O Christmas Lights, O Christmas Lights

Christmas is right around the corner, but there’s still time to squeeze some more holiday spirit out of the season.  Christmas light viewing is right up there on the list with cookie baking and Christmas tree hunting.  There’s not much that beats bundling up with mittens and hot cocoa and setting off through the neighborhoods in search of the best Christmas light displays.  And Seattle can definitely do Christmas lights.

Looking for a quintessential Christmas village, 10-foot candy canes and all? There’s a display for that.  A few grandiose nativity scenes?  There’s a display for that.  Lighted trains and inflatables?  There’s a display for that.  If neighborhood spectacles aren’t enough for your little elves, there are plenty of more options on a grander scheme, from Woodland Park’s WildLights to Bellevue’s Garden d’Lights.  And the best part?  It doesn’t cost a thing!  Except perhaps a couple of cocoas.

whistler cocoa

Olympic Manor

Numero Uno on my list for best light displays in Seattle is Olympic Manor, near Greenwood.  Like Candy Cane Lane, their homeowners association “encourages” each house to decorate for Christmas, and from what I could tell, each house went above and beyond a string of lights.  Plus, it’s much bigger than Candy Cane Lane, so there’s no traffic jams (and more lights!)

Start at Northwest 85th Street and 23rd Avenue Northwest

xmas lites  olympic manor

Candy Cane Lane

Of course I still love one of Seattle’s longest running display of lights!  The charming neighborhood of Park Road in Ravenna has been lighting up Christmas since 1941.  I still remember driving past the beautifully decorated Tudor homes with my grandma and brothers over 20 years ago.

Dec 15 – Jan 1, 4pm-11pm (midnight on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve).

Northeast Park Road, off Ravenna Boulevard

xmas lites candy cane lane

Greenlake Christmas

Head to Greenlake for a music & lights show!  When you arrive, tune your radio to 102.1 FM, and watch as the magic happens!  30,000+ lights are synchronized to music.

Greenlake, 5pm-11pm daily

xmas lites greenlake

Keener’s Christmas

For over a decade, Bothell resident and Christmas enthusiast, Jeff Keener, has been spreading holiday cheer through over 100,000 lights.  Visitors are welcome to drive through the huge circular driveway while admiring 1.5 acres of light displays.

Daily 6pm-10pm (11pm on Weekends)

16504 112 Place, Bothell

Kerry Park Viewpoint 

Kerry Park isn’t just great for sunsets; it also boasts one of the best views of Seattle’s Christmas lights.  From the gorgeously decorated homes of Queen Anne HIll to the tree topping the Space Needle, the views are like a postcard from the North Pole.

211 W. Highland Dr.

***For more light displays (plus other holiday happenings, check out MyNorthwest.com

***And please add your favorite light displays!!

The Perfect Christmas Tree

It may be the most monumental of Christmas holiday traditions: the choosing of the tree.  It must be the perfect tree; precise height and width (of course, not forgetting the need for ample space for maximum presents), superior in color and fragrance, with branches suited for flawless ornament-hanging.

Sometimes dad picks it out, hemming and hawing about how he would most effectively secure the tree to the roof of the car.  Maybe mom picks it out, secretly delighted with her Martha Stewart eye and knack for choosing a tree which will a). continuously give off that fresh pine-needle scent, and b). not continuously shed pine needles all over the floor.

This year it was our 3-year-old who picked the tree.  Out of rows and rows of beautiful trees, our son zoned in on one, waaaaaayyyy down towards the other side of the U-Cut field.  He ran to this perfect, special tree, unseen yet by us, only on his radar, his pointer finger leading the way.  When we finally reached it, our son with a big, satisfied grin on his face, we all agreed: we had found our perfect tree.

We visited McMurtrey’s Red-Wood Tree Farm in Redmond, a beautiful tree farm with over 20 years of Christmas tree experience.  McMurtrey’s sells from both their U-Cut field and their pre-cut lot.  (The U-Cut has closed for the season- it’s so popular that it only stays open for a couple of weeks.  The pre-cut trees are available and ready to go)!  For U-Cutters, McMurtrey’s offers hand saws and wagon rides from the field back to the lot.  The staff is incredibly helpful, and will shake & bale your tree for free, as well as secure it to your car.  The complimentary cocoa and candy canes are always a plus. 

McMurtrey's Tree Farm

McMurtrey’s Tree Farm

Some Christmas Tree trivia from the McMurtrey’s experts:

Douglas Firs do the best at low altitude and are the traditional tree in this area.

Noble Firs are the “premiere tree.”  They last the longest, so are a good bet for families that like to buy their tree right after Thanksgiving, keeping it up through the New Year.

Fraser Firs are more popular on the East Coast, with needles that are blue on the bottom and green on the top.

Grand Firs have softer needles that are flat and strong, great for ornament-hanging.  It also has a strong citrus aroma.

The perfect tree!

The perfect tree!

With Christmas trees on the mind, get out the craft supplies!  Here’s a simple craft from Mommyapolis.com, perfect for younger kiddos.  Find directions here. 

Perfect for preschoolers

Perfect for preschoolers

Now how about some ornaments?  I found this cute snow globe ornament craft on icraftdaily.com.  Find directions here.

Snow globe: Easy

Snow globe: Easy

Taking the snow globe craft a step further….. Find directions here.

Snow globe: Easy/Intermediate

Snow globe: Easy/Intermediate

And we’ve got to have that sweet treat!  Here’s a tasty Rice Krispie treat from Positively Splendid.

xmas tree treat

Happy Holidays!

Weekend Holiday Events on Seattle’s Eastside

More Holiday Happenings around Seattle’s Eastside…check it out!


…A timeless classic!  The hour-long adaptation of Dickens’ beloved A Christmas Carol is a colorful, musical and exciting ensemble, sure to please both young and old.

Second Story Repertory Children’s Theater, Redmond

Saturday, December 8 @ 1pm and 3pm

christmas-carol-112712[1] (2)


…A whole ‘lotta gingerbread houses!  Come and vote for your favorite at the Bellevue Hilton’s Gingerbread Lane

Bellevue Hilton Hotel

Saturday, December 8 @ 11:30am


…A holiday canvas painting while enjoying tasty treats and cocoa at the Canvas and Cocoa Workshop!  The workshop includes all materials, a Smart with Art instructor and gift wrapping for your kiddo’s masterpiece!

Bellevue Arts Museum

Saturday, December 8 @ 2:30-4:30pm


cocoa[1] (2)canvas cocoa


…A watercolor collage at Bellevue Art & Frame’s Holiday Make and Take!  Paintings will be gift wrapped and will go home in a 5×7 glass picture frame.

Bellevue Art & Frame

Saturday, December 8 @ 10am-1pm drop-in

$8 (cash or check)


Breakfast with Santa!  The whole family can enjoy breakfast with the Big Guy and his elves.  Photo opportunities too!  Call 275.7609 to reserve your spot.

Mercer Island Community and Event Center

Saturday, December 8 @ 10am-noon

 $9 for Adults / $7 per child (18 and under)

…Tea with Santa!  The Woodmark Hotel is hosting the 4th Annual Santa Tea, full of sweet holiday treats and scrumptious sweets!  Live music, a cookie-decorating station and photos with Santa!

The Woodmark Hotel

Sunday, December 9 @ 1pm-3pm

Cost: Adults $45 / Kids (12 and under) $20

santa tea

For the Love of Gingerbread Houses

It’s an art form in parts of Europe, a Christmas tradition in our home, and it tastes pretty darn good, too. Gingerbread’s long, sweet history begins in the Middle Ages, when the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis brought the sweet bread to Europe. During his stay in France, he taught Gingerbread cooking to French priests and Christians, and soon baking guilds were sanctioned by the government in cities spanning from Germany and Poland to the Czech Republic and France. Gingerbread houses became popular in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published the fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel.”

Today in North America there are so many crafty creations of the traditional pfefferkuchenhaus (named after the witch, Frau Pfefferkuchenhaus, in Grimm’s fairy tale).  Here are a few favorites:

gingerbread small 2


gingerbread house1


gingerbread house[1] (2)





And then…. there’s ours….ahem.

my gingrbrd

Happy Gingerbread-making!

A Chocolate Lover’s Dream

When else can you combine a chocolate buffet, a loveable canine and a swanky downtown hotel?  Bring the kids along to A Chocolate Holiday Buffet, hosted at the Four Season’s ART restaurant.  Larry, from the beautifully illustrated children’s book, Larry get’s Lost in Seattle, will be there, along with his creator John Skewes.  Dine on decadent chocolate croquenbouche, triple chocolate mousse cake, white chocolate milkshakes (and much more) while listening to a storytime about how, exactly, Larry got lost.  Kids can get a signed book, personalized “Larry” artwork and a Larry stuffed toy.  For reservations, call 206-749-7070

Sundays, December 2, 9, 16, 23 at 3pm-5pm

Adults: $20; Children, ages 6 to 12: $12

“Larry Gets Lost in Seattle” Signed Book: $20; Larry Stuffed Toy: $12

art chocolate

art chocolate2

art choc

Say Cheese! Santa Photos Around Seattle

Long lines?  Stuffy malls?  Crying kids?  Expensive photo packages?  Bring it on!  It just wouldn’t be Christmas without the infamous Santa photo!  Though it can be a hassle, it’s a beloved tradition for families all around, and so cool to collect the photos from over the years (yes, even the scowling, screaming ones). 

santa photo

The Classic Santa

Despite long lines and expensive photo packages, these Santa venues deliver a hefty dose of holiday spirit and remain a beloved tradition for many families. 

Downtown Nordstrom

Awesome displays, the magic of Downtown Seattle at Christmas, and Elves who hand out cookies and hot cider…it couldn’t be anywhere but the Downtown Nordstrom.  The line will most likely be long, but get this– Nordstrom will take your name and page you when it’s your turn to see Santa!  There are eight rotating Santas on the schedule, including an African-American Santa and an Asian Santa. There’s even a Santa that knows ASL (American Sign Language). For special needs kids or large groups, Santa can meet you in a smaller room, away from the crowds.  Call Santa Lane at 206-628-1000 for more details.  **All photos are in film, available for pick up (or delivery) in about 5 days.




Santa Claus will be settling in on the 6th floor this year, along with his elves and reindeer.  Have your kids write Santa a letter to mail in his own personal mailbox.   

macys santa


Bellevue Square

Santa’s Workshop is in full gear at Bell Square.  The line wanders through Santa’s shop, and kiddos can get a sneak peek of what the elves have been up to.   Santa’s life-size sleigh (reindeer and all) soar above the shoppers, and outside, Snowflake Lane celebrates nightly at 7pm.  As with all large mall venues, it’s best if you can rally a grandparent to switch off standing in the line, so you can take your antsy kiddos to play on the 3rd floor boats. 

Alderwood Mall

This Santa has a reputation of being one of the most realistic, long beard and all.  He’s been around for nearly a decade, and has gained quite a following. 


Redmond Town Center



Forget-the-Mall Santa

Here are a few photo venues that are a step outside the box , or rather, mall.

University Village

Well, it’s an open-air mall at least.  Fittingly situated across from Fran’s Chocolates, Santa’s little cabin is cozy and perfect for one-on-one discussions of toys and wish lists. Don’t miss the covered play area and Santa’s sleigh near Ben Bridge.  **Every Monday Santa takes photos with pets and a portion of sales from pet photos is donated to the Seattle Humane Society.

village santa


Lake Forest Park

Bring back memories from your childhood while you make memories with your own kiddos.  The Town Center at Lake Forest Park has the original Santa set from Downtown Seattle’s Frederick & Nelson. 

Space Needle

After visiting Santa in his ultra-cool “workship,” kiddos are invited to the cookie decoration station on the Observation Deck where they can decorate a complimentary Christmas cookie.


You won’t find Santa sitting around here.  He’ll be up and about every weekend, mingling with shoppers, stopping to pose for photos.  The entirety of Molbak’s is like a shrine to Christmas.  Always gorgeously decorated, moms will enjoy shopping while kiddos get a kick out of the Christmas villages and Santa himself.  Be sure to bring your camera! 

Beautiful Poinsettia Christmas Tree

Beautiful Poinsettia Christmas Tree

Swanson’s Reindeer Festival

See Dasher and Blitzen during the Reindeer Festival, and take photos with Santa in this neighborhood gem.

Issaquah Reindeer Festival

Visit Santa’s Reindeer team and stop by Santa’s personal post office to mail a letter on your way to his workshop for a photo.  There is a ton of holiday excitement going on at the Reindeer Festival @ Cougar Mountain Zoo!

reindeer issaquah santa


Santa Paws

Don’t forget your furry friends when it comes to Santa photos!  Here are a few venues that cater to your four-legged little ones. 

santa pet

Home 4 the Holidays & Santa Paws at Seattle Humane Society
December 7-9

The Seattle Humane Society will offer adoption discounts, festive carolers, pet pics with Santa and more at Seattle Humane’s Home for the Holidays Extravaganza!  For three days only, adopt one kitten for $50 or two for $90. On Saturday, Dec. 8, have your pet’s photo taken with Santa Paws from 11 am – 2 pm ($20 suggested donation for digital download).

Adoption fees are waived on all cats 1 year and up and all critters through December.

Woodinville PetSmart

Bring in your pet for a photo with Santa for only $9.95 with Pet Perks®. Plus, $5 from every purchase will be donated to the local animal-welfare organization participating that day!

Santa Paws at the Alexis Hotel

It’s time again for a fun annual holiday tradition. Bring your pets to the pet-friendly Alexis Hotel in downtown Seattle the weekend of December 8-9 to have their photo taken with Santa Paws! With a $15 donation, you’ll be sent a wonderful keepsake digital photo, ideal for printing and framing. All proceeds benefit the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF) and our efforts to help enrich the lives of shelter animals.

The event takes place Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m

Happy Santa Photos!!

santa photo