Last weekend we took a trip on the Yuletide Express, the 2020 answer to prior years’ Santa Train at the Northwest Railway Museum.
In short, my train-loving kids loved their own private car (accidental, but very much appreciated) and seeing all the antique train cars. Even though they know Santa’s not real (I promise they won’t tell your kids), they loved their short visit with Kris Kringle. I wrote more about our experience for Seattle’s Child.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.