Christmas in the United States is a combination of traditions from around the world. Evergreen trees inside homes were popularized in Germany during the 16th century. Decorating with poinsettias? That idea came from Mexico. 18th-century England helped to change mistletoe’s image from a poisonous plant into a festive kissing trap.
However, there’s one favorite tradition with an All-American origin: electric Christmas lights. It started when Edward H. Johnson, a friend and business partner of Thomas Edison, put a string of 80 hand-wired red, white and blue electric lights on a Christmas tree in 1882.
Since then, it’s become an essential part of American Christmas celebrations, whether that means a couple of strings of “tasteful” white lights around the family tree or a pulsating public display synchronized to “Jingle Bell Rock” that can be seen from low orbit.
With a nod to Mr. Johnson’s first tree, here are six of the best locations in the Seattle area where the electric light tradition continues to shine brightly.
Woodland Park Zoo’s Wildlights features thousands of brilliant LED lights lit up as familiar animals in their sometimes familiar, sometimes exotic habitats around the zoo property. Beyond making the rounds, families can also get in on an indoor snowball fight at the Snowmazium, take a night ride on the carousel and meet some sleigh-pulling experts, Santa’s reindeer
The Seattle Center transforms into a sparkling winter wonderland for this very special holiday event. The classic Winter Train and Village is held in the Armory, where hundreds of performances – including dance, music, and comedy – are also featured throughout the winter season.
Candy Cane Lane: Many Seattle-area neighborhoods go all out for the holidays, but there’s none more adorably decorated than the row of 1920s-era Tudors lining Candy Cane Lane. With lights, music and moving objects, this sweet neighborhood has been a Seattle holiday institution since 1949. Open 4-11 p.m. daily, north of Ravenna Boulevard at 21st Avenue Northeast, Seattle.
The Olympic Manor Neighborhood light display: makes for a lovely winter evening walk (or slow drive) for families. The houses in the area are decked and then decked again for a truly illuminating effect that can’t help but make you smile. Bundle up for this one! Located just north of Ballard, between NW 75th and NW 100th, Seattle WA.
Kerry Park Viewpoint, Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill neighborhood: A driving tour through the picturesque, historic homes of the Queen Anne neighborhood is always a treat, but it is particularly striking when the holiday lights are on display. Top it off with a stop at the Kerry Park Viewpoint for a panoramic view of the neighborhood, along with a glimpse of the Christmas tree topping our beloved Space Needle. Kerry Park is at 211 W. Highland Dr., Seattle WA.
The Keener’s Christmas light display in Bothell: A north end favorite for oh-so many reasons. As you drive through the towering arch, you land in the middle of over 500,000 lights, for a truly magical effect. Located at 16504 112 Place NE, Bothell WA.