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Christmas In Seattle – Free & Affordable Fun!

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Christmas in Seattle

Christmas in Seattle – Free & Affordable Fun!

If you’re looking for some inspiration on how to have some holiday fun this season, downtown Seattle has so many fun Christmas activities & decorations up that the whole family will enjoy!

My family loves to kick off our Christmas season with a visit to downtown Seattle and all of the FREE or affordable festivities available to enjoy.  I love that many of these festivities continue on past Christmas, too, so if you don’t make it before Christmas, you can still head there during Christmas break & enjoy the holiday fun even after the actual holiday!

Plus, the majority of these are all within a few blocks of each other, easily walkable & you can do some shopping while you’re out as well as it’s in the heart of the shopping & dining district in Seattle.

{Photos are from our visit in 2019, but all of the information is current for 2022}

Gingerbread Village – Sheraton Hotel: 

The Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton Grand hotel in downtown Seattle is just a few blocks away from Westlake Center & the Fairmont Olympic, right in the middle of these locations & it is a definite must-visit during the Christmas season!

Sheraton Gingerbread Village Elf Creation

This tradition started in 1992 and it has been a longtime local favorite, drawing big crowds of visitors each year. A few years ago, they changed the design, so there is now a room devoted to the Gingerbread Village (versus being out in the main lobby), which really helps you to see the detail even more on these unique creations. They have the lighting darker with spotlights shown on the gingerbread creations & they are quite a spectacular sight to see.

Gingerbread Village Creations in Seattle

The creations are made by a team of local architects, chefs from the Sheraton Grand Seattle & children collaborate together to raise funds for the local Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDRF). This is a free event, but they encourage donations as it is a big fundraiser for the Northwest JDRF chapter to help fund more research & find a cure for diabetes.

The earlier you visit this event in the day or visiting on a weekday is better as it can get busier later in the day or evening.

This event is happening from Saturday 11/22/22 through Sunday 1/1/2023. It is open until 9pm on weekdays & until 11pm on weekends. This year’s theme is “Buzzing Back” with a Toy Story theme.

Fairmont Olympic Hotel

Life Size Gingerbread House at Fairmont Olympic in Seattle

{Update: It sounds like they will not have the life-size gingerbread house this year at the Fairmont. We are leaving the details in so you’ll know for next year as we hope they bring it back next year}

The Fairmont Olympic hotel is definitely a must-visit when you are headed downtown to see all the festivities in Seattle. There are several different places to visit within the hotel for beautiful holiday displays.  These are all free opportunities; however, they do encourage donations to the Seattle Children’s Hospital as it’s a fundraiser opportunity for them.

We always make sure to enter on the lowest floor, the entrance for cars to drive up to, and on this bottom floor is the Life-Size Gingerbread House. You can walk thru this gingerbread house to marvel up close at all the amazing detail. It is made with 4,000 gingerbread tiles, 2,500 candy canes, 50 lbs of crushed candy & so much more!

Christmas Tree at Fairmont Olympic in Seattle

Next, head up the escalator to the lobby. They always have the most beautiful 2 story Christmas tree in the lobby – it’s perfect for family photos if you want to get photos in front of it.

Georgian Tea at Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle

The George is an exquisite room if you want to sign up to have a Christmas tea together – definitely not frugal, but it would be a fun splurge for a very special Christmas tea. It’s beautifully decorated for the holidays as well.

On our visit in 2019, we discovered that there was a Scavenger Hunt for kids, too, in the lobby  – ask the Concierge when you are there for the sheet. All of the facts are hidden around the lobby area.

Entrance to the Teddy Bear suite

The last stop for the Fairmont Olympic is the famed Teddy Bear Winter Wonderland suite. This is up on the second floor – just take the elevator to get to the right location. They only allow a certain number of people into this suite at a time as it is not huge, but oh so gorgeous! Kids (& adults) will love posing for pictures & snuggling with the teddy bears in this lavishly decorated room. Hop up on the bed to lay down with all the teddy bears of all sizes! Or snuggle on the floor with the giant teddy bear, larger than adult size!

Teddy Bear Suite Bed at Fairmont Olympic in Seattle

The Teddy Bear suite can get very busy on weekends, so I’d get there earlier in the day or even better, head over there on a weekday. But be prepared for some lines since they do limit the number of people in the suite & like to give everyone ample opportunity to enjoy it.

A few other highlights include roasted chestnuts you can purchase on select dates (we had just missed it by a few hours!) and victorian-themed Christmas Carolers who sing Christmas songs in the lobby at various times. Make sure to check out the Fairmont Olympic’s holiday page for all the details & times for the various events.

If you time it right, the Fairmont Olympic also hosts the Festival of Trees for a short time in late November/early December. This year, the Festival of Trees took place in November 18 to November 30, 2022. This is when their lobby is filled with elaborately decorated trees with unique themes & styles to benefit the Seattle Children’s Hospital.

After the Fairmont Olympic, Sia & her family like to make a quick detour to her all time favorite coffee spot in Seattle – The Monorail Espresso. They are one of the oldest espresso bars in Seattle and her very favorite. Sia’s recommendation – try the Creme Brulee or Sweet Creme Latte (same drink, just different ways to order it). She takes everyone she is with there and so far all have loved the drink.

Westlake Center:

Macys Star at Night in Seattle at Christmas

Westlake Center is the hub of all things holiday in Seattle with the grand Christmas tree set up in front of the mall. And on the corner opposite the tree is the iconic Macy’s star that is lit up. We always love seeing this view, especially at night as the lights are so beautiful with the star, the tree & the surrounding trees are all lit up as well all around this area.

On the day we were in Seattle, it also happened to be the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling & Competition, hence all the crowds. What a fun night to walk around, though, as there were caroling groups all up & down the streets around Westlake & surrounding stores. We could listen to these pop-up caroling groups as we walked the streets, so it was the perfect ending to our day!

Downtown Seattle Carousel

If you have little ones, they may love a spin on the carousel across the street in the park! It’s even more magical when it’s dark & everything is all lit up.  On Saturdays thru 12/17, Westlake Center area will have live music, entertainment & activities. Kids can meet Christmas characters, do festive crafts & watch a Santa-inspired “snow flurry”, plus enjoy hot cocoa & treats 12-3pm. Also, on the first 3 Fridays in Dec, there will be local musicians from 4-6pm playing in Westlake park.

Santa Mailbox at Macys in Seattle

Dropping her Santa letter in the mailbox (a few years ago)

Kids can also visit Santa at the Nordstrom & Macy’s stores right next to the mall on either side. The Macy’s store not only has Santa set up on the 2nd floor, but they also have a cute little setup for kids to write a letter to Santa. There is a red desk with the letters & then a big red mailbox to drop their note inside.

Pacific Place

Pacific Place Marquee Signs

Pacific Place mall is just a block away from Westlake Center and right in the heart of all the downtown holiday activities, too. They always have some cute holiday photo setups  around the mall for holiday photos.

Also, every night at 6pm, head to Pacific Place’s atrium for a 10 minute show of “snow flurries”, which kids will love!

Santa Photos at Pacific Place

Once inside the mall, visit floors 1, 2 & 3 for interactive & fun photos. My personal favorite were the lighted Marquee signs. The kids loved the white “fur” backdrop near Santa’s chair.

Life Size Piano at Pacific Place

The life-size keyboard and sheet music background was the biggest hit, though, as all the kids swarmed to this & didn’t want to stop “playing” the piano with their feet (yes, similar to the movie “Big” when Tom Hanks played the life-size piano).

(These are the setups from 2019 – we’ll update with the new setups at Pacific Place soon!)


Train Village at Armory in Seattle Center

Winterfest has a variety of family-friendly activities that happen for 5 weeks in late November and thru all of December. Inside the Armory, there is a stage where they feature live weekend performances by various school & other local groups. Head to their website to see a schedule of all the performances. Winterfest is happening from November 25 – December 31, 2022.

We always love visiting the trains and the Christmas village. This is so fascinating to see! We could all stay there forever watching all the trains move thru the village. They also have a Union station where kids can wait in line for a chance to be the conductor of one of the trains (during set hours, so check the website to find out more). If you head there on New Years Eve, there will be the famous Seattle Space Needle fireworks, a Fountain of Light dance party & live music inside the Armory, which sounds like a fun way to ring in the new year!

Winterfest also includes an ice rink, ice sculpting and beautiful outdoor lighting too. Most of the activities do take place during the day, though, as the trains had stopped running in the late evening when we went on a Friday night recently. So just be sure to check the timing for the activities before you go to make sure all of the activities will be available as some will only be available on weekend days.

As I mentioned, we typically start our day in Seattle at the Seattle Center & then ride the Monorail in to Westlake Center. But you can also do this the opposite, too – park near Westlake Center & just ride the monorail over to Seattle Center to see the Winterfest activities.


The first thing you will want to do is consider transportation if you do not live in the city. Parking can be pricey, so if you are driving you may want to head down on a Sunday. Street parking in Seattle is free on Sundays. Many holidays offer free parking too (so December 25th will offer free parking in Seattle).

If you are not heading down on a Sunday, you can use this Parking Search Engine (note – search your ‘neighborhood’ and then ‘Retail Core’ if you want to park near most of these activities), to find the best garage rates for the time you will be there, or check out the best street parking rates here.

You will also find decent rates if you come after 5pm (like the Pacific Place Malls flat $7 rate after 5pm). Other transportation options include the Metro Bus, the Lightrail, or Seattle Sounder Train.

Monorail in Seattle

We went first to see the Nutcracker on a field trip & then headed into the downtown area so we parked near Seattle Center & then took the Monorail in, which is a $6 roundtrip for adults ($3 for kids). But it was just a fun way to head down to Westlake Center area for our group. (In the past, I have found cheaper street parking on the other side of the Pacific Science Center, too).

More Places to Visit for Christmas in Seattle:

Another place to mention that is not within walking distance, but definitely needs to be considered when considering a day or maybe a weekend visit to see Seattle at Christmas.

Candy Cane Lane at Christmas

Candy Cane Lane (near UW area of Seattle in the Ravenna neighborhood) – this is a free neighborhood display that has been happening since 1949 (wow!) & you can either drive thru this short street of homes or even better, park & walk the street as it’s more fun to enjoy while walking. This happens typically mid-December until January 1st from 4-11pm in the evenings.

Where to Stay in Seattle at Christmas:

Hyatt Regency Hotel – downtown Seattle

Sia & her family recently stayed at the Hyatt Regency and this is an excellent hotel to stay if you decide to make a few days of a holiday outing to Seattle as it’s centrally located. They are offering a special Enchant package, too, if you are interested in going to Enchant in addition to doing all of these fun downtown Seattle activities.  This is the largest hotel in the NW & it is very affordable when you consider all of the amenities it offers.

Residence Inn by Marriott – Seattle 

This hotel is not located right in the heart of downtown, but it’s closer to Lake Union so you’ll need to factor in transportation to get to the heart of downtown. But this hotel is so family-friendly with suites perfect for larger families & it includes a hot breakfast buffet.

Let us know your favorite things to do in Seattle at Christmas! 


  1. this trip sounds amazing!!! hopefully we can take a family trip to seattle next week when my son is in town. I had no idea all the fun things to do!

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