Dashing through holidays events in December
Family fun is the order of the day during the annual Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade in San Diego, Calif. (MICHAEL TRIMBLE PHOTO)
As the weather cools, keep warm with a castle visit, pet parades and festive reindeer. Not hot enough for you? Visit the Mayans and celebrate the end of an era in the hot sun.
Soar 1,128 metres above Vancouver on a festive reindeer, complete with antlers and red nose. Through Dec. 24, board Grouse Mountain's Skyride, which has been transformed into a festive ride, to meet real reindeer, enjoy sing-along sleigh rides, visit Santa and skate on the outdoor ice rink. See grousemountain.com.
Once you've come down from your mountain high, grab a mic and lead the chorus on the Vancouver Trolley Company's Karaoke Christmas Lights Trolley Tour. From Dec. 7-30, the trolley departs the Vancouver Christmas Market at 6:30 p.m. and winds through the streets, visiting Stanley Park's light display while passengers belt out their holiday favourites. Tickets cost $40 for adults, $35 for students and seniors, and $25 for children; closed Dec. 25. See vancouvertrolley.com.
DUTCH HOLIDAY TREAT
Shake off the winter blues at Castle Kuekenhof in Lisse. Voted one of the best holiday fairs in Europe, take in traditional Christmas festivities, winter wonderland gardens and the beautifully restored Castle Kuekenhof, from Dec. 6-9. In nearby Gouda, don't miss Candle Night on Dec. 11, a famous annual holiday event in the city about a 50-minute drive away. Thousands flock to Gouda each year to take in the countless lit candles, singing and festivities. More at holland.com.
SAN DIEGO NIGHTS
Head to San Diego and get into the holiday spirit at Balboa Park December Nights, Dec. 7-8. Museums and cultural institutions in Balboa Park, the nation's largest urban cultural park, entertain free of charge with carollers, live music, holiday light displays and delicious foods from around the world. Don't miss The Old Globe theatre's holiday production of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Laugh it up at the Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade on Dec. 9 -- owners and dressed-up pets vie for best-dressed prizes. Check out more winter fun at sandiego.org.
PARTY, DON'T PANIC
Join revellers at the much ballyhooed "end of the world," and mark the dawn of a new era with Mayan-related celebrations in Cancun, Mexico. Dozens of activities are scheduled to take place through Dec. 21, when they ancient Mayan calendar comes to an end. Explore Mayan culture with a trip to the new Maya Museum and visit local pyramids while celebrating the destination's rebirth. Xcaret, Cancun's eco-archeological park, offers Mayan-themed events, including nightly shows, and the release of more than 100 macaws -- a culturally significant bird -- Dec. 21-22. If the end of the world doesn't faze you, there's always the beach. See more at cancun.travel.
Enjoy heaven away from home and lose the stress at Ste. Anne's Spa, rated one of the top 100 spas in the world. Relaxing December activities include a special Men Stay Free package for those who want to share the pampering with their spa-resistant spouse, partner or friend. One guest pays regular single occupancy rates and their partner gets their room and meals for free at the charming destination in Grafton, Ont. A $100 spa allowance is included and one group wellness class. Along with a new gluten-free bakery and equine wellness classes, get set for other exciting additions at Ste. Anne's, including culinary classes and a luxurious spa cottage experience with in-room services -- think decadent spa treatments, a chef to cook meals and wellness classes. Check out steannes.com.