The magic of the season comes to life magnificently in these four Midwest towns. Dash off to these family-friendly destinations to add extra sparkle to your holiday memories.
This small town in southern Indiana is quite literally all about Christmas. Santa Claus, Indiana, is home to the world’s only post office with Santa Claus’ name. “Elves” answer thousands of letters from children all over the world each year. Feel the good cheer with a visit Thanksgiving weekend through the third weekend in December. Holiday festivities include a Santa Claus Christmas Parade and the Santa Claus Arts & Craft show on Dec. 11. Dec. 4 features a fireworks show with coordinated Christmas music that you can enjoy from the warmth of your car.
Roast chestnuts over an open fire at Santa’s Candy Castle and visit Santa at the new Santa Claus Haus. There’s a giant Santa Claus Christmas Store with ornaments and collectibles galore and 15 Santa statues scattered throughout the town. Snuggle up in a Christmassy cabin or cottage and have sweet candy cane dreams.
The world’s largest Christmas store can be found in Frankenmuth, Michigan, 90 miles north of Detroit. Michigan’s Little Bavaria, with its German architecture, horse-drawn carriages and shops is a joy decked out in twinkling holiday lights and decorations. Visit Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland for a showroom of more than 50,000 holiday items like Santa hats, lights and outdoor décor. Afterwards, whisk the kids across the street to Grandpa Tiny’s Farm, where they can meet Blue and Sivia, two reindeer sure to light up their eyes with holiday wonder.
A stop in Frankenmuth isn’t complete without a family-style chicken dinner. Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Zehnder’s are two of the largest independently owned restaurants in the country, which serve up these delightful dinners with delicious farm-to-table sides.
You can also shop the outdoor German ChristKindlMarkt on select weekends late November through December for locally made baked goods, gifts and more.
Fans of the classic holiday movie, “A Christmas Story,” are sure to swoon when they learn the house used for the movie is open for tours in Cleveland. Hear behind-the-scenes stories, take pictures with the major award, get your hands on props Ralphie and his family used in the movie, and buy holiday keepsakes at the gift shop across the street. You can even stay overnight at A Christmas Story House or The Bumpus House next door!
Add even more good cheer by riding the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, writing a letter to Santa along the way as you soak in views of the Cuyahoga Valley. The North Pole Postmaster will help you get your letter to the Big Guy, who might even make an appearance on the return trip.
Be wowed by festive trees and impressive gingerbread sculptures at GLOW at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. Winterfest, in downtown Cleveland, features a tree lighting ceremony, free horse and carriage rides, pop-up shops, fireworks and gourmet food trucks.
Experience the merriment of an Old World Christmas Market in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. For 10 days in early December, a grand heated tent at the Osthoff Resort features a market reminiscent of a German Christkindlesmarkt, brimming with hand-painted Santas, Russian nesting dolls, fresh evergreen wreaths and fine chocolates. Munch on roasted almonds and hot bratwurst, and be sure to say hi when Santa walks by.
The Siberian Outpost offers dog sled rides and demonstrations. The downtown streets sparkle with holiday lights and live entertainment. Hop aboard a horse-drawn carriage and belt out Christmas carols for all to enjoy.
The Osthoff Resort offers breakfast with Santa as well as cookie and ornament decorating in Children’s Holiday Workshops. Families staying on Christmas Eve are treated to several special surprises.
What is a visit to Wisconsin without beer and cheese? Parents can sip The Christmas Candy Stout with a side of Red Ale Cheddar Cheese Spread at Switchgear Brewing, and the whole family can be powered by candy canes.
‘Tis the season!
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