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Best Things to Do in December in Seattle

Alfresco and virtual holiday happenings illuminate Seattle's winter and brighten the season


Seattle is a city that likes to celebrate the good things in life, in any season (with no special occasion needed). During a typical year, events and festivals pack the calendar each month, and the indoor ambiance at cafes, bars and restaurants (think white twinkly lights strung from rafters and exposed brick walls) tends to be extra-cozy and inviting in the wintertime. 

Of course this December and holiday season feels very different than ones past, as everyone adapts to keep themselves, their loved ones and community members safe. Thanks to the human capacity for creativity and adaptation, the city has come up with countless ways to celebrate safely (outdoors) and to gather virtually via screens at homes.

Though the merriment will certainly have a new feel, that doesn't mean we can't embrace joy and support our community members all the same. While local theaters stage virtual concerts and productions, the zoo and sites like Pike Place Market and Bellelvue's Snowflake Lane get illuminated by a magical bevy of lights. Next year we hope to be gathered once again in bustling, merry cafes, pubs and halls; this December, we find gratitude for Seattle's stunning natural beauty and outdoor spaces in which to be together (while still staying safely apart).

To learn about more holiday happenings and Seattle staycation hotel deals, visit seattleholidays.com. 

*Due to fluctuating statewide mandates, go online to find the most up-to-date info on each site's openings and hours. 


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Olympic Sculpture Park
Photo courtesy of SAM-Olympic Sculpture Park


At downtown's Olympic Sculpture Park, stroll through the grounds and admire the fascinating large-scale works on display at this nine-acre green space. Extensive landscaping enhances the park's beauty, and a walkway, extending from the beach to Belltown, provides views of the Puget Sound and of downtown landmarks. Among the pieces on view is "Eye Benches I, II, III" by Louise Bourgeois, a series of functional carved-granite benches that take the form of giant eyeballs. Also here, find a work from the height of famed sculptor Alexander Calder's career, "The Eagle" from 1971, a huge abstract steel sculpture that's bright orange. (If planning a takeout picnic to enjoy in the scenic park, Intentionalist.com is a great online resource for looking up local small businesses and diverse local communities that especially need our support.)

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: At downtown's Olympic Sculpture Park, stroll through the grounds and admire the fascinating large-scale works on display at this nine-acre green space

Corinne's expert tip: Although the PACCAR Pavilion is currently closed, the park remains open. Consider taking a picnic to enjoy in the park, perhaps takeout from a nearby Belltown or downtown eatery. (Intentionalist.com is a great online resource for looking up small businesses and diverse local communities that especially need our support.)

Read more about Olympic Sculpture Park →


Golden Gardens
Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting


West of Ballard, visitors find one of the locals' favorite finds, in any season: Golden Gardens beach. Located on Puget Sound, this popular public park offers extraordinary views of the water and nearby Olympic Mountains. The park includes wetlands, beaches, hiking trails, as well as picnic and playground areas. The park is bisected by the BNSF Scenic Subdivision railway line. Golden Gardens offers wanders along a rugged coastline, hikes through forest trails, sunbathing on sandy beaches (in a warmer season), fishing from a pier and a boat launch.. The park is also home to an off-leash area for dogs in the upper northern portion of the park.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: West of Ballard, visitors find one of the locals' favorite finds in any season: Golden Gardens beach, which offers tranquil views of Puget Sound.

Corinne's expert tip: If you're craving a bite or beverage after your beach stroll, consider Ballard breweries like Populuxe and Stoup, takeout from one of the many venues lining Ballard Ave or the heated patio of Brimmer & Heeltap, where seasonal specials will keep you coming back for more.

Read more about Golden Gardens →




Lovers of the arts continue to support downtown Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre with its Essential 5th Digital Collection, a digital season featuring content that immerses viewers in the very essence of musical theater from the coziness of their own living room. This virtual theater experience features a mix of exclusive original video and podcasting content created by The 5th, as well as livestreamed concerts by theater partners around the globe (including some of Broadway's brightest stars). Various subscriptions offer access to options like three radio-play-style new musical podcasts and an original web series, 15 Minute Stories, which puts some of Seattle's most talented artists in the creative spotlight.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Lovers of the arts support downtown Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre with its Essential 5th Digital Collection, a virtual season to be experienced at home.

Corinne's expert tip: Keep your eye on the theatre's calendar for digital offerings like the recent Women of Broadway livestream concert series. Also consider donating to other nearby arts programs ranging from Seattle Rep and SIFF to Book-It Repertory Theatre.

Read more about 5th Avenue Theatre →


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Discovery Park dazzles at any time of year. Situated on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, this expansive urban park--the largest in Seattle--offers two scenic miles of beach trails and nine miles of winding footpaths. Ostensibly a bluff-top reserve, Discovery Park protects a remarkable urban wilderness and is a great place for nature-watching. Also located within the park: a marine reserve and The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center (currently closed), which typically features art and cultural exhibits. An 1881 lighthouse, the oldest in the area, can also be found here. Offering breathtaking views of both the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, the park's remote site includes two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves, active sand dunes, thickets and streams.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Discovery Park, on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, is an expansive urban park featuring two miles of beach trails and nine miles of winding footpaths.

Corinne's expert tip: At this time, The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation leadership decided to close their Daybreak Star (located at Discovery Park) and Columbia City sites for the safety of all staff and community members; donations to boost the organization's work to support Indigenous individuals and families can be made online at https://www.unitedindians.org/donate-now/.

Read more about Discovery Park →


The Bellevue Collection
Photo courtesy of The Bellevue Collection


Snowflake Lane with a twist! This year on the Eastside, The Bellevue Collection features a walk- or drive-through experience of classic Snowflake Lane décor, colorful lights, joyful music andâ€"the most magical partâ€"intermittent snowfall along Bellevue Way, between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square. Holiday revelers can also schedule appointment-only, socially distanced Santa photos (this year, the jolly man in red sits behind his giant desk). While in town, be sure to pop by the Hyatt Regency Bellevue lobby, which features a massive Christmas tree and gingerbread display created by the property's executive chef. Holidays shoppers may take advantage of The Bellevue Collection's curbside pickup program or delivery partnership with Swingbuy. For more information, visit snowflakelane.com.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This year The Bellevue Collection features a walk- or drive-through experience of Snowflake Lane décor, colorful lights, joyful music and intermittent snowfall along Bellevue Way.

Corinne's expert tip: Take advantage of The Bellevue Collection's curbside pickup program that allows shoppers to experience their favorite retailers, socially-distanced style. And for guests who aren't yet ready to venture out, The Bellevue Collection partnered with Swingbuy to offer extra comfort and convenience; shoppers within a 15-mile driving distance can download the app and place orders before 4 p.m. for a same-day delivery ($10 per store).

Read more about The Bellevue Collection →


Seattle Center Winterfest
Photo courtesy of Visit Seattle/Joe Crecca


Throughout the five weeks of Winterfest at Seattle Center (November 27 through December 31), those in search of uplifting seasonal celebrations will find virtual performances, videos highlighting holiday traditions and kid-centric activities. While the outdoor spaces of Seattle Center will be lit for the holidays and open to the public, there will not be an official in-person holiday event this year. In partnership with Northwest Folklife, Seattle Center presents its Winterfest Virtual Festál series, which spotlights globally-inspired performances, cooking and craft demos and other surprises presented in video form. Students showcases brighten the season as well. If exploring the grounds in person, be sure not to miss a special winter light display at Cornish Playhouse.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This year Seattle Center Winterfest brings five weeks of festive, virtual fun to be streamed at home; the campus will still be festively illuminated, too!

Corinne's expert tip: Urban Craft Uprising, which usually happens at Seattle Center, switched to a virtual winter show this year. Visit the website for ideas on local artisans to support this gift-giving season.

Read more about Seattle Center Winterfest →


The Triple Door
Photo courtesy of The Triple Door


As part of a favorite wintertime tradition, The Triple Door typically hosts "Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker," an award-winning spectacle that gives the traditional ballet a bawdy makeover. The production features top-notch dance talent, opulent bespoke costuming and original choreography from classically trained, internationally recognized artist Lily Verlaine. This year, enjoy a documentary about the production by Deirdre Timmons (for $15, the rental can be found at vimeo.com/ondemand/creatinglandofthesweets) and/or screen the cinematic cut from your cozy couch (rent the show for $18.75 at vimeo.com/ondemand/landofthesweets). Also consider buying a gift card to support The Triple Door, so that you and those you love can soon return to the intimate dinner theatre space for in-person concerts and shows.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Triple Door's tradition of showcasing award-winning spectacle "Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker" can be enjoyed from home (via documentary or cinematic cut).

Corinne's expert tip: Visit The Triple Door website to learn about streaming other wintertime concerts from home. Gift cards are also a great way to support your favorite local businesses and music venues right now; The Triple Door is currently offering a bonus $25 gift card (expires 12/31/21) for every $100 gift card purchase you make.

Read more about The Triple Door →


Paramount Theatre
Photo courtesy of Hip Hop Nutcracker by Tim Norris


This year Seattle Theatre Group brings its seasonal productions (typically staged at The Paramount, Moore and Neptune Theatre) to the comfort of your home via virtual streaming. This year, the Winter 2020 Digital Season offers a diverse lineup of (both free and ticketed events) that mean music, dance and holiday performances the whole family can enjoy. Check out evens like Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol (December 11 - 13), Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker: Christmas Stream (December 19, Robin Pecknold (of Fleet Foxes) performing solo acoustic "A Very Lonely Solstice Livestream" (December 21). Looking for a meaningful gift this holiday season? Consider supporting the arts by making a donation in the name of someone you love.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Seattle Theatre Group brings its seasonal productions (typically staged at The Paramount, Moore and Neptune Theatre) to the comfort of your home via virtual streaming.

Corinne's expert tip: Consider supporting the arts and saving our stages by donating at stgpresents.org. Keep Music Live is another great organization that desperately needs support. (Their merch makes for great holiday gifts, too! Visit keepmusiclivewa.com.)

Read more about Paramount Theatre →


Woodland Park Zoo
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo


New this year is Woodland Park Zoo's WildLanterns, an immersive experience that expands throughout the entire footprint of the properry through January 17 (from 4 to 8:30 p.m.). This unique event features more than 300 larger-than-life lanterns of animals, flora and fauna. Guests will be required to wear masks and socially distance as they explore the Living Northwest, Jungle Lights, SeaMazium and African Safari light exhibits. Each lanterns is a work of art, most of which were made in Washington state. Timed, advance purchase tickets are required. Send animal lovers in your life gifts from the zoo store (with free ground shipping on orders over $50).

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: New this year is Woodland Park Zoo's WildLanterns, which brings an immersive experience for the whole family that continues through January 17.

Corinne's expert tip: Note: enter via the West Entrance only; face coverings required for entry (ages 5+). Closed Mondays and November 26, and December 24 & 25.

Read more about Woodland Park Zoo →


Pike Place Market


Pike Place Market captures the magic of the holidays throughout the season with festive lights and local vendors and artisans ready to see their goods. Visitors are invited to pick up a 2020 collectable holiday button by Market artist Graig Anderson, available at any craft table. Easy, convenient parking attached to the Market is available for only $10 all day before 9:30am. New this year, Pike Place Market Foundation has launched its CharitableMarketplace.org, featuring 100-plus local businesses and products that all support Pike Place Market's small business recovery program. (Care to send a loved one, anywhere in the nation, some of the magic of Place Place? Order a Savor Seattle box, which features regional eats and treats, and helps support local vendors and farmers at the same time.)

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Pike Place Market becomes festively illuminated during the holiday months, proving the perfect spot for gift-shopping while supporting local vendors and farmers.

Corinne's expert tip: Care to send a loved one some of the magic of Place Place Market? Order a Savor Seattle box, a curated collection of some of the market's and Seattle's best eats and treats, delivered to any doorstep nationwide. ($5 of every box purchase goes to support a non-profit such as the Pike Place Market Foundation, FareStart, Black Lives Matter Fund, Casa Latina, Community Roots Housing or the ACLU.)

Read more about Pike Place Market →


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Meet Corinne Whiting

Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's...  More About Corinne

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