Step into a small-town Christmas. Visit the North Pole, in Indiana. Ask a Fairy Godmother for a Christmas wish. Meet George Bailey’s kids – yes, that George Bailey. Here are four places where families and couples can make holiday memories and traditions.
Where angels get their wings
“Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”
The most famous line from “It’s a Wonderful Life” was spoken by Karolyn Grimes in the role of Zuzu Bailey. Fans of the beloved 1946 Jimmy Stewart holiday classic will be able to meet Grimes and her movie siblings, Carol Coombs (“Janie Bailey”) and Jimmy Hawkins (“Tommy Bailey”), during the movie’s 70th Anniversary Celebration weekend, Dec. 9 through 11, in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
This is the first time the trio will appear together in Seneca Falls, known as “the real Bedford Falls” and home of the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum. This museum displays hundreds of pieces of memorabilia from Grimes’ personal collection, including pictures affectionately signed by Stewart: “To Zuzu with my love.”
Two special dinners will take place during this event: The Preview Dinner: Celebrating the Premiere of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Frank Capra’s Legacy and Days of “Auld Lang Syne”: Celebrating the Final Scene from “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Special guests include Mary Owen, the daughter of Donna Reed (“Mary Bailey”) and Monica Capra Hodges, granddaughter of Frank Capra, the movie’s director. Special exhibitors include Lynn O’Leary Jameson, “Portraying ‘Janie’ As a Baby,” and Richard Goodson, “A Passion for Preserving the Legacy of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ ”
For Grimes, continuing the legacy of this movie is a gift.
“I have a lot of gratitude,” she said. “It has given me the opportunity to be this little girl who lives on through the movie. The movie has so much to give to people and it means so much to so many people all over the world.”
Only here: Grimes will be autographing copies of her new children’s book, “Zuzu’s Petals, A Dream of It’s a Wonderful Life,” during the event. Copies of the book may be purchased at www.Zuzu.net.
Unwrap a magical small-town Christmas
Get immersed in the beauty, joy and magic of a small-town Christmas at Christmas Round Bardstown in Kentucky. This seven-week-long celebration packs 25 unique events into the holiday calendar, including Light Up Bardstown on Nov. 25 when the town comes together on picturesque Court Square for the official lighting of the Christmas tree and lamppost wreaths.
Families have their pick of Santa-themed train excursions. Get a ticket for the North Pole Express with Kentucky Railway Museum (KRM), Friday-Sunday, Dec. 2 to 19, and on Monday, Dec. 19, featuring cookies and hot chocolate. KRM will also have a Santa Express every Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3 to 18, and on Monday, Dec. 19.
My Old Kentucky Dinner Train hosts its popular North Pole Express the first three Saturdays and Sundays in December. Children can make crafts and watch a movie in the depot before boarding the train, where Santa Claus will join everyone.
The Bourbon Capital of the World, Bardstown will present a special evening with legendary Jim Beam Master Distiller, Fred Noe on Dec. 9 at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse. The “Come Home for the Holidays” dinner includes live music, mixology creations and premium bourbon tasting, along with a Christmas gift: holiday swag bags. At one of the world’s most well-known distilleries, Maker’s Mark, evening candlelight tours will take place at its decorated 1850s Victorian village on Dec. 3 and 10.
Only here: Take an evening candlelight tour of My Old Kentucky Home, Dec. 15 through 18. Recognized all over the world and one of the most cherished historical sites in Kentucky, Federal Hill shares the story of a Victorian Christmas accompanied by holiday music and refreshments.
Information and tickets: 800-638-4877, www.visitbardstown.com.
Christmas wishes come true
There is a magical place in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a fairytale English-inspired village dressed for the holidays, castle ruins trimmed in winking white lights and a Fairy Godmother who makes Christmas wishes come true.
Shimmering with more than one million lights for the holidays, Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, Ga., is an enchanting holiday getaway for families and couples alike. Winter activities include horseback riding through the woodlands, crafting a gingerbread house or wreath, enjoying s’mores around a firepit or finishing up holiday shopping at the resort’s boutique and sporting shops.
Book the resort’s “Light Up The Holidays” package (valid Nov. 26 to Dec. 29, 2016) and enjoy luxurious cottage accommodations, a $50 resort credit and a keepsake Barnsley Resort ornament.
Use the credit for shopping, a spa treatment, activities like clay shooting or dinner in one of the three restaurants, which dish up gourmet new southern cuisine. Rates start at $259 per night Sunday through Thursday and from $349 per night for weekends.
Only here: Book a love spell. “Couples choose to spend their holidays at Barnsley Resort to experience our carefree magic in the midst of what can be a hectic time of year,” said Fairy Godmother, who prefers to remain anonymous. “A love spell during the holidays helps add romance to any winter getaway.”
Information and reservations: 877-773-2447, www.barnsleyresort.com. Check the Events Calendar for dates and rates for the Gingerbread House Crafting and Wreath Making Class.
All Santa all the time
The name says it all: Santa Claus. That is, the place, not the person – although he definitely is a huge presence in the town that bears his name. “America’s Christmas Hometown,” Santa Claus, Ind., holds its annual Christmas Celebration the first three weekends of December.
Highlights include driving the 1.2-mile Santa Claus Land of Lights at Lake Rudolph; visiting the Santa Claus Museum & Village where children can write a letter to Santa; presenting your case – naughty or nice – to an elf on the North Pole Network at Santa’s Candy Castle; watching the holiday production, “Scrooge’s Christmas”; and shopping at Christmas-themed shops and among the homemade crafts and goodies at the Santa Claus Arts & Crafts Show.
The annual Santa Claus Christmas Parade takes place on Dec. 10. New this year is the Brew Ho Ho, a beer fest featuring local breweries, on Dec. 17.
Several packages are available for the Santa Claus Christmas Celebration, including “Rudolph’s Family Christmas” at Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Enjoy a two-night stay in a Rudolph’s Christmas cabin, two vehicle passes to the Santa Claus Land of Lights, a continental breakfast with Santa and $20 worth of Rudy Bucks for family Christmas activities. $310. 888-929-7010, www.lakerudolph.com
Only here: The famous Santa Claus picture postmark, created annually by a local student, that will cancel postage stamps on holiday mail is here, at only post office in the world with the Santa Claus name.
Information: 888-444-9252, SantaClausInd.org/Christmas.