It’s the end of the world as we know it on Dec. 21, at least according to certain theories about the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Never mind that Mayanist scholars and scientists roundly reject the idea that the apocalypse is drawing near; here’s a holiday activity guide for enjoying time with friends and family in the days leading up to Dec. 21.
Sail with the Argosy Christmas Ship Festival. Since 1949, Argosy Cruises has organized one of the most beautiful and beloved holiday traditions in the Pacific Northwest. Through Dec. 23, a brightly lit flotilla of Argosy vessels sails around the Puget Sound region, bearing good cheer and carolers, who perform for the different communities en route. Led by the Christmas Ship and followed by Parade Boats, the festive fleet draws big crowds on the shore. Private boats join the parade, too. The nightly sails offer family-friendly entertainment, with contests, kids’ crafts and Santa, too. The company also offers a fancier Royal Argosy Dinner cruise certain evenings. Check the schedule for details. A portion of ticket sales benefits local charities.
Party in an ugly sweater. If the world ends, this might be your last chance to wear that reindeer sweater from Great-aunt Mabel. Experience a more raucous side to the Christmas Ship Festival on Dec. 15 with LivingSocial’s Ugly Sweater Party Cruise aboard an Argosy vessel. Departing from Pier 55 in Seattle or Kirkland City Dock, the two-and-a-half-hour cruise follows the floating festival parade and features a DJ, food, beverages, Christmas trivia and revelers in hideous cardigans. Landlubbers, meanwhile, can enjoy the Ugly Holiday Sweater Happy Hour at BOKA downtown, every Tuesday in December.
See the lights. The biggest advantage of Seattle’s long, dark winter nights? Holiday lights shine all the brighter. A half-million lights illuminate the Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden, open nightly through Dec. 31 from 5-10 pm. Woodland Park Zoo’s WildLights feature brilliant wildlife panoramas of LED lighting, real reindeer and live entertainment through Jan. 1, 5:30-8:30 pm. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s Zoolights dazzle, notably its new Giant Pacific Octopus display, and kids can ride camels, take the zip line or watch Santa scuba-dive with sharks nightly through Jan. 1, 5-9 pm. If you prefer neighborhood lights, wander down Candy Cane Lane (aka NE Park Rd. off Ravenna Blvd.) or check out The Helmstetler Family Christmas Spectacular presented by West Seattle Lights, an astonishing light show at 3908 SW Charlestown St., synchronized to 101.9 FM, nightly through Dec. 31.
Attend Seattle Center’s Winterfest. Winding down its 50th anniversary year, Seattle Center pulls out all the stops for the holidays, decorating its ground with countless twinkling lights and planning event after festive event. Enjoy traditions such as ice-skating at Fisher Pavilion (prices vary) or the Winter Train & Village in Seattle Center Armory (free), where visitors take turn navigating a model train through a snowy miniature town. Scheduled events include ice-sculpting demonstrations on Saturdays, student showcases and performances at the Armory ranging from Mexican folkloric dancing by Bailadores de Bronce to Jewish music courtesy of Klez Kids.
Embrace the end of the world. Of course, you could spend your final days leading up to Dec. 21 reflecting on the destruction of humanity. Why not have fun with it? Catch SIFF’s Apocalypse Film Festival. The SIFF Cinema Uptown is showing nightly screenings of end-of-the-world classics, from “Dr. Strangelove” to “Dawn of the Dead” to “Delicatessen,” culminating in disaster-fest “2012” on Dec. 20, followed by a party marking the final countdown to destruction with booze and post-apocalypse-themed music videos.
On the off chance that the world does not end on Dec. 21, many of these activities are scheduled to continue after that date. For those who put off Christmas shopping in anticipation of the apocalypse, Pike Place Market is offering limited free parking through Dec. 24.