The Pacific Northwest is a magical place during the holidays, and many of its coastal communities have annual tree lighting ceremonies, lighted boat parades, and artisan craft holiday markets that are worthy of off-season cruising. If you are looking for a place to get in the holiday spirit, here are a few to put on your radar. Best of all, these all have marinas within walking distance, or if you’d prefer to be on the hook, there are nearby places to drop anchor.
Most of the festivities at our home port of Anacortes take place a short walk from Cap Sante Marina. On the first Friday of December, is the Tree Lighting Ceremony and Holiday Art Walk. The lighting ceremony includes holiday greetings by the Town Crier, the Mayor and city officials, songs from the Anacortes School District choirs, and Santa, who lights up the town’s unique Christmas tree – crab pots topped with an octopus. Afterward, peruse the shops and galleries, or dine at one of the many restaurants downtown.
The next day, the holiday fun continues with the Annual Lions Club Parade at 11 am. And, every Saturday, leading up to Christmas Day are free horse-drawn trolley rides from 12 to 4 pm in historic downtown. If you are in the mood for Irish music, Geoffrey Castle puts on a dazzling show with his electric violin and All Star Band, along with guest singers and dancers from the Seattle Irish Dance Company at the annual Celtic Christmas Celebration (December 12, 2018). The event is free; all you need to do is bring an unwrapped toy or food donation.
For more information about holiday events in Anacortes, visit the website.
Made with crab pots and topped with an octopus, Anacortes has one of the most unusual Christmas trees. Photo credit Rakan Alduaij, courtesy of Experience Anacortes
An easy cruise from Seattle is the harborside town of Bremerton. Plan to visit for Winterfest, which takes place the second Saturday of December (December 8, 2018). This happens in downtown Bremerton which is a short walk from Bremerton Marina. The festivities begin at 4 pm, and visitors are encouraged to stroll through downtown to peruse shops, enjoy exhibits and holiday refreshments. From 5 pm to 8 pm, there are horse-drawn carriage rides. At 5:30 pm, the Bremerton High School Marching Band ensures Santa makes a grand entrance, and shortly after the show, the mayor and Santa light the tree together.
For more information about events in Bremerton, visit the website.
The Puget Sound Naval Museum in Bremerton decked out for the holidays. Photo courtesy of Visit Kitsap
Holiday on the Bay takes place on the first Saturday of December at the Port of Everett. Plan to arrive at 11 am to tour the Everett Farmers Market Holiday Festival which features over 40 artisans and craftsman. At 1 pm, the Toys for Tots Toy Drive begins. It has plenty of family-fun activities such as cookie decorating, fire truck rides, face painting, holiday movies as well as free cocoa, cider, popcorn, and live music. At 5 pm, Santa arrives for the tree lighting ceremony, followed by the Mukilteo Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade.
If you dine at a waterfront restaurant, like Bluewater Organic Distilling Bar & Bistro, Scuttlebutt Brewing, Anthony’s HomePort Everett, or Lombardi’s Italian Restaurant, be sure to ask about their holiday drink specials.
For more information about events in Everett, visit the website.
Santa greets guests at Holiday on the Bay in Everett. Photo credit: Port of Everett
The channel-side town of La Conner is another wonderful cruising stop, and all of the activities are an easy walk from La Conner Marina. The annual La Conner Community Tree Lighting takes place on December 1. The ceremony starts at 530 pm, but you’ll want to arrive early to enjoy live music and sugar cookies made by La Conner High School Students.
If you’d prefer a libation first, swing by Hellam’s Vineyard, La Conner Sips, or La Conner Brewery. The highlight of the tree lighting is Santa who arrives in an antique firetruck. He gathers the children around the tree, gives them each a handful of pixie dust, and on the count of three they throw it in the air, and the tree lights up.
The following weekend the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade (December 8, 2018). The parade begins at 6 pm, and the best spot to watch is along the boardwalk. A window table at Nell Thorn Waterfront Bistro & Bar also makes for a cozy place to watch the boats.
For more information about events in La Conner, visit the website.
La Conner’s waterfront boardwalk provides prime viewing of the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade. Photo courtesy of Love La Conner
San Juan Islands
Many experience the San Juan Islands during the summer months. With a little preparation, these cruising grounds can be exceptional during the winter. For holiday celebrations, head to the Port of Friday Harbor for the Islands Light Festival (December 1, 2018). The event begins mid-afternoon at the Whale Museum with treats and crafts.
From there, the festivities move down to Memorial Park where you can enjoy a hot chocolate courtesy of Riptide Cafe and caroling by the Elementary School Choir. Then, Santa arrives to usher in the season and light the tree. Afterward, savory soups, mac n’ cheese, bread and cider are available for purchase at Brickworks.
The following weekend is the Old-Fashioned Christmas Market at the Brickworks from 10 am to 4 pm. This European-style Christmas Market showcases island crafts and food. Later that evening, at 7 pm, is the San Juan Singers Holiday Concert at the San Juan Community Theatre.
For more information about events in the San Juan Islands, visit the website.
A crowd gathers for the Island Lights Festival in Friday Harbor. Photo credit John Sinclar and the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau
Dazzling lights – 500,000 to be exact – brightens up those dark winter nights at a Kingston Cove Christmas at the Port of Kingston. If you are a lover of the colorful lights and light sculptures, this is a must see. The good news is, the lights are on display throughout the entire month of December!
To experience the lighting arrive on the first of December and head to Mike Wallace Park. The day’s activities start at 3:30 pm and include free cocoa and cookies, a scavenger hunt, a Holiday “Spirits” Garden at the Kingston Cove Yacht Club and Christmas songs sung by Elvis. At 5 pm, Santa arrives to light the Christmas tree and lights. Shortly after, is the Kingston Cove Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade.
For more information about events in Kingston, visit the website.
There are 600 light sculptures at Kingston Cove Christmas. Photo courtesy of Visit Kitsap