From Bavarian towns to enjoying a delicious bite on top of Seattle at the Space Needle, Washington is a great place to spend the holidays.
Washington state is so beautiful, whether you are just visiting or live here. Sure, during the winter months we see a lot of grey skies and rain, but there’s always jackets and umbrellas, you learn to adapt. We are creative and have many unique opportunities, and care about the community. It’s the perfect place to spend the holidays!
1. Visit the Bavarian-Styled Village in the Cascade Mountains: Leavenworth
Leavenworth is such a magical place during the winter; with over half a million Christmas lights(from December 1 through last day of February), entertainment and music filling the streets. German food and beer, shops including a Nutcracker shop and a hat shop.
Check out the Waterfront park with the Wenatchee River flowing through. Within short drives you can find reindeer farm, and a few sleigh rides. They have many places to stay, whether you want to stay conveniently downtown or a short drive away. Or maybe you just want to go visit for the day, you won’t be disappointed.
We love Leavenworth year round, it’s such a beautiful town and offers so much to do. It truly is a winter wonderland.
If you’ve never been and want to experience the holidays there, a few tips. Washington’s weather is so unpredictable, so if you are looking for snow to be completely covering the ground, I’d suggest heading there later in the season. If you really aren’t a fan of crowds, I strongly suggest going during the weekdays, early in the season or later in like January/February. It’ll still be magical and more enjoyable for you. Wear appropriate clothing and shoes, weather and walking.
2. Where to See Spectacular Light Displays
If driving around neighborhoods isn’t really your thing, many businesses put on spectacular light displays. That you can either walk through or drive thru.
Point Defiance Zoolights in Tacoma
Woodland Park WildLanterns in Seattle
Spanaway Park’s Fantasy Lights in Spanaway
Oly Lightstravaganza in Olympia
Garden d’Lights in Bellevue
Lights of Christmas in Stanwood
Winter Glow Spectacular in Spokane
Drive-Thru Holiday Lights At Manito Park in Spokane
Walking around looking at the zoolights is one of our favorite holiday traditions, bundle ourselves up, sipping on some hot cocoa/cider and enjoying all the displays the zoo puts on.
3. Where to Take a Memorable Train Ride
A fun tradition during the holiday season is to take one of the memorable train rides with your loved ones. We’ve been on many over the years and it’s always been a family favorite.
Sadly, with the pandemic they closed down Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad’s Polar Express Train.
Unfortunately this year the Chehalis & Centralia Railway & Museum won’t be running this year, “We regret that we are unable to host THE POLAR EXPRESS in 2022. Due to ongoing track repairs and circumstances beyond our control, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all Christmas holiday excursions in 2022.”
The Chelatchie Railroad which is located in Yacolt and is just North of the Vancouver/Portland area, runs a Christmas train on weekends end of November to December.
The Northwest Railway Museum which is located in Snoqualmie, runs two different train experiences. Santa Limited and Yuletide Express.
4. Visit the “Little Norway” Town of Poulsbo on the Kitsap Peninsula
One of our favorite day trips or even afternoon trips is visiting Poulsbo. It’s this charming little town, during the holiday season they have many different Christmas events, horse drawn carriage rides, a holiday carousel and more. Don’t leave before checking out Sluy’s Bakery!
5. Stroll Through a Living Nativity
If religion is your thing, you may want to visit a living nativity this season. Discovery Baptist Church in Gig Harbor is a very popular location for a living nativity scene, they put on a great show. Hillspring Church in Richland also puts on a great show each year. Also, Calvary Chapel Eastside in Bellevue puts on a scene.
6. Take Your Loved Ones to a Holiday Show
I’m sure we’ve all heard about the beautiful George Balanchine’s show in Seattle, The Nutcracker. There are many other theatre’s through out the state that put on The Nutcracker, be sure to check out your local theatre’s website to see what holiday shows they are putting on this year. Don’t just check out the The Nutcracker this season; some theatre’s put on other shows like Elf, sing alongs, Charlie Brown and more.
7. Stay the Night at Great Wolf Lodge
Us Washingtonians are very fortunate, we have a GWL in our state. It’s a wonderful place to visit and stay year round, but it’s especially magical during the holidays. When it’s a winter wonderland!
8. Experience the Wonder at Snowflake Lane in Bellevue
Snowflake Lane in Bellevue is magical, every night at 7pm November 25-December 24 they have falling snow, dazzling lights, festive music, toy drummers and dancers in this complimentary parade. On the sidewalks of Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square from NE 4th to NE 8th Streets.
We have yet to experience this, but I’ve heard it’s magical but can get very busy. They suggest weekdays and typically Monday is less crowded, if that suits you.
9. Spend a Day or Weekend in Seattle
There’s so much to do and see in Seattle during the holiday season. Whether you live close enough and spend the day there or want to vacation there. Although if you’re only able to do a day, you may want to come back because there truly is so much to do!
Seattle Center’s Winterfest you’ll find performances, a Winter train & Village, campus lighting display and a New Year’s Eve celebration. It goes from November 25-December 31.
Take a ride up the Space Needle and see all the sights of Seattle.
Walk around the well-known Pike Place Market.
Check out Sheraton Grand Seattle’s Gingerbread Village, where Seattle’s top master builders and Sheraton Grand Seattle’s culinary teams come together to build the village.
Fairmount Olympic Hotel in addition to their Festival of Trees, they create a magical Teddy Bear Suite.
10. Enjoy a Fun Afternoon of Ice Skating
Throughout the state we’ve got quite a few ice skating rinks, some that are up temporary for the season and some permanently. Most places even have beginner walkers to use, just check with your local ice skating rink to be sure. Remember to dress appropriately too. Ice skating is such a fun winter activity to do.
11. Visit the Unique Victorian Country Christmas Festival
Victorian Country Christmas is where the spirit of Christmas comes to life, with not only shops but shows, singing, dancing and more. Bavarian treats, home-style cooking, kid friendly items, heart healthy selections and wonderful specialty and ethnic foods. Located in Puyallup, at the Washington State Fair December 1-4.
12. Visit the North Pole With Your Kids
The North Pole at the Fair is an immersion experience for kids, be prepared to stay a little while to play. They’ve got Legos, arcade games, dolls and so much more. And no long line for a Santa photo, you reserve it online but hurry as the spots fill up quickly.
13. Set Sail on the Christmas Ship Festival
Sail on the Argosy Cruises Spirit of Seattle, the official Christmas ship. Where you can listen to choirs on board, it’s decorated with hundreds of shimmery white lights, shopping and visiting waterfront communities around Seattle.
It runs day after Thanksgiving and through December 23, choose from an all ages ship on the Spirit of Seattle or go on the 21+ adult only ugly sweater boat that follows the Spirit of Seattle. Or maybe you want to stay onshore, they have a community event where you can enjoy a 20 minute choir performance broadcast from the ship.
14. Take a Free Carriage Ride in Spokane
Beginning day after Thanksgiving, they run free carriage rides through Riverfront Park during the holiday season. Reservations required, sponsored by Wheatland Bank.
15. Spend the Day Playing at the Mountains or Cascades
We are very fortunate that most of us live within a couple hour drive to a beautiful snow covered mountain or cascade. Mt Rainier, Mt Baker, Mt Adams, Snoqualmie Pass, Hurricane Ridge and so many more. Stay at one of the lodges for the weekend, or plan a day trip. Eat at one of the restaurants or pack food, just remember to dress appropriately and pack extra clothes!
16. Check Out Your Towns Christmas Tree Lighting and/or Winterfest
One of the easiest ways to get into the holiday spirit is by attending your local Christmas Tree Lighting, they are usually on the first weekend of December. If your town doesn’t participate in one, go to your neighboring towns celebration. And of course find out if your town holds any other winter events, or maybe the local high schools hold a Winterfest. Which is a great way to also shop local and handmade items too.