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.
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?!
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!
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 – 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
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+
Winter Beerfest – Friday, December 2 – Saturday, December 3 at Magnuson Park Hangar 30 in Seattle
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
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.
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
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.
Ticketed Family-Friendly Events
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.
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
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.
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.
Winter of Wonder – Thursday, December 1 – Tuesday, January 3, 2023 at Bloedel Reserve
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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
Take a luminary forest walk and create a holiday craft in one of Seattle’s most serene spots.
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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