School's out for the holidays

By: Leah Macpherson

Author: Canadian Living


School's out for the holidays

By: Leah Macpherson

It's the most wonderful time of the year, right? A time when the hearts of people from all races and faiths are filled with the same sentiments: peace, goodwill, and SHEER PANIC at the thought of how to entertain the kids while school is out. Luckily, in communities all across Canada, you can take advantage of many great events and activities designed to delight and distract the whole family. From sea to shining sea, it's non-stop holiday fun!

• Celebrate the start of the holiday season with the Festival of Trees, a display of over 60 beautifully decorated trees at the Fairmount Empress Hotel on Victoria's waterfront. Local businesses vie for prestigious awards that go to the best decorated and most creatively designed trees - all proceeds from the event go to the BC Children's Hospital Foundation.

• If you've got budding thespians on the loose, 'Bears The Musical' might be just the thing for you! Put on by The Oak Bay High Community Theater, the play is a musical romp through a world where bears come to life and play with children. Take note: this is a BYOB event - bring your own bear!

• Celebrate the magic of swashbuckling adventures with Kaleidoscope Theatre's production of 'Peter Pan'. Intricate sets, great costumes and high-flying special effects create a magical world just for kids.

• A stroll through the Nature Comes To Light: A Holiday Wonderland will help you get in the celebratory spirit. Nestled in a sea of over 200,000 lights you'll find enchanting holiday decorations and one-of-a-kind artwork.

• How about a camp? The Kitsilano Community Center is holding day camps (9am - 4pm) with lots of great activities - crafts, baking, swimming and skating. Use the time while school is out to keep learning!

• Visit the Vancouver Aquarium or Science World and enjoy special holiday exhibits and activities. Don't miss special presentations like 'A Christmas Fantasy' or a simulation of Santa's flight around the world in ‘Santa's Late' at the HR Macmillan Space Center.

• Celebrate the longest night of the year on December 21st with the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. This multicultural event will take place in five Vancouver neighborhoods, and features live music, dancing and drumming.

• For a holiday happily-ever-after, don't miss the Fantasy Children's Theatre production of Cinderella. This show is all about audience participation, so be prepared to join in the fun.

• There is lots going on at the Manitoba Children's Museum - visit Santa's Village, register for the Winter Day Camp (9am - 4pm) or celebrate New Year's Eve with activities every hour to ring in the new year in other countries.

• How about a pajama party at the Prairie Theatre Exchange? Catch a performance of 'MMM, Munsch' (based on the works of Robert Munsch) in your pj's and enjoy milk and cookies after the show.

• Every evening in December you can hop aboard the miniature, 1/8 scale Assiniboine Valley Railway for a tour and enjoy the display of over 65,000 Christmas lights. Walk around the bush trails and watch for white-tailed (rein)deer!

• Celebrate Kwanzaa with a day of family fun and enjoy Pan-African food, music and art.

• Since the NHL season is looking like a lost cause, why not take young sports fans on an outing to the Hockey Hall of Fame? Visit the interactive Broadcast Zone and be a sportscaster, learn about the history of the Stanley Cup and be awed by the achievements of the Legends of the Hall of Fame.

• There will be some new and old favourites at the Ontario Science Centre. Visit the expanded KidSpark area specifically designed for kids eight and under. And from Saturday, December 18, 2004 to Monday, January 3, 2005 experience the world's largest collection of Dream Machines -- whimsical mechanical inventions by artist Rowland Emett. These creations, made famous in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, include contraptions such as The Humbug Major Sweet Machine, a hot-air rocking chair and a lullaby machine. Visitors will be able to build their own Dream Machine constructed out of recycled household items.

• A visit to Casa Loma is always enchanting, and holiday activities make it even more appealing!

• There is something for all ages: a 'Clifford The Big Red Dog' show, a life-size LEGO display inspired by Harry Potter, gingerbread ornament workshops,concerts and much more. The Cullen Gardens' Festival of Lights, features over 100,000 lights and charming holiday displays in its 1/12 scale village. Kids can enjoy historical displays, entertainment, visit with Santa and even see the Grinch!

• Everyone loves receiving gifts – even the animals at the Zoo! Join zookeepers on December 26th for the Christmas Treats Walk, and watch the birds and beasts enjoy their holiday surprises.

• Children of all ages will be swept up in the magic of the National Ballet of Canada's production of The Nutcracker.

• Take the kids to a Chanukah Carnival and enjoy puppet shows, music, circus acts and crafts.

• Old Montréal's Christmas Fairies celebration has something for everyone – fireworks, ice-skating in the old port, sleigh rides and sales of the work of local artisans.

• Will the REAL Santa Claus please step forward? Visit the Montréal Museum of Archeology and History and explore the myths and legends from around the world surrounding the Man in Red.

• Learn about how Victorian Montréalers celebrated the holidays in the 1860's at the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site. Check out the special holiday exhibits and activities.

• The Planetarium has a variety of shows that combine the fun of the holiday season with learning. In ‘A Christmas Adventure', an elf learns about the solar system, and 'A Season Of Light' tells how ancient peoples celebrated the return of light after the dark days of winter.

• The kids will get a chuckle out of 'Cinderelly', a Shakespeare By The Sea adaptation of the children's classic with a decidedly Western twist. Cinderelly must get home before high noon to avoid being discovered by her wicked stepsisters!

• Step into the magical world of dancing bears, the mouse king and sugar plum fairies with Symphony Nova Scotia's production of The Nutcracker.

• Learn about aboriginal culture, art, food and music, and learn to make a dream catcher at the Nations In A Circle arts festival.

• Join the Dalhousie Chorale for Christmas in Song, a special sing-along event for the entire family.

• There's lots going on at the Discovery Center, and day camps run the week of December 23rd.

• Take a trip to the Clay Café – the kids will love choosing and painting clay pieces, and you can strike a few folks off your gift list.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy! The kids will be so pooped from all the holiday activities that you may get to enjoy the greatest gift of the season – a little peace and quiet.

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School's out for the holidays