The holidays are an amazing time of year in Oklahoma and our neighboring states. Just a short drive out of the metro area will deliver your family to a holiday wonderland, both in Oklahoma and just beyond our borders in nearby Branson, Grapevine and Kansas City. Let’s get started!
Christmas is a great time to take a short trip to a new destination, and you don’t have to travel far to have some amazing experiences. Oklahoma has many wonderful Christmas events that don’t require you to pack a suitcase or use tons of gas to get there!
Rhema Bible Church in Broken Arrow has been adding to their unbelievable lights display for 30 years. If it’s cold, you can see a large portion of the lights by driving through the designated lanes, but if you have the time and the weather is right, get out and explore. My children’s favorite feature is the bridge, which is covered in 90,000 lights that are synchronized to Christmas music. There are many paths that are stroller and wheelchair friendly and you can purchase hot chocolate and snacks. It’s free to see the lights, and at certain times there are carriage rides and pictures with Santa for a fee. I have found that dusk is the best time to go because there is still plenty of easy parking and the kids love that moment when the lights all come on for the first time. (1025 W Kenosha St, Broken Arrow; 918-258-1588, www.rhemabiblechurch.com)
The Castle of Muskogee has fun for all budgets. You can drive through light displays for free (donations are accepted) and visit the petting zoo or watch a holiday movie. There are also many indoor and outdoor activities to participate in for a small fee, such as carriage rides and crafts. Check the website for dates and prices. (3400 W Fern Mountain Rd, Muskogee; 800-439-0658, www.okcastle.com)
Also, near The Castle and well worth the time is the lights display at Honor Heights Park. (Honor Heights Dr, Muskogee; 918-684-6302, www.cityofmuskogee.com)
Shepherd’s Cross has a wonderful Christmas program during the second and third weekends of December that is entertaining and educational. Downstairs in the barn you can visit their living nativity and then head upstairs for a wide range of activities. There are Bible character reenactors, spinning and weaving demonstrations, hands-on activities for kids, games and snacks. Plan to spend a few hours if you want to try all the offered activities. (16792 E 450 Rd, Claremore: 918-342-5911, shepherdscross.com)
If you have a train enthusiast in your family, you might want to check out the Christmas Train in Adair. Take a ride on an old-fashioned steam train, see a presentation of the Christmas story, play games, see a music show, visit Santa—and lots more. Visit the website for ticket information and dates. This is an evening activity and takes two to three hours, so you may want to make this a weekend trip. (572 Dry Gulch Rd, Adair; 918-234-8100, www.christmastrain.com)
Branson is a great place for a Christmas vacation. Whether you’re looking for a drive-through lights display or a high-energy musical show, you’ll find many options that will make your whole family happy.
- Silver Dollar City. During the holidays this theme park hosts a light parade twice each evening, an enormous special effects Christmas tree, musical shows, plays and even special cooking classes. Events are held through December 30. (399 Silver Dollar City Parkway; 800-475-9370, www.bransonsilverdollarcity.com)
- Polar Express Train Ride. Branson Scenic Railway’s Polar Express ride is sure to be fun for the entire family. Children are encouraged to come in their pajamas (just like the movie!) as they ride the train to meet Santa, have hot chocolate, and sing carols. (206 E Main; 800-287-2462, www.bransontrain.com)
- Branson Area Festival of Lights. Don’t miss this one-mile drive with more than 175 lighted displays. The drive-through is open through January 2, and you can print a $2 off coupon at www.bransoncvb.com/christmas/bafol.
- Shopping: Branson Landing and the Tanger Outlets are beautiful outdoor shopping centers with plenty of places to stop and eat and even take in a light and water show. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in those places, there are also many local shops with unique items to surprise your family and friends. (Branson Landing, 100 Branson Landing; 417-239-3002, www.bransonlanding.com / Tanger Outlets, 300 Tanger Blvd; 800-407-2762, www.tangeroutlet.com/branson)
- Shows. I’m not sure if you can find a theater in Branson that doesn’t have a Christmas show. Entertainers of all kinds have some wonderful programs just for the season and you can find information at www.bransoncvb.com/christmas.
Grapevine is known as the Christmas Capitol of Texas, and this quaint little town rolls out the red carpet to welcome visitors during the holiday season.
- The Gaylord Texan Resort hosts a Christmas Wonderland with ICE! DreamWorks Merry Madagascar featuring a variety of activities including the ICE exhibit, snow tubing and special meal and photo ops with DreamWorks characters, through January 1. (1501 Gaylord Trail; 817-778-1000, www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylord-texan)
- The North Pole Express departs from the Grapevine Depot and features a fun-filled ride with a visit from St. Nick. Children are encouraged to wear pajamas. Held Friday-Saturday through December 23. (705 Main St; 817-410-3557, www.grapevinetexasusa.com)
- The Palace Theater hosts special holiday events, including a classic holiday movie series; performances by the Texas Tenors (12/13-14, 16 & 20-22); An Elvis Kind of Christmas (12/2); and a Christmas Spectacular series held through the month. Visit the website for dates and times. (300 S Main St; 817-410-3100, www.grapevinetexasusa.com)
- Christmas on Main Street includes a festive step back in time as Main Street in Grapevine is transformed into a holiday wonderland. Featuring Christmas characters in costume, holiday decorations, games and tractor-drawn wagon rides. Friday-Sunday through December 23. (817-410-3557, www.grapevinetexasusa.com)
- Create your own holiday treasures at the Vetro Glassblowing Studio through December 29. Work with a glass artist to select up to three colors and make your own ornament. Plan an overnight visit to allow time for your creation to cool. $30, first-come, first-serve, visit website for availability. (701 S Main St; 817-251-1668, www.vetroartglass.com)
Kansas City, Missouri
Just a short drive away, Kansas City offers a wide variety of family-friendly festivities and fun ways to celebrate the season. Seasonal highlights include:
- Santa’s Crayola Christmas Land. Featuring super-sized Crayola products for kids to play on, Christmas Land features Santa, Perry the Penguin and other costumed characters for kids of all ages to enjoy. All activities are free and continue through December. (Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd; 816-274-8444, www.crowncenter.com)
- Kansas City Museum’s Igloo. The Kansas City Museum’s popular Igloo has been “refrozen” and brought back at Zona Rosa Shopping Center. The crawl-through Igloo is located in The Grove as part of the Fairy Princess and Santa’s winter scenery through December 24. (8640 N Dixson Ave; 816-587-8180, www.zonarosa.com)
- Crown Center Ice Terrace. Kansas City’s only public, outdoor ice skating rink celebrates its 40th season and is open for skating through mid-March. Admission is $6 and children 4 and under are free. (Crown Center Square, 2425 Grand Blvd; 816-274-8411, www.crowncenter.com)
- Country Club Plaza Lights. The Plaza Lights have been a Kansas City holiday tradition for more than 80 years. Thousands of lights outline the Spanish-influenced architecture of this prestigious shopping and dining district. Lights glow until mid-January 2013. (4750 Broadway Blvd; 816-753-0100, www.countryclubplaza.com)
For more holiday fun in Kansas City, visit www.visitkc.com.
However you spend it, have a safe and happy holiday season!