Driving around town to admire the neighbors’ Holiday lights was a family tradition for me. It was exciting—we’d all cram into the car late at night (or at least what felt like late at night). We’d cruise the streets bundled up in our winter clothes so we could drive with the windows down. I remember a lot of candy canes and hot chocolate during those rides. It made Christmas feel real, seeing all those lights and spending time together as a family.
Perhaps the best part, though? Those Holiday light drives aren’t stuck in the past. I can still do them right here in Seattle. I compiled my own list of my favorite Holiday light neighborhoods—if you think I missed something, say something! But more importantly, let’s make some Holiday memories.
Okay, a few of these are outside Seattle. But the Heritage Hills neighborhood deserves a spot on the list. You can count on entire cul de sacs putting on a good show, especially the first one by the NE 28th St. entrance. In the past, one family transformed their house into the Grinch’s Home, and another became the Polar Express Station.
Fir Grove neighborhood is reliably great. The corner of 21st Ave. and 104th St. is especially well decorated. It’s one of the weaker options on this list, but compared to any other run-of-the-mill neighborhood, this place is practically the North Pole.
Woodinville Wonderland, decorated by the Zembruski family, draws thousands of Christmas-light-chasers every year. It takes the Zembruskis a solid month to set up their 100,000 lights, which include animations and a Holiday soundtrack.
Olympic Manor’s homeowner association rules encourage residents to “decorate for Christmas every year.” Those homeowners, let me tell you, follow that rule flawlessly. Their homes themselves are beautiful, too: lots of midcentury houses made even more charming by some of the best light displays in Seattle.
3) Queen Anne
Don’t go here for the houses—go here for the park. Kerry Park’s famous view is even more impressive this time of year, when you can look out over all the festive streets, shining and twinkling in the night. You can see the Space Needle’s giant tree, too.
2) West Seattle
There are two gems over in West Seattle: the Menashe’s house and the Helmstetler’s house. The Menashe’s display on Beach Drive boasts more than 300,000 lights; the yard is absolutely stuffed with Christmas. And over on SW Charlestown St., the Helmstetler Family Christmas Spectacular puts on their own music and light show. They even have a website. In 2012, they tracked their work and discovered that their display used 600 strings of LED lights and 5,000’ of extension cord.
Candy Cane Lane can’t be beat. It’s been an icon of Seattle Christmases since the 1940s, and its popularity keeps growing. A group of 20-odd homes come together every year to make a winter wonderland complete with sleighs, reindeer, elves, and snowmen. They even put a carousel on their traffic circle. Come in the early evening, and you’ll find kids passing out candy canes. A live Santa often shows up, too!
Bonus: Christmas Ships
The Christmas Ships are another Seattle classic. The ship parade travels all along the coast, so if you want to catch a glimpse of them, check out their schedule here.