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Where to See This Year’s Christmas Ship Festival

Awww…the Christmas Ship Festival. It’s one Northwest holiday tradition that never seems to gets old. Starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through December 23, the ship parade route covers over 65 different waterfront communities around Lake Washington and Puget Sound. To help you map out where to see this year’s ships, we’ve rounded up the best viewing spots on shore, ’round a roaring bonfire or on board with St. Nick. Read on!

 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-alongs, 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 and your little elves can enjoy box meals (available for pre-purchase) and beverages including beer, wine and specialty cocktails. Cost: $48/Adults; $43/Seniors; $32/Youth (4–12), 3 & under Free. $68/person on Parade of Boats night and Dec. 23 Grande Finale sailing; 3 & under Free. Reserve online or call 206-623-1445 or 888-623-1445.

Ride a Christmas Ship Follow Boat

Parade Ships (aka Follow Boats) 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-alongs, holiday activities and crafts for the kids as well as pre-purchased boxed meals for sale. All parade ships position themselves alongside the Christmas Ship, so all can enjoy the choral performances. And like the Christmas Ship, there will be a cruise director guiding you through the evening, Santa will be greeting guests as they arrive on the dock (although Argosy cannot guarantee Santa will be present on the Follow Boat during the actual cruise) and all kids will receive a holiday craft bag. Note: a Follow Boat is now available from Carillon Point for the Grand Finale; additional Follow Boats will be added to the schedule based on boat availability and demand. Cost: $38/Adults; $34/Seniors; $22/Youth (4-12); 3 & under Free. $57/Adults & Youth on Parade of Boats Night. $57/person on Dec. 23 for the grand finale sailing; 3 & under Free. Reserve online or call 206-623-1445 or 888-623-1445.

 photo: Argosy Cruises

Special Event: Christmas Ship Kid Cruises

Calling all kindie rockers! This year, Argosy Cruises and Recess Monkey are teaming up for a special Kids Cruise aboard the official Christmas Ship!  Dance, sing, and be super-silly as you sail with Seattle’s favorite kindiependent rock stars. After the show, enjoy cookies and milk and a reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas by Santa Claus himself. Note: The performances will not be broadcast to other boaters or to shore. Sat., Nov. 24 from noon-2 p.m. at Lake Union Park; Sun., Dec. 9 from 10 a.m.-noon in Tacoma. $48/Adults (13+); $43/Seniors (65+); $32/Youth (4-12); 3 & under Free. Reserve online.

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. Places like Duke’sAnthony’sSalty’s, and Ivar’s Salmon House are all great options with outdoor viewing decks, so you and the fam can feast your eyes on a panorama of glowing boats while also enjoying a fine meal.

photo: Richie D. via Yelp

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.

Friday, November 23:  Lake Union Park Dock
Choir: Kirkland Choral Society
7:20 p.m. Seattle Tennis Club (private/special lighting)
8:05 p.m. Seattle Yacht Club (private/special lighting)

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Saturday, November 24: Kid Cruise
Depart: Lake Union Park
Noon-2 p.m. Recess Monkey, Santa and more!

Saturday, November 24: Kirkland City Dock (Opening Night)
Choir: Master Chorus Eastside
6:40 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (Kirkland tree lighting/bonfire)
8:05 p.m. MOHAI (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, November 25:  Hyatt Regency Lake Washington
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
5:30 p.m. Pritchard Island Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)
6:10 p.m. Mercer Island Beach Club (private/special lighting)

Friday, November 30: Hyatt Regency Lake Washington
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:10 p.m. Newcastle Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:05 p.m. Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park (Ivar’s Clam Lights opening)

photo: Argosy Cruises

Saturday, December 1: Lake Union Park (First Sailing)
Choir: St. Therese Shades of Praise Gospel
2:15 p.m. Gas Works Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:10 p.m. ASUW Shell House

Saturday, December 1: Leschi Marina (Second Sailing) 
Choir: Seattle Girls Choir
7:55 p.m. Madrona Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:55 p.m. Ivar’s Salmon House (private/special lighting)

Sunday, December 2: Hyatt Regency Lake Washington (First Sailing)
Choir: Bellevue Youth Choirs
2:10 p.m. Hyatt Regency Lake Washington
3:05 p.m. Seward Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 2: Hyatt Regency Lake Washington (Second Sailing)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:40 p.m.- Mount Baker Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:15 p.m. Stan Sayres Memorial Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:50 p.m. Ferdinand Street Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 5: Port of Poulsbo
Choir: North Kitsap Northern Lights
6:30 p.m. Liberty Bay Waterfront Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
7:50 p.m. House of Awakened Culture (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:55 p.m. Lemolo (rolling show)

Thursday, December 6: Pier 55
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
8:05 p.m.  Pomeroy Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:25 p.m. Elliott Bay Marina (bonfire/special lighting location)

photo: Argosy Cruises

Friday, December 7: Pier 55
Choir: Choir of the Sound
7:55 p.m. Lowman Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:40 p.m. Alki Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 8: Pier 55 (First Sailing)
Choir: Rainier Youth Choirs
3:00 p.m. Duwamish Waterway Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
4:05 p.m. Don Armeni Park

Saturday, December 8: Pier 55 (Second Sailing)
Choir: Emerald City Voices
8:00 p.m. Waterfront Park – Bainbridge Island (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:10 p.m. Salty’s on Alki Beach

Sunday, December 9: Kid Cruise
Depart: Tacoma
10 a.m.-noon Recess Monkey, Santa and more!

Sunday, December 9: Tacoma
Choir: Olympic Youth Chorus Cantabile
6:15 p.m. Skansie Brothers Park
7:20 p.m. Jack Hyde Park

Monday, December 10: Tacoma Dock Street Marina 
Choir: Puyallup High School Norselanders
7:20 p.m. Dash Point Dock (bonfire/special lighting location)
7:55 p.m. Browns Point Improvement Club (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 12: Edmonds
Choir: Puyallup High School Norselanders
7:20 p.m. Edmonds Public Fishing Pier
8:20 p.m. Richmond Beach Saltwater Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Thursday, December 13: Des Moines
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:20 p.m. Des Moines Beach Park
8:10 p.m. Redondo Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

christmas ship

 photo: Argosy Cruises

Friday, December 14: Lake Union Park (Parade of Boats Night)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:20 p.m. Lake Union – Middle of the Lake
8:10 p.m. Fremont Cut rolling show (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 15: Shilshole Bay Marina (First Sailing)
Choir: Emerald City Voices
3:10 p.m. Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
3:50 p.m. Golden Gardens Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 15: Shilshole Bay Marina (Second Sailing)
Choir: Choir of the Sound
7:30 p.m. Carkeek Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:00 p.m. Blue Ridge (private)
8:40 p.m. Shilshole Bay

Sunday, December 16: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
2:10 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:10 p.m. Windermere Beach Club (private)

Sunday, December 16: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Kirkland Chorale Society
7:50 p.m. Meydenbauer Bay (rolling show)
8:35 p.m. Madison Park Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Monday, December 17: Kirkland City Dock 
Choir: Pacific Sound Chorus
7:50 p.m. Log Boom Park (Tracy Owen Station)
8:50 p.m. Juanita Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Tuesday, December 18: Kirkland City Dock 
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:55 p.m. Beaux Arts (private)
9:00 p.m. Road End Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 19: Kirkland City Dock
Choir: Song of Seattle
7:55 p.m. Lake Forest Park Civic Club (private)
8:55 p.m. Warren G. Magnuson Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

photo: Argosy Cruises

Thursday, December 20: Kirkland City Dock 
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:55 p.m. Sheridan Beach Club (private)
8:45 p.m. Matthews Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Friday, December 21: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
2:40 p.m. Medina Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:30 p.m. Carillon Point (bonfire/special lighting location)

Friday, December 21: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:50 p.m. Luther Burbank Park  (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:00 p.m Waverly Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Friday, December 21: Follow Boat Special (21 & over) 
Departure: Kirkland City Dock
Details:Ugly Christmas sweater party, festive cocktails and more!
7:50 p.m. Luther Burbank Park  (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:00 p.m. Waverly Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 22: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
3:00 p.m. Mercerwood Shore Club (private)
3:30 p.m. Covenant Shores (private)

Saturday, December 22: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:30 p.m. OO Denny Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:25 p.m. Laurelhurst Beach Club (private)

Saturday, December 22: Follow Boat Special (21 & over) 
Departure: Kirkland City Dock
Details:Ugly Christmas sweater party, festive cocktails and more!
7:30 p.m. OO Denny Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:25 p.m. Laurelhurst Beach Club (private)

Sunday, December 23: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
3:00 p.m. Parkshore (private)
4:15 p.m. Houghton Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 23: Kirkland City Dock (Grand Finale Night)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:45 p.m. Portage Bay
4:15 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.

Onlineargosycruises.com/argosy-cruises/christmas-ship-festival

—Kristina Moy & Allison Ellis

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