With many school children getting a 16-day winter break, there will be days when the family is looking to get out of the house, get outdoors and take time off from all the holiday hoopla.
There are plenty of nearby local and county parks where one can stretch their legs and breathe in some fresh air. But a major reason many of us live in the Northwest is the outdoors. Even during the holidays, there are plenty of places and events to enjoy out in the open. Here are some of our recommendations:
VISIT THE DISCOVERY POND
This spot at Tacoma Nature Center is a great place to let your young ones expend some of that pent up holiday excitement. They can run around, climb into a tree house, scramble up boulders, slide down a hollow log and look for critters in the pond.
If that’s not enough, there are more than 2 miles of trails that wind through the center’s 71 acres. The bridge over Snake Lake is a good place to look for waterfowl.
If the kids get cold, the center has a number of interpretive displays and a small gift shop.
The play area is open from 9 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset, unless it has been reserved. The center is at 1919 S. Tyler St.
Learn more at metroparkstacoma.org/tacomanaturecenter.
LOOK TO THE NIGHT SKY
While considered a minor event, the Ursid meteor shower will peak the night of Dec. 22-23. Created as the Earth passes through dust grains left behind by the comet Tuttle, the shower is expected to produce five to 10 meteors per hour. Helping the viewing, if the clouds allow, will be the lack of a moon that night. The best viewing will be just after midnight in a dark location far from city lights.
DIG FOR RAZOR CLAMS
Digging for razor clams on a ocean beach is a great family experience, or a fun way to introduce out-of-town visitors to the Northwest. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has scheduled two digs that will take place during the school break. The digs will proceed if tests show clams are safe to eat.
Here are the proposed dates, low tide information and the locations that will be open:
Friday, 4:41 p.m., 0.0.feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks; Saturday, 5:23 p.m., -0.6 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis; Dec. 21, 6:06 p.m., -1.1 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks; Dec. 22, 6:48 p.m., -1.3 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors; and Dec. 23, 7:31 p.m., -1.3 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors.
Dec. 31, 3:05 p.m., 0.6 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis; Jan. 1, 4:01 p.m., 0.2 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Copalis; Jan. 2, 4:49 p.m., -0.2 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Copalis; Jan. 3, 5:32 p.m., -0.5 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Copalis; Jan. 4, 6:12 p.m., -0.5 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks; and Jan. 5, 6:48 p.m., -0.5 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors.
For more information on rules, license requirements and how-to information, go to wdfw.wa.gov/fishing
WALK THE REFUGE
Noted birder Phil Kelley leads this walk every Wednesday at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. This is a good opportunity to learn about what birds are calling the refuge home this time of year.
Participants should bring good walking shoes or boots, rain gear, water and snacks, as well as binoculars or spotting scopes if they have one.
The walks will begin at 8 a.m. Dec. 24 and 31. Meet at the pond overlook at the Norm Dicks Visitor Center. The refuge is off Interstate 5 at Exit 114.
For more information, contact Kelley at 360-459-1499 or scrubjay323
@aol.com. No reservations are required. The walk is free, but refuge parking is $3 for a vehicle with four adults.
For those visiting the Sequim area, the Dungeness River Audubon Center holds a walk every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. The two-hour walk winds through Railroad Bridge Park. For information, go to dungenessrivercenter.org.
PLAY IN THE SNOW?
Both Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks have designated snow-play areas and offer ranger-led snowshoe walks. What they need right now is snow.
Mount Rainier won’t open its area at Paradise until there is at least 60 inches of snow on the ground, to protect fragile vegetation in the area. As of Friday, there was 20 inches at Paradise.
If there is enough snow, the snowshoe walks will be offered daily Dec. 24-Jan. 1 and then weekends and holidays. The walks start at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Meet inside the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center. The center will be open 10 a.m.-4:15 p.m. daily Saturday-Jan. 1.
For more information, go to nps.gov/mora or call 360-569-6571.
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center at Olympic is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays, and daily from Dec. 26-Jan. 4. Ranger-led snowshoe walks are offered at 2 p.m. when the center is open. For more information, go to nps.gov/olym. Information on the Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area is available at hurricaneridge.com.
TAKE THE PLUNGE
A popular New Year’s Day tradition is taking part in a polar bear plunge.
The city of Lacey will host a plunge starting at noon Jan. 1 at Long Lake Park, 2790 Carpenter Road SE, Lacey. The plunging begins at 1 p.m.
Metro Parks Tacoma hosts a plunge at Point Defiance Marina, 5912 N. Waterfront Drive, Tacoma. A cub plunge, for children younger than 10, begins at 11:30 a.m., followed by the adult/family plunge at noon.
The Olalla Community Club holds a jump at the bridge across from Al’s Grocery, 13965 Crescent Valley Road Se, Olalla. Call 253-857-5650 for details.