The holidays are here before you know it and often gone before you've had a chance to sample any of the wonderful seasonal offerings. Taking a day trip to any of these destinations will provide a quick cup of cheer.
Shadrack's Christmas Light Show
Want to see a unique presentation of Christmas lights but without having to venture out into the cold? Adventure Park USA presents its third annual Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland Light Show, a mile-long drive through 10 acres of dazzling light displays and Christmas tunes. Bring the family to enjoy the Christmas spirit all from the comfort of your car. Over 10,000 LED lights are synchronized with holiday music. For those brave enough to venture out of their vehicles, hot cocoa and a visit with Santa are available at the end of the show.
The entrance fee is $25 per carload, $50 for a minivan or 15-plus-person vans, and $100 per bus. Bring a toy to donate to Toys for Tots and receive $5 off your light show ticket. Event runs 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. through Jan. 3. For more information, visit http://adventureparkusa.com/events.php.
Gaylord Christmas on the Potomac
It's the fifth year at Gaylord National for this event, which features a 60-foot glass Tree of Light, nightly indoor snowfalls and 2 million twinkling lights. Visitors can have brunch with Santa, decorate gingerbread houses, take train rides and enjoy live music. On Christmas Eve, the water-skiing Santa makes a return to the Potomac. Also, Gaylord National's ICE! featuring DreamWorks' "Shrek the Halls" is an interactive display carved from millions of pounds of ice.
Through Jan. 6 at Gaylord National Harbor Resort. Hours vary. For tickets, event schedules and more information, go to christmasonthepotomac.com.
Hersheypark Christmas Candylane
Visit Hersheypark as it's transformed into a holiday village featuring more than 30 rides, live entertainment, games, and Santa and his nine live reindeer. Guests can watch N.O.E.L, a light show featuring more than 125,000 dancing lights synchronized to Christmas music. Visitors can also take a 2.3-mile drive through a wooded hillside to see nearly 600 themed light displays at Hershey Sweet Lights
Hersheypark Christmas Candylane is open weekends through Dec. 30. Tickets are $12.95 for ages 3 and older; children ages 2 and younger are free. Hershey Sweet Lights is open through Jan. 1. Admission is $20 per carload, Sunday-Thursday, and $25 on Friday and Saturday. For schedule, events, hours and lodging packages, go to christmasinhershey.com.
Kennett Square, Pa.
A Longwood Christmas
Stroll through a half-million lights glowing red, white and green at the annual Longwood Gardens Christmas lighting display. See thousands of poinsettias, decorated trees and dancing fountains, all lit to create an outdoor wonderland.
Lights come on 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Jan. 6. Timed admission tickets are required. Nonmember adult admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and $8 for students ages 5-18. For more information, go to longwoodgardens.org
Love Park in Center City welcomes visitors to the fifth annual Christmas Village modeled after a traditional German holiday market. Shoppers can browse holiday goods and goodies displayed in more than 60 decorated wooden booths, which form a European village selling international crafts, gifts, food and drink.
The village is through Dec. 24 at 16th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Go to philachristmas.com or call 215-820-5149.
Holiday Parade and the Fifth Annual Running of the Santas
Kicking off the countdown to Christmas on Dec. 1 is the Atlantic City Holiday Parade. The parade will begin at noon on Maine Avenue, traveling down Atlantic to end at Michigan and Baltic Avenue at The Walk Outlets. Visitors can view a large variety of decked out floats, local marching bands strutting their stuff, and a 35-foot-tall Christmas tree bedecked in over 3,000 lights. If that isn't enough, the parade will also include the arrival of Santa Claus in Atlantic City. If you happen to miss the jolly old man, you can get your fill of Santa in at the Fifth Annual Running of the Santas later that night. Beginning at 7 p.m. at the Hooters, tickets can be redeemed for a wristband that entitles guests to drink specials and free entrance to the parties.
For a schedule of events, go to atlanticcitynj.com. For more information about the Running of the Santas, visit http://runningofthesantas.com/santas/atlantic-city/.
New York City
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
New York City is always a busy place for the holidays. Start your trip with a visit to the colorful Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Plaza (rockefellercenter.com). Take in a holiday play or musical, whether it is Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" at the Theater of Madison Square Garden (theateratmsg.com/grinch) or "A Chanticleer Christmas" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org). See 14-foot lit stars at the Time Warner Center as they "dance" to holiday tunes in the Great Room (theshopsatcolumbucircle.com). Check out the Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History, where volunteers folded more than 500 creations to display on the tree (amnh.org). Join Le Parker Meridien hotel for its fourth annual Gingerbread Extravaganza, which will highlight confectionary replicas of monuments from around the world (parkermeridien.com).
For more information about these events, or for more holiday happenings in New York, visit nycgo.com/holidays.
Step back in time at Colonial Williamsburg to enjoy old-fashioned holiday celebrations. Learn the secrets of Colonial holiday decorations, warm up with hot cider as you enjoy the hand-crafted gingerbread houses, or dine with Thomas Jefferson in international style with wines from around the world. On Dec. 2, Colonial Williamsburg is holding its Grand Illumination. Stop by to enjoy a variety of entertainments and performances or watch as they light up with sky with a firework display. Guests can book the Holiday Stories Package, a three-day/two-night offer for $130 per person per night, which includes a Holiday Decoration Tour, length-of-stay tickets to the Revolutionary City and art Museums, accommodations at the Williamsburg Lodge and more.
Holiday Stories Package is available through Dec. 30. For more information, go to colonialwilliamsburg.com/holidays.
Virginia Beach, Va.
McDonald's Holiday Lights at the Beach
Through Jan. 1, visitors can drive along Virginia Beach's boardwalk to view McDonald's 2012 Holiday Lights at the Beach. Sea creatures are highlighted against the night sky alongside Santa, his elves and a 40-foot tall Christmas in a display featuring a half-million bulbs. This year's highlights include the 30-foot-tall "12 Days of Christmas" display. A free CD of holiday music is provided to visitors to set the tone for the drive.
McDonald's Holiday Lights at the Beach is open 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $10 per car daily and $15 per car on weekends and Fridays. Go to beachstreetusa.com.
First Night Alexandria
First Night Alexandria will kick off Dec. 31 with afternoon activities from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., including the Fourth Annual Fun Hunt, Whisker Wonderland activities, craft project demos, and kid-friendly activities hosted by Alexandria Archaeology Museum, Torpedo Factory Art Center, Hooray for Books. The night performances will begin at 7 p.m. and go through 11:45 p.m. There will be 100 performances at 19 venues throughout Old Town Alexandria. Headliners include Bonnie Rideout. The night's finale occurs at midnight as fireworks are set off from a barge near King Street to welcome the New Year.
Admission costs $15 if tickets are bought before Dec 17, $20 if bought after. There is an additional $10 fee to reserve seating for the Bonnie Rideout show. For more information, visit firstnightalexandria.org or call 703-746-3301.