Seattle sure knows how to celebrate the holidays. From a spectacular parade and tree lighting ceremony with fireworks to giant gingerbread displays and indoor snow showers, 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 year, downtown Seattle has you covered. Flip through the gallery and start planning your visit.

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 40th year!). Since 1978, the talented members of the Dr. Forrest L. Flashman Guild have presented the Festival of Trees, a display of 21 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 12 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.

Location: Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University St., Seattle, Wa 98101
Dates: Nov. 18-29, 2017
Times: 24 hours a day
Cost: Free to view; $3,000-$4,000 to purchase
Online: seattlefestivaloftrees.com

photo: Sheraton Seattle Hotel

Sheraton Hotel Seattle Gingerbread Village

Hands down, one of the most beloved Seattle holiday traditions (now in its 25th year!) is the Sheraton 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 will marvel at this year’s larger-than-life gingerbread creations which will follow the theme, 25 Years of Cheer: A Celebration of Seattle. This year's display will give visitors the opportunity to stroll through Seattle’s cobblestone past and glimpse into its future, reflecting on what makes the city special. And each creation will be made entirely out of your favorite candies and treats. Psst! Don't forget to vote for your favorite.

Good to Know: This year's Gingerbread Village will be located across the street from the Sheraton at the City Centre building to accommodate the visually striking display. The relocation to City Centre is in part a result of the refresh currently underway at the hotel. With the Sheraton’s Gingerbread Village on display across the street, passerbys will be able to view part of the display through windows on both Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

Location: City Centre (new location) 1420 Fifth Ave., Ste. 450, Seattle, Wa 98101
Dates: Nov. 21, 2017-Jan. 1, 2018
Times: Mon.-Thurs., 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Fri., 6:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-12:30 a.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m.
Cost: Free ($5 suggested donation to support JDRF)
Onlinegingerbreadvillage.org

photo: Macy's

My 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.
Date: Nov. 24 2017
Time: 9 a.m.-10 a.m. (Macy's Santaland opens at 11 a.m.)
Cost: Free
Onlinemacys.com/social/events

photo: Fairmont Olympic Hotel

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 kiddos of all ages. Located inside the elegant Fairmont Olympic Hotel, the Teddy Bear Suite is exactly that and 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 photo of the kiddos (think cute, cuddly holiday cards) or chillax and enjoy a teddy bear-themed book. Psst! Be sure to stop by the lobby to check out the magnificent gingerbread display.

Location:  Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University St., Seattle, Wa 98101
Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 26, 2017
Times: Daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (including Christmas)
Cost: Free (donations encouraged for Seattle Children’s Hospital)
Onlinefairmont.com/seattle/activities-services/events-calendar

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. 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 31st year and the Westlake Park Holiday Market returns on select days from Nov. 24-Dec. 23, 2017.

Location: Westlake Center Plaza, 400 Pine St., Seattle, Wa 98101
Date: Nov. 24, 2017
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. Psst...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. 24, 2017
Time: Approximately 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. 

Holiday Tip: 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. 24, 2017-Jan. 1, 2018
Times: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; closed Christmas.
Special Holiday Hours: Nov. 24, 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 the weekends from Nov. 24-Dec. 23, 2017. 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
Date: Various dates Nov. 24 -Dec. 23, 2017
Cost: Free
Onlinedowntownseattle.org/events/holidays

Market Hours:
Nov. 24–26
Fri. & Sat.: noon–7 p.m.
Sun.: noon–5 p.m.

Dec. 1–Dec. 3
Fri.: noon–8:30 p.m. (extended hours due to Figgy Pudding caroling competition)
Sat.: noon–7 p.m.
Sun.: noon–5 p.m.

Dec. 8–10
Fri. & Sat.: noon–7 p.m.
Sun.: noon–5 p.m.

Dec. 15–Dec. 17
Fri. & Sat.: noon–7 p.m.
Sun.: noon–5 p.m.

Dec. 21–23
Thurs. & Fri.: noon–7 p.m.
Sat.: noon–7 p.m.

photo: Pacific Place

Snow Showers Inside Pacific Place

Who doesn't love a snow shower, especially when it doesn't interfere with your holiday shopping? Get into the holiday spirit, amid a flurry of snowflakes, each night in the Atrium at Pacific Place. This festive, indoor holiday activity is a crowd-pleaser for the young and old, and this year there will be two shows each day giving guests more opportunities to catch the flakes along with new music and lighting. Psst...the big guy in red arrives Nov. 24 and will take up residence in his life-size ornament bulb chair on Level 2 and will make appearances at each snow shower. Get your cameras ready! If you really want to make this a magical experience, purchase a Snowflake light-up wand available at the holiday gift wrap area. Wands are $5 with all proceeds going to the Forgotten Children’s Fund of Seattle.

Good to Know: Three larger-than-life illuminated signs spelling out the holiday words LOVE, JOY and GIVE will 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. Participants will then automatically be entered to win a $100 gift card to a Pacific Place store or restaurant of their choice. You must be 18 to enter. Five winners will be randomly selected by Friday, Dec. 29, 2017

Location: Pacific Place, 600 Pine St., Seattle Wa, 98101
Dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 24, 2017
Time: Mon-Sat., 6 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. & 6 p.m. (snow showers last 10 minutes)
Cost: Free
Onlinepacificplaceseattle.com/event/pacific-place-snow-show

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 Space Needle (even though it's currently undergoing a major remodel) 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!

Location: Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle, Wa 98109
Dates: Nov. 24, 2017-Jan. 1, 2018
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 caroling choirs. Everyone will also enjoy noshing on delish food from Market vendors while shopping for locally made gifts. 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 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. In addition to shopping for holiday gifts, Market craftsperson Gina Karaba will be demonstrating live glassblowing in the Pavilion. And on the first three Saturdays in December from 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m., local high school jazz combos will spread holiday cheer with live music in the Atrium.

Location: Pike Place Market, 1st Ave. & Pike St., Seattle, Wa 98101
Date: Nov. 25, 2017
Time: 11 a.m.-5:30 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.

Good to Know: Bring new socks to donate to Immanuel Community Services, a local homeless shelter, and receive $2 off regular-price MOHAI admission.

Location: Lake Union Park, 860 Terry Ave. N., Seattle, Wa 98109
Date: Nov. 25, 2017
Time: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free with regular admission; MOHAI members free
Onlinemohai.org/event/greet-the-season-celebrating-community

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, The Not-Its!, Recess Monkey) story times with Santa, marine mammal meet and greets and much more. View the entertainment schedule online.

Location: Seattle Aquarium, 1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle, Wa 98101
Dates : Nov., 25-27, Dec. 2-4, 9-11, 16-18 & 23-24, 2017
Times: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (live musical performances at 1 p.m.). Diving Santa on Sat., Sun. & Mon. at noon. & 3 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission or membership
Online: seattleaquarium.org/diving-santa

Providence O’Christmas Trees Christmas Carnival

Now in its 33rd 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 Christmas Carnival, spend the evening wrapped in the holiday spirit amidst 15 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, carnival games, exciting entertainment (including a rockin' performance by Caspar Babypants at 6 p.m.) cookies and milk, crafts and holiday story times. Psst! Don't forget to vote for your favorite tree.

Location: The Westin Seattle, 1900 5th Ave., Seattle, Wa 98101
Date: Nov. 27, 2017
Time: 3 p.m.-7 p.m.
Cost: Free
Onlinewashington.providence.org/donate/pscs-special-events/ochristmas-trees

Pioneer Square Howlidays

This annual event, presented by the Downtown Seattle Association, is now in its sixth year. Take your prized pooch and your pint-sized crew down to Occidental Square for a day of free entertainment, activities and treats—for dogs and people! Let your dog play in the pop-up pooch park and enjoy a doggy costume contest at noon.

Location: Occidental Square, 117 S. Washington St., Seattle, Wa 98104
Date: Dec. 9, 2017
Times: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost
: Free
Onlinepioneersquare.org

photo: 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. 14 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 food trucks to fill your tummies with good eats and hot cider to sip. 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. 14, 2017
Times: 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Cost
: Free
Online
seattleartmuseum.org/visit/calendar/events?EventId=57437

We want to hear from you! Where is your favorite place in downtown Seattle to take your family for holiday cheer?

— Kristina Moy

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

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