Part of the joy of the holiday season is exploring holiday lights with the kids. They’re bright and festive, and just inspire imagination and awe. Especially in young children, going hunting for lights is a time-honored holiday tradition. Unfortunately, more and more people are not decorating their homes with lights. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still great light displays out there to be found and enjoyed. Here are a few of my favorite holiday lights hot spots.
23620 ne 183RD St. Woodinville, WA 98072
A family oriented display awaits you in Woodinville! Here you’ll find a full acre display of lights set to music and light animations. The display is free to visit, but cash donations are appreciated. The donations benefit a variety of charities. To get the most out of the experience, tune your radio to 101.9 FM.
16504 112th PL NE Bothell, WA 98011
Another home with a ton of lights can be found in Bothell. Keener Christmas is a drive-through experience with no foot traffic allowed. You’ll find more than half a million lights as well as animations and inflatables. This family favorite home has been featured in many newscasts about the best-decorated homes in Western Washington. From time to time you’ll even find Santa on site handing out candy canes! If you’re so moved, you can also donate food to charity at the site!
Bellevue Botanical Gardens
12001 Main St. Bellevue, WA 98005
Get lost as you wander through the fields of flower-themed lights at Bellevue’s annual Garden d’Lites festival. Now in its 24th year, the tradition of nature-themed light shows is a must for many people during the holiday season. You’ll also find a running river made of lights. The Gardens set up a scavenger hunt among the lights to keep young people excited, and there is always espresso and hot cocoa on site, too. There is a small admission fee, but there are also free nights every season as well. Check the website before heading out so that you can plan! Remember – kids ten and under are free!
19525 SE 54th St Issaquah, WA 98027
For something just a little different, head out to Issaquah and the Cougar Mountain Zoo! Here you’ll find a full Christmas themed park, culminating with live reindeer! The 31st annual Reindeer festival keeps limited hours, open only until 4:30 pm, but is nothing short of pure wonder for your children. Since the reindeer are on site, of course, you can expect to see Santa! You can also hear a story from an elf during your visit!
For more homes with amazing lights, check out this interactive map!
If you’re up for a drive, there are plenty of lights in Seattle, too. You can visit the Woodland Park Zoo for their annual Wild Lights show, or check out the Candy Cane Lane neighborhood! Whatever you do, be sure to take lots of photos and share them with me! And, if you know of a hot spot that I’ve missed, I really want to hear about it!
The Eastside does family fun with flair! There are so many fun family events around town that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed! The good news is that most of these events are free, or at least low cost, so you can try them all out and see which ones are the best fit for your family. Here’s a rundown of the events that make creating family traditions fun!
15670 NE 85th St. Redmond, WA 98052
Act fast! This is a weekend event special, happening on December 1-2. It’s a free event held in downtown Redmond. The progressive event starts at City Hall with a tree lighting ceremony and fireworks show. From there, stroll down a lighted pathway dotted with carolers and performers. Your trail ends in Redmond Town Center where you’ll find more entertainers, shops, treats, and family fun.
This event is the priciest on my list. But it does offer a fun experience that the kids will love. You board an Argosy ship at one of many docks around Lake Washington or in Seattle and set sail! Along the way, you’ll be serenaded by choirs and subject to beautiful views. Many local yacht and boat owners follow the parade of boats and have their vessels decorated as well. If you have kids, try to snag a ticket on the lead boat, since Santa is on board and there is a dedicated kid space for coloring and crafts. There are adult beverages available for purchase as well. The event will almost always sell out, so book tickets well in advance! If the ship isn’t for you, plan to take the family to designated beaches to view the parade of boats from land!
Another annual family tradition for many Eastside families, there just aren’t enough words to describe how magical this event is. Marching drummers, dancing snow fairies, and even ice queens. You’ll also experience “snow” falling every night. (It’s really a foam machine, but the kids won’t care. It’s still magical!) The event features a parade, music, dancing, and free candy handed out by the character cast. It’s a popular event, though, so be sure to get there early. The event is free and kicks off nightly at 7 pm.
11730 118TH Ave. NE Kirkland, WA 98034
This annual play features local child actors. It’s a tradition for many families and offers a glimpse into theatre life for children. Recommended for ages 4 and up, the show is only offered on weekends. Tickets are $20 per person for all ages.
3429 240th St. SE Bothell, WA 98021
An outdoor lights display, this one is just north of the Eastside. Put on by Bothell’s Evergreen Church, this is a free event. Take advantage of free cookies and cider while you’re there, too.
Finally, let’s talk outside of the Eastside. One of the benefits to living here is the close proximity to Seattle. If you feel like making the trip across the bridge to the big city, here are my favorite holiday events in the city.
1250 1st Ave. Seattle, WA 98134
New to the city this year, this is a traveling display of lights that features the world’s largest Christmas light maze. You’ll find an ice skating trail, as opposed to a rink, which winds you by live entertainment and right to your visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. You need to pre-book your time in the event. Here’s a Groupon for tickets to help save you some cash!
The Sheraton Seattle
1400 6th Ave. Seattle, WA 98101
Now in its 26th year, this is an impressive display of gingerbread houses. Many have moving parts and most are taller than your child! It’s simply magical. Every year they have a different theme — this year is Dr. Seuss. Always a must see!!
Fisher Pavilion & International Fountain
305 Harrison St. Seattle, WA 98109
There are so many activities here! From the Winter Train Village to an ice skating rink and carousel to live ice sculpting demonstrations and live performances all season long. Be sure to check the website before heading down as the schedule changes daily.
These are all amazing activities in our very own backyard. Many of which I have started as traditions in my family!! What are your favorite traditions during this magical time of year!?
Looking for family-friendly Halloween fun around the Eastside? I’ve got you covered. Halloween costumes are pricey, and you should absolutely get the most bang for your buck by giving the kids as many opportunities to wear them as possible.
There are plenty of exciting events happening all over the greater Seattle area this year, but here are my picks for closest to the Eastside.
Boo For the Big Kids
This one isn’t for the faint of heart. The haunted experience at Beaver Lake in Sammamish has created a Family Scare event this year. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’d take a two or three-year-old to this event. But older kids? The ones who are too cool for trick-or-treating… but still too young for real haunted houses? This is the perfect event for them. Running weekends only throughout October, the Family Scare event runs from 7-7:45 pm, with the full scare kicking off at 8 pm. Family scare prices are $8 a person cheaper, too.
Also in Sammamish, kick off beggar’s night with a little pre-party at City Hall! Kids are allowed to trek through City Hall from 3 – 4:30 pm on October 31st. The event is free and offers safe trick-or-treating for all ages, but is generally best for small children.
Factor This In
Head to Factoria Marketplace in south Bellevue before beggar’s night for their 9th annual Halloween Bash. Held on October 31, the party is held indoors, which is great for little kids and offers trick-or-treating at merchants as well as other fun activities. The event runs from 4:30pm- 6:30pm.
Kick it Off in Kirkland
Finally, one more event to jump-start your October 31st beggar’s night festivities. The Downtown Kirkland Association always plans experiences that are good family fun and well thought out. I love their Summerfest, and it’s no surprise that their take on Halloween is equally exciting. I love this event so much, that I had to include it, even though the details weren’t out yet when I wrote this post. Check out their webpage for more details as they become available.
For more fun- click here (link) to check out my rundown of best pumpkin patches around the Eastside. These places almost always have something a little special going on for the kiddos around Halloween. And if I’ve missed your favorite family-friendly Halloween event, be sure to share it with me on my social media. I’m always up for a new adventure
It’s here we can’t deny it — fall has settled in. The beautiful, sunny, and warm days are coming have come to an end. But don’t you go downing fall on me just yet! It’s actually my favorite time of year! That nice little nip in the air in the morning, the lazy evenings, and the smell of fresh textbooks. It’s a wonderful time! Here are three great ways to enjoy September around the Eastside!
High School Football
Living in Seattle, for most of us, means a love of Seahawk football. Attending games is more than a way to pass a day, it’s an experience. And, like most major experiences, it costs a pretty penny. So why not enjoy a some Friday Night Lights and watch a more affordable game of gridiron? So many of our local High School teams are contenders on a statewide level that attending a high school game not only means you’re out enjoying the fall evening weather, it also means you’re seeing some legitimate talent. Plus there are affordable concessions, marching bands, and all kinds of school spirit!
Take a Hike
Head over to Bridle Trails State Park in Kirkland for a nice family hike. The park itself isn’t huge, which makes it perfect for exploring on a weekday evening after school. Walk through the dense trees seeking out unique shadows cast through the branches and onto the dirt pathways. The enchantment of this urban park is turned up to eleven when a horse comes striding by you. Bridle Trails was designed as a horse walking park, which means that the unexpected rider can pass you by. I love this quiet oasis right in the middle of the densely populated Eastside! I also have to give an honorable mention to Juanita Bay Nature Preserve, where you can spot bald eagles fairly regularly.
Have you ever tried to go stand-up-paddle boarding on Lake Washington? SUP for short, I actually prefer early fall for this activity to summer. The crowds are gone, the water is still warm, and the sunsets are something else entirely. Perfect Wave is my go-to spot. Located right at Houghton Beach in Kirkland, there is nothing more refreshing than an evening paddle, followed by happy hour at The Beach House, which is well worth a visit. Just remember, hours start to narrow as summer closes, so check ahead before showing up.
What are your favorite fall activities!!??
The Insider’s Guide the July 4th on the Eastside
Something is about to explode on the Eastside! Every year around the Fourth of July, lots of communities put together a fireworks display. But it can be overwhelming to figure out where to go and when. Never mind navigating the traffic that comes with it. So I thought it’d be nice to put together a quick little list of firework shows, times, and locations for you. Yes, I’ve got the big three on here (Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue), but I also wanted to talk about a few of the outlying communities. Many have shows that are just as awesome, but with half the crowds. So who knows, maybe this year you’ll venture out and find something new!
The BIG Three
Date: July 4
Expect more than 60,000 people. Yes, there will be live music and events as well, but… 60,000 people. If you’re up for braving the crowds, the family fun zone opens at 2 pm, and the big show kicks off around 10 pm.
Date: July 4
Location: Marina Park
If you’ve never seen fireworks over water, you’re missing out. This might just be my favorite display because, if you’re lucky, you can catch some of Seattle’s show in the background, too. There is a parade starting at 7 am with events lasting right up until BOOM time at 10 pm. Parking is a right nightmare and space to sit is limited, so get in town early. Finding some blanket space at Houghton Beach or Heritage Park is a sneaky way to see the show with a smaller crowd, but the best trick is finding a friend with a boat and bribing your way aboard.
Date: Derby Days!
Redmond ushers its residents to nearby displays, opting to save traffic and budget for their Derby Days celebration. Read more about THAT, here.
Other Favorite Outliers
Date: July 4
Nothing like free pancakes (8:30 am) to get your day started off right! There’s also a children’s parade, grand parade, and other events to last the day until 10 pm when the fireworks show gets started.
Date: July 4
Close to home, the Down Home festival features a kids-n-pets parade (11 am), old-fashioned games, and live entertainment. I like that this one starts a bit later in the day, meaning I get to sleep in a bit before rushing to the festival to find parking. Yes, please.
Date: July 4
A short drive north for a fun experience! This one really gets started later in the evening, with food and vendors kicking off at 7:30 pm. The fireworks get started around 10 pm.
Date: July 4
Location: Vasa Park
This one is kind of a fundraiser and show built into one. Donations benefit the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank. The event has raised more than $69,000 since 2015. If you’re looking for a way to feel good about the Fourth, this is my pick. The fireworks show itself is beautiful and, again, over water. Things get started around 10:15 pm.
Date: July 4
Location: Angle Lake Park
I like this one because it’s a little lower key. There will still be a big crowd and lots of kiddos, but the spray park, lake, and kid’s bounce zone make it easy to spend more time here as you wait for the display to start. The operation kicks off around noon, with the big finale lighting up the sky around 10 pm.
I have a friend who absolutely RAVES about seeing fireworks down south at the Emerald Downs. It’s hosted BEFORE the 4th, this year falling on July 3rd, and runs like an all-day event. It kicks off with a kid’s movie playing on the big screen before the horses come out to race. Kids really love watching the horses run and trying to pick which one will win. Kids can get up close to the thoroughbreds, which is nice. When its show time, everyone sits right by the track for a real front row view of the fireworks- always set to music. There is, naturally, a TON of parking and almost always a Groupon for admission, making it nearly free to attend. (Kids are always free) If you’re up for something different, make this your family’s newest tradition.
Let’s face it — you can’t really go wrong with what you choose around here. So many amazingly fun things to do and places to see those fireworks. Happy Fourth Y’all!!
PS — if you check any of these things out be sure to share your experience and pictures!
4 (Nearly) Free Ways to Keep Kids Busy This Summer in the Seattle Area
Living in the Seattle-area is rich. Life is good here. It’s also expensive. But that doesn’t mean that your summer has to be a constant battle between boredom and broke. There are so many exciting, fun things for kids to do around town that are either free or darn close to it. Here are four of my favorite ways to enjoy the green of summer- without blowing all the green in my wallet doing it.
1. Splish Splash
Splash pads have got to be one of my favorite ways to cool off all summer. There is so much good about them! First of all, they’re free. Who doesn’t love free? Also, since there is no standing water, you don’t have to worry about swimming competency or if a lifeguard is on duty. Just show up, get soaked, go home. Kiddos who don’t enjoy water activities can even play on nearby fields or playground equipment, making this a real win-win for the entire family. One last perk? Packing a picnic lunch is super-fun for kids. That saves more money and makes mom look cool. Ready to get your splash on? Where we live on the Eastside there is Crossroads in Bellevue, Grasslawn Park in Redmond, the Redmond Town Center, and the Sammamish Commons spray park. Feeling more adventurous? Here’s a look at all area splash parks.
2. Summer Movie Days
Even a perfect Seattle summer can get overwhelming. When it’s too hot to play outside, or if we get a rainy day, take the fun indoors with Regal Cinemas. The Bella Bottega theatre in Redmond offers the summer Movie Express every year. Offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 am, movie tickets are just $1 each. Yes, you read that right, $1. You can choose between two family favorites every week, check out the lineup for this summer, here.
3. Take a Hike, Be a Princess
St. Edwards State Park is located at the very northern tip of Lake Washington. If you haven’t been there yet, I have to ask you, “WHY NOT?” The park is breathtaking. There are several hikes that vary in difficulty from simple to simply heart stopping. It’s hard to believe that such a challenging trek could be so close to the big city! Apart from the trails, which lead you right down to the lake for a picturesque cooling dip, you’ll also find a beautiful old seminary here. It’s now the base for Bastyr College.
But here’s the best part. At the top of the park, you’ll find a sprawling playground designed to look like a royal castle. It’s seriously epic. While visiting the park is free, plan to pay $10 for parking. It’s forgivable though, as all the parking fees go to the state parks and help keep gems like this open.
4. Discover a new Beach
Back to the water play! We love local beaches like Houghton and Juanita in Kirkland (and if you’ve never checked out Vasa Park, you’re really missing something special), but this summer, why not try something new? This one requires you to get out of town just a bit, but I promise it’s worth it. From July 5th through September 3rd you can catch a FREE foot ferry (that means no cars) out to Jetty Island.
This tiny sandbar is located in Puget Sound and offers 2 miles of sand, mud flats, sun, and shallow warm swimming water! The line to catch the free ferry can get pretty long, so here’s a tip. Get a party of 8 or more people together in advance and you can make a ferry reservation!
Do YOU have a favorite free (or nearly free) thing to do with the kids? I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments and who knows? Maybe I’ll see you out and about this summer, too!