Lora Kormos

The Top 10 best ways to spend the holidays in NEPA (and beyond)

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the Christmas season is officially upon Northeastern Pennsylvania. The cold weather, the holiday music, the Christmas parades, and the decorations that went up in the stores long before Halloween was even here are sure to have put you in the holiday spirit by now. Here are just some of the events happening that will keep the spirit alive and make your season merry and bright, in no particular order.

1. Christmas in Our Hometown (Tunkhannock) – Whether you are visiting from another state or from around the block, there’s nothing like the feeling of being home for the holidays, and with Christmas in Our Hometown, that’s exactly how the town of Tunkhannock wants you to feel. Take a stroll down Tioga Street as it comes to life with carolers, horse-drawn wagon rides, ice sculptures, trolley rides, a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and other holiday surprises. Businesses will be opened and ready to hand out hot chocolate, candy, nuts, cider, and baked goods as you take in the surroundings.

The event will take place Friday, Dec. 5 and Saturday, Dec. 6.

The town of Tunkhannock will also have a few events running alongside Christmas in Our Hometown. On Dec. 6-7, the Tunkhannock Library will hold their annual Christmas variety show inside Tunkhannock High School (135 Tiger Dr., Tunkhannock). The show will feature performances from local singers and dancers. Also, running until Dec. 13, shoppers will be greeted by the Wreaths of Tunkhannock. Over 30 Tunkhannock businesses will participate by decorating a wreath with a theme. Shoppers are encouraged to visit six of these wreaths and record the theme on a card and return them with hopes of winning gift cards.

2. Breakfasts with Santa (Exeter, Moosic) – The Wyoming Area Kiwanis Club, Key Club, and Builders Club will hold their annual Breakfast with Santa at the Wyoming Area Secondary Center cafeteria (20 Memorial St., Exeter). Those in attendance will get a delicious breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage, coffee, tea, juice, milk, and hot chocolate. Children can participate in arts and crafts inside Santa’s Wonderland and have their photos taken with Santa. The event will be held on Sunday, Dec. 7 from 8:30 a.m.-noon. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children over 2.

The following weekend, on Saturday, Dec. 13, there will be a Breakfast with Santa at PNC Field (235 Montage Mountain Rd., Moosic). Each guest will receive a breakfast of scrambled eggs, mini pancakes, home fries, ham, sausage, juice, and coffee. Children will be able to participate in different arts and crafts and will get a special visit from the man in red and the Railriders’ mascots. The U.S. Marines will also be there collecting new and unused toys for the Toys for Tots campaign. The event will run from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under, and free for children under 2.

If you are looking for a Breakfast with Santa with a bit of a twist to it, head just up the road to Montage Mountain in Moosic as they host their second annual Breakfast and Snow Tubing with Santa on Sunday, Dec. 21 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Your ticket will include an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet in Slocum Hollow Lodge, a visit with Santa, and a three-hour snow tubing ticket. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children 12 and under, and free for children under 2.

3. Nay Aug Park holiday lights (Scranton) – Hop in your car and experience almost 200 light displays that illuminate Nay Aug Park (500 Arthur Ave., Scranton) every night starting at 5 p.m. Scranton’s largest public park is again hosting its annual Christmas light spectacle.

Visitors will spot all their favorite classic Christmas characters, including Santa, snowmen, gingerbread men, and reindeer at this impressive show. The display stretches throughout the entire park. Also, once you exit the park, be sure to check out the nearby Arthur Avenue houses with their incredible light displays year after year.

The display is free to view as a gift to the community from the Scranton Municipal Recreational Authority in cooperation with the city of Scranton Parks and Recreation Department. Donations will be accepted to benefit the park operations.

The park will be lit up until Jan. 2.

4. Holiday on the Square (Scranton) – The streets of downtown Scranton will bustle with the sounds of Christmas as a festive outdoor market springs to life in Courthouse Square on Dec. 5-6. This will be the second year that Lackawanna County and ScrantonMade have partnered up for this holiday event. The event will run in conjunction with the First Friday Art Walk.

Holiday on the Square is a one-of-a-kind holiday outdoor marketplace. The event will showcase over 50 of the area’s top artists and artisans. Jewelry, clothing, and paintings will be readily available to purchase so you can check everyone off your shopping list. The square will also be transformed into a winter wonderland with the lighting of the courthouse tree on Friday at 6 p.m., carolers, live music, workshops, and hot food and drinks.

Also running simultaneously with the event, ScrantonMade and the Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau will hold a #ShopScranton gift card contest. Shoppers will be entered to win gift cards to various downtown businesses. On Saturday, participating businesses will hold open houses with treats and specials.

Holiday on the Square will run Friday, Dec. 5 from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 6 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

5. Christmas plays (Swoyersville, Bloomsburg, Scranton) – The Music Box Dinner Playhouse (196 Hughes St., Swoyersville) will run the Tony-nominated 2012 Broadway musical version of everyone’s favorite 24-hour Christmas tradition, “A Christmas Story.” The play tells the story of young Ralphie and his wish to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and will run every Thursday-Sunday from Dec. 5-21.

The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (226 Center St., Bloomsburg) will run “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” every Thursday-Sunday from Nov. 28-Dec. 28 (no shows on Christmas). The play follows the adventures of a girl and a mouse as they travel to the North Pole in response to an emergency.

The Scranton Cultural Center will run a new musical comedy by Grammy Award winner Harry Connick Jr., called “The Happy Elf.” The play tells the tale of an elf that is determined to spread Christmas cheer wherever he goes and will run every Friday-Sunday from Dec. 19-28.

6. Koziar’s Christmas Village (Bernville) – Just outside of Reading, Koziar’s Christmas Village (782 Christmas Village Rd., Bernville) has been spreading joy for generations. William M. Koziar began decorating his farm home for the enjoyment of his wife and children in 1948. Neighbors, astounded by the display, began referring to the property as the “Christmas House.” With that enthusiasm, Koziar began adding onto the display yearly and decided to invite the public onto the property to take a closer look.

Koziar’s Christmas Village provides one of the greatest holiday displays in the entire country. Once the sky darkens, the property springs to life amongst the dark countryside with over 500,000 lights. Take a trip there and you will discover the elaborately decorated home and barn of the Koziar family. Once you enter the village, you’ll be warmly greeted by several costumed favorites and travel the path to see all the displays. The village contains several large dioramas depicting scenes, such as Christmas in the jungle, a toy shop, a nativity scene, and an old-fashioned bakery.

There are also numerous displays throughout the farmland and an outdoor handcrafted train display. Additionally, the “Kissing Bridge,” which has seen quite a few proposals, is the perfect pre-Christmas surprise for a special someone. Santa will also be on hand to take photos and hear wish lists.

Koziar’s Christmas Village has repeatedly won numerous awards, including the Award of Excellence from the Pennsylvania Travel Council as one of the top 10 attractions in the state and the best outdoor Christmas display by Display World Magazine. It has also recently been included in the American Bus Association’s 2015 top group destinations in North America. This will be the attraction’s 67th year in business.

Koziar’s Christmas Village is open every day from now until Jan. 1. Check the website for hours and pricing.

7. Arctic Paws Dog Sled Tours (Pocono Manor) – You don’t need to travel to the Arctic to experience a wilderness adventure. If you are searching for something unique to do around the holidays, why not check out Arctic Paws Dog Sled Tours, located at The Inn at Pocono Manor (1 Manor Dr., Pocono Manor)?

Once the snow covers the golf course at The Inn, Arctic Paws Dog Sled Tours opens for business. This is an interactive tour where you get to be a musher (driver) and passenger on a sled controlled by 8-10 huskies. You will receive a crash course on how to be a musher, learning how to stay on the sled and change positions from the rider to the driver. Once you are trained, you will proceed on your adventure across the 3,000-acre golf course.

The owners operate the tour with over 20 huskies, some that were raised from puppies and some that were rescued or shelter dogs. Every dog is either a Siberian husky or an Alaskan husky.

Arctic Paws Dog Sled Tours open around Dec. 15 and run until March, if they are lucky. 4-6” of snow on the ground is required on the dog sled trails, and the temperature must be below 40 degrees.

8. Winter Light Spectacular at the Lehigh Valley Zoo (Schnecksville) – Take a stroll through the Lehigh Valley Zoo (5150 Game Preserve Rd., Schnecksville) as it is transformed into a winter wonderland. Even though most of the animals will be off-exhibit to get their beauty sleep, you will get to see beautiful tree-lined paths lit by thousands of lights and animated displays.

There will also be family friendly activities throughout the zoo, including games, synthetic snowball fights, picture opportunities, special surprises from the Grinch and Elsa, live reindeer, and, of course, Santa will be there every night.

It is open from Nov. 15-Jan. 10 every Wednesday-Sunday (the zoo will be closed on Christmas Day). Adult admission is $14, and children ages 2-11 will be $8.

9. Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square) – Just a short two-hour drive from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area is Longwood Gardens (1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square). Longwood Gardens contains over 1,000 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows. This attraction is open year-round for visitors to explore botanical gardens, exotic plants, fountains, and the conservatory. Every winter, the gardens transform into a magical Christmas wonderland called A Longwood Christmas. Visitors will experience over half a million lights strung around the many trees, poinsettias, Christmas trees big and small, snowflakes hanging overhead, and a magnificent open air fountain show.

Each year, the theme for A Longwood Christmas changes. The theme this year is inspired by birds, with the gardens decorated with nests, birdhouses, topiary swans, and feathered friend ornaments hiding amongst the trees.

While there, you can take in one of the many performances the gardens have to offer. You can sing along to holiday songs played on the Longwood Organ, catch a local choir or musician performing seasonal favorites, or see a strolling performance in the gardens on the weekends. In the Chimes Tower, a 62-bell carillon plays holiday music every half hour. Inside Longwood Garden’s heated conservatory, you will see over 16,000 seasonal plants, including poinsettias, begonias, and lilies. Guests will be greeted by dozens of Christmas trees, some reaching as high as 22 feet, and if you step inside the Music Room, you will witness a peacock masquerade ball complete with an 18-foot rotating peacock-themed tree.

Admission to the gardens is by a timed ticket admission only, with tickets offering entrance on a specific date and time. If you go, purchasing your admission ticket in advance is strongly recommended, as there are limited slots per day.

A Longwood Christmas is on display from Nov. 27-Jan. 11.

10. The Ugly Sweater Run (Philadelphia) – We all know that come Christmastime, we tend to stuff ourselves with turkey, eggnog, and those delicious holiday cookies, so why not take part in the merriest 5k on the planet to burn off some of those calories? The Ugly Sweater Run will take place at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia on Dec. 13. Throughout the course, you’ll be greeted by smiling faces at the hot chocolate stations, snow blowers, and large inflatable decorations, all while listening to holiday music.

Most importantly, don’t forget to grab your ugliest sweater, or your best, depending on your definition. At the end of the race, there will be prizes for the ugliest sweater, best sweater, best real mustache, best fake mustache, and best beard.

Plus, all those 21 and over get to celebrate their post 5k victory with a Sam Adams or Angry Orchard Cider. Cheers to the holidays!