From Sea to Shore: 56 Ways to Enjoy the Christmas Ship Festival

Beloved by natives and newbies alike, the Christmas Ship Festival is a Northwest family tradition and holiday must-do event. 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. Here are our top picks for enjoying the ships on shore (‘round a roaring bonfire), on board (mingling with Santa), or at a waterfront restaurant.

Argosy Christmas Ship

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: $32-35.50 for adults, $19.50 for kids ages 4 – 12, free for kids 3 and under. December 23 finale is $64 for adults and $42 for kids. 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: $22.75-25.25 for adults, $12.25 for kids ages 4-12, free for 3 and under. 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. The four-course buffet includes an array of Northwest cuisine including salads, roasted veggies, wild salmon with rice pilaf, chef-carved prime rib, pistachio crusted chicken, potato latkes, fresh baked whole grain bread served with smoked salmon spread and sea-salted butter and a selection of holiday desserts. Both soup and desserts are served table side. Note: 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: Sunday – Thursday: $75.52 for adults, $30.14 for ages 4 – 12, free for kids 3 and under. Friday and Saturday: $84.65 for adults, $35.62 for ages 4 – 12, free for kids 3 and under. 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 Pier 56 downtown or Carillon Point in Kirkland and run from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays in December. Cost: $45.40 for adults, $17.35 for ages 4-12, free for 3 and under. Reserve online or call 888-623-1445 or 206-622-8687.

Argosy Christmas Ship Santa

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

Friday, November 29:  Kirkland Opening Ceremony
Choir: Master Chorus Eastside
7:10–7:30 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:25–8:45 p.m. Gas Works Park(bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, November 30: Seattle Opening Night Ceremony
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:15–7:35 p.m. MOHAI – SLU (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:15–8:35 p.m. Seattle Yacht Club / West Montlake Park

Sunday, December 1: Stan Sayres Park & Mt. Baker Beach Park
Choir: NW Girlchoir Amore Ensemble
5:40-6:00 p.m. Ferdinand Street Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
6:15-6:35 p.m.Stan Sayres Memorial Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
6:45-7:05 p.m. Mount Baker Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Tuesday, December 3: Seattle Tennis & Park Shore
Choir: The Everett Chorale
8:00-8:20 p.m. Seattle Tennis Club (private)
8:30-8:50 p.m. Park Shore Retirement Home (private)

Wednesday, December 4: Pritchard Beach Park & Seward Park
Choir: Snoqualmie Valley Girls Choir
7:50-8:10 p.m. Pritchard Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:25-8:45 p.m. Seward Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Thursday, December 5: Mercer Island & Newcastle
Choir: Seattle Ladies Choir
8:00-8:20 p.m. Mercer Island Beach Club (private)
8:50-9:10 p.m. Newcastle Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Christmas Ship

Friday, December 6: Gene Coulon & Newport Yacht Club
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:00-8:20 p.m. Gene Coulon (Ivar’s Clam Lights opening)
8:50-9:10 p.m. Newport Yacht Club (private)

Saturday, December 7: Lowman Beach & Alki Beach (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
4:20-4:40 p.m. Lowman Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
5:10-5:30 p.m.  Alki Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 7: Seattle Aquarium & Winslow (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:15-8:35 p.m. Seattle Aquarium/Seattle Great Wheel (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:35-9:55 p.m. Winslow Waterfront Beach

Sunday, December 8: Tacoma & Gig Harbor
Choir: Jet Cities Chorus
5:00-5:20 p.m. Tacoma Museum of Glass
6:20-6:40 p.m.  Gig Harbor

Tuesday, December 10: Edmonds & Richmond Beach
Choir: Choir of the Sound
7:10-7:30 p.m. Edmonds Fishing Pier

8:20-8:40 p.m. Richmond Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 11: Poulsbo, Keyport & Lemolo
Choir: North Kitsap Northern Lights Choir
7:00-7:20 p.m. Poulsbo
7:45-8:05 p.m. Keyport (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:20-8:40 p.m. Lemolo

Christmas Ship

Thursday, December 12: Brown’s Point & Redondo Beach
Choir: Emerald City Voices
8:00-8:20 p.m. Brown’s Point (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:00-9:20 p.m. Redondo Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Friday, December 13: Shilshole Bay, Blue Ridge & Carkeek Park
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:15-7:35 p.m. Shilshole Bay
8:00-8:20 p.m.  Blue Ridge (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:35-8:55 p.m. Carkeek Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 14: Medina & Houghton Beach (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
4:20-4:40 p.m. Medina (bonfire/special lighting location)
5:30-5:50 p.m. Houghton Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 14: Sheridan Beach & Matthews Beach (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:55-9:15 p.m. Sheridan Beach Club (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:45-10:05 p.m. Matthews Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 15: Carillon Point & Meydenbauer Bay
Choir: Kirkland Choral Society
5:15-5:35 p.m. Carillon Point
6:25-6:45 p.m. Meydenbauer Bay (bonfire/special lighting location)

Monday, December 16: Manchester & Alki
Choir: Pacific Sound Chorus
8:05-8:25 p.m. Manchester City Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:15-9:35 p.m. Salty’s on Alki (bonfire/special lighting location)

Tuesday, December 17: Ballard Locks & Golden Gardens
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:10-8:30 p.m. Hiram M Chittenden Locks
9:05-9:25 p.m. Golden Gardens Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

argosy christmas ship

Wednesday, December 18: Des Moines & Dash Point
Choir: Rainier Youth Choir
7:20-7:40 p.m. Des Moines Marina Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:20-8:40 p.m. Dash Point (bonfire/special lighting location)

Thursday, December 19: Beaux Arts & Luther Burbank
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:00-8:20 p.m. Beaux Arts (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:35-8:55 p.m. Luther Burbank Park

Friday, December 20: Lake Forest & Magnuson Beach
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:55-8:15 p.m. Lake Forest Civic Club (Private)
8:50-9:10 p.m. Magnuson Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 21: Kirkland Marina & Madison Park (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
3:40-4:00 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
4:40-5:00 p.m. Madison Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 21: Covenant Shore & Madrona Beach (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
9:00-9:20 p.m. Covenant Shores (private)
9:45-10:05 p.m. Madrona Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 22: O.O. Denny Park & Laurelhurst Beach (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
4:00-4:20 p.m. O.O.Denny Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
5:00-5:20 p.m. Laurelhurst Beach Club (Private)

Sunday, December 22: Log Boom Park & Juanita Beach (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
9:00-9:20 p.m. Log Boom Park, Kenmore
10:00-10:20 p.m. Juanita Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

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

Monday, December 23: Portage Bay & Gas Works (Second Sailing – Grand Finale)
Choir: Seattle Girls Choir – Prime Voci
8:45-9:05 p.m. Portage Bay (W. Montlake Park)
9:45-10:05 pm. Gas Works Park Grand Finale (bonfire/special lighting location)

What are your family’s favorite Christmas Ship viewing spots? Let us know in a comment below.

–Kristina Moy & Allison Ellis

photos thanks to Argosy Cruises and Paul Dudley