15 Ways to Entertain Holiday Houseguests

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mother and child enjoying Christmas outside
Photo credit: Choreograph/istockphoto

INVITING IDEAS

Ho, ho, ho! 'Tis the season to have houseguests. If you've ever had to deal with houseguests over the holidays, one of the toughest items on the list is finding fun (and inexpensive) things for them to do while they're in town. Fortunately, there are a lot of creative and interesting ideas that will satisfy everyone. This year, we've cooked up some great tips for you to enjoy the festivities with your friends and family without breaking your budget.
Ice at Santa Monica
Photo credit: DowntownSantaMonica/facebook.com

BREAK THE ICE

There's something magical about outdoor ice skating during the holiday season. Whether you're by the beach or in the cold winter snow, chances are your town (or one nearby) has an open-air holiday rink. In Southern California, downtown Santa Monica brings Ice at Santa Monica to the beachside community with an 8,000-square-foot rink, offering group skating lessons that can be fun for the entire clan. Chicago's McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park offers free ice skating lessons and "Winter Workouts" for all ages.
Macy's Christmas Light Show in Macy's Center, Philadelphia
Photo credit: visitphilly/facebook.com

HOLIDAY LIGHTS

Macy's, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, and countless other stores all have stunning light displays, and best of all they're free to enjoy. Walk around, check out the stores. Philadelphia's Macy's Christmas Light Show at Macy's Center has been a Philadelphia holiday tradition since 1956. This spectacular show includes falling snowflakes, ballerinas and floating reindeer.
Zoolights show at the Phoenix Zoo
Photo credit: PhoenixZoo/facebook.com

ZOO LIGHTING SHOWS

A good number of zoos around the country offer "Holiday Zoo Lighting" events. While these aren't free, they are reasonable, and some zoos offer value nights. At the L.A. Zoo, prices are $15 for adults and $11.95 for children (2-12) until Jan. 6. The lighting includes giant illuminated snowflakes, a twinkling tunnel of lights, and a whimsical herd of animated elephants. A herd of baby reindeer will be making nightly appearances for the Zoolights show in Phoenix. This million-light show also features a 200-foot-long Polar Slide. Check out your city's local zoo for holiday activities.
people at the Christmas tree lighting in Chicago
Photo credit: Dawid S Swierczek/istockphoto

TREE LIGHTING CEREMONIES

Grab a cup of hot cocoa or pack a thermos and head over to one of our nation's best free, holiday treats — viewing your local tree lighting. While it's true that most tree lighting ceremonies take place right around the end of November, that doesn't mean you can't bring your loved ones to view the displays, tool around the shops, and enjoy the scenery. Be sure to pick up some roasted chestnuts if you're in a colder climate.
Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade
Photo credit: mdrboatparade/facebook.com

HOLIDAY BOAT PARADES

If you're fortunate enough to live in an area near a body of water, you'll probably be able to get your family to local a holiday boat parade. Each year in Marina Del Rey, California, boat owners decorate their nautical vessels around a central theme. This year it's "Holiday Water Wonderland." The boats circle around the marina, accompanied by holiday music. Judges select the most creative rendition, and the night is capped off with fireworks.
community choir singing at Christmas
Photo credit: georgeclerk/istockphoto

CHORAL GROUP PERFORMANCES

Many town have free choral performances. These are an inexpensive way to share time with your loved ones while taking in the holiday festivities. To find a group performing near you check out local schools, universities, and churches for possible performances.
family caroling for neighbors
Photo credit: DGLimages/istockphoto

HOST A CAROLING PARTY

Surprise your guests with an impromptu caroling party. Get some eggnog, gather some song sheets and select a route in your neighborhood. Even if it's just a quick walk around the block — what a novel way to kick off the season and create some great family memories?
Christmas lights on outside of house
Photo credit: HannamariaH/istockphoto

TAKE A DRIVE BY FESTIVELY DECORATED HOMES

How much fun is it to look at your neighbor's Christmas decorations? On a chilly evening, put the family in the car (or if you live in a warmer climate, take a walk) and share the experience of looking at twinkling decorations. Just for kicks create your own Top 10 Holiday Houses list.
European Christmas Market Minneapolis
Photo credit: StPaulEuropeanChristmasMarket/facebook.com

VISIT AN OPEN-AIR HOLIDAY MARKET

Visit an open air holiday market like this European Christmas Market in St. Paul's, Minnesota. This outdoor market is based on the traditional, charming, and festive open-air Christkindlmarkts that spring up in Germany, Austria, and other countries during the Advent season. There are plenty of warm tents for shelter and sipping hot cocoa, local entertainment from carolers, and free "make and take" craft sessions for the kids. Many cities and towns host holiday markets, and these are some of the best.
young friends making snowman in the snow in winter
Photo credit: wundervisuals/istockphoto

BRING FROSTY THE SNOWMAN TO LIFE

If you live in a cold climate — why not build a snowman? Gather friends and family together, and get everyone involved. A carrot for the nose, buttons for the eyes, an old scarf wrapped around his neck, and some twigs for arms. Pipe some Christmas music through an iPhone and offer your group some warm apple cider to create holiday cheer.
"The Nutcracker" Ballet at New York City Ballet
Photo credit: Courtesy of nycballet.com

HIT THE BALLET

It's amazing to think that Peter Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" ballet has been a holiday tradition for over 125 years. Beloved by children and adults, a local rendition is surely a great way to treat yourself and your houseguests to the classic ballet while going easy on the budget. Check local theatres for showtimes.
San Francisco Cable Car at the Christmas Eve
Photo credit: Spondylolithesis/istockphoto

VISIT HISTORIC SITES

Every town has a place that makes it unique. This holiday season, treat your houseguests to a little local flavor with a self-guided tour of someplace special. Maybe it's a memorial, or a park or simply classic architecture. It's always nice to have something new to see when friends visit.
Young Rudolph (right) and Hermey the Elf as seen in the 1964 TV special
Photo credit: Courtesy of wikimedia.org

WATCH A HOLIDAY CLASSIC

Is it the traditional Capra classic "It's A Wonderful Life" that rings your bell? Or perhaps it's the snarky, "A Christmas Story" that gets you in the spirit. Or maybe it's those stop-motion animated specials made by the Rankin/Bass studios in the 1960s like "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" that remind you of childhood? Whatever your leanings rent a classic on Amazon gather friends and family and share the joy of the holiday season ensconced on the couch with warm cocoa and holiday treats.
family making cookies at Christmas
Photo credit: svetikd/istockphoto

BAKE HOLIDAY COOKIES

Keep your guests entertained by putting them to work in the kitchen. Prepare flour, sugar, butter, sprinkles, and other ingredients ahead of time, and then let everyone lend a hand to create holiday sugar cookies. This easy recipe is great for children and adults, fun to make and even better to eat. Surprise your guests by preparing some for them to take home with them when they leave.
friends having snowball fight out in snow on sunny day
Photo credit: simonkr/istockphoto

HAVE A SNOWBALL FIGHT

It wouldn't be Christmas without a proper snowball fight. Grab family and friends, bundle up, and prepare to fight. Friendly, that is.

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