December is upon us and there are tons of Seattle Christmas activities to help you get into the festive spirit this holiday season!
This list covers some of the most popular Seattle Christmas activities as well as a few hidden gem events you may not know about. I’ll overview the most traditional activities like caroling competitions and Christmas markets. I’ll also dive into activities that are great for families and ones that are strictly for adults.
Some of these activities and free and others are a little pricey. But no matter your budget, you can find an excellent way to celebrate. Here are the best Seattle Christmas activities in 2023!
Best Christmas Activities
Seattle Center Winterfest
Winterfest is an annual Seattle Center festival that runs from late November through the end of December. It’s a continuation of Seattle Center’s year-long series of cultural festivals. But this one is all about the holidays.
Walk around Seattle Center to admire the twinkling lights strung up throughout the grounds. Visit the Armory to see the winter train and village. This traditional 19th-century train has been on display during Seattle Christmases for over 40 years.
Looking to shop? Two of the most exciting things about Winterfest 2023 are the daily European-style outdoor Christmas Market and the World Bazaar on the weekends.
The Christmas Market has incredible vendors, live entertainment, mulled wine, treats, and a perfect winter atmosphere. Come to the World Bazaar on weekends to peruse goods created by a variety of artists representing cultures from around the world.
Christmas Ship Festival
Argosy Cruise’s Christmas Ship Festival is another classic Seattle holiday activity. The Christmas ships set sail starting November 25th.
The ships are decked out in lights and holiday decorations. Enjoy choirs singing carols, holiday drinks, and meet and greets with Santa as the ships sail along Elliott Bay and Lake Washington.
Choose to board one of two Christmas ships. The original Christmas boat, The Spirit of Seattle, is the most popular choice and it’s family-friendly. People wanting a child-free boat to ride can snag a ticket to the 21+ Follow Boat, which follows behind The Spirit of Seattle.
The Christmas Ships are admittedly on the expensive side, with tickets starting at $54 for adults. But this is a Christmas activity that is unique to Seattle and worth doing at least once.
Ice Skating at Kraken Community Iceplex
Ice skating is one of those perfect holiday activities. The Kraken Community Iceplex in Northgate is one of the best places in Seattle to go skating. Come for public skating almost daily. Public skate times vary, so check the website before you visit. Admission is $16.50 and skate rentals are $6.
The Kraken Community Iceplex is right in the sprawling Northgate shopping area. So after skating, there are ample spots nearby for dining and window shopping.
Are you determined to get some unique local gifts this holiday season? Seattle has plenty of local markets around the city that operate year-round. Others pop up for the holidays. Here are some of the best options:
- Punk Rock Flea Market, December 8-10: This huge flea market features vendors selling everything from art and sneakers to taxidermy and crystals. Expect to find lots of out-of-the-box, weird, and eclectic gifts here, aligning with the market’s punk rock spirit and name.
- Columbia City Night Market, December 16: This is one of the best night markets in Seattle that happens on the third Saturday of every month. Expect lots of cool gifts from local vendors, in a relaxed and friendly neighborhood environment.
- Urban Craft Uprising Markets
- United Indians Native Art Market, December 15-17: Purchase Native-made goods at this Art Market and support PNW tribes while doing so. Jewelry, art prints, clothing, and more are among the goods.
West Seattle Junction Hometown Holidays
The Hometown Holidays is one of the biggest neighborhood events in Seattle that’s put on by the West Seattle Junction. It’s a great event for families, whether you live in the neighborhood or not. The Hometown Holidays consist of several weeks of festive events that begin in late November.
Come for a Chocolate and Wine Walk on December 1st. Check out the tree lighting and night market on December 9th, and enjoy the hot cocoa and coat drive on December 10th. Little ones have several opportunities to get photos with Santa, and the whole family can enjoy caroling and other festivities all month long.
Winter Beer Fest
Here’s an event that beer lovers won’t want to miss! The Winter Beer Fest takes place from December 15-16, and it’s a wonderful place to try some of Seattle’s best craft beer brewers all in one place.
A few vendors featured in this annual festival include Fremont Brewing, Aslan Brewing, Ghostfish Brewing, and Rooftop Brewing Co. among many more. General tickets include 8 4-oz tasting tickets and a souvenir glass. Along with beer, attendees can expect live entertainment and food to help soak up all the drinks.
Seattle Food Bank Volunteering
Volunteer at some of the city’s food banks that keep our community hunger-free. Giving back locally is a wonderful Seattle Christmas activity for families and individuals.
Food banks can nearly always use extra hands and there are a variety of jobs volunteers can help with. Keep in mind that a majority of food banks need help from people with weekday availability. Your neighborhood food bank is likely the best one to choose, but here are a few of my favorites:
- West Seattle Food Bank
- White Center Food Bank
- Ballard Food Bank
- U-District Food Bank
- List of Seattle-Wide Food Banks and Organizations
The Nutcracker at Pacific Northwest Ballet
Bringing the kids to see The Nutcracker at Pacific Northwest Ballet is another family-friendly Seattle Christmas activity. Performances begin in late November and run through December. Tickets start at around $30 depending on the day and time of the show.
The sweet story is brought to life through talented performers. Even younger kids will be engaged, so use this as an excuse for the whole family to get dressed up.
Performances are at McCaw Hall in Seattle Center. There are dozens of places around the neighborhood where you can grab lunch or dinner before or after the show.
Watching a Christmas tree come alight alongside hundreds of other people is one of the most magical parts of the Christmas season. There are several tree-lighting events for people craving this holiday experience.
The biggest and most popular tree lighting ceremony is the Magic in the Market tree lighting at Pike Place Market. This event is more than just a tree-lighting ceremony. Throughout the day before the evening’s tree lighting, visitors can participate in other market events. There is free cookie decorating, a 21+ holiday beverage tour, and a glass ornament-making demo. This year the Magic in the Market tree lighting will take place on November 25th.
A smaller tree lighting ceremony happens on December 9th in West Seattle for GLOWS (Glorious Lights of West Seattle). People can also check out the tree-lighting ceremonies in other neighboring cities. Go to Illuminate MI on Mercer Island or Winter Lights at Coulon Park in Renton.
WildLanterns at Woodland Park Zoo
Head over to WildLanterns at the Woodland Park Zoo for another fun way to admire twinkly Christmas lights. During this event, the zoo gets decked out in large animal-themed lighting displays that delight visitors of all ages.
Wander through whimsical light displays of all sorts of creatures – birds, pandas, bugs, and fantastical critters like dragons and unicorns. There’s an interactive area popular with families, and the Zoomazium indoor playground is also open during WildLanterns. All in all, this is a fun event for people of all ages with plenty to keep young ones entertained.
Want a way to get active and festive? Several holiday runs throughout December make it a joy to get out and run whether the weather is wet and mild or cold and sunny. Here are some of the best races to check out:
- Electric Cookie Run, December 2: One of the simplest (and sweetest) races for December. Run one or two loops around Green Lake and then pig out on cookies.
- Jingle Bell Run, December 10: Get decked out in your most festive attire and choose to do a 1-mile walk or a 5k run at this race which benefits the Arthritis Foundation.
- Seward Solstice Run, December 16: This race is part of a winter running series with Northwest Trail Runs, but anyone is allowed to participate. Do a 4.2 mile or 10k race through Seward Park, and come dressed up for the costume contest.
An Improvised Christmas Carol
Improv fans, you don’t want to miss An Improvised Christmas Carol by Unexpected Productions. This comedic show features some of Seattle’s best improvisers retelling this classic Dickens story… based on audience suggestions!
Expect a quirky and hilarious retelling with plenty of laugh-out-loud situations. Best of all? No two performances are alike, so you can see the show multiple times if you like. Check out An Improvised Christmas Carol on Thursdays through Sundays at the Market Theatre in Pike Place Market. Tickets begin at $20 and performances run through December 23rd
Land of the Sweets Burlesque Nutcracker
Want to see an adult-only version of the classic Nutcracker? Buy tickets to the Land of Sweets Burlesque Nutcracker at Triple Door. This sultry and sexy version of the show is a risque Seattle Christmas tradition that’s been a hit for many years.
See it on stage from December 1-28. Singing, dancing, striptease, and jazz performances come together to make this a titillating holiday event. The Triple Door is the perfect place to enjoy it too, especially for those craving dinner and a show.
The Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition
The Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition is yet another can’t-miss event at Pike Place Market. This event has been happening for several decades. It’s an exciting one for people who want to see the top carolers in the city face off against one another.
On its face, this is a singing competition. People will delight in listening to the music and watching the lights and festivities at the market on a visit.
But the real purpose of the competition is to raise money for the Pike Market Senior Center and Food Bank. Teams work to raise money as they sing, and the team that raises the most is the winner.
Seattle Santa Con
Seattle Santa Con is a simple event. On December 9th and December 16th, people from all over the city dress up as Santa and roam the streets, supporting local businesses, and spending the day as one of many Santas. It’s a wonderfully creative and, admittedly silly, event designed to get people full of holiday cheer.
Expect live entertainment, drink specials, professional photographers, and general merriment at Seattle Santa Con. Tickets begin at $7.50, and the costs benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County.
There you have it! These are the best Seattle Christmas activities to look forward to in 2023. There are plenty of options for things to do whether you’re looking for something traditional, family-friendly, or for adults only. Have fun and happy holidays!