The dark days of December are being lit up with holiday sparkle all over the map, from creative Christmas trees to giant menorahs. Gingerbread houses, light displays and train shows are part of the fun, too. Here are a few of the biggest and best-known events around the country.
Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree — so many to see, from the famous evergreen at Rockefeller Center in New York City to one made entirely from chocolate — 600 pounds of it, standing 6 feet high — at the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel in Menlo Park, California. The edible tree, on display in the lobby, was created by pastry chef Mellisa Root. The Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, North Carolina, is displaying a holiday tree made from 789 recycled green bottles and another made from 8,000 macaroon cookies.
Two of the biggest lighting displays are on opposite sides of the country. The Mission Inn in Riverside, California, is known for its display of 4 million lights, including more than 400 animatronic characters, through Jan. 6, while the lighting display in Busch Gardens Williamsburg Park in Virginia includes 8 million lights.
In Hawaii, Kauai’s Festival of Lights consists of dozens of decorated trees and displays, with hundreds of ornaments handmade by local artisans mostly using recycled materials like water bottles and aluminum cans. The festival takes place at the Historic County Building in Lihue, Kauai, through Dec. 27.
The Oglebay Resort & Conference Center in Wheeling, West Virginia, hosts its Winter Festival of Lights through Jan. 4 along a 6-mile drive. The center has been gradually converting all lights used to energy-efficient LED lights and completed the switch this year.
In Asheville, North Carolina, the Biltmore estate has been hosting Christmas celebrations since 1895. The estate says the spectacle consists of “dozens of trees, thousands of ornaments and miles of brightly lit evergreen garland.”
Universal Studios in Los Angeles and Orlando, Florida, hosts Grinchmas, themed on Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, California, hosts snow-covered tube runs where kids can play, slide and throw snowballs at targets.
At Disney, the annual Christmas Day Parade, which airs Dec. 25 on ABC-TV, has been renamed and re-themed the Disney Parks Frozen Christmas Celebration, starring “Frozen” sisters Anna and Elsa. The sisters along with “Frozen” characters Kristoff and Olaf are also joining Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on select nights this month at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
Minneapolis has ended its annual Holidazzle parade but is inaugurating a new tradition this year: Holidazzle Village, featuring a Minneapolis Holiday Market with gifts, food and beverages, open daily at Nicollet Mall until Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and until 6 p.m. on Dec. 24. A pass for unlimited visits costs $3 to $6. On weekends, it’s free to visit Holidazzle Village, 3 p.m.-8 p.m., featuring live reindeer, story time, bands and choirs.
Public menorah-lightings will be held in cities around the U.S. and the world to mark the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which begins on sundown Dec. 16. For locations and times, http://www.hanukkah.org/events.
Never mind gingerbread houses: There’s a whole gingerbread village on display at the New York Hall of Science in the Queens borough of New York City complete with houses, trees, a skating rink, a hotel and even a subway station. The 2.5-ton, 480-square-foot village is on display until Jan. 11.
At Mohegan Sun, the casino resort in Uncasville, Connecticut, a life-size gingerbread house stands 28 feet tall and weighs 25,000 pounds. The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, hosts entries in the National Gingerbread House Competition through Jan. 1 (open to the public Sunday-Thursday, resort guests only Friday-Saturday).
The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is hosting its annual train show featuring more than 150 miniature models of familiar structures like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty — all made from bark and other natural materials. The “Wonderland Express” at the Chicago Botanic Garden features Thomas the Tank Engine and miniature models of city landmarks. In Cincinnati, the Krohn Conservatory hosts the “Magic and Mistletoe” show with an interactive train display and thousands of colorful poinsettias and other plants.
NEW YEAR’S EVE AND DAY
Taylor Swift hosts the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration with Ryan Seacrest when the ball drops in New York City at midnight. In Key West, Florida, they’ll be dropping a giant man-made conch shell, while in Atlanta, they drop an 800-pound peach. But the last and first days of the year are not only about partying. There are fun runs on New Year’s Eve around the country, as well as a relatively new tradition of New Year’s Day hikes in many state parks and other outdoor venues. To find a “First Day” hike near you, visit http://naspd.org/find-a-first-day-hike.html .