Holiday happenings abound around the Emerald City this time of year, 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 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, grab your camera and click through the gallery for 15 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, falling snow and all your favorite holiday characters. And best of all, Santa himself now joins the fun every night during the parade to help spread the cheer.
Snowflake Lanes opens on Fri., Nov. 24 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 made to Eastside Baby Corner, WellSpring, Imagine Housing and Bellevue LifeSpring 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. 24-Dec. 24, 2017
Time: 7 p.m.
Between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square from N.E. 4th to N.E. 8th Streets
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. 2 along with festive fun all day long, including the Village's annual gingerbread house display and strolling carolers, plus a surprise visit from the Grinch! 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 24-Dec. 24, 2017
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 holiday to-do list. Running only four weekends Nov. 25 through Dec. 17, 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. 25-26 and Dec. 2-3, 9-10 & 15-17, 2017. (Ride a Victorian-themed train on Dec. 15 or the Special Needs train on Nov. 26 at 9 a.m.)
Time: Trains depart hourly from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: $26/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 Magic Season Ice Arena
Bellevue’s ice arena is back and in full effect at Downtown Bellevue Park. Boasting the region’s largest open-air holiday ice rink, this arena is covered and open for skating rain or shine. With skate rentals, concessions, rockin’ holiday tunes from STAR 101.5 and a variety of special events throughout the season – including learn to skate nights, free lessons, family skating, private parties, Stroller Skate Thursdays 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 rental for $95. Also, take advantage of reduced admission when you bring your own skates 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 (19 & 26) 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.
Dates: Nov. 24, 2016-Jan. 15, 2018
Hours: Varies. See times online (Fri. & Sat. late night skate until 11 p.m.)
Cost: $14/Adults; $10/Kids (8 & under). Includes $4 skate rental fee. $10/Military and Bellevue College discounted adult tickets.
Downtown Bellevue Park
10201 N.E. 4th St
Bellevue, Wa 98004
Redmond Lights celebrates the City's diverse holiday traditions, cultures and faiths. Experience this three-part progressive event by starting at the City Hall Campus Tree Lighting; then stroll down the Redmond Central Connector Luminary Walk; and end the evening at Redmond Town Center.
Starting at 4 p.m. on Dec. 2, enjoy live holiday music and entertainment as well as the lighting of the city's tree by Redmond's mayor. Immediately following the tree lighting, there will be a fireworks show before it's time to take a magical winter walk along the Redmond Central Connector, which will be lined with hundreds of luminaries and lights, to Redmond Town Center. Once you reach RTC, enjoy warm beverages, kids' crafts and entertainment from the community. Psst...you can expect musical entertainment, refreshments and fun activities along the luminary walk.
Good to Know: Free parking and complimentary shuttles will be available between City Hall and Redmond Town Center on Dec. 2. The RTC program ends at 8 p.m., with shuttles running from 3:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Date: Dec. 2, 2017
Time: 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
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 near you. And this year, you can opt for the super kid-friendly, one-hour performance or the full-length, two-hour production – either way, you’re in for a treat. Psst..the Heritage Symphony Orchestra will play live during the evening performances on Fri., Nov. 24 & Sun., Nov. 26, so mark your calendars!
Good to Know: Bring your cameras! Young Nutcracker fans can get photo ops with dancers in their costumes after each performance.
The Theatre at Meydenbauer
11100 N.E. 6th St.
Bellevue, Wa 98004
Dates: Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. (full-length with HS Orchestra); Nov. 25 at 11 a.m. & 3 p.m. (one hour) & 7 p.m. (full-length); Nov. 26 at 1:30 p.m. (one hour) & 5:30 p.m. (full-length with HS Orchestra); Dec. 2 at 11 a.m. & 3 p.m. (one hour) and 7 p.m. (full-length); Dec. 3 at 1:30 p.m. (one hour) and 5:30 p.m. (full-length).
Auburn Performing Arts Center
702 4th St. N.E.
Auburn, Wa 98002
Dates: Dec. 9 at 11 a.m. (one hour) & 5:30 p.m. (full-length); Dec. 10 at 11 a.m. (one hour) and & 4:30 p.m. (full-length)
Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
400 S. 2nd St.
Renton, Wa 98057
Dates: Dec. 16 at 1:30 p.m. & 7 p.m.(full-length); Dec. 17 at 1:30 p.m. (1 hour) & 5:30 p.m. (full-length)
Each year, over half a million twinkly, sparking, wow-worthy lights transform Bellevue’s Botanical Garden into a magical, winter wonderland. The 2017 season will d’light even the youngest of visitors with lighted shapes of plants, animals, flowers, birds – and even a cascading waterfall. And new this year, musical groups will be perform on select nights (check the website for the complete schedule). Psst...if your little elves need a pick-me-up, coffee, tea, hot cocoa and snacks are available for purchase in the 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. 27, 28, 29, 30 or Dec 4, 5, 6, 7, 2017. 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. 25-Dec. 31 2017 (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 30th 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, 2017
Time: 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (or dusk)
Cost: $14.50/Adults; $12.50/Seniors (62+); $10.50/Kids (2-12); 2 & under Free
Cougar Mountain Zoo
19525 S.E. 54th St.
Issaquah, Wa 98027
Ivar’s Clam Lights
Dance with the clams at Ivar’s 23nd 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. And 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, Dec. 1, the official lighting will kick off with live music and the Argosy Christmas Ship, complete with Dickens Carolers and the Rainier Yacht Club’s Parade of Boats right off the shore.
Dates: Dec. 1, 2017-Jan. 1, 2018
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
Winter Wonderland at Redmond Town Center
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 to work off the holiday crazies. Your little scout elves can search for Stripes, the sneaky Candy Cane, and once found, report his whereabouts to Security/Guest Services and receive a specia prize! Stripes moves to a new location every Friday, so look for a new clue on RTC's Instagram page.
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 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. 24, so everyone can read him their wish lists in time for Christmas. Psst...Mondays are pet photo days; Tuesdays (Nov. 28 and Dec. 5 & 12) are Santa Story Time days at Brick & Mortar Books at 9:45 am; and Wednesdays (Nov. 28 & Dec. 5) are Quiet Days (for those who need a quieter atmosphere with Santa) at 9:45 a.m.
Dates: Nov. 24, 2017-Jan 1, 2018
Times: Most activities are open 7 days a week; 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 Coulon Park, Media Park, 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.
Eastside On Shore Dates: Nov. 25 at 6:40 p.m. at Kirkland Marina Park; Dec. 1 at 7:05 p.m. at Coulon Beach Park; Dec. 3 at 3:40 p.m. at Newcastle Beach Park; Dec 17 at 3:05 p.m. at Medina Community Park and 3:55 p.m. at Carillon Point; Dec 18 at 7:20 p.m. at Juanita Beach Park; Dec. 21 at 2:40 p.m. at Kirkland Marina Park; Dec 22 at 7:50 p.m. at Luther Burbank Park and 8:50 p.m. at Yarrow Point; Dec. 23 at 2:45 p.m. at Waverly Beach Park and 3:50 p.m. at Houghton Beach.
Times: Varies; view schedule online.
Cost: Free to watch from shore; $20-$62 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 have the whole family in stitches. From the talented Studio East team, this cute and creative holiday musical is now in its 16th year, but in true Studio East tradition, includes new surprises each year to keep it fresh and fun.
Dates: Nov. 25-Dec. 17, 2017 (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)
Buy tickets: studio-east.org/boxoffice
11730 118th Ave. N.E., Suite 100
Kirkland, Wa 98034
Celebrate Woodinville Winterfest
Happening Dec. 1 & 2, Woodinville's Winterfest features a festive tree lighting and early morning 5k race, along with Santa photos and a street fair. Kick off the festivities on Fri., Dec. 1 with a holiday procession with Santa and his elves prior to the tree lighting. On Saturday morning, tie on your kicks and walk, jog or roll your way to DeYoung’s Park for a family 5k. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. everyone can delight in community holiday spirit with Santa photos, local bites (and spirits for the 21 & older crowd) as well as activities and crafts at the street fair.
13680 N.E. 175th St.
Woodinville, Wa 98072
If low-key local is your speed this holiday season, then mosey on down to George’s (diner) in Kirkland and experience a relaxing night far from the mall lines, yet complete with Santa and his elves. Featuring festive decorations, Christmas carols by the Cottage Lake Glee Club, cookie decorating and, of course, dinner, this is the way to do it. Santa portraits will be available for purchase and no reservations are needed – this is a first-come, first-serve event.
Date: Dec. 9, 2017
Time: 5 p.m.–8 p.m.
108 Kirkland Ave.
Kirkland, Wa 98033
Brunch with Santa at Sugar Factory
Fresh off its grand opening, Sugar Factory Bellevue located at The Shops at the Bravern is decked out in holiday decorations and will be welcoming guests to Brunch with Santa during December. During these sweet events, families can enjoy signature cocktails and mouthwatering menu items as well as pics with the big guy in red, free valet parking, a gift bag and more. Brunch with Santa will take place on Dec. 2 & 9 and reservations are required by calling Sugar Factory at 425-454-0313. Note: At the time of booking, staff will take down credit card info to pre-pay for brunch.
Dates: Dec. 2 & 9, 2017
Time: 10 a.m.–noon
Cost: $39/Adults; $29/Kids
Sugar Factory Bellevue
11111 N.E. 8th St., Ste. 120
Bellevue, Wa 98004
Does your family have a favorite Eastside holiday attraction? Tell us in the comments below!
— Jennifer B. Davis