By Kim McNeill
Winter holidays are here again! If you are anything like me, you want your kids to have memorable traditions, quality family time, and keep busy by themselves long enough for the parents to enjoy an occasional glass of eggnog.
The holiday season is busy and it can be an effort to fit in activities. Here are five activities worth doing to really capture the holiday spirit.
There is nothing more magical than the enchantment of the Nutcracker. A tale of Christmas dreams that features music we all associate with the holidays. With the beautiful dancers in elaborate costumes sparkling as they pirouette and leap, every kid will dream of sugar plums and snow fairies.
There are more than a dozen places around Connecticut to experience this holiday classic. Tickets run anywhere from $12 to $25 per person. Check out the entire list right here.
If the cost of a live performance is out of the Holiday budget, try borrowing a DVD from the library.
Driving around looking at house decorations is a tradition I do with my family because my parents did it with me. A thermos of hot chocolate, throw blankets and pillows in the backseat makes a drive in the car much more festive.
The drive can be a quick tour of the neighborhood or a longer jaunt to a specific destination. The Hartford Festival of Light has Bushnell Park decorated for the holidays with an ice skating rink.
Another spectacular display of holiday lights is the Fantasy of Lights at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven. Car admission is $10.
Train Ride with Santa
The wheels chug, the whistle blows, the gentle swaying of the carriage are some of the ambiance of train rides. Train rides are already fairly magical. Add a visit from Santa to really get the kids ready for Christmas morning.
The Railroad Museum of New England, in Thomaston, has a gift area, and a choice of two train rides. The Northern Lights Limited to Santa’s Train Workshop is an hour and quarter ride with a visit with Santa at his train workshop for $75 per person. The Santa Express will have Santa and Mrs. Claus visit with children during a twenty-minute train ride for $16 for adults, $14 for children 3-12, and free admission for children 2 and under if they sit on a parent’s lap.
The Danbury Railway Museum offers rides to train yard on a vintage train to meet Santa in toyland. Each of the children will receive a free gift and admission for ages 2 and over (under 2 is free) is $9.
The Essex Steam Train will get your kids in the holiday spirit with a trip to the North Pole to pick up Santa and Mrs. Claus. Each of the kids can wear cozy pajamas and will receive a free gift. A live performace of The Night Before Christmas and, with Santa a Mrs. Claus, the kids will enjoy hot chocolate, cookies, and sing-a-longs. The North Pole Express First Class tickets cost $60. Other tickets are $40 and $28 each for Cabaret Class and Coach Class respectively. Children under 2 on an adult’s lap can ride free.
Build a Gingerbread House
With the spices of fall, gingerbread is a wonderful winter treat. Gingerbread houses, though, are more for decoration. Spending time decorating the houses and finding just the right candies for roof shingles, or learning how to draw with icing is a family activity that is fun and great for developing creativity.
Bakers can choose to make the houses from scratch. I usually end up with a kit. Kits can be expensive when you are buying for a crowd. Another option is to use graham crackers “glued” with icing onto small, lunch-box-sized milk containers. The last is a great option for kids who aren’t satisfied with only one house.
Movies and Books
I have to admit that I am a big fan of holiday books and movies. Books and movies help get across the big ideas of the holidays. We have enough books now that we could read a different book every night starting on December 1st.
Because I celebrate Christmas, I have The Night Before Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (which is much longer than the song). There are more and more books for the holidays every year. You may find a family favorite at the local library.
Kim McNeill writes at Nutmeg Families, is a publisher with Macaroni Kid of Southbury, Middlebury, Roxbury, Bridgewater, and Oxford, Connecticut, a hyper-local community website for families, and also blogs about more Connecticut family fun at Hearst Connecticut Media Group.