The Christmas Ship Festival is 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 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. 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-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 and all kids will receive a holiday craft bag. Cost: $34-$62/Adults; $39/Seniors; $20-$62/Youth (4–12), 3 & under Free. $62/Adults & Youth on Dec. 23 (finale sailing). 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-a-longs, holiday activities and crafts for the kids 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 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 for the Grand Finale Night; additional Follow Boats will be added to the schedule based on boat availability and demand. Cost: $32-$54/Adults; $30/Seniors; $20-$52/Youth (4-12); 3 & under Free. $52/Adults & Youth on Parade of Boats Night on Dec. 15. Reserve online or call 206-623-1445 or 888-623-1445.

Special Event: Christmas Ship Presents Caspar Babypants
Calling all kindie rockers! This year, Argosy Cruises and Caspar Babypants are teaming up for this special children’s musical event aboard the official Christmas Ship!  Dance, sing, and be super-silly as you sail with Seattle’s favorite kindiependent rock star, Caspar Babypants!  After the show, enjoy cookies and milk and a reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas by Santa Claus himself. This is an on-board Tacoma event only. The performance will not be broadcast to other boaters or to shore. Sun., Dec. 10, 2017 from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. $34/Adults (13+); $20/Youth (4-12); 3 & under Free. Reserve online.

 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. 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.

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 24:  Lake Union Park Dock
Choir: Kirkland Choral Society
7:20 p.m. Seattle Tennis Club (private/special lighting)
7:50 p.m. Park Shore Retirement Home (private/special lighting)

Saturday, November 25: Kirkland City Dock (Opening Night)
Choir: Master Chorus Eastside
6:40 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (Kirkland tree lighting/bonfire)
7:50 p.m. Gas Works Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, November 26:  Kirkland City Dock
Choir: Dickens Carolers
5:05 p.m. MOHAI at Lake Union
6 p.m. Seattle Yacht Club (private/special lighting)
6:35 p.m. Ivar’s Salmon House

Friday, December 1: Hyatt Regency Lake Washington at Seattle’s Southport (Renton)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:05 p.m. Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park (Ivar’s Clam Lights opening)
8:35 p.m. Mercer Island Beach Club (bonfire/special lighting location)

photo: Argosy Cruises

Saturday, December 2: Leschi Marina (First Sailing)
Choir: Rainier Youth Choir
3:10 p.m. Seward Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
4:10 p.m. Madrona Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 2: Leschi Marina (Second Sailing) 
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8 p.m. Hyatt Regency Lake Washington
8:55 p.m. Newport Yacht Club (private)

Sunday, December 3: Leschi Marina (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
2:45 p.m. Pritchard Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:40 p.m. Newcastle Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 3: Leschi Marina (Second Sailing)
Choir: Seattle Girls Choir
7:40 p.m.- Ferdinand Street Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:15 Stan Sayres Memorial Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:45 Mt. Baker Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 6: Des Moines Marina
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:20 p.m. Des Moines Beach Park
8:20 p.m. Redondo Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

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

photo: Argosy Cruises

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

Saturday, December 9: Pier 55 (First Sailing)
Choir: Emerald City Voices
3:30 p.m. Duwamish Waterway Park in South Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
4:35 p.m. Salty’s on Alki (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 9: Pier 55 (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8:10 p.m. Lowman Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:55 p.m. Alki Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 10: Tacoma Dock Street Marina (First Sailing – Special Event)
Choir: Caspar Babypants
1 p.m.- 3 p.m

Sunday, December 10: Tacoma Dock Street Marina (Second Sailing)
Choir: Olympia Youth Choir – Cantabile
8:15 p.m. Maritime Pier in Gig Harbor (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:15 p.m. Jack Hyde Park

Monday, December 11: Tacoma Dock Street Marina
Choir: Puyallup High School Norselanders
7:50 p.m. Dash Point Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:25 p.m. Brown’s Point (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 13: Port of Edmonds Marina  
Choir: Center for Spiritual Living (CSL) Choir
7:20 p.m. Edmonds Fishing Pier
8:20 p.m. Richmond Beach Salt Water Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

christmas ship

 photo: Argosy Cruises

Thursday, December 14: Pier 55
Choir: Dickens Carolers
8 p.m. Winslow Waterfront Beach Park (Eagle Harbor City Dock)
9:10 p.m. Don Armeni

Friday, December 15: Lake Union Park Dock (Parade of Boats Night)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:20 p.m. Lake Union Parade of Boats Show (center of Lake Union)
8:10 p.m. Fremont Rolling Show (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 16: Shilshole Bay Marina (First Sailing)
Choir: Emerald City Voices
3:40 p.m. Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
4:20 p.m. Golden Gardens Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 16: Shilshole Bay Marina (Second Sailing)
Choir: Choir of the Sound
7:30 p.m. Carkeek Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8 p.m. Blue Ridge (private)
8:40 p.m. Shilshole Bay

Sunday, December 17: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Snohomish County Youth Chorus
3:05 p.m. Medina Community Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:55 p.m. Carillon Point (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 17: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:30 p.m. O.O. Denny Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:15 p.m.-8:35 p.m. Laurelhurst Beach Club (private)

Monday, December 18: Kirkland City Dock 
Choir: Pacific Sound Chorus
7:20 p.m. Juanita Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:25 p.m. Tracy Owen Station at Log Boom Park

Tuesday, December 19: Kirkland City Dock 
Choir: Kirkland Choral Society
7:45 p.m. Beaux Arts (private)
8:15 p.m.-8:25 p.m. Meydenbauer Bay (rolling performance starting at the south end and moving counterclockwise through the bay)
8:45 p.m. Madison Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 20: Kirkland City Dock
Choir: TBD
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 21: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: TBD
2:40 p.m. Kirkland Marina Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:40 p.m. Windermere Beach Club (private)

Thursday, December 21: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:55 p.m. Sheridan Beach Club (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:45 p.m. Matthews Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

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

Friday, December 22: Kirkland City Dock (Second Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:50 p.m. Luther Burbank Park  (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:50 p.m Road End Beach Park -Yarrow Point (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 23: Kirkland City Dock (First Sailing)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
2:45 p.m. Waverly Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
3:50 p.m. Houghton Beach (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 23: Kirkland City Dock (Grand Finale Night)
Choir: Dickens Carolers
7:45 p.m. Portage Bay
8:45 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