Parenting and coordinating a busy family schedule can feel more hectic during the holiday season. From music concerts to family gatherings to out-of-town travel plans, it takes intentional effort to not let this season of good cheer be overrun by stress and shopping. Remember this: Kids treasure best what we do with them and the experiences we give them—long past the giving of toys and other stuff. Create warm memories and new traditions with festive event experiences.
- Holiday Fest & Tree Lighting Ceremony: Gather the family and head to downtown Pullman, Wash., on Saturday, Dec. 1, for free holiday entertainment, hot cocoa and cookies, the annual tree lighting ceremony, and visit from Santa.
- Yuletide Lighting Festival: Enjoy retro Christmas activities in Wallace, Idaho, during December’s first two weekends—Nov. 30-Dec. 1 and Dec. 8-9—including: Breakfast with Santa ($5); Lighted Christmas Parade; PAW Parade (with festively-dressed pets); Charles Dickens Story Reading; 6th Street Theater Family Christmas Show; and family activities such as cookie and gift bag decorating, ornament making, and Santa photos.
- Riverfront Park Skate Ribbon: Gain confidence through free ice-skating lessons on weekends beginning mid-December. This month also includes Thursday theme nights, including “Elf” and “Harry Potter”; Cheap Skate Mondays that offer free skate rental; Cocoa & Canvas painting event (Dec. 9) for ages 8+. General admission is $4.95-$6.95 per hour skate session and $4.50 for skate rental, or bring your own skates; helmets recommended. A Winter Value Pass includes a one-hour ice skate session with rental, SkyRide admission, and unlimited carrousel rides ($15.95-$19.95).
- Holiday Lights at Manito Park’s Gaiser Conservatory: Admire over 40,000 festive lights that adorn these indoor exotic plants and trees from Dec. 8-16.
- Night Skiing at Mt. Spokane: Cruise the alpine area from 4-9:30 p.m. starting Friday, Dec. 14. Sunsets and summit views of city lights are spectacular. Night ski privileges, available Wednesday-Saturday, are included with a daily or afternoon lift ticket. Kick off your child’s winter break on Saturday, Dec. 22, when Santa visits Mt. Spokane.
- Holiday Horse & Carriage Ride: Trot through downtown Spokane with free rides through Dec. 23. Climb aboard at 222 N. Wall Street on Fridays (3-8 p.m.), Saturdays and Sundays (noon-5 p.m.), and on Christmas Eve (noon-3 p.m.). Note: Horses take an hour-long break each day.
- Bing Crosby Holiday Film Festival: Introduce your kids to “White Christmas” on the big screen on Dec. 8 at the Bing Crosby Theater. Tickets are free for children 12 and younger and $10 for 13+.
- Local Theatre Performances: Ditch the screens and experience live art. Try “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at Liberty Lake Community Theatre ($14 through Dec. 15). Spokane Civic Theatre presents the regional premiere of “Elf the Musical” ($30-$32 through Dec. 23) and “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” ($10-$15 on Dec. 21-22), which features student-actors ages 7-18. The KROC Center in Coeur d’Alene hosts the seventh annual Traditions of Christmas Musical Spectacular, a Radio City Music Hall-style show that includes segments like Pageant of Santas, Christmas Around the World, USO Christmas, and Christmas Nativity ($21-$34; recommended for children ages 4+).
- Santa’s Balloon Parade: On Christmas Eve at Schweitzer Mountain Resort (1-4 p.m.), Santa will lead children and families in a ski parade, starting from the top of the Basin Express chairlift, heading down to the village. Festivities also include cookies, hot chocolate, and Christmas carols (kids of all ages welcome and must be accompanied by a parent).
- Winter Adventure Day Camp: Spokane City Parks & Recreation hosts day-camp sessions ($69) for youth (ages 9-12 on Dec. 27-28 and January 3-4). Campers will learn how to cross-country ski, snowshoe, and build snow caves. //
Amy McCaffree is special section editor and Out There Kids columnist. She wrote about teaching kids to ski for the Family Winter Sports Guide in the last issue.