Seattle Culture

Festive Seattle

Enjoy a sense of wonder and discovery this holiday season

By Chris S. Nishiwaki December 1, 2023

Magic in the Market at Pike Place Market.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Seattle Magazine.

For many arts organizations, holiday shows represent more than half of ticket sales for the entire season. And, as arts audiences come and go, so can the surrounding economy. Studies show that every dollar spent by patrons in the arts creates $3 of economic impact.

“The downtown arts organizations bring in thousands and thousands of guests to downtown Seattle,” says Michael Greer, president and CEO of trade organization ArtsFund, who is also on the board of directors of the Downtown Seattle Association. “They contribute to activation in and around small businesses.” 

The arts and entertainment options in and around Seattle are varied. Here are some recommendations.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Elizabeth Murphy and Lucien Postlewaite in The Nutcracker.

Photo by Angela Sterling


The Nutcracker has been a holiday tradition at Pacific Northwest Ballet going back to 1975. The two-act, two-hour fantasy, set on Christmas Eve to the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Opus 71, has seen variations at PNB since its debut. The current version featuring George Balanchine’s choreography has been performed at PNB since 2015. 

Tickets range from $29 to $208. 

The Seattle Symphony will celebrate the holidays with varied programing throughout December, including annual audience favorites such as Handel Messiah, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and the cheeky Holiday Pops led by guest conductor Stuart Chafetz and featuring trombonist and vocalist Aubrey Logan. 

The most anticipated concert, however, could be Audra McDonald’s performance, Dec. 5. The versatile and talented McDonald has won the most Tony Awards ever, with six three in musicals and three in plays. She will perform tunes from musicals and the American Songbook

The Symphony will also host the holiday bazaar “Shop @ Holiday Pops” Dec. 9 and Dec. 10 at the Sam and Althea Stroum Grand Lobby at Benaroya Hall. Tickets are not required. 

Seattle Restored will host its Winter Market Dec. 9 at several pop-up locations on Fifth Avenue and Pike Street. 

The Seattle Opera will perform a limited four-night run of its holiday chorus concert at its intimate Tagney Jones Hall at the Opera Center. 

The Seattle Opera will also host a “Black Artists Market” Dec. 16 at the Opera Center. It is also collaborating with the William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation on a holiday gift drive throughout December performances and special events.  

Opera on Tap will mount its Annual Holiday Extravaganza Dec. 17 at the Blue Moon Tavern in the University District. A cast of classically trained musicians will perform in the casual, intimate, and rustic setting of the iconic Blue Moon Tavern, best known for its past regulars, including poets Theodore Roethke and Richard Hugo, painters Leo Kenney and Richard Gilkey, and author Tom Robbins.

Teatro ZinZanni at Lotte Hotel in Seattle.

Photo courtesy of Teatro ZinZanni


The witty and naughty Land of the Sweets: Burlesque Nutcracker returns to The Triple Door for its 17th iteration from Dec. 1 through Dec. 28. The charismatic Patrick Jeffrey returns as The Rat King to emcee, and stitches together vignettes from a variety of talented cast members. 

The nomad and multifaceted Teatro ZinZanni took up residence at the Lotte Hotel in October. Now in its 25th year, the current show will run until March 31. Teatro Zinzanni blends cirque, comedy, cabaret, and live music in the dinner theater setting of the Sanctuary Grand Ballroom.

The Space Needle is extending hours during the holiday season, culminating in the New Year’s Eve show. Santa will park his all-glass sleigh on the revolving glass floor at the top of the Needle from Dec. 2 through Dec. 24 for complimentary photos. The Loupe Lounge, also at the top of the Space Needle, offers multi-course options presented on dishes stacked on a tower, an ode to the Needle’s architecture. 


Winter Brilliance debuted over the Thanksgiving Weekend at Chihuly Garden & Glass and runs through Feb. 29. The new original light and music installation uses innovative video projection technology and 700 handblown glass forms for an immersive experience. 

The Woodland Park Zoo gets lit in the family-friendly WildLanterns through Jan. 14. The immersive and interactive light show complements the existing exhibits. 

Contact High, A Visual History of Hip-Hop runs through January 7 at MoPOP.

Photo courtesy of MoPOP


There’s more to Christmas music than traditional carols. 

The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, the all-star jazz ensemble, will perform Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music in collaboration with Earshot Jazz at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 30 at Town Hall. Artist Director Michael Brockman will lead the 17-piece jazz orchestra, now in its 28th season. 

MoPop celebrates 50 years of hip-hop history with its exhibit Contact High through Jan. 7. Through more than 170 images of its most influential artists, including Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, and Queen Latifah, among others, Contact High celebrates hip-hop’s evolution.

Sound Check! The Music We Make opened at the Wing Luke Museum in October and runs through September. This exhibit explores the role of music in Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander lives and communities.  

For another museum show, check out all three locations of the Seattle Art Museum: Downtown, the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Seattle Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill. 

The Museum of History and Industry opened Pulling Together: A Brief History of Rowing in Seattle, in November. The exhibit echoes the improbable and inspiring Olympic gold medal run by the University of Washington’s crew team in the 1936 Olympics. The exhibit coincides with the release of the George Clooney-directed film Boys in the Boat Christmas day, based on the book by Redmond’s Daniel James Brown. 


Claire Marx and Ays Garcia in Georgiana and Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley.

Photo by Robert Wade Photography


Intiman Theatre brings back its holiday tradition of Black Nativity, the Langston Hughes gospel song-play about the birth of Christ, this time directed by veteran director Valerie Curtis-Newton. The show is part of Curtis-Newton’s The Hansberry Project, the professional African American theatre lab named after the playwright Lorraine Hansberry, and runs from Dec. 12 through Dec. 30 at Broadway Performance Hall. 

Part puppetry, part dance and lots of lighting, A Very Electric Christmas is the New Orleans-based Lightwire Theater Production’s show running at the Seattle Children’s Theatre through Dec. 31. The show for all ages employs characters loosely based on the traditional Nutcracker story, intertwined with music from Nat King Cole, Mariah Carey, Tchaikovsky, and Sir-Mix-A-Lot. 

The Seattle Theatre Group (which manages The Paramount, The Moore, and The Neptune) presents a series of holiday shows at all three locations. Of note is cult film producer and artist John Waters’ A John Waters Christmas at The Neptune Dec. 2. 

Miz Cracker emcees a parade of drag queens in the traveling show A Drag Queen Christmas at The Moore on Dec. 12. 

Taproot Theatre in Greenwood is producing two holiday shows: Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley, written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, and Charles Schulz’ beloved A Charlie Brown Christmas. For diehard Peanuts fans, Taproot is inviting guests to dress up as their favorite characters during a cosplay night at 7 p.m. Dec. 7.

ACT Theatre brings back the Charles Dickens holiday classic A Christmas Carol running through Dec. 24 in the Allen Theatre. Tickets are $12-$99.

For more contemporary fare, the Dina Martina Christmas Show also runs through Dec. 24 in the Falls Theatre at ACT Theatre. The hilarious Chris Jeffries directs. Tickets are $46-$60. 

The Seattle Rep will present Kate Hamill’s adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott American classic Little Women. The family friendly show is a co-production with Milwaukee Repertory Theater. The show runs through Dec. 17. 

The Village Theatre will present the seven-time Tony Award-winning show Beautiful: the Carole King Musical by Carole King. The show runs through Dec. 23 at the Issaquah location and Jan. 6-28 in Everett. 

The 5th Avenue Theatre is producing Irving Berlin’s holiday classic White Christmas. Look for Phillip Attmore playing Phil Davis, the role made famous by Danny Kaye in the 1954 film version. Attmore has won the Chita Award three times, the highest honor in dance and choreography on Broadway and Off-Broadway formerly known as the Astaire Award. Local favorite Sean Griffin reprises the role of Ezekiel. 


Woodinville Wine Country hosts its annual St. Nick’s and Molbak’s Holiday Market Dec. 9.

The Pacific Science Center will host “Taproom” Dec. 6 at Seattle Center. For $30, guests can enjoy six beer samples, access to the Planetarium and the Tropical Butterfly House, as well as half-off tickets to Positive Vibrations at the Laser Dome featuring DJ Kid Hop. 

Enjoy a nightly parade of holiday floats at Snowflake Lane in downtown Bellevue.

Photo courtesy of The Bellevue Collection


In downtown Bellevue, Snowflake Lane closes Bellevue Way at 7 p.m. through Dec. 24 between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square for a holiday parade featuring music, parade floats, artificial snow, and other festive attractions. 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center hosts Giving Marketplace in Uptown. Dozens of vendors, arts and crafts seminars, and live entertainment Dec. 1-2. Proceeds support immigrants and refugees, women and girls, global health, education, and environmental issues. 

Now in its 29th year, the Sheraton Grand Seattle Gingerbread Village is a benefit for the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The display runs through Jan. 1. 

The Pike Place Market will host the 38th Annual Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Celebration during the evening of Dec. 1. It’s the largest annual fundraiser for the Pike Market Senior Center & Food Bank. Admission is free and donations are encouraged. 

Several holiday boat parades sail in and around Lake Union and can be viewed from public locations. The Argosy Cruises’ Christmas Ships Parade of Boats sails on from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 8. The Seattle Christmas Boat Parade, supporting Seattle Children’s Hospital, launches at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 from Fremont Tugboat Co. 


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