by Alondra Hupe
This holiday season, create new adventures and new traditions that the entire family can enjoy. Rather than staying home, take the family through one of the many beautiful towns that the Northwest has to offer. Each town spreads holiday cheer in unique and exciting ways, from local shopping to exciting winter activities. Take in the snowy sights, revel in new cuisines and perhaps feed reindeer along the way.
This Bavarian-styled village located in the Cascade Mountains is known as one of the best Christmas towns in the country. Every December, Leavenworth is decorated with over half a million lights that transports its visitors to the North Pole. The snowy village offers month-long Christmas themed activities for everyone to enjoy. Children can write letters to Santa as well as take pictures with him and his cheerful elves. Enjoy listening to carolers as you find the most unique gifts for your loved ones in the local shops. Participate in the gingerbread house competition and a fun scavenger hunt around the village. Listen to live concerts while you enjoy genuine German food such as bratwurst and schnitzel.
Just down the road is the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, where the family can feed, pet and take photos with reindeer. Stay warm with delicious complimentary cider and cocoa to drink with cookies as you sit by the campfire. Be sure to greet Santa who hangs out at the farm throughout the holiday season. The farm houses the largest geodesic dome on the West Coast where guests can take in the spectacular 360-degree northern lights show. Be sure to book in advance as tickets sell out quickly during the holidays.
If you’re looking for more adventure, try Leavenworth Snowmobile Tours that offer a variety of tours based on skill level and age group. Tours range from one hour up to four hours and along each trail you take in a breathtaking view of the Cascade Mountains and Lake Wenatchee as you travel up to 5,800 feet. To plan your perfect holiday vacation to Leavenworth, go to leavenworth.org, leavenworthreindeer.com and leavenworthsnowmobile.com.
Hood River, OR
With the entire city of Hood River covered in powdery snow and Mount Hood overlooking from above, you enter a majestic winter wonderland filled with exciting new discoveries. The downtown shopping district is lined with historic brick buildings filled with boutiques, antique shops and adventure gear, perfect for your holiday shopping. As you shop and dine, enjoy a beautiful waterfront view of Hood River reflecting against a blanket of snow. Afterward, dress in your favorite holiday pajamas and bring the entire family down to the Mount Hood Railroad for the annual Christmas Train. From November through December, embrace the magic and spirit of the holidays by taking a train to Christmas Town. At arrival, Santa Claus and his elves will hop aboard to greet every child with a gift. Enjoy characters singing and dancing to your favorite Christmas songs as you sip on hot cocoa.
Only a thirty-minute drive from Hood River is the iconic Multnomah Falls, a 600-foot waterfall that is nearly frozen in the wintertime. As you make your way to the base of the falls, stop by the Multnomah Falls Lodge for a cup of coffee to warm up as you take in the marvelous icy waterfall view. The frigid Oregon chill doesn’t have to keep you seated indoors during your stay, instead stop by the Brimstone Boulders. An indoor rock-climbing gym inside of a renovated church. Climb up to fifteen-foot-tall walls as you appreciate the church’s beautiful original stained-glass windows. After an adrenaline filled evening, enjoy a well-earned drink around the corner at any of Hood River’s breweries. For more information about Hood River and activities, go to visithoodriver.com, mthoodrr.com, multnomahfallslodge.com and brimstoneboulders.com.
Located near the Idaho border is the delightful city of Spokane, where you can experience the entire winter landscape from 200 feet above on the Numerica Skyride, known as “One of the Top 12 Scenic Cable Rides in the World.” Sit comfortably in an all-weather cabin as you ride over the Spokane and the second largest urban falls in the United States. After taking in the sights, head over to the North Monroe district to shop at local antique and vintage stores to find the most unique gifts.
Immerse yourself in the winter season by visiting the first and only ice-skating ribbon on the West Coast. Bring the family to skate on more than 600 feet of icy pathway in the middle of the city, along with drinking cocoa by cozy fire pits. Don’t forget to reserve a private illuminated igloo at the Davenport Grand hotel. Each igloo is located on the outdoor second floor patio and can accommodate up to six people. The igloos come with their own private butler, a spread board of your choosing and Bluetooth speakers. The igloo interiors are decorated with beautiful soft lighting, plush seating and blankets. The entire experience is perfect for a unique holiday meal with your loved ones.
Sun Valley, ID
Plan your holiday vacation to the incredible town of Sun Valley, a ski resort village filled with winter activities for you and your family to enjoy. If you take pride in your angling prowess, don’t forget to bring your rod along with your skis. Winter fly fishing has become a rising activity with locals and visitors fishing in the Big Wood River and Silver Creek. For a little more adrenaline, go paragliding off of Bald Mountain. Fly Sun Valley offers an exciting and thrilling experience by launching off the summit of the mountain and gliding down 3,000 feet to the base. A tandem flight with an experienced paragliding pilot soothes the first-timer jitters. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the entire winter landscape of this beautiful valley as you soar like an eagle.
Bald Mountain offers more than one way to see the sights such as a gondola ride to The Roundhouse restaurant. Enjoy the authentic Sun Valley charm with a delicious meal and amazing views. In the heart of the classic mountain town, local shops are open for holiday gift giving, offering a range of style from Main Street USA to European. Head over to the Sun Valley Inn for a scenic sleigh ride that takes you to see the beautiful snow filled mountains surrounding Sun Valley and Ketchum.
The Montana landscape is widely known for its rugged beauty and wide-open spaces. The city of Missoula is no exception and, with an added sheet of frosty snow, you have an unforgettable holiday destination. Located in downtown Missoula is the Hip Strip, an entire collection of local stores that sell the perfect gifts such as records, art and vintage clothing. Sign up for a brewery tour through the Montana Adventure Shuttle to try award-winning craft beers and to experience the western Montana charm. Choose from a variety of suggested tours or create your own tour where you pick the locations.
Use Missoula as a home base for day trips to explore the winter wonderland that is Western Montana. About an hour’s scenic drive from Missoula you’ll find the town of Seeley Lake. Upon arriving, head to the Tamaracks Resort to rent fat bikes, these mountain bikes have oversized tires to allow for biking along the snowy trails. Ride around the lake or any number of maintained trails around the resort to enjoy nature in a fun, new way. Another unique Montana experience is dog sledding, available a couple hours away from Missoula at Base Camp Bigfork. The sledding experience is completely hands on as you will be in full control of a team of Inuit sled dogs. Half days and full days are available depending on your skill level end endurance; either way you sign up for a remarkable adventure to remember.