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 kids on board. Other on-board activities include sing-a-longs, contests and prizes, plus a children’s holiday craft area. 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. Cost: $39/Adults; $35/Seniors; $21.50/Youth (4–12), 3 & under Free. $59/Adults & Youth on Dec. 23 finale sailing. Reserve online or call 206-623-1445.

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, 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. 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: $31/Adults; $27/Seniors; $13.50/Youth (4-12), 3 & under Free. $49/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 27:  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 28: Lake Union Park (Opening Night)
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 (West Montlake Park)
8:40 p.m.–9 p.m. Ivar’s Salmon House

Sunday, November 29:  Kirkland City Dock
Choir: Master Chorus Eastside
5 p.m.-5:20 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (Kirkland tree lighting/bonfire)
5:45 p.m.-6:05 p.m. Windermere Beach Club (private)
6:45 p.m.-7:05 p.m. Gas Works Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 2: Leschi Marina
Choir: Dickens Carolers
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 3: Leschi Marina
Choir: Dickens Carolers
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 4: 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 5: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
4:10 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Medina Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
5:20 p.m.-5:40 p.m. Houghton Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 5: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:55 p.m.-9:15 p.m. Sheridan Beach Club (private, but guest welcome)
9:45 p.m.-10:05 p.m. Matthews Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 6: Leschi Marina
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 8: Edmonds Marina
Choir: Dickens Carolers
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 9: Pier 55
Choir: Choir of the Sound
8:05 p.m.-8:25 p.m. Manchester City Park
9:15 p.m.-9:35 p.m. Salty’s on Alki (bonfire/special lighting location)

christmas ship

 photo: Argosy Cruises

Thursday, December 10: Des Moines Marina
Choir: Rainier Youth Choir – Colla Voce
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 State Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Friday, December 11: Shilshole Bay Marina
Choir: Holy Names Academy Vocal Ensemble
7:15 p.m.-7:35 p.m. Shilshole Bay
8 p.m.-8:20 p.m. Blue Ridge Club (private)
8:35 p.m.-8:55 p.m. Carkeek Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 12: Pier 55 (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 12: Pier 55 (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 (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 13: Tacoma Museum of Glass
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

Tuesday, December 15: Poulsbo Marina
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

Wednesday, December 16: Shilshole Bay Marina
Choir: The Swedish Women’s Chorus
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

Thursday, December 17: Des Moines Marina 
Choir: Rainier Youth Chorus
8 p.m.-8:20 p.m. Brown’s Point
9 p.m.-9:20 p.m. Redondo Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Friday, December 18: Lake Union Park (Parade of Boats Night)
Choir: Emerald City Voices
7:30 p.m.-7:45 p.m. Fishermen’s Terminal
8:05 p.m.-8:25 p.m. Fremont Cut (start of the parade)
8:40 p.m.-9 p.m. Westward & Little Gull

Details are still being worked out for this new event. Check their website for updated info.

Saturday, December 19: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
4 p.m.-4:20 p.m. OO Denny Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
5 p.m.-5:20 p.m. Laurelhurst Beach Club (private)

Saturday, December 19: 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. Tracy Owen Station at Log Boom Park

Sunday, 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 p.m. Madison Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 20: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:50 p.m.-9:10 p.m. Covenant Shores (private)
9:35 p.m.-9:55 p.m. Madrona Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

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

Tuesday, December 22: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
3:30 p.m.-3:50 p.m. Mercerwood Shore Club (private)
4:05 p.m.-4:25 p.m. Beaux Arts (private)

Tuesday, December 22: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:45 p.m.-8:05 p.m. Carillon Point
9:05 p.m.-9:25 p.m. Meydenbauer Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, 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)

Wednesday, December 23: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing – Grand Finale)
Choir: Seattle Girls Choir Prime Voci
8:45 p.m.-9:05 p.m. Portage Bay Park
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. Note: The dinner cruises and Santa brunches will not be offered this year.

Does your family have a favorite Christmas Ship viewing spot? Tell us in the Comments below.

— Kristina Moy & Allison Ellis