Guide to Christmas in Seattle and Tacoma: Lights, Shows, and Festivals

Pike's Place Market at Christmas

 John Westrock/CC/

The Northwestern cities of Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, play host to a variety of Christmas events and attractions each year. From holiday shopping to Christmas lights displays to cutting your own Christmas tree (and there's no finer place to do that than the Evergreen State!), you'll find plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday season in the Puget Sound region.

01 of 06

Check Out a Holiday Light Show

Christmas lights displays

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Colorful twinkling Christmas lights displays, whether decorating a house or an entire zoo, create that special festive atmosphere that lets people know the holiday season is here. Whether you take in holiday lights shows on a driving tour or on an outdoor stroll, there are numerous opportunities in and around the Seattle region this holiday season to see dazzling lights. The biggest tend to be at the area's zoos - Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma - as well as at the drive-through Fantasy Lights in Spanaway.

One of the most popular and unique shows in the region is the Christmas Ship Festival, which sees the Argosy Christmas Ships bedecked with lights in holiday parades on Lake Washington, Lake Union, and the Puget Sound on various dates throughout the month of December.

02 of 06

Enjoy a Christmas Concert or Performance

Each holiday season brings a number of traditional favorites to Seattle entertainment venues, including Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) annual production of "​The Nutcracker" and the A Contemporary Theater (ACT) Theatre's traditional performances of "A Christmas Carol." 

From religious pageants to comedic plays, there are plenty of special seasonal concerts and performances coming to the region in November and December this year. Be sure to check out the Tacoma City Ballet, the Puget Sound Revels, and the Northwest Boychoir for additional holiday performances coming to Seattle and Tacoma this holiday season.

03 of 06

Take Care of Your Holiday Shopping

While Christmas shopping may seem like a daunting task, the winter season in the Puget Sound brings lots of opportunities to take care of your gift giving needs. Whether you're looking for the perfect gift, trying to find unique decorations for your home, or stocking up for a special holiday feast, the stores in downtown Seattle, malls just outside of Seattle like Southcenter or Northgate, and shopping malls in Tacoma are great for discovering unique gifts this time of year.

Major gift shows like the Victorian Country Christmas and the Tacoma Holiday Food and Gift Festival are also popular ways to spend the day shopping and enjoying entertaining activities in celebration of the holiday season. If you're looking for hand-crafted items, these holiday festivals are the best destinations in the region this holiday season. 

04 of 06

Celebrate Winterfest at the Seattle Center

Winterfest Seattle Center
Kristin Kendle

The Seattle Center is an art, education, tourism and entertainment hub in Seattle near the Space Needle that hosts a month-long festival known as Winterfest each year. Winterfest offers fun for the whole family, including free concerts, dances, an Outdoor Classic Carousel and an ice rink.

Children and train aficionados will enjoy the Winter Train and Village (a giant train set) as it winds its way through an enchanting miniature village in the Armory. You'll also be able to enjoy weekly Saturday bonfire sing-alongs and ice carvings. Winterfest also commemorates Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and Interfaith celebrations.

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05 of 06

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree at a Local Farm

The Puget Sound is thick with evergreen forests, but you're not allowed to just go cutting down trees on anyone's property—even during the holiday season. Instead, you can head to a local tree farm near Seattle or Tacoma, many of which feature wintery perks like hot chocolate, visits with Santa, crafts and other fun, in addition to plenty of trees to choose from (and they usually help you shake out the tree, bind it and get it onto your car too).

The Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association offers a comprehensive guide to getting your own Christmas tree and taking proper care of it in the home to avoid fires or a wilted holiday tree.

06 of 06

Experience Magic in the Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market
Danita Delimont/Getty Images

Overlooking Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington, the Pike Place Market is a public marketplace that originally opened in 1907. Each November and December, the market kicks off the holiday season with the Magic in the Market, which includes the official Christmas tree lighting ceremony and numerous nights of caroling and concerts.

Nearby you'll find favorite attractions like the Seattle Aquarium (just down the long flight of stairs behind the market) and the Seattle Art Museum, which also features special holiday events throughout the season.

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