Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bring on the Holidays

The holidays are upon us and if you're like me, that means anxiety and stress kick in and will kick your butt because of the busy-ness, expenses, additional cooking, baking, chaotic schedule and physical and mental demands the holidays bring especially if you have kids.  Ever since I met my husband, it's been a balancing act, a tug-of-war, of which parties and events to attend and what presents to buy and for whom.  It's exhausting and has put a damper in my holiday spirit for awhile now.  Ever since I have had kids, it's been ten times worse and ever since Brody began school last year, it's been 20 times worse with the added activities and school functions.  

I try, however, to make the holidays as special as I can for my children without ripping my own hair out by still bringing them to events that I think we will all enjoy.  I listed the ones here that I deem worthy of my time.  I don't mind (too much) to take time out of my already chaotic life to attempt to attend these so maybe they will make your cut, too, for places to enjoy with your family.


I know it's important to be budget savvy, even more so during the holidays.  These events require some money to enjoy all the activities but the holiday experience it brings can be worth the extra dough...

Winter Wonderland in St. Augustine (Nov. 23 - Jan. 6).  We've been a couple times and I think this event is worthwhile.  There's plenty to do and see and this place can really cheer you up during the holidays.  It's a great place for the whole family, kids will love it and a good spot to hang out with that special someone without the kids.  (*wink wink*)  There's ice skating, Igloo Ski Lounge, Ice Chute, train rides, Blizzard Bounce House, Elf Village (free), visit with Santa (Free), sleigh rides, carnival game, nightly snowfall (free), face paint, RC Race Track, S'more Fire Pit and food and drinks.  Visit their website for package prices and all the info.  Grab a deal right now at Living Social for four people.

A similar local event is the Adventure Landing Winterfest (Nov. 17 - Jan. 13) that we went to last year (their first one) and Brody had a great time.  Attractions include: outdoor ice skating, santa's workshop (check the website for times), ornament decoration, blizzard bluff village (displays of pretty shop windows, we took some nice pics of these last year), ice skating exhibitions (check for times), teddy bear factory, ice slide, s'more roasting, sugar cookie decorating, carnival games (free), nightly snow fall (free...the kids couldn't get enough of this so at least come to let the kids enjoy the snow).  Check out site for info.  Go to www.doubletakedeals.com for a deal on their ice skating package.  

A new one this year is the ZOOlights (Dec. 14-31st) at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.  There will be thousands of LED lights throughout the zoo, lighted zoo train rides and a 4-D theater ride featuring Polar Express, which I'm excited about because I love watching that movie and reading the book during the holidays.  It's $9 for non-members, $7 for members and you get $1 off if you buy in advance online.  Click here for deets. 

To the Arctic with Santa! Dec. 8 at World Golf Hall of Fame IMAX Theater at 1 PM.  Visit Santa and have refreshments then view "To the Arctic 3D" at 2 PM.  There will be family activities at this event.

If you're into festive plays, music or ballets to get you in the holiday mood, there's plenty of those in town, too.  I'm a sucker for the ballet, Nutcracker, and would love to watch it every holiday season.  The last time I went was when I was still preggers with my first, Brody.  Visit here  for show times and ticket info.  There's currently a deal on www.livingsocial.com for tics.  Enjoy some classical Christmas tunes and The Polar Express with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.  Check site for info.  Music helps me relax and we all need that during the hectic season!


Bright lights and Christmas decor marks the impending holiday season and kids don't get tired of seeing it (Brody had us keep our Christmas tree  up well into January a couple years ago).  I have to admit that all the shining lights and decorations make me feel warm inside, too.  

With that being said, one of my family traditions that my hubby and I started since Brody's first Christmas is visiting St. Augustine on Christmas Eve for the Nights of LIghts Celebration.  This city is gorgeous and with the 2 million lights strung up, it becomes magical.  I'm not a fan of the trolley to experience this so if you can, walk;  you'll appreciate the experience so much more.  There's usually a band or lone musician playing holiday music and a tall Christmas tree that makes it perfect for photo ops.  We usually take loads of pics and stop for hot drinks while walking.  It really makes the holiday spirit come alive for me.  

Kuhn's Flowers on Beach Boulevard is a popular retail store to check out for their window Christmas display.  I've never seen it but I'm making a point to go this year to take a peek and see what all the hype is about.  

If you just want to walk around and see some local lights or a tall, decorated tree, the St. Johns Town Center is a nice place to visit.  They have a 32 foot tree that makes for some nice photos with the kids.  You can stand or sit (as shown in pic below) and is lit up during the day, too.  

Hanging out at St. Johns Town Center by their Christmas tree

Pretty tree day or night

If you want to see our city's traditional 56-foot-tall Christmas tree at the Jacksonville Landing, the 26th Annual Tree Lighting is this Friday, Nov. 23 7-10 PM.  There will be musical entertainment during event and fireworks after tree lighting.  Visit event for info.  Nightly light show during the season after that night.  I'm not coming out to this event because of the crowd and parking and hubby is working that night (bummer).  It is a nice city tradition to experience if you can make it.

The day after the tree lighting, another event at the Jacksonville Landing will take place: Jacksonville Light Boat Parade and Fireworks Spectacular Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7 PM.  I don't recall if I've been to this event but would like to go this time (hubby works again, booo).  I may take the kids anyway, depending if they still have their cold and if I'm in the fighting spirit to deal with the crowd and parking.


The holidays can be overwhelming with the obligations us adults under take including the planning of schedules, parties, events, work functions, school functions with kids and their various activities and just all the extras the holidays put on us.  All that hoopla makes it easy to forget what this season is truly about...giving and sharing.

I try to teach my kids that the Christmas spirit lies in how we can help others who are less fortunate.  

One of the small ways I teach Brody to give is to ask him to donate some dollars or change to the Salvation Army when they are ringing the bell outside of the stores.  He always has a smile on his face after he donates and he seems to be really grasping the concept of giving.  

Another way that is small but effective is to donate to Toys for TOTS.  This is a good one for kids to donate to because they relate to how special toys are to all kids. Children are willing to give toys to other kids when you explain to them how much that toy means to a less fortunate child.  I'm going to let Brody pick out some toys this year and let him place it in the boxes.

Don't forget to donate to your church or a local church because they are always collecting for charities.  

If you want to be involved more physically in giving to others, there's several ways you can donate not just your money but your time, which can mean more to many people.  Yes, financially helping is awesome but you do feel more connected when you're handing out food, passing out gifts, or walking/running for a cause.

Speaking of walking/running, there are events during the holidays that you can participate in to do just that.  One of them is the Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell Run/Walk (5K) held at the Jacksonville Landing Dec. 1st at 6 PM.  Get all the info here.

It's short notice but there are a few walking/running events this Thursday to kick off the season of giving.  Subaru Distance Classic Fun Run is at 7 AM and along with the entry fee, you're asked to donate a canned good for the Mandarin Food Bank.  Go here for info.

A fun one for adults and little ones would be the Turkey Trot 5K and Fun Run also on Thursday at 9 AM.  Info here.

More hands on volunteer work: helping out at Food pantry/Shelters (info here), St. Francis Soup Kitchen on Church St., Clara White Mission and there's tons more, just research!

Look through your closet and home for things you no longer need and ask your kids to do the same; to donate old toys to local charities and share with your kids the joy of giving some of their wealth to those in need. Children learn from us and I know Brody enjoys making other kids happy when I explain to him the importance of giving/sharing.  

Holidays are a time to make time to give your excess to those who don't have access to what we may take for granted.  I just came up with that ...clever, isn't it?

I wish you all the best during the holidays and that you have some time to relax and actually enjoy this season...starting with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  It was stressful shopping today (never again will I do that) with the traffic, crowds in store and toting two kids but I had to buy food for the dishes I'm cooking and baking tomorrow...already not looking forward to that but it has to be done!