‘Tis the Season for St. Louis Holiday Fun
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It’s hard to believe, but the holidays in St. Louis didn’t always involve putting up elaborate decorations and rushing around to find one last gift. In fact, the idea of a Christmas tree didn’t exist in Missouri until the 1830’s, when German immigrants brought small decorated tabletop trees into their Franklin County homes. Instead of the string lights we now wrap around our trees, they put candles on branches for a shimmering touch – similar to the Jewish Festival of Lights. They also introduced simple German traditions like hanging stockings for St. Nick to fill with small toys and fruit, gathering with family to sing carols together, and baking Plätzchen (Christmas cookies) to share with friends.
Since then, the holidays have evolved into weeks of shopping, prepping, and stressing. So much focus lies on making Christmas morning perfect that it’s easy to miss the magic of the season. This year, why not slow down and spend quality time with loved ones, just as our ancestors did?
The St. Louis Metro area offers lots of ways to put classic holiday fun back into the season.
St. Louis Area Light Displays
Way of Lights at The Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville
Since 1970, spectators have enjoyed driving through the Way of Lights mile-and-a-half-long lighted journey to Bethlehem. The exhibit features one million lights and life-size biblical statues, as well as a petting zoo with live animals from the nativity scene. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
Winter Wonderland at Tilles Park
This popular St. Louis County attraction has been wowing kids of all ages for more than 30 years. Visitors can either walk, drive, or take a carriage ride past over 100 glimmering holiday scenes like gingerbread houses and Santa’s workshop. Pricing varies depending on the transportation method.
Anheuser Busch Brewery Lights, Soulard
Whether holding a cold beer or hot cocoa in hand, strolling through this magical display will warm your heart. On weekends from Thanksgiving to Christmas, Pestalozzi Street (just across I-55 from our St. Louis City office!) is filled with millions of colorful lights and lots of fun, including fire pits for making S’mores. Entrance to Brewery Lights is free, and kids are welcome. S’mores kits and beverages are available for purchase.
Candy Cane Lane, St. Louis Hills
Every holiday season, the residents of Murdoch Avenue transform their street into a winter wonderland of light displays, inflatables, and even sand sculptures. There’s no charge to drive down “Candy Cane Lane,'' but donations are welcomed in an effort to raise money for local charities such as the Salvation Army. And since Ted Drewes is right around the corner on Chippewa (and open year-round), a stop for frozen custard is the perfect way to end this magical experience.
The Nutcracker, Various Venues
No matter where you live in St. Louis, there’s probably a performance of this holiday classic nearby. It’s the story of a young girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve, then battles an evil Mouse King. Check the Fox Theatre, Touhill Performing Arts Center, Midwest Ballet Theatre, and local ice arenas for dates and times.
Brothers Lazaroff Hanukkah Hullabaloo, The Grandel
For over a decade, the miracle of Hanukkah has been celebrated at this musical event held in the Grand Center Arts District. Rabbi James Stone Goodman and the Eight Nights Orchestra perform their experimental spoken word electro-klezmer piece "Eight Nights," and latkes are fried on stage. Proceeds go to the local Jewish Community Centre.
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Outdoor Family Fun
Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park
Looking to burn off those Christmas cookie calories? Head to the largest outdoor ice rink in the Midwest, which has been providing ice skating fun since 1957. It’s open every day of the week, and indoor seating is available for warming up with hot cocoa from the concession stand. Novice skaters can register for weekend lessons on Steinberg’s website.
Sledding on Art Hill
After a 1905 snowstorm, World’s Fair workers grabbed folding chairs and rode them down a big hill across from the Art Museum in Forest park – beginning a sledding tradition that would last for over a century. If we’re lucky enough to get snow this holiday season, bundle up the family and experience the fun for yourself.
Visits with Santa
Santa’s House, Belleville
Located in the heart of Belleville’s downtown square, this quaint cottage has been providing a safe place for children to read their wish list to Santa since 1964. Families can enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting in line and can get a sneak peek of the big guy in red through the window. Pets are welcome to get their photos with Santa, too!
The Polar Express, Union Station
Kids who love this classic book and movie will love riding the real-life train to Santa’s Workshop. While music from the soundtrack plays in the background, passengers are served hot cocoa and cookies by dancing and singing chefs. Once they arrive at the North Pole, Santa and his helpers board the train and give every child a silver sleigh bell. Tickets go fast, so be sure to make reservations early.
Festivals and Shopping
St. Charles Christmas Traditions
From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, Main Street in St. Charles welcomes guests into a world of holiday nostalgia. Visitors can meet classic Dickens characters like Ebenezer Scrooge, taste roasted chestnuts fresh from the fire, and experience a candlelight reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Photos with a Victorian Santa are available in The Historic KATY Train Depot in Frontier Park.
Unique European gifts, handcrafted items, and delicious treats can all be found at this open-air German Market. Located near Santa’s House in downtown Belleville, visitors can shop vendor booths for ornaments, jewelry, art, gourmet snacks, and a variety of other options while enjoying live entertainment. There’s also a popular Gingerbread Walk featuring award-winning gingerbread creations displayed in merchant windows along East and West Main Streets.
Looking for more to do? Our post from last year, 25 Iconic Places to Visit in Winter in Missouri and Illinois has additional ideas that happen every year.
We hope you take time to enjoy your family this holiday season. All of us at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties will be here for your real estate needs in the New Year!
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