In December, enjoy Seattle’s rainy — but not yet snowy or frozen — streets for a seasonal staycation. Holiday lights adorn the city as iconic venues reopen long-shut doors to visitors. With the right weather, your car can be stashed in a downtown parking garage and you’ll stroll, take public transportation or use rideshares. But most downtown hotels offering winter packages also include in-and-out valet or self-park privileges, making it easy to visit local neighborhoods for stunning winter attractions.

Start your day by browsing Pike Place Market’s crafts, specialty food shops, farmers’ market and retail stores for that perfect, singular gift. Daytime delights this month include free visits and photos with Santa on December 11.

Next, head indoors for some beat-the-doldrums cultural experiences. Perk up a dreary afternoon with Seattle Art Museum’s exhibit “Brighter Days,” showcasing intense scenes around Seattle. The Museum of Pop Culture’s “Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume” celebrates apparel from various favorite films. The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) shows “Da Vinci — Inventions” until January 3, features handsome wooden interactive, life-size versions of da Vinci’s innovations.

Learn about hockey’s science, history and culture at Pacific Science Center’s interactive “Hockey: Faster Than Ever” exhibit, or warm up winter with live glassblowing demos at Chihuly Garden and Glass’s hot shop in a retrofitted 1967 Airstream. Throughout the day, artisans shape molten glass in a 2175º furnace, then chat in Q&A sessions.

On weekends, downtown Seattle’s Westlake Park hosts holiday concerts, lights and games, while Occidental Square features light sculptures, live holiday music and augmented reality, so you can add virtual trees to selfies using the Snapchat app. Alternately, invite adventurous friends or family on a free downtown Seatown Holiday Scavenger Hunt.

As the sun prepares to set, take the historic Otis elevator to Smith Tower’s Observatory & Bar, and indulge in 360-degree Seattle skyline views and the Twelve Cocktails of Christmas menu. The 12 festive cocktails range from Sugarplum (#12) with Copperworks plum gin, house plum shrub or Christmas Tree’s (#4) pear-ginger vermouth, cranberry juice and cardamom bitters.  

At Seattle Center, the 2021 Winterfest gets visitors in the spirit as dark approaches and descends. Tiny lights decorate the grounds, while the International Fountain spouts off with a winter-themed light and music show nightly at 6 p.m. While at the center, enjoy SIFF’s special holiday favorites movie screenings or free fun such as musical performances in the Armory, a vintage-style village and train, or ice sculpting.

If you’re a DIYer, sign up for one-time evening Capitol Hill classes (or waitlists) at The Works Seattle to craft holiday wreaths, create pie art or paint watercolor poinsettias. 

Those seeking seasonal nourishment before evening festivities will find tables of plenty. Consider the restaurant Conversation’s New American approach, such as roasted half-chicken with creamy polenta. Stella’s serves diver scallops and fall succotash and roasted garlic cream, while bistro-style Cafe Campagne dishes up cassoulet of white beans, lamb, pork, duck confit and garlic sausage.

Then, try to select from the busy holiday calendar of evening entertainment options. Downtown, ACT Theatre offers A Christmas Carol to ages 5 and up and Pacific Northwest Ballet presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, an elaborate and fantastical variation of the classic story.

Until January 30, Woodland Park Zoo’s WildLanterns in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood returns for a second year. The vibrant illuminations aren’t the typical “lanterns” one might imagine, but lacquer-silk-wrapped wires shaped into 64 creatures such as a 200-foot-long Chinese Dragon, child-size snails, cicadas and flowers, and an enormous tunnel through a multi-hued shark. Watch for the smoke-puffing Tyrannosaurus, a magical tree and a color-changing chameleon, among others. Ethereal music heightens the fantasy effect.

A play area for kids offers spots for selfies and lit swings, and outdoor food vendors are open, as well. Depending upon the night, you’ll also be treated to live, brilliant performances of Tianyu Arts & Culture’s traditional Chinese folk dances, and meet ambassador animals such as opossums and porcupines. 


For more adult entertainment, Pike Place Market’s 21+ Holiday Night Market takes place on Thursday, December 16, with seasonal cocktails, music, and handmade gifts and food. Kicking off the next day, the December 17-19 Winter Solstice Holiday Night Market features 125 booths, 20 food trucks, and two cocktail bars and runs until 11 p.m. in a massive Magnuson Park hangar. Don’t miss watching (or competing in) the $1,000 grand prize ugly sweater contest.

In Pike Place Market, A(n Improvised) Christmas Carol runs throughout December, as does “Wonderland” at Can Can Cabaret, serving cocktails and showcasing flirty dancers within a nostalgic winter chalet scene. Downtown, W Hotel’s Living Room Bar hosts weekend “Naughty or Nice” Burlesque until December 24th.

After an evening out, escape home’s everyday drudgery with holiday-themed hotel packages that typically include parking and other perks. The historic Mayflower Park Hotel’s Holiday Traditions Package includes a pewter keepsake ornament and a chocolate gift. The Fairmont Olympic Hotel’s Trees of Hope Offer gives 10% off the daily rate, a per-stay $25 food and beverage credit, and a $10 donation to Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation (per night).

Lotte Hotel Seattle offers a Couples Holiday Package with a $200 food and beverage credit and cocktails for two in the lobby lounge. Inn at the Market’s Holiday Happy Hour Package provides a bottle of wine and cheese plate. Plan to snooze a night or two, because you just can’t fit all the above into just one quick staycation.

Note: As of December 6, indoor dining, art performances or events, and other situations in King County require verification of vaccine status or proof of a negative COVID-19 test. As always, stay abreast of current developments from public health authorities.

Whether you’re looking to make an environmentally conscious choice with a hybrid or to save cash with our new car lease deals, Western Washington Toyota Dealers can help you find a new car that keeps up with your lifestyle.