For many, the holidays mean travel. Making the trek to family on the other side of the country, escaping to a beach in Mexico, or skiing. Spending the holiday somewhere special has its perks, but my family does an amazing amount of excursions over the weekends leading up to (and after) Christmas and New Year’s.We may not be hopping on and off of planes, but we’re definitely hitting the road to take advantage of the whirlwind of great “holiday things” on the calendar.
Of course, an excursion for one family may be a major undertaking for another, but here’s a list of special holiday happenings from coast-to-coast.
Theme Park Parties in Florida and Southern California
The Happiest Place on Earth knows how to throw a great Christmas party. In Orlando, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, is held on select nights in December. Snow falls on Main Street, fireworks explode in the air and a jolly holiday parade with special appearance by Santa himself.You need to purchase a separate admission ticket for the event, the park closes to regular visitors, but the extra cost is well worth the smaller crowds. See our recent post with tips for visiting Disney World over the holidays for more information.
In Southern California, Disneyland dresses up for the holiday with thousands of lights, fireworks and its own snow show. There’s no separate admission ticket to purchase. The Merriest Place on Earth adds holiday flair to some of its better-known rides like “It’s a Small World.” But don’t expect small crowds; just like Walt Disney World, the holidays at Disneyland have become a tradition for many families, so be ready to pull out that holiday cheer when you’re waiting in line. Make your Disneyland hotel reservations early.
Nutcracker in a Nutshell in San Diego
Treat your ballerina to Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic, in a sweet abridged performance at The Grand Del Mar in San Diego. After dining on family-friendly tea sandwiches and French pastries, sit back and relax for a mini rendition of “The Nutcracker Suite” performed by the Scripps Performing Arts Academy. Just forty-five minutes in length, the show is the perfect length for young attention spans. A portion of ticket sales is donated to Isabella’s Giraffe Club, a non-profit organization committed to providing emotional and educational support for parents with infants in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Skating Through the Holiday from Coast-to-Coast
I don’t like to be cold. My idea of a great vacation almost always involves warm water and a beach. But I love going ice skating with my kids.
When I’ve only got a few hours, I glide close to home at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena. The swiss chalet-style indoor ice rink, built by Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, takes on the feel of a Victorian Winter Wonderland and the Christmas tree stays at center ice through the holidays.
When we’ve got a whole day to spare, we head to the Holiday Ice Rink in San Francisco’s Union Square. We skate until we can’t feel our feet anymore, then go toMacy’s to ohh and ahh over the adoptable pups and kittens in the store’s Holiday Windows. Folks from the San Francisco SPCA will help you find the perfect match. Over the past six years, nearly 2,000 animals have found new homes thanks to the Macy’s Holiday Windows.If you’re looking to adopt an animal, I can’t think of more memorable way to find a furry friend.
High on my list of holiday must-dos is skating by the sea in Southern California.The Hotel del Coronado has a seasonal outdoor rink that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. If the view weren’t enough, a portion of the skating proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of San Diego.
New Yorkers and holiday travelers crowd the world-famous Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center. But don’t lace up your skates until you’ve got your ticket. All skating is on a first come first served basis, so be prepared for one to one-and-a-half hour lines in November and December.
MummersFest & Parade in Philadelphia
New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is televised across the country, but if you ask me, the holiday parade that should be on everyone’s must-see list happens in Philadelphia on New Year’s Day. The Mummers Parade has helped the City of Brotherly Love welcome the New Year since 1901, yet has remained one of the East Coast’s best kept secrets.
What are Mummers, you ask? More than 10-thousand strong, the volunteer marchers spend all year working on large, elaborate costumes, floats and props. Come the first of the year, they strut their stuff.My favorite part of the parade is the string band performances. String Band members wear fabulously fancy and fabulously heavy costumes while playing saxophones, banjos, accordions, violins and percussion instruments. Bundle up the kids and go and go. It’s a New Year’s Day you won’t ever forget.If you’re afraid of the cold, or got other plans for the New Year, head to Mummersfest. Held the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the event offers a behind-the-scenes look at everything Mummer, inside the Philadelphia Convention Center.
The New Year Smells Rosy in Pasadena
More than 50 million Americans enjoy a rosy start to the New Year, compliments of the Rose Parade. The floral extravaganza is televised all over the world.In Pasadena, California, an estimated 700-thousand more line the streets so they can truly catch a fragrant whiff. 2011 marks the 122nd Anniversary of the parade. Plan your dates correctly and you could hit the Rose Parade and Disneyland in one fun-filled long weekend.
An Explosive New Year in Seattle
Seattle’s Space Needle gets decked out for the holidays, but the festivities really get explosive on New Year’s Eve, when the famous landmark hosts the world’s tallest structure launched fireworks show. Thousands of people brave the crowds to watch the display from the base of the Space Needle, while hundreds of thousands more watch from surrounding neighborhoods. Be sure to hang around for a few days after the holiday, as Seattle has its fair share of family-friendly activities.