St. Louis Is Action-Packed This Holiday Season

Friday, November 6, 2009 - by Donna Andrews

Like it or not – here they come! The holiday season is upon us and the events and activities are piling up like snow drifts in Alaska. Here’s a list of just a few of the unique and exciting things to see and do around St. Louis before, during and after the holidays.

November -
Let the holiday games begin! The Macy's Holiday Festival of Lights takes place on Nov. 20, in Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis and St. Louis County Government Center in Clayton, as Christmas lights are simultaneously turned on at 6:30 p.m. In addition to an appearance by Santa Claus, there will be special holiday activities and a fireworks display at each location. A walking procession with Santa to Macy’s in downtown St. Louis will follow the fireworks display for the unveiling of the holiday windows. Click www.christmasinstlouis.org for information.

The Anheuser-Busch Brewery Christmas Lights Display lights up the nights from Nov. 20–Jan. 2. The display features more than 800,000 lights that adorn a magnificent tree, the Bevo Plant and Pestalozzi Street. For more information, call 314-577-2000.

Don’t miss the free Way of Lights Christmas Displayat the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows (www.snows.org) Nov. 20 – Jan. 3, and make plans to drive through the 24th Annual Winter Wonderland at Tilles County Park (www.stlouisco.com/parks/), Nov. 25–Jan. 3.

The 25th AmerenUE St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade marches through downtown St. Louis on Nov. 26, complete with colorful floats, bands, storybook characters, carriages, equestrian units and – who else – Santa Claus. It all starts at 8:45 a.m. Get additional factoids at www.christmasinstlouis.org.

Speaking of the jolly old elf, “Santa vs. the Snowman” returns to the Saint Louis Science Center’s Omniax Theater Nov. 20 – Jan. 3. The hilarious polar feud tells the tale of a Snowman and his minions squaring off against Santa and his elves.

All’s well that ends well though, as friendship reigns supreme and audiences enjoy a heart-melting holiday film. Tickets and show times are available at www.slsc.org.

Over in Belleville, Il., take a “fantastical,” self-guided trek past shop windows filled with gingerbread houses and other creations at Historic Belleville’s Tenth Annual Gingerbread Walk. The sweet abodes will be on display from Nov. 20-Jan. 2. Call 800-677-WALK for details.

Craft Alliance Gallery in The Loop has unveiled its spectacular display of hundreds of hand-blown glass ornament cascades in the gallery windows. Check it out in person or visit www.craftalliance.org to read more about it.

Then it’s time to welcome Santa to St. Louis Mills (www.stlouismills.com) on Nov. 13, and take part in the festivities surrounding the Salvation Army Tree Lighting. His Jollyness makes a grand entrance aboard an unusual “sleigh” that looks an awful lot like a fire engine, and there will be a holiday show featuring the Muny Kids, Frosty the Snowman, Mrs. Claus and some cookies and hot chocolate.

Visit with Santa, register for prizes, and join the parade to the tree lighting. Entertainment starts at 4:30 p.m. and Santa arrives at 5 p.m. Call 314 227-5900 for more information.

The holidays take center stage at the Missouri Botanical Garden (www.mobot.org). From Nov. 21–Jan. 3, there’s a holiday wreath exhibition featuring creations by some of the finest floral designers in the region. “Gardenland Express,” the popular annual holiday flower and train show, chugs its way through the Garden Nov. 25 - Jan. 3, and it’s a Victorian Christmas at founder Henry Shaw’s Tower Grove House. Shaw’s “country” home is decked out with wreaths, garlands, floral centerpieces, greenery and a holiday tree.

Holiday weekends are a little wilder at the Saint Louis Zoo (www.stlzoo.org). The Wild Lights display allows visitors to walk through a wonderland of lights on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from Nov. 27 - Dec. 30.

The Shaw Nature Reserve (www.shawnature.org) in Gray Summit, Missouri, is also decked out in some holiday finery, Nov. 28 – Dec. 31.

The Bascom House, built in 1879 by former Confederate Colonel Thomas William Bouldin Crews, features festive décor inside and out.

December -
“Holiday Magic” (www.stlholidaymagic.com) is in the air at the America’s Centerconvention complex, Dec. 4-6. The new holiday consumer show features approximately 100 exhibitors and vendors, so attendees can get a jump on their holiday shopping and learn new entertaining and decorating techniques.

In between shopping stops, everyone can enjoy the excitement of carnival rides, a dazzling holiday light show, culinary demonstrations and competitions, a pet area, and live entertainment.

The Christmas Festival & Holiday House Tour gets underway in Kimmswick, Dec. 4-6, complete with carolers, carriage rides and lots of holiday activities. Luminaries light the way through the streets, as shops and restaurants stay open late, and the Candlelight House Tour takes place Friday and Saturday nights. Advance tickets available at www.gokimmswick.com.

Ever meet a “Wilderness Santa?” If not, then make tracks for the Wild Bird Sanctuary’s “Christmas is for the Birds” event. Kids can get their photo taken with Wilderness Santa, who just happens to be holding a live raptor. Yikes! Plus, there will be milk and cookies, Christmas craft activities, and sing-a-long programs. Reservations are required, so call 636-225-4390 ext. 0.

Speaking of wild things, have breakfast with Santa at the Saint Louis Zoo, Dec. 5-6, 12-13, and 19-20. There are two seatings each day – 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and the festive holiday breakfast includes a family photo with (a non-wilderness) Santa, goody bags for the kids, visits from costumed characters, and more. Pre-paid reservations are required and seating is limited, so call 314-646-4857, or visit www.stlzoo.org for specifics.

Experience St. Louis’ oldest neighborhood, Dec. 5-6, as residents open their homes for the 34th Annual Soulard Holiday Parlour Tour. Enjoy guided tours of festively decorated historic homes throughout the neighborhood on Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Sunday from 10
a.m. to 3 p.m. Advance tickets and group discounts are available for purchase at www.soulard.org or 314-621-6226.

The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum is promising a “holly jolly good time” – and some hotcakes – at the 7th Annual Breakfast with Santa on Sunday, Dec. 6 at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 5 p.m. In addition to a special appearance by everybody’s favorite elf (Santa Claus), the event will feature pancakes prepared by the renowned flapjack flippers, Chris Cakes. Reservations are required so visit www.magichouse.org for details.

Make your own gingerbread house at St. Louis Mills (www.stlouismills.com) on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. (for kids ages five and under), and Thursday, Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. (ages six-12). Graham crackers and icing will be provided, and kids can bring their favorite candies to accessorize their sweet new abode.

Explore the world of “gourdaments” Dec. 5 – Jan. 3 at Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center. The “Inspired by the Garden” holiday trimmings include a 15-foot balsam fir tree decorated with more than 50 gourdaments and gourd birdhouses. You can even vote for your favorite!

On Dec. 6, the Garden presents “Chanukah: Festival of Lights,” with festive Israeli music and dance, a menorah-lighting ceremony, and Chanukah merchandise by local vendors.

Enjoy the sounds of the season Dec. 12 – 13 with “Christmas Carols in the Garden.” Chestnuts will be roasting on an open fire, Santa will be there in his sleigh, and – of course – there will be lots of carols being sung. Visit www.mobot.org for info on all of these events.

Got Brass? There will be plenty to go around at the 18th annual Holiday Brass Concerts on Dec. 15 at 2:15 and 8 p.m. Held within the splendid confines of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, the concerts will feature traditional holiday favorites. Call 314-533-7662 to order tickets.

So you missed breakfast with Santa, did you? Well have no fear – the Saint Louis Zoo is offering the chance to enjoy “Dinner with Santa,” Dec. 18-21. Dine at the Painted Giraffe Café, enjoy the Wild Lights display and visits from costumed characters – plus there’s a personal photo opp with Santa. Pre-paid reservations are required, and seating is limited – but the parking is free! Visit www.stlzoo.org for everything you need to know.

Celebrate “Kwanzaa: Festival of the First Fruits” on Dec. 30 at the Ridgway Visitor Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden. A Kwanzaa ceremony highlights a day of storytelling, craft and jewelry displays, and authentic African drumming and musical performances. Get details at www.mobot.org.

First Night–Saint Louis takes over the Grand Center Arts & Entertainment District from 5:30 p.m. – midnight on Dec. 31. The family-focused, alcohol-free celebration features visual and performing arts, musicians, storytellers, dancers, magicians, actors, puppeteers and – best of all – two fireworks displays. Call 314 289-8121 or click www.firstnightstl.org.

Another New Year’s Eve option for the small fry is at the Saint Louis Zoo. Kids ages six-13 can wrap up the old year at the “New Year’s Eve Overnight: Zoo Celebration.” Get wild with the wildlife and ring in 2010 with a variety of educational activities and adventures. Advance reservations are required, so call
314 646-4544, or visit www.stlzoo.org/education.

For a complete list of what’s going on in the Gateway City, visit the Calendar of Events section at www.explorestlouis.com. A fun and exciting holiday season is all within reach.


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