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A Handy List of Holiday Events Across the National Park System


With the holiday season ramping up, more than a few special events are planned across the National Park System. Here's a glance at some of them, courtesy of the National Park Service.


Saguaro National Park

Holiday Car Caravan: December 30, 5:30, 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. Explore the natural side of the solstice holiday—stars, evergreens, wildlife (cardinals, turkeys, roadrunners!)—on a unique nighttime drive through Saguaro National Park's Rincon Mountain District (Arizona). The auto tours that make up the Holiday Car Caravan will be offered at half-hour intervals, and will feature several stops along the 8-mile Cactus Forest Drive. Each tour lasts approximately 1½ hours. Cookies and hot cider will be offered at the visitor center all evening. As space is limited, advanced reservations are required, and can be made by calling 520/733-5153. This program is wheelchair accessible.


Colorado National Monument

Holiday Open House: December 11-12, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Come and share your monumental memories.

Mesa Verde National Park

2010 Luminaria Holiday Open House:December 9, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. This holiday celebration features special tours, luminarias, musical entertainment, and refreshments.


President's Park

National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Holiday Displays: December 9, 5 p.m. The National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony marks the opening of the three-week event sponsored by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, the official charitable partner of America's national parks. The tree-lighting ceremony begins each year's National Christmas Tree Program. Nationally known entertainers and a military band add to the celebratory evening in which the president brings a message of peace to the nation and the world. The evening culminates in the illumination of the National Christmas Tree. Tickets are needed to attend the opening ceremony and all public tickets to the event were distributed through a free lottery held in early November.

Seasonal displays include a Yule log and a large-scale model train. For the 16th consecutive year, the National Christmas Tree Railroad will provide model trains that surround the base of the National Christmas Tree. The trains will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily through January 1.

The seasonal displays will include a Santa's Workshop sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories. The workshop will be open at select times for children to visit with Santa.

In what becomes the "Christmas Pathway of Peace," the National Christmas Tree and 56 smaller trees—one for each state, one for each of five territories, and one for the District of Columbia—serve as the focal point of the event. All 57 trees will be lit each evening at dusk until 11 p.m. and will be lit each night through January 1. Sponsoring organizations in each state provide the tree decorations, which are encased in protective plastic globes to shield them from the weather.

National Christmas Tree Nightly Performances: December 14th thru December 23rd. Musical entertainment, featuring performances by volunteer choirs, bands, and dancers, will be held nightly on the Ellipse stage during the month of December. Weeknight performances will take place between 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Weekend performances will take place between 1 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. It’s free; no tickets required!

Carter G Woodson Home National Historic Site

135th Birthday of Dr. Carter G. Woodson: December 16, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The National Park Service will commemorate the 135th anniversary of the birthday of Dr. Carter G. Woodson with a Choral Concert Featuring the Morgan State University Choir.


De Soto National Memorial

Winter Festival with Music and De Soto's trails lit by luminary: December 16, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Music from Native American artist Juan R Leon and historic reenactors are some of the highlights of the evening.


Fort Pulaski National Monument

2010 Candlelantern Tours: December 10 and 11, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Refreshments, hot cider, special tours, and period music highlight these evenings of merrymaking. Advance reservations are required.


Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Holiday Decorations at the Preserve: December 1-31, 9 a.m to 4:30 p.m. The historic ranch house and headquarters area are decorated with natural objects and greenery representing an 1880s historic holiday setting.


Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

A Taste of Christmas Past: December 11, 10 a.m. Getting ready and decorating Cumberland Gap's Visitor Center for Christmas!


Hampton National Historic Site

Yuletide 2010: December 10-12. Join us for a magical weekend of musical performances, storytelling, holiday crafts, tours and much more.

Thomas Stone National Historic Site

Christmas Candlelight Tour: December 11, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. A guided candlelight tour through the historic mansion.


Natchez National Historical Park

Christmas at Melrose: December 10-12. This year's program depicts the local holiday season of 1860 focusing on the people and thoughts leading up to the Civil War.


Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

Memorial Illumination: December December 11, 5:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wilson's Creek National Battlefield presents the Seventh Annual Memorial Illumination Ceremony featuring over 2,539 luminaries, representing those killed, wounded, or missing at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, August 10, 1861.

George Washington Carver National Monument

Holiday Open House: December 11, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the park visitor center. The park staff and volunteers invite the public to a holiday celebration of seasonal music, interpretive programs, and refreshments. For more information, please contact the park at 417/325-4151.


Homestead National Monument of America

Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures: through December 31. All events will take place at Homestead National Monument of America, just outside Beatrice, Nebraska. All events are free of charge. For more information, please call 402/223-3514 or visit Special programs include:

* December 11, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Freeman School) Holiday at the Freeman School. New event - Join in on a celebration similar to those of pioneer schools.

* December 12, 2 p.m. (Education Center) Wilber Senior Czech Dancers. Youth ages 11-18 will dance traditional Czech dances and interpret their meaning and origins.


Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Holidays at Glenmont: Every Friday through Sunday through January 2, (closed Christmas day), noon to 4 p.m.; Wednesdays and Thursdays December 23-24, December 29-30, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Glenmont will be dressed up for the holiday season, including a tree, banquet dinner, and other decorations. Holiday tours will be offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon until 4 p.m. Additional holiday tours will be offered on Wednesday and Thursday, December 30 and 31.

Car passes and tour tickets must be purchased at the Laboratory Complex Visitor Center at 211 Main Street. Admission is $7, and includes the Glenmont Estate and the Laboratory Complex. Children under age 16 are free.


Fire Island National Seashore

Reenactment of Flying Santa Program: December 11, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Hear the historic story of the real Flying Santa who "visited" the Fire Island Lighthouse in 1953.

National Parks of New York Harbor

Kwanzaa at African Burial Ground National Monument: December 28. Enjoy a day filled with family-friendly activities as the African Burial Ground National Monument observes the principles of Kwanzaa and shares the history of the burial ground.

Holiday Opera Program & Symbolism on Colonial Gravestones: December 11, noon to 4 p.m. Join us at St. Paul's Church for a holiday performance by the Bronx Opera Company. Arrive early to hear art historian John Zielinski explore religious symbolism as expressed in 18th-century gravestones.

Holiday Organ Concert: December 19, 2 p.m. A recital at St. Paul's Church by Jan Piet Knijff featuring classical music on the historic 1833 pipe organ, including some traditional carols and Holiday favorites. Refreshments will be served.

Family Holiday Program: December 24, 27-31, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stop by St. Paul's Church for historic games, activities, music and demonstrations, designed for children on vacation from school, as well as parents, adults, and others.


Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Christmas at Connemara: December 11, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This festive celebration honors Carl Sandburg and the family holiday tradition of music, featuring folk musicians and storytellers. The house will be decorated in the style of the Sandburg's with poinsettias and a traditionally decorated Christmas tree throughout December until January 6th.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The Polar Express™: Through December 19. Enjoy hearing a reading of The Polar Express™ as we journey to the North Pole. Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas. Cookies and hot chocolate are served. Information on how to purchase your tickets online is available at

Christmas Tree Adventure: Saturdays and Sundays through December 12. Ride to Peninsula and visit Heritage Farms to pick out your Christmas tree. Tree cost is not included in train ticket. Fee: $26 adults, $14 children ages 3 - 12. Rockside Station, 10 a.m. Akron Northside Station, 11:35 a.m. To register call (800) 468-4070 or visit

Mr. Jingeling's Holiday Express: Weekends through December 12. Young and old alike will enjoy this holiday trip as a beloved character joins joins CVSR for a train ride. Fee: $20 adults, $12 children ages three to 12. Rockside Station, 10 a.m. Akron Northside Station, 11:35 p.m. To register call (800) 468-4070 or visit


Eisenhower National Historic Site

An Eisenhower Christmas: Through December, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The celebration includes a holiday reception on Saturday, December 11, featuring refreshments provided by Gettysburg Tours, Inc. The Eisenhower home is decorated in the Eisenhower tradition. Some original decorations and Christmas cards will be on display. Closed Christmas Day. For more information, please contact 717/338-9114 or visit Open daily.

The Eisenhower National Historic Site is open daily with shuttle buses leaving the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Admission is $7.50 for adults and $5.00 for youth ages 6 -12; children age 6 and under are admitted free. For the holiday reception on December 11, shuttle buses will run once an hour between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The Site is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Valley Forge National Historical Park

"The Army Arrives! Annual March-In of the Continental Army Commemoration": December 12, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will be candlelight tours, a "march" to the Muhlenberg Brigade huts, and good old-fashioned 18th-century festivities. At the Muhlenberg huts, park staff and volunteers in period clothing will demonstrate camp life while the Colonial Revelers rejoice in the visitor center.

Holiday Trolley Tours: December 26-30. These 90-minute guided tours, starting at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., depart from the front of the Welcome Center and travel throughout the Park with extended stops at Muhlenberg's Brigade and Washington’s Headquarters.Tickets can be purchased in the Encampment Store. Fee charged. For more information including schedules or reservations, please call 610.783.1074.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The park will celebrate the 35th annual Festival of Christmas Past celebration this coming Saturday, December 11, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg. The event, sponsored in cooperation with Great Smoky Mountains Association, is free to the public.

This annual celebration of the culture of the Smoky Mountain people carries an emphasis on the Christmas season. The festival will include old-time mountain music featuring the "Lost Mill String Band," "Boogertown Gap" band, and "South of the River Boys.” Demonstrations of traditional domestic skills such as the making of baskets, traditional textiles, quilts, and apple butter will be ongoing throughout the day. Other special programs that will be presented include:

* 9:30 a.m. - "Old-fashioned Harp Singing" led by Bruce Wheeler, Paul Clabo and Martha Graham.

* 12:00 p.m. – Charles Maynard telling stories of the holiday season

* 2:00 p.m. - “Stories of the Past” session, presented by the Smoky Mountain Historical Society

* 11:00 am -12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. - “Memories Along the Trail” Costumed interpreters will lead a short walk from the visitor center and talk about life in the mountains during the holidays in the early days of the 1880s to the 1930s.

The Sugarlands Visitor Center is located on Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Highway 441), two miles south of Gatlinburg. For more information call the visitor center at 865-436-1291.


Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Christmas at the LBJ Boyhood Home: Saturdays: December 11 and 18, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Relive a 1920s small town Christmas with these lamplight tours.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Los Pastores: December 18. This Hispanic folk play depicts the journey of shepherds to worship the Christ Child and the obstacles the devil puts before them. This traditional play has been presented each year at Mission San José since 1947. For more information, please contact the park at 210/932-1001.


Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park

Belle Grove's "The Twelve Days of Christmas": December 10-12, December 17-23, December 27-30. Belle Grove's annual Christmas celebration. Celebrate the “Twelve Days of Christmas” complete with themed decorations by regional garden clubs. Enjoy live holiday music, tour the grounds, enjoy Belle Grove's own spiced tea and cookies by the winter kitchen hearth, and more. Many have made this a family tradition!

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

A Washington Christmas: December 26, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. George Washington loved music, dance, and festive occasions. Like other colonials, the Washington family celebrated the 12 days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Day. The Memorial House will be decorated for the holidays and filled with Colonial music. All day, the plantation will be busy with demonstrations and activities performed by costumed interpreters. For more information, please contact Dick Lahey at 804/224-1732 ext. 235.


Fort Vancouver National Historical Park

Christmas at Fort Vancouver: December 11, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Experience first hand the festive traditional sights, smells, and sounds of the holiday season at Fort Vancouver. Sing songs, taste snacks, and learn about how Christmas was celebrated here in the 1800s. Entrance Fees are $3 per individual, $5 per family; free for children 15 years & under. For more information, call 360/816-6230.

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You are cordially invited to attend the “Trek to the Nation’s Christmas Tree” ceremony, at the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park. Join the “Trek to the Tree” Ceremony at Kings Canyon National Park on December 12.

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