By Darren Nelson, feature writer for My Local Utah
It’s not hard to find some fun things to do or see in Utah during the holidays. Just venture to your local downtown or check your city’s Facebook page to find local entertainment, events, or good food to eat. Popular traditions like seeing the lights at Temple Square and shopping across the street at City Creek in downtown Salt Lake City are always fun. As is visiting the Christmas Village in Ogden. My Local Utah has a few off-the-beaten-path events that might be of interest to you this holiday season.
The Lightwalk at Tracy Aviary
November 25th to January 1, 5 – 9 pm
This fun holiday experience is for the whole family. Take a nighttime walk through Tracy Aviary’s Liberty Park while illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights. The Aviary has partnered with Lightwalk SLC to bring a spectacular light display to the Salt Lake valley.
The light displays include a giant Christmas Light Maze and a lighted tunnel. Lightwalk is more than lights with yummy food and beverages provided by local food trucks. Nightly musical performances will deliver some holiday spirit too. A festive Christmas Market featuring local arts, crafts, and treats arrives every weekend. The Lightwalk also features visits with Santa daily from 6 – 8 p.m. This event runs from November 25th to January 1, 5 – 9 pm (closed on December 24th and 25th).
Receive a $5 discount on in-person tickets Monday-Thursday if you bring a nonperishable food item to donate! Attendees to Lightwalk can also enjoy a discounted return visit to Tracy Aviary during the day from December through February! Click here for more details.
Candlelight Christmas at This is the Place Heritage Park
A beautiful place to visit throughout the year, This Is the Place Heritage Park turns into a Christmas card in December. An old-fashioned Christmas village setting, complete with Father Christmas, makes for a great holiday experience for the whole family.
Walk through this winter village and stop in one of the decorated historic homes or pioneer cabins and join in the fun of making a handcrafted gift or purchasing one at one of the many old-fashioned shops. Enjoy the live nativity scene and the Heritage Village Carolers. Father Christmas has even brought his live reindeer with him.
The Huntsman Hotel opens at 5 pm serving up warm soups and burgers. The Village is open from 6 – 9 pm Monday through Saturday evenings (closed Dec 24 and 25). Click here for more information.
The Nutcracker at Ballet West
This is a holiday tradition in my family where grandma and her granddaughters make an evening of it. Follow Clara on her magical journey through the Land of Snow and Sweets to meet the mystical Sugar Plum Fairy. The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition for young and young-at-heart. Enjoy this 100-year-old classic performed in this 100-year-old iconic Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City. Runs from December 5 – 31. Click here for more information.
Temple Square in Salt Lake City
Ok, I mentioned this above, but it really is Utah’s signature holiday event. In the center of downtown, Temple Square’s 10 acres become an amazing sight to see with over a million twinkling lights. The square is home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and is decorated in celebration of the Christmas holiday from the day after Thanksgiving thru December 31. Visitors can stroll the grounds at no charge and see the colors of Christmas. People from all over the world have made it a point to see the lights at Temple Square, an annual event dating back over 50 years. The annual “Savior of the World” Musical runs November 21 through January 3, and the Christmas on Temple Square concert series begins Saturday, November 29. Tickets to these events are free but must be obtained in advance (online or by phone). Many other musical ensembles perform throughout the Square through December 31. Visit their website for details.
38th Annual Larry H. Miller FREE Christmas Carol Sing-Along
The sounds of the holiday season will fill Vivint Arena in December as the Larry H. and Gail Miller family welcomes the community to its 38th annual FREE Christmas concert and sing-along. Featuring special guest artists Mat and Savanna Shaw—and special guest emcee Kurt Bestor—this Christmas Carol Sing-Along will easily become a family tradition. A 60-piece West Valley Symphony of Utah conducted by Donny Gilbert is on hand along with returning guest conductor Sterling Poulson. Keep an eye out for Santa Claus and the Jazz Bear! The event takes place on Monday, December 19 at 6:00 pm. Click here for more information.
The North Pole Express
If you are looking to add an unforgettable memory and build a new family tradition, then I recommend the North Pole Express at the Heber Valley Railroad. The Heber Valley Railroad has created some fun adventures for different seasons of the year, and this one is filled with holiday ambiance. This 90-minute round-trip train ride to the North Pole includes hot cocoa and Mrs. Claus’ famous chocolate chip cookies. You’ll sing along to new and traditional Christmas favorites on the way and be entertained by our hosts, elves cocoa chefs, and special guests. When we reach the North Pole Santa will join us for the return trip and greet each child and present them with a special gift.
Join us on this fun and traditional train ride to the North Pole! A family favorite, this 90-minute round trip to the North Pole includes hot cocoa and Mrs. Claus’ famous chocolate chip cookies. You’ll sing along to new and traditional Christmas favorites on the way and be entertained by our hosts, elves cocoa chefs, and special guests. When we reach the North Pole Santa will join us for the return trip and greet each child and present them with a special gift. It is recommended that you arrive 30-45 minutes before departure. The North Pole Express leaves on time! Click here for more details.
Annual Crazy Daisy Christmas Show
Sometimes the best holiday memories come from gathering with friends or loved ones for some holiday shopping. The Annual Crazy Daisy Christmas Show on December 9th and 10th at the Mountain America Expo Center is a fun shopping experience. With the shopping comes visits with Santa each day, nonstop entertainment, and delicious food on Candy Cane Lane. Plus, there are some great giveaways just for attending!
The Annual Crazy Day Christmas show is taking denotations for Coats for Kids charity each day. For every donation, you will receive an extra entry to the giveaway! Entrance to the show is FREE. Click here for more information.
Looking for something fun and different to do for the holidays in Provo, visit the Startup Market. Held from 5 – 9 pm every Monday at the Startup Building (560 S 100 W St. in Provo). Food trucks, games, live music, and more. Check out their Instagram page for more details.
Laughing All the Way
Searching for a live entertainment holiday experience? Presented by Jumping Turtle LLC at Ogden High School, Laughing All the Way is a fun family Christmas event! Best-selling authors and motivational speakers Hank Smith, Meg Johnson, and John Bytheway bring you some Christmas spirit through fun, laughter, and inspirational holiday messages.
Host Mark Williams and special musical guest Carmen Rasmusen Herbert complete the festivities with entertaining stories and Christmas songs that will have you smiling and singing along. You’ll certainly laugh as you feel closer to The Reason for the Season. Laughing All the Way takes place on December 16. Tickets are limited and sell out quickly. To get tickets and learn more details, click here.
The St George Gingerbread Parade
One day only come and see all the festive gingerbread houses in one place! Hosted by Downtown Farmers Market at Vernon Worthen Park December 17, 10 am – 2 pm. Plenty going on here as local bakers, families, and children come to show off their gingerbread creations. This live emceed event will feature food trucks, live music, a holiday market, and a Xmas Sweater for Your Pet contest. For more details and tickets, click here.
Tree of Light in Draper
This giant willow tree in Draper is adorned with approximately a half-million white lights during the holiday season. This tree takes nearly 700 man-hours to decorate and is a sight to see. Located in Draper City Park (12500 South 1300 East), you can see this tree for miles. The entire park is decorated with lights, including a bridge. The park is open and free to anyone who wants to see what hundreds of thousands of lights on one tree looks like.