rockLightsThe winter holidays—Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s—are among the busiest family travel times of the year. It’s the rare time when all of the kids have the same week off of school. Some families take advantage of that to travel to be with loved ones they see only during the holidays. Others see it as the best opportunity to travel away from the family they see too much all year round.

Regardless of where or why you travel over the holidays, check out some of these special events:

The Holidays in New York City

New York City becomes a holiday theme park in late autumn. From the Radio City Christmas Spectacular to a huge New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, it offers a range of activities, some free and many on must-see lists.


CandylaneYou can see intricate store window decorations at Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue, the huge tree at Rockefeller Center, and the ultimate Nutcracker ballet at Lincoln Center.

Every night of Hanukkah, there is a festive menorah light at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. And you can see NYC landmarks up close, and in miniature, at the The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show.

A couple of tips: Jews traditionally go out for Chinese and to the movies on Christmas Eve (unless it is also Hanukkah) and many ethnic restaurants are open on Christmas day. The Jewish Museum is also open on Christmas and has an annual party. Crowds for store windows greatly diminish after New Year’s.

Theme Park Happenings

The Merry Disneyland Holiday Celebration a the Anaheim, California resort, goes through January 2, 2012. It includes Three Kings Day, or Día de Reyes. Festivities, complete with a 60-foot Christmas tree, Victorian carolers, a nighttime Sleeping Beauty Winter Castle light show and a huge “snowman.” The “It’s a Small World” attraction has been decked out in holiday finest and the Haunted Mansion has a holiday gingerbread house. Three Kings Day, in Frontierland, has Mexican food and entertainment.

Hershey, Pennsylvania, becomes a winter wonderful, with Christmas Candylane at Hersheypark and Hershey Sweet Lights. Hershey Sweet Lights is a drive-through attraction, perfect for very cold weather. The 2.3-mile route takes you through the woods, with 600 themed light displays, and a simultaneous radio broadcast. At Christmas Candylane, you can go on rides and meet Santa along with reindeer. Hershey’s Chocolate World displays a life-size Hershey’s Holiday Chocolate House, covered in chocolate and candy; kids can go through the Little Elves Workshop and make a chocolate dough ornament. Starts weekends on November 18, then daily December 16 -31.

Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL, has a nightly Candlelight Processional at Epcot, November 25 – December 30. Actors and musicians retell the Christmas story. Magic Kingdom has Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on select nights November 8 – December 18. Santa comes to Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, and nightly fireworks Holiday Wishes: There is ‘snow’ along Main Street, U.S.A.

New this year, Sesame Place, in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, introduces A Very Furry Christmas. For the first time, the Sesame Street theme park will be decorated in primary color lights, with nightly visits from Santa and three Christmas shows. The ‘dry’ rides, including the carousel and balloon race, are also open. A Very Furry Christmas runs November 25th – December 31.

bricktacularThe all new LEGOLAND Florida celebrates the first annual Christmas Bricktacular December 8-31 with a 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree and nightly tree lighting with a guest family each night. Ring in the New Year with fireworks at Kids’ New Year’s Eve, at the kid-friendly time of 7pm on December 31.

Lights Lights Lights

Rock City Gardens’ Enchanted Garden of Lights, Lookout Mountain, Georgia, has more than 30 holiday scenes and more than a million lights. Decorate gingerbread cookies, get a Sugar Plum Fairy Makeover face painting and visit Santa and his elves. You can warm up with hot chocolate by the fire and hear live music. The 17th annual event runs 6-9pm, November 18 – December 31 (except Christmas Eve).

Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, also has over a million lights, along with homemade gingerbread houses and visits from Santa during its 6 week Christmas in the Country celebration. There are trolley tours of the lights, holiday music, snow sculptures, and afternoon tea. November 21 – December 29.