Kids

Dyker Lights: This Brooklyn Nabe Comes Alive with Holiday Spirit

For years I had been hearing about the awesome Christmas displays in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. I'd seen plenty of videos and photos online. But once I saw those jaw-dropping sights in person, I knew visiting "Dyker Lights" would become a family holiday tradition.

Living in upper Manhattan, Dyker Heights is a serious schlep. It's really not doable via public transportation, especially at night with kids in tow. One year I hitched a ride with a neighbor, but the following I decided to play tourist and go on A Slice of Brooklyn's Christmas Lights guided bus tour. Even though my daughter and I saw many of the same houses, our visits were quite different. If you're considering taking the kids to Dyker Heights this holiday season but are wondering about the best way to go, here's how the two experiences compare.

Santa Express: Christmas Train Rides for Kids in PA, DE & NJ

There is something about trains that evokes nostalgia at Christmastime.  It could be stirring up childhood memories of building a model train set under the twinkling tree lights. Maybe it is a reminder of that "coming home for the holidays" idea, where folks would arrive at the train station, arms filled with Christmas packages for family at home.

Whatever the reason might be, many railroads in the tri-state area hold events to bring back that old-fashioned holiday tradition. At many of these special outings, families can ride a real locomotive with Santa Claus, hear Christmas stories, sing carols, sip hot chocolate and admire the views of the passing countryside. Children are even invited to wear their pajamas at some of these events!  We have rounded up a list of railroads hosting holiday-themed trains of all kinds. Some of these are located more than an hour's drive from Philadelphia, but can make for a fantastic holiday outing. All aboard for some Christmas fun!

Best Places To Visit Santa Claus with Westchester Kids

For those who celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is hardly complete without a trip to visit Santa. Lucky for us, there's no shortage of places in Westchester where kids can have a meet-and-greet with the big guy, and we’ve rounded them up for you here. If you’re looking for a photo opp for your little ones (and your pets!), these Santa sightings are sure to delight you and your little ones this holiday season.

Want an even more relaxed environment? Check out some of the breakfasts with Santa occurring throughout Westchester. 

For even more holiday activities, see our coverage on holiday tree lightings, live holiday shows and performances of the The Nutcracker, all happening in Westchester.

12 Places to Take Kids Ice Skating for Free in Boston

We’re huge fans of the many outdoor ice rinks that open every winter around Boston. But sometimes skating there can get pretty pricey, crowded, and cold. What’s a Boston mom or dad to do? Take the kids to a rink where public ice skating is free! 

Here’s what you need to know to have a fun—and free—time as a family at these 12 ice rinks with free public skating:

Top Places to See Santa on Long Island

Santa has the magical ability to be in several places at once and often for only a few hours. To help you pin St. Nick down, here is a selection of fun venues where he will appear on a regular basis throughout the holiday season. Do remember, though, that Santa sometimes has to take a break for milk and cookies, so build a little extra time into your schedule. And while some of the winter wonderlands are still open after Christmas, Santa always returns to the North Pole on December 24th. And for more fun this month, check out our Holiday Guide.

Holiday Shows That Aren't The Nutcracker: A Christmas Carol, Rudolph, and More

Let's face it -- tutus and tights aren't everyone's favorite way of celebrating the holiday season, but for many families, attending a musical or theatrical performance is a beloved tradition. If your loved ones are seeking a break from sugar plum fairies and an army of mice, we have a few suggestions for festive productions lighting up the stage at a venue near you.

If, however, you have a budding ballerina in your midst and Clara's story is on your "must see" list, don't worry: we also have you covered for performances of The Nutcracker. Additionally, the Mommy Poppins Holiday Guide has many more suggestions for your family this holiday season, including places to visit with Santa

Moana: A New Disney Princess for Our Multicultural World

The heroine of Disney's new animated feature Moana may be the daughter of her Polynesian tribe's chief, but don't go calling her a princess. When her partner in adventure, the demigod Maui, snarkily insists that, "If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess,” Moana challenges his preconceived notion—as she does throughout the movie. Yes, from a marketing point of view, she's the latest in a long line of Disney royalty. Yet her character defies and redefines that role. She's a powerful, self-possessed young woman of color who battles climate change and doesn't need a man to save her. In fact, there's zero romance in this film; it's not even mentioned. Instead, she spends most of the flick bickering and bonding with Maui, who acts as a kind of goofy, surrogate big brother on their mission to save Moana's imperiled island homeland.

But while the film's feminist and multicultural elements make Moana feel decidedly 21st century, story-wise it follows the studio's tried-and-true formula of a princess—make that future chieftain—on a dangerous (but inevitably successful) quest. Just how scary is it? We've got the scoop, plus whether it's worth splurging to see her escapades in 3D.

Holiday Volunteering: Helping LA Kids Find Their Spirit of Giving

Sharing traditions with our children makes the holidays all the sweeter. The pies we bake, candles we light, songs we sing, and the gifts we give enrich the rhythm of this festive season. Volunteering to help those in need is another tradition we can offer to our kids. Giving our time and attention to our communities, whether we're dishing up food or singing Christmas carols, is often the best gift of all. And setting up our kids for a life of sharing and empathy is a gift we give to them and to the world they inherit.

Independent Toy Stores in Houston

It’s that time of year where you're likely to spend lots of time shopping. We all know it’s a challenge to go shopping with kids and even more so if your kid has watched those YouTube kids' shows where they open a new toy every 10 seconds. My 3-year-old knows more about all the newest toys than I ever will. If shopping at big-box stores is overwhelming, or if you simply are a fan of shopping small and local, here are eight independently-owned toy stores in Houston to check out. Happy shopping!

21 NYC Holiday Activities Every Kid Should Try Once

From train shows to Santa brunches, New York City serves up so many festive offerings there's no way one family can see and do it all in a single holiday season. Our holiday bucket list grows every year. In fact, we found 12 must-do events this year already, and nine, picture-perfect holiday-themed day trips.

But there are a few holiday activities that are extra special, extra big, and extra over the top that can only be found in NYC, and that every kid ought to experience at least once a childhood. These include ice skating under the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree or walking the illuminated streets of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn.

Whether you call NYC home or you're in for a holiday visit, our list of 21 once-in-a-lifetime experiences for families represents the quintessential NYC holiday. The best part? More than half are FREE.

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