Arts & Entertainment Community Education

Two in Tow & On the Go | Local places to take kids over mid-winter break

Posted on February 16th, 2024 By:

Stationary car ride/game at Round Table Pizza, 5500 Olympic Dr., H101, Gig Harbor

When we first moved to Washington, our family was surprised to find that many school districts here offer mid-winter break — a bonus five days off school around President’s Day each February. Given that we just had two weeks off school during the holidays for regular ‘ol winter break, we couldn’t believe this break was a normal thing. It soon became clear, however, that the break was a vacation staple for many PNW families who pack swimsuits and sunglasses and migrate to sunnier places like Arizona and California for a much-needed vitamin D reboot during the dark-day/cold-weather doldrums.

Growing up in Ventura County, California, we never had more than a three-day weekend each February. So I asked ChatGPT where the heck this so-called Mid-Winter Break business came from. Its answer: from England, for schools to save money. Apparently, shutting schools down during the coldest time of year was customary for the British. American educators may have adopted the practice during the 1970s energy crisis when cost-saving measures were sought on things like fuel for school buses and campus heating bills.

That answer seems legit, right? Of course, last year ChatGPT told me that Gig Harbor’s unincorporated Artondale area was founded by “the Arton family,” which — LOL — is so not true. And it still makes me laugh every time I think about it. So take that Mid-Winter Break answer for what you will.

Whatever the reason, if you’re sticking around for Peninsula School District’s break happening Feb. 19 to 23, I can’t promise the sun but I can point you in the direction of entertaining indoor kid places in and around Gig Harbor.

Local places to entertain kids this Mid-Winter Break

Listed in no particular order:

Galaxy Theatres, Gig Harbor | Discount Tuesdays

4649 Point Fosdick Drive

Did you know that if you’re a member of Gig Harbor Galaxy’s free rewards program (sign up here), you can score movie tickets for $6.75 each every Tuesday? The program is called Discount Tuesdays, and it’s not just for matinées. The deal works any time of day and with occasional exclusions. Also – there’s no special listing for it. To get the discount, just sign into your Reward account, pick a movie, go to reserve your seats, and the cheaper price will just show up in your cart. I did a test run and everything just for you 🙂 Galaxy also has cheap seats on Sundays and Wednesdays for its “Flashback Cinema” program, a promotion I incorrectly thought was reserved for summer. I hate being wrong, but I also love being delightfully surprised. The mid-winter break specials happening at the Gig Harbor location are:

  • $5 Flashback Cinema tickets for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) on Sunday Feb. 18, Monday Feb. 19 and Wednesday Feb. 21. Click the link for showtimes.

  • $2 special showing tickets for the original Kung Fu Panda (2008) on Friday, Feb. 23. This DreamWorks’ animated comedy is one that 2-year-old Clara watched at least 537 times from our couch, circa 2015. I can’t wait for her to revisit it at age 10 to see if she still enjoys it! The film is returning to the big screen at a steep discount in anticipation of the franchise’s all-new Kung Fu Panda 4 hitting theaters nationwide March 8. (Note: The DreamWorks website says the release date is March 8, but Galaxy Theatres Gig Harbor has three showtimes listed for March 7).

  • $5 Flashback Cinema tickets for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) on Sunday Feb. 25 (and Wednesday Feb. 28 when school is back in session). Probably best for teens or adults with the luxury of having a babysitter, because this one is rated R.

Metro Parks Tacoma Free Presidents’ Day & more events

Tacoma, various locations

Metro Parks Tacoma is offering free admission at its four rec centers (with no membership or day passes required) for Presidents’ Day public swim and play events on Monday, Feb. 19. The promo is part of an ongoing effort to provide recreation access to kids who have a day off from school, according to the rec agency. Here’s a look at the big city’s special offerings just over the bridge:

  • Free Indoor Rec Swim at Tacoma’s four community centers at the following times and locations. With amenities like water slides, floating lily pad steps, and even an indoor splash zone with towering buckets, there’s lots to choose from for the day-long promotion.
  • The drive-to-worthy Treetops Playgrounds at Tacoma’s STAR Center will also have no-cost President’s Day admission. Sessions marked for Family Play will be available 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and require adults to stay with their kids.
  • The Hilltop Healthy Kids and Family Carnival is planned for noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17 indoors at the People’s Center, 1602 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Tacoma. The free annual event features live music, free T-shirts and food, fun games with toys and prizes, and a raffle with the chance to win bicycles and gift cards. Various complimentary services for kids and families are also offered, like free dental cleanings, free blood pressure screenings and even free haircuts. The carnival is part of the organization’s month-long celebration of Black History Month.

Java & Clay Café

3210 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor 

This paint-your-own-pottery studio is on our local bucket list of things we haven’t done yet but want to. But with a walk-up coffee shop and table-side service for pottery guests (ie: frazzled moms and dads), maybe this will be the week! The all-ages studio offers the supplies and workspace to paint your pottery sold at the shop for $18+ per person with no studio fees. It operates on drop-in schedule, with no reservations needed, during the studio’s operation hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Studio is closed Tuesday and Wednesday. BONUS: The website promises your kiddos will stay busy with painting or playing with toys from the toy bin.

Debbie Dolittle’s Indoor Petting Zoo

120 138th St. South, Tacoma

This indoor petting zoo sounds like a hidden gem that’s widely loved per its positive Google Reviews. Meet goats and sheep inside or head outside to see camels, kangaroos, and more. The Petting Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday to Sunday and costs $10 per person. Kids 2 years and younger are free. With a ticket to the petting zoo, folks can access the “Zoocade” arcade game arena, where tokens cost four for $1. Most games are 2 tokens to play.

Arcades at Ocean5 & Round Table Pizza

Ocean5: 5268 Point Fosdick Drive NW, Gig Harbor; and Roundtable: 5500 Olympic Dr., H101, Gig Harbor

Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Drive, Gig Harbor,

Speaking of arcades, Gig Harbor has two of ’em! They’re located at different places – one at the modern mega-entertainment venue Ocean5 to the west of Highway 16 and the other is at a small but renovated Round Table Pizza restaurant on the east side.

At one point, I was going to write a post detailing my obsessive deep-dive into the two arcades, comparing things like the types of games each offered, how many credits it took to play them, and how many actual dollars it took to load up their respective play cards to fund a decent stretch of playtime. But then I never wrote it. And now the prices might be different. But if my memory serves me correctly, Roundtable’s arcade was way cheaper in both the cost of play credits value per the U.S. Dollar and credits spent per game; but Ocean5 had more games in a larger footprint plus more choices for big kids.

That said, if your kiddos are, say, age 7 and younger, you could probably get away with playing at Roundtable first and comparing it to Ocean5 before you decide. Round Table, for example, was Clara and Wyatt’s favorite arcade until this year when they turned 10 and 8.

Ocean5 Bowling & Laser Tag

5268 Point Fosdick Drive, Gig Harbor

Alas, Roundtable doesn’t have bowling or laser tag – Ocean5 has the lock on that around here. We love it there for both of those activities, and especially appreciate that you can reserve spots online ahead of time for family bowling, laser tag, and other features. There’s also an arcade and restaurant on site, plus in-house food service available on the lanes.

See ya there!

Mom and two kids standing with water and boats in the background.



Tonya Strickland is a Gig Harbor mom-of-two, longtime journalist, and Instagram influencer in the family and travel niche. Her blog, Two in Tow & On the Go, was recently named among the 10 Seattle-Area Instagram Accounts to Follow by ParentMap magazine. Tonya and her husband Bowen moved to Gig Harbor from California with their two kids, Clara (9) and Wyatt (7) in 2021. Find them on Facebook for all the kid-friendly places in and around town.