From Pinterest-perfect teacher presents to waiting online for those coveted tickets, the Christmas season can be, well, stressful. There's the Christmas parties, the Christmas cards, and then the presents. And the shopping for the presents. We all seriously need a vacation by 5 p.m. on December 25th. But, when you see those little faces light up when they see the guy in red or when they come across an actual living, breathing reindeer, or when they hear that whistle blow. Every second is worth it. We've rounded up the top 10 things to do with your preschooler during the holidays. So get out there and embrace the magic of the season and make yourself some memories to last a lifetime. Be sure to check out our CT Holiday Guide for even more holiday fun.
All Aboard to the North Pole!
When the wheels start a chuggin’ and the whistle starts blowin’, you’ll be well on your way. To the North Pole that is. Polar Express-inspired train rides are a rite of Christmas passage in the North East, with several options throughout the state. The widely popular Essex Steam Train Polar Express rides sell out in about three minutes but they also offer a daytime departure dubbed “Santa Special” offering your kiddos the chance to meet and greet Santa, Mrs. Claus, Pablo the Penguin, and more friends from the North Pole aboard the train. The New England Railroad Museum, Danbury Railway Museum and Shoreline Trolley Museum offer their own versions of a Polar Express train ride throughout the season.
Meet Dancer, Dasher and Prancer
The day after Thanksgiving, Santa’s LIVE reindeer will be returning for the annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival & Santa’s Village at Sam Bridge Nursery & Greenhouses. This beloved tradition invites visitors to have their photo taken with Santa, meet the reindeer and ride on the Winter Wonderland Carousel and the North Pole Polar Express Train, all just minutes from downtown Greenwich.
Have Breakfast with Santa
What makes a delicious breakfast spread piled high with pancakes, bacon and coffee even better? Breakfast with the guy in red. From brunch with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Lyman Orchards to Breakfast with Frosty and Friends at the Beardsley Zoo to Breakfast with Santa and Friends at Flamig Farm—there are so many wonderful options for having a memorable breakfast with Santa throughout the state.
Heights and Lights
Your preschoolers will watch Santa Claus, Rudolph, Grinch, and friends in amazement as they make their daredevil descent from 22 stories high above Stamford Downtown. Watch and cheer as they twist and fly from the top of one of Stamford’s tallest buildings, Landmark Square. Then join Santa and friends up Bedford Street to Latham Park for an evening of holiday music with the Cast of Elf JR. from Saxe Middle School and join in the countdown of the annual lighting of Stamford’s Holiday Tree.
The North Pole Comes to Stepping Stones
Your preschooler’s favorite museum just got even better. This season, Stepping Stones Museum will be transformed into a bustling North Pole offering kiddos the chance to meet and greet Santa! Pop into the Elf Workshop for some Christmas crafts, go sock skating, and be sure to snap a photo with Santa and friends.
The lights. While maybe putting them up isn’t our favorite thing, they sure look beautiful once they’re lit. And the kiddos LOVE them. Your preschooler will love the Holiday Lights display at Lake Compounce where the kiddie park is not only lit up but actually operating! They also open the train that travels around the park and line it with twinkling Christmas lights. We love to grab hot chocolate and head to the Fantasty of Lights in New Haven to kick off our holiday season. Festival of Silver Lights and Holiday Light Fantasia are also great spots to check out for a spectacular lights display.
See a Show
We have put together a massive guide to holiday shows across the state. That being said, not every show might be appropriate for the younger set. The Bridgeport Cabaret Theater is a wonderful option for taking little ones as each and every show is packed with songs (and you can bring a picnic lunch - for us, its all about the snacks). Check out the cabaret this season for their Christmas show called “The Christmas Elf.” Pantochino Productions in Milford is another great cabaret-style venue offering a musical performance called “School for Elves” through December.
Go Ice Skating
Bundle up and head to Westport’s outdoor PAL rink or Winterfest in Bushnell Park for a round of outdoor skating. Or, checkout one of the many indoor ice skating rinks across the state to introduce your preschooler to a timeless winter pastime. Most rinks have walkers available to help aid new skaters.
Holiday Boat Parade
Twinkling lights gliding across the water under the moonlight. Can you think of anything more magical? Your kiddos will love to watch the boats bedecked in sparkling Christmas lights as they parade up the harbor with Santa Claus. In Mystic, Essex and Stamford, holiday boat parades are a cherished Christmas tradition.
Decorate a Gingerbread House
Decorating the annual gingerbread house always brings a smile to my face. You start with such high hopes and then well, the walls begin to crumble, the gum drops begin to slide off the roof and the kids have already eaten the other half of the candy. But, it's oh so fun. There are plenty of places throughout the state that play host to gingerbread house decorating perfect for your preschooler.
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