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- A CityPASS guide to the best holiday happenings
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Holiday Happenings in Big, Beautiful Cities
Holiday travel brings friends and family together to revel in the comfort of familiar surroundings. But it also provides an unmatched opportunity to explore traditions beyond your own family or hometown celebrations. If a CityPASS tour takes you on the road this Christmas season, look for your destination city’s signature holiday happenings and join the festivities. You just might turn some vacation memories into traditions of your own back home.
Seattle has been putting its maritime mojo on display each Christmas since 1949 with the Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship Festival. The light-festooned flotilla brings holiday cheer to a different waterfront community around Puget Sound each night through December 23, with onboard carolers performing for the folks on shore. You can add your voice to the chorus, either as a passenger on the Christmas ship or one of the accompanying parade boats, or from shore, where thousands of residents gather around bonfires and wait for the ships to arrive.
Christmas in Boston means just one thing: a Holiday Pops concert at historic Symphony Hall. The holiday rendition of the famous Boston Pops show presents classical and popular holiday music on an extravagantly decorated stage. Kids matinees include a sing-along and a visit from Santa himself.
At the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, model trains run among 140 replicas of city landmarks including Radio City Music Hall, the original Yankee Stadium and the Brooklyn Bridge. Fashioned from twigs, leaves, pine cones, bark and berries, the iconic structures line ¼ mile of track set beneath thousands of holiday lights in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. At the Artist’s Studio, the creators demonstrate the construction process and display replicas in various states of completion. The trains run through January 13, with occasional special events and accompanying activities on the schedule.
At the Macy’s Christmas Light Show, 34,500 LED lights form the Magic Christmas Tree and another 60,000 plus create jolly characters who dance and play on a light screen in the background. Music from the historic Wanamaker Organ, the largest operating pipe organ in the world, accompanies the narrated show, which takes place at the downtown store’s Grand Court every hour on the hour during business hours through December 31.
If you dream of a white Christmas, but find yourself in Atlanta for the season, you can still frolic in the snow with a visit to Stone Mountain Park. Open through February 18, the Snow Mountain attraction includes tubing runs long enough to thrill everyone in the family and a snow play area with plenty of the white stuff to build a snowman, pack snowballs and make powder angels. Stone Mountain celebrates the season with twinkling lights, fireworks and holiday shows, plus a Christmas sing-along train and The Polar Express 4D Experience.
Just about 30 miles north of Houston proper in The Woodlands master-planned community, you can take the kids for a walk in a 2-acre Winter Wonderland nightly through January 21. Lighted storybook characters and holiday symbols surround the perimeter of the ice rink with a magical glow. Follow your enchanted stroll with a few turns around the rink (skate rentals available) and a marshmallow-topped hot chocolate.
The Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market, taking place through December 16 at the Distillery Historic District, evokes the charm of an Old World German Christkindlmarkt. Artists, artisans and craftspeople sell handmade Christmas merchandise and food vendors serve spiced gluhwein, roasted chestnuts, gingerbread and other Christmastime treats. Musicians, carolers and children’s choirs perform throughout the venue, which also includes a Ferris wheel, train rides, and Santa’s house and workshop.
Southern California’s prolific theme parks get into the holiday spirit with fantastical tree lightings. At Legoland, a 30-foot-tall tree made of forest-green Legos lights up the sky nightly until New Year’s. Disneyland spreads the magic on its new Buena Vista Street with vintage decorations and a 50-foot tree covered in bell-shaped lights and oversized ornaments. At Sea World, children can meet reindeer in training, have breakfast with Santa and Shamu, and stretch their necks trying to see the top of the park’s Christmas tree – at 320 feet, the tallest in Southern California.
There’s no need to time travel for an authentic Victorian Christmas. In its 34th year, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair recreates the streets of 1800s London in San Francisco’s historic Cow Palace. Taking place each weekend through December 23, this year’s fair celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens while bringing holiday scenes from Victorian England to life. More than 700 costumed characters stroll the period-appropriate streets, with shopping, traditional holiday foods, performances and demonstrations, hot toddies and pints, high tea and a children’s tour to keep the whole family entertained.