Snowflake Lane, 2015 | Credit: GoToVan, Flickr CC
Editor's Note: This article was sponsored by The Bellevue Collection.
Every December, Hope Bell of Bellevue bundles up her two children, ages 11 and 4, and sets off in search of snow. And each year, The Bellevue Collection’s Snowflake Lane experience delivers just that — the nightly show includes a festive sprinkling of fresh powder, no snow-park pass or lift ticket required. The performance is now a cherished family tradition, Bell says. “We love the marching band, the candy cane pops they hand out, and the floats. And especially the personal interactions of the performers!”
At 7 p.m., Nov. 29 through Dec. 24, the sidewalks between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square transform into Snowflake Lane, a nightly parade with some 300 performers and 16 lighted floats. The free performance, now in its 15th year, can draw crowds of up to 20,000 on the nights closest to Christmas Eve.
But the crowd doesn’t detract from the fun, says Bell. Instead, it turns the event into a celebratory shared experience. “Just be prepared and go early — before dinner if you can. We usually eat at The Cheesecake Factory or Maggiano’s Little Italy beforehand to get parking. Bring a blanket and grab your spot on the parade route!”
Downtown, where the lights are bright
“With easy freeway access and a relatively small size, Bellevue’s compact downtown is an ideal destination for families,” says Jennifer Leavitt, vice president of marketing for Bellevue’s Kemper Development Company. Deemed a “walker’s paradise” with a Walk Score of 94 (for comparison, Seattle’s is 73), the area allows families to make a day of it, combining several destinations for custom-built holiday memories.
“Families with young children can spend their afternoon at KidQuest Children’s Museum, eat dinner at one of our kid-friendly local restaurants, such as Taylor Shellfish, which is offering a special Snowflake Lane children’s menu, P.F. Chang’s or McCormick & Schmick’s, then secure their spot for Snowflake Lane,” says Leavitt.
With weekly infant, toddler, preschool and world languages story times and doors that open as early as 9 a.m. on weekdays and 10 or 11 a.m. on weekends, Bellevue Downtown Library makes a great first stop for families with little ones. Start the day by perusing the library’s collection of holiday storybooks, grab lunch at Lincoln South Food Hall, then burn off afternoon energy at Downtown Park’s year-round Inspiration Playground before making the 5-minute walk to Bellevue Square Center Court for Santa photos and a snack.
“This year, fans of Santa can help him make Snowflake Lane’s famous snow into a memorable, interactive experience,” says Leavitt. Then families can check off some holiday shopping, eat dinner and prepare to experience Snowflake Lane.
Families with older kids might consider a morning stroll on the trails at Wildwood Park (10 minutes by foot from Bellevue Square), a build-your-own-wreath class at Bellevue Botanical Garden, home of the Garden D’Lights (an 8-minute drive from Bellevue Square) or an afternoon at the Bellevue Arts Museum (located on the Snowflake Lane parade route) before settling in for the show.
Go for the show
After an early dinner, it’s time to head to Snowflake Lane central — N.E. 4th to N.E. 8th Street along Bellevue Way — to snag a curbside spot. “Plan to be there around 6:15 p.m. on weekends, 6:30 p.m. on weeknights,” advises Leavitt. Pick a spot anywhere on the 4-block route; Bell recommends finding a spot toward the middle of the route for the best viewing.
The people-watching alone may be enough to enthrall waiting tots, but be prepared with some diversions, just in case. This is the time to break out books, small toys or a device to keep young children entertained until the show starts.
At just 20 minutes, the show is long enough to be memorable but short enough to hold kids’ rapt attention throughout, says Leavitt. “It’s part show, part parade, part interactive, high-touch experience, so it’s hard to describe. Families come back year after year because they love it,” she says. “It’s an amazing gift to the community.”
Find up-to-date Snowflake Lane information here.
Top tips for a memorable Snowflake Lane experience with kids:
- Think cozy, not cold. Nightly temps usually hover in the low 40s, so bundle up.
- Weekdays draw fewer Snowflake Lane spectators, with the lightest crowds typically on Mondays.
- Families looking for an extra-special experience can attend the show on “Blue Friday,” Dec. 6, for a special Seahawks-themed Snowflake Lane show, or come on Thursday, Dec. 19 for the 500th (!) performance.
- Visitors can expect to navigate tights spaces flanked by crowds. In other words, this is not the best time to bring a giant stroller.
- Spectators view Snowflake Lane from a public sidewalk, so dogs are allowed. If your dog is excitable or doesn’t appreciate children, probably best to park the pooch at home.
- Don’t be afraid of a few raindrops! A light rain can enhance the effect of the show’s famous snowfall (and keeps away the crowds!).
- A hot beverage makes for a great hand warmer. During Snowflake Lane, Xfinity offers free coffee and cider starting at 6 p.m., but cocoa connoisseurs will want to bring their own.
- The best time for photos with Snowflake Lane performers is at the character meet-and-greet at Lincoln South Food Hall, 6–6:30 p.m., Monday–Thursday, Dec. 2–Dec 19.
- Stressed about parking? “The Bellevue Place Garage under the Hyatt offers nearby parking and tends to be less crowded than other lots,” says Leavitt.