10 Can’t-Miss Holiday Attractions in Downtown Seattle

Seattle downtown holiday events
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After a quiet year, Seattle is ready to get into the holiday spirit for 2021! With so many Christmas things to do downtown, you and the kids don’t need to go anywhere else to find (or spread) winter cheer. Whether you’re looking for tree lightings, holiday markets or Santa photo ops, you’ll find it all in the Emerald City. Read on for the merry details!

photo: Christopher Nelson

Seattle Center Winterfest

Seattle Center is doing it up for the holidays starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through the New Year. If you're looking for free and affordable holiday activities and entertainment, head to the heart of the city. While the Winterfest Ice Arena is still on hiatus, families can marvel as a miniature locomotive makes it way through a turn-of-the-century village inside the Armory and complete a scavenger hunt while they're at it. Follow it up with a weekend ice sculpting demonstration or a live performance at the Armory (psst...we're really looking forward to the Zaniac Comedy Show on November 27, 2021) before grabbing a meat pie for dinner and wandering the campus to check out the Luminata then heading home.

Holiday highlight: Plan an evening of music on New Year’s Eve at Seattle Center, or take a trip to the top of the Space Needle to grab a picture with jolly old St. Nick in his glass sleigh. Seeing the city's Christmas lights below are totally worth the trip!

Location: Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle, WA 98109
Dates: Nov. 27-Dec. 31, 2021
Times: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. (check the website for specific activity times and entertainment schedules)
Event details

photo: Awesome Exhibition

Awesome Exhibition

After you've seen the holiday sights at the Armory, head to Fisher Pavilion to check out the awesome new LEGO exhibit that just pulled into town (hint: the massive NASA rocket ship in the Armory will give you a taste of what's in store). While technically not holiday-themed, LEGO lovers of all ages will get a kick out the impressive creations on display here. Designed by LEGO Certified Professional Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught, visitors will find building inspiration around every turn, starting with the Space Needle sculpture that welcomes everyone, and ending with a build-your-own community project station that lets kids leave a mark. Snapping pictures here is tons of fun, and we know your kids won't want to leave the building stations (four in total) until they've completed their brilliant creations. Not to worry—parents will have just as much fun trying to spot the coffee drinking mermaid and stowaway alien aboard the ship that are all part of the fun. 

Insider tip: Look for the "easter eggs" as you make your way through the exhibit—minifigs hidden in unsuspecting places. Best scavenger hunt ever!

Location: Fisher Pavilion, 305 Harrison St., Seattle
Date: Nov. 14, 2021-Jan. 16, 2022
Times: Tues.–Fri., noon-9 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. (last entry 7 p.m.)
Event details

photo: Photo © Angela Sterling

George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

With lavish sets and costumes designed by Ian Falconer (of Olivia fame) and the ever-mesmerizing choreography of Balanchine, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is a forever favorite for many Seattle families. This full-length show is best suited for school-aged kids, but theatergoers of all ages will be glued to their seats for the entire two-plus hour show, basking in the care and craftsmanship of this delightful production. The 40-foot-tall Christmas tree, snow flurries on stage and Mother Ginger’s magical skirt (it weighs more than 60 pounds!) are all part of what makes this production one of the best around. 

Insider tip: A sensory-friendly performance is scheduled for December 21 at 2 p.m.

Location: McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle
Date: Nov. 26-Dec. 28, 2021
Event details

photo: Downtown Seattle Association

Lights, Lights & More Lights

Ride the monorail from Seattle Center to Westlake Park to take advantage of this larger-than-life holiday display that's back this year. More than 80,000 lights will certainly brighten your season as you wander around packages tied up with a bow, colorful ornament and archway light sculptures. Don't forget your phones! There's also an interactive augmented reality experience that gives you a peek at wonderful winter magic that's hidden in plain sight. Holiday concerts, Sundays starting at noon, will lift your spirits, especially when they're accompanied by a cup of hot cocoa.

Insider tip: Occidental Square and the After Dark display in South Lake Union are other hot spots to find lights this season. We're crushing hard on the lighted teeter-totters in SLU.

Location: Westlake Park, 401 Pine St., Seattle, WA
Dates: Nov. 27, 2021-Jan. 2, 2022
Time: 5 p.m.
Event details

photo: Downtown Seattle Association

Westlake Center Tree Lighting Celebration

This year’s tree lighting celebration is on! It will once again take place the day after Thanksgiving, so get there early to stake out a spot, because after last year, everyone is ready to enjoy the full and festive day. Music, light sculptures and other festive activities are on the agenda. Everything will kick off around dusk, with the lighting of the Westlake Park holiday tree.

Good to know: Families will also be able to stream this year's tree lighting from the comfort of home, too. 

Location: Westlake Center Plaza, 400 Pine St., Seattle, WA 98101
Date: Nov. 26, 2021
Time: around dusk

photo: Festival of Trees

Festival of Trees

Whether you're looking for ideas for your own tree this year or just want to gawk at some amazing showstoppers, start your holiday season off with this time-honored tradition now in its 44th year! Since 1978, the talented members of the Dr. Forrest L. Flashman Guild have presented the Festival of Trees, a display of 23 beautifully decorated Christmas trees, each with its own unique theme and style. In addition to viewing the trees, visitors can read inspiring stories of courageous Seattle Children’s Hospital patients. This festival is only on display for a short time, so make plans to see these beauties before they're gone. Proceeds from the tree sales benefit the Seattle Children's Hospital Autism Center and Uncompensated Care program. 

Good to know: Although the trees are back, the annual tree lighting remains closed to the public this year.

Location: Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University St., Seattle, WA 98101
Dates: Nov. 18-Dec. 1, 2021
Event details

photo: Pike Place Market PDA

Magic in the Market

Each year, the Pike Place Market brings holiday magic to its visitors. Now in its 26th year, Magic in the Market is back. Head to this iconic spot and meet Santa under the Market's clock for a free holiday photo shoot (noon-4 p.m.), enjoy live music from the Market buskers on the Market Farm Truck, watch glass blowing demos and enjoy holiday drinks and munchies. Kids can swing by the MarketFront Pavilion to grab a craft kit from market artist, Graig Anderson, and take pictures with Crafty, the market's snow monkey, in the winter wonderland forest when you do. At 5 p.m., Santa will lead a countdown to the lighting of the 20-foot holiday tree and lights throughout the Market.

Holiday Extra: Kids will have two other opportunities to take photos with Santa (and Crafty!). They'll make their way back to the Market on December 4 and 11 to spend time with their fans.

Location: Pike Place Market, 1st Ave. & Pike St., Seattle, WA 98101
Date: Nov. 27, 2021
Time: 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 
Event details

photo: Pacific Place

Holiday Happenings at Pacific Place

Downtown Seattle's five-story shopping center is bringing winter to families this year with familiar favorites and untraditional takes on the season. From November 18 through December. 24, families can take Santa photos, with a twist. A brand-new, interactive experience, the Holiday Magic Village, is an opportunity for kids to meet not one but two holiday icons for pictures. Of course Santa will be there, but so will the Grinch! Watch out refrigerators, here comes Christmas cuteness! Holiday concerts are making a comeback too, with details to be announced. And for something a little different—check out Fleurs de Ville Noel, a fresh way to celebrate the season and snap some great pictures while you're at it!

Location: Pacific Place, 600 Pine St., Seattle, WA 98101
Dates: Nov. 18-Dec. 24, 2021
Event details

Urban Craft Uprising Winter Show

Families can shop 'til they drop at Urban Craft Uprising's annual winter show, held in the Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center. It's the easy way to shop small and local this holiday season. The event is free and family-friendly, and if you're lucky you might even score a swag bag when you're there.

Good to know: If you didn't get enough or couldn't quite make it over, you'll find UCU makers at the South Lake Union Winter Market on Dec. 8 & 9, 2021, too.

Location: Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, 305 Harrison St., Seattle, WA
Dates: Dec. 4 & 5, 2021
Times: Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Event details

photo: iStock

Providence O’Christmas Tree Express

If you're looking to make a difference this season, put the Providence O'Christmas Tree Express on your list. The event raises funds for the ministries of Providence Home and Community Care (PHCC) that offers care for the elderly and supportive housing for the poor and vulnerable. This year three different drive-thru experiences will be offered so families can enjoy the 12 designer-decorated Christmas trees on display. If cookies and milk, a take-home gingerbread house kit and a photo op with Santa sound like your jam, grab tickets to the Treelight Express on November 29.  

Location: The Westin Seattle, 1900 5th Ave., Seattle, WA 98101
Date: Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2021
Event details

Good to Know: Many Seattle favorites, like the Sheraton Grand Gingerbread Village, the Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Olympic, Seattle Aquarium’s Diving Santa and SAM Lights continue to be paused for 2021. Find more holiday events on our Seattle calendar.

—Allison Sutcliffe & Kristina Moy

feature image: Joe Crecca

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