Best Christmas Vacations
He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. And since Mr. Claus' omnipresence means his navigational ability remains unmatched, don't be afraid to vacation during the holidays for fear that he won't find your chimney. For now, pack up your, um, sleigh and crank the carols up loud, because here are our favorite festive jaunts that promise to add a little fa la la to your Christmas this season.
Jump on the next northern-bound plane and visit the man in red in his natural environment -- well, almost. Through British company Esprit, you can journey to the far depths of inhabited Lapland and step within the boundaries of the Arctic Circle. There, reindeer roam free, as do a plethora of other cold-weather wildlife, like the Arctic fox and hare. Engage in a variety of outdoor activities - from more common pursuits like snowmobiling and toboggan-racing to Lapland specialties like reindeer-lassoing and snow-hockey - and stick around long enough to behold the breathtaking Northern Lights in all their glory once the sun goes down. The Elf School and Santa's Control Center allow ample opportunities for your children (and you, too, if you so desire) to understand the intricate inner workings of all the North Pole's entities, while the Ice Gallery and snowball range provide additional chilly alternatives. Trips ranging from 1 to 4 days are available throughout December. Prices include round-trip airfare from select airports in the United Kingdom.
Chris van Allsburg's beloved childhood tale The Polar Express, in which a small boy hops upon a train in search of the truth behind Kris Kringle, may be fictional, but you can still have a similar experience aboard New England's authentic expressway of the same name. Departing from 2 separate New Hampshire locales -- North Conway Village and downtown Lincoln -- the Polar Express snakes its way through the White Mountains during a 2-hour journey chock-full of Christmas joy. Hundreds of pajama-clad kids and their equally youthful parents make the trek through snowy peaks, witnessing Santa and his army of wee elves in a unique and unforgettable way.
Disney World may seem like one big celebration at any time of the year, but it boosts its cheer factor tenfold once the last of the Thanksgiving turkey has been consumed and the first sign of tinsel glistens down upon the Sunshine State. Whether you're singing along with Harlem Gospel Choir, dancing beside Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade, or observing the many world cultures and their Christmas customs at Epcot Center's Holidays Around the World, you'll catch the holiday fever from Disney's contagiously convivial creations. Join Minnie, Donald, Goofy and the gang for a steaming mug of hot chocolate at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, as Cinderella lights her castle in a remarkable display of festive ornamentation leading up to a dazzling fireworks show.
If your reindeer are on the fritz and you can't make it to the North Pole this time around, try the next best thing and hit up North Pole, NY. It may hardly be any closer to the Arctic Circle than your own backyard, but your kids won't know that, and you'll soon forget yourself as you escape into the Adirondacks' own version of a winter wonderland. Visit Santa's workshop, stop by and see the candymaker whip up a batch of sweets, watch the glassblower give a demonstration on how Christmas ornaments are made, or engage in a friendly chat with Tannenbaum, the giant talking tree.