Arts & Culture

Lights, carols, festivals: The South Sound holiday entertainment season swings, sings and skates into action

The skies may be gray and dark, but everything else about the South Sound is lighting up for the holiday season. Warm carols, twinkling lights, sparkling costumes and fire-lit festivals light up the darkness thanks to the music, theater, dance and cultural scene. There’s so much going on you won’t have time to get cold. Here’s our guide to the highlights of the holidays’ arts and entertainment.


From handbells to Hallelujahs, you can find plenty of cheerful music to warm up cold evenings. Celtic Christmases abound, from An Irish Christmas at Olympia’s Washington Center for the Performing Arts, to Magical Strings and Geoffrey Castle’s Celtic Yuletide in Tacoma. The Seattle Men’s Chorus dons “Our Gay Apparel” (love those reindeer headbands, boys) at the Pantages, while the Masterworks Choral Ensemble in Olympia and Northwest Repertory Singers in Tacoma sing out Christmas classics. The Tacoma Symphony offers two “Messiah” performances this year plus “Sounds of the Season,” while the Rainier Ringers play holiday handbells in Lacey and Tacoma.

And if you want to join in yourself, try the White Christmas Singalong at the Washington Center (Sunday), or the “Messiah” Singalong at Christ Lutheran Church in Tacoma (Dec. 7).


This is the time of year when theaters grind out crowd-pleasers, but there are enough quirky alternatives to satisfy any Scrooge. Yes, you can see “A Christmas Story” at Seattle’s 5th Avenue, “A Little Princess” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at Tacoma Musical Playhouse, and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at Seattle’s Paramount. But you can also get some laughs and a new perspective at “Sister’s Christmas Catechism” at the Pantages, “How the Slug Stole Solstice” at Olympia Family Theater, and “Scrooge the Musical” and “Santaland Diaries” at Tacoma Little Theatre.

Finally, don’t forget the Christmas Revels, this year traveling to Renaissance Italy, but accessible to us at Tacoma’s Rialto Theater.


Of course, “Nutcrackers” abound. The first one to appear is at Pacific Northwest Ballet (Friday, Nov. 28-Dec. 28), the last time regional audiences will see the famous Sendak-Stowell production of candy-pastel scenery and exotic characters. Many others follow: Studio West Dance Theater, Tacoma City Ballet, Tacoma Performing Dance Company, Dance Theater Northwest, Charisma Dance and Ballet Northwest.

Lights and Festivals

If you want lights, you can see more than 250,000 of them at Leavenworth’s Christmas Lighting Festival — you can even take the train and avoid icy driving up the mountains. Closer to home, Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo and Fantasy Lights in Spanaway Park offer walk-through and drive-through ways to see magical light displays. Downtown Tacoma holds its treelighting on Saturday; others follow in communities around the area.

Then there’s Tacoma’s Dickens Festival (Dec. 6), the Proctor Holiday Fest and Festival of Trees, Victorian Country Christmas in Puyallup, and New Year’s Eve revelry at the Washington Center and First Night in downtown Tacoma.

And if you need extra exercise, drop in at the outdoor skating rinks at Polar Plaza (Tollefson Plaza, Tacoma), Winterfest (Seattle Center) or Bellevue downtown park for icy fun.