In Seattle, it’s easy to get into the Christmas spirit given that holiday lights and activities abound throughout the city. The holidays often bring out the best in people. From decorating their homes with festive lights to giving donations to worthy causes, people do and give more during the holidays than they do the rest of the year.

Here’s how I keep my spirits bright all month long.

Macy’s Star

The 161-foot high, 3,600-bulb Holiday Star hangs on the side of Macy’s storefront at 4th and Pine. For me, the lighting ceremony signifies the ushering in of the holiday season. I love driving down 4th Avenue seeing all the lit trees and the star shining high above the activities at Westlake Park below. Pop up to the 6th floor of Macy’s and the kiddies can meet Santa Clause, too.

Christmas tree and the Macy Star at Westlake Center

Nordstrom Santa Lane 

And speaking of Saint Nick…you thought he lived at the North Pole? Wrong! Join the line at the corner of Pine and 6th to visit the magical home of Santa at the bottom of Nordstrom’s. Even if you don’t have kids in tow, take a shopping break by the window as the kids stream through, reciting their Christmas wish lists and getting their photos taken.

Holiday Carousel at Westlake Park

I don’t ride it. I don’t have kids who ride it. But I still love it as a Seattle institution. The Holiday Carousel can be found at Westlake Park (just under the Macy’s Star). It opens just after the Macy’s Holiday Parade and stays open through January 1. Best part about it is that the net proceeds benefit Treehouse, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping foster kids.

Westlake Park with holiday lights and the Macy Star

Gingerbread Village

An entire village of gingerbread creations the likes of which you’ve never seen before! Yum! Unfortunately, you can’t eat them, but these gingerbread architectural marvels are created by some of Seattle’s top architects. 100% of donations go to JDRF Northwest Chapter to fund a cure for type 1 diabetes. Gingerbread Village is located inside the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle.

Brews & Bulbs with Evergreen Escapes

Enjoy a few beer tastings and brewery tours before exploring some of the best Christmas light displays in the city. Don’t worry! There’s a designated driver (and he’s not wearing a long white beard).

Woodland Park Zoo’s Wildlights

With hundreds of thousands of bulbs lighting up the zoo grounds, grab a hot chocolate, don your hat, and wander the grounds to take in the lighted displays. It’s December so remember that you might want an umbrella, too.

Viewfinder Tip: To best enjoy the lights, visit downtown midweek after most workers have gone home for the evening.

Argosy Christmas Ship Festival

Each night during the holidays, Argosy’s Spirit of Seattle transforms into the Christmas Ship and leads a flotilla of parade ships that cruise to different communities in the Puget Sound region. At each 20-minute stop, a choir sings over a PA system to those waiting on shore for the ship. Santa is available for photos, and the whole affair is quite festive.

The Nutcracker at the Pacific Northwest Ballet

The combination of Kent Stowell’s choreography and Maurice Sendak’s designs make this a magical experience for everyone. This internationally recognized version of The Nutcracker is a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit.

A Christmas Carol at A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) 

This heart-warming story is performed yearly at ACT. Who can resist the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge in this Dicken’s tale?

What’s your favorite holiday thing to do in Seattle?