There are towns in Washington that are so charming during the holidays that they could easily be a pick for North Pole's HQ2 (looking at you, Leavenworth).
There are winter-themed events in all cities here, and while Evergreens across the state can make almost anywhere look like one big Christmas tree farm, there are some places that take things to another level.
These are towns run by the same homeowners who put on such elaborate light displays each year that their fiery glow, if seen on Google Earth, would look like a nuclear explosion of jewel tones.
From annual theatre celebrations to wagon and carriage rides in the snow, and even to competitive holiday window dressing, some communities get particularly "extra" when winter hits. Here are 8 Washington towns that become truly magical in the winter.
For more places to consider visiting this winter in Washington, be sure to check out Here Are The 15 Best Places To Visit In Washington If You’re Obsessed With Christmas.
This Viking village has some serious Christmas vibes. The Nordic roots in Poulsbo are evident in the buildings and even in many of the shops, somehow making everything seem more suited to the holiday season.
Many of storefronts in downtown have the quaint, uniformed look of a fairytale village, and the awnings seemed designed for snow. Some of the shops even look like they could be part of Santa's workshop.
Christmas events start early on November 23 with Father Christmas visiting downtown and a tree lighting ceremony. From there, every weekend is packed with holiday activities, including a winter Lighted Boat Parade, a Scandinavian Christmas Bazaar, and many more visits from Santa Claus!
Stanwood is a beachside town near Camino Island and it is home to one of the brightest light displays in the region, the Lights of Christmas Festival.
People come to Stanwood to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and charming lodging around while they shop at gift stores that include a shop dedicated to Christmas ornaments.
Langley has all the small-town vibes, but also gives the strong sense of an intimate coastal community that's built around a real love for the laid-back island lifestyle.
While there, you can relax in the lodge at The Inn at Langley, bundle up for a boat ride, and come back inside to warm up with a cup of cocoa by the fireplace--or a whiskey, whatever your preference.
There are some exciting annual Christmas traditions on Langley that include interactive craft events, a magical Christmas parade, and a free community pancake breakfast hosted by Santa Claus that supports a local charity.
There's also plenty of shopping at kitschy little stores in the downtown area.
Walla Walla's wine country turns into a sprawling winter spectacle every December. The region's usual charm is magnified by the snowy weather, and the town takes on a generally cozy feel. When it snows, vineyards like local favorite Walla Walla Vintners take on a serene beauty.
The downtown area, which has developed into a foodie paradise of stylish yet approachable restaurants over the last decade, is decorated with Christmas decorations. Much of the nearby lodging has a rustic, rural feel that lends itself to a ski resort town.
Walla Walla Wine Country produces some of the best wine in the country. Joining in the festivities, many of the wineries there offer holiday events and barrel tastings for visitors. These are a great opportunity to buy gifts for the winos on your list! And if you don't know anyone who'd love it as much as you do, just double down on your personal purchase.
Winter events here include the annual Parade of Lights on December first. More than 75 floats participate, all lit with festive lights while thousands of locals gather to enjoy the event and kick off the beginning of the holiday season.
Lake Chelan is a small rural town surrounding its namesake in Eastern Washington. A popular summer destination for camping and hiking, visitors continue to come during the colder months to see the snow and attend events.
Organized Christmas events here include Winterfest, which essentially a two-weekend event that features a Bloody Mary competition, beer tasting and lots (and lots) of wine.
You can find more details about it in our article 15 Things To Do In Washington That You Have To Add To Your Winter Bucket List.
Lake Chelan truly has the feel of a Hallmark Christmas movie. In fact, Hallmark thinks so too, which led them to feature Lake Chelan last year in their film Christmas in the Air.
Leavenworth is Washington's own Bavarian unicorn. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone to argue there's a more festive place in Washington to spend the holidays.
For one, Leavenworth is naturally stunning. With all its dense forest, hiking trails, rivers, hills, wildlife, and lakes, it embodies everything people think of when they think of the raw natural beauty of The Evergreen State.
The hills here make you want to throw on a house dress and run through them singing, a la The Sound of Music. You could easily shoot an entire calendar of nature photography here within a one-mile radius and it would look as good as if you'd traveled for a year.
Come December, this eclectic town turns into a true winter wonderland--with lederhosen. The holiday season in Leavenworth has more events packed into it than Rush Week at a fraternity.
From Nutcracker Hunts to their annual Christkindlmarkt 2018, and as many as 15 other events per day starting on December first, they are the epitome of a magical Christmas town. Check out their full calendar for details.
Spokane in the winter epitomizes the beauty of experiencing the holidays in a small town. From historic bridges to architecture on antiquated buildings with snow piled on top.
Community traditions include a massive tree lighting ceremony and meet-and-greets with Santa. There are carriage rides throughout downtown Spokane from November 23rd to December 23rd.
Elaborate Christmas decorations, shoppers bustling through their Christmas lists, and holiday music fill through the streets this in an idyllic holiday escape.
Washington is so naturally beautiful and is home to so many popular destination cities that it's easy to miss this gem if you live in Western Washington. The holidays are a great excuse to get out there and find new reasons to love this beautiful state.
Port Townsend looks like a ghost town outside of winter. Not that it's deserted--it just literally looks haunted, and many people believe that it is. However storied its local lore may be, it's hard to deny that the ghosts of Christmas present come out to play every December.
Port Townsend is a historic town with a thriving arts community. It's clear that people here are excited to come together every year to celebrate the season. Their winter events reflect their passion for art and support of local artists. There is an art walk as well as multiple craft fairs to showcase creations for holiday gifts.
There is a holiday Farmers' Market on December 15th, so you'll see everything you love about a typical the farmers' market there, but with the addition of a Christmas theme. So, it is specifically aimed at giving you everything that you want in that last for finishing your shopping two weeks before Christmas.
The holidays come into full swing here on December first when there is a merchant holiday window contest every year where local shop owners decorate their window displays. Whoever prepares the most festive and creative decor is announced as the winner. This friendly competition really shows how the people in the community have a sense of a play during the holiday season beyond just selling merchandise.
One of the most interesting annual events here is the tradition of parlor tours. There is an unusual number of extremely old homes and buildings in Port Townsend that have been converted from their original purpose to something else. For example, some homes have been turned into a hotel, and there is even one notable example of a brothel being turned into a hotel. Some of these buildings open their doors to the public during the holidays for what are called "parlor tours." During the course of an afternoon, visitors are invited to take a self-guided tour through the homes to see all of the festive decorations as well as their unique architecture and decor.
Port Townsend is a place where its residents really come together to celebrate the holidays as not just a Christmas event, but as an event that celebrates their community and gives reason to bring them closer together for the right reasons.