Winter is Coming!

Winter time is my absolute favorite time of the year.  The cold and snow, the frost on blades of grass; I love it all.  As soon as Thanksgiving happened, it seemed that the weather in Boise decided it was immediately winter.  Temperatures dropped, the colder winds started blowing in, and there were several mornings that the plants were coated in a layer of frost.  As the weather turned colder, Meridian and Boise began their holiday preparations and events, and we made sure to get in on as many as we could.

First up on our agenda was the Idaho State Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony.  This Christmas tree lighting was set for the Monday night following Thanksgiving, and it was our first time going down into the heart of downtown Boise proper.  Unsure of how long it might take us to find the Capitol building and figure out where we could park, we left the house a bit earlier than necessary.  Driving through downtown as the sun neared the horizon, we had no trouble spotting the capitol building (the tallest building at the very end of North Capitol Boulevard, go figure) and found a public parking garage only two blocks away.

Cheap, quick, and delicious. Pie Hole was fantastic!

With a half an hour to spare before the festivities were scheduled to start, we meandered the streets a bit, and found somewhere to grab a bite to Eat before the ceremony.  Pie Hole, almost a literal hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the corner of Idaho Street and 8th, was way more than we bargained for.  Thinking we would just grab a slice or two of pepperoni or cheese, we were met with much more intriguing options.  The slices of the day included Bell Pepper, Pineapple, and Jalapeno, with Sweet and Sour Sauce; Ham, Pineapple, Mango, and Bacon; and the two slices I ordered, the Pesto Mozzarella, and the Meatball, Basil, Mushroom, and Tortellini on Creamy Marinara (both of which were amazing).  Ian, boring as he is, got two slices of pepperoni (no surprise, that’s what he gets at every pizza place).  The surprise came when we paid.  We stopped by just before 5pm, and were lucky enough to get there just before happy hour ended.  Monday through Friday, they have a Happy Hour special of two slices for just $3.50, so our four slices of pizza and two drinks cost us a total of $10!  Not bad for a filling meal.

Fed and content, we zigzagged our way back to the Capitol Building, where the crowds were packing in.  A 55-foot-tall pine tree dominated the front of the Capitol Building, and a (poorly placed) stage was set up on the grand staircase into the building right behind it.  The Governor opened the ceremony, a choir of local elementary school children sang Christmas songs, and free hot chocolate, spiced cider, and cookies were handed out to everyone.  Then, once the sun had fully set, and the sky was glittering with stars, the countdown began, and the tree was lit.  Glowing LEDs decked the tree from top to bottom, and the brilliant, white limestone building behind it made for a perfect backdrop.

Starting off the holidays with class!

Once the tree was lit, the Governor invited everyone inside, where children could pick up a free children’s book, and take a tour of the Capitol Building.  Instead of going inside for a tour, we waited until the crowds thinned and got some more pictures of the towering Christmas tree.  Thousands of LED bulbs were strung on the tree, and it was fascinating to look up through the branches and see all of the lights all the way up.  But, with the temperature dropping, we finally decided to pack up the gear, and hunt down our car in the parking garage.

A couple of days later, we enjoyed our second event, the Meridian Holiday Parade of Lights.  Only a couple of miles up the road from where we were house sitting, the parade route began at Meridian City Hall, and travelled several blocks before circling back.  Wanting to see all of the floats, and hear the commentary by the local radio station DJs, we staked our claim right at the front of the parade route.  For the hour leading up to the parade, How the Grinch Stole Christmas was projected onto the side of one of the shops on Main Street, and we had a perfect vantage point to watch the dastardly Grinch steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville.

Sipping complimentary hot cocoa while this float drove by.

After a quick introduction by the DJs, the Parade began.  More than fifty floats had entered the parade, and the top three floats were awarded trophies at the end of the night.  There were nativity scenes, marching bands, racecars covered in strands of twinkle lights, local charities like the humane society, and my favorite, a giant inflatable Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, towing a giant potato (again, poor placement).  Sipping free hot chocolate provided by local vendors and watching the line of floats passing us by, we enjoyed seeing how a town like Meridian Kicked off the holidays.

When the final float turned off of Main Street, the crowd turned en masse toward a large pine tree in a small grassy park on the corner, and gathered around.  It almost felt like we were watching the Whos gather around their tree in the center of town (except no one joined hands or started singing).  Once the DJs had completed their deliberation, the announced the Winning parade floats, and introduced the lucky child who had the privilege of flipping the switch to light the Christmas tree.  After another countdown, the tree lit up in wonder, while a series of sparklers and fireworks were lit simultaneously on the surrounding rooftops.  It was an amazing site to see.  With our toes going numb from the cold, we got a few more pictures of downtown Meridian, all lit up for the holidays, and went home to warm up with some cider And snuggle Tami on the couch.

Event number three was the one I looked forward to the most.  Claus ‘n’ Paws at Zoo Boise.  Every holiday season, the animals at Zoo Boise are given wrapped presents of treats to open in front of Guests, and I really wanted to see the animals dig into their gifts.  So, bright and early on the morning of the event, we got Up so that we could be at the zoo when it opened at 10am.  We were not disappointed.

Nothing better than tearing into a good present!

The very first animals to receive their gifts were the lions, so we made our way to the back of the zoo, where the savannah animals were located.  Once we picked our prime viewing location, we got a great view of the lions stalking and then tearing into their presents.  Though only one of the lionesses seemed interested in the packages, the other enjoyed picking a fight with her, and they were soon rolling around in mock battle.  When we thought we had enough good shots, we took a loop of the lion enclosure, and were actually invited into a more secluded viewing area of the lions’ den, and were met with the opportunity of a lifetime.  Just as we stepped up to the interior windows, the lions noticed us, and began to make their way over to us.  At one point, one of the lionesses was a mere six inches from the glass, and we were able to get some fantastic pictures of her as she and her sister came to lie down in their Nest, where they curled up to get away from the wind and cold.

Paboo the Red Panda!

Extremely happy with the amazing images we got, we moved on to Some of the other animals as they received their gifts throughout the day.  Some of my favorite animals were the red pandas, the snow leopard, the ocelot, and the serval.  Although the serval, ocelot, and snow leopard were all quite laid back, the red pandas were jumping and running around their enclosure like crazy.  Before their presents arrived, one of the pandas was pacing back and forth in one of the highest branches, waiting for the action to begin; and once the gifts arrived, the real play began.  Two of the pandas wrestled on one of the presents, while two of the others took higher vantage points of the action in the trees.

I may have gone a little overboard with the gift giving. 🙂

As we stopped through the gift shop on our way out, I noticed a Christmas tree, decorated with little slips of paper, and went over to check it out.  Each slip of paper was listed with an animal at the zoo, and a treat that they enjoyed.  The slips were the Christmas lists of all the animals in the zoo!  When I saw that one of the red pandas was named Paboo (Hello? The Legend of Korra, anyone?), I knew I HAD to get him a present.  So, I searched the tree for all of my favorite animals I saw that day, and we picked up their treats and dropped them off before we left Idaho later that week.  Overall, Claus ‘n’ Paws was definitely one of my favorite activities we did in Boise, and I wouldn’t mind checking out similar activities to it in the future.

Finally, the last holiday activity we enjoyed in Boise, was Winter Garden aGlow, at the Idaho Botanical Garden.  Over 380,000 twinkle lights deck out the botanical garden from the end of November to the first day of the New Year, and the spectacle of thousands of strands of lights, artfully arranged around the garden, is something wonderful to behold.  Japanese tea gardens, bubbling fountains, and delicate bridges were all lit up with rainbows of glowing lights.  Christmas trees, gazebos, and even a set of model trains marked significant locations all around the park, and everywhere we turned, there was something wonderful to lay eyes on.

Just one of the spectacular views we had of Winter Garden aGlow.

The garden is rather large, and it took us a couple of hours to cover all of (or at least most of) the park.  All over the park, Ian got pictures of Christmas lights strewn through trees, or twisted into interesting designs, and even had me pose in a few of them.  With little bonfires lit along some of the paths, and hot cocoa Available at the front of the garden, it was easy to ignore the cold, and lose oneself in the beauty of the glowing winter wonderland.

Before we left, we stopped through the gift shop, hoping to find a magnet.  I had had very little luck in finding a magnet for Boise.  When we went by the Capitol Building several days after the tree lighting, we found the gift shop closed until the next day.  At the zoo, there were only magnets of animals we did not have a chance to see.  But, we were determined to find our prefect magnetic representation of our trip at the Botanical Garden.  At the very back of the gift shop, we struck gold, and I snagged a six-pack of Winter Garden aGlow magnets, depicting several of the light displays we saw in the park.  Before reaching the register, we also found some really cool glasses which, when worn while looking at twinkle lights, turned each glowing bulb into a specific design.  Since we thought they were so cool, we picked up six pairs of the glasses (depicting: candy canes, elves, stars, Santas, snowflakes, and ornament baubles) for my niece and nephew to enjoy on Christmas.

With so many fun holiday activities in Boise, it was hard to finally say goodbye to it all when the house sit was over.  But there is nowhere I’d rather be for Christmas than my parents’ house in Colorado.  Even if we can’t get our stuff together most of the year, the Tonns really do know how to do Christmas. But first, driving straight through to Colorado from Boise would have been an exhaustingly long haul, so we chose a half way point to stop at in Bozeman, Montana.  Not only was it a nice little bed and breakfast, but it was also a wolf sanctuary!  But, you’ll have to wait for Friday’s post to read all about that.

Geeks out!

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