The effect is simply beautiful. Many of these holiday parades take place during the days following Thanksgiving, while others run throughout the season.
- Parade of Lights in Missoula, Montana: Santa headlines this festive one-day-only holiday parade through downtown Missoula.
- Portland Christmas Ship Parade in Portland, Oregon: Portland's Christmas Ship Parade is an annual event that usually spans a couple of weeks on the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
- Downtown Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony in Seattle, Washington: This annual Westlake Center celebration includes a giant Christmas tree lighting at the beginning of the season, but visit Westlake Park for a classic carousel and twinkly lights all season long.
- Christmas Ship Festival throughout the Puget Sound: Headed up by an Argosy cruise ship decked out to the nines (aka the Christmas Ship) and often joined by follow boats, you can join in by riding the Christmas Ship, riding on the 21+ official follow boat, or waiting on shore.
- Cheyenne Christmas Parade in Cheyenne, Wyoming: All the traditional parade fun with a Christmas theme.
Christmas Light Shows and Festivals in the Northwest
The twinkles and color of lights are everywhere in the Northwest during the holiday season, whether on a yacht, a downtown storefront or a path at the zoo.
- Holiday Lights Show at The Coeur d'Alene Resort in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho: The whole family can enjoy holiday lights, fireworks, and festive lake cruises throughout the Christmas season at The Coeur d'Alene Resort. Best of all, stay at the resort and make a holiday weekend out of the fun.
- Zoolights at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon: Every holiday season the Oregon Zoo becomes a Christmas wonderland of colorful lights and decorations, many of which are wildlife themed.
- Portland Courthouse Square Tree Lighting in Portland, Oregon: This annual tree lighting ceremony is held on Thanksgiving evening at Portland's Courthouse Square to kick off the holiday season.
- Christmas Lighting Festival in Leavenworth, Washington: Live music, food and festivities in Leavenworth's Front Street Park. The Lighting Festival happens on several dates throughout December, but even if you can't make it, the entire Bavarian town of Leavenworth is festive and fun all month long.
Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma: With more than 700,000 lights throughout the hundreds of displays at Point Defiance, this is one of the largest lights displays in the region.
- Wildlights at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle: Both of Western Washington's zoos put on large-scale lights displays for the holidays and you can't go wrong with either one. Explore the wildlife-themed Christmas lights displays all through December.
- Garden d'Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden in Bellevue: Bellevue Botanical Garden becomes a twinkly winter wonderland throughout December. Enjoy botanically themed Christmas lights displays while you wander the gardens.
- The Grotto Christmas Festival of Lights in Portland, Oregon: The Grotto, a 62-acre Catholic Shrine and botanical garden in Portland, puts on a fantastic and moving Christmas Festival of Lights each year.
- Winter Garden aGlow in Boise, Idaho: The Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise decorates their grounds in 250,000 twinkling lights to celebrate the winter holiday season.
Outdoor Christmas Fun in the Northwest
It might be more than a bit chilly, but getting outdoors during the Christmas season can be fun for the whole family. Most of these outdoor events include hot cocoa or fresh doughnuts, making them an extra special treat.
- Cut Your Own Christmas Tree: The Northwest's national forests sell permits allowing you to cut your own tree. You'll also find U-cut Christmas tree farms throughout the Northwest, too, and often you barely have to venture out of the cities to find the farms.
Holiday Trains in the Northwest
Kids love Christmas and they love trains -- combine the two and you're sure to have some serious holiday fun.
- Christmas Holiday Train in Anchorage, Alaska: This family-friendly Alaska Railroad event includes Santa, sweet treats, and festive and scenic train ride.
- Christmas Trains at Mount Hood Railroad in Hood River, Oregon: Mount Hood Railroad offers a number of Christmas-themed trains, including The Polar Express, Christmas Tree Trains, and Holiday Brunch Trains.
- The Polar Express near Mt. Rainier: If you love The Polar Express movie, this is the charming holiday experience for you. Ride on a historic railroad while you are entertained by chefs, drink hot chocolate, and listen to Christmas stories.