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Tag Archives: Fun for Kids

Christmas Boat Parades

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Unless you live in a town that is located on or near the water, this might be the first time you’ve heard of a Christmas boat parade. Well, a floating fleet of ships is just as festive as many other light shows, and, in my opinion, it’s a bit more impressive that folks rig up their boats with creative light displays! Attending one of these parades would be a jolly good time for the whole family or a date night with your sweetheart. Even if a boat parade is not near you, keep reading to enjoy the pictures!

Newport Beach Christmas Beach Parade – Newport Beach, CA

NewportBeach-1
Photo Credit: christmasparadeboats.com

The Newport Christmas Boat Parade first started in 1907 when a man carried a few folks across the bay in his gondola decorated with Japanese lanterns. Over the last century, the parade has morphed from its humble beginnings into a wildly popular event that draws visitors from all over country. In fact, the New York Times named it “one of the top ten holiday happenings in the nation” in 2002. With over 200 boats and many houses and docks decorated for the occasion, it’s no surprise why this event is such a success!

You can watch the parade from multiple locations around the bay, including various restaurants. Click here for more viewing information. Want to upgrade your experience? You can observe the parade from a yacht; reserve tickets here.

December 16–20, 2015
6:30pm–9:00pm
Admission: Free!
Route map (click to download)

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights – Alexandria, VA

Alexandria-1
Photo Credit: visitalexandriava.com

If you live near the Washington, D.C./Alexandria area, you’ll want to make plans to go to the boat parade on the Potomac River. There will be fun festivities for everyone, so bring the whole family! Although the activities vary depending which side of the river you’re on, both sides will have live music, photos with Santa, and a brilliant display of lights. For more details of this event, check out the Facebook page.

Saturday, December 5, 2015
5:00pm–8:00pm
Admission: Free!

San Diego Parade of Lights – San Diego, CA

SanDiego-1

The residents of San Diego will enjoy yet another dashing display of Christmas lights in this year’s Parade of Lights. The 2015 theme is “Christmas Around The World,” and I’m sure it will be an impressive sight to behold! Spectators who want to learn tidbits of info about the participating boats can camp out near an announcers’ area. (The two announcers’ areas are located at Coronado Landing and Maritime Museum on the Embarcadero.)

Sunday, December 13 and Sunday, December 20, 2015
5:30pm–7:30pm
Admission: Free!
Route map (click to view)

Christmas Ships Parade – Portland, OR

Portland-1

The Christmas Ships Parade in Portland is not just a single parade, but a series of parades! For 15 nights in December, dedicated skippers sail their boats up and down the Columbia River and Willamette River. The parade routes vary by date and by river, so be sure to check the schedule(s) ahead of time to plan your outing.

December 4–20, 2015 (No parade on the 6th or 14th.)
Start times vary by date and location
Admission: Free!

Columbia River

  • View the full schedule here.
  • Download the printable guide here.

Willamette River

  • View the full schedule here.
  • Download the printable guide here.

Venice Christmas Boat Parade – Venice, FL

Venice_FL-1
The first ever
Venice Christmas Boat Parade hit the Intracoastal Waterway in 1989 with a showing of 41 boats. Now, over thirty years later, the Venice tradition still delights the community with its glowing procession of decorated vessels. In the spirit of giving, the Venice Christmas Boat Parade, along with its sponsors, benefits boating activities for youth and funds a marine sciences scholarship!

Saturday, December 5, 2015
6:00pm
Admission: Free!
Route map (click to view)

#OptOutside This Friday

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#OptOutside This Friday

This Friday REI, the outdoor recreation and sporting goods retailer, is doing something rather extraordinary. Instead of participating in Black Friday, they are closing all of their stores and paying their 12,000+ employees to spend time outside, and they are inviting everyone else to join them. While some folks probably can’t imagine a store not being open on the biggest shopping day of the year, this campaign [appropriately called #OptOutside] fits quite well with REI’s belief that “a life outside is a life well-lived,” and I can definitely appreciate them practicing what they preach!

In the midst of holiday busyness, taking some time to go explore the great outdoors sounds like a fantastic idea. All of us could benefit from pausing and enjoying the beauty of nature—whether it’s a snowy mountain, scenic state park, metropolitan botanical garden, or your favourite campground.

Some parks in the USA are even offering special discounts and events to help encourage people to #OptOutside this Friday. Here are just a few of the participating park systems:

For a list of additional park systems, organizations, and companies that have partnered with REI on this campaign, please visit REI’s website. Or, go here to find places to have fun skiing, hiking, cycling, or paddling. You can also check out the hashtag #OptOutside on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to see how others are spending their Friday out in the fresh air!

Personally, I plan to #OptOutside on Black Friday by exploring a marsh and a beach with my fiancé and my dog. How will you be spending the day? Will you be fighting the crowds at the mall? Hiking with your children at a state park? Sleeping in late and then putting up your Christmas tree? Going for a run around a lake? Let us know in the comments!

Kindling Spirits with the Singing Christmas Tree

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Portland Singing Christmas Tree
Photo Credit: singingchristmastree.org

Ready to kick off the holiday season? If you live near Portland, Oregon, the Singing Christmas Tree is a great way to do so! This unforgettable theatrical production is 53 years in the making. It all began in 1962 with just a single show and has grown into an annual Portland tradition with multiple performances. Make it a date with someone special on a Saturday evening or catch an afternoon matinee with the whole family. Comprised of hundreds of local singers, dancers, actors, and a live orchestra, the Singing Christmas Tree is sure to be an experience that kindles the Christmas spirit in the hearts of all who attend. To find out more information about the performances and to get tickets, go here.

2015 Performance Dates:

  • Saturday, November 28th – 11:00am, 3:30pm, 7:30pm
  • Sunday, November 29th – 2:30pm
  • Thursday, December 3rd – 7:30pm
  • Friday, December 4th – 7:30pm
  • Saturday, December 5th – 11:00am, 3:30pm, 7:30pm
  • Sunday, December 6th – 2:30pm

Want to support the Singing Christmas Tree, but can’t attend any of the performances? Consider making a donation to help it come to life next year! Click here for more information.

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.

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.

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 Paper Folding Tradition for 40+ Years

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At the American Museum of Natural History, their Origami Holiday Tree has been an annual tradition for more than 40 years. The tree is a whopping 13 feet tall and displays more than 800 origami ornaments—each one folded by hand! Origami artists from all over the world assist in making the plethora of paper models for the tree. The theme for this year’s tree is Origami Night at the Museum, inspired by the film Night at the Museum.

The 2014 Origami Holiday Tree will be on display from November 24, 2014 through January 11, 2015.

Here are some images from 2013’s holiday tree. The theme for 2013 was Wicked, Wild and Wonderful and was inspired by The Power of Poison exhibit at the museum.

Photo Credit: AMNH/R. Mickens

Photo Credit: AMNH/R. Mickens

Photo Credit: AMNH/R. Mickens

Photo Credit: AMNH/R. Mickens

For more information, please visit the American Museum of Natural History website, or contact them at:

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
Phone: 212-769-5100

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