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Surviving Days Off With Children

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By Joni Kirk

The holidays are upon us, and I don’t simply mean the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Schools also close for extended breaks over the Martin Luther King Jr. and President’s Day holidays, snow days, and parent-teacher conferences. So what is one to do to survive these days off with high-energy kids? Along the Cascade Loop in Snohomish County, activities abound to keep children busy. Here is a sampling of activities we have enjoyed with our three kids.

Mental Activities

Just because kids have the day off doesn’t mean the can’t learn! One way for parents to sneak some learning in is to have a creative art day. At FEELartistic Studio in the Silver Lake area of Everett, the whole family can participate in a clay and glaze class. In this experience, you make a sculpture and paint it with glaze, even using the kiln. I’ve found that this is a great place to make great gifts for others (i.e., Mother’s Day and Father’s Day!) so I don’t feel rushed later on.

Children and pre-teens will enjoy the Imagine Children’s Museum, where they can learn by playing. Whether it’s acting on a stage, making artistic creations, exploring aviation, splashing in the water feature, and experiment with mechanics, there is much to explore. This is not a passive time for parents. There are plenty of hands-on opportunities for parents to play with their kids (and learn, too!). I really enjoyed making music with my kids and “working” in the vet’s office. And kids of all ages (ahem) really like playing with the water feature. Looking to save a few bucks after the holidays? The museum opens its doors to the public for free from 5:30-9:00 p.m. on the third Friday of each month. Since our “family nights” are Fridays, this is a perfect way to play together.

Physical Activities

One free physical activity our family enjoys is scavenger hunts. With the abundance of outdoor art in Snohomish County, each community has treasures to uncover. In particular, downtown Everett is a great place to explore with its numerous freestanding sculptures. From the streets of downtown to the city’s parks, sculptures and artwork are integrated into the landscape for all to enjoy. Our children like to pose with the sculptures, making for some really fun Instagram pictures. Our favorite sculptures in Everett are the family playing hide-and-seek (located outside the Image Children’s Museum). No matter which community you are visiting, identify some of the free public art to explore with your kids.

Our family also likes to hit the trails. One kid-friendly hike that is accessible year round is at Wallace Falls off Hwy 2 in the Stevens Pass Greenway portion of the Cascade Loop. The nine waterfalls that make up Wallace Falls have three viewpoints: lower, middle, and upper. Select a route depending on time and physical abilities. If you can make it to the upper falls, a 5.5 mile round-trip hike with a steep climb at the end, it’s worth the view! Even at young ages, my kids have been appreciative of the great outdoors. This is one way to burn off energy with a very gorgeous reward! Afterward, fuel up little tummies at the Wallace Falls Café in Gold Bar, which has a diverse menu to satisfy any palate.

Entertainment

For anyone who grew up watching Disney’s Cars movies, Speed Racer, or other movies involving racing cars, there is an innate desire to see cars in motion on a track, no matter if you’re 3 or 43. One free activity that will satisfy is watching AutoCross at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe in the Snohomish River Valley area of the Cascade Loop, where drivers reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour on a closed-circuit road course. In this sport, drivers race against the clock, with only one car on the track at a time.

Another related activity – and one a little bit more insane in my book – is Drift, which also takes place at Evergreen Speedway this spring. This is an event where drivers intentionally over steer, spin tires and burn rubber, and take corners while doing so. It’s an adrenaline-packed event, especially when multiple cars are driving at the same time. Tickets for Drift are $10, but free for kids ages six and under (and a good bargain for hours of entertainment). Perhaps it’s a bad idea to plant dangerous ideas in the minds of kids who will be driving in a few years, but the entertainment factor won out for us. My daughter was thrilled to see that there also were female drivers, as well as many fans of both genders.

There are many more family friendly activities along the Cascade Loop in Snohomish County, which should keep you busy on all the school breaks this year. Consider this family memory-making time a prelude to the summer!