Best Christmas and Holiday Light Displays Around Seattle, Tacoma and the Eastside
From zoo sparkle to gaudy neighborhood displays, where to trip the holiday lights fantastic
There's nothing like a stunning display of Christmas and holiday lights to evoke childhood memories. Treat your family to some glowing, electric, "ooh-ahh" joy this season by visiting one of the many spectacular displays lighting up zoo, gardens and neighborhoods. (Know of a great holiday light display we missed? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
WildLights, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle
Woodland Park Zoo's fourth annual holiday lights show features wild animals and exotic destination scenes illuminated by more than 600,000 LED lights. New this year, Santa will be visiting WildLights every Friday–Sunday during the lights festival and also Monday–Wednesday, Dec. 21–23; you can stop by the reindeer barn at 5:45 p.m. to see him feed the reindeer and then go to Santa's camp to get a picture with him. There is also a holiday wine and beer garden for guests 21 and older, and a peacock scavenger hunt. Once again, the Zoomazium becomes Snowmazium, with evening story times and "snowball" fights. Kids will love riding the zoo's historic decorated carousel to ride (additional $2 fee).
Details: Tickets go on sale on Nov. 3 and cost $6.95–$9.95; buy online at zoo.org/wildlights. Open nightly from Nov. 27–Jan. 3, from 5:30–8:30 p.m. (zoo grounds open until 9 p.m, closed Dec. 24–Dec. 25). Zoo members get $2 off if you purchase WildLights tickets by Dec. 11. There are several family-friendly eateries within walking distance of the zoo, including Zeek's Pizza and Phinney Cafe (with a play area!).
Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden
Bellevue Botanical Garden's annual lights show is stunning, affordable and a bit wild (don't let your toddler run too fast ahead of you on that dark garden path). New this year is a ticket booth for quick and easy entry as well as a new and improved route through the glittery, botanical displays. Hundreds of thousands of colored lights twisted by volunteers into fanciful flower and critter shapes; don't miss the smoking dragon! Visit early in the evening (or very late) to avoid crowds.
Details: Open nightly Nov. 28–Jan. 2; cost is only $5, ages 10 and under free; reserve tickets online to avoid long lines. Free-admission nights are Nov. 30, Dec. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10.
Ivar’s Clam Lights at Gene Coulon Memorial Park, Renton
This classic display of lights decorating dozens of trees and shrubs along a walkable one-mile path in Gene Coulon Memorial Park is free of charge. The fun kicks off on Friday evening, Dec. 4 with the official lighting ceremony, complete with live entertainment from a high school vocal jazz group, a community sing-along, the Parade of Boats and an appearance by the Argosy Christmas Ship (8 p.m.).
Details: Open nightly from Dec. 5–Jan. 1, from 5–9 p.m. Free.
Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Tacoma
One of the region's most beloved displays, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium's spectacular show comprises more than half a million LED lights. The scenes range from old favorites such as the green-and-purple flame tree and huge roaring tiger to newer scenes such as the 15.5-foot-tall Mount Rainier, the happy polar bear family, and the 12th Man Seahawks tree. New displays include a giant rock crab and a tranquil marine life scene. Kids can also see live animals including stingrays, goats, and meerkats. Santa will scuba dive with sharks in the balmy South Pacific Aquarium on selected evenings, Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23. And don't forget camel and carousel rides!
Details: Tickets cost $8.50–$10 for non-members, $5 for members; under age 2 free. Buy online for discounts or at Fred Meyer stores and you can also purchase a combo pass at the front gates for entrance to the zoo and Zoolights. Open nightly from Nov. 27–Jan. 3, 5–9 p.m. (closed Dec. 24). Stop by the Antique Sandwich Company (on Pearl Street) for a bite on the way, or the cafe at the zoo. If Tacoma is a trek for you, don't forget to hit the museums in downtown Tacoma, from LeMay-America's Car Museum to the Tacoma Art Museum to the free Children's Museum of Tacoma.
This two-mile display is the largest drive-through light show in the Northwest, now in its 21st year of delighting families with holiday scenes along the lake. 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. If your family is into antique cars, consider combining it with a trip to see the nearby LeMay Family Collection at Marymount Event Center (open Tuesday–Sunday).
Details: Tickets start at $14 per vehicle; Visit the admissions webpage to learn about half-price nights and scroll down for a $3 coupon. Open nightly from Thanksgivingnight, Nov. 26 to Jan. 1, from 5:30–9 p.m.
North Sound holiday lights
The Lights of Christmas, Warm Beach, Stanwood
With over a million lights on display and literally dozens of attractions, you could spend a weekend exploring the North Sound's huge holiday lights festival (and some people do; you can also book a hotel room right on the premises). It includes live music, story telling, a petting farm, pony rides, train rides, local art, gifts, snacks and — drum roll, please — Washington State's only talking Christmas tree. The Starry Night Coffeehouse is also open.
Details: Tickets cost $11–$16; free for kids ages 3 and younger. AAA members get a $2 discount. Open Dec. 3–6, 10–13, 17–23, 26–29 from 5–10 p.m.
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, fiddling pig and marching ducks. On Friday, Dec. 5, children can celebrate Santa's arrival with traditional tree lighting, caroling, hot roasted chestnuts and of course a visit with the red-suited guy. Kids can also see live reindeer are also in attendance (10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily), check out Santa's workshop; and attend special events such as Cookies with Mrs. Claus and Fun with Frosty. (See the schedule.)
Details: Light display and other holiday activities daily from Nov. 15–Dec. 24. Santa’s arrival at Country Village occurs on Saturday, Dec. 5. Snack or dine at Country Village's many restaurants including Carolina SmokeBBQ, or Village Hot Dogs.
Famed neighborhood displays
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. It's typically open from early December to Dec. 31, from 4–11 p.m. Free.
Olympic Manor, Seattle's Ballard neighborhood: 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.
Woodinville Wonderland, 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. Typically open nightly, from Dec. 1–31.
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.
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.