As soon as you enter Washington, known as the Evergreen State, you are surrounded by forests of naturally grown Christmas trees. The state of Washington is among the finest of Christmas vacation destinations due to its magnificent holiday lights displays, enthralling festivals, and other fun activities for the whole family. Near many Washington vacation rentals, you can enjoy shopping, visiting Christmas villages, listening to carols, and watching colorful boats decorated for the holidays. Here are the best Christmas getaways in the state of Washington.

1. Seattle

From early December until Christmas, Seattle is awash with lights and busy with holiday activities. The Christmas Ship Festival, organized by Argosy Cruises, has nightly departures of the brightly-lit Spirit of Seattle and other following ships that cruise past waterfront communities on Puget Sound playing Christmas carols. You can watch from shore or join the festivities onboard, which include choir singing on deck, Santa reading Christmas stories, and special fun for children. Another nautical event, the Parade of Boats, features numerous watercraft of all sizes decked in Christmas lights that traverse Lake Union and go through the Fremont Gap. Winterfest at the Seattle Center features a wealth of fun family-friendly activities such as ice sculpting, ice skating, riding the winter train through the Christmas village, and watching live performances. At Swanson’s Reindeer Festival in Ballard, you can admire an expansive model railroad village and visit with live reindeer. Don’t miss the chance to get a glimpse of a traditional Scandinavian Christmas at Yulefest at the Nordic Heritage Museum.

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2. Bellevue

The city of Bellevue, which lies east of Seattle on the other side of Lake Washington, comes alive during the Christmas holidays. Snowflake Lane is a wonderful family-friendly event that takes place every evening in downtown Bellevue. Highlights include live performances by snow characters, Christmas dancers, toy drummers, and other musicians and singers. It all starts off with a parade and Santa’s arrival in Bellevue Square. Another spectacle you don’t want to miss is the Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Gardens. Every evening the plants, flowers, waterfalls, and landscapes in the garden are transformed by half a million Christmas lights in breathtakingly beautiful displays. Most evenings also feature a program of live entertainment.

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3. Tacoma

Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma is an annual event that features spectacular displays of Christmas lights in the shape of animals. Highlights include a 30-foot wide underwater landscape, a giant Pacific octopus, a polar bear family, a roaring tiger, and numerous other shapes. Also at Zoolights, your children can enjoy camel rides, a visit to the interactive Kids’ Zone at the zoo, a ride on the holiday carousel, and snacks of hot cocoa and cookies. The Fort Nisqually Living History Museum at Point Defiance Park hosts a fascinating 19th Century Christmas. Try out your ice skating skills at Polar Plaza in downtown Tacoma, which opens especially for the Christmas holidays. Just a few miles away in Sumner, the Old Cannery presents visits by Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, and other special holiday attractions.

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4. Bellingham

Bellingham, which lies in the flamboyantly green far northwestern corner of Washington just a few miles from the Canadian border, is a winter wonderland of Christmas activities. The Holiday Port Celebration at the Port of Bellingham features a gingerbread house competition and display, rides on fire trucks and horse-drawn wagons, and live performances from bands and dance groups. Other activities include visits with Santa Claus and art projects for children. Deck the Old City Hall at Whatcom Museum has a beautiful holiday display of themed decorated Christmas trees. In nearby Ferndale’s Pioneer Park, the Ferndale Heritage Society decorates 12 historic log cabins, a one-room school house, and a one-room post office. At the Miniature World Family Fun Center near Birch Bay, a Santa Train travels through a Forest of Imagination decorated with more than a million Christmas lights.

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5. Stanwood

Stanwood is between Bellingham and Seattle in a beautiful spot on Puget Sound opposite Camino Island. From your Stanwood vacation rental, you can enjoy the Lights of Christmas Festival, the most extensive display of holiday lights in the Pacific Northwest. Activities for children include a polar express train, pony rides, and a petting zoo. There are also opportunities for holiday shopping such as a toy store and an ornament shop. Numerous vendors provide food and drink, and five stages feature live entertainment.

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6. Vancouver

Vancouver and its surrounding area, which sits on the southwest corner of Washington State on the Columbia River across from Portland, abounds with activities during Christmas season. Stanley Park hosts Bright Nights, which features abundant Christmas lights and rides on a miniature train. The Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden is another flamboyant lighting display. In downtown Vancouver, the Vancouver Christmas Market at Jack Poole Plaza is a winter street market that’s great for shopping and sampling tasty treats. For outdoor ice skating, sleigh rides, live reindeer, and a display of gingerbread houses, head for Grouse Mountain ski resort in northern Vancouver.

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7. Leavenworth

Leavenworth is a small Bavarian-style city on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. The quaint buildings sparkle with lights, and you can stroll along the streets, browse the gift shops, listen to carols, and enjoy delicious traditional cuisine. Each weekend during the Christmas holidays, Santa shows up at the Front Street Gazebo, distributes treats, and listens to requests. Live music and entertainment follow for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

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