Many of us have already been caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays, and winter break for school kids just started.
But fear not, the next two weeks do not need to be solely a blizzard of wrapping paper, endless hugs from distant aunts, late-night revelry or holiday parties.
No, the world of the outdoors beckons with offers of fresh air, fun and maybe a little education if you so choose. There are a multitude of things to do and places to see in the next couple of weeks.
Check out our list of recommendations for family activities:
Learn how humans lived in the past during Archaeology Day at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Visitors can learn what tools ancient people made and how they made them, as well as what was going on around the Puget Sound 40, 400, and 4,000 years ago.
Activities include demonstrations of how stone tools are made, the chance to use an atlatl (a spear-throwing tool) and artifacts found in the Puget Sound region.
The event will take place from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Jan. 4. The museum is on the University of Washington campus at 17th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 45th Street.
Get details, including admission prices, at burkemuseum.org.
DON YOUR RUNNING SHOES
There are plenty of runs during the holiday break, including the Jingle Bell Run at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Bring family and friends to Wright Park, 316 S. G St., Tacoma, to take part in the 3-mile run or walk. Registration is $10 in advance or $25 on race day. Sign up at metroparkstacoma.org, South Sound Running stores in Tacoma and Puyallup, or at MetroParks community centers and headquarters.
On New Year’s Day, Metro Parks Tacoma will hold a First Mile run, featuring a flat, fast 1-mile run/walk near the Point Defiance Marina. It’s free. It begins at 11 a.m., leaving plenty of time to take part in the Polar Bear Plunge afterwards. No registration needed.
To finish the holiday break on the run, you can take part in the fourth annual White Elephant Run on Jan. 4 in Olympia. The race begins at 9 a.m. The 5-mile run will start and finish on Boston Street Southeast near the Olympia South Sound Running store. Pre-registration is $5, $10 the day of the race. For details, go to whiteelephantrun.yolasite.com.
If you want to get outdoors, stretch your legs and learn a bit about nature, takes part in the Tahoma Audubon Society’s Morse WinterFest on Saturday.
Visitors will have the chance to look for animal tracks while sipping hot cocoa as they walk through the various habitat zones of the 98-acre Morse Wildlife Preserve.
The free event will run from noon-3 p.m. and is for ages 6 and older. The preserve is at 25415 70th Ave. E., Graham. No pets, and carpooling is encouraged.
To RSVP and get directions, contact Tahoma Audubon by calling 253-565-9278 or going to tahomaaudubon.org by Monday.
For those who want to celebrate the new year in a more brisk fashion, there is always a Polar Bear plunge on Jan. 1.
In Tacoma, the event will take place at the Point Defiance boat launch, 5912 N. Waterfront Drive, in Point Defiance Park. The cub plunge, for those younger than 10 will take place at 11:30 a.m. The adult and family plunge will be at noon.
Those who leap into the waters of Puget Sound can warm up afterwards in front of heaters while sipping free hot drinks. Participants will receive T-shirts, while supplies last. The event is free, if you need more incentive.
Get details at metroparkstacoma.org.
Lacey holds its own plunge on New Year’s Day. The event begins at noon with campfires, music, hot cocoa and coffee, and culminates with the plunge at 1 p.m. All ages are welcome. The free event will take place at Long Lake Park, 2790 Carpenter Road SE, Lacey.
For information, call Lacey Parks and Recreation at 360-491-0857.
GO CLAM DIGGING
If you want to wrap up 2013 with a walk on the beach, clam tube or shovel in hand, you are in luck. If tests show razor clams are safe to eat, there will be a three-day dig Dec. 29-31.
Four beaches will be open — Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. The Kalaloch area is closed to digging.
“Razor clam digging on New Year’s Eve has become a tradition for many Washingtonians,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In past years, as many as 20,000 people have come to ocean beaches to dig clams on New Year’s Eve, Ayres said.
The dates and low tide times are: Dec. 29, 4:05 p.m., -0.2 feet; Dec. 30, 4:55 p.m., -0.9 feet; and Dec. 31, 5:42 p.m., -1.4 feet.
The best digging takes places one to two hours before low tide, but no digging will be allowed before noon.
Get more details, including license information, at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish.
JOIN A VOLKSMARCH
The Capitol Volkssport Club is offering a volksmarch.
On Monday at 2 p.m., the group will walk through Olympia, starting at Bayview Thriftway Deli, 516 Fourth Ave., Olympia. The walk covers 10 kilometers, with a 5-kilometer option. The same walk will take place at 2 p.m. Dec. 30.
At 10 a.m. Thursday, the group will walk through the historic area of Lacey, starting at the Lacey Safeway, 6200 SE Pacific. There will be 5k and 10k routes.
For details, go to capitolvolkssportclub.org.
LOOK FOR BIRDS
Birders of any skill level, or folks looking to get out of the office for a bit, can join noted located birder Phil Kelley on his weekly bird walk at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.
Typically held 8 a.m.-noon on Wednesdays, Kelley said he has moved them to Tuesdays — Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve — for the holiday break.
The walk covers about 4 miles, winding through the forested and riparian areas.
Participants should bring good walking shoes or boots, rain gear, water, snacks, binoculars or spotting scopes. Meet at the visitor center pond overlook.
The walk is free, but there is a refuge entry fee of $3 for four adults, unless you have a pass. If you have questions, contact Kelley at 360-459-1499 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you can’t make it that early, the refuge’s trails and visitor center still make for a quick day trip. There are plenty of waterfowl, songbirds and raptors in the area.
The refuge is just off Interstate 5 at Exit 114.
RIDE A SLED
There are a number of places to take the kids sledding, as long as we have enough snow.
The snowplay area at Paradise was scheduled to open Saturday. Mount Rainier National Park officials want a minimum 5 feet of snow to allow for a safe experience. The park entrance fee is $15. Check nps.gov/mora for updates.
The Summit at Snoqualmie has a tubing center. Adult rates vary from $20-$23, depending on which session you choose. Rates for children ages 6-12 are $10-$20, and $5 for children 5 and younger. Go to summitatsnoqualmie.com for opening information.
At Olympic National Park, sledding is permitted only in the small children’s snowplay area near the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Children 8 years and younger may slide. Park entrance costs $15. Go to nps.gov/olym for more information.
TAKE A BIKE RIDE
Both the Capital Bicycle Club of Olympia and Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club will hold organized rides during the next couple of weeks.
The Olympia group offers its Couch Potato Prevention Activity rides on Saturdays. In Tacoma, the club sponsors Hale, Hardy and Ready for Coffee rides on Monday mornings.
For details, go to capitalbicycleclub.org or twbc.org.
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park will hold its fourth annual Winter Wonderland from Thursday-Jan. 1. Park visitors will be able to watch animals play with winter-themed enrichment items, such as wreaths with assorted fruit, decorated evergreen trees with ornamental treats, wrapped gifts, ice piles and snowmen. There also will be presentations at 11:30 a.m., 1 and 2 p.m.
Activities are free with park admission and appropriate for all ages. For details, go to nwtrek.org.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640