From gingerbread exhibits to the Grinch to a new Louisville, Ky., attraction called KaLightoscope, destinations around the country are offering Christmas-themed attractions and fun.
The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa (www.groveparkinn.com), 290 Macon Ave., in Asheville, N.C., is hosting a display of 250 entries from the National Gingerbread House Competition. The creations, from as far away as Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin and New York, include gingerbread castles, barnyards, country inns and windmills. The display is open and free to the public Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., through Jan. 2, while guests at the resort or its restaurants can see them any time. Some of the entries are on display at the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville.
Le Parker Meridien hotel at 119 W. 56th St. in Manhattan also hosts a gingerbread house display, with creations by local pastry chefs and bakeries. Stop by the hotel concierge desk and buy a $1 ballot to vote on your favorite; the money goes to City Harvest, which supplies programs that feed the hungry. The theme of the gingerbread creations this year is "Movies Made in New York," with "King Kong" and "West Side Story" are among the films represented.
A brand-new attraction called KaLightoscope (www.KaLightoscope.com) opened this season in Louisville at the Galt House Hotel, 140 N. Fourth St. The walk-through pavilion of lighted holiday sculptures in a 16,000-square-foot pavilion is divided into 12 holiday-themed sections including "Toyland," the "Christmas Tree Maze," "The Lighted Forest" and "The Nativity," among others. The attraction is open through Jan. 3; tickets are $14.95-$17.95. Other holiday offerings at the hotel include a Christmas dinner show and events with Santa in a life-size gingerbread village.
At Walt Disney World near Orlando, it's Christmas through Jan. 3. Cinderella Castle is lit up with 200,000 white lights and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, a ticketed event certain evenings through Dec. 19, features twice-nightly Christmas parades plus live shows, carolers and more. Disney's Hollywood Studios hosts The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, a display that started in Little Rock at the home of businessman Jennings Osborne and was brought to Disney in 1995.
Other holiday happenings include a "Holidays Around the World" showcase at Epcot through Dec. 30, where storytellers share their heritage. Epcot also hosts a daily gospel performance through Dec. 26, and the Candlelight Processional featuring a choir, orchestra and a celebrity narrator retelling the Christmas story, through Dec. 30.
Universal theme parks are hosting Grinchmas festivities. At Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure in Florida (www.universalorlando.com), now through Jan. 1, guests can see a live stage show featuring the Grinch and the Whos from Whoville, and also meet the characters. And if you missed the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York, Universal Studios Florida hosts a Macy's parade every evening with gigantic balloons, characters and floats, followed by a tree-lighting ceremony with Santa.
At Universal Studios Hollywood in California (www.universalstudioshollywood.com for tickets, packages and hotels), cast members from "Glee" and other celebrities will read Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and take part in nightly lightings of a Grinchmas tree, beginning Dec. 11 and 12 and continuing daily Dec. 18 through Jan. 2. The celebration includes a field of snow where families can build snowmen, visits to the set where the Grinch movie was filmed aboard Universal's Studio Tour, and photo ops with Grinch and his dog Max.
In Riverside, Calif., The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, at 3649 Mission Inn Ave. (www.missioninn.com) is hosting its annual festival of lights through Jan. 2. Visitors will find a dazzling 3.5 million lights, a tree, carolers and animatronic elves, angels and other characters in 17th century costumes. The display is free and open to the public; the hotel also has holiday overnight packages starting at $199. The festival spills out into the city of Riverside with lights and decorations all over town and an outdoor skating rink in the main street pedestrian mall near the historic hotel.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, Temple Square is decorated with hundreds of thousands of lights and a life-size nativity scene. Less than 40 miles away in Ogden, you'll be transported to Santa's North Pole village with lights, cottages, entertainment, Santa's castle and shopping. A hundred miles southeast of Salt Lake, the town of Helper is nicknamed "Christmas Town" because its buildings, lit up for the holidays, look like a magical Christmas town from the early 20th century.
Another town with holiday lights is McAdenville, N.C., where a half-million lights are strung on nearly 400 fir trees. The display started with a few lights in the 1950s but has evolved into a major attraction with support from a local manufacturer, Pharr Yarns. Some 600,000 people now visit the town of 600 annually, driving or strolling along a one-mile stretch to view the red, green and white lights, which are lit each evening through Dec. 26. McAdenville (www.mcadenville-christmastown.com.) is less than 20 miles from Charlotte.
Elsewhere in North Carolina, the historic Biltmore House (www.biltmore.com) is celebrating Christmas through Jan. 2 in Asheville with 150,000 lights, carolers, holiday cooking and decorating demonstrations, wine-tastings and a lighted 55-foot Norway spruce on the front lawn. Biltmore's original owner, George Vanderbilt, first opened the home to friends and family on Christmas Eve 1895 for what became an annual Christmas Party. Biltmore recalls the era with Candlelight Christmas Evenings featuring performances by ballroom dancers in vintage costumes and choirs.
Bethlehem, Pa. (www.christmascity.org), hosts a popular holiday market called Christkindlmarkt, which offers handmade works, live music, ice carving and glassblowing demonstrations.
The market's remaining dates are Dec. 16-19, Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Bethlehem also hosts holiday concerts, nighttime bus tours of holiday lights and city history, carriage rides and other events like a Peeps Fest, named for the candy.