By Mario McKellop

With the holiday season now in full swing, this is the time of year when we should all be relaxing and reconnecting with distant friends and family. Unfortunately, two recent studies have shown that a large percentage of Americans feel more stressed than jolly during the holidays.

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According to research firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, over 60 percent of us feel stressed out because we don’t get enough time off during the holiday. Furthermore, a study conducted by Project: Time Off found that American workers left a jaw-dropping 662 million vacation days unused last year. As such, there appears to be a pretty obvious solution to the problem of holiday stress. Cash in your vacation days, pack up the family and head off to a relaxed and fun out-of-state vacation. Here are five must-visit holiday attractions that make Seattle a particularly appealing holiday destination.

Argosy Christmas Ship™ Festival
Argosy Cruises
1101 Alaskan Way
Pier 55, Suite 201
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 623-1445

For the past 68 years, residents and visitors alike have celebrated the season by taking part in the Argosy Christmas Ship Festival. This year, revelers can board the Spirit of Seattle, a two-deck vessel that serves as the official Argosy Christmas Ship, and take a relaxing two to three-hour cruise around Puget Sound. While sailing through the waterfront communities, guests can also check out a live performance from an onboard choir, take a boarding photo with Santa, and sit in on his reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” participate in some holiday-themed arts and crafts and create the kind of pleasant memories that will last a lifetime. The Argosy Christmas Ship Festival runs from Nov. 24 to Dec. 23.

The 25th Annual Gingerbread Village
City Centre

1420 Fifth Ave., Ste. 450
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 621-9000

For the last 25 years, Sheraton Seattle has hosted an annual Gingerbread Village event benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In it, Sheraton Seattle’s culinary team, the city’s best architectural firms, and master builders team up to create eye-popping displays made out of delicious holiday treats. This year’s 25th anniversary theme is “25 Years of Cheer: A Celebration of Seattle,” and will include gingerbread facsimiles of Seattle’s present and future architectural marvels, including The Great Wheel, the Space Needle, and the waterfront. This year’s Sheraton Seattle Gingerbread Village will be on display from Nov. 21 to Jan. 1, 2018.

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Winterfest at Seattle Center
305 Harrison St.
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 684-7200

Winterfest 2017, which will run from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1, 2018, is designed to provide visitors with a host of fun holiday-themed activities without breaking the bank. The five-week celebration will include an ice rink, a controllable model train set, an ice sculpture exhibition, a show presented by prop comic and magician Alex Zerbe, and an aerial arts presentation performed by Sanca Cirrus Circus. There will also be a host of different musical acts, including several different groups of carolers caroling throughout the City Centre. Best of all, the majority of the Winterfest activities and performances are free.

The Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker
Triple Door
216 Union St.
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 838-4333

While all of the above-listed events are family-friendly, Seattle will also be hosting a number of phenomenal themed holiday events for adults only as well. For instance, from Dec. 7-24 the trapdoor will be staging “The Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker.” A “bawdy makeover” of the iconic Tchaikovsky ballet, the Land of Sweets show combines pedigreed professional dancers, ornate and tantalizing outfits, and a live nine-piece jazz orchestra to present a grown-up entertainment experience that can be found anywhere else.

New Year’s at the Needle
400 Broad St.
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 905-2100

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No holiday season vacation is complete without plans for New Year’s Eve. In Seattle, the best way to experience the annual transition is to make a trip to the Space Needle. Those that prefer to do their reveling outdoors can join the always-sizable crowd that gathers at the base of the Needle to a get a close view of the amazing fireworks displays that kick off at the stroke of midnight. Those that want to be indoors when 2017 turns into 2018 can make reservations to party at the New Year’s Eve pARTy at Chihuly Garden and Glass under the Needle.