Festive Holiday and Wintertime Activities in Western Washington

As the days get shorter and the interminable gray begins, it’s tempting to slide into sweatpants and seasonal doldrums. Thankfully, there are plenty of activities, events, and destinations to keep you active during the long winter. Below is a roundup of 2022’s best things to do around western Washington this holiday season. 

Free Events

Fairhaven Winterfest

Fairhaven Winterfest – Friday, November 18 – Sunday, December 18 in Bellingham

Arguably Washington’s most adorable historic downtown, Fairhaven capitalizes on its charm with holiday markets, tree-lighting celebrations, carriage rides, and a visit from Father Christmas.

United Indians Native Art Market – November 19-20 and December 17-18 at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center at Discovery Park in Seattle

Pick up handmade holiday gifts crafted by Native artists, including: jewelry, clothing, prints, woodwork, and more. Did we mention the traditional salmon bake and fry bread?!

United Indians Native Art Market
snowflake lane

Snowflake Lane – Friday, November 25 – Saturday, December 24 at The Bellevue Collection

Snowflake Lane lights up downtown Bellevue with a magical nightly parade. This free event is a feast for the senses that includes music, drumming, dancing, and holiday floats.

Winterfest – Friday, November 25 – Saturday, December 31 at Seattle Center

Drawing crowds for its famous Winter Train, this Seattle Center event also includes a robust schedule of performances, ice sculpture displays, and lights.

Grand Menorah Lighting – Sunday, November 27 at Marina Park in Kirkland

Gather in the park to witness the lighting of a massive menorah in celebration of Hanukkah. Be sure to stick around for music and treats!

new years eve
Christmas Trees in Leavenworth

Village of Lights: Christmastown – December in Leavenworth

Leavenworth truly looks like a snow globe in winter.  It’s the perfect place to shop, nosh, and explore under more than half a million lights illuminating the town center. Daily events and festivities await you throughout the month of December.

Julefest – Saturday, December 3 at Poulsbo Sons of Norway in Poulsbo

Donning a traditional candle crown, Saint Lucia is escorted to shore by a Viking boat at dusk. The bonfire, torches, and Viking costumes make for an atmospheric holiday event. Arrive early to partake in the art market and taste Norwegian foods.

Vashon Island Winterfest – Saturday, December 3 in downtown Vashon Island

Join the Vashon community for a tree lighting ceremony, caroling, and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

holiday trolley

Holiday Trolley – December 3, 10, and 17 in Edmonds

Explore Edmonds in style on a free trolley decked out with decorations. It’s a fun way to scope out the shops and restaurants around town.

Waste-Free Holidays – Saturday, December 17 at WET Science Center in Olympia

Cost: Free

An antidote to modern consumer-centric holidays, Waste-Free Holidays will have you rethinking the way we give gifts, send cards, and wrap presents. This free museum is all about water and includes exhibits for folks of all ages.


For Adults and 21+

beer fest banner

Winter Beerfest – Friday, December 2 – Saturday, December 3 at Magnuson Park Hangar 30 in Seattle

Cost: $40.00

Move over, pumpkin beer, you’re officially dethroned by the rich, malty, and spiced beers of winter. Pair your ten 4-ounce beer tasters with delicious food truck fare.

Urban Craft Uprising Winter Show – Friday, December 2 – Sunday, December 4 at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall

Cost: Free

As the largest indie craft fair in the Pacific Northwest, you’d be hard-pressed to leave empty-handed. Find gifts for friends or treat yourself to a one-of-a-kind treasure made by a local artist.

winter show

Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker – December 7 – 30 at The Triple Door in Seattle

Cost: Tickets start at $70.00

Experience a saucy twist on this holiday classic, featuring critically acclaimed dancing, costuming, and music.

Candlelight: Holiday Special Ft. “The Nutcracker” and More – Saturday, December 10 at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Seattle

Cost: Tickets start at $37.00 

This musical event brings the ambiance of the holidays to a whole other level. Enjoy a candlelit hour of holiday music masterfully performed by a string quartet.

Fugly Sweater Championship – Thursday, December 15th at W Seattle

Cost: Free

And now for something a little different! Dust off your (f)ugliest sweater and enter the contest to win a prize. Win or lose, you’ll get plenty of absurd photos and time to enjoy the W’s stylish Living Room Bar.

fugly sweater

Ticketed Family-Friendly Events

santa train

Yuletide Express – Every Saturday between November 26 and December 17 at Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie.

Cost: $26.00/person, free for kids under the age of 2

Snoqualmie’s own Polar Express! Adults will enjoy the antique coaches, while kiddos are gifted with a peppermint stick and an opportunity to meet Santa. 

Issaquah Reindeer Festival – Thursday, December 1 – Friday, December 30 at Cougar Mountain Zoo in Issaquah.

Cost: TBD, Zoo admission is included with your Reindeer Festival reservation

In this twofer experience, guests can visit the zoo and take part in holiday festivities. Storytime, Santa, crafting, face painting, and animals will keep your kids busy for a full day of adventures.

issaquah reindeer fest
santa photo

A Victorian Country Christmas Festival – Thursday, December 1 – Sunday, December 4 at the Washington State Fair Events Center in Puyallup

Cost: Children 11 years and under are free; tickets for 12 and up are as low as $10.00

This event has all of the usual attractions of holiday festivals, plus a daily Singing Nativity performance that makes this event stand out. After shopping at their massive holiday market, take in a glass of wine (or three) at the Winter Wine Garden.

Christmas Regale – Saturday, December 3 at Fort Nisqually in Tacoma 

Cost: TBD

Enjoy the traditions of Christmases past at Fort Nisqually, a faithful recreation of a mid-1800s Hudson’s Bay Company outpost. Take home a piece of the yule log, create a fragrant ornament, and listen to carolers. Friendly living history interpreters are very willing to have a chat in character; you’ll learn a lot about our rich regional history.

christmas regale
gingerbread houses

Gingerbread Village at Sheraton Grand in Seattle   

Cost: Free admission, but donations are encouraged. Your contribution supports the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

This isn’t your ordinary gingerbread display. The houses are impressive creations by local architectural firms that incorporate lights and kinetic elements in their massive, edible structures.

Outdoor Activities

Winter of Wonder – Thursday, December 1 – Tuesday, January 3, 2023 at Bloedel Reserve

Cost: TBD

The gorgeous Bloedel Reserve hosts a family-friendly event that features handmade woodland creatures, a scavenger hunt, and snow creations. Enjoy 150 acres of wintry natural beauty on Bainbridge Island.

event logo
jingle bell run

Jingle Bell Run – Sunday, December 11 in Seattle

No matter your age or fitness level, Jingle Bell Run is for you. The event includes a 5k, a 1-mile walk, and a kids fun run. Even if you limp to the finish line after a night of too many hot toddies, no worries! You can feel proud that your registration fee supports research and awareness-building for the Arthritis Foundation

Mt. Rainier Gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort in Enumclaw

Take in unparalleled views of the snow-covered Cascades and Mount Rainier. A 12-minute ride brings you to the summit, where you’re greeted by a restaurant and snack shop.

Hurricane Ridge Snowshoe on the Olympic Peninsula

Hurricane Ridge is an iconic Washington trail that’s all the more magical in winter. Come on a clear day for views of Mount Olympus!

rainier gondola
sleigh ride

Sleigh Rides at Three Peak Outfitters in Cle Elum

Cost: Tickets start at $20.00, free for kids ages 2 and under

Is there anything more Christmas-y than a horse-drawn sleigh ride? Cuddle up under blankets and enjoy the snowy scenes.

Franklin Falls hike at Snoqualmie Pass

Like a scene from a fairytale, the waterfall transforms into a curtain of long, draping icicles. This popular trail is always busy, so we recommend visiting on a weekday and/or arriving early.

frozen franklin falls in winter

Holiday Lights

zoo lantern

WildLanterns – Friday, November 11 – Sunday, January 22, 2023 at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle

Cost: Tickets start at $25.95

Setting itself apart from other holiday light displays, this show features fantastical large-scale animal lanterns. 

The Lights of Christmas – November 25-27, December 1-4, 8-11, 14-23, 26-31 in Stanwood

Cost: Tickets start at $27.00

If the cold is not your thing, you’ll love this drive-thru light show. Turn on your radio to hear holiday music while you cruise through a glowing, immersive 30-minute loop.

warm beach lights
light tunnel

Zoolights – Friday, November 25 – Monday, January 2, 2023 at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma

Cost: Tickets start at $6.00

The giant Pacific octopus and massive Mount Rainier make this display a distinctly PNW event. Enjoy dozens of photo-ops amidst nearly one million lights.

Garden d’Lights – Saturday, November 26 – Saturday, December 31 at Bellevue Botanical Garden

Cost: $8.00 for people ages 11 and up, free for kids 10 and under, $5.00 CASH ONLY for parking

Experience a dazzling, botanical-themed display on a 1-mile path through Bellevue Botanical Garden.

Green Lake Pathway of Lights – Saturday, December 10 at Green Lake Park in Seattle

Cost: Free

Volunteers lovingly line Green Lake’s circuit pathway with thousands of simple candle lanterns. Enjoy light refreshments and music after your stroll.

Arboretum Winter Solstice Walk – December 17-18 at UW Botanic Gardens in Seattle

Cost: $12.00/person

Take a luminary forest walk and create a holiday craft in one of Seattle’s most serene spots.

bellevue botanical

What’s your favorite Washington holiday tradition? What are we missing? Let us know in the comments.

Cover image: Mt. Rainier Gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort.

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Britt Board

Britt Board (she/her) is a compulsive explorer based out of Tacoma, WA. She enjoys weird roadside attractions, family-friendly adventures, historical spots, and nature. When she’s not traveling, she’s planning future travels and hanging out at home with her husband, precocious toddler, and unemployed pug.

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