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Photo by Leonard Riley. Boat at Seattle Seafair

Seattle Seafair: The Spirit of Summer

In the Pacific Northwest, summer means more than boating on Lake Washington and hiking the verdant forests of Mount Rainier National Park – although we do recommend both.

Locals will tell you that the season is synonymous with Seafair, the ten-week Seattle festival that extends from the waterfront to the streets of downtown with spectacular parades, musical performances, marathons, and the mesmerizing Blue Angels taking flight.

For decades, families have gathered in the Emerald City for the festival, which offers more than 75 family-friendly events from Seafair Kickoff on June 14 to the culminating Seafair Weekend Festival August 4 – 6. Perhaps best of all, the events are all either free or offering a free component. 

Photo by Rod Mar. Little Girl Waving American Flag at Seattle Seafair

Photo Credit: Rod Mar

“Seafair is summer in Seattle,” says Emily Cantrell, Seafair Director of Communications & Marketing, “whether you are paddleboarding on Lake Union or barbecuing with your family in the park.”

Founded in 1950, the nonprofit festival began as a plan to celebrate the city’s centennial with boat races and neighborhood events (although it actually kicked off a year before) and today reaches more than two million people each summer, having expanded from ten days to a full ten weeks.

Ten signature events frame the extensive lineup of community events, with one of the festival’s most anticipated being the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Seafair Summer 4th. Held at both Gas Works Park and South Lake Union Park this summer, the Independence Day festival features All-American games like pie-eating contests and sack races, live music, food vendors, beer gardens, and the fireworks show in which nearly 8,500 pounds of fireworks are choreographed to musical score.

Photo by Sterling Yun. Planes at Seattle Seafair 

Photo Credit: Sterling Yun

On stage will be Indie rockers Pickwick, the Smokey Brights, Brotha’ Grove, and 18-year-old songwriter Paris Alexa Williams, who is also the City of Music @ Seafair Music Ambassador of the year. Both reserved seating and public seating are available.

Also in July, the quirky Lucerne Seafair Milk Carton Derby (July 15) will see nearly 100 milk carton boats take to the lake to compete for prizes. (Boat building demonstrations are held around Seattle prior to the races.) And returning after a one-year hiatus, the beloved Torchlight Run (July 29) will feature a 5K and an 8K followed by a spectacular parade, the Blue Angels balloon, and the classic Albert Lee hydroplane.

“The runners love getting cheered on as they race down the parade route,” says Cantrell. “Last year, we took a year off from doing it, and it was apparent that the public really wanted it back. We sure listened, and we’re now excited to offer participants one final opportunity to run down the Viaduct and Battery Street Tunnel.”

Photo by Gary Breedlove. Men Paddling a Boat at Seattle Seafair

Photo Credit: Gary Breedlove

Along with the signature events, Cantrell recommends Seafair Sanctioned Community Events such as Magnolia Summerfest (August 4 – 6), which will be more expansive than ever before this year, and Kirkland Uncorked (July 14 – 16) happening just two miles north of The Woodmark.

But the biggest event of summer by far is Seafair Weekend, a tradition-laden festival filled with boat races, aerobatic performances in the sky, and live music (artists to be announced) in Genesee Park on Lake Washington. Not to mention, appearances by Seafair’s King Neptune and Queen Alcyone, a couple chosen for their philanthropic contributions to the Puget Sound region, and Miss Seafair, a young woman selected through the Seafair Foundation’s Scholarship Program for Women.

Locals and visitors attending Seafair Weekend this summer can enjoy enhanced cuisine, a new waterfront picnic zone, and a new Monster Energy BMX stunt show alongside wakeboarding and one of three beer gardens in the South Turn.

Photo by Sterling Yun. Planes at Seattle Seafair

Photo Credit: Sterling Yun

“The hydros, the Blue Angels, they are the core of Seafair,” says Cantrell, “but there is so much more [to it] now.”


Reserve a boat at Woodmark Waterfront Adventures to join the celebration on the water, and be sure to take advantage of The Woodmark’s complimentary shuttle service for destinations within five miles – such as Eastside parks where the Blue Angels often fly over. 

*Featured photo credit: Leonard Riley 

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