Family-friendly ways to close out 2015 and launch into 2016 include the Gingerbread Village, Ice Arena skating, Garden d’Lights, New Year’s at the Needle, Polar Bear Plunge and Washington State Parks First Day Hikes.
Happy new year! There’s still time to enjoy local holiday events. Many continue until Jan. 1, and a few are open beyond that, including the Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel through Jan. 3 in downtown Seattle.
Magic Season Ice Arena is open daily for skating through Jan. 10 at Bellevue Downtown Park, including 3-11 p.m. Friday, and Garden d’Lights light sculptures illuminate Bellevue Botanical Garden daily through Saturday, Jan. 2, including 4:30-9:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 25.
Seattle’s biggest welcome to 2016, the New Year’s at the Needle fireworks extravaganza at the iconic Space Needle, is next Thursday, Dec. 31. To pass the time at Seattle Center until the big show at midnight, Winterfest Ice Rink in Fisher Pavilion is open until 11:30 p.m. Dec. 31, and there’s a free, all-ages dance with rock ’n’ roll party band The Machine from 8 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. in the Armory. The Space Needle Observation Deck and restaurants close at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 31 for private, sold-out events.
If you go
Gingerbread Village: 24 hours a day through Jan. 3, Sheraton Seattle Hotel, 1400 Sixth Ave., Seattle; free, donations collected for JDRF Northwest Chapter. 206-621-9000 or sheratonseattle.com/gingerbread-village
Magic Season Ice Arena: 3-11 p.m. Friday, Dec. 25; hours vary through Jan. 10, Bellevue Downtown Park, 10201 N.E. Fourth St., Bellevue; $9-$12. bellevuedowntown.com
Garden d’Lights: 4:30-9:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 2, Bellevue Botanical Garden, 12001 Main St., Bellevue; $5, ages 10 and younger free. 425-452-6844 or gardendlights.org
New Year’s at the Needle: Winterfest, 10 a.m.-11:45 p.m. Dec. 31, Seattle Center Armory, free; Ice Rink, 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Dec. 31, Fisher Pavilion, $2-$7; Space Needle fireworks at midnight. 206-684-7200 or seattlecenter.com
Polar Bear Plunge: Registration, games, music, 10 a.m.; Bear Cub Club plunge for children and anyone needing more room shortly before main plunge at noon Jan. 1, Matthews Beach Park, 93005 First Ave. N.E., Seattle; free. seattle.gov/parks
State Parks First Day Hikes: Various times and locations Jan. 1; adventureawaits.com/2015/12/adventure-first-day-hikes-2016
The Monorail will be open until 1 a.m., closed for safety reasons from about 11:15 p.m. until the fireworks show at the Space Needle is over, resuming about 12:20 a.m. to transport visitors after the show.
Many stalwart folks are planning to start the new year with gusto at the Polar Bear Plunge at Seattle’s Matthews Beach, the largest of several local cold-water dips on New Year’s Day. All who immerse themselves neck-deep in Lake Washington earn a commemorative Badge of Courage to get their year off to an audacious start, and the festive event includes games and music; spectators are welcome. The 14th annual event is co-sponsored by Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Meadowbrook Community Center Advisory Council.
For another bracing, dare we say less crazy, start to the new year outdoors, Washington State Parks host First Day Hikes at 25 parks around the state Jan. 1. New Year’s Day is also a State Parks Free Day so the usual Discover Pass is not required on vehicles at all state parks. First Day ranger-led nature walks, beach walks and hikes will be at Dash Point State Park in Federal Way, Flaming Geyser State Park in Auburn and Saltwater State Park in Des Moines, with many more on Camano Island, Hood Canal, Whidbey Island, along the Washington coast and in Eastern Washington. Most don’t require preregistration, and the Washington State Parks Adventure Awaits blog welcomes First Day Hikes participants to share photos and stories of their New Year’s Day adventures.