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Christmas in Seattle

Updated on November 30, 2014

Seattle Skyline at Night in December

Seattle Space Needle with Christmas Lights
Seattle Space Needle with Christmas Lights | Source

Things to do in Seattle During the Holidays

Seattle might seem like an unlikely choice for a Christmas travel destination since it is neither warm and tropical for those who want to escape winter nor cold and snowy for those who enjoy more traditional holiday winter weather. Maybe I'm prejudiced because I was born and raised in Seattle, but I find the climate perfect. It is cold enough to feel like winter, but seldom snowy so it makes it easy to walk around safely to enjoy all of the festivities. For those who crave snow, the nearby mountains have plenty and they are less than an hour away from the city.

I have many fond childhood memories of Seattle Christmas traditions from over 50 years ago. It pleases me that most continue to this day along with some more recent ones that are fun for people of all ages. There are many free activities that can be mixed in with a splurge on a few expensive once-in-a-lifetime experiences that may be on your bucket list. Listen to local holiday music favorites, watch the Westlake Center Tree Lighting, take a ride on an old-fashioned carousel, see amazing gingerbread houses, find the most brilliant displays of Christmas lights, the best place to visit Santa, watch an internationally renowned ballet company perform the Nutcracker and much more.

As a Seattle old timer, I'm sharing my favorite places to go and things to do that I think makes Seattle a special place for a family Christmas vacation. If you can't visit, consider this page as my Christmas Card from Seattle!

All photos by author, Vicki Green unless otherwise noted

Have you been to Seattle at Christmas time? - Please take part in my poll

Christmas at the Pike Place Market Seattle
Christmas at the Pike Place Market Seattle

Christmas in Seattle?

Have you ever been to Seattle during the holiday season?

See results

Local Holiday Music to Get Into the Christmas Spirit

As you take my tour of Christmas in Seattle, get into the mood by listening to a Seattle holiday music favorite "Christmas in the Northwest". Starting in 1985, the Children's Music Fund has produced about a dozen albums using mostly local Pacific Northwest musicians. The proceeds are used to pay the the cost of medical care not covered by insurance for children treated at Seattle Children's Hospital and Medical Center and other children's hospitals in the region.

Christmas in the Northwest

Best of Christmas in the Northwest
Best of Christmas in the Northwest

This is the 1994 Best of Christmas in the Northwest selections from previous CDs. Artists include Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson, the Brothers Four, Reilly and Maloney, Tim Noah, Danny Deardorff, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Brenda White and more.

 

Christmas in the Northwest CD

Thie "Christmas in the Northwest" CDs feature holiday music by mostly local Pacific Northwest artists. There are actually about a dozen different recordings, but this is the "Best of" that I think is the best. You can listen to clips of each of the cuts to get an idea of the great variety of music.

The Westlake Center Christmas Tree and Macy's Star

The Seattle Macy's Star

The large star on the Seattle Macy's is a tradition that goes back to when the store was the Bon Marche. You will find many old timers around Seattle that still refer to it as "the Bon" even though the store was acquired by the company that owns the Macy's chain in 1989. It was called Bon-Macy's for a few years and then became just "Macy's" in 2005. The lighting of the Macy's Star and the Westlake Tree is held each year on "black friday".


The Westlake Center Tree Lighting 2013 - Christmas Festivities Kick-off at Westlake Center

Each year a Christmas Tree is displayed at Westlake Center and it is lit for the first time the evening after Thanksgiving (also known as Black Friday) as the official beginning of the Seattle Holiday Season.

Westlake Center Tree Lighting, November 2013

Seattle Macy's Christmas Village

Touch the Window to Activate the Trains

A popular holiday tradition for children that has been around since the old days of the Bon Marche, is the Miniature Christmas Village and train. It is still located in the window at the northeast corner of the building that is now Macy's. As a child I loved to touch the specially marked spots on the window to make the the trains go through the snow-covered mountains and into the town.


The Westlake Park Holiday Carousel

Westlake Park Holiday Activities

Right across the street from Westlake Center is Westlake Park, the place to take a ride on an old-fashioned carousel set-up every year just for the holiday season. Cost to ride is a suggested $2 donation to benefit Treehouse a non-profit organization that helps to serve the needs of children in foster care.


What are the Chances of a White Christmas in Seattle?

In the past century Seattle has only had a white Christmas 7 times so the chance of snow in Seattle for Christmas is less than 10%.

Where can the kids visit Santa?

Nordstrom's has Seattle's Best Santa Claus

The best place to visit Santa is at the flagship Nordstrom's at the corner of 6th Avenue and Pine Street. The lines can be long, but this is probably the best Santa experience you and your child will ever have. Mrs. Claus and several elves assist Santa by serving hot apple cider and cookies while you wait. When it is your turn, the photo team is excellent with almost every child feeling comfortable enough to smile for a great photo. After pictures are done, Santa takes his time talking with each child about their Christmas wishes. Most photo packages cost between $20 to $50 and can either be picked up at Nordstrom's or mailed to your home for a modest additional charge.


Mrs. Claus at Frederick and Nelson, Seattle
Mrs. Claus at Frederick and Nelson, Seattle | Source

Santa at Frederick & Nelson in the 1950s

Seattle's Favorite Santa

This is a photo of me with Mrs. Claus taken at Frederick & Nelson's in the 1950s. For over 100 years, children in Seattle visited Santa at Frederick & Nelsons. After Frederick & Nelson went out of business, Nordstrom's moved its flagship store into the building and continued the tradition.

Frango Mints - a Sweet Seattle Holiday Tradition

For many years Frederick and Nelson's was one of the most beloved department stores in Seattle and the Frango Mints they sold were a holiday tradition. Frederick's became absorbed into the Marshall Field company and then it, too went out of business. When Frederick & Nelson closed, the Bon Marche purchased the Frango candy portion of the business and when Macy's bought the Bon Marche, it became the owner of Frangos.

My Favorite Place to go Christmas Shopping

Pike Place Market Seattle
Pike Place Market Seattle

Seattle Pike Place Market Christmas Card

Seattle Pike Place Market Christmas Card
Seattle Pike Place Market Christmas Card | Source

Christmas at the Pike Place Market

Although most major retail chains have a presence in the downtown shopping area, I prefer to walk a few blocks down the street to my favorite place to shop - the Pike Place Market. Each holiday season, I make sure to visit the market at least once to find local products, unique handcrafted gifts and enjoy the holiday ambiance including these decorated pigs pulling Santa's Sleigh. For more information, visit my page about Seattle's Pike Place Market.

Where to See Fantastic Gingerbread Houses?

Sheraton Gingerbread Village, Seattle, WA
Sheraton Gingerbread Village, Seattle, WA

The Seattle Sheraton Gingerbread Village

For the past 20+ years, the Seattle Sheraton Hotel has hosted a display of fantastic gingerbread houses designed by Seattle architects and created by hotel culinary staff. These amazing works of art are enjoyed by both adults and children. Admission is free, but donations to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation are welcomed. For more photos of more of these masterpieces, visit my page about the Seattle Gingerbread Village.


The Space Needle Decorated for the Holidays

Christmas at the Seattle Space Needle
Christmas at the Seattle Space Needle

Events at the Seattle Center and Space Needle

Every year the top of the Space Needle is strung with lights that make it appear to have a Christmas Tree sitting on top which can be seen in from many vantage points around the city. Since the Space Needle is located at the Seattle Center, it can be used as a landmark to find more holiday festivites at the Seattle Center Winterfest. There are daily activities including music, ice sculpting demonstrations and an ice skating rink. For more information, here is the Schedule of Winterfest events. For more information and photos of the needle, visit my page about the Space Needle.

The Seattle Christmas Ship Parade

Seattle Christmas Ship Festival
Seattle Christmas Ship Festival

Watch a Flotilla of Boats with Christmas Lights and Decorations

What would Christmas in Seattle be without the Seattle Christmas Ship Festival? Although the festival started modestly on a single weekend over 60 years ago, over the years it has expanded to a month-long celebration. Beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving and continuing until a day or two before Christmas, boats of all sizes form a floating parade and travel in and around the numerous waterways in the Seattle area. Carolers are on board the lead ship and there are stops along way at parks and other locations for performances. People can join in the fun on board the boats or watch from the shore gathered around bonfires. Visit my page about the Seattle Christmas Ship Festival for more photos and information about where you can see the ships.


Where is the Best Seattle Neighborhood Christmas Light Display?

Candy Cane Lane Seattle
Candy Cane Lane Seattle | Source

Visit Candy Cane Lane in the Ravenna Neighborhood

Candy Cane Lane is the place to go to see the most fantastic Christmas light display in Seattle. It has been a neighborhood tradition to go all out for Christmas decorations for over 60 years.


Where is Candy Cane Lane?

A markerNortheast Park Road, Seattle -
Northeast Park Road, Seattle, WA 98105, USA
get directions

The name of the street that has become known as "Candy Cane Lane" is actually Northeast Park Road, a loop road connected to Ravenna Blvd at each end.

The Best Nutcracker Ballet

Stage at the Pacific NW Ballet Nutcracker
Stage at the Pacific NW Ballet Nutcracker | Source

Pacific NW Ballet Nutcracker

A Seattle holiday tradition to add to your bucket list is to attend a performance of Seattle's world renowned Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker. Pacific Northwest Ballet was founded in 1972 by Francia Russell and Kent Stowell. The Nutcracker was choreographed by Kent Stowell and has been performed since 1983 with the fantastic sets and costumes that were designed in collaboration with children's book author and illustrator, Maurice Sendak. 2014 will be the final performance of Stowell and Sendak's Nutcracker. For more information and tickets, visit Pacific Northwest Ballet's website.


Nutcracker: The Motion Picture
Nutcracker: The Motion Picture

A wide screen DVDr of the 1986 film "Nutcracker: The Motion Picture", featuring the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

 

Nutcracker - the Movie - Featuring Pacific Northwest Ballet

The 1986 movie "The Nutcracker" features the Pacific Northwest Ballet version that was shown on PBS. If you saw it in Seattle and can't get enough or you aren't able to come to Seattle to see it, you can watch the movie.

Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker

Made in Washington Gift Basket

Bite of Washington Gift Basket
Bite of Washington Gift Basket

This is a great assortment of some of the favorite local foods associated with Seattle and Pacific Northwest including: (contents may vary slightly by season)

Rainy Day Roast Coffee

Chukar Cherries

Brown & Haley Candy

Market Spice Tea

Partners Crackers

Smoked Sockeye Salmon

 

The Best Gift From Seattle

Seattle has a unique cuisine of locally grown and produced products. A basket full of the local flavors that have made Seattle a foodie's paradise makes a great holiday gift.

Westlake Center Seattle
Westlake Center Seattle

Planning a Christmas Holiday Trip to Seattle?

Fortunately for anyone who is planning a Christmas holiday trip to Seattle, it is definitely off-season, so there are lots of hotel bargains available. Most of the Christmas attractions are located in the heart of downtown Seattle which is very compact and walkable. Staying at a hotel near Westlake Center in the downtown core makes it convenient to enjoy the holiday festivities. Compare prices, and read reviews about Seattle hotels on Trip Advisor.

© 2013 Vicki Green

Please share your experiences or thoughts about Christmas in Seattle. - Did you enjoy my favorite Christmas Traditions in Seattle?

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 21 months ago from USA

      Your hub makes me want to put Seattle on my travel list next Christmas season! I love the gingerbread houses and that photo of you with Mrs. Claus.

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 2 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Thanks for the kind comments!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I went to college at Seattle University, and I absolutely loved living in Seattle. Nice job here...Seattle should hire you for promos.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 3 years ago

      Looks like fun but while you are freezing there we are roasting in Aussie land. Great lens and congrats on LOTD.

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 3 years ago from Idaho

      I love Seattle, the fish market, the ferry across to Bainbridge Island. Great lens!

    • TanjaCrouch profile image

      TanjaCrouch 3 years ago

      Yes, I enjoyed your lens. Well done! Seattle is a beautiful city.

    • profile image

      tbonestakes 3 years ago

      Great lens, it really gives a panoramic of the city of Seattle. Go Sea-hawks!

    • Max Globe profile image

      Max Globe 3 years ago

      I kind of always wanted to see Space Needle - it looks so festive even when it's not Christmas) Never knew about Chrismas village though! It sounds magical.

    • profile image

      brahim99 3 years ago

      Great lens! thanks for sharing. My son may be moving to Seattle, or nearby area, in a year.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Seems like a nice place

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Loved the tour! So fun to see the pic of you in the Fifties with Mrs. Claus. I've spent quite a bit of time in Seattle, but never over the holidays. Looks like a lot of fun, and I love the weather there. Not too warm or too cold, and the rain was always gentle the times I've been there. Congratulations on LOTD. Richly deserved.

    • PNWtravels profile image
      Author

      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @marsha32: Thank you!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 3 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! What a great lens! It makes me want to be there at Christmas time...my daughters took a weekend trip to Seattle and loved it. I LOVE the 1950 photo of you...sweet!

    • socialcx1 profile image

      socialcx1 3 years ago

      Seems like a wonderful place. Thanks for a lovely informative lens that will encourage many people to visit Seattle at Xmas time.

    • socialcx1 profile image

      socialcx1 3 years ago

      Seems like a wonderful place. Thanks for a lovely informative lens that will encourage many people to visit Seattle at Xmas time.

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @SusanDeppner: Thank you!

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @calconcrete: August is probably the best month to visit if you like sunny, warmer weather.

    • DawnRae64 profile image

      Dawn 3 years ago from Maryland, USA

      Great lens! thanks for sharing. My son may be moving to Seattle, or nearby area, in a year. It was fun for me to have a little pre-visit to the area through your lens. Congrats on LotD!

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Great lens, great pictures. Congratulations on getting LotD!

    • lovettuk profile image

      lovettuk 3 years ago

      I really want to move to Seattle, I'm quite the nomad and I like moving spontaneously and Seattle has always been top of my list but i've never quite made it. I'm going to really try this next year so I can make it by next Christmas!!

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 3 years ago from London UK

      I love the photos Seattle is obviously a really nice place - it's on my bucket list! Well done on LoTD.

    • profile image

      freedomleader 3 years ago

      Great job on this lens for everyone to see thru your eyes the beauty of Seattle.Thank you for sharing.

    • CrazyHomemaker profile image

      CrazyHomemaker 3 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD! This is a very nice lens. It makes me want to visit. Happy Holidays!

    • CrazyHomemaker profile image

      CrazyHomemaker 3 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD! This is a very nice lens. It makes me want to visit. Happy Holidays!

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 3 years ago from Naperville, IL

      What a delightful lens! I've never been to Seattle...hope to get there in 2014. Your Christmas traditions sound fabulous. I'm a big frango mints fan too...harkens back to my childhood in the Chicago area and the wonderful Marshall Fields department store.

    • MrAusAdventure profile image

      Bill 3 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      I always imagined that Seattle would have been covered in snow in winter being so far north, I guess it has the sea level elevation on it's side though. I have never been that far up the West Coast, but would love to visit at some stage on a road trip up to Canada.

    • seashell2 profile image

      seashell2 3 years ago

      Seattle is lovely, my husband and I were there this past summer for a few days, love Pike Market, I'm sure it's amazing at Christmas time! Oh and that wonderful bakery there with the yummy pastries! Thanks for sharing!

    • oliver-olson-9 profile image

      oliver-olson-9 3 years ago

      Wow, Beautiful lens. I'm afraid I may have a bit of the humbugs when it comes to Christmas in Seattle. It's actually been over 5 years since I've made the 1 hour quest into Sea town. I'm Afraid I've become some what of an agoraphobe when it comes to the big city. But this lens is making me reconsider my fears.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      Ohh, the Christmas snowfall of 1990 actually began the week before the holiday. I was in Seattle to visit a hospitalized friend, using a borrowed car, and the city turned to whipped cream, so soft was the snow and so quiet the sounds muffled in white, as the city shut down for a week. Nice nice presentation.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 3 years ago from Topeka, KS

      I worked in downtown Seattle for many years and do miss being in the midst of the holiday decorations and the magical energy of it all. A very beautiful and well done article! :)

    • lgOlson profile image

      L. Olson 3 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Thank you! I am Seattle born and raised, now living in Arizona. You brought back so many memories, especially the visit to Santa at Frederick & Nelsons, Frango mints and of course, Candy Cane lane. When I was growing up we had lots of snow! Hopefully, that cycle is coming back..I heard from family it's snowing today up there!

    • profile image

      peterantonrev 3 years ago

      That's Juneau, AK, not Juneay! ;-)

    • profile image

      peterantonrev 3 years ago

      I have been to Seattle a half dozen times or more, usually in the summer months. I lived in Juneay for two years in the late 70s and took the ferry in and out of Seattle. My sisters both live in NW Washington and a brother-in-law was an officer on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. It is to this day one of my favorite travel stomping grounds.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I really enjoyed this page and love all the photos. I've never visited Seattle, but this sure makes me want to. Congratulations on a well deserved Lens Of The Day!

    • verymary profile image

      Mary 3 years ago from Chicago area

      Here's hoping you get that elusive white Seattle Christmas! I really want to visit there someday, mainly (I've gotta admit) for the wondeful food! Happy holidays :)

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 3 years ago

      I have always heard good things about Seattle, very nice place to live.

    • Pat Broker profile image

      Pat Broker 3 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Great lens! I have never been to Seattle, but it sounds like Christmas would be a great time to visit.

    • calconcrete profile image

      calconcrete 3 years ago

      Very nice description of the XMas attractions in Seattle. However, I am a warm-blooded California guy who doesn't take to cold and rain. I only go to Seattle when I have to for business . . . and hopefully during the warmer months.

    • PNWtravels profile image
      Author

      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @KarenTBTEN: Always fun to hear from another person from the Seattle area. Thank you for your comments.

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @SheGetsCreative: Thank you! Yes, snow today! Although will probably be gone by this afternoon.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 3 years ago

      I live in Seattle, but I am writing this morning from my brother's house in Phoenix. I will say that Seattle does Christmas more convincingly than Phoenix.

      I don't know all the attractions on the page. I know the little village in the display window downtown, but couldn't remember exactly where it was to get pictures before I left. (I did get pictures of the lovely teddy bear scenes in the windows of a European watch store. They've got quite a holiday display going, too.) Either the holiday carousel wasn't up yet last time I walked around downtown... or else I forgot I forgot exactly where they put that, too!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Beautiful! I really would like to visit Seattle someday. Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      And now there's SNOW as of this morning :) Congrats on LotD

    • profile image

      marsha32 3 years ago

      I've never been to Washington state. This looks beautiful.

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @delia-delia: Thank you!

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @sybil watson: Thank you so much - I'm glad you enjoyed!

    • profile image

      sybil watson 3 years ago

      What a wonderful lens - I'm so glad you received LOTD! I had totally forgotten about Frango mints, which used to be my favorite when I was a kid. I loved the darling picture of you with Mrs. Claus.

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @writerkath: Thank you - so glad you enjoyed my lens.

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 3 years ago

      What a fabulous lens! Congratulations on LOTD. Seattle looks like an amazing city. I would love to visit, and hope that I am able to do so soon!

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @Merrci: Thank you!

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @ColettaTeske: Thank you for sharing your comments and memories of Christmas in Seattle. Wishing you a Merry Christmas wherever you will be this year.

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @Diana Wenzel: Thank you!

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @PriyabrataSingh: I'm so glad you enjoyed - Happy holidays to you!

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @shoputopian: Thank you and Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2014 to you, too!

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @DebW07: Thank you!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Seattle is such a wonderful city, though I haven't been there for Christmas. LOVE Pikes Market! Great lens with great photos too. Congrats on LofD.

    • profile image

      ColettaTeske 3 years ago

      Congratulations on your LotD! Great job. This will be the first year that I won't be in Seattle for Christmas. I grew up in Seattle. I still call it "The Bon" (and so does my mom, who has lived in Seattle for almost 60 years), Frangos just don't taste the same since Ferd and Nellies went out of business and Nordies is my favorite place to shop (always has been). Of all the attractions on your list, I would put "The Nutcracker" on the top of the list. Thanks for the memories!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      Stopping back by to congratulate you on LotD. Very happy for you. Wishing you much joy this holiday season.

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 3 years ago from Lakewood New York

      I have never been to Seattle until now, Thanks for the tour, and I love your pictures. Congratulations on LOTD.

    • profile image

      PriyabrataSingh 3 years ago

      Yes, I do enjoy your favourite Christmas Traditions in Seattle. It feels me crazy with all the fun and enjoyment you take over during the Christmas Traditions. Thanks for sharing and many congratulation on getting Lens Of The Day. The selection of pictures are amazing. Merry Christmas and best wishes for New Year 2âº14.

    • profile image

      shoputopian 3 years ago

      Your photo's were amazing Merry Christmas to you and all the best in the New Year!

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      DebW07 3 years ago

      I love your photos! Great lens, congrats on LotD!

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @Ruthi: Thank you - same to you!

    • PNWtravels profile image
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      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @Craftymarie: Thank you!

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      Ruthi 3 years ago

      The carousel ride would be my favorite thing to do. Merry Christmas, Vicki!

    • Craftymarie profile image

      Marie 3 years ago

      Wishing you a magical white Christmas this year even though the odds are stacked against it :)

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      I enjoyed time spent in Seattle one December (there for a convention). Really enjoyed the Pike Place Market. This wonderful showcase makes me want to get on a plane and head your way. Beautifully presented. Lovely music.