There’s so much to do during the holidays!
By Janine Clements
You can feel the excitement building as the holiday season fast approaches. It’s the most magical time of the year and Westchester is home to winter festivals, Christmas light displays, menorah lightings and Santa meet-and-greets galore—all guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit!
Now’s the time to add some must-do holiday activities and experiences for your family on the calendar and we’ve compiled a list of our recommendations. Some events are ticketed and sell out quickly, so planning ahead is advised.
Catch a holiday show
Tis the season to be jolly and from December into January, there are performances aplenty, which provide entertainment for all the family and will leave you feeling full of holiday cheer. Catch the age-old favorite, The Nutcracker, at the Emelin Theater in Mamaroneck, the Whitney Theater at New Rochelle High School, the White Plains Performing Arts Center and Tarrytown Music Hall.
Other kid-friendly shows worth seeing over the holiday season include The Laurie Berkner Band Holiday Celebration at Tarrytown Music Hall, Peter Pan at the Emelin Theater in Mamaroneck, and The Magic Dreidels at White Plains Performing Arts Center.
Cut down your own Christmas tree
There’s something special about cutting down your own Christmas tree and for many families, it’s an annual tradition. Stuart’s Farm in Granite Springs and Wilkens Fruit and Fir Farm in Yorktown Heights are both a short drive away, where you can chop one down or choose a precut one. It’s a popular activity, so go early in the season if you want the pick of the bunch.
Westchester’s Winter Wonderland, Valhalla
From the end of November until the beginning of January, the area at the base of the mighty Kensico Dam transforms into a magical winter wonderland. This holiday spectacular usually starts at 4pm every evening and features a mini circus show, ice rink, dazzling light show, eight thrilling rides and much more. There are also special events such as the tree lighting and New Year’s Eve ball drop.
Mistletoe Magic, Rye, December 1st, 2019
On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Purchase Street closes to cars for its annual winter festival. The street is packed with craft stalls, activities and games for all ages. Highlights include pony and horse-drawn carriage rides, bounce houses, train rides and a petting zoo.
Frosty Day, Armonk, December 1st, 2019
“Frosty the Snowman,” that world-famous song, is said to have originated in Armonk, and it’s Frosty’s 10th annual homecoming this year. Enjoy a fun-filled day out for the whole family at this holiday extravaganza with music, arts and crafts, a parade and appearances by the legendary snowman himself. The event culminates in a tree-lighting ceremony.
If your kids are clamoring to see Santa when he comes to town (or you need a pic for your Christmas card) there are plenty of photo ops and meet-and-greets in the vicinity. While some local families will often head to Macy’s in the city, there are other favorite spots a bit closer to home. To get a fab photo of your little angels with Jolly Old St. Nick in his sleigh, then visit the Westchester Mall in White Plains. For an experience they will never forget, the Ritz Carlton New York, Westchester puts on a lavish breakfast with Santa as the star guest. If you don’t want your pets to feel left out, take them and the whole family to get snapped with the big man at the Humane Society of Westchester in New Rochelle.
A trip to the North Pole
For a truly magical experience and the chance to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, sing holiday songs and drink hot chocolate, put the kids in cozy PJs and hop on the North Pole Express. This steam-powered locomotive sets off from the Essex Steam Train in Connecticut from November through December.
Hanukkah celebrations and Menorah Lightings
In Yonkers, Stew Leonards is having a special Menorah lighting celebration on December 6th. Also, there’s hot apple cider, latkes and a gelt drop at the menorah lighting at Bedford Village Green on December 22nd.
Epic Christmas light displays
If you love Christmas light displays then you’re living in the right area. Homes across Westchester go to town and some put on dazzling displays of epic proportions. The North Kensico Christmas Light Show on North Kensico Road in White Plains is now in its 13th, but sadly final year. It features over 10,000 lights synchronized to music, which you can tune into on the car radio.
Another legendary light display complete with 12-foot toy soldiers and a stable for Santa’s reindeer is Roy’s Christmas Land on the corner of Parson Street and Oakland Avenue in Harrison. The Keeler Christmas Light Display at 16 Luigi Road in Putnam Valley is also well worth a visit.
New Year’s Day Polar Plunge, Jan 1st, 2020
An annual tradition for the brave is to jump into the freezing Long Island Sound off Oakland Beach in Rye. If you’re feeling the effects after the New Year’s Eve celebrations, then this a surefire way to instantly feel refreshed and revitalized. The event, which has dozens of participants and attracts a big crowd of on-lookers, takes place at noon.
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