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12 festive ways to get in the holiday spirit

Is your family looking for fun activities to help celebrate the season? These 12 ideas will add a jingle to your holidays, from going on a Chanukah fun run in Baltimore to checking out the trains at the U.S. Botanic Gardens in Washington, D.C. And this is just a small sample of the fun your family can enjoy together this holiday season in Maryland. For a different seasonal activity every day through New Year’s, be sure to check our Holiday Countdown. With a great list like this, you can’t help but be in the holiday spirit all season long.

1. Visit Santa

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The season is not complete without a visit to Father Christmas himself. Kids can catch up with St. Nick to talk about their wish list at a number of different venues in the area. If you don’t already have a favorite spot to see Santa, check out our listing of Santa Sightings at chesapeakefamily.com/santa-sightings.


2. Enjoy a light show

Driving through a holiday light show is a fun way to get in the holiday spirit. Several in central Maryland are worth visiting. In Annapolis, Lights on the Bay runs through Jan. 2 at Sandy Point State Park with 70 animated and stationary displays along a 2-mile drive. Favorite displays include a colonial village inspired by historic Annapolis and midshipmen tossing their hats in the air. Nightly scavenger hunts make the drive fun for kids. Also check out special events such as walks and runs through the lights. Cost is $15 per car. For details, visit lightstonthebay.org.
Similar shows include Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro and Symphony of Lights in Columbia. For details on these light displays and others, visit chesapeakefamily.com/holiday-lights.


3. Visit the U.S. Botanic Garden

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See national landmarks from across the country all gathered in one place at the U.S. Botanic Garden this holiday season. Watch trains chug around re-creations of iconic national parks — all made from natural materials and plants — and check out one of the largest indoor trees in Washington, D.C., with adornments celebrating the national parks.

This year’s holiday exhibit at the Botanic Gardens is based on the theme “Season’s Greenings: National Parks and Historic Places.” It celebrates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.
In the train garden, see the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful Inn, Mount Vernon and a 7-foot-tall Statue of Liberty, to name a few. Also see model landmarks from around the nation’s capital, including the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument.

The Botanic Garden is free and open every day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Most Tuesday and Thursdays in December, the Conservatory will be open until 8 p.m. for live seasonal music concerts and after-dark holiday exhibit viewing.For details visit usbg.gov. For more train gardens visit chesapeakefamily.com/train-gardens.


4. See Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 4-D

Experience the sights, sounds and smells of Rudolph’s timeless adventure in the National Aquarium’s Immersion Theater through Jan. 2. The theater combines 3-D film with special sensory effects. Cost is $5 with the purchase of aquarium admission at $24.95-$39.95. For details and show times, visit the National Aquarium website, aqua.org.


5. Experience Christmas on the Potomac

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See 2 million pounds of ice carvings celebrating Christmas Around the World, slide down a two-story ice slide, watch it snow indoors and more at Gaylord National Resort’s Christmas on the Potomac in National Harbor. The main feature of the month-long celebration is ICE! with its ice sculptures and an ice slide. Other attractions include a Christmas Village complete with a Christmas Shoppe, carousel, Gingerbread Decorating Corner and more. Indoor snow flurries, leaping water fountains and colorful laser lights are all part of an Atrium Show at the resort. Kids also can scout out elves in the Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt, have their picture taken with Santa, ride the Potomac Express Miniature Train and much more. For prices, times and details visit the Christmas on the Potomac website, christmasonthepotomac.com.


6. Chase the kids on a Chanukah run

Race to the finish for a steaming cup of cocoa in the Chanukah Hot Chocolate 5K Dec. 11 at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills Jewish Community Center. Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. and the race starts at 9 a.m. The price ranges from $18-20 for kids 12 and younger and $30-40 for adults. For details and to register visit jcc.org/chanukah-hot-chocolate-5k. For more Hanukkah events visit chesapeakefamily.com/Hanukkah.


7. Enjoy a holiday show

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Take the kids to the Talent Machine Company’s “A Very Merry Holiday 2016,” a high-energy production that features holiday classics, singing and dancing with the Talent Machine Kids, Rudolf, the Elves, Frosty and many more of Santa’s North Pole Friends. The cast is made up of more than 60 children ages 6 to 18, all from the area. The production runs Dec. 16-18 and 21-23 at St. John’s College Key Auditorium in Annapolis. Evening and matinee show times are available. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door, reserved online or by calling 410-596-0512. For details visit talentmachine.com. For more holiday concerts and performances, visit chesapeakefamily.com/holiday-shows.

8. Spread joy to others

Teach your children how much better it is to give than receive by helping others this holiday season. Adopt a family to buy presents for, volunteer to serve the homeless, hold a food drive or donate to a pet shelter. For a list of ways your family can help this holiday visit chesapeakefamily.com/holiday-donations.


9. Head to an area amusement park

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Ever think of riding a theme park roller coaster during the holidays? Now you can. Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro is hosting a new Holiday in the Park event on weekends and select days through Jan. 2. Millions of glittering lights, holiday entertainment, seasonal treats along with many rides will transform the park into a winter wonderland. Kids of all ages can visit with Santa, enjoy s’mores around a holiday campfire and meet new holiday characters. Seasonal treats will include egg nog ice cream, hot chocolate floats and s’mores funnel cakes. Ticket’s range from $45.99-65.99. Purchase tickets online a day in advance and save up to $25. Visit sixflags.com/america for details.


10. Get together with friends

Make time to really enjoy those who mean the most to your family, whether extended family members, friends or friends who are like family. Invite a group over for a low-key gathering. Don’t stress about perfect decorations or fancy food and drinks. The company is what matters. Smaller home? Head outdoors and go caroling in the neighborhood and spread the spirit of the season beyond your walls. Get tips for hosting an all-ages holiday open house at chesapeakefamily.com/holiday-open-house.


11. Celebrate New Year’s in the afternoon

Holiday spirit New Years PortDiscovery W

New Year’s Eve is so much fun — watching the ball drop, blowing horns and wishing everyone a happy new year. The problem is, it all happens a bit late for the younger set. Luckily, several venues make it easy for families to celebrate when kids — and parents — are still awake. Noon New Year’s events often include music, a countdown, confetti and noisemakers. Check out the celebrations at Port Discovery Children’s Museum, the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons and others. For details on these and other New Year’s events, visit chesapeakefamily.com/new-years.


12. Take the family on a hike

Head to a Maryland state park for an invigorating First Day Hike on Jan. 1. All 50 states participate in the annual national event that invites families to celebrate the New Year with a guided outdoor adventure and there are many to choose from in Maryland. First Day Hikes are offered at a number of local state parks including Patapsco Valley, Gunpowder Falls, North Point and more. For a list of hikes visit the Department of Natural Resources website, dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/firstdayhikes.aspx, or just head out on a hike with your family. For a few hike ideas visit chesapeakefamily.com/fun/fun-stuff-to-do/4885-eight-maryland-hikes-perfect-for-families.

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