We have entered the time when the nights grow longer as we sink down toward the deep darkness of the Winter Solstice. One of the compensatory delights of this time is that we are about to be surrounded by the lights of the winter holidays. Colorful, dazzling Christmas lights will soon festoon houses inside and out. Quiet candles, lanterns and lamps will seem all the more magical for the darkness outside. The lights that we set out are all the brighter and more cheerful because the daylight is so very fleeting.
Beginning around Thanksgiving, there will be numerous opportunities to experience various festivals of light and illuminated displays that are open to the public. In addition to annual favorites like Zoolights and Fantasy Lights, there are holiday boat parades, municipal tree lightings and devotional events like those that commemorate the feast day of Saint Lucy, or Sankta Lucia.
Following is a guide to help you find the light by which you can ease your passage through the dark underbelly of the year and, from there, begin to make your ascent with the life-giving sun as it begins again to climb back toward its zenith.
Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium,
5400 N. Pearl St.
Nov. 24 through Jan. 1, 5-9 p.m. (closed Dec. 24, open Dec. 25 and Jan. 1)
See the zoo transformed into a colorful winter wonderland with more than a half-million lights. The holiday spirit comes aglow in this magical world of dazzling 3-D animal light displays.
Animal light displays for 2017 include hammerhead sharks and sea turtles, carnivorous plants and their insect prey, a whimsical 30-foot-wide underwater landscape, a majestic polar bear family and a gorgeous giant Pacific octopus.
Ride a camel, enjoy tasty treats and take a spin on the carousel. Visit the sharks, jellies, meerkats and more. You can even wrap up your holiday shopping with unique items in the gift shop.
Ride a camel at night: Visitors as young as 3 can have an up-close experience with these amazing animals. A camel ride surrounded by twinkling lights makes a night at Zoolights twice as magical. Weekends, 10:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. (weather dependent). Rides cost $7 per person ($6 for zoo members) and a commemorative photo can be purchased for another $7.
Zoolights Cost: Zoo front gate $10, online and at Fred Meyer stores (non-members) $8.50; online and Zoo front gate (members) $5; 2 and younger free.
Combo Pass: adult (13-64) $16; senior (65+) $15.50; youth (5-12) $14; tot (3-4) $12; 2 and younger free.
- Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park
14905 Bresemann Blvd. S., Spanaway
Nov. 23 through Jan. 1, Fantasy Lights will operate every night including Christmas and New Year’s Day, from 5:30-9 p.m.
Pierce County Parks and Recreation presents the 23rd annual Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park, the largest holiday drive-through display in the Northwest featuring nearly 300 elaborate displays and thousands of sparkling lights. The beautiful, two-mile drive along Spanaway Lake has become a memorable lakeside tradition for the entire family.
Visitors of all ages will be treated to the magical world of animation and imagination where bears fly kites, Santa and Rudolf sail a tall ship, snow boys kick field goals, penguins slide down an igloo and reindeer leap over your car. You will also marvel at more LED lighting throughout the park along with new displays including a giant tail-wagging dog.
As you drive, dial your car radio to FM 95.3 to listen to a selection of special holiday music to add to the festive atmosphere of the park.
Admission is charged per vehicle at the gate: $14 per vehicle/mini-bus (up to 24 passengers); $45 for each bus with 25 or more passenger capacity.
Special Half Price Nights: Nov. 27-29 and Dec. 4-5, only $7/vehicle at the gate. Info: www.co.pierce.wa.us/1253/Fantasy-Lights
- Holiday with Lights
36201 Enchanted Pkwy. S., Federal Way
Santa Claus is coming to Wild Waves Theme and Water Park in December. Little elves light up the theme park with a dazzling display of more than a million lights. Enjoy a magical evening with rides, a falling snow tent in Toyland, festive sing-a-longs, and pictures with Santa in the North Pole.
New: Lights Aglow Laser Light Spectacular. Brilliant beams of laser light fill the air and create dazzling images on a panoramic screen, all choreographed to the most popular Christmas song hits. It’s a high-tech, high-energy experience for the entire family.
Lights Aglow Laser Light Spectacular: Three nightly shows located in Celebration Square. 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9:30 pm
Toyland for the kids: Located in Kiddieland. Play in a falling snow tent, write a letter to Santa.
Take pictures with Santa at the North Pole: tell Santa what you’re wishing for this holiday season. Purchase same-day printed pictures or snap a photo on your mobile device.
New: Two holiday-themed family shows located in Kiddieland: “Toy Time Fun Ann & Andy” 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; and “Joy! A Sweet Candy Adventure” 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $15-$20 Info: www.wildwaves.com/holidaywithlights.php
- Lantern Light Festival
Washington State Fair Events Center,
110 9th Ave. SW, Puyallup
Nov. 24 through Jan. 7, 5-11 p.m.
Witness some of the world’s best lantern makers, along with a huge variety of activities like face painting, mining for emeralds, dragon and lion rides and more. You’ll also watch Chinese acrobats, feast on plenty of Chinese food and catch the fireworks on select evenings. Experience an amazing evening of dazzling lights and shapes. The Lantern Light Festival is a celebration of a Chinese tradition that started over 2,000 years ago. The enormous lanterns are hand-crafted by Chinese artisans and unique in color, size, and subject. You will see beautiful lanterns of architecture from around the world, creatures of the land and sea, holiday traditions and mythical stories.
Cost: See website for pricing Info: lanternlightfestival.com/seattle
Municipal Tree Lightings
- Edgewood Annual Christmas Tree Lighting
Edgewood City Hall,
2224 104th Ave. E., Edgewood
Nov. 24, 6-7 p.m.
Join Santa on the city hall lawn for the annual lighting of the Christmas tree.
Cost: free. Info: www.facebook.com/events/550318741986478
72nd Annual Holiday Tree Lighting
9th and Broadway, Tacoma
Nov. 25, 5 p.m.
Since World War II, the South Sound community has congregated each winter for the Holiday Tree Lighting. Gather for carols and photos with Santa at this free community event, open to the public. If it isn’t already, make it your family tradition.
Cost: free. Info: www.broadwaycenter.org/events
- City of Lakewood’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting
Lakewood City Hall,
6000 Main St. SW, Lakewood
Dec. 1, 5:30-8 p.m.
Mayor Don Anderson will lead the lighting at 6:15 p.m. The tree lighting’s new time also gives parents getting off work time to pick up their kids and head over. The children will have plenty to do: pictures with Santa, “Minute to Win It” games and fun craft projects. There will also be a dance performance from the YMCA, and the Lakes High School choir will sing Christmas carols.
- University Place Christmas Tree Lighting
University Place (off Bridgeport)
Dec. 1, 4-7:30 p.m.
Invite your family and neighbors to come out for a very special evening and community event in Market Square for the lighting of the University Place Christmas tree. This continues a new tradition in University Place, with the annual Christmas tree lighting festivities beginning after dark amid the holiday lights of Market Square.
The fun will begin at 4:30 p.m. when school performances start. Santa arrives on a West Pierce fire truck at 5 p.m. As in years past, little dancers from University Place will be on hand to escort the jolly ol’ elf inside for pictures at the Atrium fireplace while University Place students perform festive holiday tunes outside in Market Square. The lighting of the tree will take place at 6 p.m. and Santa pictures will continue until 7:30 p.m. The cost of the photos will be $5 and benefit the Curtis Key Club of University Place.
Cost: free. Info: cityofup.com/university-place-christmas-tree-lighting-0
- Puyallup Tree Lighting and Lighted Santa Parade
Dec. 2, 5 p.m.
Bring the kids down to welcome Santa. See the jolly old elf arrive on one of Puyallup’s finest fire engines. Included in the festivities is the Holiday Market (noon to 7 p.m.) in the Pioneer Park Pavilion and the lighting of the community tree in the park. This wonderful community tradition is a great way to kick off the holiday season. Nibble on cookies and sip on hot cocoa as you watch the lighted delights pass by.
Cost: free. Info: www.puyallupmainstreet.com/events/lighted-santa-parade
- Milton Tree Lighting
Kids Crafts in Council Chambers, Santa Activities at the Milton Activity Center, 1000 Laurel St., Milton
Dec. 2, 3-8 p.m.
Includes Santa parade, crafts for kids, holiday music, snacks and beverages, photos with Santa, toys for kids and food drive. Tree lighting takes place between 5-6 p.m.
Cost: free. Info: www.cityofmilton.net/boards-commissions/events-committee/tree-lighting
- Gig Harbor Tree Lighting
Skansie Brothers Park,
3207 Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor
Dec. 2, 5-7 p.m.
Gig Harbor’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting is the official kickoff to the holidays in Gig Harbor. Come join friends and neighbors for entertainment galore, including live music, refreshments and a visit from Santa on the fire truck.
Cost: free. Info: www.gigharborguide.com/event
- Fircrest Tree Lighting Ceremony
Dec. 3, 7-8 p.m.
Cost: free. Info: www.cityoffircrest.net/event/tree-lighting-ceremony
- Fife Holiday Tree Lighting with Santa
Fife City Hall, 5411 23rd St. E., Fife
Dec. 5, 6-7 p.m.
Santa trades in his sleigh for a fire truck. Come celebrate the season with the mayor and Santa as they use some holiday magic to light up the trees outside of city hall.
Free photos with Santa, cookies and hot cocoa.
Cost: free. Info: cityoffife.org/city-departments/parks-and-recreation/special-events
- Gig Harbor Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade
Gig Harbor waterfront
Dec. 9, 5-7 p.m.
Gig Harbor Yacht Club invites you and your loved ones to a wonderful evening with the maritime holiday lighted boat parade circling Gig Harbor. Please come early and get your spot on the dock and enjoy the fun creativity our local boaters work so hard to share. You might even see Santa and Rudolph with his bright red nose.
View all sorts of lighted boats as they circle the harbor. Great family fun and good viewing from Skansie Brothers Park.
Cost: free. Info: www.gigharborguide.com/event/lighted-boat-parade
- Tacoma Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade
Tacoma Waterfront to Thea Foss Waterway
Dec. 16, beginning 6 p.m.
The boats will assemble in front of the Point Defiance docks (next to Anthony’s) about 5:30-6 p.m., then the Sea Scout Boat Charles N. Curtis will lead the Parade down to the Foss Waterway.
Cost: free. Info: www.tacomayachtclub.org
Sankta Lucia Day
- Celebrating Pacific Lutheran University’s 2017 Sankta Lucia
Karen Hille Phillips Center for Performing Arts at Pacific Lutheran University, 12180 Park Ave. S., Tacoma
Dec. 3, 3 p.m.
For more than 60 years Pacific Lutheran University has been celebrating Sankta Lucia. The tradition, most strongly celebrated in Sweden, honors a young woman who stood up for her beliefs and her family in the face of persecution. At PLU, the Lucia is chosen based on an essay and interview process where they show dedication, a sense of service and optimism. The Lucia is recognized with a $500 scholarship and a crown of candles.
“Sankta Lucia brings together PLU’s Scandinavian and Lutheran heritage with a focus on gender equality and vocation by celebrating a symbol of steadfast dedication to do good in the world,” said Elisabeth Ward, former director of the Scandinavian Cultural Center.
Cost: $5 (general) Free to PLU students; Reception to follow
- Light Up the Night: The Fourth Annual St. Lucia Festival
Gig Harbor History Museum
Dec. 8, 5-6:30 p.m.
Celebrate Gig Harbor’s Scandinavian heritage at Harbor History Museum’s fourth annual Light Up the Night festivities. Crafts, games, and traditional Scandinavian snacks are the star at this family-friendly event.
Cost: $2 admission for all ages. Info: Elizabeth Langord, education coordinator at (253) 858-6722 ext. 6 or firstname.lastname@example.org.