Christmas in Seattle

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A Christmas Card from Seattle

Seattle might seem like an unlikely choice for a Christmas travel destination since it is neither warm and tropical for those who want to escape winter nor cold and snowy for those who enjoy more traditional holiday winter weather. Maybe I'm prejudiced because I was born and raised in Seattle, but I find the climate perfect. It is cold enough to feel like winter, but seldom snowy so it makes it easy to walk around safely to enjoy all of the festivities. For those who crave snow, the nearby mountains have plenty and they are less than an hour away from the city.

I have many fond childhood memories of Seattle Christmas traditions from over 50 years ago. It pleases me that most continue to this day along with some more recent ones that are fun for people of all ages. There are many free activities that can be mixed in with a splurge on a few expensive once-in-a-lifetime experiences that may be on your bucket list. Listen to local holiday music favorites, watch the Westlake Center Tree Lighting, take a ride on an old-fashioned carousel, see amazing gingerbread houses, find the most brilliant displays of Christmas lights, the best place to visit Santa, watch an internationally renowned ballet company perform the Nutcracker and much more.

As a Seattle old timer, I'm sharing my favorite places to go and things to do that I think makes Seattle a special place for a family Christmas vacation. If you can't visit, consider this page as my Christmas Card from Seattle!

(Photo by VickiSims)

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Christmas at the Pike Place Market Seattle

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Local Holiday Music to Get Into the Christmas Spirit

Christmas in the Northwest by Brenda White

As you take my tour of Christmas in Seattle, get into the mood by listening to a Seattle holiday music favorite “Christmas in the Northwest”. Starting in 1985, the Children’s Music Fund has produced about a dozen albums using mostly local Pacific Northwest musicians. The proceeds are used to pay the the cost of medical care not covered by insurance for children treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Medical Center and other children’s hospitals in the region. Each CD includes the title song “Christmas in the Northwest” by Brenda White that is one of my favorites.

Listen to Christmas in the Northwest and enjoy scenes from a typical Pacific Northwest forest in winter.

The Westlake Center Christmas Tree and Macy's Star

Christmas Lights Brighten the Seattle Downtown Area

The large star on the Seattle Macy’s is a tradition that goes back to when the store was the Bon Marche. You will find many old timers around Seattle that still refer to it as “the Bon” even though the store was acquired by the company that owns the Macy’s chain in 1989. It was called Bon-Macy’s for a few years and then became just “Macy’s” in 2005. The lighting of the Macy’s Star and the Westlake Tree is held each year on “black friday”.

(Photo by VickiSims)

The Westlake Center Tree Lighting 2013

Christmas Festivities Kick-off at Westlake Center

Each year a Christmas Tree is displayed at Westlake Center and it is lit for the first time the evening after Thanksgiving (also known as Black Friday) as the official beginning of the Seattle Holiday Season.

Watch the Christmas Tree lighting festivities at Westlake Center from November 29, 2013

Seattle Macy's Christmas Village Window

A Train Travels Through a Miniature Town and Snowy Mountains

A popular holiday tradition for children that has been around since the old days of the Bon Marche, is the Miniature Christmas Village and train. It is still located in the window at the northeast corner of the building that is now Macy’s. As a child I loved to touch the window to make the the trains go through the snow-covered mountains and into the town.

(Photo by VickiSims)

Frango Mints - a Sweet Seattle Holiday Tradition

Frango Collector's Items

For many years Frederick and Nelson's was one of the most beloved department stores in Seattle and the Frango Mints they sold were a holiday tradition. Frederick's became absorbed into the Marshall Field company and then it, too went out of business. When Frederick & Nelson closed, the Bon Marche purchased the Frango candy portion of the business and when Macy's bought the Bon Marche, it became the owner of Frangos. Some collector items from the old days of Frederick and Nelson can still sometimes be found on eBay.

The Westlake Park Holiday Carousel

Take a Ride on the Old-Fashioned Merry-go-round

Right across the street from Westlake Center is Westlake Park, the place to take a ride on an old-fashioned carousel set-up every year just for the holiday season. Cost to ride is a suggested $2 donation to benefit Treehouse a non-profit organization that helps to serve the needs of children in foster care.

(Photo by VickiSims)

What are the Chances of a White Christmas in Seattle?

In the past century Seattle has only had a white Christmas 7 times so the chance of snow in Seattle for Christmas is less than 10%.

Where can the kids visit Santa?

Seattle's Best Santa Claus

The best place to visit Santa is at the flagship Nordstrom’s at the corner of 6th Avenue and Pine Street. The lines can be long, but this is probably the best Santa experience you and your child will ever have. Mrs. Claus and several elves assist Santa by serving hot apple cider and cookies while you wait. When it is your turn, the photo team is excellent with almost every child feeling comfortable enough to smile for a great photo. After pictures are done, Santa takes his time talking with each child about their Christmas wishes. Most photo packages cost between $20 to $50 and can either be picked up at Nordstrom’s or mailed to your home for a modest additional charge.

(Photo by VickiSims)

Santa at Frederick & Nelson in the 1950s

Seattle's Favorite Santa

Frederick and Nelson Santa This is a photo of me with Mrs. Claus taken at Frederick & Nelson’s in the 1950s. For over 100 years, children in Seattle visited Santa at Frederick & Nelsons. After Frederick & Nelson went out of business, Nordstrom’s moved its flagship store into the building and continued the tradition.

Frederick & Nelson Collector's Items

Memorabilia from the old Frederick & Nelson Department Store

Frederick & Nelson and the Bon Marche were the two main department stores in Seattle for many years. Frederick & Nelson was considered to be the more upscale of the two and collectors will still find some of their memorabilia on eBay.

My Favorite Place to go Christmas Shopping

The Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market Seattle (Photo by VickiSims)

Although most major retail chains have a presence in the downtown shopping area, I prefer to walk a few blocks down the street to my favorite place to shop – the Pike Place Market. Each holiday season, I make sure to visit the market at least once to find local products, unique handcrafted gifts and enjoy the holiday ambiance including these decorated pigs pulling Santa’s Sleigh. For more information, visit my page about Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

How Many Days Are Left Until Christmas?

Countdown to Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014: December 25, 2014

Go to See the Fantastic Gingerbread Houses

The Seattle Sheraton Gingerbread Village

Seattle-Sheraton-Gingerbread-Village For the past 20+ years, the Seattle Sheraton Hotel has hosted a display of fantastic gingerbread houses designed by Seattle architects and created by hotel culinary staff. These amazing works of art are enjoyed by both adults and children. Admission is free, but donations to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation are welcomed. For more photos of more of these masterpieces, visit my page about the Seattle Gingerbread Village.

(Photo by VickiSims)

The Space Needle Decorated for the Holidays

A Christmas Tree at the Top of the Needle

Christmas at the Seattle Space Needle

(Photo by VickiSims)

Every year the top of the Space Needle is strung with lights that make it appear to have a Christmas Tree sitting on top which can be seen in from many vantage points around the city. Since the Space Needle is located at the Seattle Center, it can be used as a landmark to find more holiday festivites at the Seattle Center Winterfest. There are daily activities including music, ice sculpting demonstrations and an ice skating rink. For more information, here is the Schedule of Winterfest events. For more information and photos of the needle, visit my page about the Space Needle.

The Seattle Christmas Ship Parade

Watch the Flotilla of Boats with Lights and Decorations

Seattle Christmas Ship Festival What would Christmas in Seattle be without the Seattle Christmas Ship Festival? Although the festival started modestly on a single weekend over 60 years ago, over the years it has expanded to a month-long celebration. Beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving and continuing until a day or two before Christmas, boats of all sizes form a floating parade and travel in and around the numerous waterways in the Seattle area. Carolers are on board the lead ship and there are stops along way at parks and other locations for performances. People can join in the fun on board the boats or watch from the shore gathered around bonfires. Visit my page about the Seattle Christmas Ship Festival for more photos and information about where you can see the ships.

(Photo by VickiSims)

The Best Seattle Neighborhood Christmas Light Display

Visit Candy Cane Lane in the Ravenna Neighborhood

Candy-Cane-Lane-Seattle Candy Cane Lane is the place to go to see the most fantastic Christmas light display in Seattle. It has been a neighborhood tradition to go all out for Christmas decorations for over 60 years.

(Photo credit: wonderlane on Flickr – Creative Commons license 2.0)

Where is Candy Cane Lane?

A Map of Northeast Park Road and Park Road NE

There actually isn't a street in Seattle named "Candy Cane Lane" so you won't find it on most maps. The name of the street that has become known as "Candy Cane Lane" is actually named Northeast Park Road which is a horseshoe shaped street that becomes called Park Road NE as it curves. It is in the Ravenna neighborhood northeast of the city center not far from the University of Washington.
  • Candy Cane Lane

Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker

The Nutcracker - another Seattle Christmas Tradition

PNWB Nutcracker A Seattle holiday tradition to add to your bucket list is to attend a performance of Seattle’s world renowned Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker. Pacific Northwest Ballet was founded in 1972 by Francia Russell and Kent Stowell. The Nutcracker was choreographed by Kent Stowell and has been performed since 1983 with the fantastic sets and costumes that were designed in collaboration with children’s book author and illustrator, Maurice Sendak. For more information and tickets, visit Pacific Northwest Ballet’s website.

(Photo credit: ninacoco on Flickr – Creative Commons license 2.0)

Watch Nutcracker: The Motion Picture

Video of the Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker

You can watch the 1986 Pacific NW Ballet Nutcracker online in this video.

This is the movie Nutcracker which included the Pacific Northwest Ballet and was shown on PBS.

The Book - Pacific Northwest Ballet Presents: Nutcracker

By Pacific NW Ballet Association - with photos by Angela Sterling

Nutcracker - the Movie

Featuring Pacific Northwest Ballet

The 1986 movie "The Nutcracker" features the Pacific Northwest Ballet version that was shown on PBS. If you saw it in Seattle and can't get enough or you aren't able to come to Seattle to see it, you can watch the movie.

Seattle Christmas Cards

Christmas Cards with Photos of Seattle

Planning a Christmas Holiday Trip to Seattle?

Find the best flight and hotel deals

Westlake Center Seattle Fortunately for anyone who is planning a Christmas holiday trip to Seattle, it is definitely off-season, so there are lots of hotel bargains available. Most of the Christmas attractions are located in the heart of downtown Seattle which is very compact and walkable. Staying at a hotel near Westlake Center in the downtown core makes it convenient to enjoy the holiday festivities. Compare prices, and read reviews about Seattle hotels on Trip Advisor.

Christmas in Seattle Space Needle Travel Bag Tags
Christmas in Seattle Space Needle Travel Bag Tags by VickiSims
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Please share your experiences or thoughts about Christmas in Seattle.

Did you enjoy my favorite Christmas Traditions in Seattle?

You need not be a squidoo member to leave a comment, but if you would like to sign up and make your own lens  just click here to get started!

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  • skiesgreen Jan 02, 2014 @ 10:55 pm
    Looks like fun but while you are freezing there we are roasting in Aussie land. Great lens and congrats on LOTD.
  • ArtByLinda Dec 31, 2013 @ 2:21 am
    I love Seattle, the fish market, the ferry across to Bainbridge Island. Great lens!
  • TanjaCrouch Dec 26, 2013 @ 11:39 am
    Yes, I enjoyed your lens. Well done! Seattle is a beautiful city.
  • tbonestakes Dec 23, 2013 @ 4:13 pm
    Great lens, it really gives a panoramic of the city of Seattle. Go Sea-hawks!
  • Max_Globe Dec 23, 2013 @ 9:13 am
    I kind of always wanted to see Space Needle - it looks so festive even when it's not Christmas) Never knew about Chrismas village though! It sounds magical.
  • brahim99 Dec 23, 2013 @ 3:53 am
    Great lens! thanks for sharing. My son may be moving to Seattle, or nearby area, in a year.
  • Dec 22, 2013 @ 10:45 pm
    Seems like a nice place
  • Graceonline Dec 22, 2013 @ 9:54 am
    Loved the tour! So fun to see the pic of you in the Fifties with Mrs. Claus. I've spent quite a bit of time in Seattle, but never over the holidays. Looks like a lot of fun, and I love the weather there. Not too warm or too cold, and the rain was always gentle the times I've been there. Congratulations on LOTD. Richly deserved.
  • Snappysnapper Dec 21, 2013 @ 10:47 pm
    Seems like a wonderful place. Thanks for a lovely informative lens that will encourage many people to visit Seattle at Xmas time.
  • Snappysnapper Dec 21, 2013 @ 10:47 pm
    Seems like a wonderful place. Thanks for a lovely informative lens that will encourage many people to visit Seattle at Xmas time.
  • dawnraeb Dec 20, 2013 @ 11:05 pm
    Great lens! thanks for sharing. My son may be moving to Seattle, or nearby area, in a year. It was fun for me to have a little pre-visit to the area through your lens. Congrats on LotD!
  • rauspitz Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:29 pm
    Great lens, great pictures. Congratulations on getting LotD!
  • lovettuk Dec 20, 2013 @ 9:33 pm
    I really want to move to Seattle, I'm quite the nomad and I like moving spontaneously and Seattle has always been top of my list but i've never quite made it. I'm going to really try this next year so I can make it by next Christmas!!
  • adventuretravelshop Dec 20, 2013 @ 9:18 pm
    I love the photos Seattle is obviously a really nice place - it's on my bucket list! Well done on LoTD.
  • freedomleader Dec 20, 2013 @ 7:48 pm
    Great job on this lens for everyone to see thru your eyes the beauty of Seattle.Thank you for sharing.
  • CrazyHomemaker Dec 20, 2013 @ 7:18 pm
    Congrats on LOTD! This is a very nice lens. It makes me want to visit. Happy Holidays!
  • CrazyHomemaker Dec 20, 2013 @ 7:18 pm
    Congrats on LOTD! This is a very nice lens. It makes me want to visit. Happy Holidays!
  • FlowerChick Dec 20, 2013 @ 4:40 pm
    What a delightful lens! I've never been to Seattle...hope to get there in 2014. Your Christmas traditions sound fabulous. I'm a big frango mints fan too...harkens back to my childhood in the Chicago area and the wonderful Marshall Fields department store.
  • MrAusAdventure Dec 20, 2013 @ 4:20 pm
    I always imagined that Seattle would have been covered in snow in winter being so far north, I guess it has the sea level elevation on it's side though. I have never been that far up the West Coast, but would love to visit at some stage on a road trip up to Canada.
  • seashell2 Dec 20, 2013 @ 3:49 pm
    Seattle is lovely, my husband and I were there this past summer for a few days, love Pike Market, I'm sure it's amazing at Christmas time! Oh and that wonderful bakery there with the yummy pastries! Thanks for sharing!
  • oliver-olson-9 Dec 20, 2013 @ 2:55 pm
    Wow, Beautiful lens. I'm afraid I may have a bit of the humbugs when it comes to Christmas in Seattle. It's actually been over 5 years since I've made the 1 hour quest into Sea town. I'm Afraid I've become some what of an agoraphobe when it comes to the big city. But this lens is making me reconsider my fears.
  • Papier Dec 20, 2013 @ 2:43 pm
    Ohh, the Christmas snowfall of 1990 actually began the week before the holiday. I was in Seattle to visit a hospitalized friend, using a borrowed car, and the city turned to whipped cream, so soft was the snow and so quiet the sounds muffled in white, as the city shut down for a week. Nice nice presentation.
  • ItayasDesigns Dec 20, 2013 @ 2:34 pm
    I worked in downtown Seattle for many years and do miss being in the midst of the holiday decorations and the magical energy of it all. A very beautiful and well done article! :)
  • SophieOlson Dec 20, 2013 @ 1:45 pm
    Thank you! I am Seattle born and raised, now living in Arizona. You brought back so many memories, especially the visit to Santa at Frederick & Nelsons, Frango mints and of course, Candy Cane lane. When I was growing up we had lots of snow! Hopefully, that cycle is coming back..I heard from family it's snowing today up there!
  • peterantonrev Dec 20, 2013 @ 1:08 pm
    That's Juneau, AK, not Juneay! ;-)
  • peterantonrev Dec 20, 2013 @ 1:07 pm
    I have been to Seattle a half dozen times or more, usually in the summer months. I lived in Juneay for two years in the late 70s and took the ferry in and out of Seattle. My sisters both live in NW Washington and a brother-in-law was an officer on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. It is to this day one of my favorite travel stomping grounds.
  • nancycarol Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:43 pm
    I really enjoyed this page and love all the photos. I've never visited Seattle, but this sure makes me want to. Congratulations on a well deserved Lens Of The Day!
  • KarateKatGraphics Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:42 pm
    Here's hoping you get that elusive white Seattle Christmas! I really want to visit there someday, mainly (I've gotta admit) for the wondeful food! Happy holidays :)
  • getmoreinfo Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:39 pm
    I have always heard good things about Seattle, very nice place to live.
  • TeacherPat Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:11 pm
    Great lens! I have never been to Seattle, but it sounds like Christmas would be a great time to visit.
  • calconcrete Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:03 pm
    Very nice description of the XMas attractions in Seattle. However, I am a warm-blooded California guy who doesn't take to cold and rain. I only go to Seattle when I have to for business . . . and hopefully during the warmer months.
  • VickiSims Dec 21, 2013 @ 8:25 am
    August is probably the best month to visit if you like sunny, warmer weather.
  • KarenTBTEN Dec 20, 2013 @ 11:28 am
    I live in Seattle, but I am writing this morning from my brother's house in Phoenix. I will say that Seattle does Christmas more convincingly than Phoenix.

    I don't know all the attractions on the page. I know the little village in the display window downtown, but couldn't remember exactly where it was to get pictures before I left. (I did get pictures of the lovely teddy bear scenes in the windows of a European watch store. They've got quite a holiday display going, too.) Either the holiday carousel wasn't up yet last time I walked around downtown... or else I forgot I forgot exactly where they put that, too!
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:02 pm
    Always fun to hear from another person from the Seattle area. Thank you for your comments.
  • Susan52 Dec 20, 2013 @ 11:07 am
    Beautiful! I really would like to visit Seattle someday. Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!
  • VickiSims Dec 21, 2013 @ 10:35 pm
    Thank you!
  • Upon-Request Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:54 am
    And now there's SNOW as of this morning :) Congrats on LotD
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:00 pm
    Thank you! Yes, snow today! Although will probably be gone by this afternoon.
  • marsha32 Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:47 am
    I've never been to Washington state. This looks beautiful.
  • VickiSims Dec 21, 2013 @ 10:56 pm
    Thank you!
  • d-artist Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:35 am
    Congratulations on LOTD! What a great lens! It makes me want to be there at Christmas daughters took a weekend trip to Seattle and loved it. I LOVE the 1950 photo of you...sweet!
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:42 am
    Thank you!
  • sybil-watson Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:28 am
    What a wonderful lens - I'm so glad you received LOTD! I had totally forgotten about Frango mints, which used to be my favorite when I was a kid. I loved the darling picture of you with Mrs. Claus.
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:42 am
    Thank you so much - I'm glad you enjoyed!
  • KathyT Dec 20, 2013 @ 9:47 am
    What a fabulous lens! Congratulations on LOTD. Seattle looks like an amazing city. I would love to visit, and hope that I am able to do so soon!
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:12 am
    Thank you - so glad you enjoyed my lens.
  • Merrci Dec 20, 2013 @ 8:46 am
    Seattle is such a wonderful city, though I haven't been there for Christmas. LOVE Pikes Market! Great lens with great photos too. Congrats on LofD.
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 8:57 am
    Thank you!
  • BearTale Dec 20, 2013 @ 8:34 am
    Congratulations on your LotD! Great job. This will be the first year that I won't be in Seattle for Christmas. I grew up in Seattle. I still call it "The Bon" (and so does my mom, who has lived in Seattle for almost 60 years), Frangos just don't taste the same since Ferd and Nellies went out of business and Nordies is my favorite place to shop (always has been). Of all the attractions on your list, I would put "The Nutcracker" on the top of the list. Thanks for the memories!
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 8:57 am
    Thank you for sharing your comments and memories of Christmas in Seattle. Wishing you a Merry Christmas wherever you will be this year.
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Dec 20, 2013 @ 8:11 am
    Stopping back by to congratulate you on LotD. Very happy for you. Wishing you much joy this holiday season.
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 8:53 am
    Thank you!
  • esmonaco Dec 20, 2013 @ 5:08 am
    I have never been to Seattle until now, Thanks for the tour, and I love your pictures. Congratulations on LOTD.
  • discountcopiercenter Dec 20, 2013 @ 3:27 am
    Yes, I do enjoy your favourite Christmas Traditions in Seattle. It feels me crazy with all the fun and enjoyment you take over during the Christmas Traditions. Thanks for sharing and many congratulation on getting Lens Of The Day. The selection of pictures are amazing. Merry Christmas and best wishes for New Year 2☺14.
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 8:53 am
    I'm so glad you enjoyed - Happy holidays to you!
  • shoputopian Dec 20, 2013 @ 1:11 am
    Your photo's were amazing Merry Christmas to you and all the best in the New Year!
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 8:52 am
    Thank you and Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2014 to you, too!
  • DebW07 Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:35 am
    I love your photos! Great lens, congrats on LotD!
  • VickiSims Dec 20, 2013 @ 8:52 am
    Thank you!
  • Ruthi Dec 19, 2013 @ 7:28 pm
    The carousel ride would be my favorite thing to do. Merry Christmas, Vicki!
  • VickiSims Dec 19, 2013 @ 11:19 pm
    Thank you - same to you!
  • kinworm Dec 11, 2013 @ 8:54 am
    Wishing you a magical white Christmas this year even though the odds are stacked against it :)
  • VickiSims Dec 19, 2013 @ 11:19 pm
    Thank you!
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Dec 07, 2013 @ 4:19 pm
    I enjoyed time spent in Seattle one December (there for a convention). Really enjoyed the Pike Place Market. This wonderful showcase makes me want to get on a plane and head your way. Beautifully presented. Lovely music.

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