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The Most Beautiful Time of the Year

GingerBread Lane at The Children's Museum.

GingerBread Lane at The Children's Museum.

  It seems as if the holiday countdown started over the summer! Way back in August there was talk of how many shopping days were left before the “big day!” But, while you idly thought about what Aunt Beth or cousins Emily or Aiden would like for the holidays, there was still plenty of time to put it on the back burner.

However, once those Halloween decorations were put away, the costumes stored for next year and the candy eaten — guess what’s up next? It’s holiday time! But, don’t panic quite yet. Yes, the retailers are all about shopping, shopping and more shopping, but this time of year is much more than that. It’s families spending time together — baking cookies to share, visiting with friends you don’t see often enough, catching up and reconnecting. It’s all about traditions, both old and new and making memories.

Some of the best things about this season are the holiday favorites that pop up right about now. See a show together, go to a concert, check out special displays and exhibits — all of these are part of the excitement. And the best part is that all of these festivities are happening throughout Connecticut all season long. There are so many, it will be difficult to choose — but why limit yourself? Sample a bit of everything to get yourself into the holiday spirit! Gather your family, hop in the car, give your GPS your destination and you’ll be on your way to the best holiday ever!

Looking for a sweet adventure? Then take a walk down GingerBread Lane at The Children’s Museum in West Hartford. Check out all of the gingerbread houses and other tasty confections on display from November 18 through January 14. While you’re there, look to the sky (maybe you’ll even see Santa) because they have a special planetarium show Let it Snow: A Christmas Musical Journey, that combines animated holiday images with classic Christmas music. Visit the Children’s Museum at 950 Trout Brook Drive. Call the museum at 860-231-2830 or visit www.thechildrensmuseumct.org.

Besides turkey and football, what’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition? The Macy’s Parade in New York City, of course! But why wait until November 23? You can get a preview right here in Connecticut because Downtown Stamford will rise to the occasion. You’ll be flying high when you watch the Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular on Sunday, November 19 — one of the largest helium balloon parades in the country! It features everyone’s favorite giant balloon characters, award winning marching bands and fabulous floats. The parade steps off at noon and proceeds from Summer to Broad to Atlantic streets. You can even watch the giant balloons come to life at the Giant Balloon Inflation Party on Saturday, November 18 from 3-6 p.m. This is an event all by itself with exciting performances, dancing, clowns, holiday characters and a visit from Santa! The party takes place at Hoyt and Summer streets.

Come back to town on Sunday, December 3 for Heights and Lights with a rappelling Santa and the Holiday Tree Lighting. From 22 stories high above Stamford Downtown, watch and cheer for Santa Claus, Rudolph, Grinch and guest rappeller, Brian Cashman, GM of the New York Yankees, as they make their daredevil descent, twisting and flying from the top of one of Stamford’s tallest buildings. Follow Santa and his friends up Bedford Street to Latham Park for an evening of holiday fun with live music and the countdown to the annual tree lighting. The festivities start at 5 p.m. at Landmark Square. For more information, visit www.stamford-downtown.com.

Stamford has even more fun waiting for you when you return to see A Charlie Brown Christmas live on the stage of the Stamford Palace Theater on Saturday, November 25 at 1 and 4 p.m. The classic, animated TV special will come to life in this faithful adaptation featuring all of your favorite characters. Join the Peanuts gang and hum along to the music that you know so well.

Another holiday tradition will be twirling onto The Palace stage when Connecticut Ballet performs The Nutcracker on Saturday, December 16 at 2 and 6 p.m.; and Sunday, December 17 at 1 and 5 p.m. A giant Christmas tree, falling snow, spectacular sets and costumes await as you enter Clara’s wonderland of dreams. Stamford Palace Theater is located at 61 Atlantic Street. For more information, call 203-325-4466 or visit palacestamford.org.

A Christmas Story The Musical at The BushnellWhat would the holidays be without giant pink bunny pajamas, a leg lamp and a triple dog-dare? If just the thought of these things brings a smile to your face, you won’t want to miss A Christmas Story The Musical at The Bushnell in Hartford on Friday, November 24 through Sunday, November 26. Those are just a few of the obstacles that stand between Ralphie and his perfect Christmas dream! Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday; and 1 and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

If you missed A Charlie Brown Christmas, don’t worry because it will be coming to The Bushnell on Friday, December 1 through Sunday, December 3. Join Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and Linus as they put on a play, save a tree and uncover the true meaning of Christmas. There will even be sensory friendly performances at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Get those lists ready because Santa will be waiting to hear about your wishes when you come to Breakfast with Santa on Saturday, December 9. Take a photo with the jolly old man, visit with his elves and Mrs. Claus, dig into a delicious breakfast, hear carolers, do some crafts and much more. Call for times and ticket prices.

Another annual favorite you won’t want to miss is a trip with Clara to the enchanted Land of Sweets when The Nutmeg Ballet presents The Nutcracker on Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17 at 12:30 and 4:30 p.m.

Looking for a little fun mixed in with tradition? Then The Hip Hop Nutcracker on Sunday, December 17 at 4 p.m. is for you. This is a holiday mash-up for the entire family, and is a contemporary re-imagination of the timeless classic. Through the spells cast by the mysterious Drosselmeyer, Maria-Clara and her prince, Myron, travel back in time to the moment when her parents first met in a nightclub! The Bushnell is located at 166 Capitol Avenue. For more information, call 860-987-5900 or visit bushnell.org.

Click clack, you’re on the right track when you take a ride into the past aboard Santa’s Trolley Winter Wonderland at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven. Beginning on Friday, November 24 and continuing on Saturdays and Sundays through December 17, you can check out the antique trolleys decorated for the holidays, enjoy a cookie and hot chocolate. Best of all, kids will visit with Santa and even receive a small gift from him. Don’t miss a visit to the model train layout.

In the evening, the museum transforms into a wonderland of festive holiday lights. The trolleys, buildings and sites in the yard will be decorated for the holidays reminding you of Christmas’ past. The first trolley leaves at 10:30 a.m. and the last one departs at 7 p.m. The Shore Line Trolley Museum is located at 17 River Street. For more information, call 203-467-6927 or visit shorelinetrolley.org.

How about something new that will definitely become a family favorite? Come to the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield to see Snowkus Pocus on Saturday, December 9 at 4 and 7 p.m. It’s the snowy circus show that will amaze you. Brianna is whisked away to an enchanted winter wonderland where she meets the colorful characters that inhabit this magical world. The tale is told through dazzling cirque, breathtaking ballet and incredible acrobatics.

But, if you want something traditional, a definite favorite marches onto the stage when The Nutcracker takes a bow on Friday, December 15 through Sunday, December 17. The Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance will dazzle with Tchaikovsky’s score, ballerinas, wooden soldiers and a larger than life Christmas tree! The Ridgefield Playhouse is located at 80 East Ridge. For more information, call 203-438-5795 or visit www.ridgefieldplayhouse.org.

What’s that in the sky? Could it be? Yes it’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the Musical sailing into The Shubert Theater in New Haven on Friday, December 8 through Sunday, December 10. See all of your favorite characters from the TV special including Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermy the Elf, the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and, of course, Rudolph as they teach you that what makes you different can be what makes you special. Performances are at 7 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m., 1 and 4 p.m. on Saturday; and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

There’s a musical treat waiting for you when you come and hear the Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show on Saturday, December 2 at 8 p.m. This Grammy-winning group will perform signature vocal harmonies, new songs and holiday favorites. They will be joined by the Preservation Hall Legacy Horns. The Shubert Theatre is located at 247 College Street. For more information, call 203-562-5666 or visit www.shubert.com.

It’s time to pay a visit to Norwalk because you won’t want to miss the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum’s holiday display titled A Magnificent Victorian Holiday Exhibit that opens on Friday, November 24. The traditional show of trees and decorations highlights the development of the holiday traditions during the Victorian era in America, from 1850 to the 1900s. See the evolution from small tabletop trees with edibles and handmade ornaments to lavishly embellished trees that stood on the floor and almost reached the ceiling. The mansion will also display a glittering and festive Designer Show House of Holiday Trees and Decorations. The exhibit is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon-4 p.m. through January 7. 

Everyone will want to return for the festivities during the Holiday Open House on Sunday, December 10 from noon-4 p.m. This old-fashioned community celebration includes entertainment with dance and choral youth performances and, of course, a visit from Santa and his elves! Admission is $5. Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is located at 295 West Avenue. For more information, call 203-838-9799 or visit lockwoodmathewsmansion.com. 

Looking for some holiday fun you can bet on? You’ll hit the jackpot when you head to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket for some festive fun. Lindsey Stirling — Warmer in the Winter Christmas Tour gets things going on Saturday, November 11. With her violin-driven electronic music, Stirling is tops on the Billboard music charts. Things really heat up when 98° at Christmas takes the stage on Friday, November 24. The quartet will feature songs from their recently released Let It Snow album, which includes 12 Christmas songs.

Celtic Thunder: Symphony Tour roars into town on Saturday, December 2. Direct from Ireland, they use authentic Irish instruments to perform both solo and ensemble numbers. And, the best the holiday has to offer comes to Foxwoods on Sunday, December 3 with Mannheim Steamroller Christmas. Grammy Award-winner Chip Davis directs the show that features classics, along with dazzling multimedia effects in an intimate setting. Foxwoods Resort Casino is located at 350 Trolley Line Boulevard. For more information, call 800-FOXWOODS or visit www.foxwoods.com.

There is magic in the air this time of year, and what could be more magical than the wizarding world of Harry Potter? Join the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO) when they perform Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on Saturday, November 4 and Sunday, November 5 at The Bushnell in Hartford. Relive the magic of the film in high-definition on a 40-foot screen, while listening to the orchestra perform John Williams’ unforgettable score. Performances are at 1 and 7 p.m. on Saturday; and 3 p.m. on Sunday.

To add to your already festive mood, the HSO presents December Dreams from Friday, December 8 through Sunday, December 10. Listen to Tchaikovsky’s selections from The Nutcracker, William Henry Fry’s Santa Claus (Christmas Symphony) and more. The HSO returns with some high-flying fun when Holiday Cirque Spectacular sails onto the stage on Saturday, December 16 at 2 and 7 p.m. The symphony, under the direction of Carolyn Kuan, will play while Cirque de la Symphonie performs. Amazing aerialists, contortionists and gymnasts tumble, soar and dance on and above the stage, while the HSO plays your festive favorites.

All of the HSO performances take place at The Bushnell, which is located at 166 Capitol Avenue. For more information, call 860-987-5900 or visit bushnell.org.

Pointe your toes back to the Shubert Theatre on Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17 when The New Haven Ballet presents a full-length production of The Nutcracker. Experience Clara’s dream world brought to life. Le d by tiny reindeer, Clara and the Nutcracker Prince travel through the Land of Snow, journey to the Fantasy Land of Sweets and meet the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Shubert Theatre is located at 247 College Street. For more information, call 800-745-203-562-5666 or visit www.shubert.com.The Santa Express at the New England Railroad Museum

What twinkles, sparkles and glitters and could become your family’s favorite tradition? Riding the rails on the Northern Lights Limited at The Railroad Museum of New England in Thomaston. Leaving under the cover of nightfall on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning November 24 until December 23, children of all ages can see thousands of lights, both inside and outside the train, as they journey to the North Pole, picking up Santa and Mrs. Claus along the way. The big man himself will visit with each child and give out small gifts. His elves will keep you busy dancing and singing along to your favorite tunes. Trains depart at 5 and 7 p.m. and advanced reservations are recommended. Tickets vary by time and date.

Want some daytime fun? Take a ride aboard the Santa Express with Jolly Old St. Nick, Mrs. Claus and the elves. Each child will also get a special gift right from Santa’s own toy bag. Trains depart at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays beginning on November 25, with extra trains added at noon beginning December 9 through December 23. Tickets vary by time and date. The Railroad Museum of New England is located at 242 East Main Street. For more information, call 860-283-RAIL or visit www.rmne.org.

The hustle bustle of the season can get a little overwhelming at times. That’s why it’s important to take a step back, breathe deeply and make sure you set aside plenty of time for family fun. 

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