Attributed to the Millennials, the concept of forgoing gifts during the holidays and sharing an ‘experience’ instead is gaining popularity. This may be why projections in the travel and hospitality industries for the coming Winter holidays are merry and bright. Whether your family is already headed to Orlando or Las Vegas, or you’re thinking stopping somewhere for some holiday cheer en route to family, it is not too late: there is still time to book a memorable family experience. Here are some of the predictable, and surprise options to make this year’s holiday unforgettable.
Anyone with children has been nagged since they could speak about the need to visit Mickey and the gang. What better time than at the holidays. Expensive? Yes. But, worth it? Absolutely. There is so much to see, do, and experience at the various parks that comprise the Disney enterprise, that no one can possibly visit them all. Some are one-time events, others are on a rotating schedule. Be sure to check to avoid disappointment.
Here are some highlights:
- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: held at the Magic Kingdom this event will be the one the kids remember.
- Sunset Seasons Greetings Projection Show: Imagine giant snowflakes falling against the castle to cheery holiday music while you watch wearing shorts and flip flops. Mouse-eared headgear optional.
- Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Fireworks Spectacular. Because fireworks!
- Lifesize Gingerbread House and Carousel Display at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Beach Club. What a lot of ingenuity, an aromatic spice, and gigantic baking pans can do!
- Epcot: For insight on holiday traditions in different countries around the world.
Taos, New Mexico
Not to favor those on the East Coast, but for families who definitely want to escape urban living, we present Taos, NM. It is small, remote, and relaxing. Nestled 70 miles north of Santa Fe, this small town has Southwestern flair. Its historic downtown features quaint adobe buildings decorated with ‘snow’ for the holidays, comfortable accommodations, fine and family dining destinations, and out of the ordinary events including bonfires to illuminate special holiday performances by traditional Aztec dancers. And not a jolly old elf in sight!
Frankenmuth, Michigan (Bronner’s)/Santa Claus, Indiana
Maybe on your way to another holiday destination, your family will appreciate a visit to Bronner’s, billed as the world’s largest Christmas store. With an inventory of tens of thousands of different items, such as holiday trees, lighting, decorations, trimmings etc. This is no small enterprise. In fact, Bronner’s spans about two stadiums in size and is open daily, every day, including Christmas. In addition to secular merchandise, there is a focus on religious holiday items as well. The store is so big, it rates its own restaurant. You will need a break. It is wonderful, but can truly provide retail overload.
Santa Claus, Indiana is an ideal day trip if you’re spending the holidays with relatives in the MidWest. This town has something to offer everyone who is young at heart. It is truly Christmas here 24/7/365, even when the temps soar into the 80s. During the actual holiday season, the town hosts one of the best light displays in all the land. The rest of the year, stay at Santa’s Lodge, watch elves make presents and polish the sleigh, view the 22-foot tall statue of the man himself, and enjoy a day at an amusement park with an eponymous name and theme. Plan to pass through Frankenmuth, MI to round out your visit.
If you like to roll the dice when selecting your holiday destination, consider Las Vegas Christmas Town. It is a seasonal attraction at the Wet ‘N Wild waterpark, to provide the locals with Christmas spirit, and visitors with a reminder of the blustery weather they escaped back home.
For a few short weeks, Christmas Town rivals Sin City in dazzle: the display features over 2 million lights. Attractions include Jingle Bell Sledding Hill, whose slope and snow are man-made but highly effective. Visit with Santa at his winter home, and ride several trains including the Polar Express, view the Merry Magic Tree, skate on an Olympic-size rink, and just enjoy each other.
NYC to some, Manhattan or the Big Apple to others, when the chill hits the air, it is time to celebrate this unique locale with a regal name: Gotham. Family festivities include the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center, and absolute must: a stroll up and down 5th Avenue to view the festive holiday-themed window decorations (soon, in this internet age of online shopping to become a bygone memory). If the kids are young enough, treat them to a visit with Santa at Macy’s Herald Square. After all, they made a movie about it, people! Perhaps the best thing about spending the holidays in New York City, is that there is magic and wonder to be had whatever your activity. Taking in a show at Radio City, visiting the Natural History Museum, exploring the Central Park Zoo, all provide quality time for families to be together. Your holiday visit will be pricey (think Groupon), but your memories priceless!
If suddenly your plans to go to grandmas’ again this year look a tad bit pale, tell her to pack her bags and make this a multi-generational Holiday to remember in an exciting locale!