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 or on board with St. Nick!

ChristmasShip1

 photo: Argosy Cruises 

Ride the Christmas Ship Lead Boat 
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 kids on board. Other on-board activities include sing-a-longs, contests and prizes, plus a children’s holiday craft area and reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas with Santa. 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, beverages including beer, wine and specialty cocktails and pre-purchased boxed meals, plus shop at the onboard Holiday Gift Shop. Cost: $35-$39/Adults; $31-$35/Seniors; $21-$25/Youth (4–12), 3 & under Free. $62/Adults & Youth on Dec. 23 finale sailing. Reserve online or call 206-623-1445.

Ride a Christmas Ship Follow Boat
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, holiday activities and crafts for the kids, contests and prizes as well as snacks, chowder, beverages and pre-purchased boxed meals. All parade ships position themselves alongside the Christmas Ship, so all can enjoy the choral performances. Like the Christmas Ship, there will be a cruise director guiding you through the evening and Santa will be greeting guests as they arrive (although Argosy cannot guarantee Santa will be present on the Follow Boat during the actual cruise). Cost: $29-$31/Adults; $25-$27/Seniors; $15-$17/Youth (4-12); 3 & under Free. $52/Adults & Youth on Dec. 23 finale sailing. Reserve online or call 206-623-1445.

Argosy 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 25:  Lake Union Park 
Choir: Kirkland Choral Society
7:30 p.m.-7:50 p.m. Seattle Tennis Club (private/special lighting)
8 p.m.–8:20 p.m. Park Shore Retirement Home (private/special lighting)

Saturday, November 26: Lake Union Park (Opening Night)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
6:30 p.m.–6:55 p.m. Near MOHAI – SLU (bonfire/special lighting location)
7:30 p.m.-7:50 p.m. Seattle Yacht Club (West Montlake Park)
8:05 p.m.–8:25 p.m. Ivar’s Salmon House

Sunday, November 27:  Kirkland City Dock
Choir: Master Chorus Eastside
4:10 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (Kirkland tree lighting/bonfire)
4:45 p.m.-5:05 p.m. Windermere Beach Club (private)
5:45 p.m.-6:05 p.m. Gas Works Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Thursday, December 1: Leschi Marina
Choir: Song of Seattle
8:05 p.m.-8:25 p.m. Mercer Island Beach Club (private);
8:55 p.m.-9:15 p.m. Newcastle Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Christmas Ship

photo: Argosy Cruises

Friday, December 2: Leschi Marina
Choir: Dickens Carolers
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 3: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
3 p.m.-3:20 p.m. Medina Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:50 p.m.-4:10 p.m. Houghton Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 3: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:55 p.m.-8:15 p.m. Sheridan Beach Club (private, but guests welcome)
8:45 p.m.-9:05 p.m. Matthews Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 4: Leschi Marina (First Sailing)
Choir: Rainier Youth Choirs
3:20 p.m.-3:40 p.m. Pritchard Island Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:55 p.m.-4:15 p.m. Seward Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 4: Leschi Marina (Second Sailing)
Choir: Seattle Girls’ Choir
7:40 p.m.-8 p.m. Ferdinand Street Boat Launch (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:15 p.m.-8:35 p.m. Stan Sayres Memorial Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:45 p.m.-9:05 p.m. Mt. Baker Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 7: City of Des Moines Marina
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:20 p.m.-7:40 p.m. Des Moines Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:20 p.m.-8:40 p.m. Dash Point Park

Thursday, December 8: Poulsbo Marina 
Choir: North Kitsap Northern Lights
6:30 p.m.-6:50 p.m. Poulsbo Marina
7:45 p.m.-8:05 p.m. Suquamish Dock (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:40 p.m.-8:55 p.m. Keyport/Lemolo (rolling performance)

christmas ship

 photo: Argosy Cruises

Friday, December 9: Pier 55
Choir: Choir of Sound
8:05 p.m.-8:25 p.m. Pomeroy Park – Manchester (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:25 p.m.-9:45 p.m. Myrtle Edwards Park

Saturday, December 10: Pier 55 (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
3:25 p.m.-3:45 p.m. Lowman Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
4:10 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Alki Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 10: Pier 55 (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8 p.m.-8:20 p.m. Duwamish Waterway Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:05 p.m.-9:25 p.m. Salty’s on Alki (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 11: Tacoma Dock Street Marina (First Sailing)
Choir: Olympia Youth Choir – Cantabile
12:30 p.m.-12:50 p.m. Museum of Glass
1:30 p.m.-1:50 p.m. Owen Beach

Sunday, December 11: Tacoma Museum of Glass (Second Sailing)
Choir: Olympia Youth Choir – Cantabile
6:15 p.m.-6:35 p.m. Gig Harbor Maritime Pier (bonfire/special lighting location)
7:15 p.m.-7:35 p.m. Jack Hyde Park

Tuesday, December 13: Port of Edmonds Marina 
Choir: Snohomish County Children’s Choir
7:20 p.m.-7:40 p.m. Edmonds Fishing Pier
8:20 p.m.-8:40 p.m. Richmond Beach Saltwater Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 14: Pier 55 
Choir: CSL Celebration Choir
8:05 p.m.-8:25 p.m. Winslow Waterfront Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:25 p.m.-9:45 p.m. Seattle Great Wheel

christmas ship

 photo: Argosy Cruises

Thursday, December 15: Des Moines Marina 
Choir: Pacific Sound Chorus
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 16: Fishermen’s Terminal (Parade of Boats Night)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:40 p.m.-8 p.m. Westward and Little Gull
8:40 p.m.-9 p.m. Fremont Cut (rolling performance)

Saturday, December 17: Shilshole Bay Marina (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
2:55 p.m.-3:15 p.m. Carkeek Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:25 p.m.-3:45 p.m. Blue Ridge Club (private)
4:05 p.m.-4:25 p.m. Commodore Park

Saturday, December 17: Shilshole Bay Marina (Second Sailing)
Choir: Emerald City Voices
8:10 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks)
9:05 p.m.-9:25 p.m. Golden Gardens Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 18: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
2:40 p.m.-3 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:35 p.m.-3:55 p.m. Madison Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 18: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:25 p.m.-7:55 p.m. O.O. Denny Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:15 p.m.-8:35 p.m. Laurelhurst Beach Club (private)

Monday, December 19: Kirkland City Dock 
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:25 p.m.-7:45 p.m. Juanita Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:25 p.m.-8:45 p.m. Tracy Owen Station at Log Boom Park

Tuesday, December 20: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:25 p.m.-7:45 p.m. Juanita Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
4:05 p.m.-4:25 p.m. Beaux Arts (private)

Tuesday, December 20: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:55 p.m.-8:15 p.m. Beaux Arts (private)
8:45 p.m.-9:05 p.m. Madrona Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 21: Kirkland City Dock
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:55 p.m.-8:15 p.m. Lake Forest Park Civic Club (private)
8:55 p.m.-9:15 p.m. Warren G. Magnuson Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Thursday, December 22: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
3 p.m.-3:20 p.m. Mercerwood Shore Club (private)
3:35 p.m.-3:55 p.m. Covenant Shores (private)

Thursday, December 22: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:25 p.m.-7:45 p.m. Carillon Point (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:35 p.m.-8:55 p.m. Meydenbauer Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Friday, December 23: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
2:50 p.m.-3:10 p.m. Waverly Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:30 p.m.-3:50 p.m. Yarrow Point (Road End Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Friday, December 23: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:45 p.m.-8:05 p.m. Portage Bay
8:45 p.m.-9:05 p.m. Gas Works Park (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. Note: The dinner cruises and Santa brunches will not be offered this year.

Does your family have a favorite place to see the Christmas Ship? Tell us in the Comments below.

— Kristina Moy & Allison Ellis