Trees, lights, holiday magic: Christmas events and displays

Christmas events

Creche angel with polychromed terracotta head, wooden limbs and wings, body of wire wrapped in tow; various fabrics. Italian, Naples, second half 18th century. Gift of Loretta Hines Howard, 1964. Accession #64.164.35a-c. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

NEW YORK (AP) – Destinations around the U.S. are dressing up for Christmas with trees, lights and holiday magic. Here’s a look at a few events, displays and other attractions.


The city’s tried-and-true Christmas attractions include Rockefeller Center’s tree, this year a 75-foot Norway spruce wrapped with 50,000 lights topped with a Swarovski star; the American Museum of Natural History’s origami tree; the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s baroque creche; decorated windows at department stores like Macy’s, Barneys, Lord & Taylor and Saks; holiday markets at Bryant Park, Union Square and Grand Central; and A Slice of Brooklyn’s bus tour of the holiday lights of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.

A few new attractions: “Sea of Light” interactive display at South Street Seaport, opening Dec. 5, and a winter “ONEderland” at the observatory atop One World Trade with weekend visits from Santa, animated snowy owl mascot and a snow globe selfie spot with the city skyline below.


The Indianapolis Museum of Art hosts Winterlights at Newfields features more than a million multi-colored lights. Also on museum grounds, the historic Lilly House, decorated inside for the season, with a Landscape of Light on the lawn. Elsewhere in Indy: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the Indy 500 race, hosts Lights at the Brickyard where you can drive your car on the famous track to see over 2.5 million lights, 500 light displays and 40 holiday scenes.

Minneapolis hosts a Holidazzle festival, Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 23 at Loring Park, with ice skating, outdoor family movies, Kids Zone, illuminated art, Santa, fireworks, food vendors, shopping and heated tents.

New Orleans City Park has 25 acres of light displays, with its famous oaks wrapped in thousands of twinkling lights. The NOLA ChristmasFest runs Dec. 21-31 at the New Orleans Convention Center featuring the city’s only skating rink, rides and events. The Creole holiday feast known as Reveillon is offered in restaurants across the city.

In Hawaii, Kauai’s Festival of Lights in the Historic County Building focuses on environmental sustainability with themed trees, wreaths, ornaments, nativity scenes and more made from recycled objects like plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

Kansas City, Missouri, is known for the Mayor’s Christmas Tree at Crown Center — this year a 100-foot Douglas fir decorated with 6,000 white lights, 1,200 red, gold and silver balls and 150 snowflake and snowman ornaments.

In St. Louis, Missouri, Winterfest at the Arch includes an ice rink and Salvation Army Tree of Lights in Kiener Plaza.

In Asheville, North Carolina, Winter Lights Downtown in Pack Square includes a 10-foot gilded purple snowflake designed for selfies. At the North Carolina Arboretum, you’ll find a 50-foot animated tree, model trains and lighted Quilt Garden, plus interactive motion-sensor games. The Biltmore mansion hosts Candlelight Christmas Evenings, and its Banquet Hall hosts a 35-foot tree with 500 ornaments, one of 100 decorated trees found around the estate. New this year, illumination of Antler Hill Village, and at Biltmore Winery, 7,000 globe-shaped ornaments displayed to make guests feel like they’re inside a bottle of sparkling wine.

Richmond, Virginia, offers the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s GardenFest of Lights, themed on fairy tales, folklore and other classic stories.


In Anaheim, California, Disney California Adventure Park’s Festival of Holidays features performances, crafts, food and more inspired by diverse cultural celebrations including Three Kings Day, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

In Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Disney’s Hollywood Studios host a Flurry of Fun, including an immersive new nighttime experience on Sunset Boulevard with decorations, treats and characters.

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is lit with more than 8 million lights, one of North America’s largest light displays, including 1,500 Christmas trees, 800 lit snowflakes and stars, 20,000 ornaments and 900 window candles and luminaries.

Sesame Place hosts A Very Furry Christmas, with Rudolph the reindeer and other characters.

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas festival offers parades and shows including “Christmas in the Smokies” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

In Branson, Missouri, Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas festival includes holiday lights, parades, musicals and more.

Universal theme parks in Orlando, Florida, and Hollywood, California, are sprucing up their Harry Potter-themed attractions with lights, music and holiday decor. Universal also hosts Grinch-themed activities.


Many scenic railways around the country offer train rides themed on Santa. They often have limited dates and sell out in advance, so plan ahead. In Arizona, the Grand Canyon Railway brings to life the children’s classic book “Polar Express.” In Pennsylvania, Koziar’s Christmas Village offers a Santa train ride, Pennsylvania Dutch holiday food and more.

Model train shows with replicas of landmark buildings, decorated for the holidays, can be found at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, at the Missouri Botanical Garden and in St. Louis.

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade in California runs Dec. 13-17, celebrating its 109th year, with decorated boats from kayaks to yachts on a 14-mile (22.5-kilometer) course.


By BETH J. HARPAZ, AP Travel Editor

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