The 2023 Holiday Fun List

November is a great month. We start with peak fall color (which, absent any huge rain/wind storms, has mostly lingered into this second weekend). Then, as the fall leaves dwindle, you can start adding in festive touches — but most of the hectic aspect holds off until after Thanksgiving. What’s not to like?

I’m really looking forward to the holiday season this year. While we are not traveling, that opens up several more days to experience local festivities. So I have a pretty long Holiday Fun List! I spent some time this past week both brainstorming the list and mapping out where things could go on the calendar.

Maybe you’d enjoy creating a Holiday Fun List too. Identifying your top activities gives you lots of big and little adventures to choose from over the next few weeks (per Rule #6 in Tranquility by Tuesday). Here’s what I’d like to make happen before early January, in order to make the season feel festive and memorable:

Run a Thanksgiving 5k with my son. We ran the YMCA’s fun run last year and it went reasonably well, so I signed us up again. I like feeling like I created an appetite for my turkey. (We’ll be visiting family later in the day so I am not hosting this year.)

Visit Dutch Wonderland (and some other outdoor lights). This was my daughter’s addition to the list, so when they had a sale, I grabbed tickets. Dutch Wonderland is a small theme park about an hour away that always has Christmas lights and a few rides open in December. I like holiday light displays in general, because they create an excuse to be out in the evening, walking around. In that spirit, we will also hit Tinseltown a few days after Christmas. We might go see a zoo light display or Sesame Place as well, but I don’t know for sure on those yet.

Go ice skating. My daughter also asked to do this. I’m sure we’ll go in January/February too, but it will be nice to see the actual holiday lights at the outdoor downtown rink.

Visit Longwood Gardens. A reservation has been made, and phew. I was already finding many time slots were booked! We will combine this with a trip to the Brandywine River Museum to see their holiday trains.

Eat breakfast with Santa. One child’s favorite Italian restaurant turns out to be hosting just such a breakfast and tickets were about a third of the price of the Neiman Marcus one I paid for last year. So I jumped on it.

Take a couple trip to NYC! This will be our first time away together overnight since kid #5 was born. We’ve obviously both traveled various places and sometimes on the same night, but we have not gone anywhere together. I have a semi-milestone birthday coming up in early December, so we’ll go out for food the kids won’t eat and to an art museum that would bore several of them.

Actually buy a holiday party dress. While I am putting this on the list, it is, in fact, done. I bought a little green velvet number off Amazon, and I quite like it. Anytime I can get a fancy-looking outfit for $50 I am happy. I’ll wear it to my husband’s office party.

Sing in my choir’s Christmas concert and for Christmas Eve services. This year my oldest son will be joining me! I’ll also be going to his school choir concert, plus the middle schoolers’ band concerts. Christmas brings lots of performances. The little three kids will also be performing in the church Christmas pageant, so given that Christmas Eve is a Sunday, that particular day will feature a lot of church.

Check out some holiday trains. So there is Longwood, and Brandywine, listed above. I also have tickets for the Morris Arboretum’s train display, and we will likely take a day trip out to Lancaster to see the train museum and the Choo Choo Barn.

See The Nutcracker. I do not have tickets to this yet, but it’s kind of a tradition, so I need to figure out which kids want to go and figure out a date.

See the Rockettes! I have never done this before, but we’ve got extended family visiting after Christmas, so we’ll all go into NYC together to see the show (we actually had to go through group sales for our crew…lots of larger families!).

Construct the Christmas Lego set. We’ve already started this one, so it seems like we will finish way before Christmas, but oh well. This year, Lego released an alpine lodge scene which, I kid you not, also includes a little Lego outhouse. The 14-year-old and 12-year-old alternate doing chunks of it with me. I find the pieces for each step in the bags, they put them together. It’s a good activity to do with older kids. I’ve also been doing a Christmas puzzle, but that’s just been me. After I finish this new puzzle, I’ll pull out some Christmas puzzles from years past to do again.

Get matching family pajamas. It will happen, I just need to order them. It’s fun to open them on Christmas Eve and then all wear them on Christmas morning.

Do sibling presents. This is not necessarily “fun” for me. But some of the kids really like it, and it is a way to get them involved and invested in Christmas preparations. So on the list it goes.

Decorate the house. The garland and lights are up on the stairs, and there is Christmas soap already. Plus the 12-year-old’s pretend Starbucks cup that narrowly avoided winding up in the trash (see the picture). Since we have a house manager this year, the decorations might wind up being fairly elaborate.

Read my old Christmas magazines. I’ve saved many from over the years, so it will feel like I’m getting two dozen Christmas magazines. I’ll likely check out some Christmas decoration books from the library too to peruse.

Play Christmas music on the piano. I plucked through “Christmastime is Here” yesterday, and “Jingle Bell Rock.” Trying to learn some holiday music will definitely nudge me to play the piano a little more.

Bake. Really, this is my daughter’s desire, but I can be her sous chef. She wants to do a Christmas baking extravaganza, so at some point we will.

Read Christmas stories with the little guy. Maybe some of the older kids will want to get in on it too. We have quite a library after sixteen Christmases with kids. Last night he and I read Little Blue Truck’s Christmas and Snowmen at Christmas.

What’s on your Holiday Fun List this year?

20 thoughts on “The 2023 Holiday Fun List

  1. Your list looks ambitious and fun! And you’ve inspired me – think I’ll spend some time planning during a longish layover on Tuesday.

  2. Wow, what a great – fun! – list.

    I’m sure you’ve mentioned it before, but how/where do you store all the Christmas LEGO sets you build? Do you dismantle them? Store them and only display them at Christmas?

    And that dress looks beautiful! Fancy!,

    1. @Elisabeth – We wound up sticking the completed sets in a closet-type storage area. This is an old house with a lot of random storage spots, so it winds up working! Then we pulled a few out for display now at Christmas time.

  3. I just love this list! It reminded me of your old tradition of opening a Christmas book each night, which I borrowed and have adopted as my own. My kids love it, so thank you for the idea.

    This list prompted me to make my own list and ask my kids what they wanted to do. My 8 year old wants to ski at the local spot, and go to our church family Christmas party. My 6 year old wants to “climb a mountain and sled down” and go to the library on a snowy day. (I thought that sounded lovely too!) Your list reminded me that I should probably figure out a holiday dress also. There are several parties and I will need something, so I should look now.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. @Lori C- so glad you’re enjoying opening books! We moved away from that partly because the kids like choosing from favorites each night. Also, one year when I had three little kids there was a ton of fighting over who got to open what. Now we just pick from the pile of books! But it was fun for a while. I hope you get a lot of skiing and sledding in!

  4. This is such a fun list! We still have a toddler in the mix so our list is fairly short and will not include any night markets/carols (even though in future years I’d love to include them), but will include:
    Spending a few early evenings walking local neighbourhoods who have great Christmas light displays, have a family photo with Santa, host an end of year party at our house, decorate the backyard with fairy lights for said party, attend our street Christmas party. Also we will read Christmas books each evening with the kids in December and maybe do Advent Calenders.

    1. @Sophie – ooh, love the fairy lights. And that reminds me that some folks might want to do Advent Calendars so maybe I need one around here…

  5. Have you said more about your house manager’s role in another post or podcast episode? I can’t seem to remember hearing about this previously and I’m super curious! What do they do? How many hours a week? How did you find your house manager?

    1. @Robin – it winds up being about 8-10 hours a week on the house (and then she does some childcare for other hours). This is a former FT nanny who had skills in this area from her work with her own rental properties. It was great it worked out! This is an old house with a lot of stuff that needs tending…

  6. Several years ago, I tagged along with my husband on a trip to NYC. My first time there. I spent the morning at the Met museum doing a docent tour and wandering (and it turned out my neighbor from here in the Midwest was there at the same time, we just didn’t know!). Then I dashed through and alongside Central Park up to Radio City Music Hall. The Christmas Spectacular is, indeed, spectacular. I’d always wanted to see it, and I’m glad I saw it THERE as opposed to an arena setting here. Classic. Finished at the MoMA where my husband met me. The next day we did his quick tour of the sights, his Buddy the Elf Tour: skating rink, Empire State Building, Macy’s. We had a cup of coffee (not the world’s best but not lousy either) and passed on the pizza. Stopped by the big Christmas tree where they were rehearsing for that night’s lighting show! It was a magical two days of dreams fulfilled. And I have a Rockettes Christmas ornament to remember it by.

    1. @Barb – so fun! The Rockettes trip will be quick as we have lots of people with us, but the earlier December trip will be a little more leisurely. The city can be really lovely at Christmas so I am looking forward to it.

  7. We just wrapped up my son and daughter-in-law’s Covid-delayed wedding celebration, so I haven’t had time to focus much on the holidays. Here is what I have come up with so far:

    1. Spend time with friends and family. I have 3 different events with friends that people have scheduled, plus a family celebration for my husband’s milestone birthday. It should provide a nice amount of good cheer without being overwhelming.
    2. Take a quick trip to Quebec City with my adult daughter. I don’t usually like to do vacation stuff in December, but my daughter really wants to head up there for a long weekend and check out any Christmas markets that they have. Trips with adult kids don’t happen all that often, so I’m going for it. It is a quick flight from our area, and if it is freezing cold, at least I know that there will be maple lattes to warm us up…..
    3. Head to Barnes and Noble and scoop up an assortment of holiday-themed magazines. This is a long-standing tradition for me-I will bring most home, but will grab a warm drink and peruse one while there. It seems to me that the number of holiday-themed magazines has dwindled-I remember that McCall’s and Ladies Home Journal had good holiday issues back in the day.
    4. Spend an afternoon at home curled up with said Christmas magazines,
    5. Take some time to wander aimlessly around a few of our local shopping centers to soak up the decor,
    6. Visit Trader Joe’s and Aldi to see what holiday treats they have. I became a huge fan of Trader Joe’s chocolate drizzled kettle corn a few years back, but then it disappeared. The following year, my wanderings led me to discover that the popcorn had migrated over to Aldi. I already have purchased a bag this week…
    7. Order photo holiday cards-we have a great family picture from the wedding mentioned up above. I haven’t done this since we took a great picture of us in our Christmas pajamas a few years back.
    8. See if I can find a local Messiah concert.
    9. Try to see the holiday trains at the Morris Arboretum in the Philadelphia area. This has been on my list for years, but it is a bit out of the way for us.
    10. Try not to stress out about the fact that I haven’t given any thought to gift ideas as of yet-and since I try to do a lot of my shopping from the comfort of my couch on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I really need to get started…..

    1. @BethC- great list! I hadn’t even considered the Messiah concert concept…maybe I should. And I love the idea of wandering Trader Joe’s just to see what treats are there. Browsing in general can be fun!

    1. @Laura C – I love playing Christmas songs! It gives me an extra nudge to play the piano this time of year.

  8. I always enjoy the Fun Lists – Laura’s and others! Mine includes:
    *visit the Gingerbread Lane display at a downtown hotel. The elaborate scenes are created by professional and amateur bakers, including family groups and schools. Donations go to a charity.
    *attend a holiday-themed “Opera Tea” at a local university with my sister. Not sure what to expect from the music but the student opera company has a very good reputation.
    *visit free outdoor Christmas light displays. There are a couple of wonderful commercial displays but you have to book in advance and we live in a rainy city…
    *immerse myself in the Jacqui Lawson online Advent Calendar. Addictive fun for every day December 1-25.

  9. Have you ever been to the holiday train show at the New York Botanical Garden? I love all the NY landmarks made out of natural materials.

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