Kaleidoscope of fun to fill adults and tiny tots alike with the magic of the season.
Arriving on the winter-tipped wings of whimsy and magical merriment, a kaleidoscope of family activities is sweeping across the Eastside just in time for the holiday season.
From Redmond to Bellevue, visions of sugarplums, fragrance of gingerbread and symphonies of sensational sounds are lighting up the November/December calendar. Dozens of fanciful – and often free – activities are designed to lift the spirit of family memory-making. Here are a few to enjoy:
Festivities gallop into Redmond Town Center with arrival of the colorful Horse Carousel. Board a steed on this magical merry-go-round adorned with fairy-tale colors and calliope music of holiday nostalgia. The $4 per rider ticket donation benefits Hopelink.
- Nov. 25-Jan. 1, 2017; hours vary
Choo-choo-choose to bring your little ones and hop aboard the pint-sized Holiday Express Train starting Nov. 25. Get your caboose to the whistle-stop depot for a ride that loops through the Redmond Town Center’s winter wonderland.
- Nov. 25-Jan. 1, 2017. Ride days and hours vary. Daily break between 3-4 p.m.
- $4 per rider
Magnificent mansions of sweets – complete with oodles of icing and mountains of candied architectural adornments – are yours to create at a Gingerbread Workshop presented by KidsQuest at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue. Register your family of up to six people for any of the four two-hour sessions and craft a confectionery masterpiece you get to keep. Best of all: KidsQuest cleans up afterward.
- Nov. 25: noon-2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.
- Nov. 26: 10 a.m.-noon and 2-4 p.m.
- $45-$50 per family
For an evening with a bit more adult artistry and cheer, dip your brush and sweep the canvas at The Painted Palace. Select “Family Paint” for all ages or “Paint and Sip” evenings are reserved for friends and families over age 21. For $45, novice and accomplished artists enjoy a glass of wine or beer, painting supplies and instruction for a two-hour evening of artistry. Your finished product becomes a holiday gift to keep – or share.
- Consider the “Light Up Tree” Nov. 26, 7-9 p.m.
Equally rich and bold, the International Ballet Theatre brings its production of “The Nutcracker” to downtown Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center, Dec. 10-22. Staged with traditional Russian choreography, vibrant costumes and brilliant sets, this show mesmerizes audiences with the glamour of a handsome prince, the romance of a snowy forest, and the excitement of a sword battle – all set to the highly hummable, century-old symphony by Peter Tchaikovsky. Performed in two acts with one intermission, this production has become an annual tradition for countless Eastside families of all ages.
- Tickets: $25-$50
Shake off any yuletide blues with a stage performance of the timeless “Charlie Brown Christmas.” In this production that faithfully follows the animated TV classic, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang help Charlie Brown deal with holiday commercialization and discover the spiritual meaning of Christmas.
- Evening and matinee times vary, Dec. 2-22, at Second Story Repertory in Redmond.
- Tickets: $10
Thousands of warm, twinkling lights line the radiant Dec. 3 stroll from Redmond City Hall down Redmond Lights Luminary Walk to its finish at Redmond Town Center – all capped by musical performances and children’s activities. Sip hot cocoa and celebrate diverse holiday traditions, cultures and faiths during this free, progressive event.
- Holiday Market runs noon-6 p.m.
- City Hall campus tree lighting 4-5 p.m.;
- Free Luminary Walk 5-7 p.m., starting at 15670 N.E. 85th St., Redmond.
More than a half-million bulbs bedazzle families at Bellevue’s Garden d’Lights – a winter spectacular at Bellevue Botanical Garden. Illuminated pathways meander along a new route this year, creating a chimerical wonderland of natural and organic displays transformed by vivid lighting – rain or shine. Guests will discover new and beloved creatures and critters from favorite fiction – including “Charlotte’s Web” – hiding among the displays.
- Nov. 26-Dec. 31, 4:30-9 p.m. daily, including holidays.
- Tickets: $5; free for children 10 or younger. Limited number of free tickets on Nov. 28-30, and Dec. 1 and 5-8.
Rain, shine or snow, skaters 5 years or older may strap on their blades or rent on site at Redmond Town Center Synthetic Skating Rink. Open air – but covered for all-weather enjoyment – the rink beckons first-timers and experienced skaters to skim the synthetic surface.
- Opens Nov. 25 and runs through Jan. 1, 2017. Hours vary, but extended times Dec. 16-Jan. 1.
- $7 per session. Credit/debit card only.
Redmond Town Center is the Eastside’s premier outdoor lifestyle center, boasting 110 retail, dining, and entertainment venues, as well as two hotels. Their Winter Wonderland offers families holiday activities, events and shopping, including photos with Santa and musical community performances.