Oklahoma comes alive each November in the holiday spirit with special festivals, light displays, ceremonies and activities. Make plans now to travel to one of these six can't-miss holiday experiences. From a Christmas train ride in Stillwater to a Charles Dickens-inspired celebration in Claremore, we've got every age and interest covered.
Castle Christmas in Muskogee
Open Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Eve, Castle Christmas takes Oklahomans on an old world winter wonderland adventure. Drive through Castleton Village to see more than 2,000 holiday light displays, including a large collection of holiday inflatables. Take a horse-drawn carriage or tractor-drawn hayride through the village or climb on a pony or camel (weather permitting). Hop aboard a Christmas Train to tour the grounds and light displays. Have your photo taken with Father Christmas and shop the holiday merchants for gifts, souvenirs, ornaments, unique additions to your holiday light display and even fireworks in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve. Enjoy a free viewing of classic holiday films including “Frosty the Snowman,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and more, nightly. Get your family some movie snacks at the Kris Kringle Kafe.
Extend the festive fun with a visit to the nearby Garden of Lights at Honor Heights Park in Muskogee. The gardens’ display features over one million lights and even has an outdoor ice rink.
Both light displays are free to enjoy, however, rides and the ice rink charge admission. Outdoor activities at The Castle are open seven days a week from 6 to 10 p.m. Indoor activities are open Thursday through Sunday until Dec. 15 and then are open all week until the end of the year. Learn more at www.okcastle.com/castle-christmas.
Wonderland of Lights at the Woolaroc
The Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve hosts a variety of family fun throughout the year. Inside the museum, families can learn about the American West, Native American art and even early aviation. The Woolaroc Lodge ranch house looks just as it did when the family walked out in 1948. Tour the nine bedroom, nine bathroom home that hosted guests including President Harry Truman, Wiley Post and Will Rogers.
The wildlife preserve is home to more than 30 species of native and exotic animals including majestic bison, longhorn cattle and elk. Kids especially enjoy the Animal Barn and children’s playground. And, every Friday, Saturday & Sunday from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the grounds are illuminated by more than 750,000 holiday lights. Explore the lights from aboard a wagon or walk about to get an up-close view of the holiday wonder of this old fashioned Christmas experience. Families can also enjoy live entertainment, snacks and a visit with Santa Claus. The Wonderland of Lights is free for those visiting the museum the same day. For those just wanting to experience the lights, admission is $4 for adults and $1 for children. Learn more at www.woolaroc.org.
Located just outside Bartlesville, there is plenty more family fun to be had including a visit to Kiddie Park. Kiddie Park hosts a kid-sized carnival called A Christmas to Remember.
The Christmas Train in Dry Gulch
Dry Gulch USA operates most of the year as a kids’ camp and retreat center. However, during the holidays, the 1800s-themed western town plays host to approximately 50,000 guests for the annual Christmas Train. A massive, narrow-gauge steam locomotive takes guest on a journey through the Christmas story, told by a narrator and witnessed by a number of displays including a live nativity. While the train ride is the likely the most anticipated attraction, families can also explore the Christmas village, race go-karts, ride a stage coach or elf train, take in a Cowboy music show, twirl around on a carousel and visit with Santa. Tickets sell out fast each season so book your adventure well in advance. Learn more at www.christmastrain.com.
Polar Express in Stillwater
From the book to the movie, “The Polar Express” has woven its way into the heart of Christmas and it’s rolling into Stillwater this holiday season. Ready your golden tickets and prepare yourself for a magical train ride to the North Pole. Families are encouraged to wear pajamas, just like the characters in the story. Along the way, guests hear pieces of the motion picture soundtrack and enjoy cookies and cocoa, bringing the story to life. When the train stops at the North Pole, a special guest boards the train. Santa makes a special visit with each child aboard the train to deliver a silver sleigh bell, completing a truly magical experience. Learn more at www.easternflyerpolarexpressride.com.
Christmas on the Western Frontier in El Reno
On Dec. 1, the town of El Reno celebrates the Christmas season with a special night filled with activities on its historic Main Street. To kick off the celebration, an old-fashioned parade marches into town with more than 50 festive floats. Afterward, families can enjoy trolley rides, storytelling, strolling carolers and so much more as they mill about the town square. Kids can explore Santa’s workshop, craft some fun art projects and even chat with the jolly elf himself. Local businesses stay open late, offering special holiday promotions. The evening of fun concludes with a tree lighting ceremony at the Petree Plaza followed by live entertainment.
El Reno celebrates another old-fashion Christmas tradition brought to America by German immigrants. Every year, Fort Reno hosts its annual Christmas Guns celebration. According to legend, the loud sounds of the Christmas guns are said to dispel any evil spirits, in preparation for the upcoming holiday. The guns are quite loud so come prepared! Stick around afterward to explore the fort and enjoy storytelling, snacks and a visit with Santa. The celebration is free to attend and begins at 2 p.m on Saturday, Dec. 11. Learn more at www.elrenomainstreet.com and www.fortreno.org.
Dickens on the Boulevard in Claremore
Hosted annually the weekend before Thanksgiving, Claremore’s historic downtown transports itself back in time to the days of Dickens. This Victorian-themed festival ushers in the holidays with a city-wide celebration featuring living history re-enactors, live entertainment, a Victorian street dance and more. Open until 8 p.m. each night, festive shops and local boutiques welcome shoppers with living window displays. Families can stroll the streets, ride a wagon through town, pose for pictures with Santa, listen to stories and learn about the Victorian era along the way. In an artisan village, re-enactors portray blacksmiths, glass blowers, weavers, wood carvers, sculptures and more as they answer questions and sell their creations. A Victorian food court serves up classic fare including stew, beans and cobbler. Put on your best Victorian attire and compete in a best dressed costume contest. The festival is free to attend and festivities begin at 6 p.m. on the Friday & Saturday before Thanksgiving. Learn more at www.downtownclaremore.org.