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Published November 3, 2023

Seattle's Ultimate Winter Bucket List

Boat parades, holiday markets, lights shows, and more—winter in Seattle is here. 🎄⛄🧣

by Seattle Bucket List


As winter in Seattle sets in, the temperatures start to drop, the skies get a little cloudier, and the nights get longer. But as long as you've got a reliable waterproof coat, you'll be fine—and the longer nights only mean there's more opportunity to see the city come alive with twinkling lights and glowy Christmas trees.

While we love Seattle year-round, we're all about leaning into the seasons, and the Emerald City offers a unique blend of outdoor adventures and cozy indoor experiences that make it shine even when the skies are gray. From holiday markets to nightly parades, and decadent hot chocolate to a day in the mountains, we're embracing winter in the PNW. We put together the ultimate guide to winter in Seattle, so you don't miss any of the festive fun.

20+ Things to Add to Your Seattle Bucket List This Winter

Kick Off the Holiday Season at Magic in The Market

Pike Place Market will unofficially open the holiday season in Seattle with its 28th Annual Magic in The Market on November 25. The day will be jam-packed with tons of festive events—free photos with Santa, hand-blown glass ornament demos, live holiday music, free cookie decorating, and DIY Christmas stockings are just a few of the offerings. It all culminates in an epic countdown to light up the market!

Where: Pike Place Market
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Ride the Holiday Carousel in Westlake Park

Westlake Park’s magical holiday carousel, with its vibrant lights and cheerful music, has been a seasonal tradition in Seattle for over 30 years. Located next to the Pioneer Square Holiday Market, you can spend the day shopping for unique gifts, then top it off with a ride on the festive carousel.

Where: Westlake Park: 401 Pine St., Seattle, WA
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Explore the Seattle Christmas Market

Much more than just a market, the European-inspired Christmas emporium features over 60 artisan huts offering unique, handcrafted gifts, plus live entertainment, a Christmas Carousel, a walk-through Christmas tree, contests and scavenger hunts, and much more! Sip Glühwein (mulled wine), German beers, and hot chocolate, and enjoy sweet and savory treats while strolling through! Open November 24 through Christmas Eve.

Where: Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion and South Fountain Lawn
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Watch Merry Movies at City Hall Park

‘Tis the season for holiday movie watching! Stop by City Hall Park at lunchtime every Tuesday this winter and catch classic holiday films like Elf, The Polar Express, and more with free coffee and cocoa to warm up!

Where: City Hall Park: 450 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA
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Experience Snowflake Lane

If you’re someone who just can’t get enough of everything Christmas, Snowflake Lane is for you. You can experience falling snow, dazzling lights, festive music, toy drummers, and dancers in this nightly parade of holiday floats. Yes, we said nightly—as in, there’s a holiday parade every single night from November 24 through December 24—and it’s completely free to attend.

Where: The sidewalks between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square from NE 4th to NE 8th Streets, Bellevue, WA
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Go Ice Skating in Bellevue

While you're in Bellevue, make sure to check out the Bellevue ice rink, back for its 26th season with 9,000 square feet of real ice, themed nights, and on-site concessions. Opening on November 17 this year, the area’s only outdoor rink will be open for 60 consecutive days, rain or shine!

Where: 100 100th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA
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Sip Craft Brews at Winter Beer Fest

Calling all beer lovers! Check out Winter Beer Fest, a beer-tasting tradition celebrating Washington craft beer, happening on December 15 and 16 this year. Come for the beer, stay for the delicious food and live entertainment—you'll leave with your hearts full and bellies warm.

Where: Magnuson Park Hangar 30, 6310 Northeast 74th Street, Seattle, WA
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Take a Day Trip to Leavenworth

The quaint Village of Leavenworth is a favorite escape destination for Seattlites year-round, but visiting it during the holiday season is extra special. The Bavarian-inspired village is transformed into a Christmastown starting November 24 with twinkle lights on every facade, colorfully-wrapped trees, and a dazzling Christmas tree in the square. Plus, see choirs and carolers, visits from Santa, gingerbread houses, and more.

Where: Leavenworth, WA
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Find Unique Gifts at the City’s Holiday Markets

Outside of the month-long Seattle Christmas Market, Seattle is home to a number of unique pop-up markets. The National Nordic Museum will host its 46th Annual Julefest on November 18 & 19, offering an authentic Nordic holiday experience with all the fun and goodies you’d find in Norway, Sweden, and beyond.

Pioneer Square will put on its 3rd Annual Holiday Market on December 8 and 9 with 40+ vendors, a pop-up skating rink, food and beverage options, an ornament scavenger hunt, and more. The following week, you can shop the Native Art Market, showcasing authentic and unique work by Native artists and makers.

Where: Various locations.

Grab Drinks at Miracle on 2nd Street

Starting November 10, Rob Roy will once again transform into Miracle on 2nd, Seattle's most festive holiday bar! Stop by for a big dose of holiday cheer with floor-to-ceiling decorations, twinkling lights, Ugly Sweater contests, and of course, a menu of themed cocktails, boozy egg nog, naughty or nice shots, and more!

Where: 2332 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA
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See WildLanters at the Woodland Park Zoo

Starting November 10, you can visit the zoo’s after-dark exhibit with larger-than-life luminaries that will transport you to a series of colorful, imaginative worlds. See a magical snow world with glistening ice, a corridor of vibrant flowers, a Giant Panda Parkway, and more!

Where: Woodland Park Zoo: 5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, WA
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Watch the Seattle Christmas Boat Parade

No Seattle winter bucket list is complete without mention of the Seattle Christmas Boat Parade. Come see dozens of boats dressed up in twinkling lights, holiday inflatables, candy canes, and more. Not only will the event instantly put you in the holiday spirit, but it also benefits Seattle Children's Hospital.

Where: Route starts in front of Fremont Tug Boats (east of the Aurora Bridge) and ends at Morrison’s Fuel Dock.
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Warm Up With a Hot Chocolate

Is there anything cozier than sipping a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter’s night? Hot Cakes offers a deliciously rich cup of hot chocolate, and you can usually find a variety of seasonal flavors in the winter months, from hot caramel to spicy hot chocolate to apple butterscotch and more. The best part? You have the option to make any drink boozy.

Where: Ballard: 5427 Ballard Ave NW | Capitol Hill: 1650 E Olive Way
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Stroll Through a Gingerbread Village

The Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton is back for its 29th year! From November 22 through January 1, you can marvel at dozens of creative gingerbread structures around the theme "The Chocolate Factory." The event is free and open to the public, and all donations made will directly benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Northwest Chapter.
Where: 1400 6th Ave, Seattle, WA
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See the Symetra Ice Spectacle

Kicking off Seattle Center’s Winterfest is the Symetra Spectacle at the International Fountain. Ring in the holiday season and watch acclaimed artists create spectacular Ice Sculptures from 12 to 4 pm. Fire pits will be available all afternoon for warming up, along with s'mores and hot chocolate.

Where: Seattle Center’s International Fountain Mall Pavers
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Check Out the Winterfest Train & Village

Something about trains and the winter holidays seems to go hand-in-hand, and Seattle Winterfest understands that. A 40+ year tradition, the Winterfest Train & Village will return on November 24 and be on display daily through December 31. See a late 19th-century model train and holiday village, and even take a turn controlling it at select times throughout the day. You can also participate in a Winterfest Train Scavenger Hunt with weekly prizes!

Where: The Armory Food & Event Hall at Seattle Center
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Spend a Day on the Slopes

Few places offer a seamless blend of cityscape and nature the way Seattle does, and this is especially true when skiing season rolls around. Put on your snow gear and spend a day on the slopes! The Summit at Snoqualmie is less than an hour from downtown, and Stevens Pass is only about an hour and a half. If winter sports aren’t your thing, spending a day at the lodge and enjoying the incredible winter landscape is still a pretty good way to spend the day.

Where: Various locations
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Catch a Performance of The Nutcracker

Journey through exciting battles, sugar-filled dreams, enchanting winter forests, and more at the PNB's annual performance of the beloved holiday classic, The Nutcracker. From the dazzling costumes and sets to the beloved music and beautiful performances, this is the perfect place to get your fill of magic and holiday cheer. Running from November 24 through December 27!

Where: McCaw Hall at Seattle Center: 321 Mercer St, Seattle, WA
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Volunteer or Donate to a Worthy Cause

There’s no better way to celebrate the season of giving than helping those in need. Seattle is home to dozens of incredible charities like Food Lifeline, which works to fight hunger and food insecurity. There's also Westside Baby, which provides essentials to babies and children across King County, and you can volunteer at the Seattle Animal Shelter. Find a cause that resonates with you, and spend some time giving back this season.

Where: Various locations


See Fleur de Ville NOËL

For a chill outing this winter, head to Pacific Place and see the seasonal Fleur de Ville creations throughout the space. The artfully crafted floral masterpieces will feature over 15 holiday-inspired installations. Enjoy festive floral reindeer, photo-ready frames, and more—you can even vote for your favorite!

Where: Pacific Place: 600 Pine St, Seattle, WA
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Bake Holiday Treats

Sharpen your culinary skills in time for holiday meals and learn how to make the perfect cookies for Santa at PCC's holiday-themed cooking classes. Choose from Fall Harvest Cooking, Easy Pies and Tarts, Holiday Cookie Box classes, and dozens more (including lots of kid-friendly options)! Then bring them home to share with family and friends—or save them for yourself. We won't judge.

Where: Location varies based on class
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Wander Through Garden d'Lights At Bellevue Botanical Garden

Take a stroll through the Bellevue Botanical Garden this winter and see over half a million sparkling lights formed into the whimsical shapes of plants, flowers, birds, animals, and cascading waterfalls set amid the natural beauty of the landscape. Open from November 25 through December 31.

Where: Bellevue Botanical Garden: 12001 Main Street, Bellevue, WA
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Celebrate New Year’s at The Needle

Easily, one of the coolest ways to spend NYE is to catch the fireworks show at the Space Needle—there’s just nothing quite like it. The Seattle Center will offer free music in the Armory, and don’t miss the Fountain of Light dance party at International Fountain. Then, countdown and ring in 2024 with an innovative fireworks and light show at the stroke of midnight.

Where: 400 Broad St, Seattle, WA
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