by Ann M. Colford

They are a family that values traditions and classic celebrations, especially around the holidays. On Sunday, Dec. 5, let's peek in as the whole family -- Mom and Dad, their six-year-old daughter and Grandma -- heads downtown to take in the holiday sights and sounds.

First stop is the Davenport Hotel, where they stroll the mezzanine admiring the holiday decorations. The family enters the Palm Court Restaurant for an elegant brunch. Plates like Pan Seared Dungeness Crab Cakes and Mushroom Ravioli appeal to the adult palates, while the pancakes and French toast keep the little one happy.

After brunch, there's just enough time for a visit to River Park Square, home to dozens of retailers. The family stops first at the Tree of Sharing booth to select the name of a Spokane-area low-income family in need of a holiday gift. Each year, the gift drive fills thousands of requests from local families. While our family's list seems to get longer every season, there's always room for one more.

The mall is festooned with holiday sparkles and lights, adding to the excitement of holiday shopping. Nordstrom offers plenty of choices, with classic fashions and tasteful gifts for nearly everyone, but our little cherub pleads for a visit to Children's Corner Books and Toys. There, she can catch up on the latest adventures of Olivia, the feisty little girl who happens to be a white pig and who is featured in three books by author Ian Falconer. Grandma manages to buy the latest book and a special Olivia tea set, while Dad keeps the princess distracted.

Across the mall, Made in Washington has just the right gifts for the cousins back east. Huckleberry candies and hand-crafted items made by regional artisans convey a hint of Northwest flavor for those who aren't lucky enough to live here.

A quick glance at the watch reveals -- oh, my goodness, it's nearly time for the Nutcracker! Now our little girl twirls like ballerina along Spokane Falls Boulevard, past the water fountain and across the broad lobby of the Opera House. Soon the Spokane Symphony fills the hall with Tchaikovsky's familiar strains, and the dancers of the Alberta Ballet bring the story of Clara and Fritz to life. When Clara awakens to the dream world of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King, Mom steals a glance at her daughter who sits entranced as the fantasy unfolds. She remembers her first Nutcracker, all those years ago, as she sat next to her own mother, who's still there right beside her. Another generation will now treasure this family tradition.

They emerge onto darkened streets, but the lights and decorations lend a festive air. A horse-and-carriage ride through downtown seems like just the thing after spending all afternoon indoors. Then, with reddened cheeks and bright smiles, it's time for the last stop of the day: a visit and photo with Santa.

After all the excitement of the day, the six-year-old is fading fast. So is Grandma (even though she hates to admit it). Mom and Dad drop the two weary ones back at home then drive across the river to Clinkerdagger in the Flour Mill for a relaxing dinner for two. A bottle of wine and an appetizer of Warm Brie with Macadamia Nut Crust helps them unwind, and pretty soon they're reliving the highlights of the day. Lingering long over coffee and dessert -- burnt cream, of course -- they begin building the memories that will last through a lifetime of holidays.

Summer Parkways @ South Hill

Through June 20
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