Seattle sure knows how to get into the holiday spirit. From a spectacular holiday parade to a tree lighting ceremony with fireworks and giant gingerbread displays, the Emerald City pulls out all the stops when it comes to spreading holiday cheer. Whatever level of merriment you and your little elves are looking for this holiday season, downtown Seattle has you covered. Read on to learn more.

photo: Festival of Trees

Festival of Trees

Whether you're looking for ideas for your own tree this year or just want to gawk at some amazing showstoppers, start your holiday season off with this time-honored tradition now in its 41st year! Since 1978, the talented members of the Dr. Forrest L. Flashman Guild have presented the Festival of Trees, a display of 24 beautifully decorated Christmas trees, each with its own unique theme and style. In addition to viewing the trees, read inspiring stories of courageous Seattle Children’s Hospital patients. This festival is only on display for 16 days, so make plans now before they're gone. Proceeds from the tree sales benefit the Seattle Children's Hospital Autism Center and Uncompensated Care program. 

Location: Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University St., Seattle, WA 98101
Dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 2, 2018
Times: 24-hours a day
Cost: Free to view; $3,500-$4,000 to purchase
Online: seattlefestivaloftrees.com

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photo: Sheraton Seattle Hotel

Sheraton Grand Seattle Hotel Gingerbread Village

Hands down, one of the most beloved Seattle holiday traditions (now in its 26th year!) is the Sheraton Grand Seattle’s Annual Gingerbread Village. Each year, local architecture firms team up with the Sheraton Seattle culinary team to custom design, bake, and build out of this world gingerbread displays as a fundraiser for the Northwest chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Onlookers of all ages can marvel at this year’s larger-than-life gingerbread creations inspired by famous scenes from the beloved children's story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Expect to see the city of Whooville's main square, Mount Crumpet and all your fave Whoville characters made entirely out of candies and treats. Psst...don't forget to vote for your favorite!

Good to Know: This year's Gingerbread Village will be back at the Sheraton Grand Seattle, with a newly designed setup for a truly outstanding experience within the village.

Location: Sheraton Grand Seattle, 1400 6th Ave., Seattle, WA 98101
Dates: Nov. 20, 2018-Jan. 1, 2019
Times: Nov. 20-Dec. 20, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Dec. 21-27, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Dec. 28-Jan. 1, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free ($5 suggested donation to support JDRF)
Onlinegingerbreadvillage.org

photo: Macy's

28th Annual Macy's Holiday Parade

We can't think of a better way to welcome the holiday season than watching inflatable floats, marching bands, costumed characters, pro sports teams, community drill teams and, of course, Santa Claus travel through the streets of downtown Seattle. On the day after Thanksgiving, bundle up your crew and grab a curbside seat and a cup of hot cocoa for this annual parade. The parade will wind its way through the streets of Seattle to Macy’s doorstep. Psst! Once Santa arrives at Macy’s, he will dash over to his Seattle holiday post in Macy’s Santaland.

Location: 7th & Pine St. to 5th Ave. to University St. & 4th Ave., Seattle WA 
Date: Nov. 23 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-10 a.m. (Macy's Santaland opens at 11 a.m.)
Cost: Free
Onlinemacys.com/social/events

photo: Enchant Christmas

Enchant Christmas

A whole new holiday experience is coming to downtown Seattle this year along with the big guy in red himself. From Nov. 23 to Dec. 30, Safeco Field will be transformed into Enchant Christmas, an immersive holiday experience featuring the world’s largest light maze, an ice skating trail, live entertainment, holiday shops and even snow! If you're looking for a fun activity to add to your downtown adventure, Enchant Christmas will not disappoint. Best part? It will be open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for families looking for a bit more excitement and Christmas magic on Dec. 24 and 25.

Good to Know: Enchant Christmas will be closed on Nov. 26 and Dec. 3 & 10.

Location: Safeco Field, 1250 1st Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98134
Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 30, 2018
Times: Mon.-Thurs., 4 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 4 p.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.-10 
Cost: $19.99 to $69.99 (3 & under Free)
Onlineenchantchristmas.com/seattle

photo: Danielle Fernandez

Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel

Big bears, lil’ bears, brown bears, white bears! This beary special holiday event is a must-see for kids of all ages. Located inside the elegant Fairmont Olympic Hotel, the Teddy Bear Suite is exactly that and so much more. See teddy bears galore along with beautiful holiday decorations and Christmas trees. The Teddy Bear Suite is also the perfect spot to grab a holiday photo of the kids (think: cute, cuddly holiday cards) or chillax and enjoy a teddy bear-themed book. Psst...after visiting the Teddy Bear Suite on the second floor, stop by the lower lobby to check out the hotel's magnificent gingerbread display made out of 4,000 real gingerbread bricks!

Location:  Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University St., Seattle, WA 98101
Dates: Nov. 22-Dec. 26, 2018
Times: Daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (including Thanksgiving & Christmas)
Cost: Free (donations encouraged for Seattle Children’s Hospital)
Onlinefairmont.com/seattle/activities-services/holidays-at-fairmont-olympic

photo: Downtown Seattle Association

Westlake Center Tree Lighting Celebration

This year’s tree lighting celebration will once again take place the day after Thanksgiving, so get there early to stake out a spot, because the crowds will be full and festive. Music and fake snow is on the agenda and everything will kick off around 4:30 p.m. with the lighting of the Westlake Center holiday tree and Macy’s Star at 5 p.m. Psst...we hear the big guy in red will be making an appearance, so get those cameras ready!

Good to Know: The day after Thanksgiving marks the opening of festive attractions and events lasting more than a month in Westlake Park. DSA’s iconic holiday carousel whirls into action for the 32nd year and the Westlake Park Holiday Market returns November through January.

Location: Westlake Center Plaza, 400 Pine St., Seattle, WA 98101
Date: Nov. 23, 2018
Time: 4:30 p.m. (tree lighting takes place around 5 p.m.)
Cost: Free
Onlinedowntownseattle.org/events/holidays

photo: Macy's

Macy’s Holiday Star Lighting Ceremony & Fireworks

In conjunction with Westlake Center’s tree lighting celebration, see the famous 161-foot high, 3,600-bulb Macy’s Holiday Star light up the streets of downtown Seattle to welcome the holiday season. Be sure to stick around for the fireworks show which will take place after the ceremony (weather permitting).

Location: Westlake Center Plaza, 400 Pine St., Seattle, WA 98101
Date: Nov. 23, 2018
Time: 5 p.m.
Cost: Free
Onlinemacys.com/social/events

photo: Downtown Seattle Association

DSA’s Holiday Carousel

Whirl and twirl your holiday cares away on this outdoor, old-fashioned carousel in Westlake Park. This whimsical ride is a great old (or new) holiday tradition for kids and a great trip down memory lane for mom and dad. After you ride the carousel, take a time-out from the hustle and bustle to enjoy daily food trucks during the lunch and dinner hours. Trucks will be on site throughout the holiday season. Psst...if you’re looking for a fun Christmas Eve activity, the carousel will be open until 5 p.m.

Location: Westlake Park, 401 Pine St., Seattle, WA 98109
Dates: Nov. 23, 2018-Jan. 1, 2019
Times: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; closed Christmas.
Special Holiday Hours: Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Dec. 24, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. 31, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $3/person (suggested donation for Treehouse)
Onlinedowntownseattle.org/events/holidays

photo: Downtown Seattle Association

Westlake Park Holiday Market

Back by popular demand, the Holiday Market will return to Westlake Park on various dates Nov. 2018 through Jan. 2019. This year's market will showcase Urban Craft Uprising artisans offering unique and completely handmade gifts, with new vendors on-site each week.

Location: Westlake Center Plaza, 400 Pine St., Seattle, WA 98101
Dates: Weekends Nov. 2018-Jan. 2019
Cost: Free
Onlinedowntownseattle.org/events/holidays

Market Hours: 2018 market hours TBD

photo: Pacific Place

Big Screen Sing-Along at Pacific Place

Starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through New Year's Eve, Pacific Place visitors can participate in a cheerful 12-minute sing-along to a host of holiday hits. Don't know the words? No worries. The words to the songs will be projected on a 40-foot-tall screen in Pacific Place's Atrium. And if you happen to take in one of the weekend sing-alongs, be sure to look for the strolling entertainment. Each Saturday from Nov. 23 through Dec. 24, an electric violinist, duets and trios, Glee-style performers and a gospel choir will provide strolling entertainment for visitors on Levels one through four. Plus, on Dec. 22 & 23, the weekend before Christmas, there will be additional surprise entertainment.

Good to Know: Three larger-than-life illuminated signs spelling out the holiday words LOVE, JOY and GIVE will once again be located around Pacific Place. Snap a family pic or a selfie in front of the festive words during the season and upload your pics to Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #PacificPlaceJOY. 

Location: Pacific Place, 600 Pine St., Seattle, WA 98101
Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 31, 2018
Time: Mon.-Sat., 6 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m. & 6 p.m. 
Cost: Free
Onlinepacificplaceseattle.com/event/big-holiday-2018

photo: Amy Huey

Seattle Center Winterfest

After you see the sights and sounds of downtown, hop on the Monorail and head to the Seattle Center for lots of free and affordable holiday activities and entertainment. Glide into the holiday season at the Winterfest Ice Arena, drive a miniature locomotive through a turn-of-the-century village inside the Armory, watch ice sculpting demonstrations, listen to Dicken’s Carolers and see performances by more than 100 different student groups. Plus, enjoy a fireworks show and concert on New Year’s Eve or take a trip to the top of the newly renovated Space Needle to take in the Christmas lights from atop of Seattle’s premiere tower and to tell St. Nick what's on your Christmas list. Psst...keep an eye out for the Coca-Cola free skate day; that's when skate rentals and ice skating are totally free!

Holiday Extra: On Dec. 27, The Not-Its! will perform a free show inside the Armory from 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m and Alex Zerbe, Seattle's funniest prop comic, will perform on Dec. 29 from 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. 

Location: Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle, WA 98109
Dates:Nov. 23, 2018-Jan. 6, 2019
Times:10 a.m.–8 p.m. (check the website for specific activity times and entertainment schedules)
Cost: All activities are free except ice skating
Onlineseattlecenter.com/winterfest

photo: Pike Place Market

Magic in the Market

Each year, the Pike Place Market gets in on the holiday action with its Magic in the Market event. This year, your kid crew can meet Santa under the Market's iconic clock and take free photos with the jolly ol' fella, plus decorate cookies in the Market Atrium Kitchen and listen to festive live musical performances. Everyone will also enjoy noshing on delish food from Market vendors (think: hot chocolate, cider and donuts) while shopping for locally made gifts.

Holiday Extra: At 5 p.m., Santa will lead a countdown to the lighting of the 20-foot holiday tree and lights throughout the Market.

Good to Know: This year's festivities will once again include Stockings and Stuffers, a shopping event in the MarketFront Pavilion. Stockings and Stuffers will feature more than 15 Market craftspeople and artists selling specially made holiday stockings and small gifts to stuff them with. 

Location: Pike Place Market, 1st Ave. & Pike St., Seattle, WA 98101
Date: Nov. 24, 2018
Time: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: Free
Onlinepikeplacemarket.org/events/magic-in-the-market-holiday-celebration

photo: Barbie Hull Photography

Greet the Season at MOHAI

South Lake Union is going to be the place to be on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Celebrate the holiday season with MOHAI, The Center for Wooden Boats and the Historic Ships Wharf with a day filled with music, dance workshops and family-friendly crafts, plus the launch of the Argosy Christmas Ship Festival at 8 p.m.

Holiday Extra: The Faye G. Allen Grand Atrium will play host to a miniature wonderland courtesy of the 4th Division of the Pacific Northwest Region of the National Model Railroad Association. Stop by Friday through Sunday for a festive model train show sure to delight visitors of all ages!

Location: Lake Union Park, 860 Terry Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98109
Date: Nov. 24, 2018
Time: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Cost: Free with regular admission; MOHAI members Free
Onlinemohai.org/event/greet-the-season

Diving Santa

Did you know that when Santa isn’t supervising elves and delivering toys, he's scuba diving? Come see for yourself when he dives in the Seattle Aquarium’s Window on Washington Waters exhibit this holiday season. Plus, enjoy live holiday music with some of your fave kindie rockers (think: Caspar Babypants, Recess Monkey) story times with Santa, marine mammal meet and greets and much more. View the full entertainment schedule online.

Location: Seattle Aquarium, 1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101
DatesNov. 23–26, Nov. 30–Dec. 3, Dec. 7–10, 14–17 & 21–24, 2018
Times: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (live musical performances at 1 p.m.). Diving Santa on Fridays & Mondays at noon; Saturdays & Sundays at noon and 3 p.m. On Dec. 24, the Aquarium closes at 3 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission or membership
Online: seattleaquarium.org/diving-santa

Providence O’Christmas Trees Family Preview

Now in its 34th year, Providence O'Christmas Trees raises funds for the ministries of Providence Senior and Community Services through its three signature holiday events. At this year's Family Preview, spend the afternoon wrapped in the holiday spirit amidst 14 full size exquisitely designed trees that will be auctioned off at the Providence O’Christmas Trees Gala Dinner & Auction. For the kiddies, there will be pictures with Santa, festive entertainment, arts and crafts, milk and cookies, special treats from community partners and raffle tickets for sale for awesome kids' gift baskets. Psst...don't forget to vote for your favorite tree!

Location: The Westin Seattle, 1900 5th Ave., Seattle, WA 98101
Date: Nov. 26, 2018
Time: 3 p.m.-7 p.m.
Cost: Free
Onlinewashington.providence.org/donate/giving/ochristmas-trees/events/family-preview

photo: Nathaniel Willson for Seattle Art Museum

SAM Lights: A Winter Evening of Art, Music & Lights

Back by popular demand, SAM's magical light and luminary display returns to Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s a one night only deal on Thurs., Dec. 13 and it's where art lovers of all ages can walk the paths alight with luminaries, hundreds of lights and the looming shadows of their favorite outdoor installations in the background. Once you’ve walked the grounds, warm up inside the Pavilion and let your little artist play with blocks and create his or her own delightful artwork at the Kids’ Play Station. All that’s left is a little music to set the mood and some sips and bites to fill your tummies. Come dressed in your best light-inspired ensemble and become a part of the night!

Location: Olympic Sculpture Park, 2901 Western Ave., Seattle, WA 98121
Dates: Dec. 13, 2018
Times: 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Cost
: Free
Online
seattleartmuseum.org/visit/calendar/events?eventid=62111

—Kristina Moy

To find more Christmas season events and activities in Seattle click here!

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