Last-Minute Holiday Events for the end of Winter Break!

This article was originally posted to my column in Gig Harbor Now


Seeking some post-Christmas cheer while the kids are still out of school? Here’s the last of the local holiday events, albeit most are in the Tacoma area — but the worth the drive! If you’ve got something to add, email me at tonya.strickland@gigharbornow.org.

NOTE: Tickets are officially sold out to the remaining days of the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s annual Zoolights event.

Hands On Children’s Museum’s Noon Year’s Eve Party

Event Website

2022 event

Deets: Celebrate the end of 2023 without missing bedtime. This party includes a daytime countdown ball drop and bubble dance party every hour until 4 p.m. at the museum’s popular “Noon Year’s Eve Party.” Make wands, wings and woodland crowns in the special Fairy Hollow area and explore the Winter Wonder Faire by skating in your socks, chatting with costumed fairy characters and a snapping a pic in the family photo booth. 

Times/Days left: One-time event happening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023

Location: 414 Jefferson St. NE, Olympia

Sign up: Time-entry tickets required. This event is included with regular museum admission or membership. Museum members get in free, but still need member reservations. (NOTE: Two In Two recommends reserving your tickets online. Last year we didn’t pre-book and were stuck in the front desk line for over an hour!)

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Model Train Fest, Washington State History Museum

Event Website

Deets: The Washington State History Museum transforms into an indoor model train wonderland in this annual holiday event for all ages. The festival is included with regular museum admission or membership.

Days left: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and Monday. Ends after New Year’s Day.

Location: 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma

Sign up: Purchase tickets online or at the museum, or visit for free with your membership. Museum parking costs money: find the parking kiosk at the base of the museum’s stairs; credit cards are accepted; the parking fee schedule is listed here. (NOTE: Outside discounts and library passes are not valid during the Model Train Festival).

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Pierce County’s 29th Annual Fantasy Lights (drive-through)

Event Website

Deets: In this drive-through holiday light event, over 300 animated displays light up Spanaway Park. Wind through the two-mile route to see the  thousands of sparkling lights. Here’s a Facebook post about it. At one point, these special 3D light glasses were available for purchase at the gate while supplies lasted.  (NOTE: Fantasy Lights WALK will return in 2024)

Location: 14905 Bresemann Blvd. South, Spanaway (21 miles from Artondale).

Times/Days left: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday. Ends after Jan. 1, 2024/New Year’s Day.

Sign up: Admission fees are charged per vehicle. Visit here for details. 

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Seymour Conservatory Winter Flower Show

Event Website

Wright Park in 2022; with the Seymour Conservatory in the background

Deets: This holiday floral exhibit features 10 different poinsettias, tropical foliage and whimsical touches throughout the historical 1908 glass building run by Metro Parks Tacoma. The conservatory’s permanent plant collection includes ferns, palms, figs, bromeliads, orchids and many other rare, unusual and endangered plants as well as changing floral exhibits.

Location: Seymour Conservatory at Wright Park, 316 South G St., Tacoma

Times/Days left: From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday through Jan. 7, 2024 (except Sunday, Dec. 31, when Seymour Conservatory is closed for New Years Eve). 

Sign up: No registrations, just show up!

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Pierce County’s Ice Lights 

Event Website

Deets: Sprinker Recreation Center’s ice rink is transformed with 35,000 lights, animated displays, and falling snow with a giant lighted tree in the center of the rink. Open to all ages. Download the daily schedule here. Watch a video of the event here. Extras while you’re there include buying 15-min rides on the Ice Bumper Car; and booking an Ice Skating session (skate rentals also available).

Times/Days left: Sprinkler Recreation Center offers ice skating and bumper cars, but the Ice Lights decorations will remain up 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 29 and Saturday, Dec 30; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday Dec. 31. The building closes at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Location: Sprinker Recreation Center, 14824 C St. South, Tacoma/Spanaway

Sign up: Tickets are sold at the door for all ice skating sessions; bumper cars can be booked online in advance.

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Tacoma Light Trail | New Year’s Eve Kick-Off Celebration

Event Website

Deets: The Tacoma Light Trail is a free winter festival featuring artists’ light-up displays stationed at various downtown Tacoma locations. The trail is walkable and drivable: look for the lighted artworks in shop windows, projected onto buildings, and more. The event kicks off  with a light parade led by a fire-breathing dragon, live music, dancing and food for sale in a special community celebration at Tollefson Plaza, 1548 Commerce St., in Tacoma.

Times/Days left: The Tollefson Plaza Kick-Off event goes from 5:30 to 10 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 31; then the The Tacoma Light Trail lights up nightly throughout the downtown from 5 to 9 p.m. through Jan. 14, 2024.

Locations: Tacoma w/specifics listed above. View the map here.

Sign up: Free/bring food money. No signups, just show up.

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Polar Bear Plunge

Event Website

Deets: Kick off the new year by plunging into the cold waters of the Puget Sound. Warm beverages, propane heating stations and life jackets will be available at the event. Participants get a commemorative fleece blanket with their entry ticket purchase while supplies last. Costumes are welcome and encouraged but not required. Shoes are highly recommended. Check out the Facebook pics from Metro Parks Tacoma.

Day/Time: One day only: Monday, Jan 1, 2024 with plunges at 11:30 a.m. for adults; and 12:30 p.m. for kids (ages 3+) and families.

Location: Point Defiance Marina Boat Launch, 5912 N Waterfront Drive, Tacoma

Sign up: Register online here. Day-of registration is also available, starting 10 a.m. (no cash accepted). Lifeguards and divers will be stationed on the docks.

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Gig Harbor City Hall Art Show

Deets: Not holiday event, but here’s my last reminder that the public can still see art from Wyatt’s second-grade class from Artondale Elementary School (Mrs. Oake) at Gig Harbor City Hall through December and into early January. The free exhibit features creative interpretations of artist Katsushika Hokusai’s Japanese woodblock print Under the Wave Off Kanagawa, circa 1830. View the exhibit from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday at the Gig Harbor Civic Center, 3510 Grandview St. The art lesson was facilitated by local nonprofit Peninsula Hands On Art.

Times/Days left: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday 

Location: the Gig Harbor Civic Center, 3510 Grandview St.

Sign up: Free. No signups, just show up.

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For other ideas, make sure to check out the

Gig Harbor Now Event Calendar!

About Tonya Strickland

Tonya Strickland is a journalist and Instagram influencer in the family and travel niche. A former newspaper reporter, Tonya shares unfiltered #momlife content about places to go with kids. Her family moved from California's Central Coast to Washington state in August 2020. Their adventures now continue in the Pacific Northwest.

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