In a couple of weeks, most kids around the South Sound – sorry Tacoma students, you need to wait an extra two days – will be in the state of bliss that is winter break.
But that bliss will wear off as fast as the high from ingesting too many sugar plums. Soon boredom will set in.
Fear not adults, there are plenty of ways to keep the kids, and yourselves, entertained between family gatherings and opening presents. Here is our list of things to do outdoors during winter break:
1. GO PLAY IN THE SNOW
Mount Rainier National Park is scheduled to open its snowplay area at Paradise on Dec. 17. The park grooms several runs for older kids and adults, as well as a shorter hill for young children. For safety, only soft-sliding devices – flexible sleds, inner tubes and saucers are allowed. No hard toboggans or runner sleds.
At Olympic National Park, sledding is permitted only in the small children’s snowplay area near the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Only children 8 years and younger may slide there.
2. SWIM IN FEDERAL WAY
The lavish swimming area at the Federal Way Community Center allows you to forget about the cold and play like it’s the middle of the summer. The center has plenty to keep kids and adults entertained including a two-story water slide, a “lazy river” you can float with an inner tube, a lap pool and other activities.
More info: $8 adults, $5 teens (13-17) and seniors (62+) and $4 Youth (3-12). itallhappenshere.org, 253-835-6900
3. DIG FOR RAZOR CLAMS
There are few better outdoor family activities than digging for razor clams, and digs during the holidays are always popular. The state has tentatively set a dig for Dec. 22-23. Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks will be open Dec. 22, when the low tide is at 4:40 p.m. Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks will be open Dec. 23, when the low tide is 5:29 p.m. Adults will need a license.
More info: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams
4. SKATE IN KENT
While the South Sound waits for Sprinker Recreation to reopen for ice skating in January, the Kent Valley Ice Centre continues to be worth the extra driving time. The facility has a public session every day over the holidays including Christmas day and from 9 p.m. on Dec. 31 until 1 a.m. on Jan. 1.
More info: $8.45, $7.31 youth (4-12) and $3.22 for skate rentals. Familynightout.com, 253-852-2932
5. TAKE A HIKE
Just because Washington’s most popular trails are covered with snow during the winter doesn’t mean there aren’t ample opportunities for low-elevation hikes. Pack Forest near Eatonville is loaded with trails that can be used for free. Also try low trails at Olympic National Forest such as the Duckabush River Trail near Quilcene. A $5 per vehicle Forest Pass is required to use the Duckabush River Trail.
More info: www.thenewstribune.com/hikes
6. WINTER WILDLAND
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park staffers will be doing holiday-themed activities with animals, and there will be education activities at Cheney Family Discovery Center from Dec. 26-Jan. 1. This is the third year the event has been held.
More info: Activities are free with admission, nwtrek.org
7. NISQUALLY BIRD WALK
Each Wednesday, Phil Kelley leads a bird walk through the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. The walk covers almost four miles, including a portion of the boardwalk over the estuary. Bring your binoculars and dress for the weather. The walks will be held 8 a.m.-noon Dec. 14, 21 and 28. Meet at the visitor center pond overlook.
More info: If you have questions, contact Kelley at 360-459-1499 or firstname.lastname@example.org. $3 entrance fee for up to four adults.
8. CLIMB AROUND SOUTH SOUND
Stay dry and work out on the faux rock walls at one of three South Sound rock climbing gyms. For $12-15 you can get access to the Olympia Warehouse Rock Gym or Tacoma’s Edgeworks Climbing or Vertical Club. Rentals fees are extra ($5-10). While you can rope up to climb at Edgeworks and the Warehouse, the Vertical Club is a bouldering gym, so belay training is not required.
9. TRY A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING
Olympia’s Parks, Arts and Recreation offers winter break camps for three age groups of children. Activities may include swimming, bowling, skating, movie theater and a snowplay day. The idea is to give kids something different to do each day. Camps will be offered 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Dec. 19-23 and Dec. 27-30 for ages 6-9. 9-12 and 12-15. The camps are based out of The Olympia Center.
More info: Prices range from $125-$179. 360.753.8380, olympiawa.gov/experienceit
10. TAKE THE PLUNGE
There are only two ways to ring in 2012: 1. Jump into the frigid waters of Puget Sound. 2. Do something else. Most of us will choose option No. 2, but if you’re looking for a memorable experience Metro Parks will host a Polar Bear Plunge at noon on Jan. 1 at the Point Defiance Boathouse Marina. Registration begins at 11 a.m. In Lacey, the chilly fun begins at noon Jan. 1 at Long Lake Park, 2790 Carpenter Road. There will be campfires, cocoa, coffee and music culminating with the plunge at 1 p.m.
More info: Tacoma: metroparkstacoma.org; Lacey: 360-491-0857
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497