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Holiday events for the family in Boston and beyond

Posted by Jen Clark Estes  December 3, 2013 08:30 AM

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Stone Zoo

The Zoo Lights display at the Stone Zoo in Stoneham.

'Tis the season for all kinds of fun! We've rounded up dozens of ways for you to keep the days merry and bright, from light displays and festive tree celebrations, to arts and crafts, to concerts and performances, and more. Be sure to check back regularly as you finalize your holiday calendar, as we'll be updating this list in the days to come. Happy Holidays!

Ongoing through January

"Bright Nights at Forest Park," Sumner Ave., Springfield. Daily through Jan. 5. Sun. - Thurs., 5-9 p.m. Fri., Sat. & holidays, 5 - 11 p.m. Mon. - Thurs., $18. Fri., Sat. & holidays, $21. $3 coupon available on website. Bright Nights is New England's largest holiday lighting display. Enjoy the wonders of Seuss Land, Jurassic World, Toy Land, North Pole Village, and many more from the comfort of your own car. Visitors can tune their car radio to 98.5 FM to enjoy holiday music. www.brightnights.org

"The Polar Express at Edaville," Edaville, 7 Eda Ave., Carver. Daily through Dec. 28. Departure times vary each evening. $34; under 2, free. This annual activity is inspired by Chris Van Allsburg's classic children's book. Take a magical ride to the North Pole where Santa will board the train, greet each child, and hand them their own first gift of Christmas. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served on the train by costumed staff while pajama-clad guests enjoy a live reading and carols. www.edaville.com

"Christmas Festival of Lights," Edaville, 7 Eda Ave., Carver. Daily through Jan. 1. Mon. - Fri., 4-9 p.m. Sat. & Sun., 2-9 p.m. $19; seniors, $16; under 2, free. Ride through a spectacular holiday setting featuring an explosion of lights. Kids of all ages will enjoy an array of vintage amusement rides and a visit with Santa in an indoor play area. www.edaville.com

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"Family Trees: A Celebration of Children's Literature," Concord Museum, 200 Lexington Ave., Concord. Daily through Jan. 1. Mon. - Sat., 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sun., noon - 5 p.m. Adults, $15; seniors, $10; ages 4-18, $6; under 4 and members, free. Enjoy viewing fanciful trees of all shapes and sizes, decorated with original ornaments inspired by acclaimed children’s storybooks and contemporary picture book favorites. www.concordmuseum.org (Photo: Concord Museum)

"ZooLights," Stone Zoo, 149 Pond St., Stoneham. Daily, 5 - 9 p.m., through Jan. 5, 2014 (note the zoo is closed on Dec. 25). Non-members, $7; members, $6; under 2, free (price through Dec. 31; after, admission increases by 95 cents on all price levels). Enter a winter wonderland of tree-lined paths lit by thousands of twinkling lights. Stroll through festively decorated Yukon Creek, home to bald eagles, North American porcupines, reindeer and arctic foxes. Meet Stone Zoo’s reindeer up close and visit with Santa. Jolly Old St. Nick will be available for photos through Dec. 23. After visiting with Santa, enter a magical holiday world filled with fairy tale characters and dancing plush animals. www.zoonewengland.org

Week of Dec. 4 - 6

"Science is Everywhere: LED Light-Up Cards," Watertown Free Public Library, 123 Main St., Watertown. Wed., Dec. 4, 3:30 p.m. Free. For grades 3-5. Registration required. Make unique light-up cards for your holiday using LED technology. Visit the WFPL Children's Room or call 617-9972-6435 to sign up. www.watertownlib.org

"Winter Wonderland Crafts," Children's Museum in Easton, 9 Sullivan Ave., Easton. Thurs., Dec. 5, 12 & 19, 10 a.m. With $7.50 museum admission. Each Thursday in December you can make a different winter craft using a variety of techniques and mediums. www.childrensmuseumineaston.org

"Story Time, Milk and Cookies," Panera Bread, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown. Thurs., Dec. 5, 10:15 a.m. Free. All ages are invited to enjoy a story, complimentary mini-cookie and mini-milk. Pre-registration through the Watertown Library is required (617-972-6435). Limit 25 children. www.watertownlib.org

"Holiday Lighting at Newton City Hall," 1000 Comm. Ave., Newton. Thurs., Dec. 5, 4 p.m. Free. All ages. Bring your family and kids and join in the free community sing-along for kids and families, led by the Stacey Peasley Band, then watch Mayor Setti Warren flip the switch that turns the City Hall Grounds into a magical fairyland. Please bring a non-perishable food item for donation to the Newton Food Pantries. www.newtoncommunitypride.org

"Essex Holiday Festival," Downtown Essex. Thurs., Dec. 5 - Sat., Dec. 7. Times vary. Free. All ages. Tree lighting on Dec. 5. Other activities during festival days include a visit from Santa, Thomas the Train rides, breakfast with Santa, and more. www.capeannvacations.com

"Needle Felted Gnomes Craft Class," ArtBeat, 212-A Mass. Ave., Arlington. Thurs., Dec. 5, 6-8 p.m. $25. Ages 10 and up (with participating adult). Use all-natural dyed wool and special needle felting tools to create a one-of-a-kind gnome to bring home for a nature table or give as a charming gift to a friend. Includes materials, and light refreshments. www.artbeatonline.com

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"Tales from Snowy Lands by Sparky's Puppets," Puppet Showplace Theatre, 32 Station St., Brookline. Thurs., Dec. 5 - Sun., Dec. 8. Times vary. $12; members, $8. Ages 3 and up. Sparky's Puppets perform a lively medley of stories that all take place on a winter's day. Watch Jack Frost's magic bring a snowman to life. Find out what happens when a boastful bear goes ice fishing. And laugh at the antics of three pesky goblins as they visit a toy maker's shop on a cold and snowy day. www.puppetshowplace.org (Photo: Puppet Showplace Theatre)

"Fun with Snowflakes!" Children's Museum in Easton, 9 Sullivan Ave., Easton. Fri., Dec. 6, 10 a.m. With $7.50 museum admission. This class will help children to explore how snowflakes are made. Children will have the opportunity to make a snowflake card. All the cards will be given to troops oversees as a part of a holiday care package. www.childrensmuseumineaston.org

"Lexington Symphony Kids' Holiday Pops," Cary Hall, 1605 Mass. Ave., Lexington. Fri., Dec. 6, 4 p.m. Adults, $20; ages 12 and under, $8. A program especially for kids that includes popular holiday favorites, a rousing sing-along, and an appearance by Santa. A performance for adults begins at 8 p.m. ($40; students, $20). www.lexingtonsymphony.org

"Worcester Festival of Lights," 455 Main St., Worcester. Fri., Dec. 6, 5-7 p.m. Free. Festivities will include live choral performances leading up to the arrival of everybody's favorite elf himself, Santa Claus, the lighting of the holiday tree, and opening of the Worcester Common Oval skating rink. www.worcestermass.org

"Holiday Handbell Concert," First Church Boston, 66 Marlborough St., Boston. Fri., Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m. $15; seniors and students, $12. The Back Bay Ringers, one of New England's leading handbell ensembles, celebrate their tenth anniversary concert season with a holiday concert and release of their new CD. www.backbayringers.org

Week of Dec. 7 - 13

"7th Annual Gingerbread Express Contest," Wenham Museum, 132 Main St., Wenham. Sat., Dec. 7, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. With museum admission: adults, $8; ages 1-18, $6. All ages. Help decorate the route of the Gingerbread Express model train by making a gingerbread house, either at home or at the museum on Dec. 7, and enter it in the museum's contest. Entries will be displayed through Dec. 16. Rules and registration form on museum website. www.wenhammuseum.org

"Nature Walk & Holiday Card Workshop," Wildlands Trust, Plymouth. Sat., Dec. 7, 10 a.m. Free. Teens and up. Find inspiration for your holiday cards on an hour-long nature hike at South Triangle Pond Conservation Area. Then, head to the Plymouth Public Library for a workshop on card-making. Attend either or both activities. Registration required. www.wildlandstrust.org

"Breakfast with Santa," Royal Sonesta Hotel, 40 Edwin Land Blvd., Cambridge. Sat., Dec. 7, 10 a.m. Adults, $32; children, $18. Indulge your family this year with a special holiday buffet, featuring traditional favorites and sweet treats. Meet Santa, participate in festive activities for the whole family, face painting, cookie decorating, and more. Unwrapped gifts for Toys for Tots will be collected. Reservations required. www.sonesta.com/Boston

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"Holiday Family Day," Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History, 235 Wellesley St at Regis College, Weston. Sat., Dec. 7, noon - 4 p.m. With museum admission: adults, $8; seniors, $6; children, $3. Make holiday gifts and ornaments using real postage stamps, design your own holiday stamps, create holiday envelopes and cards to send to friends (the museum supplies free postage), write a letter to Santa using special North Pole mailbox, and more. Enjoy free refreshments and packet of stamps to take home. www.spellman.org (Photo: Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History)

"Winter Concert: The A Capella Singers," Fisk United Methodist Church, 106 Walnut St., Natick. Sat., Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m. Adults, $12; seniors and children, $10. Women's chorus, the A Capella Singers, performs Benjamin Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols,” followed by holiday classics and favorites for audience members young and old. www.theacappellasingers.org

"Mister Santa," Workshop Arts Inc., Newbury Elementary School, 63 Hanover St., Newbury. Thurs., Dec. 12 - Sat., Dec. 14, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 15, 1 p.m. $10, $15 & $20. All ages. A cast of 75 perform high-energy dances and more during this original play in which a traditional Christmas is threatened, and only a 10-year-old girl (with help from Santa Land characters) can save the day. www.workshopartsinc.org

"ChristmasTime: Reagle Players," 617 Lexington St., Waltham. Fri., Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $34. All ages. Performance includes a Victorian Christmas, City Sidewalks, a hand bell choir, the Teddy Bears’ Nutcracker, the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, and the inspirational Living Nativity. A full live orchestra accompanies a 40-voice adult choir, 100 youthful Elves, and a bevy of precision tap dancers. www.reaglemusictheatre.org

Week of Dec. 14 - 20

"Candy Land Tournament," Upper Rotunda of Quincy Market Building, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston. Sat., Dec. 14, 10 a.m. - noon. $20 per family; $5 per individual. Proceeds go to Pitching in for Kids. Candy Land tournament, tastings provided by local food and beverage sponsors, local children entertainment, MIX 104.1 Street Team games and entertainment, arts and crafts, and more. Each child will receive a special gift compliments of Hasbro Toys upon arrival. www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com

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"Polar Express Story Hour," Shops at the Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St., Boston. Sat., Dec. 14, 11 a.m. Free. All ages. Dress up in pajamas and hear a reading of the Polar Express, followed by a performance by Little Groove, refreshments, crafts and more. www.prudentialcenter.com (Photo: Prudential Center)

"Family Gingerbread House Workshop," Children's Museum of New Hampshire, 6 Washington St., Dover, NH. Sat., Dec. 14. Three sessions: 9:30 a.m., noon, and 1 p.m. Members, $30; non-members, $40. Pre-registration required. Space is limited. Build and decorate a gingerbread house together. A fresh-baked, unassembled gingerbread house will be provided along with icing, candy and edible decorations. www.childrens-museum.org

"Holiday Sing-A-Long," Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square, Newburyport. Sat., Dec. 14, 11 a.m. $3. Sing favorite holiday carols, meet Santa, and hear a reading of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Buy tickets early, as event usually sells out quickly. www.firehouse.org.

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"Annual Kendall Square Holiday on Ice," 350 Kendall St., Cambridge. Sat., Dec. 14, 2 p.m. Rink open 9 a.m. - 11 p.m. Free admission all day. Skate rentals at regular prices. Free skating show with former Olympians and international medalists. www.facebook.com/KendallSquareHolidayOnIce (Photo: Kendall Square Holiday on Ice)

"Winter Wonders Storytelling," Fruitlands Museum, 102 Prospect Hill Rd., Harvard. Sat., Dec. 14, 1 p.m. Adult members, $10; adult non-members, $15; children, $5. Ages 2-12 and their caregivers. Reservations required. Space is limited. Storyteller Jackson Gillman presents songs and stories about shoveling, snowmen, snow angels, and nature in winter. www.fruitlands.org

"Global Santa Visit," Barefoot Books, 89 Thoreau St., Concord. Sat., Dec. 14, 3 p.m. Free with donation of one food item to the Open Table Concord Food Drive. All ages. Registration required. Straight from the North Pole, join Santa for a reading of "The Night Before Christmas," have photos taken together (bring your cameras), and make a free holiday craft afterwards. www.barefootbooks.com

"Holiday Cookie Decorating," Beehive Art, 339 Boston Post Rd., Sudbury. Wed., Dec. 18 & Thurs., Dec. 19, 4 - 5:30 p.m. $35. Ages 4 and up. Decorate a half-dozen big holiday sugar cookies using icing and decorations galore. Everyone will decorate a special box to take them home in. www.beehiveartspace.com

"Holiday Wrap Up," Fuller Craft Museum, 455 Oak St., Brockton. Thurs., Dec. 19, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. Free. An evening of holiday crafts, sing-alongs, and storytelling. Visit the holiday shop, view the exhibitions, and enjoy warm cider and snacks for the kids. www.fullercraft.org

Week of Dec. 21 - 24

"Dara Goldman: The Perfect Gift," Danforth Museum of Art, 123 Union Ave., Framingham. Sat., Dec. 21, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; & Sun., Dec. 22, noon - 5 p.m. Adults, $11; seniors, $9; under 17 free. An exhibition of illustrations from the book "Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift" by Dara Goldman. In this child-oriented version of The Gift of the Magi, Boris wants to give something special to Stella for Christmas, and Stella wants to give Boris something special for Hanukkah. In the end, they each sell their most precious possessions to give each other the perfect gift. www.danforthmuseum.org

"Winter Wishes," Discovery Museums, 177 Main St., Acton. Sat., Dec. 21, 10 a.m. With museum admission: $11. Decorate a paper ornament with hopes and wishes for the approaching New Year that will be added to our Wishing Woods. All wishes will stay on display through the holiday season. www.discoverymuseums.org

"The Muppet Christmas Carol," Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline. Sat. Dec. 21, 10:30 a.m. Adults, $7; kids, $5. The classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge as told by everyone's favorite band of muppets. www.coolidge.org

"Christmas Eve Stories & Ornament Making," Barefoot Books, 89 Thoreau St., Concord. Tues., Dec. 24, 10:30 - 11:30 a.m. Free. All ages. Listen to favorite seasonal stories, followed by paper ornament-making. Each child is invited to bring her or her favorite story to be read aloud.www.barefootbooks.com

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Welcome to Parent Buzz, where you can read about and discuss the hot parenting issues of the day, find family-friendly events in Boston and beyond, and get parenting tidbits and tips.

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Kristi Palma, Boston.com Moms producer, is the mom of a first grader and a preschooler. She is a writer who enjoys cooking her grandmother's Italian recipes (when her son isn't launching paper airplanes into them). Follow her on Twitter @kristipalma.
Jennifer Clark Estes is a teacher, writer, blogger, and the mother of four young children. In her free time, she blogs at A Mom's World, plays with the kids (or chauffeurs them around), and is desperately seeking a quiet spot so she can read a book. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferCEstes.
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