With silent, moonlit nights, sparkly snow crystals, snowflakes that stick to your nose and eyelashes, nature’s beauty inspires wonder, awe, surprise, delight, nostalgia, and love. During this month’s countdown to the holidays, take time to experience both little and spectacular moments of winter magic. Here are some ideas to inspire you.

  1. Partake in the famous Christmas Lighting Festival in Leavenworth. Every year, during the first three weekends of December, over half-a-million lights adorn this Bavarian village nestled on the eastside of Washington’s Cascade mountains. Stroll the streets, shop for gifts, and greet Father Christmas, St. Nicholas, Santa, and Mrs. Claus. Every Saturday and Sunday, around 4:30 p.m., is when the lighting ceremony begins with much fanfare. Your getaway can also include a visit to the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club ski hill in town, which includes terrain and tubing parks. There are many local Nordic skiing and fat biking trails (skileavenworth.com). Stevens Pass and Mission Ridge, both less than an hour away, offer alpine skiing and snowboarding.
  2. Trek through a National Forest for your Christmas tree. With a $5 tree-cutting permit, purchased from a Forest Service ranger office, you can bring home a rustic fir or your next tannenbaum.
  3. Take a sleigh ride. High Country Orchard, part of the Green Bluff circuit in Colbert, Wash., and Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in Sandpoint, Idaho, offer horse-drawn sleigh rides, with an option to get a fresh-cut Christmas tree.
  4. Get away to the snowy shores of Priest Lake. Stay overnight in a cozy cabin at either Hill’s or Elkins Resorts, both located on the western shore. There’s an extensive cross-country ski trail system, which starts at Priest Lake golf course and connects to the lakeside trails at Hill’s Resort, and there’s Nordic gear and snowshoes available to borrow from the lodge. Hill’s lounge and dining room are open from Dec. 26 through New Year’s Eve. At Elkins, you can rent snowshoes and explore the trails right from the resort.
  5. Nordic ski to a backcountry hut. Along the Methow Valley’s 200 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails, there are cozy huts for long winter nights. Make reservations for one of the Rendezvous Huts (sleeps 8-10 people), or return to the town of Winthrop and stay in a Rolling Huts glamping cabin.
  6. Take a cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene—but not just any cruise. Journey to the North Pole with a 40-minute magical cruise from the Coeur d’Alene Resort. View the marina’s holiday light show before traveling to see Santa and his elves, and hear your child’s name read from the “Nice List.”
  7. Experience a moonlit adventure on snowshoes, fat bike, or Nordic skis. Traditional folklore refers to December’s full moon as the Long Nights Moon, Cold Moon, or Frost Moon, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. This year the full moon appears on Dec. 22, the day after Winter Solstice. For late-night adventure, Mt. Spokane Cross Country Ski Park is open daily until 10 p.m. For other parks be sure to check open hours since many close at 4 p.m. or dusk. For information about trail networks in Idaho, visit the Panhandle Nordic Club website. If you miss December’s moon, the first full moon of the new year—called the Wolf Moon or Old Moon—will appear on Jan. 21, followed by the Full Snow Moon on Feb. 19.
  8. Ski with Santa. On Dec. 23, Mr. Claus will be geared up and ready to ski with children and their families at Schweitzer Mountain from 1-3 p.m. He will also make the rounds at other local mountains on Christmas Eve, including Lookout Pass (around Noon), Silver Mountain, and Mt. Spokane.
  9. Experience Winterfest in Wallace, Idaho. Enjoy three days of small-town fun from Dec. 29-31, with snow sculptures, s’mores, and library snowman story time. More extreme than magical, there will also be vintage snowmobile races along with extreme “ski jor” race where ATVs tow skiers. visitnorthidaho.com/event/wallace-winterfest
  10. Ski or snowboard in the New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade. Join Lookout Pass staff and other advanced and intermediate-level skiers and riders to celebrate the end of 2018. Also spectacular to watch, as a line of skiers make big, wide turns from the summit to the base while carrying a red torch. Space is limited, so be sure to register online. //