If you recall my posts about Christmas tree lightings and holiday boat parades, you may have gathered that I’m quite fond of Christmas light displays. Simply looking at some glowing, twinkling lights gets me feeling the warm fuzzies of Christmas. I also love all things nature: trees, plants, flowers, you name it. So, what do you get when you mash these two interests together? A gorgeous, glowing garden extravaganza! If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy immersing yourself in a spectacular holiday light experience at a botanical garden this winter.
Garden Lights have returned to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for the sixth year. Among the various light displays, you’ll enjoy walking through the Tunnel of Light and watching the Orchestral Orbs. If you plan on visiting the garden with your kids, nieces, or nephews, make sure you check out the model train. The holiday light exhibit will be on display until January 7, 2017.
Click here for tickets and here for transportation info for the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Located just outside of Charlotte in Belmont, the plethora of holiday happenings at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden will give everyone in your family a boost of Christmas cheer. More than 600,000 lights illuminate the gorgeous grounds, transforming trees and fountains into a twinkling wonderland. Some other festive activities include horse-drawn carriage rides, marshmallow roasting, live holiday music, and a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Click here for tickets and here to see the live music and food truck schedule at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.
If you’re in Wilmington, DE or Philadelphia, celebrate the holidays at Longwood Gardens with enjoyable activities both indoors and outside. As you walk the grounds, your senses will be engulfed with sights and sounds of the season, such as twinkling lights illuminating the night sky, songs of strolling carolers filling the air, and tunes from daily organ performances. If you start feel chilly, simply stop by a fire pit to warm up!
Garden Glow has decked out the Missouri Botanical Garden with millions of Christmas lights that will be on display until January 1, 2017. As you stroll through the garden, there are several spots for you to stop and strike a pose with your loved ones for a festive photo. To get a glimpse of the dazzling lights, watch the video above.
As the holidays approach every year, Bellevue Botanical Garden transforms into a colorful and magical wonderland. Critters are hidden throughout the grounds of this garden, so children will have fun spotting them among the lights. (For example, see Charlotte’s Web in the image above.) Garden d’Lights is on display until December 31, so make plans to visit before it closes for the season.
Click here for tickets and here for transportation info for Garden d’Lights.
A holiday activity that will leave the young and young at heart filled with awe is a trip to see a model train display. At first sight, it’s quite impressive to see the trains, buildings, and various miniatures. Then when you consider how many hours it takes to construct each set and the skill required to wire the circuits, it’s really amazing. I’ve rounded up a handful of train displays for you to visit, and since words cannot adequately convey how grand these various exhibits are, there are videos for you to enjoy!
EnterTRAINment Junction is home to a humongous model train display and other interactive activities for children. After oohing and aahing over the life-like trains, structures, and landscapes, kids can head over to Imagination Junction and play. You might even get to say “Hi” to Santa and Mrs. Claus while you’re there. EnterTRAINment Junction is open year-round, but the holiday fun will end on January 1st.
Click here to purchase tickets and here for EnterTRAINment Junction’s hours of operation.
What began as one man’s hobby turned into a local tradition, and in 1961 the Choo Choo Barn opened its doors to the public. Fast forward to the present, the crew at Choo Choo Barn transforms their giant model train display, Traintown USA, into a wintery wonderland each November. Miniature houses and buildings are donned with holiday decorations, and the surrounding landscape gets a dusting of snow. While you’re there, try and see how many hidden Santas you can find in the display. (Hint: There’s a Santa for each year the Choo Choo Barn has been open.)
Click here the Choo Choo Barn’s rates and hours of operation.
The holiday trains at Homestead Gardens are a Christmas tradition that locals eagerly anticipate every year. Whether you want to share the experience with your out-of-town guests or pass the tradition on to your children, your trip to Homestead Gardens will be a memory you’ll cherish for years to come. The trains are set up in the Davidsonville store and will continue to be on display through the end of December.
Click here for Homestead Gardens’ hours of operation.
If you live near Blackstone, Virginia, then you’ll want to head over to Bevell’s Hardware to marvel at their holiday train display. Admission is free, so this Christmas outing is budget friendly! The trains will be rolling away for the season soon, so make sure you visit before January 8, 2017.
Click here for the hours of operation of Bevell’s Hardware.
With over 1,000 trains, 9 miles of track, and 250,000 figurines, it’s no wonder why this fascinating exhibit attracts more than one million people each year. Miniatur Wunderland is the largest model railway in the world and is still growing. The exhibit currently has 9 completed sections that include: Italy, Scandinavia, USA, Middle Germany, and more! In the video above, you’ll get a glimpse of the marvelous model displays, but it doesn’t do justice to how amazing Miniature Wunderland is. Something this spectacular necessitates a visit! If you’re unable to go to Miniatur Wunderland this year, click here to enjoy another video.
Click here for tickets and here for Miniatur Wunderland’s hours of operation.
The fun at Six Flags doesn’t stop when the weather gets colder! At various parks from New Jersey to Georgia to California, Six Flags transforms into a holiday wonderland. Christmas lights are strung as far as the eye can see, festive music fills the air, and there are dozens of attractions to suit the whole family. You can hop on a ride, visit with Santa, sip hot cocoa, warm up near a fire pit, and so much more. The fun festivities vary from park to park, so be sure to check out what your local Six Flags has to offer this holiday season!
The holidays at Six Flags Magic Mountain are, well, magical! While there’s fun to be had all over the park, the Holiday Square sounds like the place I’d like to linger. Thousands of colorful Christmas lights illuminate the square, carolers stroll the streets, and snowflakes intermittently fall each evening.
Click here to purchase tickets and here to check Six Flags Magic Mountain’s holiday hours.
If you live near Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, you’re in for a real treat! This park has special holiday attractions that you won’t find elsewhere, such as the 4D Arctic Adventure, life-size toys in Toy Land, and a holiday show featuring dolphins. While you’re there, you can also watch a synchronized light show, slide down a snowy slope, and meander through a Christmas tree forest.
Click here to purchase tickets and here for Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s holiday hours.
Atlantans have quite the smorgasbord of holiday activities at Six Flags Over Georgia. Hop aboard the North Pole Express, step inside a giant snow globe, roast marshmallows over a fire pit, or simply stroll the streets to soak up the beauty of this winter wonderland. Plan to arrive early so that you don’t miss the ceremonial Christmas tree lighting that occurs every night at 6 p.m. And, that’s not all—in honor of National Ugly Sweater Day (today!) you can get into the park with half-price admission when you wear your tacky holiday sweater.
Click here to purchase tickets and here to check Six Flags Over Georgia’s holiday hours.
At Six Flags St. Louis, you can enjoy dozens of holiday attractions: sparkling Christmas lights, roaming carolers, thrilling rides, and so much more! Kids will be giddy to walk through the Candy Cane Forest as they make their way to Santa’s House. Everyone will enjoy the vast display of lights and decorations, light and music shows, and plethora of sweet treats.
Click here to purchase tickets and here for Six Flags St. Louis’ holiday hours.
Not too far from both Philadelphia and NYC, Six Flags Great Adventure has something for everyone. In addition to the thrilling rides and activities for kids, there are also several ways to slow down and enjoy a magical moment with your sweetie. Stroll through the path of glowing trees, snap a picture at various photo op spots around the park, or pause for a moment under the mistletoe.
Click here to purchase tickets and here to check Six Flags Great Adventure’s holiday hours.
They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and the holiday celebration at Six Flags Over Texas is no exception! Holiday crafts, train rides, various performances by local talent, spectacular Christmas lights, and sledding are just a few of the jolly activities you’ll find at this park. With so much Christmas in one spot, you’ll surely head home filled with holiday cheer.
Click here to purchase tickets and here to check this Six Flags Over Texas’ holiday hours.
This winter season, many rides continue to operate at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and I’m sure it would be especially delightful to ride the Ferris wheel at night to see all the glowing Christmas lights. Other things to enjoy here include the Holiday Express train ride, Santa’s Castle, and lots of holiday shows.
Click here to purchase tickets and here to check this Six Flags Fiesta Texas’ holiday hours.
At Six Flags America, you experience a heartwarming good time. In addition to the lovely lights, delicious victuals, and classic Christmas attractions, you can celebrate the season with a New Orleans twist as you watch a parade in the Merry Masquerade area. Then walk down Candy Cane Lane to watch the elf stunt show, Defenders of the North.
Click here to purchase tickets and here to check Six Flags America’s holiday hours.
Can you think of a better way to get into the holiday spirit than to go for a sleigh ride? Just imagine what it would be like to ride in an open sleigh through a winter wonderland—sleigh bells ringing, snow glistening, carolers singing… Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Below I’ve rounded up a few places for you to go this winter. So whether you’re planning a family trip or want to surprise your sweetheart with a romantic outing, throw on your winter coats and go on a sleigh ride!
While enjoying a fun-filled winter holiday in upstate New York, head to Lake Placid for a sleigh ride. Gliding through the snowy countryside will be an experience your family will never forget. Three different sleighs are available to accommodate groups and couples, and they are even equipped with heated seats and thick blankets to keep you warm! Go here to make a reservation online.
Just 45 minutes outside of Cleveland, Ohio, Ma & Pa’s sits in the heart of Amish country. Pa hitches up the sleigh and drives you through the woods before bringing you back to the cabin for cookies, hot cocoa, and coffee. After you’ve had your fill, stop in Ma & Pa’s Gift Shop and pick up some of their delicious maple syrup (made in-house!). Call ahead to reserve your ride, but keep in mind that reservations can only be made a week in advance based on snow conditions.
Ma & Pa’s
15161 Main Market Road (Route 422)
Burton, OH 44021
Whether you live in Jackson Hole or are visiting for winter vacation, stop by Mill Iron Ranch for a sleigh ride. As you ride through the picturesque Wyoming scenery, you’ll be in awe of the impressive mountains and numerous elk. At the end of the ride, you can enjoy a hearty dinner at the Mill Iron Ranch lodge. Call the ranch to make reservations.
The crisp winter air and snowy scenery add to the wonderful experience of sleigh rides at Mountain Springs Lodge. Sleigh bells jingling, snow crunching under the horses’ feet, and the snow glistening in the sunlight all add to the magical experience of riding through the frosty countryside. They offer a few different packages: sleigh ride only, sleigh ride with breakfast, or sleigh ride with dinner.
If you’re near Portland, Oregon, then you’ll want to drive over to Mt. Hood Adventure this winter season. Climb aboard a sleigh and take the village tour which guides you through historic Government Camp where you’ll enjoy the glowing holiday lights. Click here to purchase tickets.
The fine folks at Nordic Sleigh Rides in Breckenridge, Colorado offer a few different sleigh rides. Reserve a private sleigh if you are planning to pop the question or want to enjoy time alone with your sweetie. For a family affair or an outing with friends, you can ride in the large red sleigh driven by two Belgian draft horses. Click here to make your reservation today!
At Yosemite Trails in California, you’ll enjoy a fun-filled experience as you ride through the snowy trails in a sleigh driven by a cowboy. The sleigh stops in Skidders Camp where you can toast marshmallows and sip a cup of hot cider. When you’re ready, you’ll hop back in the sleigh to return to the lodge. As weather conditions vary, they may substitute the sleigh with a wagon if the snow levels are too low. Call ahead to verify the sleigh is running.
7910 Jackson/Big Sandy Road
Fish Camp, CA 93623
Additional Sleigh Rides:
There are so many more places to go for a sleigh ride! While I would love to tell you about all of them, I must return to my other elfy tasks. After the jump you’ll find a list of some more sleigh rides across the continental U.S.
Last year I discovered the Singing Christmas Tree in Portland, Oregon, but at that time I didn’t realize what a global tradition it is! Every year folks all around the world are performing holiday shows that include a singing Christmas tree. I’m amazed at all the talented people who build the sets and the many others who sing, dance, and play instruments. Below are a few hand-picked shows that you can enjoy across North America.
If you live near Augusta, GA, clear your schedule next weekend, because the Singing Christmas Tree at Abilene Baptist Church is performing for just 3 days. With a full orchestra, an original drama sequence, and over 85 singers, you won’t want to miss it! To get a taste of what you’ll see, check out this clip from last year’s show.
Abilene Baptist Church
3917 Washington Road
Martinez, GA 30907
Admission: Free! But make sure you get your tickets in advance from the main church office.
For the 62nd year in a row, the Singing Christmas Tree in Charlotte, NC is entertaining audiences. This event will include a variety of talent such as puppetry, dance, and—of course—music! In addition to the regular performances, the Singing Christmas Tree is also putting on 2 abbreviated shows for kids. So whether young or old, everyone will be filled with joyful spirit.
430 South Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
The Singing Christmas Tree in Jackson, MS boasts as being the longest running singing tree in America! The first performance at Belhaven University was held in 1933, which makes this year the tree’s 84th anniversary.
Belhaven University Bowl Stadium
1500 Peachtree Street
Jackson, MS 39202
If you want to see the tallest Singing Christmas Tree in America, then you need to visit Muskegon, MI. This gigantic tree stands a towering 67 feet tall! It can hold 240 singers and is decorated with 25,000 lights. Unfortunately this performance is completely sold out for this year, but mark your calendars for next year so you can get your tickets early. In the meantime, enjoy this video from a previous year that includes footage of the tree being built.
Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts
425 W. Western Avenue #200
Muskegon, MI 49440
Folks in the Pacific Northwest can kick off the Christmas season at a performance of Portland’s Singing Christmas Tree. This musical production will delight audiences with two hours of traditional and contemporary music. A live orchestra, 350+ singers, dancers, and actors bring the spirit of Christmas to life!
222 SW Clay Street
Portland, OR 97201
For 60 years, the Singing Christmas Tree has been performing in Sacramento, and this year they are going all out to celebrate their anniversary. In addition to the choir, there will also be a 40-piece orchestra, dancers, actors, and soloists.
Capital Christian Center
9470 Micron Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95827
The Vancouver Singing Christmas Tree is such a beloved Christmas tradition that all their tickets are sold out. But if you haven’t already secured a ticket, don’t fret because you can still try to grab a seat. Get there early and wait in the “non-ticket holders” line. Thirty minutes before each show, they’ll start letting folks in until the auditorium is full. To get updates, follow their Facebook page.
2700 East Broadway
Vancouver, British Columbia
As I mentioned earlier today, one of my favorite things about Christmas is the lights! Cities and communities all over the world are decorating their towns with holiday decorations and are kicking off the season with a tree lighting ceremony. In many places, you can expect a variety of fun festivities in addition to a grand evergreen, such as Christmas carols or live reindeer. Grab your hats and mittens and take your family to a tree lighting near you!
Make your plans to head into downtown Austin this Saturday, December 3rd, to participate in the Holiday Stroll. You’ll want to get there early because there’s much fun to be had! Shop the farmer’s market for holiday gifts at 5pm, then lift your voice and join the holiday sing-a-long at 6pm. Just as you’re getting warmed up, you can see the tree light up at 7!
The tree in Historic Dublin will be lit tonight! Brace yourself for an enjoyable evening, as kids can see live reindeer and visit with Santa, plus adults will enjoy watching artisans carve an ice sculpture. If that wasn’t enough to entice you, perhaps the free hot chocolate will—yum!
On Friday, December 2nd (tomorrow!) the jolly folks in Geneva, IL are putting on a spectacular holiday celebration. Santa Lucia’s arrival kicks off the festivities at 6pm, followed by Santa Claus himself who will light the tree. Stick around and roast some chestnuts, enjoy music from strolling carolers, or go for a carriage ride with your sweetie.
LEGO™ lovers in California will want to visit the LEGOLAND resort to see the giant Christmas tree made from thousands and thousands of bricks! Positioned near the entrance to the park, stop by to see this big tree come to life with twinkling lights every day from now until Christmas Day.
For those of you in the the metro Tucson area, hop in the car and take a short drive over to Marana for their tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, December 3rd. Fun for the whole family, the celebration starts at 3pm with performances by a youth choir, dance troupe, and more. Then at 6:30pm, the much anticipated Christmas light show will begin!
For 21 years, the folks in Mt. Pleasant, SC have been celebrating Christmas with an annual holiday parade. This year the festivities begin on December 11th at 5:30pm when the town’s Christmas tree will be lit. The tree lighting will be followed by a display of fireworks, and then the holiday parade will proceed through the streets. Want to find a good spectator spot? Click here to find out where exactly the parade will travel.
Roasted chestnuts, hot cocoa, and Christmas carols are just some of the fun things you’ll enjoy at this tree lighting ceremony. Rittenhouse Square is home to Philadelphia’s largest Christmas tree, so when the 5,000+ lights start glowing, it’s truly a sight to behold. Clear your schedule, because these festivities are tonight, December 1st!
In keeping with tradition, the grand evergreen in Trafalgar Square hails from Norway. Tonight, the Christmas tree will be lit at 6pm by a few folks, including the Norwegian Ambassador. If you miss this evenings’s festivities, you can mark your calendar for the Blessing of the Crib on December 4th or Carol Singing on the Square throughout the month.
Last November, the outdoor recreation and sporting goods retailer REI did something rather unheard of. On Black Friday, they closed all of their stores and paid their 12,000 employees to spend time outside. They dubbed this campaign #OptOutside, and they encouraged everyone else to join them in the great outdoors instead of at the shopping mall. What a refreshing idea!
This year I’m thrilled to report that REI has partnered with Subaru, and together they are inviting dog lovers to #OptOutside with their pups this Friday. I simply cannot think of a better way to spend a day than being outside enjoying nature with my best friend—my basset hound—so I’m all for this. If you need help deciding what to do with your pup, check out REI’s list of dog-friendly activities.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was established 150 years ago, making it the oldest humane society in the United States. As the President & CEO of the ASPCA Matthew Bershadker said, their “focus is to get pets out of shelters and keep them in homes, while increasing the protections of animals under the law. We are helping to shape a society that continuously improves the lives of animals.”
True to their motto—“We are their voice”—the ASPCA strives to make lives better for animals in a variety of ways. They work with the government to enact and enforce animal protection laws, perform spay/neuter operations across the country, run an adoption centre in NYC, transport animals to shelters, save animals from horrible conditions, and much, much more. Working to protect those who have no voice is a noble mission indeed.
I truly hope that everyone will venture outdoors with their dogs this Friday to pause and enjoy the beauty of nature. If you do, don’t forget to post a photo on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook using the #OptOutside and #MakeADogsDay hashtags to help raise money for the ASPCA! Additionally, if you want to give more to the animals, you can always donate to the ASPCA in honour of a loved one or host a Holiday Campaign.
If you love the movie, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, then I’m sure you’ll be as excited as I was to learn about this musical production! Max the dog, Cindy Lou Who, and the green man himself will be on stage delivering a heartwarming performance the whole family will enjoy.
The talented troupe of Whos brings Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday tale to life with joyous music. Amidst the lineup of merry tunes, you can expect to hear some favorites, such as “Welcome Christmas” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” This grand production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas will leave you filled with the Christmas spirit! Here’s a little taste of what you’ll see:
To catch a show near you, take a peek at the list below. And, if you live near Nashville, TN, you’re in luck because the musical will be performing at Opryland all season long!
It’s that time of year when ice rinks are popping up all around. We’ve hand-picked a few popular ones to highlight today that are located in large cities. As one might expect, most of these pop-up rinks charge admission, but some lucky souls can get in for free! So round up your troupe, gather your friends, or grab your honey’s hand and head to over to pop-up ice rink near you for some festive fun.
In midtown Atlanta, the ice rink at Park Tavern is a go-to spot for a gliding-good time. The rink is fully enclosed and temperature regulated, so it’s heated—or air-conditioned if Atlanta’s experiencing warm winter weather. While skating, you can enjoy music that plays over the speakers, and when you need to rest your feet, have a seat at a table and gulp down some hot chocolate. The last day to skate is February 15, 2016, so get your tickets today. They are available to purchase here.
Well, this is something I’ve never heard of before—skating on a roof! Yup, that’s right, at a Whole Foods store in Austin, Texas you can skate on the top of a building! Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? If you live within driving distance of Austin, head on over to the Plaza and take your turn spinning around this rooftop rink.
Know this before you go: Friday nights and weekends are always open to the public, but weekdays may be booked for a private event. To confirm that a weekday is open to the public, call Guest Services at this store.
In the heart of San Francisco, you can find a pop-up rink in Union Square. One unique feature about this rink is that they have a mobile app, so tech-savvy skaters can jump in the “virtual queue” instead of waiting in line. I’m sure you’ll enjoy spending that time scouting out some hot chocolate in the square!
While the rink is open now until January 18, 2016, you may want to go ahead and buy your tickets online as certain times are already sold out.
Skating at Skyline Park is free—yippee! And, renting a pair of skates is only $2, or free if you’re a student (just show your MY Denver Card). With rates like this, it’s the perfect opportunity to come out again and again all winter long. Since the rink is open until February 15, 2016, there’s no rush to cram in your skate sessions before Christmas.
The Winter Village at Bryant Park is the only rink in New York that offers free admission! Since there’s no fee, it’s an inexpensive way to entertain all your relatives who are visiting. Or if you work nearby, you can pop over for a quick twirl on the ice during your lunch break! With the rink being open until March 6, 2016 you’ve got plenty of time schedule a slippin’ good time!
For our British friends, plan on visiting the ice rink at Canary Wharf. It is home to London’s only skate path and can proudly say it’s one of the city’s largest rinks. The trees surrounding the area are beautifully lit with fairy lights which add to the magical holiday feel. If you’d rather watch the icy action from the sidelines, you can make yourself comfy on the viewing terrace. The rink is open until February 27, 2016.
This holiday season, you can see ol’ Saint Nick dive into the deep and swim with the fishies at an aquarium near you. We’ve hand-picked a few locations around North America, but he may be making additional appearances, so contact an aquarium in your area to see if they are expecting Scuba Santa this Yuletide!
Scuba Santa will be visiting west coast folks when he makes a splash at the Kelp Tank Dive Shows at the Birch Aquarium. Not only can you seize the opportunity to see Scuba Santa, but your kids can also make a holiday craft on weekends. Here are the dates and times you can see the jolly old man from December 2, 2015–January 3, 2016: Tuesdays & Thursdays at 12:30pm; Saturdays at 2pm; Sundays at 10:30am. (Closed on December 25th.)
2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, California 92037
If you live in North Georgia, consider driving to Atlanta to see Scuba Claus at the Georgia Aquarium. Kids can catch a glimpse of Scuba Claus plunging into the largest aquatic habitat in the world during the 12:00pm and 12:30pm dive shows, Thursday through Sunday from now until Christmas. Hang around for a chance to talk to Scuba Claus on the “dry side” in the Ocean Voyager Theater.
Scuba Santa will be enchanting folks who visit the Newport Aquarium this month. Whether you live in Newport or across the river in Cincinnati, plan a family trip to see Scuba Santa. The undersea festivities include Scuba Santa’s magic bubbles, dancing lights, and cheery holiday music. After Scuba Santa’s swim, children will have a chance to meet him in person and tell the big guy their Christmas wish. Enjoy this magical experience daily from 11am–4pm (except on 12/25).
Scuba Claus will be taking a plunge into the Great Ocean Tank at the South Carolina Aquarium on select dates this month. He’ll be there from 11:00am–3:00pm on December 12–13 and 19–23, so plan a visit to watch him swim with the sea creatures. You might even see whether his belly jiggles like jelly underwater! There will be lots of other fun family activities, too; contact the aquarium for more details.
Scuba Claus is visiting the Vancouver Aquarium every day until December 24th. He’ll be swimming through the Straight of Georgia exhibit, so you might see him swimming with belugas, halibut, sturgeon, or starfish. There’s also a possibility he will plunge into other galleries, so keep your peepers open as you stroll through the aquarium! Scuba Claus will be diving daily now until December 24th. Check the Vancouver Aquarium’s schedule for more information to plan your visit.