Holiday activities abound around the Emerald City during the holiday season, and the Eastside is no exception. If you and your kid crew are into lights, snowflakes, Santa and all that jazz– you’re in luck! We’ve compiled a list of the Eastside’s most holiday-inducing activities taking place from Renton to Snoqualmie and all stops in between. So bundle up your little elves and read on for 14 must-do Eastside holiday happenings.
If you really want to delight your kid crew this holiday season, head to Bellevue to celebrate with lights, music and plenty of dancing at the annual holiday spectacular known as Snowflake Lane. With the expansion of the Bellevue Collection, comes an expanded party complete with an extended parade route going from N.E. 4th to N.E. 8th Streets, falling snow and all your favorite holiday characters. And best of all, Santa himself joins the fun every night during the parade to help spread the cheer.
Snowflake Lanes opens on Fri., Nov. 23 with the season’s first parade followed by Santa lighting the 30 foot tree at the Bellevue Place Wintergarden. Santa will also be on hand for photos along with the cast of characters from Snowflake Lane. While this is a single night event, all season long Santa will be available for photos inside Bellevue Square Mall. Additionally, you can light up the holidays of less fortunate children and families in our area by choosing an ornament from the tree (located in Bellevue Square Center Court) and bringing back a wrapped holiday gift by Dec. 20. Donations will be distributed to children and families by the following non-profit organizations: Vision House, Bellevue LifeSpring, Eastside Baby Corner & Wellspring Family Services in time for Christmas.
Good to Know: Huge crowds flock to the festivities in Bellevue each night, so arrive early and plan accordingly. Early dinner reservations at one of the numerous restaurants will get you parked and near the action early. And be sure to take advantage of free parking at The Bellevue Collection, Bellevue Square, Lincoln Center and Bellevue Place.
Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018
Time: 7 p.m.
Between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square from N.E. 4th to N.E. 8th Streets
Bellevue, WA 98004
The Bravern Winter Illumination Holiday Lighting Party
This year, The Shops at The Bravern are getting in on the holiday action by hosting a Winter Illumination Lighting Party to showcase The Bravern's new LED, energy-efficient holiday light installation, all custom made in Italy. In addition to an amazing light display, families can enjoy a high-energy performance by the Sea Gals, watch Santa arrive in his luxury Rolls-Royce and sip on holiday beverages.
Good to Know: The Winter Illumination event at The Bravern is free and open to the public; register for tickets here. Complimentary six-hour parking validation will be available at any merchants without a spending requirement on the evening of Nov. 24.
Date: Nov. 24, 2018
Time: 6 p.m.-7 p.m.
The Shops at The Bravern
11111 N.E. 8th St.
Bellevue, WA 98004
Country Village Shops
If slightly fewer crowds are more your speed, head to Country Village Shops in Bothell. With thousands of magical lights, live reindeer, beautiful Santa photos and different events every weekend–this cute little spot has it all. Not to mention, one-of-a-kind shopping! The Littles will delight in strolling the grounds and taking it all in, day or night. And Santa will make his grand arrival on Sat., Dec. 1 along with festive fun all day long, including the Village's annual gingerbread house display and strolling carolers.
Good to Know: No reservations are needed to see Santa's arrival and pics will be available with the big guy in red through Christmas Eve.
Dates: Nov 23-Dec. 24, 2018
23718 Bothell Everett Hwy.
Bothell, WA 98021
Northwest Railway Museum Santa Train
If your little conductor is into Thomas the Train, or just simply wants to experience the literal rush of the season, then the Santa Train should be on the top of your Eastside holiday to-do list. Running only four weekends Nov. 24 through Dec. 16, the Santa Train is the Northwest Railway Museum’s most popular event. Departing from North Bend, the train makes a 20 minute, 3.5-mile trip to Snoqualmie. Once there, travelers will enter the fully restored and decorated 1890-built depot for a visit with Santa Claus. Hot cocoa and coffee is included along with fresh-baked cookies and a small gift for each child who visits with Santa.
Good to Know: Each year, over 11,000 people ride the Santa Train—and tickets went on sale in August— so snatch yours up pronto! There is no assigned seating, so get in line with those you want to sit with (and the Museum suggests 30 minutes prior to departure time). Also, make sure your little riders use the potty beforehand, as there is no bathroom on the train.
Dates: Nov. 24-25 and Dec. 1-2, 8-9 & 14-16, 2018. Ride a Victorian-themed train on Dec. 14 or the Special Needs train on Nov. 25 at 9 a.m. or noon.
Time: Trains depart hourly from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: $27/person (under 2 Free)
Tickets: Purchase online or in-person at the Snoqualmie Depot Bookstore
Northwest Railway Museum – North Bend Depot
205 E. McClellan St.
North Bend, WA 98065
Bellevue Downtown Ice Rink presented by Alaska Mileage Plan
Bellevue’s ice rink is back and in full effect at Downtown Bellevue Park. Boasting the region’s largest open-air ice rink, this prime skating spot is covered and open for skating rain or shine. With skate rentals, concessions, rockin’ holiday tunes and a variety of special events throughout the season, including learn to skate nights, free lessons, family skating, private parties, Stroller Skate Thursdays, Late Skate Fridays and Saturdays and Free Skate Mondays–this is the place to practice your triple toe loop!
Good to Know: Purchase a discount admission pass and receive 10 skating sessions and skate rentals for $99. Also, take advantage of reduced admission when you bring your own skates or pay with your Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card or skate for free on Mondays when you show your Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card or Bank of America debit or credit card. Offer is good for one free skate admission per card. Psst...Mondays in late December (24 & 31) will be busy due to schools' holiday breaks, so prepare for longer lines. Free three-hour parking is available while skating in the Bellevue Downtown Park parking lots; limited on-street parking is also available. View all available discounts here.
Dates: Nov. 23, 2018-Jan. 13, 2019
Hours: Varies. See times online (Fri. & Sat. late night skate until 11 p.m.)
Cost: $15/Adults; $10/Kids (8 & under) with skate rentals. $11/Adults; $6/Kids (8 & under) with your own skates. Discounted tickets available for members of the military, Bellevue College and Northwest University students, Bellevue Downtown Association members, KidsQuest Children's Museum members, Bellevue Arts Museum members and Bellevue Boys & Girls Club members.
Downtown Bellevue Park
100 100th Ave. N.E.
Bellevue, WA 98004
Redmond Lights celebrates the city of Redmond's diverse holiday traditions, cultures and faiths. On Dec. 1, experience this three-part progressive event by starting at the City Hall Campus tree lighting ceremony and fireworks show; then stroll down the Redmond Central Connector Luminary Walk; grab a sweet treat at Downtown Park; and end the evening at Redmond Town Center. Along the way, enjoy musical entertainment, refreshments and fun activities for the whole family and be sure to browse the unique homemade works from Northwest crafters at the Holiday Market at the Redmond Senior Center from noon-6 p.m.
On Sun., December 2, the holiday party continues. Starting at 5 p.m., take a peaceful stroll through the Redmond Central Connector and enjoy thousands of luminaries, light displays and artist installations. The evening culminates at Redmond’s new Downtown Park with interactive activities and a community sing-along.
Good to Know: Event parking is available at City Hall and at Redmond Town Center. Take advantage of the free shuttle between City Hall and Redmond Town Center from 3:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. on Sat., Dec. 1.
Dates: Dec. 1-2, 2018
Times: Dec. 1 Holiday Market open from noon-6 p.m.; tree lighting at 5 p.m.; fireworks show at 6 p.m. Dec. 2 events start at 5 p.m. at City Hall.
City Hall Campus
15670 N.E. 85th St.
Redmond, WA 98052
Redmond Town Center
7525 166th Ave. N.E.
Redmond, WA 98052
Evergreen City Ballet Nutcracker
New sets. New costumes. Newly renovated performance venues. New, new, new! Families will love this dazzling production of a cherished family favorite by Evergreen City Ballet. With three convenient performance venues, you’ll easily find a Nutcracker nearest you. And again this year, you can opt for the super kid-friendly, one-hour performance or go for the full-length, two-hour production–either way, you’re in for a treat!
Good to Know: Bring your cameras! Young Nutcracker fans can get photo ops with dancers in their costumes after each performance.
Meydenbauer Center Theatre
11100 N.E. 6th St.
Bellevue, WA 98004
Auburn Performing Arts Center
702 4th St. N.E.
Auburn, WA 98002
Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
400 S. 2nd St.
Renton, WA 98057
Dates: Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at Meydenbauer Center; Dec. 7-9 at Auburn Performing Arts Center; Dec. 14-16, 2018 at Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center. Check website for show times and production lengths.
Each year, over half a million twinkly, sparking, wow-worthy lights transform Bellevue’s Botanical Garden into a magical, winter wonderland. The 2018 season will d’light even the youngest of visitors with lighted shapes of plants, animals, flowers, birds–and even a cascading waterfall. And once again, musical groups will perform on select nights (check the website for the complete schedule). Psst...if your little elves need a little pick-me-up, coffee, tea, hot cocoa and snacks will be available for purchase in the Aaron Education Center.
Good to Know: Buy your tickets online (no longer date specific) and avoid standing in long lines at the gate or visit on a Free night–Nov. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 & 29, 2018. Usually all can be accommodated on free nights, but event staff will control the flow of visitors so there could be a wait. Premium parking in the Garden’s lot is available for $5/car or free parking is available at Wilburton Hill Park. Event parking is not allowed on Main Street and no dogs are allowed in the garden, so you'll have to leave Fido at home.
Dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 30 2018 (including holidays)
Time: 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. (lights go off at 9:30 p.m.)
Cost: $5/Adults; 10 & under Free
Bellevue Botanical Garden
12001 Main St.
Bellevue, WA 98005
Issaquah Reindeer Festival at Cougar Mountain Zoo
This season, experience the 31st Annual Issaquah Reindeer Festival at Cougar Mountain Zoo. This up-close and personal zoo not only features the unique sights of Santa’s reindeer, but a chance to sit in Santa's sleigh and take a picture with him in his house. During the month-long festival, kids can indulge in face painting, hear a story from one of Santa's elves and drop their Christmas wish lists in Santa's personal mailbox, plus feed treats to Santa’s other animals and meet his kittens and his Candy Cane makers.
Good to know: Make it a group outing (12 or more people) for a reduced per person admission.
Dates: Dec. 1-23, 2018
Time: 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (or dusk)
Cost: $15.50/Adults; $14.50/Seniors (62+); $12.50/Kids (2-12); under 2 Free
Cougar Mountain Zoo
19525 S.E. 54th St.
Issaquah, WA 98027
Ivar’s Clam Lights
Dance with the clams at Ivar’s 24th annual Clam Lights display at Gene Coulon Memorial Park in Renton. This dazzling display, designed for the whole fam, covers a mile-long loop around the park. The flat, walkable path is perfect for little feet or strollers and showcases professionally decorated trees and shrubs for maximum holiday wattage.
Good to Know: On Friday, Nov. 30, the official lighting will kick off with live music and the Argosy Christmas Ship, complete with The Dickens Carolers and the Rainier Yacht Club’s Parade of Boats right off the shore.
Dates: Nov. 30, 2018-Jan. 1, 2019
Time: 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Cost: Free (with free parking at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park)
Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park
1201 Lake Washington Blvd. N.
Renton, WA 98056
Redmond Town Center Winter Wonderland
Ring in the holiday season Redmond-style with spirited rides aboard RTC's holiday train or mini horse carousel, or twirl around the outdoor synthetic ice skating rink. Be sure to make a special visit to Santa for holiday photos and take in the sounds of the season with festive community performances throughout December and jump over to the Springfree Trampoline pop-up shop (open Thurs. & Fri. from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. and Sat. & Sun. from noon-4 p.m.) to work off the holiday crazies. Your little scout elves can even search for Stripes, the sneaky Candy Cane, and once found, report his whereabouts to Security/Guest Services to receive a special prize! Stripes moves to a new location every Friday, so look for a new clue each week.
Good to Know: Bundle up in your warmest mittens, scarves and coats as all activities are outside, with the exception of Santa who dwells in a warm hut, so photos are rain free. This year’s ice rink is also covered and can be found on the pedestrian-only Main Street. And Santa will arrive on Nov. 23, so everyone can read him their wish lists in time for Christmas. Psst...Mondays are pet photo days; Tuesdays (Nov 27 and Dec 4 & 11) are Santa Story Time days at Brick & Mortar Books at 9:45 am; and Wednesdays (Nov 28 and Dec 5 & 12) at 9:45 a.m. are Quiet Days for those who need a quieter atmosphere with Santa.
Dates: Nov. 23, 2018-Jan 6, 2019
Times: Most activities are open daily; times vary. Check the website for details.
Cost: Prices vary
Redmond Town Center
7525 166th Ave. N.E.
Redmond, WA 98052
Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship Festival
There’s just something about the Christmas Ship and Parade of Boats that really makes the season sing. Join on-board choirs, twinkling lights and lots of holiday cheer or listen and enjoy from the shoreline at Gene Coulon Beach Park, Medina, Houghton Beach or Juanita Beach throughout the festival. Parade routes, choirs and songs vary nightly, but the watery spectacle is always a festive holiday favorite.
Good to know: Tickets to ride on the official Christmas Ship and Follow Boat fill up quickly (some days are already sold out), so book now if you want an on-the-water holiday experience.
Times: Varies; view schedule online.
Cost: Free to watch from shore; $22-$68 to ride the Christmas Ship or Parade Boat
‘Twas the Night… at Studio East
A hilarious take on the classic holiday poem, ‘Twas the Night... is sure to leave the whole family in stitches. From the talented Studio East team, this cute and creative holiday musical is now in its 18th year, but in true Studio East tradition, includes new surprises each year to keep it fresh and fun.
Dates: Dec. 1-23, 2018 (Saturdays & Sundays)
Times: 11 a.m., 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. (shows runs 90 minutes, including intermission)
Cost: $20/person (best for ages 4 & older)
11730 118th Ave. N.E., Suite 100
Kirkland, WA 98034
Online and tickets: studio-east.org/twas-the-night
Celebrate Woodinville: Winterfest 2018
Taking place on Dec. 1, Woodinville's Winterfest features a festive tree lighting and early morning 5k and 10k race, along with Santa photos and a holiday fair. Kick off the festivities on Saturday morning by tying on your kicks and walking, jogging or rolling your way to DeYoung’s Park in this year's family 5k and 10k. Then, take in the holiday fair from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and enjoy live music and complimentary s'mores and hot apple cider, and be sure to stick around for the festive Santa procession before the official tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m.
13680 N.E. 175th St.
Woodinville, WA 98072
—Kristina Moy & Jennifer B. Davis