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City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks 

Spend a night on the town to enjoy the city in all its holiday splendor

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Light Up the Night

A fresh, light dusting of snow would make it even more magical. Keep your fingers crossed for the little snowflake icon in the forecast to come true as the days approach the official lighting ceremony for the inaugural Spokane Winter Glow Spectacular.

The non-electrical force behind the lights is Jerry Schmidt, co-founder of another Spokane tradition, Hoopfest. Schmidt has big dreams that the holiday lights displayed throughout Riverfront Park will become another longstanding local tradition. Considering all the stops organizers are pulling out for its first year, that dream is poised to come true.

By the time you're reading these words, Spokane's downtown park gem already will be filled with more than 200 metal-framed, light-wrapped pieces — Christmas trees, Santas, snowmen, holiday packages and animals galore. The big unveiling of 31 individual twinkling displays scattered throughout the park, and a mind-blowing animal light zoo is set for the day after Thanksgiving, to appropriately kick off the official start of the holidays. The lights, up through the New Year, will be turned on nightly. Take a free walking tour or view the magical sights by carriage ($15) or wagon ($5). Lighting ceremony Fri, Nov. 28, at 6:30 pm at the Rotary Fountain. Winter Glow lights are up Nov. 29-Jan. 1, and lit nightly from 5-9 pm. spokanewinterglow.com

Small-Town Charm

Spokane is no Bedford Falls, but there's plenty of small-town, nostalgic charm to enjoy during the holidays if you venture outside of the city limits a bit.

With the tag line "the town that still believes," Dayton boasts one of Eastern Washington's most authentic holiday season kickoffs. The two-day event (Nov. 28-29) always starts the day after Thanksgiving, and continues through Saturday. The Christmas Kickoff's most visually exciting feature is a lighted parade down Main Street on the first evening. Dayton is a rural town, which naturally means there'll be tractors and combines decked out in holiday lights alongside emergency vehicles and locals' vintage cars. Follow the trail of lights down to the Elk Drug pharmacy, where a full-grown evergreen is lit after the parade and some community caroling. To top off the evening, the Palouse town of 2,500 residents sparkles beneath a fireworks show.

"It's the complete opposite of Black Friday's big-box store frenzy," says Linze Greenwalt, event coordinator with the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. "It's really a wonderful place to be right after Thanksgiving."

Visitors from all around, including Walla Walla, the Tri-Cities and Spokane, make the drive to the historic town for its quintessential Norman Rockwellian festivities, like mule-drawn wagon rides through the town. Events are Nov. 28, starting at noon, and Nov. 29, starting at 11 am. Find the full schedule at historicdayton.com.

A little closer to home, the small North Idaho town of Rathdrum has been kicking off the season in delightful fashion for at least the past three decades. The town's December D'Lights celebration takes place the first weekend of December (Dec. 5-6) and like Dayton's, includes a tree-lighting ceremony and "Lighted Rig Parade" on Saturday. Community members are welcome to decorate their vehicles for the event, which winds through Rathdrum's neighborhoods after starting on Main Street. Also on the celebration's first night, a Friday, as many as 500 residents enjoy free horse-drawn carriage rides to sing carols as they meander through Rathdrum's Deerfield neighborhood to view its homes' holiday lights. A friendly competition organized by the Rathdrum Chamber of Commerce encourages residents on the carriage ride route to go all out, says membership and events coordinator Shanie Rountree.

"We love to have everyone come out," she says. "But it's the small-town, old-fashioned Christmas atmosphere and friendliness that makes it special."

Events are Fri, Dec. 5, from 5-8 pm, and Sat, Dec. 6, from 1-5:30 pm. Find details at rathdrumchamberofcommerce.com.

Window Shopping

Even the grumpiest Scrooge can't deny it — downtown Spokane really is a modern delight during the Yuletide season. From the light-strung trees lining Main Avenue to the new Winter Glow Spectacular in the park, our city sparkles and shines through the New Year. In between dinner with visiting relatives and holiday gift shopping, take some time to soak in the spirit. Take an old-fashioned ride through downtown via horse and carriage with the free, STCU-sponsored rides, which pick up/drop off at Main and Wall. Then, head through the downtown skywalks to catch strolling carolers in costume throughout the month. This year, the Downtown Spokane Partnership has also encouraged local businesses to decorate their storefronts and lobbies around the festive theme "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and is offering a walking tour map to highlight the best displays. Carriage rides offered Nov. 28-Dec. 24 (noon-3 pm) on Fri, 3-8 pm, and Sat-Sun, noon-5 pm. Strolling carolers can be found Fri, 3-9 pm; Sat, noon-9 pm; Sun, 2-6 pm. Find the walking tour map at downtownspokane.org.

The Naughty and the Nice

Since its inception four years ago as a feel-good marketing campaign launched by American Express, Small Business Saturday (Nov. 29) has grown to become a national movement to shun the corporate ploys of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On Small Business Saturday, shoppers can feel good about supporting their community, while not padding a 1-percenter's pocket. Watch for the Inlander's annual holiday gift guide, out on Dec. 11, for more on shopping local. If your gift hunting can't wait 'til then, try these local suggestions for the people on your list:

Sweet, forgetful grandmother
Anemone Paper Flowers, 301 W. Second
Don't burden her with something that needs regular watering to thrive. These locally made paper blooms will withstand the test of time.

Beer-connoisseur brother
The Growler Guys, 9329 N. Newport Hwy.
Though not entirely local, the founders of this beer fill-and-go concept are from not far away in Bend, Oregon. There's soon to be a South Hill spot, too, and gift cards with an empty growler are ideal for a hard-to-buy-for, beer-loving guy or gal.

Office-dwelling fashionista
Paper Nerd Stationary Co., 159 S. Lincoln
A new addition to the local circuit this season, Paper Nerd Stationary Co. is the counterpart to French Toast, a Francophile children's boutique in Steam Plant Square. There you'll find office accessories, party supplies and all things, well, made of paper. ♦

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