In addition to being a high-tech town with top-notch schools, gorgeous parks, and a booming economy, Bellevue is also known for its international, multicultural vibe owing to its diverse residents, with more than 39% of its population hailing from more than 90 different countries.
Dedicated to inclusion, diversity, and equity, Bellevue embraces the cultural range of its citizens all day, every day, and celebrates its unique urban profile through various festivals held throughout the year. Here, there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet.
Lunar New Year, January
Many Asian cultures — including Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese — celebrate Lunar New Year, which marks the first new moon of the lunar calendar. There are 12 Chinese zodiac animals, and one is associated with each 12-year cycle. The Year of the Rabbit begins January 22, 2023, and with its arrival comes opportunities to gather together with an eye toward good fortune and health. Asian restaurants in the Dining District at The Bellevue Collection and around the city serve up traditional dishes and specialties, such as dumplings, nian gao, longevity noodles, and more. During its annual Lunar New Year festival, The Bellevue Collection celebrates Asian culture through a rotating mix of shows and participatory events that might include martial arts demonstrations, musical performances, and special dances such as the lion or ribbon dances. A Lantern Festival caps off the festivities.
See it for yourself: Get a taste of the Lunar New Year with Visit Bellevue ambassador Nelson Yong, as he visits Baron’s Sino Kitchen & Bar and Din Tai Fung as part of his dining and nightlife contributions to The Vue, Visit Bellevue’s video series celebrating all there is to see and do in the region.
Cultural Crossroads Festival, March
The ever-popular Cultural Crossroads Festival, held in March, features a wide variety of international music and dance performances that highlight the diversity of cultures found in the Pacific Northwest. This popular event is held at Crossroads Bellevue — a shopping and dining destination — and showcases global talent from around the world, including West African drumming, Irish dancing, Croatian a cappella singing, modern Hawaiian hula dancing, and so much more. Dozens of performances take place on two stages, and you’ll also find an international bazaar in addition to multicultural exhibits. Samples of world cuisines and children’s activities round out the international mix.
Holi Festival of Color, March
To welcome spring, Hindus celebrate Holi Festival of Color (also known as the Festival of Spring or the Festival of Love). The festival commemorates the eternal and divine love of Radha Krishna and the triumph of good over evil, which includes an open-air event where participants toss brightly colored powders at one another. Young celebrants can learn about Holi at KidsQuest Children’s Museum, which has participants use colorful sand and traditional stencils to create rangoli — a colorful, folk art floor decoration symbolizing good luck — listen to stories about Holi, and create their own artworks decorated with gulal, the dry colorful pigments customarily thrown on the second day of Holi. Bigger kids (read: adults) can partake in this exuberant celebration hosted by the Bellevue Hindu Temple and Cultural Center at Crossroads Park, complete with DJs, delicious foods, and spontaneous eruptions of colorful gulal.
Japan Fair, July
Celebrate traditional and modern Japanese art and culture at the two-day festival that is Japan Fair (formerly known as Aki Matsuri). Held virtually in 2021 and 2022, the fair features musical performances such as Japanese choral singing. In addition, cultural workshops explore aspects of Japanese culture, such as tea, kimono art, ikebana flower arranging, haiku, and more. Explore the last two years’ virtual fair offerings on YouTube to get a taste of the hybrid event that’s in store for July 2023.
Flavors of India, September
Locals look forward to Labor Day weekend’s Flavors of India festival held in Bellevue’s Crossroads Park and hosted by the Vedic Cultural Center. Thousands flock to the event for a sample of the diversity of cuisines found throughout India. Enjoy free sweet and savory delicacies, such as samosas, pakoras, and chapati, then wash it down with a yogurt-based mango lassi. Dance off those calories at the Bollywood dance party. Traditional dances, including Kuchipudi and Odissi, as well as music like Kirtan (chanting) take place on stage, while free henna body painting, yoga, vegetarian-cooking demonstrations, and more can also be found. Festival-goers particularly love the spice table, where you can create your own blend from an array of exotic spices. Each year brings something new, but a traditional palanquin procession is always a part of the mix, in addition to art and cultural displays and children's activities such as Indian puppet making.
NorthWest Ukrainian International Festival, September
Come September, folks flock to the annual NorthWest Ukrainian International Festival in Bellevue’s Crossroads Park to celebrate the area’s Ukrainian community and the country’s rich history through its food, customs, musical and dance performances, and more. You can see people dressed in traditional embroidered clothing known as vyshyvanky; sample authentic varenyky, holubtsi, or borscht; listen to traditional Ukrainian folk music; or follow the kids to the Family Fun Area for age-appropriate activities, games, and even trout fishing.
Kirkland Oktoberfest, September
Beer lovers keep an eye on the calendar for the arrival of the Kirkland Oktoberfest, held in late September. This three-day München-style biergarten takes place at Marina Park on the shores of Lake Washington and welcomes the 21-and-older crowd in true German style. You’ll enjoy a combination of live music and DJs, in addition to watching — or participating in — friendly competitions, including stein hoisting, keg rolling, and Wiener dog racing. Be sure to raise a glass for the Sausage Queen as she passes by during the parade.
Each October, a Diwali celebration takes place at Bellevue Square. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is an important Indian holiday celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Buddhist, Sikhs, and more to welcome a new year and express wishes for happiness and prosperity. Traditionally a five-day event, Diwali observations include the lighting of lanterns, the creation of rangoli floor decorations to welcome Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and fortune), setting out elaborate floral displays, and feasting and sharing mithai (confections) with family and friends. At the Bellevue Collection, past events have included traditional dance demonstrations of Tanjavur and Aarat, a children’s chorus, a drum parade, and an exhibit of colorful saris.