When it comes to the holidays, nothing is more festive than the beautiful light displays. Some of my fondest memories involve watching the Macy’s star light up in downtown Seattle, walking around parks and zoos to see their light displays and driving around local neighborhoods taking in the lights. Most Christmas tree and town lightings are over before the holiday season, but there are still plenty of light displays open around the area. Likewise, now is the perfect time to explore local neighborhoods for lights as people have had time to put up their decorations. Some houses are decorated so elaborately you would think they have been done by professionals. Here is our list of the best places to get your holiday light fix for 2014, whether you want to see some of the more popular displays or avoid the crowds by checking out some secret hot spots that are off the beaten path.
With half a million colored lights shaped to flowers and critters, you will feel like you have entered a magical, sparkling forest or garden at Garden d’Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. To view even more animals, there is also the ZooLights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, which features their famous green and purple tree as well as a new 15.5 foot Mount Rainier display and a 12th man Seahawk tree. Meanwhile, fans of traditional displays will love seeing lights, while also sampling some local brews, around the city of Seattle on the Holiday Brews and Bulbs Tour. They might also enjoy the Lights of Christmas at Warm Beach in Stanwood. In addition to millions of lights, there are enough activities (from live music to Washington state’s only talking Christmas tree) that you could spend a whole weekend exploring them.
While there are plenty of commercial displays in the Seattle area worth visiting, there are also a number of outstanding neighborhood displays that are completely free for your whole family to visit. The community on N.E. Park Road has been putting on Candy Cane Lane for six decades, which features 23 houses decked out in classic holiday decor that visitors can drive or walk through. The Zembruski family on the eastside also goes all out for Christmas, combining traditional and technical elements to create a Woodinville Wonderland in their own backyard. If you and your neighbors are still looking for inspiration for creating your own holiday displays, make sure to stop by Kirkland to see the ultimate sports fan’s display.
As soon as you enter Victoria, you are greeted by the festive green and red lights decorating the Parliament Buildings downtown. However, Parliament are not the only ones who go all out for the holidays — a lot of neighborhoods do as well. If you plan on doing a driving tour of lights, make sure to stop by the communities of Saanich and the Saanich Peninsula, there is even a handy 2014 Christmas Lights Map created by the Times Colonist to help you find the best houses to visit.
Of course, the biggest, and likely the brightest, Christmas lights display in Victoria is at The Butchart Gardens during their Magic of Christmas season. All fifty acres of The Gardens are covered in dazzling lights and there are special “Twelve Days of Christmas” displays interspersed throughout. In fact, you may want to sing the song as you go along to make sure you find them all. Speaking of singing, there are also nightly carolers, an ice skating rink and free hot chocolate for kids under 12 years of age who bring a paper snowflake. If you want to skip driving this time around, The Butchart Gardens Holiday Lights Tour will take you and your friends or family up to gardens to see the lights, driving through many of the festively decorated towns along the way.
See two of Vancouver’s most of famous Christmas lights displays during one easy trip on the Karaoke Christmas Lights Tour. First you’ll visit the Bright Nights of Stanley Park where you can either walk or ride the Christmas train through the park’s grounds to discover of all of the displays filling the park. Second, you’ll stop at the VanDusen Festival of Lights, where you can watch dancing lights on Livingstone Lake, themed lights arrangements and more. While in town you might also want to check out the Carol Ships Parade of Lights, as lighted boats travel through Vancouver’s waterways. Likewise, there is also the Canyon Lights event at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, where the bridge (and the surrounding trees) is covered is glittering lights making it appear as though it is a strand of diamonds. Finally, don’t forget the Vancouver neighborhoods. Swing by the Trinity Street Christmas Lights Festival where residents compete with their neighbors to have the most decorated house, many of which would put the Griswolds to shame.
Hop on the Portland Christmas Tour to view the city’s houses and mansions at their finest. Visit Peacock Lane and enjoy a tradition that has been around since the 1920s. The owners of the Tudor houses go all out to cover them in lights and also create a variety of nativity and wintertime scenes on their yards. You will also stop by both Pittock and Victorian mansions, which have lights on the outside as well as on the inside in addition to rooms decorated in different themes. Next, enjoy lights, singing and peaceful reflection as the tour makes its way to the Christmas Lights at the Grotto, where there are five indoor concerts each night and outdoor caroling. Finally, take in the “largest holiday light show west of the Mississippi” with the Winter Wonderland at Portland Race Track. This drive through exhibit is fun for the whole family and features over 250 colorful lights arrangements and animated scenes, ensuring this attraction will end up on your list of places to visit during the holidays for years to come.
Although the Portland Christmas Tour does cover most of the popular light displays in Portland, it does miss a few. Animal lovers will want to make a trip to ZooLights to view holiday displays featuring both animatronic and live wildlife, while those who enjoy nautical activities may want to take a ride on of the lighted Christmas Ships (or watch from some place warm) as they travel up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.
With so many fascinating and beautiful lights displays around the Pacific Northwest, you could easily spend days visiting them. However, if you want to discover more even more displays or seasonal activities happening in your part of town, check out our December Things to Do posts. Another option is to simply drive around and explore the lights in your town, you might be surprised how creative your neighbors can be.