'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.comFULL ENTRY
Photo by Christins Demetrio
If battling through crowded stores on Black Friday isn't your thing, there are plenty of alternate activities that will give you the opportunity to extend your Thanksgiving family time. Digest your feast (and maybe burn off those extra calories) while enjoying half-price zoo admissions, exploring nature, fighting goblins, or singing along to a classic movie.
Half-price admission to Franklin Park Zoo, One Franklin Park Rd., Dorchester. Fri., Nov. 28, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Adults, $8.50; seniors, $7; ages 2-12, $5.50. All ages. Burn off your turkey dinner while visiting with the many animals throughout the zoo. www.zoonewengland.org
Half-price admission to Stone Zoo (does not include evening ZooLights), 149 Pond St., Stoneham. Fri., Nov. 28, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Adults, $7; seniors, $6; ages 2-12, $5. All ages. Continue to celebrate the holiday by bringing the whole gang to the zoo for a day of fun. Note that the discount does not apply to the evening ZooLights. www.zoonewengland.org
"Black Friday Full Day Adventure: Party Crashing," Guard Up!, 103 Terrance Hall Ave., Burlington. Fri., Nov 28, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. (extended day option available). Call for pricing and options. Ages 6+. Goblins, ogres, and orcs have been raiding nearby villages all month. They have stolen gifts and food from the citizens of these towns. Recently, we have found out where the creatures have been gathering. Help us track down these thieves and crash their party. Bring your friends and your swords! (Foam swords provided.) Pre-registration required. Bring a nut-free lunch. www.guardup.com
"Day After Thanksgiving: Audubon Environmental Ed. Center," Audubon Society of Rhode Island, 1401 Hope St., Bristol, RI. Fri., Nov. 28, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Free with admission: adults, $6; ages 4-12, $4; under 4 and members, free. All ages. Nature crafts and stories, science activities, and an afternoon nature walk (weather permitting) well help you digest that turkey. No pre-registration required. www.asri.org
"Sing-A-Long Mary Poppins," Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St., Arlington. Fri., Nov. 29 - Sun., Dec. 1., hours vary. Adults, $15; children and seniors, $12.50. All ages. Join the singing and fun of this classic movie, which is shown with on-screen lyrics. A movie host will introduce the film and lead the crowd through audience participation activities and demonstrate the use of the complimentary bag of interactive props. Costumes encouraged. www.regenttheatre.com
Kayana Szymczak/Boston Globe
The annual tree lighting ceremony kicks off the official holiday season at Faneuil Hall Marketplace this weekend. The daylong festivities begin at 12 p.m. with the arrival of Santa Claus, a performance from "A Christmas Story" and a variety of live entertainment, including more than a dozen singers, dancers and performers on stage throughout the day, along with the best of Faneuil Hall Marketplace's street performers. In the evening, "Blink!", a state-of-the-art light and sound system, will transform the marketplace for a second year as it accompanies a performance by the Boston Holiday Pops. The lighting ceremony will air live on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WSBK-TV (Channel 38) from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and will be hosted by WBZ-TV's Lisa Hughes and Jonathan Elias. It will include special performances by Tanglewood Festival Chorus conducted by Keith Lockhart as well as Grammy-Award winning singer Paula Cole, and The Sugarbabies Band. Mayor Menino will be on hand to help flip the switch, and part of the ceremony will include a special tribute to the outgoing mayor. The light switch will turn on more than 30,000 lights and strobes on the 80-foot tree, the tallest in the northeast. Prior to the performance, from 5:30 - 7 p.m., Keith Lockhart will be on hand to sign copies of a new holiday CD by the Pops. Please note that coolers and backpacks are not permitted on the property during this event. Sat., Nov. 23. Daytime activities begin at noon. Lighting ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. Free. All ages. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, One Faneuil Hall Square, Boston. www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com
The Discovery Museums in Acton is opening its doors for free to families with children on the autism spectrum this Saturday. With pre-registration, families can enjoy both museums at no charge, giving children on the autism spectrum a unique opportunity to explore the many offerings of the interactive spaces. This event is one of a special series of events called “Especially for Me,” and is part of the museums’ Open Doors Program, which aims to provide opportunities for those who face a variety of barriers to experience the museums’ offerings. Visitors may also drop-in for a workshop with Romy Wilhelm, a practicing music therapist from Indian Hill Music. Many studies have shown that music therapy is an effective tool for reaching this population, as it engages and fosters their capacity for flexibility, creativity, variability, and tolerance of change. Sat., Nov. 23, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Free, but pre-registration is required. The Discovery Museums, 177 Main St., Acton. www.discovery museums.org
There's no end to the ways you can celebrate the joy of the Festival of Lights! This year, Hanukkah events for the whole family include story times, loads of crafts, music, performers, and, of course, food. We've rounded up a few locations in the Boston area where you can get your party started:
"Hanukkah Story Hour," Barnes & Noble, 210 Andover St., Peabody. Thurs., Nov. 21, 11 a.m. Free. Newborns - age 5. Come meet Sammy The Spider and enjoy Hanukkah stories with puppets, crafts, a musical sing-along, and a special snack. www.barnesandnoble.com
"Menorah Candle Crafts," ArtBeat, 212-A Mass. Ave., Arlington. Sat., Nov. 23, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. & Sun., Nov. 24, noon - 5. $15 includes all materials. Ages 3 and up (younger children must be accompanied by adult). Use natural beeswax sheets to roll a 4” pillar candle or a set of 44 Menorah candles. www.artbeatonline.com
Debee Tlumacki/Boston Globe
Get into the spirit of Thanksgiving with these family-friendly events happening in and around Boston. From DIY crafts featuring turkeys, to story times focusing on giving thanks, to full-out festivals and holiday re-enactments, there's something for everyone on this list.
"Thanksgiving Plate Workshop," Barefoot Books, 89 Thoreau St., Concord. Wed., Nov. 20, 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. $20 - $42, depending on design. Ages 4+. In this workshop children will have a chance to create their own plate just in time to use it at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Project ideas include handprint turkeys, autumn leaves, and illustrations of what you're thankful for this Thanksgiving. www.barefootbooks.com
"Squawking Turkeys!," Discovery Museums, 177 Main St., Acton. Thurs., Nov. 21, 10 a.m. With museum admission, $11. All ages. Help make a whole flock of noisy turkeys to celebrate the holiday. www.discoverymuseums.orgFULL ENTRY
Photo by Bob Dermody
Join Learning By Design in Massachusetts at BSA Space for an event that's all about bridges. During this program, families will learn about the many bridge types that span Boston’s waterways, then design and build their own bridge for the neighborhood using recycled materials. This is the third event in the series of Family Design Day programs, which encourage children and adults to observe, explore and design together. In these two hour hands-on workshops, families are introduced to architecture and design through exhibit tours, walking tours or slide shows, and then complete a hands-on design activity. Architects and design educators lead the activities focused on the built environment of Boston and the world. Programs start promptly. Registration is strongly recommended. Sat., Nov. 16, 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Ages 5-13 with adult accompanying (maximum of 1 adult per 3 children). $8 per person. BSA Space, 290 Congress St., 2nd floor, Boston. www.bsaspace.org
Bring your family and friends for a pre-Thanksgiving guided walk through the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary to discover what is happening in the world of nature as plants and animals prepare for winter. Sanctuary naturalists will lead small groups as they venture out to the "Big Woods" on Averill's Island. You'll stop along the way to hear stories of the original settlers and learn about the cultural history of the sanctuary. You'll look for animal signs as you hike through the woodlands and marshes, taking in the beauty of the muted colors of late autumn. Each hike will last about two hours, so dress warmly and wear comfortable footwear. You can warm up by the woodstove in the barn upon your return. Hot drinks and homemade soup and desserts will be available for purchase beginning at 11:30 a.m., so feel free to get there early to enjoy a bite to eat before you go out on your hike. Sun., Nov. 17, noon - 1:30 p.m., with staggered start times every 15 minutes. Ages 5 and up. Members: adults, $7; children, $6. Non-members: adults, $8; children, $7. Rain or shine. Registration required. Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, 87 Perkins Row, Topsfield. www.massaudubon.org
Does your daughter live in her tutu? Does your son love to own the stage? Here's a chance for your budding dancer to enjoy a special day all about ballet at the Boston Children's Museum, featuring the talents of the Boston Ballet. Visitors can listen to the music of the Boston Ballet Orchestra quintet, or try a dance class with Boston Ballet School teachers.Throughout the day, kids -- and their caregivers -- can participate in a number of activities in all areas of the museum, including hearing "The Nutcracker" story and creating a crown, designing their own creations, visiting the Pointe Shoe Petting Zoo, and seeing sketches and samples of fabric used in the new version of "The Nutcracker." Kids can also meet Nutcracker characters and pose for photos in front of a replica backdrop, discover how high they can jump, and try out a real nutcracker. Mon., Nov 11, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. All ages. $14; under one and members free. Boston Children's Museum, 308 Congress St., Boston. www.bostonchildrensmuseumorg
(Photo: Karin Hansen)
More than just another three-day weekend, Veterans Day is a chance to honor and give thanks to all the men and women who have served in our nation's military. Celebrate Veterans Day with the family by participating in patriotic craft-making, attending a special concert, enjoying free admission to area zoos for veterans, and more.
Veterans Day Family Fun Weekend, USS Constitution Museum, Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown. Sat., Nov. 9 - Mon., Nov. 11,10 a.m. - 5 p.m. All ages. With suggested Museum donation: adults, $5; seniors, $3; children, $2. Celebrate and honor our nation’s veterans at the USS Constitution Museum by asking yourself, “Is a sailor’s life for you?” Learn about the daily struggles that crew members on board "Old Ironsides" faced during the War of 1812 and how their stories continue to inspire people today. www.ussconstitutionmuseum.org
Free admission for veterans, Franklin Park Zoo, One Franklin Park Rd., Dorchester. Sat., Nov. 9 - Mon., Nov. 11, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Free for veterans. Others, regular admission: adults, $17; ages 2-12, $11; seniors $14; under 2, free. Spend the day with gorillas, lions, and zebras. Kids can take a break from hanging out with the animals to jump and climb and slide on the zoo's elaborate playground. www.zoonewengland.org
Want to take the family to a parade? Here is a map of Veterans Day parades around Greater Boston.FULL ENTRY
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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.