Activities abound for entertaining family, friends during holiday break

The Paradise Valley Road is a popular snowshoe walk at Mount Rainier National Park.
The Paradise Valley Road is a popular snowshoe walk at Mount Rainier National Park. jmayor@thenewstribune.com

It is the holidays and the house is filling with people. The young kids are out of school, maybe the oldest child is home from college. Family has driven or flown into town and are bunking with you. Friends are begging to spend some time with you during the break.

Sure, there will be holiday dinners and parties to enjoy. But at some moment, you will ask yourself “What am I doing to do with them?”

We’re here to help.

Here is a sampling of activities to enjoy, places to go and things to see in the coming weeks. Some are simple, while others might require some logistical planning. But they are all worthy options for getting the family out of the house and having some fun.


If you have relatives in town who hail from locales without snow, you really should take them to Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park. One of the snowiest places in the world, you can just look at the snow, go skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, have a snowball fight.

If enough snow falls to cover the fragile vegetation at Paradise, park crews will groom the sled runs above the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center. The center will be open 10 a.m.-4:15 p.m. weekends, and daily from Wednesday-Jan. 3.

The center also is a good option for those who prefer to watch others play in the snow. There are interpretive displays, a cafe, gift shop and restrooms.

At Longmire, there is the National Park Inn with lodging and dining, a general store where you can rent snowshoes and the park museum. The .75-mile Trail of the Shadows makes for an easy snowshoe hike. Kids will be intrigued walking past the bubbling hot springs.

Make sure your vehicle has tire chains. Entrance to the park is $20 per vehicle.

Information: 360-569-2211, nps.gov/mora.

You can play in the snow at Olympic National Park as well, as Hurricane Ridge offers many of the same activities. But the park also offers the opportunity to visit the Pacific Coast. Watching storm-driven waves lash the shore is an amazing sight.

The Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles is open daily, except on Christmas Day. The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is open Saturdays and Sundays, and Monday holidays, and daily from Saturday-Jan. 3.

If you are heading up to Hurricane Ridge, make sure your vehicle has tire chains. Entrance to the park is $20 per vehicle.

Also, check the status of park roads because some are closed because of storm damage

Information: 360-565-3130, 360-565-3131 (road and weather hotline), nps.gov/olym.


One way to work off the holiday energy is to take the gang for a walk through Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The display of more than a half million lights runs 5-9 p.m. daily through Jan. 3, except Thursday.

Admission is $10 at the gate, $8.50 online and at Fred Meyer stories, and free for those 2 and younger. Members pay $5 online or at the gate.

Information: 252-591-5337, pdza.og.

At Spanaway Park, you can take the clan and drive through Fantasy Lights. As you wind along the 2-mile drive, there are almost 300 lighted displays. This is a good option when the weather is less than cooperative, or if you have older visitors who wouldn’t enjoy walking.

The display is open 5:30-9 p.m. daily through Jan. 1. Admission is $14 per vehicle.

Information: co.pierce.wa.us/index.aspx?NID=1253.


If you want to show someone from out of town a quintessential Washington experience, take them digging for razor clams. The state has tentatively set a dig on low tides Dec. 24-26 in the Copalis area. If the dig is approved, people can dig for clams from the north jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor north to the Copalis River, including the Ocean Shores area.

Sure, it will be dark, it might be wet, you might get sandy, but it’s lot of fun to dig up your own clams.

Make sure everyone who needs one has an appropriate license.

Information: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams.


The Hands on Children’s Museum (hocm.org) is a great place to let the young ones play. It also offers full-day and half-day camps during winter break. The museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays and Mondays. It will close at 3 p.m. Thursday and is closed Friday. Admission is $10.95, $8.95 for seniors (65 and older) and military with ID.

The Children’s Museum of Tacoma (playtacoma.org) is another indoor play option. For the holidays, it is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily Monday-Wednesday and Saturday-Dec. 31. The museum has a pay-as-you-will admission policy.

Olympia also is home to the South Sound Estuarium (sseacenter.org) and its marine education displays. It is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends. Admission is $5 per family, $3 per adult, $1 for children 17 and younger, and free for South Sound Estuary Association members.

The Olympia Film Society Kids Club (olympiafilmsociety.org) will be showing Annie at 11 a.m. Saturday. It is free for children 12 and younger, $8 general admission and $5 for society members.

Check out the exhibits inside the Tacoma Nature Center (metroparkstacoma.org/tacomanaturecenter). There also is the Discovery Pond play area and more than 2 miles of trails. It is a great urban escape.

If you visit Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (nwtrek.org) in December, four children 12 and younger can be admitted free with a paying adult. The park will be open through Sunday (Dec. 20), then will be open Saturday-Dec. 31.


The Olympia Farmers Market has nice heaters, a covered area and everything being sold comes from within the state of Washington. It is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, plus a special holiday market 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday. olympiafarmersmarket.com.

Walk the Olympia waterfront and check out the sculptures, both permanent ones and ones that are part of the Percival Plinth Project olympiawa.gov.

You can go ice skating at Polar Plaza (polarplaza.com) in Tacoma. Tickets are $8, $7 for military and seniors 60 and older, and $4 for children 5 and younger and for non-skating visitors. Skate rentals are $2. The rink, which also has other activities, is open through Jan. 10.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640