The Christmas season often brings with it the hustle and bustle of office parties, family get-togethers and hours spent at the mall frantically trying to find the right gift for someone special on your list. While it can be easy to get caught up in the holiday shopping fever and the excitement of the season, it’s important to keep in mind the benefits to be found in spending some relaxed, quality time with family and friends.
Unfortunately, between Christmas shopping, preparing for special dinners and family get-togethers, planning an outing that will take up a large chunk or time and cost a ton of money isn’t always an option. You may find that the best and most meaningful activities are the ones found right under your nose, and literally in your own backyard.
If you’re looking for some great ideas for when the kiddies are at loose ends on a cold, wintry weekend, over Christmas vacation or when family or friends are in town for a visit, check out this list of things to do close to home!
- Take in the holiday lights
Christmas lights on a dark, cold night are almost magical; their warm glow lighting up the outside of neighbourhood houses are literally an indicator of the Christmas spirit at work inside. This holiday season, take the whole family out for a tour of the neighbourhood to take in the Christmas lights as they light up the night, or head out to the Celebration of Lights at Victoria Park, and stroll or drive through the dozens of brightly lit holiday scenes. Bring along a thermos of hot chocolate and some snacks and make it an evening activity, or start an annual tradition. Your children will remember these evenings with fondness, and maybe even pass the tradition on to their own children!
- Visit a local museum – North Pole Express and Heritage House Christmas
Yes, there is a cost to this option, but it’s minimal! Check out the seasonal activities and displays at Heritage House Museum between Nov. 7 and Dec. 23 and learn more about what Christmas was like when Smiths Falls was in its infancy. Another option is to take the whole family for a visit to the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario on Saturday, Dec. 5 for the annual North Pole Express, where you can climb aboard a Christmas caboose for a ride along snowy tracks, and catch a photo of Santa himself!
- Watch the Santa Claus Parade
What holiday season wouldn’t be complete without standing out in the cold with a thermos of hot chocolate and the kids all bundled up, watching a parade go by, and maybe catching a glimpse of the big guy himself? This year’s Smiths Falls Santa Claus Parade will take place on Dec. 10 and will run through the downtown core, creating the perfect opportunity for some pre-or-post-parade Christmas shopping at one of the many downtown merchants!
- Hit the rink or hill
Tobogganing or skating are activities that everyone in the family can appreciate – young and old – and better still, it’s essentially free! Grab the kids and a pair of skates and head out to the community centre for public skating where you have your choice of skating inside, or outside on the Gerry Lowe Memorial Sens Rink. Join in an impromptu game of shinny on the outdoor rink or work up an appetite showing off your best moves while out in the sun and fresh air, or even beneath the stars. You can also grab your toboggan and head for the hill at the old lockmaster’s office, at the Jasper Intersection near Lower Reach Park, and spend the day or early evening careening down the slope!
- Make something special
Nothing feels more like Christmas than a cold day spent inside making a special gift for someone you care about. Making a gift doesn’t have to cost a lot, and will also provide hours of entertainment for the whole family! You can pick up some inexpensive craft items right in town and take them home to create a masterpiece that will brighten someone’s day during the holidays. Downtown there are stores that sell art supplies for painting or drawing, or if you are really ambitious, head to Knit Knackers and pick up some yarn and an amazing pattern to make something cozy and warm. Even young children can learn the art of knitting, and love to make gifts like a low-skill level dishcloth or scarf!
When you’re done with your outdoor fun, head for downtown Smiths Falls and feed the appetite you’ve worked up with some local fare that’s sure to warm you from the inside out! While you’re there, explore the many shops featuring unique gift items that will seriously cut down on your shopping list, or take a stroll through the streets to see the festive window displays. Take some time this holiday season to relax, unwind, and rediscover the magic of the season that often falls by the wayside, and all at low cost!
Originally appeared in Metroland Media’s Think Local magazine, Fall 2016. http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/Launch.aspx?EID=af605072-3e1f-4511-af55-ad6e8edb52fb