It’s no secret that every year when the holidays roll around, prices for fun seasonal activities can go up. Unfortunately, this can be one of the biggest challenges for larger families with multiple children or single parents trying to keep up on the everyday grind.
Being a single mom to three kids, I know that struggle all too well, so I decided to venture out and find the most budget-friendly or free things to do so that you don’t have to! Enjoy this little cheat guide on what is going on around the Spokane area all December long.
Fun Holiday Events Around Spokane
Parade of Lights
Did you know that holiday lights and Christmas decorations can have a huge positive mental impact on people? It has been proven that viewing these can help boost serotonin levels and help keep away seasonal depression.
Parade of Lights is a parade created by a student from University High School to positively impact the community and to show just how merry and bright Spokane can be! The Parade of Lights will be held on December 16th and starts at 4:30pm. Parade route will start North on Pines Road from 40th Avenue down to 32nd Avenue.
This event truly brings out the best in people and brings the community together for one special night.
Wheatland Bank Carriage Rides
What is more exciting than having an opportunity to ride in a horse-drawn carriage… for FREE!? Experience old traditions, sightsee the city, and enjoy each other’s company on this 10-minute excursion through downtown Spokane. Heck, even sing some Christmas carols if you’re feeling in the mood!
Wheatland Bank hosts this event, and pick-up is on a first-come, first-served basis at the corner of Wall Street. Rides are offered every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5pm all December long until December 24rd. These horses are just absolutely magnificent, and the whole experience is one you won’t want to miss!
Re*Imagines’ Winter Festival in Medical Lake
Are you looking for a fun day jam-packed with activities for your little ones? Then this is a special and festive way to celebrate the holiday season! Re*Imagines’ winter festival is a day full of so many different things to do around town, all while not breaking the bank.
Festivities start at 1pm and run until 4:15pm and include different activity stations such as helping Santa build toys at Cela’s Creative Learning Academy, reindeer and petting zoo, a gingerbread building contest hosted at City Hall, and SO much more!
Then, stick around for the annual tree lighting ceremony and fireworks show at Coney Island Park. This event is free for all children while supplies last, so you’ll want to show up early! This is happening on December 9th in downtown Medical Lake.
If you can’t make this special day of fun, Coney Island Park will continue to have a self-guided Christmas lights tour all month of December from 5pm-8pm as well as their Christmas Elf Village display, so come check it out and enjoy some pretty holiday lights!
Winter Glow Spectacular
Exactly how it sounds, spectacular! Held in Liberty Lakes’ Orchard Park, this walk-through light show brings the greatest holiday spirit and joy to the community. These lights stretch all across Orchard Park and have tons of tunnels, themed areas, and photo opportunities! Warm your hearts this season by taking a stroll under these sensational lights that bring out a sense of joy and cheerfulness.
When you’re done? Make a pit stop at Sweet Annie’s across the street for some warm holiday drinks. This light show is completely free to the public and even has a playground kids can play on while enjoying these sights! Winter Glow Spectacular will be going every night of December until January 1st.
Orchard Park, Liberty Lake WA
20298 E. Indiana Ave. Liberty Lake Wa 99019
Christmas Tree Elegance
Are you looking for a more calm, relaxing, luxurious atmosphere? Why not grab a warm coffee or cocoa and take a walk through this widely famous display, Christmas Trees of Elegance, located in both the Davenport Hotel and the River Park Square Mall in downtown Spokane? Each individual tree display is beautifully and uniquely designed by local contributors in Spokane and is later raffled off to the public. This is a lovely way to enjoy one another’s company in a more intimate way, and the kids love seeing all the different kinds of creations.
If you’re looking for a little more zest to your night, raffle tickets are only $1 and can be purchased at both locations. Tree displays go up November 28th through December 10th and are open for viewing 10am to 8pm at both locations. This is definitely a cheap and easy way to have a good time and enjoy each other’s company.
Budget Christmas Movies at Garland Theater
One of my own personal favorite family traditions, the Garland Theater is a great option for families wanting to save some money but still get to show their kids the excitement of the Christmas season. Garland Theater always knows how to bring out all of the greatest Christmas classics each year, like Elf, Polar Express, and A Christmas Story.
Christmas movies usually start December 1st with a rotation of different movies each week, and tickets are generally $5.00 a person. But if you’re lucky, you can usually score tickets for $2.50 on Wednesdays! Come to Garland and relax in their reclining chairs, bring your favorite blankets, and snuggle up under the big screen with your family. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Making Spirits Bright at Cowley Park
These delightfully massive displays of lights outside Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital are wildly popular in Spokane. This tradition was originally for the children inside the hospital who couldn’t leave and needed extra holiday magic. Thanks to Avista, children watched from the windows as Cowley Park was transformed into a winter wonderland. They have kept up on the tradition; now it is an exciting annual event you can walk through and interact with.
There are plenty of photo opportunities with the displays, a path to walk the park’s perimeter, and a small playground the kids can play on afterwards. Bundle up nice and go check out these beautiful lights!
Trail of Lights at Riverfront Park
This is the ultimate budget saver. Did you know that Riverfront Park has their own holiday lights? Start at the main entrance of the park and follow the main paths around the park. You’ll get to see so many fun and unique lighting displays like the bridges completely covered in thousands of lights, the street lights turning into shapes of snowflakes, and the loads of creativity all around the park.
Make your way to the Pavilion for a holiday light show every weekend from sunset until 10pm. Riverfront Park is such an easy alternative to spending money; you get the lights and the holiday cheer without spending all the money or waiting in long lines.
Make the most of the night by wandering around Riverfront Park, sitting under the pavilion lights, and if you’re feeling extra cheerful, stop by one of the local coffee shops like Emma Rues or Rocket Bakery for some warm hot chocolate to sip while you walk. We don’t let this cold stop us! This is such a good time, the kids love it, and it’s one of the best free holiday activities out there.
16th and Keller Neighborhood Lights
Ah, like the good old days. Do people still drive around and look at Christmas Lights? I grew up with these neighborhood lights, and every year, my mom would take us kids up and down the blocks of 16th and Keller to look at the massive lit tree, the glowing inflatable Santas, and the brightly lit archways of the driveways.
It’s been a tradition for several years now that the neighborhood gathers together to make the most epic light shows. Rows and rows of houses are complete with lit arches, candy canes, Christmas trees, and blow-up characters. You’ll know you’re in the right neighborhood when you see the massive lit up pine tree, one of the largest lit trees in Spokane’s neighborhoods. It is iconic and there is no way you could miss seeing it.
I swear, each year they get better and better! I’ve even heard rumors that on Christmas Eve Santa and his elves hand out mini candy canes to the kids. If you’re looking for some good old-fashioned Christmas lights to drive by, this neighborhood is the number one spot!
16th and Keller Spokane Valley, WA
Spokane Christmas Light Show
The second-best Christmas light drive through spot on my list! Once again, another big long-time classic in Spokane, and every year, it is a hit! The Glenrose Barn is widely known locally for their fun and unique light show they put on every year. Right off of Glenrose Road, drivers can pull up along the fence line and turn their radios to 99.7FM to listen along to the sequenced dances of the farm animals, lights, and stars.
This holiday activity brings out my inner child, and I love letting my kids unbuckle and climb to the front onto my lap as we watch the nostalgic and classical holiday cheer. This experience your children will love is a fun tradition to start with your families! Located at 3107 S. Glenrose Road, Spokane WA 99223
Kids Holiday Hunt
Are you looking for a fun and thrilling way to explore downtown Spokane? Well, thanks to STCU, they’ve put on a fun and exciting holiday scavenger hunt for kids this season for the ultimate exploration. From November 25th through December 20th, kids can pick out their passports at Auntie’s bookstore, online, or inside River Park Square Mall and use it to locate hidden characters at over 20 participating shops and businesses in downtown Spokane.
Collecting all characters and returning passports will enter you in a raffle for a chance to win the grand prize drawing. Completing passports gets you prizes, and the prizes this year are a variety of family-friendly certificates, tickets, and more. The grand prize winner will be announced December 20th and will receive a downtown family fun pack. All passports must be submitted by December 18th by 8pm.
And as if that isn’t exciting enough, enter into the coloring contest for a chance to win even MORE prizes! This is such an exciting opportunity to not only spend time with your family but also get to explore more of Spokane and win something fun for the entire family together.
Do a Paint Tutorial
For all my art fanatics out there! I’m not sure how many people know about this, but there are SO MANY painting tutorials online for the holiday season. Do you want to learn how to paint a Christmas Gnome? Or an outside winter wonderland? It’s so incredibly simple and easy, and costs hardly anything to do this!
Grab some paint supplies, grab those kids, and cozy up in the living room or dining room and put a tutorial on the TV or any of your devices. These tutorials are step-by-step and slow-moving to teach you everything you need to know about the painting.
Wondering where to get some cheap art supplies without breaking the bank? Check out the local Dollar Tree for supplies. They have incorporated so many new and cool supplies to their arts and crafts section. Another great place to check for art supplies is the Art Salvage in Spokane. Shop local and find so many cool and unique art supplies like brushes, different paints, and knick-knacks like buttons and magnets! Gather up some supplies and explore everyone’s artistic talents this holiday season!
Take advantage of the snow
Snow doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Is it dumping snow, and you feel that seasonal depression creeping up? Bundle everyone up in some layers and go flop in some snow. Go for a walk in it, make some snow angels, or get creative and build something.
Do you have a sled? There are several cool spots all around Spokane that are perfect for sledding. Manito Park is the obvious choice, as they have some pretty astounding and vast hills, as well as Holmberg Park in north Spokane, which has some exhilarating hills.
A few other popular spots for sledding are Underhill Park on the lower South Hill, Mission Park in Spokane Valley, and Mt. Spokane Way North. Don’t let the winter bring you down; these are all great choices for the family to get out and have a little fun with the snow.
Holiday Light Show by the Flying J in Post Falls
Known as Papa’s Lights, I have heard countless stories and reviews on this place, and I decided it needs a spot on this list. While small, hundreds agree that this is one of the best light shows in the region. You are welcome to simply drive by and view from the car or walk through and view these adorable holiday lights, and kids can take rides on the mini coaster ride. Some days you’ll even get to interact with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and even get to see some reindeer!
Follow the group Spokane Christmas Lights on Facebook to keep up with updates on this super fun holiday exhibit, generally run from November 26th to January 1st every year.
350 N. Idahline Road, Post Falls ID
Across the street from the Flying J
Questmas Village at Northern Quest
Last year, this event was ALL the hype, and everyone was talking about it! Northern Quest transforms into Questmas Village, full of Christmas characters like the skiing penguins, bigfoot, and giant snowmen. It also features its own ice skating rink along with hot cocoa, giant Christmas displays, and selfie spots all over the resort- all FREE and open to the public this holiday season!
This year, Questmas Village will be even bigger and better. This exciting event will run from December 1st through February 18th, from 4pm to 9pm Monday through Thursdays and noon to 9pm Saturdays and Sundays. What are you waiting for? See Northern Quest transform into a winter wonderland and explore all that it has to offer.
Coeur d’Alene Downtown Holiday Lights
Similar to Riverfront Park’s “trail of lights”, downtown Coeur d’Alene has their own walk-through of displays and lights all along the resort, across the boardwalks, and over the lake. Bundle up warm, grab some hot chocolate for the kiddos, and take a sweet tour through the resort lawn to enjoy these beautiful winter views.
While enjoying this activity, make sure to keep an eye out for carolers and maybe run into Santa and his reindeer all December long. There is just something so magical about watching Christmas lights over the water from the boardwalk.
Star Wars Christmas Inflatable Spectacular
Come on over to the merry side and check out this stunning 16-foot Darth Vader! This sweet spot features over 25 Star Wars inflatables along with music playing on 107.7 FM and lights to sing along to. Bossk in the glow of this season by driving by or enjoying the view from the sidewalk, and maybe even stumble upon a surprise appearance from random Star Wars characters! They will also be collecting donations for Toys for Tots and Salvation Army if you are in the spirit of giving.
This display will begin December 8th and goes until December 25th from 6pm-10pm and is located at 15604 N. Freya Street, in Mead WA.
Plenty of Budget-Friendly Holiday Activities in the Inland Northwest
Whether it be adventuring out on the town, looking at holiday lights, or snuggling up in your warm home and just spending time together, this list has a variety of options that fit so many different desires. This winter doesn’t have to be boring and lonely just because you’re on a budget.
Christmas is a time of magic and endearment, and so many children enjoy the simplicity of just spending time together. In the end, all that matters is coming together and making the best of your time with your families. So, save a pretty penny and take advantage of these exciting and entertaining activities this holiday season.
Shaye Hubbard is the Content Strategist for Trending Northwest, and is a 2022 Spokane Falls graduate with a degree in Digital Marketing and Social Media Design. She dedicates her efforts to creating compelling content and producing written narratives that can extend beyond mere entertainment, diving into stories that truly matter. Shaye is a major foodie, is passionate about stepping out of her comfort zone, and loves to get crafty. When she is not busy being a mom to her three children, she likes to spend her free time exploring everything our region has to offer, and has an exciting taste for any new adventure.