Best Ways to Enjoy Christmas in the Northwest

The Northwest offers pretty much everything, other than a tropical climate, to enjoy at Christmas, from snow sports like skiing, boarding and tubing to holiday parades, craft fairs, festivals and more.

If you really want to get into the spirit, here are some great ways to do that right here at home, or nearby.

Christmas Ship Festival, Seattle

Whether you watch or join in, the Argosy Christmas Ship festival is one of the top holiday celebrations in the Northwest, an annual tradition now for more than six decades. From late November through December 23rd, the Argosy Christmas Ship sails to various Puget Sound waterfront communities and choirs onboard give singing performances to each one, broadcast via a speaker system. On land, thousands come to gather around bonfires, waiting for the ship to arrive. You can board the Christmas ship, or one of the parade ships that follow.

Watch ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Seattle’s ACT Theatre

Attending a local production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the ACT Theatre is sure to get you in the holiday spirit. The 90-minute production offered through December 30th, has been performing annually in the city for over 40 years.

Christmas Lighting Festival, Leavenworth

We’ve mentioned the Christmas Lighting Festival before, but it’s worth mentioning again as one of the top destinations for enjoying holiday delights. Leavenworth, just over the east side of the Cascades, is truly one of the most magical Christmas towns, and the festival transforms it into a virtual snow globe of holiday magic over the first three weekends in December. The Christmas tree lighting takes place at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, plus there are concerts, horse drawn sleighs, shops selling Bavarian goods, and of course, lots of German cuisine and beer.

Take Your Picture With Santa – Under the Water, Seattle Aquarium

Tired of those boring mall Santa photo-ops? How about something a little different. The Seattle Aquarium offers pictures with Santa in his diving gear, completely submerged. Or, you can put on your best Santa suit and attend an event with lots of others dressed up as Mr. or Mrs. Claus and capture an unforgettable selfie.

Experience the Magic of Snow

Every night at 6 p.m. through December 31st, Pacific Place at Pike Place Market offers special indoor snow shower, for those who are missing all of that cold, white stuff.

Portland Christmas Ship Parade, Portland

Portland also has a Christmas Ship Parade, an annual event that takes place on the Columbia and Willamette rivers. It’s held over 15 nights, from December 1st through Thursday Dec. 21st. It’s fun to watch, with boat owners proudly cruising and providing holiday cheer to onlookers, but even more fun to participate if you have your own boat. Not only will you learn some new maneuvers, like the candy cane swirl, you can entertain family and friends with a unique holiday tradition.

Christmas lights at the Grotto in Portland Oregon

Festival of Lights at the Grotto, Portland

This is a must-visit for anyone in or near Portland during the holidays. It includes 150 indoor music concerts along with living history enactments and dazzling holiday light displays with a beautiful outdoor garden setting, lighted Christmas trees, carolers and a life-sized nativity scene. There are Christmas themed shows presented by a master puppeteer each night too. at 6:00, 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. It runs through December 30th, from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with the exception of Christmas Day.

Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway

Self-proclaimed as the largest holiday light exhibit west of the Mississippi, this drive-through exhibit is massive, and comes complete with sparkling animated reindeer, elves, and even dinosaurs. More than 250 colorful light sets and fully animated scenes can be enjoyed through Dec. 27th. As you drive through you can listen to a radio station that’s specially set up for the event featuring Christmas tunes. As it this event is so popular it can get very busy, so try to attend on a week night to avoid the biggest crowds.

Ride a Christmas Train, Hood River

Mount Hood Railroad offers Christmas-themed trains like the Polar Express, as well as Holiday Brunch Trains.

Holiday Lights Show at The Coeur d’Alene Resort, Coeur d’Alene

The Couer d’Alene Resort offers all sorts of fun for the holidays, including dazzling lights, fireworks, and lake cruises throughout the season.

Winter Garden aGlow, Boise

The Idaho Botanical Garden decorates its property with some quarter-million twinkling lights to celebrate the season and it’s truly a spectacle to behold.