The annual parade and holiday events in Shelton and all around the canal are a great reason to start some new family traditions on Hood Canal.  Photos ©Cooper Photography

Holiday Fun on Hood Canal

by Rachel Hansen

What is your idea of the perfect Christmas getaway? Quiet solitude in a waterfront cabin with a thick book in your hand and a warm fire crackling on the hearth? Or do you embrace the holidays as an opportunity to share as many Christmas traditions and memories with your family as possible? I’m definitely the latter. As soon as I see the first flake of tinsel I become wrapped up in holiday anticipation. While, my husband—on the other hand—sees the holidays as a time to slow down. He prefers to cast a line for a winter trout or hike to a new waterfall.

This can definitely pose a problem as the holidays bear down on us. Well, no worries. We have found the perfect solution. There’s a place just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Seattle and Portland where you can fulfill everyone’s dream for the perfect seasonal getaway—Hood Canal.

If you desire a break from the pressures of holiday parties, shopping and obligatory house guests, make haste to the jewel of Puget Sound—our perennially gorgeous fjord. Clinging to the slopes of the majestic Olympic Mountains, the northern shore is strung with small settlements, each with a unique welcoming personality, connected by the winding road that offers tantalizing views of the snowcapped peaks rising above the canal.

If you don’t like Hallmark Christmas movies stay away from Shelton. This year, Christmastown, USA is taking on the Guinness World Record for the most lit Christmas trees!"

Create your own Christmas magic

Waterfront lodging is available all along the canal. Photo ©Harley Lever

Bring your appetite for seafood; you won't be disappointed.

In the tiny hamlet of Lilliwaup you will completely escape. Close to the Olympic National Forest and the awe inspiring Hamma Hamma River recreational area, this is the perfect place to recharge your inner spirit. With the rise of short-term rentals this area is diverse in its lodging opportunities. Stay in small intimate cabins on the beach or put down roots in a historic homestead, rich with pioneering character but updated with all the modern amenities and space for the whole family to roam. While lodging is scarce during the summer months—winter is the ideal time to select your first choice and at a great rate. Did we mention that this is also the home of world famous Hama Hama Oyster farm where you can always pair a cold beer with a plate of fresh grilled oysters?

Farther south, Hoodsport has quaint gift shops, restaurants, two wineries, an award-winning distillery, and a much loved coffee hang out. Nearby Lake Cushman is prolific with destination cabins that dreams are made of—some with kayaks for guests to explore further on the lake. With access to the Staircase Entrance to the Olympic National Park, this is a great place to be inspired. In Hoodsport stop by the Visitor Information Center to catch up on trail conditions and pick up your $5 National Forest Christmas tree permit. What better way to start a new family tradition?

Embrace Northwest Holiday Traditions

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus arrive on a lighted boat at the Alderbrook Resort dock.

The fireworks show at Alderbrook draws large and enthusiastic crowds.

Guests enjoy the comfort of the Alderbrook lobby after a day out in the brisk winter weather.

On Hood Canal’s southern shore the pace picks up a bit. Quiet cabins are still to be found but be prepared for some Hallmark moments. In Union the much acclaimed Alderbrook Resort and Spa fully embraces Christmas traditions. Kick-off the holiday season Thanksgiving at the annual tree lighting. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive by boat to a spectacular show of fireworks and caroling to illuminate the 35’ Christmas tree and more than ten miles of lights adorning Alderbrook Resort. This event, and subsequently weekly celebrations at the Resort, are guaranteed to soften even the grinchest of grinches.

If you are interested in escaping to Union, reserve quick, with its spectacular views, multiple restaurants, world class golf course and fun shops—it fills up fast!

Don't miss the Tahuya Peninsula

Mountain biking trails criss-cross through the Tahuya State Forest.

Relaxing on the beach is a daily routine on Hood Canal.

Across the Bend and with a little more solitude is the Tahuya Peninsula. The 23,000-acre working forest that is Tahuya State forest draws over 200,000 visitors a year to its verdant hillsides replete with winding trails. It's one of the best places on the Canal for motorsports and mountain biking while serving up breathtaking views of the water and the Olympics. Staying overnight in Tahuya almost always includes shellfishing within mere minutes and a friendly, local vibe. Nearby Belfair and  also offer plenty of lodging and dining. Belfair proudly hosts an annual Christmas Parade on December 1.

Guinness World Record for “Most Lit Christmas Trees”

The original Santa, installed in 1962 (see top photo), was totally restored in time for last year's festival.

As one of his official duties, Santa will flip the switch to light the town's giant live Christmas tree.

Formerly known as the "Christmas Tree Capital of the World," it comes as little surprise that Mason County is still a top producer of holiday greenery.

If you don’t like Hallmark Christmas movies stay away from Shelton. This year the community is coming together to reestablish its historic title of Christmastown, USA. A nod to its rich timber heritage, the town is hosting a series of events and programs that drop you right into a scene from my favorite holiday film. If the annual installation of the 32’ Santa (originally built for the 1962 World Fair) doesn’t thrill you then the Holiday Magic event is sure to excite. With streets dripping with vintage decorations and criss-crossed with natural fragrant garland, businesses compete for the coveted award for best decorated storefront. December 6 streets are blocked off for the annual tree lighting featuring wagon rides, games, bonfires and marshmallow roasting in the center of Railroad Avenue while nearly 300 school children carol at Christmastown Station as Santa flicks the switch on the town’s giant live Christmas tree.

This year Shelton is taking the Hallmark Channel head on. Historically known as the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World,” Shelton and Mason County are celebrating this distinction with an attempt at the Guinness World Record for “Most Lit Christmas Trees” in one location. The current record was set by Hallmark in 2015 when they lit 559 trees in a New York park. Shelton’s attempt will be logged December 7th during the annual parade. The 600+ trees will be arranged in a lighted maze while the nearby Christmastown Market will include daily Santa visits, caroling, live music, gift and craft workshops and a display of gingerbread houses.  All the trees were donated by local timber companies, Green Diamond, Simpson and Pork Blakely. Trees will be either replanted, given to families in need or can be purchased for $10 to Toys for Tots, Seattle Children’s Hospital or the local food bank.  For more information on the Guinness attempt and 12 Days of Christmas in Christmastown USA, visit

Whatever your holiday vision—solitude, spectacular views and diversity of hikes, or small town holiday celebrations, quaint shops and gingerbread contests—Hood Canal is the best of all worlds and make the perfect spot to get away this holiday season.