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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
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How to spend a secular Christmas in Seattle

What to do on Christmas Day in Seattle if you don’t celebrate Christmas

The historic Pioneer Square neighborhood and downtown Seattle. (Daniel Berman for The Washington Post)

This is the fifth installment in By The Way’s secular Christmas series. Read more about D.C., New York, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles.

Growing up Muslim, I spent most of my holidays covering for colleagues and trying to find one of the few open restaurants around Seattle. For me, it was a time with little fanfare. Most of my co-workers were off, and the only gifts I was buying were for my mother, who was born on Christmas Eve. I felt isolated at times, assuming I was missing out on something that everyone else was enjoying.

Now that I’m with my fiancee, I celebrate with her family by wearing matching pajamas, participating in a white elephant gift exchange, and curating our wish lists. But I know what it’s like to have to create your own traditions, and I love sharing the spots that’ll open their doors to you if you need a place to go on Christmas Day.

Whether you’re in the mood to watch a new movie, see twinkling lights or escape the responsibility of cooking an entire feast for your family, there’s a little something for everyone in Seattle.

A local's guide to Seattle

Restaurants open in Seattle on Christmas Day

Ben Paris

Ben Paris, a downtown restaurant in the State hotel, serves a wagyu burger served with a red wine onion jam and blue cheese crumbles. You may also opt for the set menu they bring out for Christmas. Plus, you can walk over to Pike Place and admire the lit-up “Public Market Center” sign. The businesses won’t be open on Christmas, so you might catch a quiet moment to yourself.

Screwdriver Bar

If you’re in the mood for a drink, head to Screwdriver Bar, a self-proclaimed rock ‘n’ roll utopia in a Belltown basement adorned with floor-to-ceiling rock records and memorabilia. The bar menu is long, with cheap domestic beers, wines, local spirits and $13 cocktails, including spiked coffee slushees.


If you’re looking for another sit-down dinner option, there’s Grappa in Queen Anne, which offers a Christmas Eve and Day four-course menu with live music and drink pairings for each course. Extravagant offerings range from grilled octopus to lobster tail, filet mignon and a rack of lamb. And if dessert is your priority, know that there’s a banana bread pudding and three types of cake.

Roti Cuisine of India

If you’re in the mood for Indian food, Roti Cuisine of India in Queen Anne serves generous portions fit for a family-style meal. The garlic naan and vegetable samosas are a necessary addition to any meal, and my go-to order is the chicken tikka masala in a tangy tomato and onion sauce. Be prepared to grab some takeout boxes, because you’ll likely have leftovers.

13 Coins

A longtime late-night favorite for comfort food, 13 Coins serves an extensive holiday menu featuring a special cocktail made with prosecco, Aperol and cranberry juice. The restaurant is known for its steaks, finished with a demi-glace and “steak butter,” but they also have pasta, salmon, chicken and a number of breakfast classics.

Baron’s Sino Kitchen and Bar

You can also venture over to the Eastside to grab Chinese food at Baron’s Sino Kitchen and Bar in Bellevue. The signature Peking duck is roasted to order; call at least 24 hours ahead to make sure it’s on your table. If you’re looking for something simpler, get a large portion of chicken hot and sour soup for the table, or opt for the black cod.

Where to see a movie in Seattle on Christmas Day

AMC Pacific Place 11 and AMC Seattle 10

A tried-and-true Christmas tradition is to see a new movie, and you’ve got plenty of options. Watch a movie at AMC Pacific Place 11 in Downtown Seattle, which is accessible via light rail, or the AMC Seattle 10 near the University of Washington.

Majestic Bay Theatres

If you’re looking for a more local experience, check out Majestic Bay Theatres, a neighborhood spot in Ballard that sits next to bustling Market Street and offers three auditoriums inside. This restored World War I-era theater is full of nautical fixtures in the form of jellyfish chandeliers, posters and a marine steering wheel affixed to the wall.

Grand Illusion Cinema

In the University District, the indie theater Grand Illusion Cinema is screening “It’s a Wonderful Life” at 2 p.m. on Christmas Day. This venue is a piece of history that’s kept its local charm as a former dentist’s office that showcases foreign films and old movies. Masks are still required.

Where to go sightseeing in Seattle on Christmas Day

Seattle Center

Pike Place Market is only closed two days a year, Christmas being one of them. Feel free to roam the grounds of the Seattle Center, where you’ll see the attractions and the fountain lights up for WinterFest at night. Walk through the outdoor public art and sculptures, including “Grass Blades” by John Fleming, “Olympic Iliad” by Alexander Liberman and “Sonic Bloom” by Dan Corson.

South Lake Union

There are also some seasonal displays up in South Lake Union (SLU) with a mountain motif; there’s a “Let it Snow” sign with accompanying snowflakes at 426 Terry Ave. North, a static ski display at 2250 Seventh Ave. and a cozy faux fire at 2121 Seventh Ave.

Ravenna and Olympic Manor

If you’re in the mood to drive through some residential areas to see the lights, check out the houses adorned with lights in Ravenna along Park Road NE and Olympic Manor in Crown Hill, the latter of which is home to the Nutcracker House with 15-foot-tall nutcrackers.