Many wintertime activities (like caroling and shoulder-to-shoulder photos with Santa and his elves) are too close for comfort with the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases, but inventive holiday light displays are coming through to ease our seasonal depression and offer much-needed cheer in a socially distanced manner. We've rounded up all the Seattle-area options for 2020 below, from Westlake Park's virtual tree-lighting ceremony to the Washington State Fair's Holiday Magic Drive-Thru, and from Seattle Center's Campus Luminata to the Woodland Park Zoo's WildLanterns. Check out our complete winter holidays calendar for virtual markets and other COVID-safe seasonal happenings.
NOVEMBER 19-DECEMBER 12
Green Lake Pathway of Lights Kits
While the Green Lake Park circuit won't light up with thousands of candles this year, its organizers are putting together kits with luminary supplies that can line whatever path you're working with at home. Once you've purchased it and picked it up from a participating community center before November 30, wait for December 1 for a Facebook tutorial on how to set it up. Plus, on December 12, tune in to a montage of memories from past Pathway of Lights events.
NOVEMBER 19-DECEMBER 2
Seattle Festival of Trees
The historic Fairmont Olympic hotel will celebrate the winter season this year with a virtual gala and auction (Sat Nov 21) benefitting Seattle Children's Hospital, Uncompensated Care, and Seattle Children's Autism Center, where you can bid on the extravagant Christmas trees on display in the hotel's windows, viewable from the sidewalk along Fourth Avenue.
Fairmont Olympic (Downtown)
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 21
Drive-Thru Holiday Spectacular
Get amped up for post-Thanksgiving merriment at this free, one-night-only holiday drive-through, where you'll take in laser light shows, live musical performances (including from American Idol's Johanna Jones), stilt walkers, a grand entrance from Santa, and more.
The Landing (Renton)
NOVEMBER 21-JANUARY 3
Spanaway Park will bring back its festive light displays for drive-through spectators to enjoy—just be sure to purchase your tickets online in advance.
Spanaway Park (Spanaway)
NOVEMBER 26-FEBRUARY 14
Leavenworth Village Lights
From Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day, Washington State's one and only Bavarian-style village will, despite the cancellation of its annual winter festival, light up the town with a bright display. They'll also have a link to a livestream if you prefer to stay home (link coming soon).
Leavenworth and online
NOVEMBER 27-DECEMBER 24
Every year, downtown Bellevue turns into a winter wonderland not just for one night but for a whole dang month, with (fake) falling snow, jolly music, and twinkling lights every night until Christmas Eve. Don't expect a marching band this year (mouths blowing into trumpets during COVID = bad), but do expect a perfectly lovely, socially distanced walk- or drive-through.
NOVEMBER 27-DECEMBER 30
The Lights of Christmas
In place of their annual Christmas festival, Stanwood will host a drive-through affair boasting over one million lights in dazzling displays, including their beloved light tunnel, a Cascade Splendor mountain scene, a Nativity, Santa and his reindeer, and more, plus costumed characters. Once you arrive (with tickets purchased in advance), tune in to LOC Radio 101.9 FM to enjoy Christmas music with radio host Bruce the Spruce. If you want a snack for the journey, you can order fresh-hot mini-donuts and a hot beverage from your car.
Warm Beach Camp & Conference Center (Stanwood)
NOVEMBER 27-JANUARY 3
Holiday traditions don't get more classic than strolling through the zoo when it's transformed into a luminous wonderland of 3-D animal light installations. Displays from previous years have included hammerhead sharks and sea turtles, a majestic polar bear family, and a giant Pacific octopus. You can see this year's lit-up creatures by following a guided path laid out for social distancing.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (Tacoma)
NOVEMBER 27-JANUARY 9
Downtown Holiday Lights & Delights
More than 80,000 light bulbs assembled in the likeness of presents, arches, and trees will make your visits downtown as merry as possible during an ongoing pandemic. Also on deck this year is winter wonderland-themed augmented reality experiences set up on sidewalks and plazas around downtown, which require a smartphone.
Various locations (Downtown)
Holiday Tree-lighting Celebration
Westlake Park's tree lighting ceremony will prevail despite Macy's closure, bringing light sculptures and the iconic Seattle Star that hangs on the outside of the department store back into view. Watch the livestream on the Downtown Seattle Association, KIRO-TV, or Warm 106.9 Facebook pages (Fri Nov 27).
Westlake Park (Downtown) and online
Occidental Square Sparkly Tree
Stroll past a makeshift tree made of glowing orbs in Occidental Square all season long.
Occidental Square (Pioneer Square)
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28
Lighting of Langley
Head to the plaza on Second Avenue for Langley's annual tree lighting, which will also see cocoa and a visit from socially distanced Santa.
Second Avenue Plaza (Langley)
Note: This event is subject to change; we'll update this post as we hear more
Celebrate Woodinville Winterfest Festival of Lights
Throughout the month of December, various Woodinville businesses like Chateau Ste Michelle and Matthews Winery will decorate their storefronts with festive displays.
Various locations (Woodinville)
DECEMBER 4-JANUARY 3
Holiday Magic Drive-Thru
The Washington State Fair is bringing a host of yuletide activities to its Puyallup grounds that visitors can enjoy from the safety of their cars. From light displays to fair food to a prize-bearing scavenger hunt to cheery music on SANTA FM 101.5, there's lots to choose from to warrant a mini road trip. You can even add Snowflake 3D glasses to make the displays look even more magical.
Washington State Fair Events Center (Puyallup)
To ensure everyone gets a chance to see this holiday light display without forming dangerous crowds, Redmond Lights has expanded to a month-long event in Downtown Park. Redmond businesses will also be competing in a window display contest, so be sure to stroll along the street for an extra dose of seasonal eye candy.
Redmond Downtown Park
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5
Jolly Holiday Lane
Drivers and their quarantine-pod passengers can follow a guided route lined with lighted displays. Kids will get goodie bags and a hot cocoa packet and will be able to drop off their letters to Santa.
Les Gove Park (Auburn)
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12
Reverse Parade of Lights
Rather than standing on the sidelines as all manner of luminous holiday floats go by in a cheery procession, you'll be the one on the move in this "reverse" drive-through holiday parade, designed with social distancing in mind. Santa will most definitely make an appearance.
Lakewood Towne Center
DECEMBER 16-JANUARY 1
Olympic Manor Holiday Lights
Ballard homeowners go all out at this community light display. Crank up the Christmas tunes and take a drive through the neighborhood.
Olympic Manor (Ballard)
Note: Start date unconfirmed; check back here for updates
THROUGH DECEMBER 31
Anderberg's Christmas House
More than 50 inflatables and a handful of light projectors jazz up the Anderberg's property every night through New Year's Eve. We recommend driving by in your car.
Anderberg's Christmas House (Tacoma)
THROUGH JANUARY 1
Seattle Center Campus Luminata
Seattle Center sets up twinkling lights in the trees and other special features (like a wintry display at Cornish Playhouse) across its campus every year, and this year is no different. Mind your distance and take in the cheer.
THROUGH JANUARY 17
The Woodland Park Zoo is taking a more realistic approach to its beloved annual holiday light display by lining its paths with glowing lanterns in the likeness of tigers, snow leopards, aquatic creatures, zebras, and other exotic animals.
Woodland Park Zoo (Phinney)