December 18 2008 by Julie Drossos
Branson, Missouri: Christmas Festival at Silver Dollar City
You may not have heard of Branson, but it's a gem of a town located in Missouri, and at this time of year, it plays host to "An Old Time Christmas" at Silver Dollar City, a spectacular holiday light show which was named one of the world's Top Holiday Destinations by CNN.com.
A very family-oriented festival, one of the main highlights is their five-story Christmas tree. There's a tree lighting celebration every night at 5:30 pm. No ordinary tree, this one twinkles and dances along with over a million lights throughout the city's square. There's also the Gifts of Christmas Holiday Light Parade which travels through the streets twice each evening.
If you're in the mood for some holiday theatre, you can take in an original musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This is the grandest production ever showcased at Silver Dollar City, and features 14 talented actors and a live band.
Your kids will love one of the newest additions to Silver Dollar City's Christmas Festival - Frosty the Snowman. They'll be able to see their favorite snowman come to life in an interactive musical show at Boatworks Theater.
This festival ends on December 30th. If you'd like more information visit their website, and if you plan to stay a while, I suggest you hang your hat at Silver Dollar City's next door neighbor, the Best Western Branson Inn.
Austin, Texas: Trail of Lights Festival
The Trail of Lights Festival runs for a limited time (December 14 - December 23), but if you're in the Austin area, it's a must-see holiday attraction. Originating in 1965 as Yule Fest, USA Today has named the Trail of Lights Festival one of the Top Ten Holiday Lightings in the country.
The trail of lights is 1.25 miles of over 40 lighted scenes including Santa's house, Santa's post box, a giant yule log, a crafts fair, food and beverage stands (can't you just taste the roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate?!) and two stages of holiday entertainment. One of the highlights of the festival is the Zilker Zephyr, which is an adorable miniature train which takes festival-goers through Zilker Park. The train runs all evening and the fee is $2 for kids and $3 for adults.
If you arrive on December 14th, you can take part in the official ribbon cutting ceremony to open the festival and see the annual parade where your kids will delight in seeing Santa and Mrs. Claus riding along in their horse-drawn carriage (Rudolph and the reindeers get that night off to rest up for Christmas night).
New York, New York: Rockefeller Center
No one can deny the sheer magnificence of New York City at Christmastime. The Big Apple knows how to put on a show like no other city, and Christmas is no exception. Rockefeller Center boasts their world famous Christmas tree, standing almost 100 feet tall and decked out in over 30,000 eco-friendly LED lights. Last year, after the tree came down, the lumber was used for construction materials for Habitat for Humanity - truly in the spirit of giving back.
While you're there, it's an absolute must to lace up a pair of skates (you can rent them onsite) and glide along Rockefeller Center's famous outdoor ice rink. Nothing feels more like Christmas then skating along with your loved one(s), taking in the beauty of the tree and lights and listening to your favorite holiday tunes. Nearby, be sure to check out Saks Fifth Avenue's holiday snowflake display. This animated display includes an impressive 72,000 lights and over 50 beautiful bright snowflakes set to music. Keeping in the spirit of being socially responsible, the lights used are very eco-friendly, using only enough power to run three toaster ovens.
And if none of this entertains you, go see Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall (this is one of my most favorite experiences of all time) and call it a night!
Need a place to stay? Check out a few of Best Western's properties in the area.