Happy Holidays, Frohe Feiertage, Joyeuses fêtes, ¡Felices Fiestas!

The Best Fireworks, Thermal Baths, Ice Skating, Christmas Market, Witnessing Handel’s Messiah
Leukerbad  Family Sledding
Take sledding beyond the jump you made in your front yard: Bring the kids to the slopes of Leukerbad in Switzerland (courtesy, Leukerbad)

The Place to See Fireworks: Valencia, Spain
They call their city the Fireworks Capital of the World. Visit during the mid-March Las Fallas festival and you'll experience not only a spectacular abundance of fireworks but also one of the most vividly orchestrated celebrations in Europe. It's Mardi Gras times hundreds—but very much for families and children. The festival includes dazzling daily fireworks, parades in which participants are dressed in elaborate traditional costumes, and hundreds of fallas—giant, generally humorous figures of papier mache and wood—set across the city. On the last day, St. Joseph Day, there are two parades after which the fallas are set alight to burn in brilliant pyres, followed by a roaring fireworks display to end all displays. Pack the earplugs for young children—it can get loud! www.fallasfromvalencia.com

Best Place to Combine Snow Sports with Thermal Baths: Leukerbad, Switzerland
Some like it hot, some like it cold. In Leukerbad you can have it both ways—frosty slopes in the morning, steamy thermal baths in the afternoon. The Burgerbad is Europe's largest thermal bath, with ten pools of varying temperatures for soaking or swimming, steam rooms, and a 230-foot slide for kids. Leukerbad is easy on the budget, too. Kids ages seven and younger ski free at the Gemmi and Torrent winter sports areas and have free admission to the Burgerbad. Families can also sled down two excellent runs, try dogsledding, and for the youngest snow lovers there's a snow park for ages four to six, staffed by instructors. www.leukerbad.ch, www.burgerbad.ch

Most Unusual Place to Ice Skate: Tower of London, UK
From late November through mid January you can ice skate on the moats in the shadow of one of the world's most famous dungeons. Tell your kids about the famous murders and the humongous crown jewels inside as you glide and twirl. Family tickets (including skate rentals) are for one adult and three kids or two adults and two kids. You can also get a combo ticket that allows you to tour the tower and skate if you do both on the same day. Children under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult and advance tickets are strongly recommended. www.toweroflondonicerink.com

Best Christmas Market: Prague, Czech Republic
Prague's largest month-long Christmas markets are in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square (yes, like the king in the carol, so bring the lyrics and give your kids a singing history lesson about good King Wenceslas, who really was the 10th-century Duke of Bohemia in this very region). Old Town Square is the main market, and that's where the impressive Christmas tree, brought from the Sumava Mountains in the south, is set up. As you amble along and poke into the eclectic market stalls, you'll be entertained by local and international choirs on the Old Town Square stage. www.pragueexperience.com

Best Place to Hear Handel's Messiah: Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland
The very first performance of the Messiah was in 1742 in Dublin, sung by the combined choir of Saint Patrick's and Christchurch. Few churches can match Saint Patrick's as a setting for Handel's brilliant work, and the holiday performances always sell out. This is a good choice for families with older kids who have an interest in music. Buy tickets online at www.stpatrickscathedral.ie


Published: 22 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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