The holidays are fast approaching, and sometimes the madness of finding the perfect gift and preparing for family visitors can overshadow everything. For kids, the holidays can be a magical time, but the anticipation is usually just for the holiday, thanks to busy parents. The Philadelphia area is filled with things to help families enjoy more time together during the holiday season. This year, carve some time out to enjoy one of these activities that will make the season more unique.

George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker”
Academy of Music
240 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 790-5800

Dates: Dec. 7-29, 2013

“The Nutcracker” may not seem unique, but with the amount of local children in the cast who are students at The School of Pennsylvania Ballet or in the Philadelphia Boys Choir, chances are that a classmate is in the production. The production is magical, and not only because it is in the historic Academy of Music building. There are special events in conjunction with the production each year, like Tea with the Sugarplum Fairy for select matinee performances.

Strasburg Railroad
301 Gap Road
Ronks, PA 17572
(717) 687-7522

The railroad in the heart of Lancaster County and the Pennsylvania Dutch Countryside has two special events for Christmas. Starting Thanksgiving weekend, families get to travel with the big guy on Santa’s Paradise Express. There are sing-a-longs and even hot chocolate available on the train ride. The Night Before Christmas Train, held on Friday nights, features a storyteller dressed in Victorian night clothes reading the classic tale.

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Kitchen Kettle Village
3529 Old Philadelphia Pike
Intercourse, PA 17534
(717) 768-8261

Also in Lancaster County, Kitchen Kettle Village is more than a shopping destination during the holiday season. It provides some old-fashioned fun for families. Mrs. Claus is on hand every Friday night from Thanksgiving to Christmas. She tells a story by the fireplace at The Kling House Restaurant with her friend Yummie, a gingerbread man. Children can also enjoy roasting marshmallows, making s’mores and decorating gingerbread cookies outdoors. Carolers and roaming musicians also provide entertainment throughout the village.

“Moo Shu Jew Show”
Ocean Harbor
1023 Race St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Date: Dec. 24, 2013

The combination comedy show and Chinese banquet is a fun way for Jews to enjoy Christmas Eve. Because the stand-up routines can involve adult humor, it is recommended that those who have not yet had their bar/bat mitzvah not attend. The comedians scheduled to perform during the 90-minute event are Cory Kahaney, Mike Fine and Harrison Greenbaum. Tickets are available in advance or at the door.

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Kwanzaa Celebration With Queen Nur
Garden State Discovery Museum
2040 Springdale Road
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
(856) 424-1233

Date: Dec. 26, 2013

The Garden State Discovery Museum provides many unique learning opportunities throughout the year for children to learn about the different cultures in the community. Queen Nur is known nationally as a storyteller and teaching artist. In fact, she teaches storytelling at Rutgers Camden. For Kwanzaa, she visits the kids’ museum to teach about the holiday through her stories and traditional music, song and dance. She will be at the museum for the celebration from noon to 3 p.m. on December 26

Samantha Sinclair is a freelance writer who lives in South Jersey. She has two boys who love “adventuring.” Her work can be found at