Holiday Traditions and Twists

Holiday Classics

Twirl on Ice Skates

The Chi Franciscan Polar Plaza, Tacoma’s temporary skating rink, is moving from downtown to Point Ruston this year. All year long, ice skate indoors at Sprinker Recreation Center in Parkland. It even offers discounted “cheapskate” sessions.

See Twinkling Lights

Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park and Zoolights at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium both offer dazzling displays. Fantasy Lights is a 2-mile drive along Spanaway Lake perfect for younger kids, especially. It runs Nov. 23-Jan. 1. Zoolights includes more than a half million lights in beautiful, 3D animal displays. It runs Nov. 24-Jan. 1.

Visit Santa

The big guy will be at locations around the South Sound. Or go visit him at the North Pole at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup. You can reserve a photo time, and kids can explore a building of themed play areas before or after. Not having to wait in a long line is a huge plus for families with young children.

Visit Reindeer

Watson’s Greenhouse and Nursery in Puyallup hosts real reindeer every year, starting shortly after Thanksgiving. They’re free to visit. This is a quick, low-key outing. The nursery is also colorfully decorated this time of year and fun to browse, with plenty of gift items.

 New Twists

Stomp in Snowshoes

Mount Rainier National Park offers guided snowshoe trips for families with children 8 and older. These typically begin in late December, though you’ll want to check for details, as it’s weather-dependent. There also is a snow play area for sledding at Paradise that typically opens in late December.

See (or Cruise) Sparkling Ships

You can take a cruise on one of the Argosy Christmas ships, which are decked out for the holidays, or watch the lighted ships go by at an area bonfire or other event and hear a performance from choirs or carolers onboard. Tickets to ride are a bit of a splurge, but the onshore community events are typically free. Visit to find Tacoma and Gig Harbor area stops and sailings.

Spot Salmon

They can’t pull a sleigh, but in November, you can see salmon coming home to spawn. We love this uniquely Northwest way to observe the changing seasons. In November, more than 5,000 visitors head to the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail near Olympia, where volunteers answer questions and help with salmon spotting. McLane Creek is another good option. Note that this is the end of a salmon’s natural life, so don’t go if you’re not prepared to see (and smell) some dead fish.

High-Five The Grinch

Metro Parks Tacoma offers a breakfast Dec. 16 that includes a Who-Ville-themed feast, a picture with Santa, and Grinch-themed crafts. It’s $8 for residents and $10 for everyone else. Purchase advance tickets at the Portland Avenue Community Center because they will sell out fast.

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