Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas 2015 is Coming so Now What?

Christmas is coming again, and it's time to find that special thing that brings the family together.  In a lot of cases, that means finding a place that's festive and Christmasy to do your shopping, dining, or just enjoying things that make the holiday meaningful and memorable for you and yours.  Last year one of the things that I talked about was the trend toward amusement parks having a holiday celebration, and that has been very successful.  I make time to go to Holiday Lights at Lake Compounce in Bristol, CT every year now.  I've also done the city thing where I go to New York and see the tree at Rockefeller Center see the Rockettes and look at the windows along 5th Avenue and take a ride in a carriage in Central Park.  That's good too, as long as you stay away from that line to see Santa at Macy's.  But in the spirit of the season, I thought I would mention a list of great places to go and have a special trip for your holiday.  They are in no particular order.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is a very traditional town and they love Christmas there.  The name most certainly started it all.  The entire town is done up every December so that you can have that beautifully lit experience and the decor of old world charm.  There are programs all through the month for traditionalists and modernists alike.  It is a great place to do your shopping, and a premiere place to mail your Christmas cards from.  We have a Bethlehem here in Connecticut, and I love to send cards with the postmark from Bethlehem.

Solvang, California is the kind of place that makes me wonder what it is that has made Bavarian, Dutch and German towns feel like Christmas to us all.  This Dutch town full of windmills and traditional buildings is beautiful all year round.  When they light it all up, it's a beautiful town for Christmas.  I really don't know about this one, because it's sunny and warm.  I have the same reservations about Christmas, Florida.  Nice name and namesake, but it's still warm and there's no chance for snow.  I don't know.  They do have great shopping and food in Solvang, and Christmas for that matter, but they do kind of fall low on my list.

Helen, Georgia is yet another Bavarian town, but this one comes with mountains.  At the end of Appalachia close to Stone Mountain and Ruby Falls, this village is quintessential Bavaria, which does make for a beautiful scene at Christmas.  They have activities all season long and they also do carriage rides, which just makes it feel like Christmas.  There's plenty of shopping and festivities to go with the scenery and the best part is that it looks like that all year round.

Fredericksburg, Texas is taking Bavaria to a whole new level with a lighted Bavarian town that sports a 26 foot tall traditional German pyramid at it's center.  Once again, we are in the south here, so it is warmer than a traditional Christmas seems like it would be, but Texas is full of German towns and such, and they all lend a traditional air to the holidays.  For some reason, Bavaria just says Christmas in this country.

Leavenworth, Washington is the little Bavaria that brings Norman Rockwell paintings to life.  This town goes all out on the lights, but they have the gazebo, the carolers, the ice skating, the snow, the mountains in the background and the evergreen trees everywhere that just scream Christmas.  It would be hard to think of anything but Christmas walking around this town this time of year.  Everywhere there are traditional links to Christmas and Christmas past.  You can even get roasted chestnuts at stands along the street.  This is one of the more popular towns in the country to visit at the holidays and it's not that far from Seattle, so getting in and out isn't bad either.  Just remember, there will be snow, and at Christmas time that's a good thing.

Santa Claus, Indiana is one of those places that says that Hoosiers aren't quite right, but they know how to have fun.  I can say that, because I come from there.  So, they founded a town and named it Santa Claus and the rest is history.  This whole town is built around Christmas.  Santa is everywhere all year round, and Holiday World is the amusement park for the tourists.  By the way, Holiday World, do a Christmas festival.  Get with the amusement park trends.  You're in Santa Claus, for heaven's sake.  At any rate, Christmas is crazy in this town. You can visit Santa, shop til you drop, and enjoy one of the most festive Christmas spots anywhere.

Frankenmuth, Michigan is another Little Bavaria that celebrates Christmas all year round.  This little town north of the Detroit area is a wonderland that can be enjoyed in all seasons, but all of those seasons are Christmas.  Not only is it home to amazing shopping and food, it also sports an indoor water park for year round fun, and the one and only Bronner's Christmas Wonderland.  Bronner's is the largest Christmas store in the world, and they aren't joking.  You can buy anything Christmas there.  They even have an entire section just for Santa suits.

North Pole, Alaska is probably the most intriguing spot for me.  Alaska does everything big, and this little town is no exception.  It's Christmas all year round here.  You can send your letters to Santa here and they will answer them.  Not joking.  They have a host of volunteers that answer Santa letters every year.  You can visit Santa anytime, but the Christmas season is really something.  You never have to worry about snow either.  It's Alaska.  If you can't make it to the far north in winter, check out the various websites for this town.  There are many things that they will help you do that can make your Christmas very special for the kids.

So, there are a lot of great places to spend some time at the holidays around the country.  I hope you get to visit at least one of those great spots, or you could enjoy the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, Illinois; the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee; the amazing things that they do at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota; see the Pink Pig in Atlanta, Georgia; or visit one of the Disney Parks for the holidays.  There are many things to do, places to go and Santas to see.  But, for that year round feeling that you can't get anywhere else, I bring you to New England.

South Deerfield, Massachusetts is the home of the Yankee Candle Company and it is Christmas there all year round.  This place is great because not only does it sit in New England which is gorgeous at Christmas time, but all of the festivities are inside out of the potentially cruel weather.  They have music shows by robotic performers, they have the inside of a medieval castle with thrones and all; even a drawbridge and a waterfall.  They have all kinds of Christmas rooms with trees, and villages, and trains and every tradition you've heard of.  You can get candy, cookies, chestnuts, and ice cream if you want.  It even snows inside this place.  You can visit Santa and Mrs. Claus in the middle of the toy store.  They have a restaurant, activities for the kids, and oh yeah, they sell candles.  You can spend all day inside out of the weather and still feel like you're outside celebrating Christmas in all those traditional Norman Rockwell ways.  If you get to spend some time in the area, you can also visit Historic Deerfield which is an antique town; once again, I'm not kidding.  People live there, yet they preserve the town of over 150 years ago.  If you have easily bored children, you can go to Magic Wings, the butterfly sanctuary as well.  It's a great area, and Yankee Candle is one of those amazing places that makes every day feel like Christmas.

So, there's some ideas for Christmas.  I hope that it helps you make some special memories for the year.  It's one of the busiest times of year, so don't miss the chance to spend some quality time with the family.  And you know, going to visit the family for Christmas is great, but having something special just for your little part of the family is good to.  So get out there and make some memories.  Enjoy!

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