By Kelly McCandless
There’s just something about the holidays that fills me up. From the moment I close the door to the last trick-or-treater, I shift modes to Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year. I love everything about these holidays and look for all the amazing ways to soak it all up. Living right here in Billings, the hardest thing for my family and I is often narrowing which traditions and events to participate in. In case you find yourself in the same boat, I thought I’d share my Top 5 Favorite Things to Do in Billings during the holiday season.
- The Polar Express. This event takes place annually at the Historic Depot and continues to grow in popularity. In addition to a charming performance of the Polar Express story, the event includes fast-moving, kid-friendly activities, a visit and photo with Santa, and the kids get to bring home a gingerbread train to put together. Oh, and did I mention wearing jammies is suggested? This event is seriously cute and promises to be a hit with a large age range of kids.
- The Moss Mansion. This historical mansion is gorgeous year ‘round, but right now is my absolute favorite time of year to visit. Every room boasts an incredible tree, each decorated with a different theme. The magic of the history and architecture really come to life and the allure of the season infiltrates each visit. It’s educational, engaging, and sure to become a yearly tradition.
- ZooLights. Let me just start by saying I love ZooMontana. It’s authentic to the region and just the right size for an afternoon visit. I would also add that this time of year is arguably (in my not-professional opinion) the best time of year to visit. Something about the cool weather seems to invigorate the animals. Each time my family and I visit on a crisp day, the animals seem to be exceptionally active, delighting all of us. Add their new playground, and my kids beg to visit to the zoo often. But I digress. ZooLights is a fun, annual event where you hop in the car with the family to take in some large scale light displays sent up on the Zoo grounds. We always bring a thermos of hot chocolate and some popcorn to enjoy while we tour. Upon arrival you’ll get in line, pop in the CD with narration and holiday songs, and drive slowly through an impressive array of beautiful holiday lights. This stop is always a precursor for us to my next favorite….
- Lights in general. ZooLights is just the right things to get us in the mood for a holiday tour of lights throughout Billings. After leaving the Zoo, we hit several of the neighborhoods on this map. Some of our favorites? WhoVille in Josephine Crossing and Misfit Lane on Glantz Drive. We also always make sure to drive over Highway 3 and Airport Road as we wrap things up. Though not a stop for holiday lights, the vista overlooks all of Billings and the twinkling lights below never get old, even to a life-long resident like me.
- Creative Classes. There are a variety of shops throughout the community offering classes for you to express your creative side and make a hand-made gift or two. Better to Gather offers classes to make wreathes, ornaments, jewelry, and much more. Consider others like Buffalo Jump Sip and Paint or Yellowstone Coffee and Canvas where you can paint a picture to gift, or Candi’s Art n’ Party Studio for painting ceramics or making glass art. All are sure to be a hit come Christmas morning.
Beyond my own traditions of decorating, baking and volunteering, these events and stops are absolute musts for the holidays. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!