Nothing gets families into the holiday spirit like a great festival; some twinkly lights, roller coasters, and St. Nick. Don’t just sit at home this year. Grab the kids, and get out to towns across the country that are doing things a little different than your average, run of the mill parties to ring in the season.
Prepare to spend a weekend at the Christmas Lighting Festival in Leavenworth, WA. Each full weekend in December, the town is toasting Saint Nicholas himself with a celebration worthy of the big man. Live music fills the air as excited boys and girls wait for St. Nick to arrive. Saturday the music is still playing as Santa shows up along with some of his friends. Families can enjoy performances throughout the day by hand bell choirs, dancers performing scenes from The Nutcracker, and some of the best high school and professional choirs in the Pacific Northwest. Parents can pop into the Gluhwein Tent for some spiced cider to share with their children when the weather turns cold, before heading to the Christmas Story Corner. Sunday is the time to grab your Cookie Crawl map, to hunt for cookies being given to cunning little boys and girls. The event hits its highpoint each Saturday and Sunday night as over a half a million holiday lights switch on to show off this little German-inspired town.
Dickens of a Christmas Celebration is celebrating its 32nd year in 2015. Join locals and visitors as the streets are closed to traffic so a Victorian Christmas world can take over the town. Food and craft vendors set up along Main Street and the side streets, all dressed in period costumes to bring the magic to life. Strolling musicians and singers, corner thespians and dancers roam around town entertaining little ones and their parents all day long. With no traffic to worry about, parents can give their children a bit of freedom while they shop for Christmas crafts and decorations. Keep an eye out for a little match girl or Scrooge, or pop in for the annual theatrical performances that are sure to put everyone in the holiday spirit.
Santa Claus, IN
It’s hard not to get excited about a town called Santa Claus. Although there is no specific name for this town’s festival, other than Christmas, the three weekends leading up to Christmas Day are filled with activities and fun for the whole family. Kids will love stops at Santa's Candy Castle, Santa Claus Christmas Store, Santa's Stables, or just have a blast on one of the wooden roller coasters at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. Santa Claus Land of Lights: Family Christmas Light Adventure is sure to be a hit with kids young and old that love the magic a few twinkly lights can bring. Each weekend the schedule is packed with activities, including writing a letter to Santa, chatting with an elf, a Run Run Rudolph 5k, chestnut roasting and of course, a visit with Santa.
Christkindlemarket is a traditional German Christmas market located in Daly Plaza between Washington, Clark, and Dearborn Streets. Seven days a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas you will find vendors selling traditional ornaments, chocolates, crafts, and more to fill up your family’s stocking. Chow down on pastries, brats, and traditional (or not so traditional) German food that will keep you warm while you cruise the stalls. Singers, dancers, and actors entertain the crowds. Parents should check out the Kinder Club page for printable coloring pages, suggested itineraries at the market, and a scavenger hunt to help keep boredom at bay while you shop and the kids follow behind.
Pigeon Forge, TN
Head to the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains for the Pigeon Forge Winterfest. Stroll through town as you marvel at over 2 million lights on display. Enjoy a parade, ride the carousel, or just do a little last minute Christmas shopping in town. The Inn at Christmas Place, although always in the holiday spirit, makes for an inviting space to cuddle up when the temperature drops after a long day of playing. If you really want to delight the kids though, bring them over to Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and his friends from the children’s classic come to life in this theme park. Decorate a few Christmas cookies, ride the roller coasters, and gaze at the model train set before you head to the main attraction—Dollywood’s A Christmas Carole. Dolly herself will show up via a holographic image to play the ghost of Christmas past. There may not be snow on the ground during your visit, but Pigeon Forge sure knows how to celebrate the spirit of the season.
What are some of your favorite Christmas festivals?
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