10 Kid-Friendly Cities That Go Crazy for Christmas
Skaneateles, New York
The Dickens' Christmas festival overtakes this town in the Finger Lakes region. It runs on weekends from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, and it offers a parade, horse-and-wagon rides, costumed actors portraying characters from A Christmas Carol, Mother Goose storytimes, and appearances by Father Christmas. Prices vary by activity; skaneateles.com
An ice-skating rink, a heated lodge with food and family games, fire pits, cozy cabins, a holiday market, and free entertainment draw families to the city's waterfront at Penn's Landing for Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest from November 23, 2018 through March 3, 2019. Spend the night to see other classic holiday attractions like the Comcast Holiday Spectacular and several holiday-themed performances at the Kimmel Center. Book a hotel package that includes free parking, visitphilly.com/overnight
Don't miss the 47-foot Yule Slide, the Giant Snow Globe, the Snow Castle with pretend ice-fishing, and visits with Santa at the Children’s Museum Indianapolis. Jolly Days at the museum runs from November 23, 2018 to January 6, 2019, and is included with regular admission. At night, families can drive their car around a 2-mile track with dozens of light displays at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Lights at the Brickyard Event from November 16 through December 30, visitindy.com.
There's a reason why this city outside Dallas dubs itself the Christmas capital of Texas—it holds more than 1,400 holiday events every year from mid-November to early January. Among them: a Twinkle Light Boat Parade (where boats adorned with lights sail through the lake), the North Pole Express train ride, and classic holiday movies at the 1940s-era Palace Theatre. Stay at the city’s Great Wolf Lodge (which offers special “Snowland” activities) or at the Gaylord Texas Resort (which has ice slides the kids can go down). Prices vary by event; grapevinetexasusa.com/Christmas
Branson is home to the world’s largest toy museum with more than a million dolls, trains, and teddy bears. Silver Dollar City, its theme park, transforms into a winter wonderland with seasonal shows and more than 6 million lights. Stay at the nearby Big Cedar Lodge. When it's decked out with lights until mid-January, this resort looks like a gingerbread village. It offers dozens of holiday activities, including hot cocoa around a bonfire, ice skating, scavenger hunts, stocking decorating, and storytime with Mrs. Claus. Log cabins start at $185 per night; bigcedar.com
What's even better than chocolate? Four million lights, live reindeer, and 45 attractions, including rides and coasters. Visit Hersheypark Christmas Candylane on select dates from November 16, 2018 to January 1, 2019. Stay at Hershey Lodge, which has a fun new indoor waterpark, and drive through Hershey Sweet Lights, 2 miles of wooded trails with 600 nighttime displays. Lodging rates including admission to both activities, a Milk & Cookie Delivery, plus other experiences start at about $250 for a family of four per night; hersheypark.com.
The Windy City plans a blizzard of activities to get your family in the holiday spirit. Ice skate in the rink at Millennium Park. Too cold for you? Head indoors to Fifth Third Bank Winter Wonderfest inside at Navy Pier. It offers a skating rink plus slides and rides. Or take in one of the many holiday-themed shows including The Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre (until December 30) and The Nutcracker at Auditorium Theatre (until December 30). Book the Snowed Inn package at the Loews Chicago Hotel; it includes a kids’ tent set up in the room, hot cocoa, and Christmas cookies starting at $169 per night, choosechicago.com
Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland returns this season at Busch Gardens. Running on select days from November 17, 2018 to January 5, 2019, the attraction features reindeer meet-and-greets and themed games. Your kids also won’t want to miss the Sesame Street Forest of Fun and 1.5-mile Christmas Town Express. Take a break at one of the shows, such as ‘Twas That Night. Colonial Williamsburg also offers dozens of holiday events, such as skating at Liberty’s Ice Pavilion, visitwilliamsburg.com.
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New York City
Kick up your holiday spirit by taking your kids to see The Radio City Rockettes. The 90-minute performances run from November 9, 2018 to January 1, 2019. Make it a weekend by skating at Rockefeller Plaza, visiting one of the city’s holiday markets, and checking out 1,000-plus gingerbread houses at the New York Hall of Science. Stay at the Omni Berkshire Place, which offers lobby carolers, an edible candy-cane installation, a hot cocoa bar on Fridays, holiday-themed amenity for kids, and a welcome note from Santa. nycgo.com/holidays
This amusement park mecca was the most visited holiday destination in 2016, according airfarewatchdog.com. And both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort have upped their game for 2018. Disney World offers Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, Epcot® International Festival of the Holidays, and plenty more holiday magic. Universal Studios is hosting Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; get details on all the city’s events at visitorlando.com.