1. Cut down your Christmas tree. It’s easy to make a day or afternoon out of finding the perfect tree, cutting it down and enjoying a cup of hot cocoa at one of the many great local tree farms. Many of the tree farms in addition to a selection of pine trees, offer an array of family fun activities from sleigh rides to campfires!
We are looking forward to our trip to Hurd’s Family Farm this weekend to cut down our tree, take a ride on the cow train and roast a s’more around the campfire! Along with Able’s Trees (Verbank) and Manza’s Family Farm (Montgomery), Hurd’s Family Farm (Modena) is one of Hudson Valley Parents top three tree farm picks!
2. Take a picture with Santa! There is something about a child climbing up onto the lap of Santa to talk about Christmas wishes that brings me right into teh nostalgic feeling of a classic Christmas movie. Visiting Santa is always right at the top of our December bucket list. This year some local displays have even transformed with to include virtual experience filled with interactive displays, body scanner naughty or nice lists and DIY sleigh designs! Malls, stores, restaurants and even tree farms in the Hudson Valley are all offering photos and visits with Santa.
Share your photos with us! Santa photo gallery.
3. Go on a Christmas Lights drive. Make it a special family date night. After dinner, bundle the kids in their pajamas, pack up some hot cocoa and cookies and pile into the car for a drive. There are probably many beautifully decorated homes right in your town but if you are up for a bit of an adventure you might want to add some of the local hot spots to your route. My favorite is ERDAJT’s holiday light display located at 8 Patrick Drive in Lagrangeville. They hold 2 Guinness Book of World Records for most Christmas lights on a home and collect donations throughout the season for awesome local charities! Last year they raised $33,809! www.erdajt.com
For more great Christmas light displays check out: Top 5 Light Displays in the Hudson Valley.
4. Don’t miss A Frosty Fest. Take a stroll down Candy Cane Lane and enjoy the lights, gift shop a bite to eat and a cup of hot cocoa. Visitors can take a ride on Frosty’s hayride or drive their own car through the wonderful animated light displays complete with live actors and computer animations. Park and take a walk through Glistening Gardens and the Magical Mansion and finally complete your trip with a visit to the North Pole for a photo with Santa! Frosty Fest is located in Ulster Park. www.afrostyfest.com. If you are closer to Dutchess County, you should also visit Kevin McCurdy’s Spirit Festival for a similar experience.
This week Enter to WIN tickets to A Frosty Fest! (12/1- 12/7)
5. Community tree/ menorah lighting celebrations are a must do for sure! A great way to get together with friends and neighbors and enjoy the magic of the season in your own neighborhoods. Some towns have more elaborate celebrations with light parades, music and even fireworks (Poughkeepsie)! Other towns have a nice gathering of Christmas lights and hot chocolate. If your town isn’t listed below check local websites and Facebook pages to see if your town is hosting anything similar.
6. Start a new holiday tradition. Last year we baked dozens of cookies, packed them up and brought them to our local firehouse. It was fun to bake together and even more fun to give cookies away making someone else’s day a little brighter. We make cards for Operation Christmas Cheer and pack up the kids for a Christmas Light date night. Starting family traditions are wonderful ways to create memories and re-live special moments each year.
7. Celebrate children, art and the light of the winter season at Sinterklaas! The village of Rhinebeck transforms into a magical place of art, theater, music and dance during Sinterklaas on December 6th. Musicians, jugglers, fire walkers, tight rope walkers and a variety of colorful characters wander the streets of the village engaging children with stories and treats. Children are the focus as they become kings and queens for the day! Crafts, shopping, performances and a children’s starlight parade featuring two- story animated puppets carried by over a hundred volunteers is just an idea of what Sinterklaas is all about! www.sinterklaashudsonvalley.com
8. Enjoy the Outdoors! Just because the weather is getting colder doesn’t mean families need to be confined to the indoors. From ice skating to sledding to hiking, the Hudson Valley offers so much for families year round. One of our favorite spots in the winter is Bear Mountain State Park where we can enjoy ice skating, a warm up and ride on the carousel and lunch (or Sunday brunch, yumm!) inside the Inn.
9. Take a ride on the Polar Express! Children and families can take a round trip ride to the North Pole aboard the Polar Express Train this month. It’s as if you are stepping right into a scene from the hit Warner Bros. film with music from the motion picture soundtrack, pajama clad passengers and favorite characters from the film coming to life right in front of your eyes! The conductor punches tickets, the chefs serve hot chocolate and families participate in a sing a long and reading of the book along the way. When you arrive at the North Pole Santa himself will board the train and gift each child a special bell to all those who believe. Catskill Mountain Railroad
10. Give back, donate time or gifts. I am finding this year as my boys get older and more into “things” I am scouting out ways to re-direct the idea that Christmas is all about what Santa will bring me onto something a bit more meaningful. Yes, I want my kids to be excited Christmas morning, I want them to experience the magic as I did of opening gifts they “really, really wanted” but I also want them to appreciate those gifts. I feel there should be a better balance in our home of wanting to get but wanting to give too. Last month we chose toys we no longer play with to pass on to the local children’s home.
We plan to spend an afternoon baking cookies to bring to our local fire department and we have starting making and sending cards, positive notes and artwork for local children battling cancer through fellow blogger The Whatever Mom and her Operation Christmas Cheer initiative. There are so many other ways that your family can give back, from adopting a child/family to purchase gifts for, packing up shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child as Discount Diva shared with us recently in her post Operation Grateful Child or working in a soup kitchen.
So, what are you doing to make this month special for your family?