Favorite holiday events and local traditions make a triumphant return after 2020's year off

click to enlarge Favorite holiday events and local traditions make a triumphant return after 2020's year off
Coeur d'Alene Resort photo
Glide across the lake at night on a "Journey to the North Pole."

When it gets dark at 4:30 pm and the temperatures drop below freezing, finding the energy and motivation to leave the comfort of home can be rough (and honestly, that's OK). To ease those winter blues, holiday cheer is here in the form of twinkling lights, elegantly decorated evergreens and much more. Fortunately, the season is looking a lot brighter and more "normal" in 2021, with many local events considered Inland Northwest traditions back on the calendar.


The child inside most of us will never tire of the wonderful, fuzzy feeling that comes when viewing bright, colorful holiday lights. There's just something about the warmth, the nostalgia, the hopefulness of those shining beacons on a long, dark winter night. Recapture this feeling with a nighttime trek around Liberty Lake's Orchard Park, all from the comfort of a heated car, once again during the Winter Glow Spectacular holiday lights display. Started back in 2014, and originally staged in downtown Spokane, Winter Glow has quickly become a new holiday tradition bringing joy to the community, thanks to donations and dedicated volunteers. Orchard Park, 20298 E. Indiana Ave., free, winterglowspectacular.com

NOV. 25-JAN. 2

See the lights sparkle and shine across the water while floating across the icy cold lake during the Coeur d'Alene Resort's annual holiday lights cruises. These nightly excursions are made even more special for all the children on board — when the boat docks at Santa's workshop, they'll each be greeted by name. Overnight packages at the resort are also offered this season, and some even include milk and cookies delivered to your room, and a fireside storytime for kids. The Coeur d'Alene Resort, 115 S. Second St., $11.50-$26.50 (ages 5 and under free), departs daily at 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 pm, cdaresort.com

SAT, NOV. 27

While Santa set up shop under River Park Square's 50-foot tree last weekend, and retailers have been promoting holiday deals for weeks, Riverfront Park's official holiday kickoff happens after Thanksgiving, as many still feel it surely should. A festive evening of all-ages fun begins at 4 pm with local food trucks and live entertainment from local performance groups — Spokane Children's Theatre, Natanam School of Dance, Spokane Shakespeare Society and others — near the Numerica Skate Ribbon, plus free Starbucks hot chocolate to ward off the chill. In addition to holiday-themed fun, this year's event includes booths from community-centered nonprofits sharing what they do and how to help with that mission. Gather around the towering evergreen tree near the skate ribbon just before 6 pm for a countdown to flip the switch on thousands of twinkling lights. Riverfront Park, 507 N. Howard St., free, 4-7 pm, riverfrontspokane.com

NOV. 30-DEC. 12

After being forced to take 2020 off, the Spokane Symphony Associates' big holiday-themed fundraiser is back. Not only is the 13-day event a vital channel for the nonprofit to raise money that supports the Spokane Symphony Orchestra's musicians, it's also a holiday tradition drawing thousands of attendees each year to view the elaborately decorated trees and prizes that come with each. As always, raffle tickets to win an entire lot, tree and all, are still just $1 each, with all proceeds going to the symphony, thanks to individuals and businesses underwriting the trees and items on them. River Park Square, 808 W. Main Ave. and Historic Davenport Hotel, 10 S. Post; free to view; $1/raffle ticket, spokanesymphonyassoc.org

DEC. 10-19

For the second year in a row, Manito Park's annual holiday lights display, usually held inside the pleasantly warm and steamy Gaiser Conservatory, is again spreading out across the park for a drive-thru format. (For those who miss the traditional indoor experience, let's hope for 2022!) The outdoor setting is intended to keep everyone safely distanced, and is also car-friendly. Entrance to the half-mile, driveable route through the park is on 25th Avenue, either from Grand or Bernard. Keep in mind that because last year's version was so popular, there were some massive traffic backups. To avoid that, consider going during a non-peak time, like a weekday or earlier in the evening. Manito Park, 1702 S. Grand Blvd., free, event times TBA, thefriendsofmanito.org/holiday

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About The Author

Chey Scott

Chey Scott is the Inlander's Arts and Culture Editor and editor of the Inlander's yearly, glossy magazine, the Annual Manual. Chey (pronounced "Shay") is a lifelong resident of the Spokane area and a graduate of Washington State University. She's been on staff at the Inlander since 2012...