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The Seattle Christmas Ship Festival

Updated on November 21, 2015

Seattle's Parade of Christmas Ships

One of my favorite holiday traditions in Seattle is the Christmas Ship Festival. The festival began over 60 years ago and is a treat for both those participating on the boats and for those watching from the shore. Each night during the month-long festival a parade of boats decorated with Christmas lights and decorations sets out to cruise the waterways of Seattle and neighboring communities.

For the past decade, the lead ship of the Christmas Ship parade has been the Argosy "Spirit of Seattle". Each evening The Spirit of Seattle has a local choral group on board with the music amplified out over the water to the surrounding boats and to the shoreline. Tickets can be purchased to be a passenger on the lead ship or several other "follow" boats that travel along behind. Privately owned vessels from large yachts to kayaks are also welcome to decorate their boats and join in the parade.

The flotilla of lighted boats travels along scheduled routes to different locations in the Puget Sound area. Each night there are designated stops in front of beaches and parks. At some locations bonfires are built for people to keep warmy while they watch and listen to the sights and sounds of the parade of lighted ships from the beach. Some nights the Christmas Ships travel around parts of Lake Washington, sometimes on Lake Union and other nights to more distant communities on Puget Sound.

The festival begins the weekend after Thanksgiving and runs through the month of December until shortly before Christmas. I've been fortunate to have been able to experience the festival many times both as a spectator on the shore and as a passenger in the parade of ships on a friend's boat. Whether on land or by sea the holiday sights and sounds of Seattle's Christmas Ship Festival is an enjoyable holiday experience.


Seattle's Christmas Ship Festival - Celebrating the Holidays for over 60 years!

The First Seattle Christmas Ship Parade
The First Seattle Christmas Ship Parade | Source

The History of the Seattle Christmas Ships

The Seattle Christmas Ship Festival was first organized in 1949 by Paul Brown who was the Superintendent of the Seattle Parks Department at that time. He called the first Christmas boat parade the "Seattle Civic Christmas Ship Festival".

The first ship donated for the Christmas Ship Festival was the "Valkyrie" owned by Chris Berg. The "Valkyrie" continued to lead the parade until 1966. From 1967 to 1979 the "Sobre Las Olas" led the parade and from 1980 to 1983 the "Snow Goose" was the lead ship.

In 1984, the "Spirit of Alderbrook" owned by Seattle Harbor Tours became the fourth ship to lead the Christmas parade. In 1987, Seattle Harbor Tours became Argosy Cruises and in 1992 the 115-foot private charter vessel "The Spirit of Seattle" began leading the parade. The Seattle Parks Department continued to host the parade until 1994. Since then the event has been sponsored and coordinated by Argosy Cruises and it was renamed the "Argosy Christmas Ship Festival". The festival is still planned in cooperation with the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department as well as the parks departments of many other communities along the shore.

Since its humble beginnings as a weekend event with a few boats in 1949, the festival has grown to a four week long event with the parade traveling to over 45 different locations around Seattle. A portion of proceeds from the ticket sales from the passengers on The Spirit of Seattle and the other Argosy "follow" boats and donations from other corporate sponsors is given every year to the Seattle Times Annual Fund for the Needy. Since 1996 Argosy Cruises has raised approximately $500,000 for the charity fund.

An Evening of Cruising Begins

Source

Have you ever heard of the Seattle Christmas Ship Parade? - What's your answer?

Most people who live in the Seattle area have seen the Christmas Ships festival either as a passenger on one of the boats or by watching them from the shore, but people from outside of the area may not have heard of it. If you plan on being in the Seattle area between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you may want participate in this beautiful celebration.

Have you ever heard of the Seattle Christmas Ship Festival?

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Watching from the Fishing Pier in Edmonds, WA - December 7, 2010

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Argosy Spirit of Seattle boarding at the Edmonds MarinaAnchors away!  The Spirit of Seattle begins its voyage from Edmonds, WAA follow boat joins the Spirit of Seattle Christmas ShipMore boats join the Christmas Ship ParadeA view of the Spirit of Seattle Christmas Ship departing after the show.  Peace!
The Argosy Spirit of Seattle boarding at the Edmonds Marina
The Argosy Spirit of Seattle boarding at the Edmonds Marina
Anchors away!  The Spirit of Seattle begins its voyage from Edmonds, WA
Anchors away! The Spirit of Seattle begins its voyage from Edmonds, WA
A follow boat joins the Spirit of Seattle Christmas Ship
A follow boat joins the Spirit of Seattle Christmas Ship
More boats join the Christmas Ship Parade
More boats join the Christmas Ship Parade
A view of the Spirit of Seattle Christmas Ship departing after the show.  Peace!
A view of the Spirit of Seattle Christmas Ship departing after the show. Peace!

A Warm Rain Jacket is an Essential

Columbia Sportswear Women's Precipitation Nation Rain Jacket
Columbia Sportswear Women's Precipitation Nation Rain Jacket

Stay warm and dry with a fleece lined waterproof jacket.

 

Dress for the Weather

Stay warm and dry

Seattle is notorious for its unpredictable weather, so be prepared for cold and wet. It can be extra chilly around the water no matter whether on a boat or watching from the shore, so it is essential to dress to stay warm and dry.

Finale on Lake Union 2009

Where to See the Parade of Boats in 2015?

Argosy Spirit of Seattle Christmas Ship
Argosy Spirit of Seattle Christmas Ship

The 2015 Seattle Christmas Ship Schedule

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27
CHOIR: KIRKLAND CHORAL SOCIETY
Depart/Return: Lake Union Park, 7:00-9:15pm
First performance: Seattle Tennis Club (private), 8:00-8:20pm
Second performance: Park Shore Retirement Home (private), 8:30-8:50pm

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Lake Union Park, 7:00-9:20pm
First performance: MOHAI, 7:15-7:35pm
Second performance: Seattle Yacht Club (West Montlake Park), 8:05-8:25pm
Third performance: Ivar's Salmon House, 8:40-9:00pm

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29
CHOIR: MASTER CHORUS EASTSIDE
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 5:00-7:55pm
First performance: Kirkland Tree Lighting, 5:00-5:20pm
Second performance: Windermere Beach Club (private)*, 5:45-6:05pm
Third performance: Gas Works Park, 6:45-7:05pm

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Leschi Marina, 7:00-9:30pm
First performance: Pritchard Beach Park, 7:50-8:10pm
Second performance: Seward Park, 8:25-8:45pm

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Leschi Marina, 7:00-9:50pm
First performance: Mercer Island Beach Club (private), 8:05-8:25pm
Second performance: Newcastle Beach Park, 8:55-9:15pm

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Leschi Marina, 7:00-9:45pm
First performance: Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park 8:00-8:20pm
Second performance: Newport Yacht Club (private) 8:50-9:10pm

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5 (FIRST SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 3:30-5:50pm
First performance: Medina Beach Park, 4:10-4:30pm
Second performance: Houghton Beach Park, 5:20-5:40pm

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5 (SECOND SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 8:00-10:30pm
Sheridan Beach Club (private, but guests are welcome), 8:55-9:15pm
Matthews Beach Park, 9:45-10:05pm

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Leschi Marina, 5:00-7:20pm
Ferdinand Street Park, 5:40-6:00pm
Stan Sayres Memorial Park, 6:15-6:35pm
Mt. Baker Beach Park, 6:45-7:05pm

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Edmonds Marina, 7:00-9:20pm
Edmonds Fishing Pier, 7:10-7:30pm
Richmond Beach, 8:20-8:40pm

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9
CHOIR: CHOIR OF THE SOUND
Depart/Return: Pier 55, 7:00-9:45pm
Manchester City Park, 8:05-8:25pm
Salty's on Alki, 9:15-9:35pm

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10
CHOIR: PACIFIC SOUND CHORUS
Depart/Return: Des Moines Marina, 7:00-9:30pm
Des Moines Beach Park, 7:20-7:40pm
Dash Point State Park, 8:20-8:40pm

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11
CHOIR: HOLY NAMES ACADEMY VOCAL ENSEMBLE
Depart/Return: Shilshole Bay Marina, 7:00-9:15pm
Shilshole Bay, 7:15-7:35pm
Blue Ridge Club (private), 8:00-8:20pm
Carkeek Park, 8:35-8:55pm

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12 (FIRST SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Pier 55, 3:30-5:50pm
Lowman Beach Park, 4:20-4:40pm
Alki Beach Park, 5:10-5:30pm

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12 (SECOND SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Pier 55, 8:00-10:45pm
Seattle Aquarium/Great Wheel, 8:15-8:35pm
Winslow Waterfront Beach, 9:35-9:55pm

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13
CHOIR: OLYMPIA YOUTH CHOIR - CANTABILE
Depart/Return: Tacoma, Museum of Glass, 5:00-8:00pm
Museum of Glass, 5:00-5:20pm
Gig Harbor, 6:35-6:55pm

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15
CHOIR: NORTH KITSAP NORTHERN LIGHTS
Depart/Return: Poulsbo Marina, 7:00-9:05pm
Poulsbo, 7:00-7:20pm
Keyport, 7:45-8:05pm
Lemolo, 8:20-8:40pm

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16
CHOIR: THE SWEDISH WOMEN'S CHORUS
Depart/Return: Shilshole Bay Marina, 7:00-9:45pm
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, 8:10-8:30pm
Golden Gardens Park, 9:05-9:25pm

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17
CHOIR: RAINIER YOUTH CHOIRS
Depart/Return: Des Moines Marina, 7:00-9:45pm
Brown's Point, 8:00-8:20pm
Redondo Beach, 9:00-9:20pm

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18
CHOIR: EMERALD CITY VOICES
Depart/Return: Lake Union Park, 7:00-9:30pm
Fishermen's Terminal, 7:30-7:45pm
Fremont Cut 8:05-8:25pm
Westward & Little Gull, 8:40-9:00pm

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19 (FIRST SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 3:30-5:45pm
OO Denny Park, 4:00-4:20pm
Laurelhurst Beach Club (private), 5:00-5:20pm

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19 (SECOND SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 8:00-10:40pm
Juanita Beach Park, 8:25-8:45pm
Tracy Owen Station at Log Boom Park, 9:25-9:45pm

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20 (FIRST SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Kirkland City Dock, 3:30-5:40pm
Kirkland Marina Park, 3:40-4:00pm
Madison Park, 4:40-5:00pm

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20 (SECOND SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 8:00-10:45pm
Covenant Shores (private), 8:50-9:10pm
Madrona Beach Park, 9:35-9:55pm

MONDAY, DECEMBER 21
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 7:00-9:40pm
Lake Forest Civic Club (private), 7:55-8:15pm
Warren G. Magnuson Park, 8:55-9:15pm

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22 (FIRST SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 2:30-5:15pm
Mercerwood Shore Club (private), 3:30-3:50pm
Beaux Arts (private), 4:05-4:25pm

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22 (SECOND SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 7:30-10:20pm
Carillon Point, 7:45-8:05pm
Meydenbauer Beach Park, 9:05-9:25pm

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23 (FIRST SAILING)
CHOIR: DICKENS CAROLERS
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 3:30-5:25pm
Waverly Beach Park 3:50-4:10pm
Yarrow Point Park, 4:30-4:50pm

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23 (SECOND SAILING) - GRAND FINALE
CHOIR: SEATTLE GIRLS CHOIR - PRIME VOCI
Depart/Return: Kirkland City Dock, 8:00-11:05pm
Portage Bay Park, 8:45-9:05pm
Gas Works Park, 9:45-10:05pm



Finale 2010 - Portage Bay Dec. 23, 2010

Keep Warm in the Holiday Spirit with a Santa Hat

Beistle 20731 Velvet Santa Hat with Plush Trim, One Size Fits Most, (Red/White)
Beistle 20731 Velvet Santa Hat with Plush Trim, One Size Fits Most, (Red/White)

A Santa hat is a popular festive choice to wear to the Seattle Christmas Ship Festival.

 

Stay warm - Don't forget a hat!

Even if you have a jacket with a hood, adding a hat will help keep you warmer. A Santa hat is a traditional choice.

The Seattle Christmas Ship Finale December 23, 2011

Stay Warm with Hand, Foot and Body Warmers

Heat Factory Outdoor Warmer Pack: 6 Pair Hand, 3 Pair Toe, and 3 Large Body Heat Warmers
Heat Factory Outdoor Warmer Pack: 6 Pair Hand, 3 Pair Toe, and 3 Large Body Heat Warmers

To stay warm on a cold, wet evening in the Pacific Northwest, this combination package of Hand warmers, foot warmers and body warmers work great!

 

Keep Your Body, Hands and Feet Warm

On cold, damp nights in the Pacific Northwest to make time spent outdoors comfortable, it is important to plan on how to stay warm. I recommend bringing along hand, feet and body warmers.

Watch the Seattle Christmas Ships from your Hotel

Seattle Christmas Ship
Seattle Christmas Ship | Source

Reserve a Room with a View of the Christmas Ship Parade

There are several hotels with a view of Puget Sound or Lake Union where you can view the Christmas Ships from the hotel on nights that the ships are traveling in that area. Be sure to check the Christmas Ship Schedule to see where the ships will be before making a reservation. Here are some suggestions:

On the nights the Christmas Ships depart from Pier 55, to have a great view as they depart and return, stay at the Edgewater Hotel.

On the nights the Christmas Ships depart from Lake Union or cruise to Gasworks Park on Lake Union, the stay at the Silver Cloud Inn - Lake Union. It has an excellent view of the lake from many rooms.

Watch the 2012 Christmas Ships From the Shore

© 2010 Vicki Green

Please drop me a line and let me know you cruised by - And leave a comment in your wake

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    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

      We had a similar parade when we lived in Victoria.

    • profile image

      AmateurAtHTML 6 years ago

      Goodness me, this looks like fun! Thanks for the information!

    • WritingforYourW profile image

      WritingforYourW 6 years ago

      Sounds like fun. I've lived in the area most my life and have never thought to look into Christmas ship rides. ;)

    • javr profile image

      javr 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It's a great tradition. I saw them from the Washington State Ferry once.

    • profile image

      bsblmike2 6 years ago

      great lens. iloved it

    • profile image

      jgelien 6 years ago

      I love Christmas ships. When we were members of a boating club here in Oregon, our clubhouse was right on the Willamette River and we would watch the lighted ships go by as we held our Christmas party. I would love to see the Seattle one sometime.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      What a beautiful tradition. We were just on the Queen Mary in Long Beach (California) and it was all decorated for the holidays. Your intro photo is stunning!

    • moskit profile image

      moskit 6 years ago

      This is such a great tradition. Something different from the norm. A visit to Seattle is on the cards for my future..

      Andy

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      The Christmas Ships is something I look forward to every years, it is like people watching the Macy's parade, families build whole traditions around it! Great lens.

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 6 years ago

      Now this looks like something I would love to do!

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 6 years ago from US/TN

      An extra blessing to tide you into January... blessed by a SquidAngel! :-)

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      That is a sight worth seeing. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Fox Music profile image

      Fox Music 6 years ago

      I had no idea - looks like a very festive time thank you for this great lens

    • Fox Music profile image

      Fox Music 6 years ago

      I had no idea - looks like a very festive time thank you for this great lens

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 6 years ago

      What a beautiful sight it must be to draw people out in that weather. Great lens and beautiful presentation. Thanks for being an angel, Vicki.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Interesting tradition. I would love to see this.

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 5 years ago

      I spend some of the summers in Seattle but would love to be there at Christmas time to see the ships. Squid Angel Blessings to you

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 5 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Blessed! Please add this to my Christmas Gifts and Blessings lens.

    • profile image

      cr00059n 5 years ago

      What a nice way to raise up one's spirits. Quite a joyful experience.

    • TheGourmetCoffe profile image

      TheGourmetCoffe 5 years ago

      Very nice lens and a great idea for a Seattle visit. We had the opportunity to do something similar years ago in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, and it was unforgettable. Thank you for sharing your insights, great photography and liked the detailed "calendar of events" you included.

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 4 years ago from USA

      We've been on the Argosy cruise, but I had no idea there was an xmas parade.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      The Seattle Christmas Ship Parade would be something to behold for sure and would be remembered forever, what a wonderful experience and so well presented!

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      I'd love to see this in person.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      We do the same thing here in Norfolk, Virginia. I love your photos!

    • profile image

      sybil watson 3 years ago

      This looks like so much fun! I would love to watch the parade of boats and listen to the Dickens choir.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      I would love to experience the Christmas ships. What a fabulous tradition.

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