Across the globe, customary foods, clothes or activities are associated with ringing in the new year. Those of Polish decent believe eating pickled herring will bring good luck. In the Southern U.S., it is believed that eating black-eyed peas, ham hocks and collard greens will attract financial gains. In some Latin American countries, including Mexico and Brazil, it’s believed the color of your undergarments will influence what kind of year you’ll have. And, for many cultures, kissing at midnight is a sure way to bring luck and love in the new year.

In Thurston County, there are many traditions, old and new. Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best ways to ring in 2018 in (family) style, while learning about the world along the way.

Celebrate “Aussie Style”

In Australia, New Year’s celebrations often last for six days. At the Hand’s On Children’s Museum, New Year’s celebrations will last for nine hours with Aussie festivities throughout. Have you ever wanted to meet a kangaroo or mama and baby wallaby? How about maneuver like a marsupial in an outback obstacle course or create and animate koalas and giant bugs? Learn more about the only country that’s also a continent at HOCM’s Noon Year’s Eve, 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. 

polar bear plunge
Start your new year like an Arctic animal! The annual Polar Bear Plunge has been a Thurston County favorite for 33 years. Photo credit: Stephanie Dillard

Play Like a Polar Bear

Want to know what it’s like to experience the chill of the Arctic tundra? Just head out to the 33rd annual Polar Bear Plunge. Boost your circulation, and your bragging rights, and join your fellow thrill-and-chill enthusiasts for a jump into Long Lake. Or, watch (warmly) from the sidelines. The fun starts at noon on New Year’s Day and the jump takes place at 1:00 p.m.

Travel Back in Time to Ancient Mesopotamia

Local young adults will act, sing and dance their way through the book of Genesis in Apple Tree Productions presentation of Children Of Eden. The two-act musical tells the story of Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel and Noah and the Flood in classic coming-of-age conflicts of parents and children, with an inspiring message of love. The production takes place December 30 and New Year’s Eve at the Capitol Theater, 6:00 p.m. doors, 7:00 p.m. show.

Enjoy Irish Dancing and Music

Tugboat Annies New Year's Eve
An afternoon of live Irish music at Tugboat Annie’s is a fun and festive way to ring in the new year. Photo credit: Chris Hamilton

A New Year’s tradition 10 years strong, the Irish sessions at Tugboat Annie’s is a family favorite. Order the famous Barge Burger, a heaping of steamer clams and pint of brew and settle in for an afternoon of hand-clapping, knee-slapping Irish jigs. Traditional Irish dancers will entertain as the fiddle and flute bring smiles all around. The New Year’s Eve festivities begin at 1:00 p.m. and wrap up around 5:00 p.m.

Paw Through the Pacific Northwest

See animals such as beavers, otters, cougars, wolves and more, receive winter-themed enrichments and treats at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. December 29 through New Year’s Eve, starting at 9:30 a.m., daily activities include crafting ornaments or bird feeders out of recycled materials and designing snowflakes to learn about symmetry in nature.

New Years Eve activities
Learn about Pacific Northwest animals during Northwest Trek’s Winter Wonderland. Photo courtesy: NW Trek

Plus, discover migratory birds, the challenges they face and how to attract wild birds to your yard. Learn how to track animals and what signs, tracks and scat can tell about animals of the Pacific Northwest.

Bonus: Dig into the World of Razor Clamming

Two beach locations open New Year’s Day, providing the opportunity to dig up to 15 clams per person. It may not be pickled herring, but bets are on that this coastal delight will bring good fortune to Pacific Northwesterners lucky enough to eat them.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and the surrounding area, visit our complete events calendar.

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