5 Best Christmas Destinations In The Pacific Northwest

The Christmas season here in the PNW is an extra special time of year. There’s no place like home for the holidays, but if you still have that urge to travel, there are lots of unique events worth spending a little time on the road. If you want to make this Christmas extra special, here are a few options!


A trip to the North Pole isn’t in the cards this Christmas. But who needs negative temps and tons of travel, when you can ride the only daylight train to the legendary Christmas town of Leavenworth to see the annual Lighting Festival?

The fun begins as you board the train in Seattle, cozy into your seat, and enjoy a continental breakfast. The changing scenery outside will compete for your attention onboard the train as oom-pa bands, carolers, magicians, and Santa perform through the aisles.

Upon arrival in Leavenworth, the fun continues in the streets of this Bavarian mountain town, that’s dressed up to look and feel, as The New York Times wrote, “a bit like the interior of a snow globe.” You’ll take in the season as you roam around this “perfect place to spark the holiday spirit,” where horse-drawn carriages glide down the roads, carolers stroll, and vendors sell delicious holiday fare.

Later, you’ll gather for the highlight of the day: In one truly magical moment, the entire town will become illuminated in a synchronized display that rivals the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree (and is a whole lot more charming). After, reboard the train where you’ll enjoy dinner, more entertainment, and hot chocolate.

Snowflake Lane

If you’re anywhere around the Seattle area this Christmas season, be sure to head to Bellevue, just across Lake Washington from Seattle. That’s because Snowflake Lane is on again this year and has really become quite a holiday tradition.

This nightly free celebration just lights up downtown Bellevue with music, dance, and an incredible group of performers that will really put you in the holiday spirit. The area becomes a winter wonderland with falling snow, colorful lights, and enchanting costumed characters performing lively dance routines to the holiday classics.

It’s a 20-minute show each night starting at 7 p.m. Upwards of 10,000 spectators line the streets to watch the show, which is put on near the Bellevue Collection shopping complex. Nearly 250 of the area’s most talented teen performers pull out all the stops to entertain the cheering crowds.

Dressed in lavish costumes, Snowflake Lane performers treat holiday revelers to a great time as they execute their professionally choreographed dance routines.

It’s one of those Christmas events you’ll be glad you saw in person.

Christmas Ship Festival

The Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship Festival is a holiday celebration that has been a Pacific Northwest tradition since 1949. Every year, the Argosy Christmas Ship sails to different Puget Sound waterfront communities, and there are now around 65 ports of call now taking part in the festival.

Choirs on board the ship give 20-minute performances to each of these communities, all broadcast through a state-of-the-art speaker system. On shore, thousands of people gather around roaring bonfires anticipating the arrival of the Christmas Ship.

It’s great for the kids– Santa Claus will read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and there’s a holiday craft area and various activities for the youngsters. It’s a fun Christmas adventure for the whole family.

Lights of Christmas

The town of Stanwood is host to one of the largest Christmas light displays anywhere and they call it the Lights of Christmas. Stanwood is about an hour’s drive north of Seattle and more than a million Christmas lights are displayed for 19 days in December each year at this unusual spectacle.

It’s spread over 15 acres at Warm Beach Camp in Stanwood and it’s the largest holiday light display in the Pacific Northwest. It combines live entertainment, children’s activities, food, holiday shopping, and lots more. There are five entertainment stages and polar express train. There’s a nativity scene, a petting farm, and a toy shop.

And if you want to, you can spend the night. You can make overnight accommodations in the holiday lodges and also attend dinner theatre or the Sunday Dessert Matinee.

The gates each night open at 5 p.m. and the event closes at 10 p.m. Be sure and check the event website to find out exactly what days during December the Lights of Christmas will be open.


Zoolights at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma

Zoolights is held each year at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo, one of the finest zoos in North America. You’ll see the zoo transformed into a colorful winter wonderland with more than a half-million lights. It becomes a very magical world of dazzling 3-D animal light displays.

You can have your photo taken with reindeer, or even ride a camel. The carousel ride is a favorite for the kids.

Check the event website for hours but the zoo says a good time to visit Zoolights is after 7 p.m. when the crowds begin to slow down. And keep in mind your Zoolights ticket includes a special coupon for Zoo admission at a later date. So come for the lights, but come back to see the amazing animals on display throughout this gorgeous urban park.


Christmas is an especially fun time in the PNW where every bit of the outdoors seems to be covered in Christmas trees.

So get in the festive spirit and choose some of Washington’s and Oregon’s best Christmas destinations for the coming season!

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