Celebrate Thanksgiving with Disney princesses, wander through the Christmas markets in Germany, or check out the festive seasonal decorations in New York City. If you’re looking for a different way to celebrate the holidays, consider moving beyond your traditional big meal and family visits by creating a new adventure you will always remember. Here are a few places to get you started:
Always a popular destination for military families, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida plays host to a spectacular array of events and decorations in both November and December.
“For Christmas, Walt Disney World will be holding their annual Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on select nights. During the party, there are special Christmas shows, fireworks, parades, and even snow on Main Street, U.S.A.,” says Steve Bell, who runs militarydisneytips.com. “All of Walt Disney World is fabulously decorated for the Christmas season starting in November.”
Renewed for another year, the discounts offered to service members and their families through the Disney Armed Forces Salute are limited during the holiday season, but military members are able to receive a military discount on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for select dates in November. Tickets must be purchased in person with valid military identification at Disney ticket booths or Shades of Green.
New York City
The 88th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an iconic Thanksgiving event that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Millions of people will line up along the 2.5-mile parade route to view marching bands, live performances, balloons, and floats. Festivities kick off at 77th Street and Central Park West at 9 a.m. and finish up at Macy’s Herald Square. You’ll want to get up early to find a good spot to see the parade but, if you’re not an early bird, consider going to the balloon inflation event the night before the parade from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. in areas around the Museum of Natural History.
After eating a traditional Thanksgiving meal at one of the many area restaurants open for the holiday, take a walk through Central Park, go ice-skating at a rink in the park or at the well-known rink at Rockefeller Center, or visit one of the quintessential New York City landmarks. The Empire State Building is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.!
Plymouth and Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts is the birthplace of Thanksgiving, making it the perfect destination in November. Go to Plymouth where you can experience living history during America’s Hometown Thanksgiving, the weekend before the big holiday. The town hosts three days packed full of holiday inspired festivities that honor our nation’s history and heritage including a parade, food festival, live entertainment, and an outdoor living history village.
A short drive north will bring you to Boston where you can celebrate the holiday by enjoying dinner at one of the many area restaurants that host Thanksgiving feasts. After dinner, drive up to Stone Zoo to see a holiday light display, Zoolights, which opens Thanksgiving evening. Kids will delight in getting their picture taken with Santa, along with seeing live reindeer and arctic foxes.
From candlelight tours to the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, the nation’s capital is the perfect place to celebrate Christmas. Start by booking a room at one of the many military lodging facilities in the area through Department of Defense Lodging (dodlodging.net). There are lots of military services and discounts in the D.C. area, so ask about them when making reservations or buying tickets for attractions.
Be sure to visit Mount Vernon to see spectacular decorations that include twelve Christmas trees and to tour the mansion to learn how the Washingtons celebrated Christmas. In the evening, see the home by candlelight with “Mrs. Washington” to experience a traditional Christmas evening at Mount Vernon, including dancing, music, and fireside caroling.
The number of displays and events around D.C. in December is staggering. From holiday concerts to light displays, you won’t run out of things to do. Kids might enjoy a trip to the U.S. Botanic Garden to see their annual holiday display of trains and replicas of famous D.C. buildings and monuments. Book tickets to see The Nutcracker at The Kennedy Center. Or just enjoy visiting one of the many free Smithsonian museums that this great city has to offer.
Looking to experience a country Christmas? Then a visit to the home of country music may be a fun place to go during the holiday season. Get into the spirit with tickets to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes at the Grand Ole Opry House. Regularly scheduled shows also restart the day after Christmas if you want to enjoy a classic night at the Opry. Head over to Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center to check-out their Christmas light display, get the chance to take a photo with Santa, take a carriage ride through their outdoor light displays, or experience one of their many holiday shows.
Adults can take an evening cruise on the Cumberland River on the General Jackson Showboat. Take the kids to Nashville’s Adventure Science Center for their 12 Days ofScience program including a singalong with the Nashville Caroling Company. Or drive over to the Belle Meade Plantation or Belmont Mansion to enjoy historical Christmas displays.
Or create an overseas experience…
If you find yourself far from family while stationed overseas, travel to area attractions for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see how other countries celebrate. Or, if you are stateside, hop a Space A flight to Germany or France to enjoy Christmas markets and spruced up tourist attractions. The memories you create on these holiday adventures can be a wonderful present to both you and your family.