Best Holiday Light Displays in Greater Seattle
Written by Lauren Valencia
A truly American experience, driving around to see holiday lights brings back childhood memories of seeing spectacular, glowing holiday scenes. My family loves to recall the night we drove around the best neighborhood display in Southern California, my brother and I sweltering in our festive, holiday turtlenecks on a 75-degree night. Puget Sound families are lucky to get more of the classic winter experience, complete with frosty air and sometimes, a little snow (or at least rain!). (Know of a great holiday light display we missed? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
WildLights at Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle: For the first time ever, Woodland Park Zoo presents a chance to see the zoo’s wildest creatures and scenes illuminated by thousands of LED lights. Imagine children’s surprise as the Zoomazium becomes Snowmazium during WildLights, with evening story times. With both indoor and outdoor displays, visiting reindeer, and family entertainment like strolling carolers and animal ice sculptures, Wildlights is sure to become a new Seattle family tradition. (See our full review.)
Details: Tickets cost $6.50–$9.50; buy online at zoo.org/wildlights. Open nightly from Nov. 23–Jan. 1, from 5:30–8:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 24–Dec. 25).
Country Village, Bothell. Add some spark to the holidays with the animated holiday light display at Country Village Bothell which features a 40-foot sea serpent, giant dragonfly, and fiddling pig. Children can greet Santa with traditional tree lighting, caroling, and hot roasted chestnuts with Santa’s Arrival, a free event on December 1.
Details: Light display and other holiday activities daily from Nov. 17–Dec. 24. Santa’s arrival at Country Village occurs on Dec. 1 from 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Candy Cane Lane, Seattle's Ravenna neighborhood: An old-school neighborhood light display, Candy Cane Lane lights up N.E. Park Rd. off 20th Ave. E. and Ravenna Blvd. Crowds form every year to view these homes that residents have been decorating since the 1940s. Drive through, or park and walk to avoid a wait.
Details: Open from mid-December to Dec. 31, from 4–11 p.m. Free.
Olympic Manor, Seattle's Ballard: Midcentury architecture and lots of holiday spirit draw huge crowds to the annual holiday light display in Olympic Manor, between N.W. 75th and N.W. 100th in North Seattle. Again, it gets crowded and some opt to park and walk through the neighborhood.
Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden.Hundreds of volunteers make the light displays at this gorgeous holiday experience. Storybook characters, sea creatures, and waterfalls are all represented in lights throughout the garden and in the Visitor Center. Be sure to get your tickets soon as space is limited.
Details: Tickets available online at and at the event for $5/person, children 10 and under are free. Tip: Free nights are offered on November 26–29 and December 3–6. Open nightly Nov. 24–Dec. 31, from 5–10 p.m.
Woodinville Wonderland at 23620 N.E. 183rd St. in Woodinville. Many homes claim to have the best holiday lights, but this one consistently makes it to the top of visitors’ lists, with over 100,000 lights. Animated lights move to music and delight carloads of families every year. The family spends about a month setting this up and collects donations for the Special Olympics.
Details: Open night, from Dec. 1–31, nightly, at 5 p.m. (No lights on Dec. 3, Dec. 10 and Dec. 17.) Free.
Ivar’s Clam Lights at Gene Coulon Memorial Park, Renton: This free, classic Seattle display kicks off on Friday, November 30 with live entertainment, the official lighting ceremony, the Parade of Boats and an appearance by the Argosy Christmas Ship.
Details: Open nightly from Nov. 30–Jan. 1, from 5:30–9 p.m. Free.
Timberline Neighborhood in Sammamish: Another neighborhood that gets a lot of buzz each year is Timberline in Sammamish. Residents deck out their homes in light displays, and past years have included a Grinch House and the Polar Express Station at N.E. 42nd St. and 204th Ave. N.E.
Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Tacoma. New delights, like the Giant Pacific Octopus, as well as old favorites illuminate the night with over a half-million lights. Kids will love seeing Santa scuba dive with sharks in the balmy South Pacific Aquarium at 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Plus, there are two new zip lines/challenge courses (Zoom) that will be open at the zoo just in time for Zoolights.
Details: Tickets cost $7.25–$8.50; buy online. Open nightly from Nov. 23–Jan. 1, 5–9 p.m. (closed Dec. 24).
Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park. This two-mile drive-through display is the largest in the Northwest, now in its 18th year of delighting families with holiday scenes along the lake. In addition to the beloved displays of years past, there are new attractions like the holiday light tunnel. Enhance the experience by tuning your radio to FM 93.7 for holiday favorites performed by a local high school. Tip: This popular event typically has an hour wait on Friday and Saturday nights, so try weekday nights for a less crowded drive.
Details: Tickets start at $13 per vehicle; buy online (scroll down for a $3 coupon). Open nightly from Nov. 22–Jan. 1, from 5:30–9 p.m.
Holiday with Lights at Wild Waves, Federal Way. Holiday with Lights at Wild Waves is back! Last held in 2004, this holiday adventure will feature Santa’s Workshop and Toyland, live entertainment, and a large light display.
Details: Tickets are included in the 2012 Season Pass, or for $12.99/person online. Open nightly from Dec. 14–Dec. 31, Fridays and Saturdays, 6–11 p.m., Sunday–Thursday, 6–10 p.m. (Park closed Dec. 24–25.).
Steve Pool’s Parade of Lights. An online resource that lists tons of individual homes known to light up the holidays. Use it to make your own holiday lighting map.
Lauren Valencia, former editorial intern with ParentMap, is an educator and aspiring magazine editor. She loves sharing her passion for music and the arts with children and families, from writing kindie music reviews to throwing preschool dance parties to the tunes of Whitney Houston and Caspar Babypants.