Ride the Polar Express
“The Polar Express” is one of the most famous and beloved children’s books around on the Christmas theme. There are lots of train rides that provide caroling, hot chocolate, treats and, of course, a meeting with Santa. Here are the five best polar expresses of the west:
Heber Valley Railroad (UT). According to their website, “Passengers enjoy hot cocoa and cookies while caroling and hearing a traditional, holiday story. Santa joins the audience to meet each child and present them with a special gift.”
Grand Canyon Railway (AZ). In addition to their polar express rides through November and December, they also provide a special Christmas Eve ride.
Royal Gorge Route (CO). This Santa express is a place where “children are encouraged to wear cozy pajamas and relax with family and friends while they sip homemade cocoa and listen to classic holiday stories read by Santa’s elves.”
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (CO). All the fixings: reading “The Polar Express,” caroling, eating treats and drinking hot chocolate, and receiving gifts from Santa.
Mount Hood Railroad (OR). All children receive their own bell and a picture with Santa. According to their site, “This is a magical trip for the whole family and one you will want to ‘BELIEVE’ in.”
Don’t live close to any of these? Find your state here to see if there are any other polar express rides available. Or make your own, by bringing cookies and a thermos along on the trains or subway or other sorts of public transportation available, and read the story together as a family.
See the Nutcracker ballet
Tchaikovsky’s famous classical suite comes to life across the country and the world in ballet theaters everywhere. If you live in Utah, Ballet West is showing a traditional version of the Nutcracker ballet as well as a fun “Nutty” Nutcracker version. You can see one or both by purchasing tickets here.
Visit your local zoo
Many zoos provide special Christmas activities during December, and some of them do so for free. The Oakland, CA, zoo is famous for their ZooLights show where visitors can see the light show, “enjoy a fantasyland of giant toy soldiers with over-sized candy canes, lollipops, and gingerbread cookies in the rides area,” and “mingle among hundreds of thousands of energy-efficient LED lights” while listening to Christmas music. Zoo Boise provides a day of free admission with a visit from Santa and special animal enrichment activities. Call your zoo or look them up online to find out if they have any seasonal events scheduled.
1. Go caroling through your neighborhood, especially visiting those that are elderly or ill.
2. Visit your local hospital or nursing center (but make sure to arrange the visit ahead of time) and just visit with the patients or put on a musical recital or Christmas family home evening for them.
3. Work at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. You can find homeless shelters in your area here, or by looking them up in your phone book.
Tour Christmas lights
Take a drive as a family to view all the Christmas lights and decorations in your neighborhood. Many cities have areas and neighborhoods famous for their decorations, and if you’re lucky maybe you’ll even get to see a house synced to music, like this one in Lindon, Utah.
One of the most famous light displays in Mormondom is the Temple Square Christmas lights display. Even if you can't make it, share some beautiful photos with your family. (Click here to see some.)
Discussion: What is your favorite family outing during the holidays?