2020 Winter Bucket List

As you may recall from the fall bucket list I posted awhile back, I keep all of my favorite events in various spreadsheets and then roll them forward every year. That wasn’t possible for 2020, but I’m excited to add a few new things and to celebrate what we can still do.

Similar to my fall list, this reflects my family’s and my assessment of our local area and personal risk as guided by science and medical experts. We are focusing on lots of time outdoors where we wear our masks when anywhere near 6 feet from other people. We appreciate a change of pace by doing a local getaway or two, but we bring our own food or get take-out and use the time to take advantage of outdoor activities that might otherwise be too long of a drive for a day trip.

Without further ado, our holiday/winter bucket list:


Cama Beach State Park – We camped at Camano Island State Park over the summer and I loved that the space is easy to access (no ferry!) and has some short and kid-friendly hikes. The cabins at nearby Cama Beach are on an online reservation system now (they used to be phone-in only), so it’s much easier to reserve and I grabbed a “deluxe” cabin for a quick getaway. Deluxe just means we have a separate bedroom and our own bathroom, so we’ll still have to bring our sleeping bags and camp stove, but it should make the space feel more pandemic-friendly. I’m planning to combine the trip with the drive-through holiday lights in Stanwood.

Iron Springs Resort – My birthday is in January, so to celebrate we’re heading to the Olympic Peninsula for a couple of nights. We had to cancel our Kalaloch Lodge stay back in September during the tragic wildfires. I considered re-booking there, but really wanted a bit more in the way of kitchen facilities and separate sleeping spaces so we’re trying something new.

Holiday Lights

Enjoying the interactive sections of WildLanterns

Living in the Pacific Northwest means it gets dark pretty early in winter. Also, my kids rise with the roosters, which means they also have to have early bedtimes to get enough rest. That makes early holiday light shows a big hit with our family.

We checked out the new WildLanterns show at Woodland Park Zoo and loved it! I’m planning to go again in late December (the show goes through Jan 17, 2021) since we live so close to the zoo.

I’m also thinking about visiting the Fantasy Lights drive-through at Spanaway Park (Nov 21–Jan 3). It’s a further drive for us, but might be worth it as we look for outdoor/limited contact options.

We often go see the lights at Candy Cane Lane or the Green Lake Pathway of Lights. The latter is cancelled this year, but I’m hoping to make a miniature version in our backyard or right next to our street to spread a little holiday cheer.

Botanical Gardens/Arboretums

I’m all about hiking on rugged trails, but sometimes it’s nice to have spaces to walk that are easy wins for the day (aka flat trails and easy to get to). We’re lucky to have several arboretums and botanical gardens with beautiful fall colors and evergreen trees.

Lake Wilderness Arboretum – we visited this Maple Valley space last week and loved the story walk. This partnership with the Maple Valley branch of the King County Library offers a different picture book each month with pages mounted on stands behind plexiglass along the trail. I’d love to go back and see the December book choice once it’s announced and spend more time on the other trails.

The November 2020 story walk at Lake Wilderness Arboretum featured Thank You, Omu

Kruckeberg Botanical Garden – we still haven’t been to this Shoreline space, but they’re open from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Friday -Sunday in the winter, so I’m thinking it would make a nice little morning visit before naptime. They’re also offering private tours for a more educational experience.

Bloedel Preserve Winter in the Woods – located on Bainbridge island, this is another space we’ve still never managed to make it to. They’re adding handcrafted wooden snow people and deer to the trails for a dash of holiday cheer. Timed tickets are required and they’re a little pricey ($17/adult; $10 for kids aged 13-18; $6 for kids aged 5-12; free for 4 and under), but since we’d make this a day trip I’d love to try it.

Washington Arboretum – parking can be a little tricky at this well-loved Seattle outdoor space, but we usually head out to one of the side parking lots (like #17 by the Wilcox footbridge) and have no trouble walking around. The fall colors and spring flowers are legendary, but we haven’t been as often in the winter so I’m looking forward to going back for a weekday visit.

Traditional Experiences

Swanson’s Nursery – while Donner and Blitzen aren’t at the nursery this year, they still have their toy train and holiday decor and I’m excited to keep this holiday tradition around. Make timed reservations for your visit.

Our visit to the Swanson’s holiday train in 2019

Yuletide Express Train – we’ve never done the Snoqualmie Santa Train before, but this seemed like the year for a day trip option with limited indoor space and masks on.

Hiking/Snow Fun

Snow hiking is so different than any other time of year. While I plan to invest in micro spikes and other gear for future years with the kids, I’m focusing on shorter hikes this year. I love the WTA and ParentMap lists and would add these:

Falls Creek Falls (Winthrop) – we did this very short and high-impact hike on our return to Winthrop. The lower falls are only a quarter mile down the trail with plenty of snow to frolic in. You’ll want an all-wheel-drive vehicle to get to the trailhead.

Hiking to Falls Creek Falls near Winthrop

Gold Creek Pond (Snoqualmie) – we never ended up making it to this little gem in the fall, but it’s been a winter favorite of ours for years (it’s up the road from a sno-park so we combine sledding and hiking). The trail is flat and not particularly long, plus it offers lots of snow to play in. During the winter, you need a sno-park permit (more information here).

Online Arts Performances

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s The Nutcracker – The Nutcracker has been a holiday tradition since before I had kids. We usually enjoy photo opps and activities beforehand. At intermission, my sister-in-law and I sip sparkling wine while the kids munch Mouse King cookies and watch a magic show. The ballet is really suffering from lack of revenue and offering a digital streaming experience this year. I’m planning to bake and decorate cookies with the kids and sip bubbly at home while we watch.

Julia’s first Nutcracker experience in 2018 (age 2.5)

Seattle Symphony Family Concerts & Tiny Tots – We also love the kid-friendly concerts that the Symphony offers every year. The Tiny Tots series is geared toward younger kids (0–5) and Family Concerts are designed for slightly older kids (6–12), although we took Julia to the Family Concerts at age 2.5 and she was fine. This year there are some free clips available as well as virtual concerts with a subscription (Tiny Tots Winter Wonderland is on Dec 4th at 11 a.m.; Family Concert Air is on Dec 19th at 11 a.m.). If you’d like a free month of complimentary access, use code SSOvEEI421 (case sensitive).

Figgy Pudding – My husband and I met in a choir and love singing together, so Figgy Pudding — a local caroling competition that supports the Pike Place Senior Center Food Bank and is typically hosted downtown in early December — has been a favorite tradition since we moved to Seattle 7 years ago. It’s moved online this year, like every other arts event, and I’m excited to watch it couch-side with some mulled wine. Viewing starts Dec 4th and some parts will be televised on Dec 11th.

What’s on your winter bucket list this season?


WildLanterns – New Family Tradition

As I’ve been drafting our 2020 holiday bucket list (in keeping with this year’s theme, it includes a lot of staying close to home and outdoor time), one of the new events I looked forward to was WildLanterns – the WildLights 2.0 at the Woodland Park Zoo.

We’ve gone to the zoo regularly since Julia was only a couple of months old (I needed somewhere to walk with a baby that wasn’t around Green Lake) and WildLights was part of our holiday tradition for just as long. It was a bit hard to let go of our “old favorites,” but I’m not sure how much of that is just nostalgia for non-pandemic times. Honestly, the things I missed most were the carousel and the fluffy “snowball” fights in Zoomazium.

The new lanterns are stunningly beautiful and diffuse light over rainy puddles in a way that feels magical. I loved the angler fish’s lure in and the hippos with their wide-open pink mouths. Many of the lanterns are animated, which adds to the surprises around every corner.

Visit early for a peek at the lanterns before their full glory

The kids loved all the interactive stations and I have to recommend a weekday visit if you want to just hang around and play. We went on Sunday evening and everything was comfortably spaced and didn’t feel busy, but on Wednesday we almost had the place to ourselves. The kids spent 20 minutes or more bouncing between the light-up stars and the piano in the African Savanna area.

Playing in the mirrored pentagon-shaped room near Willawong station

For more details on our visit, check out my review at Seattle’s Child.

Fall Bucket List Lookback

When I set goals for myself in writing, I love reflecting to see whether I met them, missed them, or altered them. So how did our Fall Bucket List go?


This was the last on my list, but the most important to me. I’ve voted in every election for a long time now, but we also live in the bluest part of a blue state in a blue region, so it wasn’t surprising that Washington went for Biden/Harris. This year, for the first time, I also wrote letters to potential voters and stifled my hatred of the telephone to phone bank in swing states to get out the vote. This felt like the right year to “get political” and I’m so grateful for our new President- and Vice-President-elect.


In the brief time the Seattle Art Museum and Burke Museum were re-opened, we managed to attend each one time. I’m actually quite sad that the museums had to shut down in the latest round of restrictions in Washington. I understand how private indoor gatherings (especially large ones!) are problematic, but our experience with these two museums was that precautions were instituted and observed by everyone (limited capacity, mask wearing, disinfecting, etc) and the huge, well-ventilated spaces felt comfortable. I’m looking forward to return when we safely can.

Masked up and enjoying the Seattle Art Museum when it was open

We’ve also been back to the Woodland Park Zoo a few times and Julia and I went to Remlinger Farms together as a Mommy-Daughter date. Our Remlinger visit was scheduled on a sunny day, but Julia had a slight fever a few days before and I rescheduled while we could wait for symptoms to subside and a COVID test (no virus for anyone in the family). So it ended up being a day with thunderstorms in the forecast during their fall festival, but we lucked out with barely a few drops of rain and had a great time!

The zoo felt extra comfortable and I love that it’s still open even with the latest round of restrictions since it’s an outdoor activity that already had limited capacity.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

We didn’t do a specific activity on the day itself, but we did add other opportunities to learn about Native culture. In Winthrop, we loved the Sa Teekh Wa trail and Homestream Park (more about this trip below). The Burke Museum also had some beautifully refreshed exhibits about Indigenous Peoples from our area, including sections about food sovereignty that I found interesting. I think the most important lesson from these outing for all of us (myself included) is how they showed that Native culture is still rich and ongoing. Many signs speak only in the past tense and it’s important to observe current practices and traditions as well.

In addition to Sweetest Kulu, we’ve added some beautiful board books from Native Northwest to our collection. I particularly liked these because they showcase the culture of Tribal Nations from the Pacific Northwest, which helps connect us to the people who continue to steward our local area.

A Native Northwest board book’s beautiful illustrations Blue Lake


We’ve done a fair amount of hiking this fall, even though many of our hikes have been on the shorter side. Julia pushes really hard against the idea of a hike on some days, which makes it challenging to get everyone out the door, but once we’re out on the trail she seems content to go along. James is mostly just along for the ride at this stage, and I don’t hate it!

Some of our favorite hikes have been:

  • Twin Falls – Julia asked to go back down the long flight of stairs to the waterfall viewpoint because the falls are so powerfully loud and spectacular.
  • Blue Lake – at 4.4 miles roundtrip, this is the longest hike Julia has done (James rode in a backpack carrier) and I was so proud of her. We also got to walk through larches as they were turning golden, which honestly felt magical.
  • Lake Wilderness Arboretum – this was a new one today and I loved it! We had to drive about 40 minutes to Maple Valley, but the Arboretum teamed up with the Maple Valley library to build a story walk. It features a new picture book each month with blown-up copies of the pages in plexiglass-front signs so you can follow along with the story as you run the trail. The story walk doesn’t have signage directing you from the parking lot, so walk behind the greenhouse area towards the main wide trail and you’ll see the signs on your left.
Reading Thank You, Omu at the Lake Wilderness Arboretum


This was a fun one! We ended up going to pumpkin patches at Stocker Farms and Jubilee Farm, as well as Remlinger. A new experience for 2020 was the Oxbow Family Farm Adventure. We loved having a private tour (pricey, but more like a donation to a worthy organization) and visiting early in the fall season gave us the opportunity to learn about and taste lots of fruits and vegetables.

Early fall sunflowers at Stocker Farms

We also tried our hands at veggie and apple picking by visiting Bailey Farm and Jones Creek Farms. In true COVID-era fashion, I turned these outings into much more of a project than I had intended. Overeager helping hands resulted in tons of pickling cucumbers, so we had refrigerator pickles to bring along on a camping trip (delicious!).

Our visit to Jones Creek was a on a freezing, rainy day and the drive was quite long, but the apple sauce we made with our haul and the excellent garlic made it worth it. Anything for the experience! Next fall I’ll time the trip to coincide with an early fall getaway into the North Cascades so we’re less likely to end up with freezing fingers.


Unsurprisingly, the getaways were my favorite part of the fall season. In years past, we balanced an international trip with less expensive local camping at favorite spots, so we haven’t really explored much of the 3-4 hour driving radius spots in Washington and this was our year.

Biking the Discovery Trail on a getaway to Long Beach, WA

On a personal note, while my background is in accounting and finance, I’ve always enjoyed trip planning and writing. As we got closer to James’ first birthday this year, I started to think about what my next step would be and hoped it would allow me to branch out into a non-profit role or something travel-related. The pandemic brushed that all to the wayside, but I still felt like I needed something that I did just for myself, so I started drafting an article or two. At first it was just a couple of opinion pieces for the Red Tricycle Spoke Network (like the benefits of outdoor time for parents and my experience as a homeschooled kid). Then I pitched a couple of activity pieces to local parenting magazines and am now hoping to make it into a small side project that will allow me to share experiences with other families looking to get out and about.

I’ve written about most of our recent getaways, including our Winthrop stay (ParentMap; November print edition), a road trip to the Hood Canal and Long Beach Peninsula (Seattle’s Child) and our stay at the Sleeping Lady in Leavenworth (Seattle’s Child).

What was your favorite fall activity this year?

Travelogue: Winthrop Fall Getaway

Our trip to Winthrop was pretty spontaneous for me — I usually plan vacations months in advance, but I really wanted to take the kids out to see some fall foliage and decided to risk a long drive (3.5 hours each way) and a solo parenting trip since Peter was on call for work. I booked our stay at the lovely River’s Edge Resort about 10 days before we left.

I would 100% take the trip again. In fact, we had just barely returned from our trip when I booked a return stay in November (hopefully before Highway 20 closes for the winter; keep your fingers crossed for me!).

We enjoyed a hike to Blue Lake and visits to local parks like Homestream Park and the Sa Teekh Wa trail. Although we mostly made our own meals in the well-equipped kitchen at River’s Edge, we did grab coffee from Rocking Horse Bakery and ice cream from Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe.

For more details about our trip, check out the article I wrote for ParentMap.

Julia loves photo opps like these – plenty of signs throughout town reminded people to Mask Up and we loved it!
Reading during a lunch break at Blue Lake
Homestream Park includes beautiful artwork that celebrates the culture of the Methow People (now part of the Colville Confederated Tribes)