Cruise into the Holidays: 59 Ways to See the Christmas Ship Festival

Whether you’re a native of Seattle or new to the Emerald City, the Christmas Ship Festival is one Northwest holiday tradition that never gets old. Starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through December 23, the ship parade route covers over 45 different waterfront communities around Lake Washington and Puget Sound. To help you map out where to see the ships, we’ve rounded up the best viewing spots on shore (‘round a roaring bonfire), on board (with St. Nick) or at a waterfront restaurant.

christmas ship

 photo: Argosy Cruises 

Ride the Christmas Ship
Every year Argosy Cruises pulls out all the stops with the spectacularly decorated Spirit of Seattle, the designated Christmas Ship that all the other boats follow. On board, a local choir sings 20-minute programs at scheduled shore side locations (see schedule below), and Santa mingles with the kiddos. Other on-board activities include sing-a-longs, contests and prizes, and a children’s activity corner. The boat has two fully enclosed, heated decks, one outside deck, restrooms, and a cash bar. While cruisin’ the waters, you can enjoy snacks, chowder and beverages or pre-purchased boxed meals. Cost: $35.50/adults; $32/seniors; $19.50/kids (4–12), 3 & under free. $65/adults on Dec. 23 finale. Reserve online or call 888-623-1445 or 206-622-8687.

Ride a Parade Ship
Parade Ships follow the Christmas Ship but don’t have an on-board choir. Fully enclosed with outside areas, restrooms, and a cash bar, parade ships also include sing-a-longs, craft bags for the kids, contests and prizes as well as snacks, chowder, beverages and pre-ordered boxed meals. All parade ships position themselves alongside the Christmas Ship so all can enjoy the choral performances. And just like Christmas Ship, the Parade Ships will have a Santa onboard as well as a cruise director guiding you through the evening. Cost: $25.25/adults; $22.75/seniors; $12.25/kids (4-12), 3 & under free. $35/adults on Dec. 23 finale. Reserve online or call 888-623-1445 or 206-622-8687.

Argosy Christmas Ship

Family Dinner Cruise & Buffet
This option allows families to enjoy the parade on-board the elegantly appointed Royal Argosy while enjoying a three-course dinner including a Northwest-infused buffet (freshly prepared on board). Good to know: The Royal Argosy only follows the parade on some evenings so be sure to check the schedule or call if you want to ride this boat on a parade night. Cost: Sun.-Thurs., $89/adults & seniors; $39/kids (4–12); 3 & under free. Fri., Sat. & Finale, $99/adults & seniors; $39/kids (4–12); 3 & under free. Reserve online or call 888-623-1445 or 206-622-8687.

Royal Argosy Santa Brunch
This is a great on-board option for little ones with early bedtimes, also on-board the Royal Argosy. You’ll miss the lights but get plenty of action: arts and crafts, a live interactive performance, story time with Santa, a yummy brunch, and picture opps galore! Santa Brunch cruises depart from various locations like South Lake Union or Carillon Point in Kirkland and run from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in November and December. Cost: $49/adults & seniors; $22/kids (4-12); 3 & under free. Reserve online or call 888-623-1445 or 206-622-8687.

christmas ship

 photo: Argosy Cruises

Cozy Up at a Local Restaurant
There are too many options here to list, but here’s the idea: check the sailing schedule below and pick a primo viewing location with nearby waterfront restaurants, like Lake Union, Alki, Gig Harbor, Redondo Beach, or Leschi. Place like Duke’sAnthony’sSalty’s, and Ivar’s Salmon House are all great options with outdoor viewing decks so you and your family can feast your eyes on a panorama of glowing boats while also enjoying a fine meal.

On Shore: Lake Washington, Lake Union, Elliot Bay, and Puget Sound Parks
Whether it’s your neighborhood beach park or a stunning downtown location like the Sculpture Park, when the Christmas Ships sail past it’s a truly spectacular sight. Many locations will have a bonfire going, which are noted below. Bundle up the kiddos, grab some friends and some thermos of hot cocoa, and go! Times listed below detail when the parade will stop and broadcast choir performances over their state-of-the-art sound system. A full schedule, including sailing departure times and private events, can be found here.

Christmas Ship BonFire

photo: Paul Dudley/Argosy Cruises

Friday, November 28:  Lake Union Park 
Choir: Kirkland Choral Society
8 p.m.-8:20 p.m. Seattle Tennis Club (private/special lighting)
8:30 p.m.–8:50 p.m. Park Shore Retirement Home (private/special lighting)

Saturday, November 29: Lake Union Park
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:15 p.m.–7:35 p.m. MOHAI – SLU (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:05 p.m.-8:25 p.m. Seattle Yacht Club
8:40 p.m.–9 p.m. Westward & Little Gull (2501 N. Northlake Way)

Sunday, November 30:  Kirkland City Dock
Choir: Northern Sound – Sonus Boreal
5:10 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
6:25 p.m.-6:45 p.m. Gas Works Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 3: Leschi Marina
Choir: Pacific Sound Chorus
7:50 p.m.-8:10 p.m. Pritchard Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:25 p.m.-8:45 p.m. Seward Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Thursday, December 4: Leschi Marina
Choir: Emerald City Blend
8 p.m.-8:20 p.m. Mercer Island Beach Club (private);
8:50 p.m.-9:10 p.m. Newcastle Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Christmas Ship

photo: Argosy Cruises

Friday, December 5: Leschi Marina
Choir: Master Chorus Eastside
8 p.m.-8:20 p.m. Gene Coulon (Ivar’s Clam Lights opening)
8:50 p.m.-9:10 p.m. Newport Yacht Club (private)

Saturday, December 6: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
4:20 p.m.-4:40 p.m. Medina Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
5:30 p.m.-5:50 p.m. Houghton Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 6: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:55 p.m.-9:15 p.m. Sheridan Beach Club (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:45 p.m.-10:05 p.m. Matthews Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 7: Leschi
Choir: Dickens Carolers
5:40 p.m.-6 p.m. Ferdinand Street Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
6:15 p.m.-6:35 p.m. Stan Sayres Memorial Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
6:45-7:05 p.m. Mt. Baker Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Tuesday, December 9: Edmonds 
Choir: Bishop Blanchet High School Choir
7:10 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Edmonds Fishing Pier
8:20 p.m.-8:40 p.m. Richmond Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 10: Poulsbo, Keyport & Lemolo
Choir: North Kitsap Northern Lights
7 p.m.-7:20 p.m. Poulsbo
7:45 p.m.-8:05 p.m. Keyport (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:20 p.m.-8:40 p.m. Lemolo

christmas ship

 photo: Argosy Cruises

Thursday, December 11: Des Moines Marina
Choir: Rainier Youth Choir – Colla Voce
8 p.m.-8:20 p.m. Brown’s Point (bonfire/special lighting location)
9 p.m.-9:20 p.m. Redondo Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Friday, December 12: Shilshole Marina
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8 p.m.-8:20 p.m. Blue Ridge (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:35 p.m.-8:55 p.m. Carkeek Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 13: Elliott Bay Marina (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
4:20 p.m.-4:40 p.m. Lowman Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
5:10 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Alki Beach Park(bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 13: Elliott Bay Marina (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:15 p.m.-8:35 p.m. Seattle Aquarium/Great Wheel (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:35 p.m.-9:55 p.m. Winslow Waterfront Beach

Sunday, December 14: Tacoma
Choir: Olympia Youth Choir – Cantabile
5 p.m.-5:20 p.m. Museum of Glass;
6:35 p.m.-6:55 p.m. Gig Harbor

Monday, December 15: Elliott Bay Marina
Choir: Holy Names Academy Choir
8:05 p.m.-8:25 p.m. Manchester City Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:15 p.m.-9:35 p.m. Salty’s on Alki (bonfire/special lighting location)

Tuesday, December 16: Shilshole Marina
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:10 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Hiram M Chittenden Locks
9:05 p.m.-9:25 p.m. Golden Gardens Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

christmas ship

 photo: Argosy Cruises

Wednesday, December 17: Des Moines Marina 
Choir: Joyful! Noise
7:20 p.m.-7:40 p.m. Des Moines Marina Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:20 p.m.-8:40 p.m. Dash Point (bonfire/special lighting location)

Thursday, December 18: Kirkland City Dock
Choir: Emerald City Voices
8:10 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Shore Club on Mercer Island
8:40 p.m.-9 p.m. Beaux Arts

Friday, December 19: Kirkland City Dock
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:55 p.m.-8:15 p.m. Lake Forest Civic Club (private)
8:50 p.m.-9:10 p.m. Magnuson Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 20: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
3:40 p.m.-4 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
4:40 p.m.-5:10 p.m. Madison Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 20: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
9 p.m.-9:20 p.m. Covenant Shores (private)
9:45 p.m.-10:05 p.m. Madrona Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 21: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
4 p.m.-4:20 p.m. O.O.Denny Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
5 p.m.-5:20 p.m. Laurelhurst Beach Club (private)

Sunday, December 21: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:25 p.m.-8:45 p.m. Juanita Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:25 p.m.-9:45 p.m. Log Boom Park, Kenmore

Monday, December 22: Kirkland City Dock 
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:15 p.m.-7:35 p.m. Carillon Point
8:25 p.m.-8:45 p.m. Meydenbauer Bay (bonfire/special lighting location)

Tuesday, December 23: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
3:50 p.m.-4:10 p.m. Waverly Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
4:30 p.m.-4:50 p.m. Yarrow Point Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Tuesday, December 23: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing – Grand Finale)
Choir: Seattle Girl’s Choir – Prime Voci
8:45 p.m.-9:05 p.m. Portage Bay
9:45 p.m.-10:05 p.m. Gas Works Park Grand Finale (bonfire/special lighting location)

Good to know: Argosy Cruises donates a portion of all ticket sales to The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy, an annual program that raises money for several charitable organizations in the Puget Sound area.

Does your family have a favorite Christmas Ship viewing spot? Let us know in a comment below.

–Kristina Moy & Allison Ellis