What to do now in Seattle

Seattle's Dazzling Holiday Light Displays

(c) Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo. WildLights is a perennial favorite.

The Emerald City sparkles during the holidays with twinkling light displays dotted around. From one-night celebrations to monthlong displays, these beloved annual events are not to be missed.

Pathway of Lights One of Seattle’s most-cherished parks, Green Lake, gets into the festive spirit on the evening of 12/9 with hundreds of luminaria marking the way to free musical performances. 

SAM Lights On 12/14, the grounds and pavilion of Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park will be aglow with luminaria and colorful light shows. Enjoy live music and sip hot cocoa as you stroll through. 

WildLights The annual event at Woodland Park Zoo (5:30-8:30 p.m. nightly through 1/1) features creative displays using more than 600,000 LED lights, carousel rides, faux snowball fights and visits with Santa and his reindeer.

Garden d'Lights Enjoy holiday favorites from local caroling groups and other performers as you stroll through a winter wonderland of more than half-a-million lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden (4:30-9 p.m through 12/31).

Argosy Christmas Ship Festival Naturally, one of Seattle's best-loved light displays takes place on the water. A quintessential tradition for almost 70 years, this parade of illuminated and decorated boats makes two stops each night at more than 45 locations along Puget Sound (through 12/23). Crowds gather at the waterfront to await the ship and its onboard choir, which serenades the shore with 20-minute performances. Book a place on the lead Christmas Ship or one of the follow boats for festive extras like singa-longs, a gift shop and holiday-themed drinks. Or, head to a waterfront stop to await the ship by a crackling bonfire.

Five ways to trip the light fantastic this Christmas.

5 Things to Do in Seattle During the January 2018 Long Weekend

Two trains movie screenshot
(Courtesy of Seattle Repertory Theatre) August Wilson's "Two Trains Running" opens this weekend.

Northern Lights Film Festival: The Nordic Heritage Museum and Seattle International Film Festival (Jan. 11-Jan.14) team up to present four days of contemporary flicks from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Lapland, kicking off with “Borg vs. McEnroe,” starring Shia LaBeouf, on opening night. 

"Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect:" This weekend is your last chance to catch Seattle Art Museum’s wildly successful exhibit of more than a hundred of Wyeth’s paintings and drawings, including both well-known and rarely seen works. The collection of portraits and landscapes spans Wyeth's 75-year career, offering insight to his evolution as an artist. One of the exhibit highlights is bound to be Wyeth's last-ever painting, titled "Goodbye," which until now had only been seen by attendees of the artist's 2009 memorial service. The show closes Monday (Jan. 15); online reservations are highly recommended. 

Shellfish Showcase: Oysters and clams and mussels, oh my! During this annual event (through Jan. 25), some of Seattle's best-loved restaurants, including Elliot's Oyster House, Il Bistro, Skillet and Coastal Kitchen, are showing off what's fresh and local with special shellfish-driven menus. See the full list of participants and check out their menus here

"Two Trains Running:" This drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson (best-known for “Fences”), takes the stage at the Seattle Repertory Theatre just in time for Martin Luther King Jr. Day ( Jan. 12-Jan. 11). Set in a Pittsburgh diner against the backdrop of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, its themes of racial and economic inequality feel just as relevant today.

Georgetown Art Attack: Head to the quirky little neighborhood of Georgetown for its monthly art crawl (6-9 pm, Saturday, Jan. 13). Highlights include glass-blowing demonstrations at The Rainier Glass Studio; works from emerging comics artists at Fantagraphics; artist Indira Allegra’s performance exhibition exploring the choreography of weaving at The Alice; and a pop-up bazaar of jewelry and fashion from local designers at The Conservatory. Click here for a map of participating venues.

Foreign flicks, shellfish suppers and more!

Can't Miss Holiday Productions in Seattle

Pacific Northwest Ballet presents George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker."
Courtesy PNB. Pacific Northwest Ballet presents George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker."

Beloved ballets, festive musicals and even quirky cabaret shows are all hot tickets this time of year.

For some, it just wouldn't be Christmas without seeing Clara twirl her way through the magical Land of Sweets. Don't miss the chance to be dazzled by the Pacific Northwest Ballet's George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" at McCaw Hall (through 12/28). Little ones will especially love the DIY cupcake bar and costumed characters in the "Nutcracker Suite" during the intermission.

On the other hand, adults might be tempted by "Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker" (12/7-28) a cabaret-style take on the classic tale that packs The Triple Door, a cozy dinner theater near Pike Place Market every year.

For more zany merriment, check in to "Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn" at the 5th Avenue Theatre (through 12/31). This is the West Coast premiere of the recent Broadway hit, which features lavish costumes and sets and 20 Berlin songs.

Don't be a scrooge: Take the whole family to ACT - A Contemporary Theater's production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" (through 12/28) reminder of the true meaning of the season.

Seasonal Shows Take Center Stage

Where to Spot Santa and Other Festive Spectacles in Seattle 2017

Courtesy Pike Place Market Senior Center and Food Bank. The Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition.

This Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, head to Westlake Park for a fun, festive and not-so-silent night at the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, when dozens of caroling teams will vie for top honors. The event is free, but donations to Pike Market Senior Center & Food Bank are appreciated. 

Old Saint Nick keeps very busy this time of year, Before his big night of present delivery, he makes several stops around the city. Through Christmas Eve you can ooh and ahh over twice-nightly indoor snow shows and tap your toes to live musical performances in the atrium at Pacific Place while you wait for your chance to chat with the jolly old man himself.

You wouldn't want to sit on Santa's lap when he visits the Seattle Aquarium from noon and 3 pm every Saturday, Sunday and Monday through Dec. 24, 2017, as he'll be swimming through on of the giant tanks. After watching the diving Santa stick around for enjoy special holiday concerts.

Santa is for everyone, so celebrate diversity this holiday season. On Saturday, Dec. 2, Asian American Santa will visit the Wing Luke Museum in the Chinatown-International District. Black Santa will be on call for wish lists and photo opps at the Northwest African American Museum on Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10.

Seattle Center buzzes with holiday activity during the monthlong Winterfest. Ongoing attractions include a model train wending its way through a charming wintry village, ice-sculpture carving, Victorian-costumed carolers and an ice skating rink. It wraps up on New Year's Eve with a fireworks display at the Space Needle.

Visit the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle to get the warm fuzzies in the plushest room in town at the Teddy Bear Suite, a room packed with cuddly toy bears, then choose your favorite from the elaborately decorated firs and pines at the hotel's Festival of Trees. 

The annual Gingerbread Village display (through Jan. 1, 2018) at City Center features sugary structures created by the Sheraton Seattle's culinary team and top local architecture firms. The event is free, but donations to the Northwest Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation are appreciated.

Gallery: Santa and Other Festivities in Seattle

Celebrate the season family-friendly holiday activities.

Where to Gobble Up Thanksgiving Dinner 2017 in Seattle

(©Mark Gunn/Flickr, Creative Commons)

If you aren't in town for a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal, there are still plenty of ways to get your turkey fix, from traditional feasts to offbeat options. Tables are booking up quickly all over town though, so make your reservations pronto.

RN74: Expect holiday classics cooked with French flair dishes at this upscale restaurant in downtown. The three-course dinner offers a choice of main courses including roasted heritage turkey, Lobster Seafood Fantasy and filet beef Wellington served alongside roasted foie gras stuffing and sweet potato gratin with duck confit. Save room for pumpkin pie or rosemary and orange-liqueur chocolate mousse.

Scout: The cozy interior of Chef Josh Henderson's restaurant at the Thompson Seattle is ideal for celebrating with family and friends. During its second-annual Friendsgiving celebration seatings at 1 pm and 4 pm, guests can choose their favorites from the three-course menu. Mains include roasted turkey, roasted trout or roasted squash, each served with sides of truffle mac and cheese, spinach gratin and oyster stuffing. 

Red Cedar & Sage: This Pike Place Market fave will serve a traditional turkey or prime rib dinner made with locally sourced ingredients. 

Waterways Cruises: Step aboard for an unforgettable holiday cruise with Waterways; their lunch and dinner jaunts include champagne at boarding, a gourmet buffet and 2.5 hours of sightseeing on lakes Union and Washington.

Wild Ginger: Back on shore, Wild Ginger is spicing up the usual with Asian flavors—think turkey and all the trimmings with lemongrass, turmeric, ginger and more. 

Big Mario’s Pizza: Looking for something completely different? Every year, hip hangout opens late to serve special New York-style slices for the occasion. Don't miss the chance to gobble up their Turkey Trot Pie, with turkey, gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce. 


From traditional Thanksgiving spreads to turkey-topped pizza, here's where to eat in Seattle.

Late-Summer Fun in Seattle

Clockwise: Courtesy Charles Smith Wines Jet City, Washington State Fair, Christopher Nelson/Bumbershoot

With no end of fun things to do, Seattle is the place to spend late summertime soaking up the sun, music and festivities.

End of Summer Bash!: Riesling Revolution
They don’t call Charles Smith the “rock star winemaker” for nothing—Smith was a band manager before he changed his career course and became of the Northwest’s most successful vintners. No surprise then that he’s bringing together two of his greatest passions—wine and rock music—for this blowout event at his Georgetown winery, Charles Smith Wines Jet City. The bash kicks off at 4:30 pm with tastings of Rieslings from 18 (mostly regional) wineries, including his own K Vintners jet City Riesling, which is only available from the Georgetown venue. The fun continues into the night with more wine, Georgetown Brewing Co. beers, food trucks, burlesque shows, and live music from alt-country rockers Calexico and headliners Seattle-based indie-folk band The Head and the Heart, who will perform a special acoustic set. This is one party you won’t want to miss, so get your tickets in advance.

This three-day festival of music, comedy, art, film and all-around good times has been Seattle's most eagerly awaited late-summer event for 45 years. Headlining acts including Weezer, Solange, Lorde, Spoon, Flo Rida will share the Seattle Center stages with dozens more national and local musicians covering the gamut from folk to rap in addition to stand-up stars such as Judah Friedlander, Margaret Cho and Jermaine Fowler. Other entertainment includes a short-film festival, pinball arcade, laser show and modern dance performances. 

Washington State Fair
More than a million fun-seekers of all ages will pour through the gates of the Puyallup fairgrounds—35 miles south of Seattle—over the course of this 24-day extravaganza. Expect all the usual sights and sounds of a good old-fashioned fair: farm animal shows, rodeos, midway rides, live music and, of course, food-on-a-stick. Save some energy to rock out in the evening too—the grandstand concert series lineup features country greats Melissa Etheridge, Hank Williams, Jr., Jason Aldean and other top performers like The Beach Boys and Washington state's own Modest Mouse. 

The season is coming to an end, but not without a few last hurrahs.

Discover Seattle's Spooky Side

Explore Seattle's subterranean history with the Underground Paranormal Experience.

Choose your own adventure this Halloween: Do you prefer screaming "Don't go in there!" at gruesome horror movies or feeling the hairs at the back of your neck stand up upon hearing a subtly spooky ghost story? Or do you like to pass on the scary stuff altogether in favor of good old-fashioned fun like trick-or-treating? Brave grown-ups only or family-friendly—however you like to celebrate the season, Seattle has an event for you. Check out a few of our favorites:

Ghastly Ghost Stories

With these long, chilly nights, there's no better season to curl up with your favorite scary novel or to queue up the horror blockbusters on Netflix. But if there's one thing we should all know from that genre it's don't go it alone. Join fellow thrill-seekers to listen to spooky stories at local bars as part of Seattle Public Library's annual Booktoberfest, which features events such as "Ghastly Tales and Cocktails" at Lottie's Lounge (10/24) and The Conservatory (10/26), and "Ales from the Crypt" nights at Floating Bridge Brewing (10/28) and Tippe & Drague (10/29).

Rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Seattle, Hotel Sorrento will celebrate its reputation this month with "Sorrento Curiosities," a series of spirited events that include Tarot Tuesdays weekly card readings and two talks by noted paranormal researcher Neil McNeil (10/11 and 10/25). Both events take place in the century-old hotel's intimate Fireside Room, where you can also order a hot toddy and ask the bartender to tell you a tale about strange happenings.

Break the tension with laughs at the Thursday night "Campfire" shows by Unexpected Productions, at the theater located behind the Gum Wall at Pike Place Market. The company's improv troupe will use true stories from the audience as the basis for their skits, which promise to be both scary and hilarious.

Love scary movies? You won't want to miss the new "Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film" at MoPOP. Recommended for ages 13 and up, visitors will learn about some of the genre's greats while experiencing first-hand the chilling sensations of cinematic terror in a series of galleries, such as a vampire's lair. You can also catch a screening of "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3" on the big screen in MoPOP's SkyChurch (10/26) as part of the Campout Cinema series—don't forget to bring a blanket to sit on.

Terrifying Tours

A hidden world of abandoned storefronts and sidewalks lies beneath the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood, buried when the area was regraded and rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1889. Hear about paranormal activity as you're guided through the subterranean passageways said to be haunted by the souls who perished there on one of the Underground Paranormal Experience tours running at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays this month.

Back above ground, Spooked in Seattle's nightly walking tours takes brave souls through Pioneer Square for more stories about the ghosts who are said to haunt the city's oldest neighborhood. 

Nothing to Fear

Halloween doesn't have to be horrifying; there are lots of family-friendly goings-on that offer thrills without the chills.

Don your costumes and head to the "Museum of Fright" event at the Museum of Flight (10/29) for G-rated aviation-themed ghost stories, a mad-science lab, spooky craft sessions, and the chance to fly witches on broomsticks through a giant pumpkin.

The Halloween fun at Seattle Aquarium (10/28-29) will include underwater pumpkin carving and mad scientist demonstrations, face-painting, games and more. 

Capitol Hill's annual "Hilloween" event (10/28) features old-school Halloween fun including a kid's carnival, costume parade and trick-or-treating.

Our guide to the city's unique Halloween happenings, including haunted places, terrifying tours and ghastly ghost stories.

How to Explore Seattle's Waterfront

The Seattle Great Wheel
(Courtesy Seattle Great Wheel) The Seattle Great Wheel

When the Denny party, pioneers from the Midwest, arrived in 1851 to settle this area, they first built their cabins at Alki Point. The location proved less than ideal for establishing a waterfront to support the settlement though, so they moved it to the more sheltered harbor of Elliott Bay.

Over the years, Seattle's position on Puget Sound was key to its role in the shipping and logging industries as well as the gold rush, and the waterfront was a rough-and-tumble collection of boarding houses, taverns and gambling halls. Much has changed since then, but the waterfront is still a prime destination for those visiting Seattle.

Clipper Vacations tour boat

Choose Your Own Adventure 

These days, the entertainment options on and around the docks are family-friendly but just as exciting.

Get an idea of the awesome yet challenging landscapes that greeted those early explorers at Wings Over Washington. Part theater, part ride, this unique experience pairs cutting-edge technology like virtual reality, laser projection and drone photography with seats that change direction and pitch synchronized to the film. Once you're buckled in, you'll feel as if you're flying high above Washington's mountains, rainforest, cliffs and more.

From virtual views to the real thing—the Seattle Great Wheel. The 175-foot wheel's glass-walled gondolas allow passengers 360-degree views during the slow, smooth ride. After dark, the wheel itself becomes a sight to see, thanks to its almost 500,000 LED lights. For holidays and special events, such as Seattle Seahawks games, the lights are programmed with colorful, pulsating displays.

The waterfront also offers a launching point for discovering the Puget Sound area as many early explorers did: by water. Argosy Cruises offers daily cruises of the harbor year-round. For a glimpse into the lives of the area's original inhabitants, opt for the Tillicum Village cruise. The half-day excursion takes passengers to Blake Island State Park to tour a longhouse, stroll beach and forest trails, dine on clams and alder-roasted salmon and enjoy Native American dance and music performances.

For longer excursions, Clipper Vacations offers daily departures to Victoria, British Columbia, where historic buildings, formal gardens and high tea services are all part of the city's colonial charm.

If sea life intrigues you, set aside some time to visit Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59. Its permanent exhibits highlight the underwater wildlife of Puget Sound and the Northwest, including octopi, sixgill sharks, and salmon. Be prepared to fall in love with the sea otters and their playful antics.

Seattle waterfront skyline

Try Today's Catch

Long before the Seattle Aquarium was built, another, smaller aquarium attracted visitors to the historic waterfront. It was opened in 1938 by Seattle icon Ivar Haglund, who charged curious customers a nickel to view his collection of sea life. He soon added a fish 'n' chips stand to his attraction, which proved a great success. He later opened a standalone restaurant called Ivar's Acres of Clams—it's still at Pier 54 delighting visitors with fresh catches and great views more than 70 years later.

You'll never be short of dining options on the waterfront. If it's shellfish you're after, check out a few of our other favorites: Elliott's Oyster House, a Pier 56 favorite since 1975; or The Crab Pot on Pier 57, where "sea feasts" of steamed crab, baked clams and more are served family-style on butcher-paper covered tables. Expect to get messy!

While Seattle is known for its seafood, that isn't the only option on the waterfront. Pier 55 boasts a location of a nationwide burger restaurant you might not have realized originated in Seattle: Red Robin. The chain got its start near the University of Washington in the 1940s as Sam's Tavern, but was soon rechristened Sam's Red Robin after its founder's favorite song. Of course, you'll find the usual menu of gourmet burgers and bottomless fries at the waterfront location—but the bay views are one-of-a-kind.

Kidd Valley, a local favorite that's been serving up burgers and hand-blended shakes since 1975, opened a location on neighboring Pier 54 last month.

Find The Perfect Souvenir

Seattle owes much of its success to its position as a gateway to the Klondike gold rush, when expedition outfitters and other businesses sprung up to cater to the needs of the 30,000-40,000 prospectors who passed through the city on their way to Alaska to find fortune starting in 1897.

Some of those businesses still exist today, including Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Part shop, part museum, the venue houses a collection of oddities like shrunken heads, mummies and taxidermied mythical creatures, along with Northwestern souvenirs that range from the quirky—Sasquatch action figures—to the classic—Native American art prints.

For more traditional reminders of your visit, head to Simply Seattle for T-shirts, "rain globes" and gift baskets of locally produced artisan foods, or to Pike Street Press, where you'll find letterpress postcards, prints and more designed by Seattle artists.

Seattle's historic waterfront has served as a prime entertainment spot for the city's explorers since pioneer days.

Handmade Holidays From Seattle

Erickson Longboards cutting board
(©Denise Kendall) Erickson Longboards cutting board

Looking for a perfect gift to bring home? Here, 10 things that will bring smiles to the faces of your loved ones during the holiday season... 

SLIDESHOW: Handmade Holidays From Seattle

Share a bit of Seattle with your loved ones this season with our picks from the Emerald City.

A Family Holiday in Seattle: 10 Necessary Stops

Winter train village at Seattle Center's Winterfest
(©Jonathan P. Beck) Winter train village at Seattle Center's Winterfest

Celebrations abound in Seattle and beyond during these busy holiday months. From incredible light displays to indoor snow showers, the magic of the season is everywhere.

A Winter Wonderland

Snowflake Lane, the annual celebration at The Bellevue Collection, is celebrating its 10th season this year. From Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, see falling snow, watch the Toy Soldier Drummers and see other musical dance performances. Meet a magical cast of characters, including Snow Princesses and Jingle Elves, who hand out blinking snowflake pins and, over the course of the month, more than 1 million pieces of candy. The 20-minute show begins at 7 pm and is free.

Wintefest Ice Rink at Seattle Center


Seattle Center buzzes with holiday activity Nov. 28-Dec. 31. You'll find concerts, a winter train and village, ice-sculpture carving and the Winterfest Ice Rink. It wraps up on Dec. 31 with fireworks from the Space Needle.

Let It Snow

Downtown, Pacific Place pulls off the impossible: Nightly, Nov. 28-Dec. 31, it snows in the atrium. Visit Santa or watch performances at noon and again at 5 pm daily.

Garden d'Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden

Light the Night

The region shines during the holidays with twinkling light displays. The Garden d'Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden uses more than 500,000 lights to create a winter wonderland. Lights are on view from 4:30 to 9:30 pm daily, Nov. 29-Jan. 3. Insider's tip: Buy your tickets online to avoid the ticket line. In Seattle, the Woodland Park Zoo creates its own light displays with WildLights from 5:30 to 8:30 pm Nov. 28-Jan. 5. Santa's reindeer also make an appearance. Buy tickets online or at the entrance.

Gingerbread Village

Gingerbread Village

The 22nd annual gingerbread village at the Sheraton Seattle features spectacularly sweet buildings created by the Sheraton’s culinary team and top local architecture firms. This year’s theme, “Jingle All the Way,” brings visitors through scenes of classic holiday songs. The event is free, but donations to the Northwest Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation are accepted. 

Teddy Bear Suite

This annual tradition fills one of the Fairmont Olympic’s largest suites with cuddly, cute teddy bears. Professionally decorated by an interior designer, it’s the perfect spot for a few family photos. Donations are accepted and benefit uncompensated care at Children’s Hospital. The suite is open Nov. 23 to Dec. 24.

Westlake Tree

On Nov. 28, Westlake Center lights its enormous tree. Come watch as both the tree and Macy’s Holiday Star make the evening glow. In addition to the annual tree, there is a carousel, making this a good stop for photographs.

Macy's Santa Claus


Head to the sixth floor of the downtown Macy’s to give your wish list to Santa. He’ll be meeting and greeting from his post Nov. 28 through Dec. 24—it’s his first stop after greeting parade-watchers at the Seattle Macy’s Holiday Parade on Nov. 28. Santaland hours vary, so call ahead or check the website.

Reindeer Festival

This annual tradition at the Cougar Mountain Zoo in Issaquah, 14 miles east of Seattle, has a variety of activities for the whole family. Meet Santa, feed his reindeer and sit in his sleigh—even hear a story read by one of Santa’s elves. Open from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm daily, Dec. 1-23. For a schedule of events and directions, visit the website. 

Photo ops, Santa visits and giant Christmas trees infuse the Emerald City with the holiday spirit.