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Eyes All Aglow 

Though children are most charmed this season, grown-ups shouldn't overlook the holiday's warm nostalgia

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Hanging with Santa

In the weeks leading up to the big day, Santa treks southbound from the North Pole to meet and greet kids on the "nice" list all around the Inland Northwest. He's ready to say hello, take a few pictures, prove he's real and amp up the Christmas cheer. This year, River Park Square welcomes back Spokane's most experienced Santa Claus, Jim Burney, who's celebrating his 40th year wearing the red suit and welcoming starry-eyed tots to his knee. Burney prepares all year for the season, keeping his beard full and his belly round. Santa is on duty daily at River Park Square, from Nov. 28-Dec. 24; times vary. riverparksquare.com

Little snow bunnies can also be on the lookout for Mr. and Mrs. Claus at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, as they'll be making their appearance right before Christmas, handing out candy and cruising down the slopes. Keep your eyes peeled for a can't-miss, red-suited figure on snowy slopes on Dec. 23 and 24. Before hopping into his sleigh, Santa also hears last-minute requests from his young fans on Christmas Eve in Schweitzer's Selkirk Lodge.

Although the popular Mobius Children's Museum Santa Breakfast already is sold out, a similar event takes place at Spokane Valley's CenterPlace Event Center, serving a pancake meal to kiddos and offering photos with the man himself. Sat, Dec. 6, at 8:30 am. $5; pre-registration recommended, as last year's event sold out. spokanevalley.org/santabreakfast

Since there's nothing cuter than St. Nick, kids and animals all together, bring the whole family — including the dogs and cats — to Coeur d'Alene's Silver Lake Mall for an adorable photo op. Monday nights, Dec. 1-15. Also at River Park Square on Sun, Dec. 14, from 6-7 pm.

Finally, everyone deserves to have a personalized experience with Santa, so if your child needs a little extra assistance, don't miss out on Silver Lake's Santa Cares Program. The special visiting session accommodates children with disabilities. Sun, Dec. 7, from 9:30-11 am. silverlakemall.com

No surprise: the jolly old man is really busy. The question is: are you going to keep busy, too, tracking him down all over the region?

A Kid-Appropriate New Year's Eve

Who says First Night has to be tame just because you have little ones in tow? Spokane's biggest New Year's Eve celebration, now in its 14th year, is totally geared toward kids and their families, providing entertaining alternatives to the drinking and chaos elsewhere. Ice skate at Riverfront Park for free, interact with a caricature artist, make crafts, take pictures in photo booths, admire the epic balloon display at the Convention Center, and marvel at ice carvings. Bundle up in your warmest hats and coats, and make sure to stake out a good spot for the fireworks show and midnight countdown. First Night buttons (on sale now), giving access to the night's many attractions, also make a great gift idea. Wed, Dec. 31. $15-$18. firstnightspokane.org

A Brag-Worthy Holiday Photo

If you're planning to send out an annual reminder to all those distant friends and relatives that your family is just the cutest ever, why not have this year's holiday card photo taken inside the historic Campbell House? The backdrop for the studio-quality photographs is an elaborately decorated Christmas tree inside the Kirtland Cutter-designed home's ornate library. Included in the cost is admission to the MAC, so while you're there, don't miss taking the whole family to see its ongoing exhibits, including the big "100 Stories" showcase of our region's history. All proceeds support continued preservation of the Campbell House and its history. Reserve your session for Sat, Nov. 29, between 10 am-4 pm. $50/group of up to eight (no pets). northwestmuseum.org

Entertained by Education

Parents: don't be daunted by the task of keeping your kids occupied during their holiday break from school. Instead, send them to the Kroc Center's School's Out Day Camp, where staff members make crafts, swim and play games with your energetic rascals. There are also plenty of day camps geared toward young, budding scientists, too. Mobius Science Center's Winter Day Camps teach about the wonders of outer space and the rockets that take astronauts there, among other subjects. Mobius' camps are for grades 3-5; the Kroc's programs are open to ages 6-13. Details at kroccda.org and mobiusspokane.org

An Owl Breed of Santa

Travel alongside two fluffy rabbits, Little Snow and Big Snowshoe, as they inquire of their woodland friends about the mysterious Santa of the animal kingdom, who turns out to be a regal owl with a red cap and basket full of goodies. Each animal's wild imaginations inspire their faith in this legendary gift-giver. In a special holiday event at the Bing Crosby Theater hosted by Auntie's Bookstore, the bestselling, celebrated author and illustrator Jan Brett (even grown-ups remember her books The Mitten and The Wild Christmas Reindeer) reads her newest book, The Animals' Santa, for book lovers of all ages. Sun, Dec. 14, at 5 pm. Free. auntiesbooks.com

Spread Some Cheer

The emphasis of the season is giving, after all, and there's no better time to get the whole family together to give back to those with less.

Picking out gifts for friends and family is a fun way to help others. The Santa Express holiday store offers inexpensive toys and goodies for kids on an allowance budget, while also supporting the mission of the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery. Open daily through Dec. 23. 707 W. Main, skywalk level. vanessabehan.org

Holiday celebrations wouldn't be what they are without some tasty food. Families are invited to Second Harvest's Family Night to sort donated goods for the hungry. Kids ages 9 and older can join their parents to gain awareness of others' state of living this season. Thu, Dec. 4, from 5:30-7:30 pm. 2-harvest.org

Get grounded with Union Gospel Mission's Sock Drive. For those who have trouble keeping warm this winter, a dry, thick pair of socks can be invaluable. Keeping those toes toasty helps prevent injury and other health issues due to exposure. Drop off donations any day of the week at the men's shelter, at 1224 E. Trent. ugmspokane.org

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