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Category Archives: Events & Activities

Drive Through Holiday Light Shows

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callaway-lights-3
Photo Credit: Doug Waldron. License: CC BY SA 2.0

A fun activity the whole family will enjoy is a ride through a holiday light show. Many cities put on an annual holiday light show with hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights. A drive through holiday experience is a perfect way to enjoy the beautiful lights without leaving the comfort of your warm car. Here are a few light shows that you can attend this year—even after Christmas day!

The Dancing Lights of Christmas – Nashville, TN

This is the 5th year that the festive folks at Jellystone Park have put on this fabulous light display. As you drive through this amazing light show, you can jam out to Christmas tunes on your radio and watch the lights dance to the music.

The Dancing Lights of Christmas at Jellystone Park
2572 Music Valley Drive
Nashville, TN 37214
Open until January 4, 2015

Hershey Sweet Lights – Hershey, PA

This sweet light display extends through 2 miles of wooded trails just minutes away from Hersheypark. Make sure you check out their website for hours of operation and directions.

Hershey Sweet Lights
100 W. Hersheypark Drive
Hershey, PA 17033
800.437.7439
Open until January 1, 2015

Lanier Islands Christmas

lanier-islands-lights

Take a rolling stroll through Lanier Islands to enjoy the twinkling Christmas light display. At the end of the tour, you can visit the Holiday Village where you can see a live nativity scene, visit with Santa, and even skate around The Polar Rink.

Lanier Islands
7000 Lanier Islands Parkway
Buford, GA 30518
770.945.8787
Open until December 31, 2014

The Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort

The light show at Oglebay Resort is one of the largest light shows in the US. Spanning over 6 miles and 300 acres, this is one holiday show you don’t want to miss. If you can’t make it this year, perhaps you can plan a family trip in 2015.

Oglebay Resort
465 Lodge Drive
Wheeling, West Virginia 26003
800.624.6988
Open until January 4, 2015

Lights Under Louisville – Louisville, KY

louisville-lights1

This spectacular light show has over 2 million lights that cover 17 miles of passageways… underground! Drive your own vehicle into the Louisville Mega Cavern to view this one-of-a-kind light show and create a memorable Christmas experience for your family.

Louisville Mega Cavern
1841 Taylor Ave
Louisville, KY 40213
877.614.6342
Open until January 4, 2015

Catch a Hot Deal at Your Local Ice Rink

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Photo Credit: Georgio. License: CC BY 2.0

Ice skating is a fun winter activity that has been enjoyed for many, many years. In fact, ice skating has been traced back to Finland more than 3,000 years ago! People of all ages continue to love ice skating during the holiday season.

Perhaps it’s the brisk air rushing across your face or maybe the sensation of effortlessly gliding across the ice that makes ice skating a delightful experience. Whatever inspires you to throw on a pair of skates and hit the ice, you’ll enjoy it even more when you can save money.

That’s why we are happy to share some great deals on Groupon ice skating discounts in your area. With most of these deals, you will save around 50%! You can purchase an ice skating package for yourself or for a loved one—it’s perfect for a romantic date night or a fun family outing. Remember that all of these deals are available for a limited time only, so grab them while they are hot!

Atlanta, GA

Chicago, IL

Los Angeles, CA

New York, NY

Portland, OR

If your city isn’t listed above, please search for deals in your city on Groupon. We just didn’t have space to list every city here. Happy skating!

This post contains affiliate links. Please see our full disclosure here.

Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption Holiday Special

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Established in 1992, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is devoted to helping find adoptive homes for children currently in foster care. Dave Thomas himself was adopted, so throughout his life, Dave spread the word about adoption and encouraged folks to consider foster care adoption. Unfortunately Dave passed away in 2002, but his legacy lives on with DTFA and Wendy’s. [Yep, Dave Thomas was also the founder of Wendy’s!]

There are many ways you can get involved with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, such as by donating money, starting a DTFA kickball team, or supporting them at Wendy’s. [Psst… most of the ways to support DTFA at Wendy’s involve a Frosty—yum!]

Another way you can get involved and learn more about adoption this month is to watch the CBS special “A Home for the Holidays.” Presented in association with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the Children’s Action Network, this show features heartwarming stories about adoptive families, along with performances from popular artists. The 16th annual “A Home for the Holidays” will include entertainment from Jennifer Hudson, Train, Earth Wind & Fire, Rixton, Katharine McPhee, Ashley Monroe, Dan & Shay, and Jillian Michaels. Tune in on Friday, 19 December at 9pm ET/PT to catch this uplifting television special. Perhaps watching this will become a new holiday tradition for you.

“A Home for the Holidays”
CBS
Friday, 19 December
9–10pm ET/PT

All Aboard the Polar Express!

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Photo Credit: B4bees. License: CC BY 2.0

Experience the wonder and excitement of Christmas when you board the Polar Express! The whole family can participate in this magical holiday activity at select train stations across America.

Children are encouraged to dress in their pajamas just like the kids in the book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. Aboard the train, you’ll hear a reading of that famous book as you enjoy yummy cookies and cups of hot cocoa. You’ll also get to see Santa—who will give each child a special souvenir, a silver bell.

The round-trip ride to the North Pole generally lasts around 60–120 minutes, but varies by train line. See a list of participating railroad stations below. For a comprehensive list of Polar Express train rides, click here. Don’t wait too long to get your tickets, as they sell out quickly.

Grand Canyon Railway


Passengers on this train can expect lively entertainment from Santa’s elves and chefs. Remember to bring your camera, and come prepared to sing along with classic holiday songs.

Williams Depot & Ticket Counter
233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd.
Williams, AZ 86046
928-635-4253

Adirondack Scenic Railroad

On this train ride, passengers in the first class car will be able to spend time with Mrs. Claus! If you’re not in first class, don’t worry because Santa will meet each family on the return trip.

Utica Union Station
321 Main Street
Utica, NY 13501
800-819-2291

Saratoga & North Creek Railway


The vintage train cars of this railway are festooned with holiday decorations, providing a nice backdrop for memorable pictures. As you snuggle into your seat, make sure you have your ticket in hand because the conductor will be coming by to punch your ticket. Oh, and one other thing—don’t be alarmed if you see the Hobo, as he has been known to appear from time to time.

Saratoga Springs Railway Station
26 Station Lane
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
877-726-7245

Edaville Railroad

Edaville USA has 2 different Polar Express train rides: one in Hopedale and one in Carver. Please take note of these two locations when purchasing your tickets.

Edaville USA
5 Pine Street
Carver, MA 02330
508-866-8190

French Lick Scenic Railway

The Polar Express train ride at this station is already sold out! Because it’s so popular, you may want to go ahead and purchase your tickets for 2015.

French Lick Scenic Railway
8594 West State Road 56
French Lick, IN 47432
800-748-7246

Looking for a Polar Express experience that isn’t listed above? Click here for a more comprehensive list of participating train lines.

IKEA Holiday Events

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IKEA stores all over the world are hosting several events this holiday season that will put you in the Christmas spirit. As you may know, IKEA was founded in Sweden, and therefore, many of their events are inspired by Swedish traditions. The whole family can enjoy a variety of activities, such as julbord, breakfast with Santa, gingerbread house decorating, and more!


The julbord is an all-you-can-eat Swedish feast that includes traditional dishes like herring, smoked salmon, meatballs with lingonberries, and more. To finish off your delicious dinner, you’ll enjoy some sweets and glögg (mulled wine). In order to nosh at this spectacular smörgåsbord, you will need to purchase your ticket(s) in advance, so contact your local store.

Santa will be making public appearances at several IKEA stores this year! Children of all ages can meet Santa and even take a photo with him, so be sure to bring your camera. In some stores, Santa will be in the restaurant, so you and your children can even sit and eat breakfast with him.

Try your hand at piping icing and adorning a gingerbread house with candies at IKEA’s gingerbread decorating contest. If you win the prize for the best decorated house, you can brag to your family and friends!

One of the other events that you may be able to attend is the St. Lucia procession—a Swedish Christmas tradition where Lucia leads a procession of lights as Swedish Christmas carols are sung.

Please note that events vary from store to store, so you’ll want to check your local store for a list of events. Click here to find a store in the USA or here to find an international store.

Atlanta, GA

  • Gingerbread House Decorating Contest:
    Friday, 12 December: 4–8:30pm
  • Julbord:
    Friday, 12 December: 4pm, 5:30pm, 7pm

Birmingham, UK

  • Meet Santa:
    Every weekend until 22 December: 10:30am–4:15pm
  • Julbord & St. Lucia Celebration:
    Thursday, 11 December: 6–8pm

Brooklyn, NY

  • Gingerbread House Decorating Contest:
    Friday, 12 December: 12pm, 2:30pm
    Saturday, 20 December: 12pm, 2:30pm
  • Julbord:
    Friday, 12 December: Contact store for dining times.

Göteborg Bäckebol, Sweden

  • Julbord:
    Every day until Christmas: 12–2pm
  • Meet Santa:
    Sunday, 7 December: 12–3pm
    Sunday, 14 December: 12–3pm
    Sunday, 21 December: 12–3pm
  • St. Lucia Celebration:
    Saturday, 13 December: 2–4pm

Miami, FL

  • Breakfast with Santa:
    Sunday,14 December: 9:30–10:30am
    Sunday, 21 December: 9:30–10:30am
  • Julbord:
    Friday, 12 December: 5pm, 7pm

Pittsburgh, PA

  • Breakfast with Santa:
    Saturday, 13 December: 9:30–11am
    Saturday, 20 December: 9:30–11am
  • Julbord:
    Friday, 12 December: 5:00pm, 7:00pm

Seattle, WA

  • Julbord:
    Thursday, 11 December: 4:30pm, 6:30pm
    Friday, 12 December: 4:30pm, 6:30pm
  • St. Lucia Celebration
    Saturday, 13 December: 9:30am

Again, this is not a complete list of events at IKEA stores. To find events and activities at the store nearest you, check online. Click here to find a store in the USA or here to find an international store.

Christmas Crafts for Kids at Anthropologie

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Over the next couple of weekends, some Anthropologie stores across the USA and Canada are hosting holiday craft events for children. Recommended for ages 5–8, kids will be able to create some fun crafts while mom and dad sneak in a little shopping. You can visit Anthropologie’s website to see if your local store is hosting this event, and if you plan to attend, make sure to call the store to RSVP.

Holiday Indie Craft Fairs

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If you’re on the hunt for some special holiday gifts, hit up an indie craft fair this weekend or next weekend. At these markets you can find all kinds of goodies from jewelry to stationery to ceramics—all handmade and many times local. By shopping at one of these fairs, not only will you be able to find truly unique Christmas presents for your loved ones, you will also be supporting local small businesses, so it’s a win-win. Always fun, indie craft fairs are basically Etsy in event form, complete with DJs and food trucks.

Below I’ve highlighted a few of these merry markets, but if you have a favourite local indie craft fair in your area, let me know in the comments!

Holiday Strawberry Swing – Kansas City, MO

A two-day event, the 4th annual Holiday Strawberry Swing is going on this weekend over First Friday. Held at the historic West Bottoms at The Foundation, the Holiday Swing will be a fun time, as you can find local, handmade Christmas gifts there while listening to live music and sipping a festive drink. This event’s 30+ vendors sell a myriad of products, such as jewelry, quilts, wood work, mobiles, photography, painting, zines, and much more.

Holiday Strawberry Swing
The Foundation
1221 Union Avenue

Friday, 5 December: 10am–8pm
Saturday, 6 December: 10am–6pm
Admission: Free!

Renegade Craft Fair December Market – Los Angeles

The Renegade Craft Fair December Market sounds like quite the festive fête! At this market in Grand Park there will be more than 250 independent makers, as well as workshops, food trucks, music, and a photo booth. The vendors will be selling handmade holiday gift wrap, health & beauty products, jewelry, toys, apparel, stationery, housewares, and more. If all that isn’t enticing enough, well behaved pets are welcome to attend, and there’s an official afterparty called Meet the Makers [RSVP here].

Renegade Craft Fair December Market
200 N. Grand Avenue
[between Broadway and Spring Street]

Saturday, 13 December: 10am–5pm
Sunday, 14 December: 10am–5pm
Admission: Free!

Picnic Holiday Sale – Portland, ME

Tap into the Maine DIY scene at the Picnic Holiday Sale. At this juried craft fair’s sixth year, not only can you find handmade accessories, housewares, stationery, and the like—you can also shop for vintage goods. While perusing the items, you can nibble on tasty treats from a local bakery, cafe, or coffee shop. For an awesome bonus, kiddos and adults can have their photo taken with the Yeti!

Picnic Holiday Sale
Portland Company Complex
58 Fore Street

Sunday, 14 December
11am–6pm
Admission: Free!

BUST Christmas Craftacular – London

The BUST Christmas Craftacular has everything you could want in a craft fair: handmade wares, DIY workshops, goodie bags for the first 100 shoppers, a raffle, tasty treats, and a DJ! Seventy stalls contain clothing, artwork, soap, accessories, textiles, stationery, ceramics, and much more. After shopping, try your hand at one of the workshops where you can make items like a perspex necklace [all day; £10], linoprint Christmas cards [3.30–5pm; free], or felt slippers [12.30–2pm; free].

BUST Christmas Craftacular
The Islington Metal Works
7 Torrens Street
[directly behind Angel tube station]

Sunday, 14 December
12–7pm
Admission: £3

Indie Craft Experience Pop-Up Shop – Atlanta, GA

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The 5th annual ICE Holiday Pop-Up Shop features hand-crafted goodies from more than 70 artists, crafters, and makers from all over the USA. Located in Candler Park and open through Christmas Eve, you could easily finish up your Christmas shopping by stopping in this shop.

ICE Holiday Pop-Up Shop
1390 McLendon Avenue NE

Now through 24 December
Tuesday–Thursday: 11am–7pm
Friday–Saturday: 11am–8pm
Sunday: 12–6pm
Monday: Closed

Additional Craft Fairs This Weekend

While I would love to feature all of the indie Christmas craft markets, but that would make for a rather massive blog post. But, since I like y’all, here are a few more craft fairs going on this weekend around the United States.

Christmas Photos for Your Pets

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Photo by Sandra Cobet. License: CC BY 2.0

Have your pets been naughty or nice this year? Now is their chance to whisper in Santa’s ear. Or maybe they’ll just give Santa a big slobbery kiss. ;) In Petco stores nationwide, your furry family members can have their photo taken with Santa. If there isn’t a Petco near you, contact your local humane society or animal shelter. Many humane societies have an event where Santa will take a picture with pets. For more holiday fun, you can get a free digital photo from PetSmart (details below).

So pull out your Christmas sweaters, scarves, hats, or other festive accessories and make plans to attend one of these photo events!

Photos with Santa at Petco

petco-logoOn Saturday, December 6th or 13th, head into your local Petco between 1–4pm to have your pet’s photo taken with Santa. You’ll get a 4" x 6" photo for just $9.95. You’ll be happy to know that 100% of your photo purchase will help homeless animals—now that’s money well spent!

Click here to find a Petco store near you.

Paws for the Camera at PetSmart

PETSMART-logoGet a digital photo of you with your furry friend(s) at PetSmart for free—that’s right, FREE! Now, to be clear, Santa will not be there, but you can still have a nice, festive photo taken. The image will be emailed to you, so you can print as many as you like or even use it for your Christmas cards! This in-store photo event will take place on December 6–7th and 13–14th from 12–4pm.

Click here to find a PetSmart near you.

Other Resources

  • Your local humane society – Contact your local animal shelter to find out if they are having a “photos with Santa” event.
  • Your local shopping mall – Sometimes the Santa photo booth at the mall has designated times when pets are welcome to take photos with Santa.

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonies

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Looking for a holiday activity to do with your family and friends? Attend a Christmas tree lighting! Many cities host an annual tree lighting ceremony that is accompanied by several other festive attractions. Check out one (or more) of these events and treat your family to some holiday fun. (Psst… You might even spot Santa while you’re there!)

Rockefeller Center – New York City, New York

Rockefellar Christmas Tree
Photo by Rob Young. License: CC BY 2.0

Watch the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree light up the streets of New York City tomorrow, December 3rd. If you are unable to be there in person, you can watch this momentous occasion on television on NBC.

Fun Facts: The tree is a Norway spruce, stands 85 feet tall, is 90 years old, and weighs 13 tons.

Trafalgar Square – London

Trafalgar Square December 2006. Photo by DAVID ILIFF
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY SA 3.0

The tree will be lit at 6pm on Thursday, December 4th. If you can’t make it to the lighting ceremony, perhaps you can attend the blessing of the crib on December 7th at 5:30pm or enjoy the sound of carolers from December 8th through the 23rd.

Fun Fact: Since 1947, the Trafalgar Square tree has been donated by the city of Oslo, Norway as gesture of gratitude for Britain’s help in World War II.

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2014 – Washington, D.C.

National Christmas Tree Dec. 2009
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Watch the National Christmas tree lighting on December 4th. The ceremony will include performances and appearances by Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Patti LaBelle, and more.

Fun Fact: Every year people from each state and territory create ornaments to donate to the “Pathway of Peace” trees, which are a group of smaller trees near the national tree.

Tampa’s Tree Lighting Ceremony – Tampa, Florida

If you’re near Tampa, be sure to attend the tree lighting ceremony on Friday, December 5th at 6pm. The event is free to attend, and there will be musical performances, a movie in the park, a Christmas market, and even ice skating!

Mayor’s Holiday Celebration – Houston, Texas

Photo Credit: Donna Carson, houstontx.gov

The folks of Houston, Texas are kicking off the holiday season with fun festivities on Friday, December 5th. There will be music, fireworks, free photos with Santa, and the illumination of the city’s Christmas tree.

The Queen Mary – Long Beach, California

On December 3rd at 8pm, you can watch the 21st annual lighting of the Christmas tree at The Queen Mary—a floating hotel in Long Beach. There will be plenty of other festive activities for the family, such as ice skating, a magic show, performances by a local choir and accomplished figure skaters, and more!

National Gallery of Canada – Ottawa, Ontario

Photo by Aaron Bihari. License: CC BY SA 2.0

Attend the tree lighting at the National Gallery of Canada on Thursday, December 4th at 7pm. Enjoy free admission to the lighting ceremony, and take the whole family!

Fun Fact: The tree came from Quebec and is 30 years old.

A Special Performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas

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A Charlie Brown Christmas
On Thursday, December 4 at 7:00pm, a special performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas will be conducted at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

This isn’t just any concert because Jerry Granelli—the only surviving member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio—will be performing. In case you didn’t already know, it was the Guaraldi Trio who recorded the original soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965. Accompanying Granelli are Simon Fisk on bass, Chris Gestrin on piano, and a local choir—the Cross Town Youth Chorus.

In addition to the unforgettable music, Granelli will sharing the story of the Guaraldi Trio who made the famous album. This will be an event that the whole family will enjoy.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit the Ottawa Jazz Festival website.

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