Day Trips to Entertain Holiday Guests

Travel tends to heat up as the weather begins to chill around the holiday season. With friends and family to see and holiday cheer to spread, it's no wonder why millions of people take to the roads, railways and friendly skies to travel during the holiday season.

It's not uncommon for holiday hosts to open their homes to loved ones for days at a time. Holiday hosts who want to ensure that visitors enjoy their stay can plan certain excursions to make the most of their time together.

Day trips with overnight guests staying for the holidays can make for an entertaining way to get out of the house and enjoy time together.

Day Trips: Go See the Lights

Holiday lighting displays are popular across the country. Treat guests to a visit to a nearby attraction. That could be an amusement park that drapes the center of the park in lights, Main Street storefronts and town centers that put on tree lighting ceremonies, urban centers where department stores showcase impressive windows, or other attractions where lights take center stage.

Day Trips: See a Show

From productions of "A Christmas Carol" to other holiday favorites, it's not difficult to find entertainment that showcases some holiday spirit. Dance troupes may be showcasing "The Nutcracker" or a choral ensemble may be putting on a concert of Christmas carols. Enjoy a night or day out at one of these events.

Day Trips: Visit a Cathedral or Temple

The holiday season brings many individuals closer to their faiths. Travelers may want to visit a house of worship during their stay. Many churches are dressed up for Christmas and some may even have live animals in their living nativity scenes.

Toy Buying Tips When Shopping For Kids

Shopping for gifts for kids makes many shoppers nostalgic for their own childhoods. Few adults can forget the joy of finding the perfect gift under the tree on Christmas morning. Recreating that magic for a youngster can be as joyous for gift givers as it is for kids. That's especially so when shoppers make it a point to give safe, age-appropriate gifts.

Whether shopping for their own children or their grandkids, nieces or nephews, shoppers can keep these tips in mind to ensure they give toys that are as safe as they are fun.

Shoppers must consider a host of factors when looking for safe toys for kids this holiday season.


Speak to Mom and Dad First

When buying for a grandchild, niece or nephew, shoppers should first ask Mom or Dad for suggestions. Parents will know which types of toys their children like, and they'll also know the child's level of maturity. Some kids may not be mature enough to play with otherwise age-appropriate toys, while others may be mature beyond their years and enjoy more complex toys than their age would suggest. Parents will know what makes a good toy and what doesn't.


Learn What to Look for on Labels

Toy labels are great sources of information, but shoppers must know what to look for. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that toy labels include information about age-appropriateness (i.e., "Ages 3 & Up") as well as directions regarding how to use the toy. If the instructions seem a bit complex for the child the item will be for, look for something else. Children's toy labels also include additional information that consumers may not be familiar with. For example, toys labeled "ASTM F963" meet the latest safety standards from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. An "ASTM D4236" label indicates the materials associated with the art toy have been reviewed and deemed safe by a toxicologist. More information about toy label requirements can be found at The AAP advises that electric toys should only be given to kids if they include the UL label. That means the toy has been certified by the global safety certification company UL, LLC.


Avoid Certain Features

The AAP notes that toys that are loud, shoot objects into the air or contain small pieces pose a threat to children. Especially loud toys can damage children's hearing, while projectiles can increase the risk of eye injuries or choking. Toys with small pieces also pose a choking risk to young children who may try to put the pieces into their mouths.


Err on the side of caution

Consumers who are uncertain about the safety of a given toy, even after reading its label, should err on the side of caution and only give toys they're confident won't pose a safety risk. Even toys that may seem safe could be dangerous to kids who might otherwise seem old enough. For example, the AAP advises against giving kids under 12 hobby kits and chemistry sets. That's because such kits may contain dangerous chemicals that even pre-adolescents are not old enough to handle safely.


Armchair linguists might know that the Latin word "decem" means "ten," which is a little curious given that December is the twelfth month of the year. So why isn't December the tenth month of the year? Like other months on the modern calendar, including October and November, December once occupied a different place on the calendar, namely the Julian calendar that was used prior to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. Back then, December was the tenth month on the calendar. Though its position changed when the Gregorian calendar was adopted, its name remained the same.


It's easy to overlook in a month populated by holidays like Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa, but the winter solstice is a significant day on the calendar as well. According to the Farmer's Almanac, the 2023 winter solstice occurs on December 21 at 10:27 p.m. EST for the northern hemisphere. The winter solstice might not be sun worshippers' favorite day of the year, as it's the day with the least amount of sunlight all year long. However, one positive to keep in mind is that, once the winter solstice occurs, each day thereafter experiences a gradual increase in daylight. That should give anyone yet another reason to celebrate in December.


December has historically been a month of firsts, particularly for women and politicians. On December 1, 1919, Lady Nancy Astor became the first woman to serve in the British House of Commons. Exactly 69 years later, Benazir Bhutto was nominated for the role of prime minister of Pakistan. Bhutto ultimately became the first woman to be elected as head of a democratic government in a Muslim-majority country. Political firsts in December are not limited to events involving women. A year after Bhutto was nominated, Russia's Mikhail Gorbachev became the first Soviet Russian leader to visit the Vatican and meet the Pope.


January might be the month people most associate with efforts to change their fortunes, but the birthstone of December also is considered a symbol of good fortune. The Farmer's Almanac notes that one of the birthstones of December is turquoise, which some believe is symbolic of good fortune and success.

Start of Winter Activities: SNOWMEN

Build a snow creation. Use the first significant snowfall of the season to organize a snowman, snowwoman, or snow-animal-making event or contest. Waterproof gloves are a necessary piece of equipment, as are buckets for moving snow, shovels, carving and shaping tools (which can be plastic cutlery), and accessories to dress up the final product.

Start of Winter Activities: SLEDDING

Go sledding on the best hills. Sledding is a popular wintertime activity that doesn't require too much equipment. Sleds can be purchased at sporting goods stores or toy stores. Sledders of all ages should consider wearing helmets to protect against injury if they will be traversing especially steep hills.

Start of Winter Activities: ICE SKATING

Visit an ice rink. Whether a rink is indoors or outside, ice skating is a quintessential wintertime activity. Skaters of all skill levels can take to the ice and enjoy some exercise and laughs. Check local rink schedules to take advantage of open skate times when hockey games or practices are not dominating the ice.

Mark the Winter Solstice

The winter solstice, also known as the start of astronomical winter, is the shortest day of sunlight on the calendar. It occurs when either of the Earth's poles reaches maximum tilt away from the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere, this occurs on December 21, 2023. Because there will be only roughly seven hours of daylight, take steps to make the fact that the sun will set at its earliest a little easier to swallow. Kids can run around outdoors with glow sticks, while adults can deck their homes in twinkle lights if they are not decorated for Christmas. Lanterns, campfires and candles can be lit, and everyone can gather outdoors to chat and socialize.

What is WinterFest?

For millions of people, the most magical time of the year begins in December and lasts into March. Though December is often characterized as the holiday season, it also marks the start of winter. WinterFest is a celebration of this festive time, and there are events to enjoy across North America.

WinterFest is the name of several winter festivals that are held in different parts of the United States and Canada. The event that takes place in Lowell, Mass. may be one of the oldest WinterFests on record, having originated in 2001. Now there are annual celebrations in cities like Fort Lauderdale, FL.; Beloit, WI.; Gatlinburg, TN.; and Vaughan, Ontario, Canada, among others. WinterFest may be tied to sporting events, be centered around drawing people to Main Street or even take place in amusement parks.

WinterFest activities vary by location. Life-sized snow globes, cooking contests, rides, merchant shops, live holiday entertainment, and ice skating are part of some celebrations. These events encourage visitors to get out and enjoy themselves during the winter, highlighting all of the best the cold weather has to offer.

Towns and cities looking to provide visitors with something entertaining to do throughout January and February can consider organizing their own WinterFest celebrations to maximize a lull in the calendar when people likely are seeking entertaining things to do together.

December is a Popular Month for Movie Releases

Moviegoers may be familiar with summer blockbuster season, but winter, and December in particular, also is a popular time to release highly anticipated films. Over the last several year, a number of successful films have had December release dates and gone on to earn hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. The following are the top 10 grossing movies that debuted in December in their respective years, and their total domestic box office revenue, courtesy of The Numbers, a data and research services company.

2015: "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens," December 18th, $936,662,225
2021: "Spider-Man: No Way Home," December 17th, $814,115, 070
2009: "Avatar," December 18th, $785,221,649
2022: "Avatar: Way of Water," December 16th, $684,075,767
1997: "Titanic," December 19th, $674,396,795
2017: "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi," December 15th, $620,181,382
2016: "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," December 16th, $533,539,991
2019: "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," December 20th, $515,202,542
2017: "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," December 20th, $404,508,916
2003: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," December 17th, $379,021,990

Some highly anticipated films scheduled for release in December 2023 include "The Color Purple," "Spider-Man: Convergence," "Power Rangers: Origins," "Rebel Moon," and "The Iron Claw."

It's Not Uncommon to Encounter Eggnog at Some Point During the Holiday Season

A popular holiday beverage that typically contains milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, and rum, brandy or bourbon, eggnog tends to be high in calories, fat, saturated fat, and sugar. Anyone looking to indulge in a little holiday cheer without consuming so many calories may want to consider vegan eggnog. According to Consumer Reports, vegan eggnog tends to be lower in calories than its more traditional alternative. CR also reports that many vegan eggnogs it examined were lower in added sugars than those made with dairy.

Tasty Tidbits About Eggnog

· Eggnog likely originated in the medieval period and was known as "posset," a hot, milk-based drink made of spices and wine. Even though posset could be a cocktail, it also was used as a remedy for colds and flu for its soothing properties.

· Milk, eggs and sherry used in the early recipes were difficult to come by, so when eggnog first appeared it was a drink only the wealthy could enjoy. That changed when eggnog was popularized in the American colonies, where dairy products and liquor were more readily available.

· President George Washington apparently enjoyed serving eggnog at Christmas, and even had his own special recipe, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac.

· One of the more notable flavors in eggnog comes from the use of nutmeg. Nutmeg is a fragrant spice made from grinding the seed of the nutmeg tree.