Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas is a fairy tale in Taiwan

Christmasland is a “realm of Merry Christmas” in the urban setting of Xinban Special District, a sprawling playground intended for people of all ages, and also an effort to enhance New Taipei City’s global profile. By connecting attractions throughout the neighborhood (The Lin Family Mansion & Garden, 435 Art Zone, Huangshi Market, Fuzhong Shopping District, Nanya Night Market, etc.) to Xinban Special District’s emerging shopping district, Christmasland bolsters tourism in both New Taipei City and Northern Taiwan as it transforms the entire Banqiao area into a spectacular winter getaway destination complete with culinary treats, entertainment and lots of shopping.

Read Also: New year eve celebrations! Got to be Brussels!!

To mark the period between Christmas and Chinese New Year, the most festive time of the year in Taiwan, Christmasland incorporates elaborate venue and event planning efforts to touch visitors’ hearts with a sense of joy. It is a gorgeously illuminated, happiness-evoking enclave that creates a fairy tale-like experience out of the country’s tallest Christmas trees, fun-packed rides, and a series of regular events from county fairs, large concerts, and markets selling handmade goods to carnival parades. Designed with all demographic groups in mind, Christmasland is a true embodiment of the gleeful, festive atmosphere.

Then there are the New Year Eve Celebrations in Taipei that are special. The festivities begin at Taipei 101 building, when the countdown enters the final stage, the building itself lights up floor by floor from the bottom up for the New Year’s countdown, making Taipei 101 the biggest New Year’s Eve countdown clock in the world. After the countdown is over, fireworks are immediately set off, a star-studded group gathers on the spot to accompany a variety of activities and special ceremonies, and a special, exciting, out-of-the-ordinary Taipei New Year’s Eve celebration is on display!

Although taking place in the winter with its low temperatures and frequent bursts of cold air, Taipei New Year’s Eve celebration attracts a huge number of visitors despite the weather. Even if a cold snap hits, there is no drop in the enthusiasm of those welcoming in the New Year. The Taipei city government, that runs the event, has made the concept of turning Taipei city into “New Year City,” the creative axis of the event.

Since the staging of Taiwan’s first-ever grand New Year’s event in 1995, it won an enthusiastic response among young people and had the media competing with each other to report it, and this later spread throughout the entire country with similar celebrations being held everywhere. On the day of the event, the Taipei city government invites popular entertainers and famous pop singers to perform at the celebrations on the square in front of the government offices. At the same time, this glamorous New Year’s Eve celebration puts Taipei squarely on the global stage, winning international applause and becoming one of the most famous international and Taiwanese New Year’s events.

How to do Taiwan!

Taiwan is located in the western Pacific Ocean 160 km (100 miles) off the southeastern coast of the Chinese mainland and is a convenient gateway to Asia for the Indian traveler.

FLIGHTS: A number of airlines such as China Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Southern and Thai Airways fly directly or with a stopover, in to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the Kaohsiung International Airport and the Taichung International Airport from the Indian metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata. Scoot Airlines also connects the cities of Jaipur, Amritsar, Lucknow, Chennai, Trichy, Kochi, Lucknow, Bangalore and Hyderabad with a stopover in Singapore to Taipei.
The average flight time between India and Taiwan is of about 6.5 hours; and Taiwan is 2.5 hours ahead of India.

VISA: Indian Passport holders can enjoy Visa exempt entry into Taiwan for 30 days via an online system

The applicant must have at least one of the following valid or expired visas issued by UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand or any of the Schengen countries.

  • Valid resident or permanent resident card
  • Valid entry visa (may be electronic visa)
  • Resident card or visa that has expired less than 10 years prior to the date of arrival in Taiwan

Celebrate the Holiday Season in the Sunshine State

This season, the state of Florida will shine extra bright with holiday spirit as millions of Christmas lights delicately cover the land and water, and the smell of delicious delicacies fill the air. As angels illuminate the bow of magnificently decorated boats and tiny lights decorate palm trees, locals and visitors alike will enjoy Florida’s unique and magical holiday season.

StAugustine-nights-of-lightsHistoric Holidays – While it may not snow in St. Augustine, the Nation’s oldest city turns into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. As the Annual Nights of Lights celebration takes over the city from November 21 to January 31, 2016, the historic district will be lit with more than 3 million white lights from the ground up to the rooftops. Tracing its origins to the Spanish tradition of displaying a white candle in the window during the Christmas holidays, the spectacular lighting display reflects the city’s 450-year history and illuminates the beautiful ancient city. Holiday music and the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree add to the splendour of one of the world’s greatest holiday light displays.

There are many ways to enjoy Nights of Lights, including on foot, by bicycle or pedicab, on the Old Town Holly Jolly Trolly, aboard Ripley’s Red Train or by horse and carriage. Local attractions also offer special Nights of Lights tours, in which visitors can appreciate the remarkable display from the water aboard the Schooner Freedom, the Osprey or with Ripple Effects Eco Tours, or by air with St. Augustine Bi-Plane Tours.

Historic Fernandina Beach-Centre Street, Books Plus Bookstore and Palace Saloon
Historic Fernandina Beach-Centre Street, Books Plus Bookstore and Palace Saloon

Santa & Sweets – Further north of St. Augustine, not quite to the North Pole, is another historic district belonging to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island where visitors will go back in time to old Victorian Christmas traditions. With Chestnuts roasting, carolers strolling and Saint Nick arriving, an enchanted Victorian experience awaits visitors on Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach. Satisfy holiday cravings and catch the spirit of the season at the Annual Amelia Island Bed and Breakfast Holiday Cookie Tour on Saturday, December 12, 2015. During this delicious tour, guests will sample a signature cookie from each Inn, take home a beautifully printed recipe card and gather inspiring decorating ideas just in time for the Holidays. With so much to do and see, visitors can extend their Amelia Island Holiday experience with these great Holiday Stay Packages.

SeaWorld-Polar ExpressSplash, Skate, Celebrate – Spend the Holidays with your favorite sea creatures during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. Gather with the family to hear the classic Christmas story, as told through the eyes of animals, followed by a wondrous journey to the North Pole aboard The Polar Express to visit Santa Claus. Guests can sit back and relax as they watch Winter Wonderland on Ice, a show-stopping ice-skating extravaganza of skaters gliding across a stage of ice, jewels and light.

Guests can also take a leisurely stroll through The Christmas Village where artisans, festive entertainment and delicious culinary delights create a bustling market that lines Bayside Pathway. Guests can discover one-of-a-kind gifts, enjoy scrumptious holiday treats, encounter playful elves and holiday characters, sing-a-long with musicians, and marvel at a charming model train village.

Circus Nutcracker-SarasotaTraditions with a Twist – The Nutcracker ballet is already a worldwide Christmas tradition on its own; however, the Sarasota Ballet is adding a new twist to the famous performance in their Circus Nutcracker. Bringing the spirit of the holidays to Sarasota, Matthew Hart’s John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker will enchant audiences at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Set to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score by the Sarasota Orchestra, John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker entwines the history of John and Mable Ringling and Sarasota’s connection to the circus with Hoffman’s classical Nutcracker.

Boat parades-Palm beachWinter Waterland – What would a Florida holiday be without water and boat parades? This season, Florida’s waterways will be festively aglow with the holiday spirit as boats twinkle with dazzling Christmas lights and displays. Boat parades can be enjoyed across the entire state, from Naples to the Palm Beaches. Along Florida’s Paradise Coast, guests can enjoy a series of boat parades throughout December on Marco Island, Naples Bay and theVillage on Venetian Bay. Moving up the Gulf Coast and across the state, there will be boat parades in Venice, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Stuart and the Palm Beaches, among many other destinations.  With free admission, guests can view the parades from their favourite spots, whether it be a waterfront restaurant or hotel, a park, a bay walk or a cozy chair on the water’s edge.

Canal Cruise-FloridaPrefer to be on the water? Visitors in Punta Gorda can enjoy nightly Christmas Light Canal Cruises from December 4 – 31, 2015. A tradition for more than 30 years, these popular, family-oriented cruises tour the residential canals to view Christmas lights, displays and decorations on homes, boats, seawalls and docks. Guests can even experience the joy of a private Catamaran Christmas Canal Cruise aboard the 47’Smoke and Roses.

From historic districts and theme parks to boat parades and ballets, Florida’s festivities provide unforgettable Holiday experiences for every type of visitor.

(All images courtesy respective owners)

Germany Unplugged: The best Christmas markets

4fc5fe69f18042d1f4e4d95619be55f2One of the biggest and most beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe is held every year in Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. In 1692 the first Christmas Market was mentioned in a document. It’s origin is probably much earlier. The Christmas Market is held in the heart of Stuttgart – in the Königsstrasse infront of the Königsbau, at the marketplace and the nearby sourroundings. To enjoy the beauty of Baden-Württemberg’s state Capital I would recommend at least a three-day stay. The automobile museums of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are a must see, as well as the palace square in the city’s heart or the beautiful green areas like the Killesberg Park or the Zoological-Botanical Garden Wilhelma. Also Stuttgart is a great starting point to discover the nearby Black Forest. The Christmas Market is open daily from 10 am until 9 pm, sundays from 11 am until 9 pm.

A look at few of Germany’s best Christmas markets

Stuttgart Christmas Market

7385a5b73e4c95d05759ab876823503aOne of Europe’s largest and oldest, this 300 year old market has some 200 decorated stalls in front of the Old Palace. Eat Bratwurst; sip mulled wine, listen to Christmas concerts. Stuttgart’s Christmas Market with over 282 beautifully decorated stalls is not only one of the oldest but without doubt also one of the largest of its kind in the whole of Europe. Its illuminations are second to none, the festive concerts of seasonal music in the Renaissance courtyard of the Old Palace and the “Winterland” on the Palace Square all contribute to the incomparable Christmas atmosphere which enchants millions of visitors year after year.

Ulm Christmas Market

MaerchenwaldThe majestic Minster, the cathedral with the world’s tallest steeple is the backdrop for some 120 pretty stalls. Music ranges from classical & jazz to steel bands. With more than 130 decorative wooden huts, the Ulm Christmas Market attracts more than a million visitors every year. Offering traditional Christmas arts and crafts, toys and gifts. The Christmas market also has food and drink to cater to every taste.The Fairytale Forest, living crib and many other attractions make it one of the most appealing Christmas markets in Germany.

Hohenzollern Royal Christmas Market

events_weihnachtsmarkt_2013_04The Royal Christmas Market is regarded as one of Germany’s most beautiful. The splendid setting is the ancestral seat of the Prussian Royal Family. In an astoundingly beautiful ambience on the ancestral seat of the Prussian Royal family, the Royal Christmas Market on the Hohenzollern Castle is very rightly regarded as being one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany. A broad spectrum of exhibitors as well as a stylish supporting program invite to a festive delight, to experience, discover an shop. Because of the Christmas Market taking place in some of the interior rooms, there are no guided tours possible on the market days. But the treasure room, the two churches and the cellar are open.

Tubingen – ChocolART: International Chocolate Festival

ChocolateAt Germany’s largest chocolate festival, chocolART, you can taste Swiss pralines and Belgian truffles, learn how to cook with chocolate, pair beer with chocolate and even have a chocolate massage. Tübingen’s Chocolate Festival offers a high-value market where chocolate specialists from France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and selected premises in Germany present and sell their delicate products. Last year this event attracted more than 270.000 visitors to Tübingen’s old town. The Mayan culture says that chocolate has a divine origin and since settling in Europe, this idea has led to the production of art and literature. Therefore alongside its presentation of culinary delicacies and international fine-dining, Tübingen will offer an extensive accompanying cultural programme which will draw attention to the sacredness of chocolate. To seduce and to be seduced is to be expected, when truffles and pralines will compete with each other for six whole days. With in total 87 chocolatiers from 12 countries, around 80 tonnes of chocolate sold, 20 000 cups of fresh milk and more than 200 000 visitors the statistics show that chocolART is even more successful every years.

Give gift of travel this Christmas

Trafalgar, the world’s leading guided holiday operator has some suggestions for gift-giving this Christmas. In particular, consider giving the gift of travel, an experience gift where the bonus perk is that the gift giver can choose to enjoy the gift together with their recipient. As the holiday season approaches, celebrate the festive season with loved ones and choose a special travel gift with unique experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.

BledinwinterBuying a travel trip as a gift is much more meaningful than choosing a gift at the shops. Most importantly, there is no expiry date on the warranty period of benefits, as the travel experiences will last a lifetime. Besides shared memories together, when visiting a new country, there is much to learn and discover and try new things. From learning a new cultural dance, or trying to understand others who speak a different language, or discovering local flavours, Trafalgar’s guests will enjoy a unique insider’s perspective on the people, places and history of destinations visited. As multi-generational travel becomes popular, parents and children can choose to book a family holiday and enjoy shared experiences.

With over 60 years of experience organising holidays, Trafalgar picks out the top three holidays that are great for romantic getaways or family trips together – for every iconic destination, there’s an insider experience waiting to be discovered.

vineyards-stuttgart8-day Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany & Switzerland at US $1,750 per person

Mixing iconic sights and seasonal delights in central Europe, this regional explorer trip combines visits to festive markets and iconic landmarks in Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Innsbruck and Lucerne. Unique experiences include having insider moments with the stallholders of Vienna‘s Christkindlmarkt  as they unveil the secrets behind the origins of their traditional wooden toys, as guests enjoy tasty treats of spicy gingerbread and mulled wine. There are two different festive markets: the bustling grand market in Munich‘s famous Marienplatz, with its tasty Bavarian fare, lively alpine music and 14th century heritage, and the quaint little stalls in lakeside Lucerne, with their authentic twist and tranquil vibe. Enjoy up to 12% savings when you book for 2015 Christmas Markets trips before 12 February 2015.

Best of Italy pic 212-day European Whirl at US $2,465 per person 

This discovery trip is one of the most popular Europe trip all year round and takes the traveller into Europe’s most popular countries and cities, bringing together the best of its history, scenery, legends, locals and experiences. Go deeper into the culture and customs and discover how expert artisans create their world renowned Venetian glassware through insider moments.

Best of Italy7-day Italian Holiday  at US $1,665 per person

Explore Italy in-depth – visit roman monuments, enjoy the Venetian canals and marvel at Florentine artistry in the birthplace of the Renaissance.  Trafalgar’s insider moments allows guests to bypass queues and listen to an expert recount secrets of the Vatican past and present as they unfold the story of Michelangelo’s greatest work in the Sistine Chapel.

Nicholas Lim, President of Trafalgar (Asia) says that such holidays often enriches the individual and leave them with a lifetime of fond memories.  These things do not depreciate like a car or mobile phone and they stay with us for a lifetime. For example, exclusive Be My Guest experiences, Cultural Insights, Local Specialists and Authentic Accommodations are designed to bring each destination to life.

Medievalmarket,KamnikTo make it easier for solo travellers, Trafalgar has decreased its single supplement from 50-100 per cent on multiple departure dates of 12 holidays. For those wanting to book an Italian Holiday trip for a single traveller, there will be 100% savings off the single supplement for departure dates on 17 April and 28 August, 2015. Additional savings can be enjoyed now with the price at US $1,665 (usual price of $1,850). Other trips with 100% savings off the single supplement on selected dates include Rome and Tuscany Highlights, Prague, Vienna & Budapest and The Best of Turkey.  There are also 50% savings on single supplement fares for those travelling on the Scenic Scandinavia and Fjords trip. “Last Minute Deal” savings can be enjoyed for the European Whirl trip for departures on 30 December 2014** and for those who choose to book for 2015 Christmas Markets holidays before 12 February 2015, they can enjoy early payment discounts of up to 12%.

Bruges hits all the right notes for Christmas!

Bruges in Winter
Bruges in Winter

Bruges is all about amazing atmosphere and winter romance. The window displays are decked out in all their Christmas finery, as are the streets and squares of Bruges.

Without a doubt the most beautiful winter venue is St. John’s Hospital! Every year Magical Winter Moments  is organised in this medieval hospital, with stunning flower decorations adorning this historical site. Prepare for an amazing spectacle from 22 November until 1 December.

Snow & Ice sculpture festivalNot wintery enough? Then why not replace the gorgeous flower arrangements with snow and ice sculptures? Head over to the square in front of Bruges’ railway station, where you can explore an enchanting ice world. From 22 November until 5 January the Snow & Ice Sculpture Festival will bring the fantastic world of the Disney film Frozen to life. Breathtakingly beautiful but also bound to make you catch your breath because of the cold. So make sure to bundle up adequately!

Are you walking from one winter venue to the other? Then make sure to find a bench or terrace near the Belfry around 11 a.m. for the belfry concerts on Wednesday,Saturday and Sunday. Celestial sounds which are bound to transport you to higher dimensions. By the end of November the stalls of the charming Christmas marketare in place and the lights of the ice-skating rink are beckoning. They both are definitely worth visiting.

Käthe Wohlfahrt
Käthe Wohlfahrt

Every year Bruges’ retailers outdo themselves with even more amazing window displays.  During the holiday months I love walking past the various squares to admire the Christmas lights. Do you want to avoid the Christmas crowds like I do? Then shop on weekdays! And because there is nothing like that warm Christmas glow, do take the time for a crisp waffle, a heart-warming cup of glühwein or a steaming mug of hot chocolate.”

Shop Käthe Wohlfahrt

Think Christmas and you immediately think of the Christmas decorations, Father Christmas and gifts. Or of that one-stop shop for all of the above and more called Käthe Wohlfahrt, because this family-owned shop is simply teaming with Christmas items. Handmade wooden Christmas figurines, ornaments and lights for the tree as well as original nutcrackers. This is the place to go for all of your Christmas decorations or to find a gift for someone special.

International December Dance festival

December DanceEvery year internationally renowned dancers and choreographers flock to Bruges’ Concert Hall for December Dance. This year the art director is the leading Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus. From 4 until 15 December he will add a sequel to his own festive year (his company Ultima Vez recently celebrated its 25th anniversary). And yet he will not only be hosting a retrospective of his own work. In December he will also invite (inter)national talent.

Compagnie Marie Chouinard

Treat yourself to an early Christmas gift with tickets for the Belgian premiere of the dance performance by Marie Chouinard. On 23 November eleven of her dancers will perform a special ballet to the sounds of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies. For her second choreography Chouinard drew inspiration from the book Mouvement by the Belgian surrealist, Henri Michaux. Ten mysterious dancers will leave you dazzled after their psychedelic trip.

Belgian Swing Jazz Orchestra

For a few weeks the jazz tunes in the Hotel Navarra bar will be replaced with traditional Christmas carols. But who says that you have to miss your usual portion of jazz? Because the Belgian Swing Jazz Orchestra invites you to join them in the Stadsschouwburg on 24 November where they will treat you to a concert of some legendary Belgian jazz from the period between the two World Wars. Stirringly beautiful.

Looking for a stay?

Bruges in Winter
Bruges in Winter

Hotel Navarra prepares for Christmas. “It is an annual tradition in the hotel. By the end of November it starts decorating for Christmas. And it plays Christmas carols instead of the usual jazz music.  At this point it is completely ready for Christmas. And so are guests because often Bruges is their number one destination for Christmas shopping. This hotel is the perfect place if you want a taste of the Christmas atmosphere and go and find some Christmas gifts.

Most people inevitably associate Christmas with good food! Restaurant La Porta serves festive food every day of the year. Gourmets will enjoy the tasty, Italian creations which chefs Jess Wittevrongel and Steven Verriest conjure onto your plates. Delectable food for an equally delicious price!

Celebrate unique winter holidays in Orlando

Christmas Parade at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando
Christmas Parade at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando

Home to seven of the world’s top theme parks, Orlando celebrates the holiday season like nowhere else. From spectacular fireworks displays to festive live entertainment, Orlando’s theme parks offer something for every member of the family. Orlando is offering visitors the gift that keeps on giving with 59 days of unique winter holiday celebrations throughout the entire destination. From Nov. 8 to Jan. 5, tourists can experience all the joy of the season while basking in Orlando’s year-round sunshine.  

Holidays at the Theme Parks

  • Walt Disney World Resort offers some of the most elaborate of seasonal festivities, with more than 1,300 decorated trees and 8.5 million lights strung throughout the property. For several weeks around the holidays, guests celebrate the season with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom Park, Holidays Around the World at Epcot, and the dazzling Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Guests can also ring in the New Year with a variety of entertainment, including the Electrical Parade and special dining events across Disney.

    Family enjoying a Roller Coaster at Orlando
    Family enjoying a Roller Coaster at Orlando
  •  Universal Orlando Resort celebrates the classic tale of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” with Grinchmas at Islands of Adventure, featuring live musical shows, meet and greets with the Whos of Who-ville and appearances by The Grinch himself. Guests can also visit Universal Studios to experience Macy’s Holiday Parade, presenting floats and balloons direct from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. On New Year’s Eve, CityWalk comes alive with performances by national acts, a gourmet buffet and nightclub entertainment.
  • SeaWorld Orlando’s annual Christmas Celebration runs for six weeks, beginning Nov. 23. SeaWorld offers special shows and attractions, including Shamu Christmas Miracles, Winter Wonderland on Ice and The Polar Express Experience. Guests can count down to New Year’s Day and enjoy live music and spectacular fireworks display.
  • LEGOLAND Florida will feature Christmas Bricktacular, a celebration with daily appearances by Santa Claus, a 270,000-LEGO-brick Christmas tree and other seasonal creations. Kids can also participate in their very own countdown to 2014 during a giant, LEGO brick drop at “Kids Standard Time,” otherwise known as 7 p.m. 

Celebrations Outside the Theme Parks

Couple enjoying a Balloon ride in Orlando. Photo: VisitOrlando
Couple enjoying a Balloon ride in Orlando. Photo: VisitOrlando

From giant gingerbread creations to two million pounds of ice, Orlando’s seasonal celebrations extend beyond the theme parks. Visitors looking for unique ways to celebrate are sure to find new favorites in local traditions.

  • Leu’s Holiday House, part of Orlando’s downtown botanical garden Leu Gardens, gives visitors a unique look at the historic estate and gardens trimmed and decorated for the holidays.
  • The Festival of Trees at the Orlando Museum of Art showcases “All That Glitters,” featuring dozens of adorned trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses on display, as well as for purchase.
  • ICE! At Gaylord Palms, an award-winning attraction carved by a team of 40 skilled artisans, features more than two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures, including Frosty the Snowman, four ice slides and a live ice-carving station.
  • The 15th Anniversary Gingerbread House, located in the lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, is a life-sized, 16-foot-high Victorian creation crafted by Disney pastry chefs. 

Visit Florida this Christmas

From stunning parades and trampoline jumping with Santa to outdoor ice skating and an old-fashioned Victorian Christmas Stroll, a holiday in Florida includes tons of fun for tourists of every age and interest. A glimpse of some spectacular Christmas & New Year’s Eve celebration’s events taking place in several regions of Florida.

Tampa Bay, Florida

A family at Florida Aquarium
A family at Florida Aquarium

Thanks to the AirHeads Trampoline Arena, one can see Santa fly this year without the help of his reindeer.  Hit the trampolines and jump along with jolly old St. Nick himself on December – 8, 15 and 22.

Christmas Town transforms Busch Gardens® Tampa into a holiday wonderland of wintery surprises and all things Christmas, Nov. 29 through Dec. 23.  Special Christmas entertainment, live music, festive treats, holiday shopping and thousands of twinkling lights will fill the senses with seasonal sights, sounds and flavors to create a memorable new family tradition. Everyone’s favorite attraction, SnowWorld® Presented by Coca-Cola®, returns with three times as much snow!

The Florida Aquarium in Tampa Bay, Florida will host Holiday FantaSea, a family-friendly celebration featuring real snow, dazzling holiday lights and more.  From Dec. 26-30, Santa and his swimming elves, as well as special holiday mermaids, will swim throughout the massive tanks alongside all the amazing aquatic creatures each night during Holiday FantaSea.  In addition, the Florida Aquarium will host two dazzling light shows each night, a huge holiday model train display, and extended hours during the Holiday FantaSea event.

Animal Interactions at Tampas Lowry Park Zoo
Animal Interactions at Tampas Lowry Park Zoo

Meet Santa and his merry mammals – real reindeer – at Wild Wonderland at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.  Animated displays, a million twinkling lights, free Zoo rides and traditional holiday treats create a whimsical world of holiday magic on Dec. 7, 13-15, 17-23 and 26-30.  On Dec. 13, you can also celebrate the season with the Zoo’s primate family as the primates open special presents from Zoo staff and docents as part of their enrichment program.  The Presents for Primates is included free-of-charge with Zoo admission.

Experience the warmth and charm of an old-time holiday at Henry B. Plant Museum’s 32nd annual Victorian Christmas Stroll, Dec. 1-23, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.  There are 14 exhibit rooms, each dazzling with trimmed trees uniquely designed in 19th century themes and antique holiday accessories.  This year there will also be a special exhibit, Toys Then and Now, showcasing antique toys and toys from modern times.  Complimentary spiced cider and savory cookies will be served on the veranda every day, and each evening carolers will perform.


Tourists strolling at Panama city beach
Tourists strolling at Panama city beach

Panama City Beach, Florida – Sixth Annual Beach Ball Drop: Dec. 31, 2013

The new year’s countdown celebration will begin seconds before midnight, where an 800-pound glowing beach ball will descend, lighting up at the stroke of midnight. The multi-generational portion of the event is held earlier in the evening with fireworks and a family ball drop, consisting of 10,000 inflatable beach balls dropped from the sky.

Southwest Florida’s Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands. – Christmas Light Canal Cruises – Dec 4 – 31. 

Christmas Canal Cruises have been a tradition in Punta Gorda for more than 30 years. These popular, family-oriented cruises tour the residential canals to view Christmas lights, displays and decorations on homes, boats, seawalls and docks. Three departures are offered each night at 6:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and at 9:00 p.m. Trip length is one hour. Private charters and group rates also available.

St. Augustine’s , Florida: 59th Annual St. Augustine Christmas Parade – December 7

St. Augustine’s Annual Christmas Parade is one of the largest in North Florida and includes floats, marching bands, cars, horses and the arrival of Santa. The parade starts promptly at 10 a.m. by the Mission of Nombre De Dios, continues through the downtown streets of historic St. Augustine and ends behind the Visitors Center on Castillo Drive.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida – New Year’s Eve Noon Balloon Drop – 31st December

The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach is bringing back the bang with our New Year’s Eve Noon Balloon Drop Gang. Snap, crackle and pop in our bubble-wrap room as you jump to the jingles of our house band tunes. Create a hilarious hat with eyes that wiggle or make party masks that will make everyone giggle.

St. Augustine’s, Florida 20th Annual Bed & Breakfast Holiday Tour “Christmas Around the World” December 14 – 15:

Christmas Around the World is a two-day tour featuring 24 inns throughout historic St. Augustine.  Each day, 12 inns open their doors to display entertaining decorations & scenes based on the culture, history & holiday traditions of colorful places from Spain to Germany to Ireland – and perhaps some imaginative places that may surprise you.  Each inn is paired with a distinguished St. Augustine restaurant or other culinary partner offering savory nibbles, sweet treats & refreshments.

Coachman Park, Clearwater Beach, Florida – 2013 Memorial Holiday Boat Parade – December 14,

One of the area’s largest boat parades.  Come watch several dozen lighted and decorated boats cruise through the waterways and head toward the judge’s review stand for awards and prizes.

The Chesterfield Palm Beach, Florida 

Exterior view of Chesterfield palm beach resort
Exterior view of Chesterfield palm beach resort

December 24th & 25th – Christmas Eve & Christmas Day celebration at The Chesterfield Palm Beach, Florida

The Chesterfield Palm Beach is hosting a holiday celebration for guests, families and friends. The festive feast, prepared by Executive Chef Gerard Coughlin, features entrée selections including Prime Rib Roast, Roast Duckling, and Pan Seared Chilean Seabass.

31st December – New Year’s Eve Gala at The Chesterfield Palm Beach, Florida

Ring in the New Year with the Chesterfield Palm Beach’s annual Gala Dinner. Our enticing four-course  New Year’s menu is served in two sittings with dancing and live music entertainment all evening long. Welcome in 2014 with extravagant party favors and a champagne toast at midnight.

Home for the Holidays Package – December 1st – 30th, 2013 at The Chesterfield Palm Beach, Florida

The Chesterfield Palm Beach offers guests the perfect sun-soaked escape this holiday season, complete with festive cocktails and pre-packaged beach supplies. This relaxing package features two nights in a luxurious bedroom or suite, full English Breakfasts each morning, and a personal mixology lesson from one of the Leopard Lounge’s expert bartenders.

Be in Wales this Christmas & eve of New Year

Morgan Arcade with Christmas decorations at Cardiff © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales
Morgan Arcade with Christmas decorations
at Cardiff
© Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales

10 November – 31st December Swansea Winter Wonderland – Nativity / Santa’s Grotto / Shop, Wales
Come and visit Santa with his 16 real reindeer (two of which were born this year) in his Swansea winter wonderland. Once you enter the winter wonderland you will walk into a snowy land, you will see our new Santa band playing their tunes singing along, find Eskimos fishing in the frozen lake, penguins sliding along the snow, a huge polar bear looking over his mate and baby bears in their snowy cave!

14 November – 23 DecemberCardiff Christmas Market, Wales
Visitors will be tempted by a diverse range of high quality products such as enamel and pewter work, heritage images of Wales and Welsh slate products, carved Welsh love spoons, metalwork, photography, hand built and thrown pottery, silver and precious stone jewellery, quality yarns with accessories, traditional wooden items and toys, art works and cards for all occasions, specialist knotting, leatherwork, glasswork, and needlework together with many original decorative items for the house and garden – to name but a few! Visitors will relish the alternative shopping experience and enjoy commissioning bespoke personalised gifts or just tasting the irresistible seasonal food and drink on offer or just enjoying a glass of mulled wine to keep you warm whilst browsing. Choose from a selection of whisky, wines, fruit and cream liqueurs, fresh hot pancakes and delicious hand made chocolates.

Ice skating rink and ferris wheel Cardiff Winter Wonderland South Events
Ice skating rink and ferris wheel Cardiff Winter Wonderland
South Events

21 November – 5 JanuaryCardiff’s Winter Wonderland, Cardiff, Wales
Now in its 13th year this festive celebration, situated in the Civic Centre, includes the Admiral Open Air Ice Rink, Ice Café, Star Ride and plenty of seasonal fun for all the family. Relax and warm up with a mulled wine in the newly designed Ice Bar, or choose from the exciting new menu offering an array of delicious, seasonal Welsh produce. Not to be missed is the exciting & spectacular Star Ride. This thrilling 60m high spinning chair ride, the only one of its kind in the UK, will give visitors spectacular panoramic views of our capital city. And join us for the annual Calennig celebrations on 31 December to see the new year in with a bang. With over 6 weeks of entertainment, this is the must-do Christmas experience for all the family.

23 – 24 NovemberChristmas Craft Fayre – Gower Heritage Centre, Wales
The Gower Heritage Centre is celebrating in style with its very own Christmas market featuring a range of local produce and crafts. Entry to the Gower Heritage Centre and the Christmas market will be free all weekend.

24 November – 24 December – Santa’s Toy Mine, Rhondda Heritage Park, Wales
Join the Toy Miners on a magical thrilling underground adventure – will you be lucky enough to discover Santa’s secret hide away? Tours last approximately 45 minutes. Please wear suitable clothing and footwear.

Cardiff (Christmas Lights) Castles
Cardiff (Christmas Lights)

29 November – 2 January – Christmas Kingdom – Celtic Manor, Wales
Enjoy a wonderful winter adventure filled with all the magic and sparkle of the festive season, when our sensational Christmas Kingdom returns in 2013. Feel the cold tingle of winter air on your face as you glide around the sparkling ice rink, then watch your children’s faces light up as they meet Santa and tell him all their Christmas wishes. Set against a frosty backdrop filled with pretty twinkling lights, feel the Christmas spirit come alive with festive music and the opportunity to purchase a delicious feast of winter warming treats. Our Christmas Kingdom will be open throughout the festive season, so wrap up warm and join us for some winter wonder the whole family will love.

Belly dancers at Abergavenny Food Festival. © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales
Belly dancers at
Abergavenny Food Festival. © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales

30 November – 1 December – Aberglasney Annual Winter Fair – Aberglasney Gardens, Wales
Wrap up warm and head to Aberglasney and experience the unique atmosphere at the Winter Fair, with free mulled wine and mince pie to all visitors. Wander through the mansion and grounds with stalls selling beautiful handmade gifts, crafts, art, Christmas decorations, with lots, lots, more. The Fine Food and Wine hall will boast a whole range of seasonal produce such as wild game, ham, cheeses, chutneys, cakes, chocolates, cider, beers, fine wines and smoked salmon. The Gardeners Cafe will serve hot lunches as well as festive treats.

1 – 31st December – Christmas Experience – Thornhill Farm, Wales
The Christmas Experience is available throughout December. If you’d like your School, Playgroup, Nursery or just a bunch of your child’s friends to come along to Thornhill Farm Christmas Experience – get in touch throughout December. The children get to see close up the reindeer, donkeys, cows, sheep.. all in the same cosy barn, with Baby Jesus in the manger. The sound of Christmas songs and twinkling lights with the Star of Bethlehem all add to the Nativity atmosphere – and the children get to learn about the animals too, as well as get a sense of what Christmas is really about.

Ducks at Royal Welsh Show © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales
Ducks at Royal Welsh Show © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales

2-3 December – Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Builth Wells, Wales
The Winter Fair is an agricultural prime stock show which has a number of trade stands & activities. It attracts visitors from across the world. The purpose built food hall provides a platform to promote and sell Welsh food & drink brands to a consumer audience in the run up to Christmas.

7 December – Saturnalia – National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon, Wales
Saturnalia is the Roman version of Christmas. We’ll be sharing some Roman food and drink with you, playing games, making Roman presents and rounding things off with a traditional Roman fight. And old meets new as there’ll be a visit from Father Christmas too.

7-8 December – Caerphilly Medieval Christmas Fair, Caerphilly Medieval Market, Wales
Enjoy a wonderful experience for the whole family and travel back in time to days of old. Experience the sights, sounds and smells of a town and castle preparing for Christmas. Listen to seasonal music and laugh at the hilarious frolics of the ‘Castle Jester’. Browse Caerphilly’s medieval market with over 150 traders around the event site selling food, replica medieval goods and traditional crafts. An offering of medieval acts and entertainment will entertain the young and old plus a variety of Christmas activities will keep the whole family entertained. Activities and events include a farmers market, a continental market as well as a food and craft fayre. Street entertainers, re enactment displays, music, Santa’s grotto, cookery demonstration programme, children’s workshops and funfair rides provide a mixture of entertainment for the everyone. The Caerphilly Medieval Market has a variety of festive entertainment with much of the activities being free of charge. Entry into the castle, one of the Great Medieval castles of Western Europe is at a fee, although much of the entertainment around the town is free. There is also a selection of shops to browse in around the town centre.

7-24 December – Gwili Railway, Bronwydd Arms Station, Carmarthen, Wales
Santa Magical Steamings
Visit Santa and his helpers in his magical grotto. Santa will welcome every girl and boy and they will be able to talk to him before receiving a quality present. You can also take the children to post a letter to Santa in our specially decorated Travelling Post Office. Travel in old fashioned carriages through the beautiful Gwili Valley pulled by one of Santa’s Special Steam Engines. Our price covers all train travel, a trip on Santa’s Miniature Railway, a quality present for the children, festive food & drink for all.

Street performers at Abergavenny Food Festival  © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales
Street performers at
Abergavenny Food Festival
© Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales

8 December – Abergavenny Christmas Food Festival, Abergavenny, Wales
The annual Christmas Food & Drink Fair in Abergavenny – showcasing fabulous exhibitors from Wales, the Marches and further afield. We’ve got festive feasting all wrapped up. Fresh and cured meats, poultry and game, cheeses and chocolates, cakes and desserts, wines and liqueurs, ales and cider. The focus is firmly on food (no tinsel side-shows). Producers are mostly small in scale but big on taste – with lots of bright ideas to share. Plus there are bite-size chef demos throughout the day to help you up your game in the kitchen and host the best Christmas ever. Spend time with top-notch food experts as they create fabulous treats for you to sample in a relaxed and intimate environment. Get hot tips for seasonal fun and feasting to try for yourself at home. Whatever your plans, we have everything covered on the culinary front. Traditional, rare, exotic, or innovative – all tastes catered for. There are over 90 of the very best local and regional specialty food producers so you can stock up cupboards and get everything in place for the perfect Christmas celebration.

12 December – Newport Cathedral Choir – Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre, Wales
The men and boys of Newport Cathedral Choir return to The Riverfront for their eagerly awaited Family Christmas Concert. Since last year the choir has sung in Westminster Abbey (where it is a regular visitor) and, for the first time, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. The choir’s mix of old and new, familiar and less familiar is always appreciated, and as always, there will be carols for audience participation and ;2contributions from a guest soloist. Come and get into the Christmas spirit at what is sure to be an inspiring and beautiful concert!

15 December – Sunday Best – The Tretower Household, Wales
The Tretower Household welcomes you to the Court which has been prepared to receive guests. Would you sit at the high table or be serving those of high station? Come and experience life as it was in 1470. The Tretower Household welcomes you to the magnificent court. The fire is lit, tables are laid and the kitchen is a bustling place. All is ready to receive guests. Talk to the cook about her favourite recipes. Watch or try a craft or listen to music popular in 1470. Handle the weapons necessary for defence in those days. Discover what jobs you could do. There’ll be a chance to meet the family every third Sunday of the month.

19 December – Caerphilly River of Light Parade, Caerphilly, Wales
The annual parade sees hundreds of lanterns flow through Caerphilly town centre accompanied by carnival samba drumming, dancing, costumed performers, giant sculptures and lots more. The spectacular event climaxes with a fire show and fireworks display against the backdrop of Caerphilly Castle

24-27 December 2013 – Llangoed Hall, Brecon, Wales
One of Britain’s finest country houses noted for their art collection, luxurious rooms & award winning fine cuisine. Enjoy the magic and charm of the festive season at Llangoed Hall with crackling log fires, Christmas trees, personal service, fantastic food & most importantly the peace & tranquillity of this magnificent country house.

24 – 27 December 2013 – Christmas Gourmet Escape – The Grove, Narbeth, Wales
Enjoy a Christmas to remember at The Grove this year. From the moment you arrive on Christmas Eve, we make sure every moment is memorable – filled with traditional treats and festive cheer. 3-night exclusive Christmas break is the perfect way for you and your family or friends to relax and enjoy the luxury of being pampered at this magical time of the year. Prices for the 3-night Christmas Break start from £315 per room per night, based on two guests sharing. This includes: two nights luxurious accommodation, breakfast, afternoon tea and cakes, together with pre-dinner drinks and evening dinner.

26 – 30 December 2013 – ‘Twixmas’ Breaks – Castle Hotel, Conwy, Wales
The period between Christmas and New Year, is a great time to visit, especially if you’re wondering what to do with all your time off!! We are open for ‘Twixmas’ from 26th to 30th December, with great rates if you book early! You must admit that by Boxing Day, we’ve all had enough of getting organised for Christmas Day and exhausted afterwards! So it’s a good time to get out and about and treat the one who’s done most of the Christmas chores and enjoy some fresh North Wales air! The weather is usually great between Christmas and New Year and you won’t get a better offer to visit and enjoy some quality time with friends and loved ones.