Let it Shine

WildLights Santa 2_Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren 

It’s that magical time of year again when holiday decorations and lights are aglow across the country. Loading the family into the car and heading to a hotel in the city, the nearby zoo or just driving down a neighborhood street to see Christmas lights is one of the season’s greatest pastimes. Grab some hot chocolate, cozy up by the fire at home and come with us on a virtual journey across the country to visit some of what we consider to be amazing holiday light shows.  


East Coast Elegance

All Aboard

New York Botanical GardenThe New York Botanical Garden’s “Holiday Train Show” captivates attendees of all ages, captivating the young to the young at heart for decades. “Throughout this year’s exhibition, G-scale locomotives hum along almost a half-mile of track alongside replicas of New York landmarks, artistically crafted of natural materials such as bark, twigs, stems, fruits, seeds and pine cones by designer Paul Busse’s team at Applied Imagination,” the Garden says. 

Grand Central Terminal, Radio City Music Hall, historic Hudson River Valley houses, the Brooklyn Bridge and Rockefeller Center are among the Garden’s collection of more than 15 Holiday Train Show replicas. More than 25 large-scale model railway trains and trolleys – including American steam engines and streetcars from the late 1800s to modern-day freight and high-speed passenger trains – travel across rustic bridges, along overhead trestles, through tunnels and past waterfalls that cascade into flowing creeks. “Some trains measure more than two feet long and weigh as much as 10 pounds,” the Garden notes. “Thomas the Tank Engine and other trains especially loved by children also travel the tracks of the exhibition.”

NY Botanical GardenThree new components were added to this year’s exhibition. A short film takes visitors behind-the-scenes, showing how the exhibit is brought to life. Designers share where they get their inspiration in rendering buildings and landscapes, which are all crafted from found plant materials.

Engineers describe how they keep all the trains running and how the tracks are assembled. New York Botanical Garden added 3,000 square feet of space this year to give visitors a 360-degree view of the structures. It also added a multisensory finale that features sound and light in the Reflecting Pool under the glass dome of the 90-foot-tall Palms of the World Gallery. The Holiday Train Show runs through Jan. 18. Ticket prices range from $10 per child and $20 per adult during the week and $18 per child and $30 per adult on the weekends.      

A Must-See in D.C.

As we travel down the coast to Washington, D.C., the Willard InterContinental has become a must-visit destination in the nation’s capital for the holidays. “A delightful array of merry experiences and celebrations await, including holiday dining events by Executive Chef Serge Devesa, holiday libations at the historic Round Robin Bar, nightly choral concerts in the grand lobby, and Holiday Afternoon Tea,” the hotel says.

The Willard InterContinental also offers visitors with an up close view of the entire White House Christmas ornaments collection, displayed on the hotel’s lobby tree through early January. “A beloved holiday tradition started by the White House Historical Association in 1981, the ornaments chronologically honor a different president or special White House event each year,” the hotel explains.

The 34th White House 2015 Christmas ornaments collection honors former President Calvin Coolidge and the first National Christmas Tree Lighting in 1923. Miniature replicas of Coolidge’s general store, a baseball, cannon, Indian feather, a distinguished flying cross, fishing pack, campaign button and other symbolic details of Coolidge’s life are featured.

Want to spend the holidays at the Willard InterContinental? Its luxurious package includes overnight accommodations in an executive suite, breakfast for two in Café du Parc, overnight valet parking and the White House Historical Association’s 2015 White House Christmas Ornament for two for $439. Willard InterContinental - Holiday Exterior  

Walt Disney World Delights

Where else but the most magical place on Earth would we find the merriest Christmas party of the season? None other than Walt Disney WorldSeal performs Nov. 11, 2015 during the taping of the 'Disney Parks Unforgettable Christmas Celebration' TV special in Magic Kingdom park. (Mariah Wild, photographer). Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is held in the Magic Kingdom with festive decorations, towering Christmas trees and wintry entertainment through Dec. 18. “Beginning at 7 p.m., guests with special event tickets can enjoy the spectacular holiday splendor, along with complimentary cookies and hot coca, and snow flurries on Main Street, U.S.A.,” Disney says. “’Celebrate the Season’ musical stage show stars favorite Disney Characters, and ‘Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season’ fireworks spectacular.”

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a magical display of millions of glittering lights – the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – can be seen on the Streets of America through Jan. 3. One of the most beloved holiday traditions at Epcot, the Candlelight Processional, inspires guests and instills the Christmas spirit through the retelling of the Christmas story by celebrity narrators, accompanied by a masterful orchestra and choir, Disney says. The Candlelight Processional is performed three times every night through Dec. 30 and reservations can be made here.

Experience holiday traditions from various countries throughout World Showcase during Holidays Around the World, which runs through Dec. 30. “Share in the sights and sounds of the nations of World Showcase as each country’s holiday heritage comes to life amid joyful music, interactive storytelling and time-honored traditions,” Disney says.  

Christmas in the Country

Gaylord Opryland Resort

More than two million holiday lights are aglow at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort for the 32nd annual “A Country Christmas” celebration. “When it comes to the best in holiday entertainment, we always find ways to top ourselves, and this year is no exception,” said Gaylord Opryland GeneralManager Pete Weien in a press release. “We can’t wait for visitors to see all the new decorations we have added inside our nine acres of indoor gardens.”

The resort’s seven-story Garden Conservatory Atrium will twinkle with oversized music notes and giant glittery musical instruments as a tribute to Music City. The 48-foot-tall Christmas tree and 15,000 poinsettias have returned alongside new décor throughout the resort through Jan. 2. Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at the Grand Ole Opry House will delight adults and children alike with performances through Dec. 27. The tale features the hit songs, “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas,” from the original animated television special.

Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” and decides to steal Christmas from the Whos. The Gaylord Opryland Resort received more than two million pounds of ice earlier this season to bring back the popular ICE! attraction that features scenes from The Nutcracker. Ice sculptures and the two-story ice slides were hand-carved by 40 artisans from Harbin, China. The Frostbite Factory in ICE! gives guests a look at the artisans in action. Gaylord Opryland Carriage  

The Majestic Midwest

A Roaring Good Time

[caption id="attachment_905" align="alignleft" width="300"]Photo credit: Chicago Zoological Society Traveling up the Midwest into colder weather, Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic offers a breathtaking display of more than one million twinkling LED lights in a Chicago suburb. Nearly 550 trees are decorated by community organizations and corporations and lights illuminate the zoo’s walkways. Guests are invited to add their magical touch and color the sky with the new Polar Lights, an interactive light extravaganza with accompanying music.

The new attraction to Holiday Magic lets attendees activate and control the color and shape of 30 moving lights. Four pixel-mapped LED trees are also part of Polar Lights and capable of generating patterns with thousands of different colors. The fun doesn’t stop there, as Tic-Tac-Snow was added to the event. Guests will play on a new interactive board light display with polar bears and penguins replacing the Xs and Os. Holiday Magic also includes singing to the animals, a model railroad display, photo opportunities with animals, professional ice-carving demonstrations and a 41-foot talking tree. Holiday Magic takes place on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 31 with regular admission prices. Tickets are $11.95 for children and $16.95 for adults.    

Drive-Thru Spectacle

Prairie Lights at Lynn Creek Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, is known as the premier holiday lights park in the state. The event this year is “going green” thanks to Breeze Energy, a company committed to pure, clean, Texas wind energy. The company will be donating renewable energy credits to the city of Grand Prairie to offset the carbon footprint of the increased energy usage for Prairie Lights and for the fuel consumed by the estimated 50,000 vehicles visiting the park. Prairie Lights at Lynn Creek ParkEntering Prairie Lights, attendees will be dazzled with four million lights set along two miles of path. Hundreds of new displays in different shapes will line and arch over the roads. Half way through the drive, attendees can get out of their car to stop at Holiday Village where there is food, gifts, Santa, the new indoor laser show and the Holiday Magic Lighted Walk-Through Forest. Prairie Lights’ grand finale includes a very animated light tunnel, leaving visitors with a night they will never forget. The event runs through Jan. 3 and admission is $20 per car Monday through Thursday and $35 per car Friday through Sunday.  

West Coast Wonderland

 Candy Cane Lane

Candy Cane Lane 2Candy Cane Lane is the unofficial moniker for a small neighborhood in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, that has become known as the place to see holiday lights and decorations. An eight square block at the intersection of Oxnard and Lubo streets is transformed into Candy Cane Lane every year when a group of homeowners go all out with holiday lights, decorations and artificial snow.

People drive slowly down the street with their headlights dimmed so everyone can enjoy the lights. Decorations are put up by the second Saturday in December and the displays last through the end of the year. “Candy Cane Lane has been a tradition in Woodland Hills since 1952 and the residents have tried to outdo each other with their light displays each year,” the West Valley-Warner Center Chamber of Commerce says. “Santa has been seen posing for photos with children and some of Santa’s elves have been seen roaming.”    

Go Wild

Celebrate the holidays with the animals during WildLights at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. “Guests will be transported to a festive winter wonderland complete with lights, treats, animals and more,” the zoo says. More than 600,000 energy-efficient LED lights illuminate the paths of Woodland Park Zoo through the displays of wild animals and exotic destinations, including “African Water Hole,” “Jungle Lights” and “Northern Lights.” Guests can enjoy indoor and outdoor displays, a ride on the zoo’s Historic Carousel and visit with Santa’s reindeer. For adults 21 and older, a new Holiday Beer and Wine Garden will be open every night featuring a selection of beer, wine and mulled wine. To celebrate the zoo’s two free-roaming male peacocks, seven light-up peacocks have been added this year to WildLights. The after-hours event runs nightly through Jan. 3. Tickets are $6.95 for children and $9.95 for adults.For Woodland Park Zoo For Woodland Park Zoo[/caption]

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