Plan a get­away for the hol­i­days

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY MELINDA SCHNYDER

From hol­i­day fes­ti­vals to play­ing in the snow – real or fake – there are long-run­ning hol­i­day tra­di­tions as well as first-year ac­tiv­i­ties that make ex­cel­lent win­ter ex­cur­sions. We’ve com­piled a few ideas to help you em­brace the sea­son. Some are an easy day trip from the Wichita area and oth­ers make great week­end get­aways. Any of th­ese would make great gifts, too.

SNOW CREEK SKI AREA

For years, Wi­chi­tans have

been mak­ing the trek to Snow Creek, 40 miles north of Kansas City in We­ston, Mo. It’s the clos­est place to ski, snow­board and tube. They use 60 snow guns to make the snow and need sev­eral straight days of freez­ing tem­per­a­tures to cover the moun­tain to be able to open. They plan to open for their 32nd sea­son on Dec. 14 and they gen­er­ally stay open through midMarch. You’ll find 13 trails from be­gin­ner to ad­vance, a ter­rain park and a tube park. They of­fer les­sons and a day lodge with a bar and restau­rant. Week­end rates start at $78 for lift and rental, $20 for les­sons, $28 for tub­ing. Visit skisnowcreek.com for a list of lodg­ing part­ners that of­fer dis­count tick­ets.

ICE CAS­TLES IN COLORADO

There are six Ice Cas­tles lo­ca­tions across North Amer­ica, and the clos­est is in the win­ter play­ground of Dil­lon, Colo. Ice artists hand place hun­dreds of thou­sands of ici­cles to build the 30-foot-tall frozen at­tractions, which in­clude frozen thrones, ice-carved tun­nels, slides, foun­tains and dra­matic LED light­ing. Week­end tick­ets start at $14.95. Ice mak­ing has started for a pre­dicted open­ing in late De­cem­ber. Last sea­son, their first, they stayed open about eight weeks. Check ice­cas­tles. com/dil­lon for the sched­ule.

THEME PARK FES­TI­VALS

If you want to com­bine rid­ing roller coast­ers while cel­e­brat­ing the sea­son, there are a grow­ing num­ber of theme parks within driv­ing dis­tance that are ex­tend­ing their sea­sons with hol­i­day fes­ti­vals. In ad­di­tion to se­lect rides op­er­at­ing, th­ese events of­fer orig­i­nal shows, strolling per­form­ers, pa­rades, elab­o­rate light and tree dis­plays, char­ac­ter vis­its, fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties, shop­ping and sea­sonal food.

Ticket prices can be steep, so plan to ar­rive when gates open and get the most of your visit.

Sil­ver Dol­lar City’s Old Time Christ­mas Fes­ti­val is open 1 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 30, with ex­tended hours on se­lect days. The event topped 500,000 vis­i­tors dur­ing its two-month run in 2017 and this year might be big­ger. The park opened the $26 mil­lion Time Trav­eler spin­ning roller coaster ear­lier this year and it will be op­er­at­ing dur­ing the event. One-day tick­ets start at $65 adult, $54 ages 4-11.

Fron­tier City in Ok­la­homa City is stag­ing its first Hol­i­day in the Park event, run­ning 5 to 10 p.m through Jan. 6, with ex­tended hours on se­lect days. Tick­ets start at $38 per per­son.

Worlds of Fun had a suc­cess­ful launch of its Win­terFest in 2017, so they’ve brought it back and added ac­tiv­i­ties such as horse-drawn car­riage rides. For a VIP ex­pe­ri­ence, you can rent heated igloos. Win­terFest op­er­ates from 5 to 10 p.m through Dec. 31, with ex­tended hours on se­lect days. Tick­ets start at $26, though some ac­tiv­i­ties are ad­di­tional.

OUT­DOOR ICE SKAT­ING

There’s some­thing mag­i­cal about ice skat­ing out­doors. Some op­tions this sea­son: Crown Cen­ter Ice Ter­race in Kansas City, The Ice at Park Place in Lea­wood, Kan., and Win­terFest (see sep­a­rate list­ing) at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Devon Ice Rink in Ok­la­homa City’s Myr­iad Botan­i­cal Gar­den and the 9,000-square­foot ice rink out­side the BOK Cen­ter in down­town Tulsa. Some stay open un­til Fe­bru­ary.

CHRISTKINDLMARKETS

Fa­mous Christ­mas mar­kets are held across Ger­many, and their pop­u­lar­ity is bring­ing the Christkindl­mar­ket con­cept closer to Wichita. Th­ese street mar­kets are about food as much as they are about the hol­i­days. Ex­pect to find en­ter­tain­ment, shop­ping fo­cused on hand-crafted prod­ucts and plenty of Euro­pean-in­spired food and drink, in­clud­ing tra­di­tional hol­i­day mulled wine. Christkindl­mar­ket Des Moines is Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 (christkindl­mar­ketdsm. com). OKM Mu­sic

Fes­ti­val’s Christkindl­mar­ket is Dec. 8 in down­town Bartlesville, Okla. (ok­m­mu­sic.org). The Texas Christkindl Mar­ket runs Nov. 23 to Dec. 23 in Ar­ling­ton, Texas (tx­christ kindl­mar­ket.com).

UNION STA­TION KANSAS CITY

The Kansas City South­ern Hol­i­day Ex­press train vis­its com­mu­ni­ties through­out the U.S. and is sched­uled to stop at Kansas City’s Union Sta­tion Dec. 14 to 18. Visit with Santa and tour the six-car train for free. Cars in­clude: a smil­ing tank car named Rudy; a flat­car car­ry­ing Santa’s sleigh, rein­deer and a minia­ture vil­lage; a gin­ger­bread box­car; the elves’ work­shop; a rein­deer sta­ble; and a lit­tle red ca­boose. Union­sta­tion.org has a full sched­ule of hol­i­day plays, per­for­mances, movies and ex­hi­bi­tions that have al­ready started.

LAKE OF THE OZARKS

Mid-Mis­souri’s Lake of the Ozarks is a pop­u­lar hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion for shop­ping, light parks, live per­for­mances and a din­ner cruise that cov­ers some of the lake’s 1,150 miles of shore­line. En­chanted Vil­lage of

MID­LAND RAIL­WAY EX­CUR­SION TRAIN

Mid­land Rail­way has con­verted its hol­i­day ex­cur­sion train to a one-hour re-cre­ation of The Po­lar Ex­press in Bald­win City. Your golden ticket will be punched on­board, then danc­ing chefs will serve hot choco­late and cook­ies. Lis­ten to sounds from the mo­tion pic­ture sound­track, sing car­ols with char­ac­ters and read along with the clas­sic book. Santa vis­its each pas­sen­ger for pho­tos, and you’ll leave with a keep­sake gift. Only a few dates still have tick­ets, start­ing at $45/adult and $35/child. Visit mid­landrail­way.org.

SNOWLAND AT GREAT WOLF LODGE

The team at Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City, Kan., has spent weeks cook­ing and cre­at­ing a life-size gin­ger­bread house us­ing 600 pounds of dough, 1,300 pounds of sugar and hun­dreds of can­dies. You can book a meal in the gin­ger­bread house with the reser­va­tion fee go­ing to­ward a lo­cal char­ity or sign up to make cook­ies in the house with Mrs. Claus. Snowland runs through Jan. 4 at the fam­ily re­sort fea­tur­ing an 84-de­gree wa­ter­park. The hol­i­day event also brings daily snow show­ers to the lobby, vis­its from Santa Claus and the chance to earn a snow­ploma through fun, hol­i­day-themed as­sign­ments. Rates vary based on dates, and some ac­tiv­i­ties re­quire an ex­tra fee, check great­wolf.com for de­tails.

WIN­FIELD’S IS­LAND PARK

For nearly 30 years, vol­un­teers have turned Win­field’s Is­land Park into Isle of Lights, a 1-mile drive-through won­der­land of lights. Dis­plays such as Mrs. Claus’ bak­ery and Santa’s toy fac­tory are syn­chro­nized to mu­sic. It’s open 6 to 10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 30 and is about 45 miles south­east of Wichita. It’s free, how­ever dona­tions are ac­cepted and have funded the con­ver­sion to LED lights. Car­riage rides from Bro­ken Spoke Dis­patch are avail­able for $5 per per­son on se­lect nights. Visit isle­oflights.org.

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