Oh sure, you can drive around town this season, clogging the city's side streets while peering through fogged car windows at the many fine (and occasionally freaky) residential displays in the Spokane area. Yeah, you can do that. And there are some doozies each year that mandate at least a quick drive-by. Like in the blocks of Gordon, Glass and Courtland just west of Maple in northwest Spokane. Like Candy Cane Lane south of 37th Avenue and west of Grand Boulevard on the South Hill. Like what is possibly the most impressive display in town -- namely the 20,000-light, 100-figure display at 912 W. Frederick, a veritable winter wonderland where flamingos, pelicans, Tigger, Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, nutcrackers, snowmen, Dickensian carolers and the baby Jesus peacefully co-mingle.
While DIY display-hunting is all well and good, a far more practical (and somewhat more extravagant) option awaits those who partake of the holiday offerings found in and around Spokane's North Idaho neighbor city.
The community of Coeur d'Alene, in fact, is sparing no effort -- or wattage -- to make sure this year's visitors to the Lake City's traditional Holiday Light Show spectacular are properly overwhelmed. Yep, they're going for the shock and awe that only a million sparkling lights reflected in the waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene can induce. It's the largest on-the-water holiday light festival in the nation. And it all starts with the lighting ceremony on Nov. 28 and runs through Jan. 5.
Since the light show's first appearance in 1997, the annual event has grown in size and intensity (nearly 250 displays this year) into a prime Inland Northwest holiday destination, a tradition for some as intrinsic to seasonal bliss as eggnog and mistletoe. And with boat cruises, downtown activities and lodging packages available from local innkeepers, the whole town gets in on the action.
Yet it's the light that attracts.
"It really is the ultimate light show in North America," says Glenn Miesch, president of Lights for All Seasons, the Portland company which creates light shows throughout the West, including the Coeur d'Alene show. "No other light show is reflected in the water like this one. You have double the images, which is an enormous plus to people watching the show. That in itself places Coeur d'Alene as the best show in North America."
The lighting ceremony on Nov. 28 goes down like this: parade through town at 5 pm followed by a 5,000 candle-lit rendition of "Silent Night" on the CdA Resort lawn, followed by fireworks and the full ignition of the holiday light show at 6 pm. Views are good from the marina boardwalk (or from a lakeside room at the resort) but far better from the water. That's where the Holiday Light Show boat cruises come in. There's a lighting ceremony cruise at 5 pm on Nov. 28 and 40-minute cruises that depart each night from the boardwalk (at 4:30, 6 and 7:30 pm) through Jan. 5. The cruises are also the only way kids get to experience the wonderment of the "Santa's Workshop at the North Pole" display, at which the jolly old elf and his Mrs. make an appearance.
The Holiday Light Show lighting ceremony cruise leaves the Coeur d'Alene Resort marina boardwalk on Nov. 28 at 5 pm. Tickets: $18.75; $9.75, for children 6-12; free for children 5 and younger. Cruises are also available every night through Jan. 5 at 4:30, 7:30 and 8:30 pm. Tickets: $10.75; free, children 12 and younger. Call: 877-765-4653.