Thursday, December 6, 2018

Be Merry! 11 Solid Holiday Activities

So you want to get out of the house and do Holiday Things. Here are some of our tried and true annual favorites:

Visit the singing bears: You're never too old for holiday tunes sung by the animatronic Leanoard Bearstein symphony orchestra at Founders Hall uptown (100 N. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC 28202). Dare you not to hum along. . .

Marvel at the Ritz-Carlton gingerbread house: Just across the street from Founders Hall is the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte (201 E. Trade St., Charlotte, NC 20202), where you'll be amazed by a giant edible gingerbread house and trendy holiday decorations. Grab a sweet treat at Bar Cocoa while you're there.

Lace up some ice skates: Even if it's been a while (or never) since you've been on skates, this is such a quintessential wintery thing to do. This miniature pop-up skating rink is located on the Nascar Hall of Fame plaza (400 E. MLK Jr. Blvd., Charlotte, NC 20202). Who cares if you're hugging the wall the whole time. You're making memories. Besides, it's just fun to be out on the town -- especially with the bright lights strung overhead at night.

Go see The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: If you go to just one live performance a year, make it this one at Children's Theatre of Charlotte (300 E. 7th St., Charlotte, NC 20202). The young actors' talent is jaw-dropping. This musical is clever, funny and poignant. This is a whole-family outing; kids as young as three will be enthralled.

Visit the Charlotte Christmas Village: The aromas alone make this a worthy destination. This quaint market offers food and other vendors, plus activities, performances and special events throughout the season. Located at the corner of 7th St. and N. Tryon.

See the lights at McAdenville: And may I recommend you do it by foot; click here to learn how. It's worth the 30 minute drive to experience Christmastown USA .

Stroll through more lights at DSBG: Dubbed "A mile of a million lights," this display at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden (6500 South New Hope Rd., Belmont, NC 28012) is impressive and fun for the whole family. This will get you in a twinkly spirit.

Pick out an ornament at Blackhawk Hardware: It's our annual tradition to have the kids select one ornament that represents something important to them that year. Here, you'll find the best, most exhaustive (hands down) collection to choose from. Located at Park Road Shopping Center (4101 Park Rd., Charlotte, NC 28209). Bonus: Free popcorn!

Enjoy the Hillside light balls: While you're in the Park Rd. area, swing by this neighborhood display of lighted balls hanging from the highest branches of old growth trees on Hillside Ave. It really is magical and breathtaking. No surprise, I recommend you walk. Park at the Mellow Mushroom on Selwyn (2820 Selwyn Ave., Charlotte, NC 28209) for dinner and take a stroll when you're done. Bring a non-perishable food item to donate in the Loaves & Fishes bin.

If you're into neighborhood light displays, here's some suggestions of others around town.

Check out Gingerbread Lane: Peruse rows of homemade gingerbread houses and, for a $1 donation, vote for your favorite at the Ballantyne Hotel (10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28277). Some are stunning, some are whimsical, and all make for an entertaining outing.

Decorate cookies for Santa: For the inevitable day you can't get out to play, you can't go wrong with decorating sugar cookies. Here's our favorite recipe:

  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Beat the shortening, butter, sugar, vanilla and almond extract. Beat in the eggs.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the butter mixture and mix well.

Wrap the dough cling wrap (I usually make 3 or 4 balls) and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Flour a work surface (consider covering it with cling wrap first for easy clean up) and roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake 4 to 5 minutes or until the cookies are slightly golden (don't let the edges get brown). Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Decorate using store-bought frosting and sprinkles or toppings OR dip the top side of the cookies in a homemade frosting glaze you can make by adding a spoonful or two of milk and a drop or two of food coloring to several cups of powdered sugar. Mix well until the glaze is no longer runny (add sugar or milk as needed to achieve the right consistency). Dry the cookies on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Happy holidays!