Kids and adults alike will never stop being fascinated by Christmas lights. The twinkling makes a holiday already filled with so much joy simply magical. For families on tight budgets, viewing different lighting traditions around Seattle is an affordable way to spend some family time.
Many people believe the tradition of lights goes back to a time when Christmas trees were decorated with candles. For Christians who affiliated the holiday with the birth of a Messiah, the light represented Jesus being the light of the world. In modern times, the lighting is done electrically, and all the excitement that comes with them signals the start of a season of kindness, gift-giving, family unity and good cheer. Here are some places to catch the spirit of lights in Seattle.
What's Happening Now
Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Festival
If you take your kids to Leavenworth on Saturdays and Sundays through December 17 for this feast of lights, you will likely feel as if you have a character part in every Christmas story or song you have ever known. The majestic twinkling trees and the rows of lights outlining houses and other buildings in the town will keep your kids in wide-eyed awe. St. Nickolaus traditionally stands in front of the town's Front Street Gazebo greeting visitors.
While the kids talk to Santa and whisper their favorite wishes, you and the other adults in tow can head to the Gluhwein Tent for wine or hot spiced cider. The kids can also look forward to costumed Christmas characters (including Father Christmas), Christmas carol concerts, sledding and free cookies discovered along the trail on the Cookie Crawl Map. If you can handle the sugar high that is sure to follow, your family will create family memories that no one is soon to forget.
Upcoming Light Spectacles
Light Up the Night: Burger Fest
The theme for this year's Light up the Night festivities on December 14 is burgers. This annual Chanukah celebration at Westlake Park features festive music, a Mitzvah Tank and a holiday market for purchasing gifts and supporting local vendors. After the kids get their fill of hot latkes, drinks and gourmet burgers, they can watch the lighting of the giant outdoor menorah. The event is free to the public and a good place to go if you want to keep your little ones mostly calm and just build up excitement to the big lighting moment. At other events, kids tend to see the lights a mile away, so they are excited before they ever get out of the car. The lights are a process here, and a way to learn patience. Besides, you will love not spending all of your time trying to keep everyone together.
Seattle Art Museum (SAM) Lights at Olympic Sculpture Park
Christmas lights become a work of art at Olympic Sculpture Park on December 14. In the space outside the museum, kids will delight in the lighted musical processions on the Z path. Organizers invite lighting designers to create a lighting pattern for the trees along this path, too. A responsive map of the entire park develops with the blending of all the designers' creations, which collectively are called the Arborealis Tree Lighting. This otherworldly experience makes kids believe that light has its own voice.
Light at this interactive show responds to each individual visitor with the Seattle Design Nerds' Bop Bags at the Gates Amphitheater. These bags are glow-in-the-dark inflatables that light up each step of the way based on your voice and movement. Finally, the outdoor part of this spectacular show has a wishing tree that everyone grows together. Watch the fascination of your kids as they add a secret dream or wish to the tree, and the tree grows throughout the night.
Inside the museum space, there is more light to dazzle young wandering minds. Artist Wyly Astley uses light to help visitors create glowing decor that kids love to add to their hats, shoes and clothes. They love being able to recognize each other in the dark based on their own unique light designs. The most unique designs end up being part of the show. In the PACCAR Pavilion Art Lab, kids are reminded of what quiet magic they can make with light. They can read books in a twinkling corner, make shadow puppets or simply play in the colorful display of lights.
Christmas Ship Festival
The parade of boats that are a part of this annual Seattle holiday celebration has been happening since 1949. Organizers decorate the Spirit of Seattle shop with hundreds of white Christmas lights that are visible as the ship sails to about 65 waterfront Seattle communities across the Puget Sound. Kids will start singing along with Argosy Christmas Ship Festival Choirs once the caroling begins.
There are three ways your family can participate in this event. You can join Santa and the live choir onboard the ship on December 14 and listen to the jolly man in his red suit reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. You can board one of the cruise ships that follow the lead boat and let the kids get lost in the photos with Santa and holiday craft bags. If the boats are too much, you can listen to the choir and be thrilled by the lights from the shore. You will still be creating a moment your kids will want to share with their own children.
Other Notable Places to Catch the Lights
On Christmas Eve, Snowflake Lane in Bellevue re-creates the thrill of the holiday for kids with falling snow, real-life drumming toy soldiers, gorgeous lights and Christmas music. Santa makes an appearance every night of this parade from NE 4th to NE 8th Streets.
The kids can keep the holiday spirit after Christmas at Warm Beach Camp's 15 acres of land. Families gather here to take in the live entertainment, food and activities for the kids while they watch more than a million lights on display.
Through New Year's Eve, Garden d'Lights will showcase over half a million sparkling Christmas lights shaped like flowers, animals, birds and waterfalls at Bellevue Botanical Garden.
Lastly, Ravenna's Candy Cane Lane turns all the Tudor homes into lit-up gingerbread houses, complete with sleighs, reindeer and all the props of Christmas. In Seattle, holiday festivities have no bounds. Where there is joy, and where there are kids, there will be Christmas lights.