Kids

10 Fun Things to Do on Christmas Eve in Houston

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the Christmas season. I know a lot of people have holiday traditions that they enjoy throughout the month of December, like seeing a favorite play or visiting the same Santa for photos each year, while others have special activities reserved for Christmas Day, like enjoying a meal out with family or driving around to see the holiday lights and displays one last time. But to me there's always been something magical about the night before Christmas. Growing up, that was the day we opened all of our presents from family members, attended the candlelight church service, and listened to Christmas carols while sipping hot chocolate and eating holiday treats, so I guess it's no surprise that I find myself wanting to make the day just as special in our house now that I have my own family. Luckily, there are no shortage of fun things to do with the kids on Christmas Eve, and we've rounded up 10 of the best activities you can enjoy at home and around the Houston area this year.

18 Hanukkah Celebrations for Kids in LA and Orange County

However you spell it—Hanukkah, Hanukka, Hannukah, Chanukah, or Channuka—SoCal is a great place to be for the Festival of Lights. Home to a Jewish population larger than that of Jerusalem, Los Angeles is all about "lighting candles, wearing sandals, by the sea" (at least, that's why Tom Leher spent Hanukkah in Santa Monica). Giant menorahs light up open spaces from The OC to the Valley. Two of the season's biggest events are at the Skirball Center and the Shalom Institute, but these major festivals are just the tip of the dreidel; local events and candle lightings burn the sunset oil all week long...

Calling Santa: Mostly Free Apps for St. Nick Fun with Kids

Ready or not, Santa Claus is coming to town, and the kids couldn't be more excited. Thanks to technology, families today have a lot more ways than a quick photo with the mall Santa to catch up with (or just plain catch!) the jolly bearded man. 

Now kids can talk directly with St. Nick via the phone or an app, track his progress on Christmas Eve, and even watch a live reindeer cam. Want to really blow their minds? There are apps that let you share a photo of Santa handing out presents in your very own living room. Christmastime is already among the most magical seasons for children, but these fun tools take it to the next level. Read on for our favorite ways to check in with Santa before Christmas and follow all his antics on Christmas Eve. Our special gift for you: These 11 special Santa experiences are (mostly) FREE!

Review: Ballerina Swan Meets Her Nutcracker in New Holiday Show

The city is awash in Nutcracker performances come holiday season, from the iconic New York City Ballet’s production at Lincoln Center to the abridged, children-friendly Keith Michael's The Nutcracker. For NYC families with kids under 5, the question always is: are they ready? Will they even make it to intermission before they lose it?

I had that same thought as my almost 4-year-old and I took our seats at the Clurman Theatre on 42nd Street for a Nutcracker-themed family musical, Ballerina Swan and The Nutcracker, from The New York City Children’s Theater, and it was only 50 minutes with no intermission.

I shouldn’t have worried. As soon as the dancers took to the stage, my daughter was riveted. Read on for our parent review of this brand-new piece that incorporates ballet, acting, and puppetry into a special holiday show for young children.

Weekend Fun for Houston Kids: Christmas Markets, Touchdown Tour, Boat Parade, Dec 9-11

While this week was pretty cold and rainy, the weather this weekend is already looking much nicer - still chilly, but no rain! So bundle up and celebrate the holidays with the family at one of the many events going on around town. Now's the time when most people have their Christmas decorations up, and these Houston neighborhoods you can enjoy from the comfort of your own warm seat. If you want to brave the cold, then you can visit Houston Zoo Lights, a Houston tradition everyone should experience this holiday season. 

This time of the year more than ever is a time to give back, so if you have a lot of unwanted clothes or maybe too many toys consider attending a toy drive at your local charity organizations. If you haven't yet, check out our list of places where to find places to take a photo with Santa or breakfast, brunch, or cookies and hot cocoa with the big man in red. 

Look at our events calendar for a complete picture of what's happening this weekend and beyond, our holiday guide for the best things to do this season, and we've also rounded up the best things to do as a family in the month of December. Remember to sign up for our weekly newsletter to read about fun things to do each weekend in Houston. Now, it's time to check out this list of fun events happening this weekend in Houston. 

Weekend Fun for CT Kids: Nutcracker, Museums, and Visits with Santa, December 10-11

Sadly, both my children have hung up their dancing shoes, but we still get our ballet fix at least once a year with one of the fantastic productions of The Nutcracker offered across Connecticut. This weekend's offerings include performances the New Haven Ballet, the Danbury Symphony Orchestra, the Hartt School, the New England Ballet Company, the Eastern Connecticut Ballet Company, and the Connecticut Dance School, among many others.  "Scenes from the Nutcracker" is a terrific option for younger audiences, as the abbreviated performance lasts about an hour and children are invited to sit down in front to be close to the action (and interact with the dancers following the show).

If you're starting to feel the pinch of this spendy season, there are quite a few free events on offer this weekend, including Santa's Workshop at Wickham Park, a free screening of The Polar Express in Stamford, and a fun visit with Santa at the Seymour Land Trust (food donations are welcome at most of these events—double check with the venues for specific needs).

As always, we continue to update the Mommy Poppins Family Events Calendar with family-friendly activities around the state. Be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletters and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Have a wonderful weekend!

The Best Museums for Kids in Northern New Jersey

When bad weather hits, a trip to a museum can be a great cure for cabin fever. With winter upon us, it's time to check out a few local gems that offer kids hands-on art and science exploration. At these northern New Jersey museums, kids can study the stars at a planetarium, learn about dinosaurs that once roamed modern-day New Jersey, create their own works of art, meet animals, make music, and much more. They're guaranteed to learn something—and get nice and tired in the process. Read on for five of our favorite spots in northern New Jersey, and be sure to check out our roundup of museums in central and southern New Jersey, too. 

Christmas Trains: All Aboard the Polar Express for Kids in LA, Ventura, & Orange County

Trains in Los Angeles are more or less novelties all year round, which means they hold onto that wonderful Thomas-the-Tank-Engine, Polar-Express mystique far longer for LA kids than for urban kids who take the A train regularly. And for anyone who loves trains, Christmas trains offer the ultimate "old world charm" rail experience. Add an appearance by Santa Claus and a few Christmas trees, and you have a recipe for a memorable holiday experience. All aboard the Santa Express!

Holiday Gift-Making Workshops and Classes

Every year as I'm doing some last-minute gift shopping I tell myself that next Christmas I'm definitely going to make amazing gifts for my family and friends. Well, I haven't made anything yet, but fortunately for me and those of you who have similar intentions, there is still time to flex our creative muscles. There are plenty of fun classes and workshops where you can make one-of-a-kind gifts and learn techniques to create original works of art, delicious treats, and a variety of other crafty items.

For those of you who are not interested in DIY gift-giving but want to give unique presents to your loved ones, you might consider supporting local artists and artisans who sell their goods and wares at a holiday market or getting the children in your life special gifts from one of Houston's independent toy stores. And while you're shopping, don't forget to pick up a gift for a Christmas toy drive. And don't forget to check out our holiday guide filled with things to do and see in Houston this season.

Inexpensive Birthday Party Room Rentals for NYC Kids

Few suburban comforts make me jealous, but the ability to host a home birthday party is one. Fear not: There are inexpensive party rooms available to rent in NYC; you just have to know where to look.

Keep in mind, buying an all-inclusive package can get pricey, especially if you want to invite your child's entire class. These spots all require DIY inventiveness, but you'll be rewarded with a special day that won't (totally) break the budget. Read on for inspiration and where to find a party spot near you, or check out our party directory for more local venues and entertainers.

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