by Beth J. Harpaz, The Associated Press, December 1, 2016
NEW YORK (AP) — Christmas lights, towering trees and elaborate gingerbread creations are everywhere this time of year. Here are a few favorite places around the country to enjoy holiday sparkle and fun.
NEW YORK CITY
New Yorkers may argue about where to get the best pizza or bagels. But there's no debate over the city's most famous Christmas tree: Rockefeller Center, where a 94-foot Norway spruce is lit up by 50,000 lights. Other attractions include the American Museum of Natural History's origami holiday tree, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Christmas tree and Neapolitan baroque creche, and Lower Manhattan's Luminaries lighting display inside the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place. Macy's, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Barney's are famous for their holiday windows, but be prepared for crowds and slow-going, especially on Fifth Avenue near the Trump Tower between 56th and 57th streets.
Outside Manhattan, A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours marks its 10th anniversary of tours in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights neighborhood, where over-the-top lighting displays are a point of homeowner pride. The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx hosts a holiday train show with miniature replicas of city landmarks, all made from natural materials like twigs and pinecones, including a tiny Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster. In Queens, the New York Hall of Science hopes to score a fourth consecutive Guinness World Record for the largest gingerbread village.
THE HENRY FORD, DEARBORN, MICHIGAN
Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford museum complex near Detroit is a cherished winter tradition, featuring classic Christmas scenes come to life: candlelit windows, roasting chestnuts, carolers, sleigh bells, horse-drawn wagons and Model Ts, Santa and live reindeer, plus period food and nightly fireworks.
THE BILTMORE, ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
The Biltmore House continues a tradition that started in 1895 when George Vanderbilt opened the 250-room mansion at Christmastime to family and friends. Attractions include more than 70 decorated trees, hundreds of poinsettias and garlands, a 34-foot-tall fir tree in the banquet hall and a 55-foot Norway spruce on the front lawn.
Also in Asheville, the Omni Grove Park Inn has more than 150 gingerbread designs on display from the National Gingerbread House Competition.
Real snow is not in Southern California's forecast but "magical snowfalls" take place nightly at The Grove in Los Angeles, where you can also see Santa's Cottage and a 100-foot white fir tree. Elsewhere in the region, the retired Queen Mary ocean liner, docked in Long Beach, hosts skating, ice tubing and an "Alice in Wonderland" experience. Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge offers an artsy, interactive lighting display called "Enchanted: Forest of Light." And SkyPark at Santa's Village, a Christmas-themed amusement park, is returning to Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains after being closed for 18 years.
In Anaheim, California, Disney's California Adventure park looks at celebrations around the world with Festival of Holidays, and debuts Princess Elena, the first Disney princess inspired by Latin American cultures. The park's World of Color nighttime water show is a new Season of Light production with holiday songs like "Feliz Navidad" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." And three classic Disneyland attractions got a holiday makeover: it's a small world holiday, Haunted Mansion Holiday and Jingle Cruise (aka Jungle Cruise). Main Street fireworks are accompanied by snowfall.
At Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, it's the first Christmas in years without the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. New holiday attractions include Hollywood Studios' Jingle Bells Jingle BAM! — a projection laser light show with animation and songs. Epcot offers holiday food kiosks plus "Holidays around the World" storytellers and the Candlelight Processionals. Magic Kingdom has a new stage show, "Mickey's Most Merriest Celebration," as part of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
Pro tip: You can visit Orlando's Disney Springs without paying park admission. Enjoy a toy festival at the "Once Upon a Toy" shop, where Santa will greet visitors, and a nightly holiday dance party and tree lighting at the fountain outside. There's a tree trail through 15 custom-decorated trees and a new Starbright Holidays show where drones light the night sky with colorful images.
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is recreated nightly at Universal Orlando in Florida through Jan. 1, with balloons, floats and marching bands. At Universal's Islands of Adventure, Seuss Landing has been transformed into Grinchmas, a celebration of the Dr. Seuss classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles also hosts Grinchmas with a Who-ville show and photo ops with the Grinch or Max the dog.
AND DON'T FORGET ...
In Philadelphia, Macy's hosts a Christmas light show and Wanamaker organ concert, along with holiday window displays and a 6,000-square-foot Dickens Village that tells the story of "A Christmas Carol."
One of the nation's largest lighting displays is in Wheeling, West Virginia, at Oglebay's Winter Festival of Lights, with displays spread over a 6-mile drive.
This year is the 20th anniversary of Kauai's Festival of Lights, a unique display on the Hawaiian island that celebrates recycling. It started as one woman's Christmas eco-crafting project and now requires thousands of volunteer hours. Trees are covered with ornaments made from recycled cans and plastic containers. There's also an electric train, live music, thousands of lights and Santa.
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This article was written by Beth J. Harpaz from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.