Updated: Aug 27, 2022
I recently shared that we won't be going home this year for the winter holidays and asked for suggestions from my community on ways to make it special despite my sadness. And wow, did people come through. I know that we are not alone, either by choice or because of the pandemic, so many people won't be traveling this year for the holidays. So whether this is a new experience for you or part of your annual routine, I thought I'd share the incredible holiday suggestions I received from community members. Some of them are specific to our new home in Northwest Arkansas and others are things you can try from anywhere.
Celebrate “Christmas in July” or a second Christmas
Christmas in July or “Second Christmas” is a Christmas celebration you can enjoy in the summer or anytime after the traditional holiday season. You can enjoy Christmas-themed activities and entertainment, including music and movies, cooking holiday dishes, and exchanging gifts anytime you're able to see your family. The Hallmark channel has a whole section dedicated to Christmas in July. Find more information here: https://www.hallmarkchannel.com/christmas-in-july
Connecting virtually with family
FaceTime, virtual game nights, and sharing the same bottle of wine or meal with my family from afar can help take the sting out of not being with loved ones for the holidays. Picking a virtual activity you can all do together like decorating the house for the holidays, sharing the same bottle of wine or making the same recipe for hot chocolate is a great way to feel connected. Services like Hulu Watch Party, Prime Watch Party, and Disney Plus GroupWatch can help you sync and enjoy the same movies while you chat with your loved ones. Find more information on the best way to have a virtual movie night with the family: https://www.polygon.com/21295526/how-to-watch-movies-with-friends-together-online-netflix-party-hulu-kast-disney-plus-watch2gether
Volunteer for the holidays
Volunteering at local churches, food banks, pediatric wards at a hospital, local senior care home, and feeding the unhoused are some ways to give back and make new friends that can also help lift your spirits and make you feel connected with your community. Here are some great suggestions for volunteer work during the holidays: https://www.doinggoodtogether.org/holiday-volunteering
Exploring your new home (for those in new communities)
Moving can be hard but also offer an opportunity to explore a new place. Especially during the holiday season when there are more events than usual happening locally it can be a great time to get out! Try visiting local markets, driving/walking through neighborhoods to see Christmas lights on houses, going for a walk or bike ride in a local park, exploring nearby National Parks, or even tapping into your childhood and going sledding if it snows. Here are a few more suggestions for surviving the holidays in a new city or town: https://www.heremagazine.com/articles/expat-holiday-away-tips
Connect with cultural traditions or create new traditions
Connection with and/or implementing new traditions specific to your family and culture cand be really rewarding. This process could include conversations with family members to share traditions and recipes, searching for equivalent ingredients needed for traditional foods and items that will make your space feel more like home. Alternately, you can work to create new traditions that are unique to you.
Some other great suggestions were to grab lunch, see a movie and then grab dinner, making sure there's enough food leftover for lunch the next day, dress up your pets and do a photoshoot, binge watch your favorite holiday movies, have date nights at home, have a cozy night with holiday onesies and drinks, or book a stay in a unique airbnb.
In Northwest Arkansas
Lights of the Ozarks
This holiday celebration of lights covers the downtown square in Fayetteville.There's also a parade on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the display lasts until December 31st at midnight. There’s also food trucks, carriages, hot chocolate, and festive holiday music and various local restaurants to check out. There’s also “Holidaze”, a holiday-themed pop-up bar. Plus, you can enjoy the ball drop in the square for New Year's Eve. Find more information here: https://www.experiencefayetteville.com/lights-of-the-ozarks
Bentonville Square Lights Display
The Bentonville Square also has a lights display that begins on November 20th with crafts and games, an ice rink and skate show, other performances and food trucks. The Oasis at Undercroft also does a popup Christmas-themed bar every year. There’s also a ball drop in the square for New Year's Eve. Find more information here: https://www.downtownbentonville.org/event/lights
North Forest Lights at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The North Forest Lights activation is a fun nighttime walk featuring five nature-inspired installations that bring the forest to life. This is a ticketed event and advance purchase is recommended. Find more information here: https://crystalbridges.org/calendar/north-forest-lights/
North Forest Snow Globe Experience
Within North Forest Lights, next to Dale Chihuly’s Sole d’Oro sculpture, the North Forest Snow Globe Experience includes two and a half hours inside a cozy, see-through snow globe dome with lights and faux fur blankets, specialty food, cocktails, and a Snow Globe Concierge. Tickets to this snow globe experience also include entry to North Forest Lights and a shuttle pick-up to bring you to your snow globe upon arrival. Find more information here: https://crystalbridges.org/eleven-restaurant/north-forest-snow-globe-experience/
This five-mile family-friendly bike ride is a fundraiser for the Downtown Springfield Alliance with stops at various spots serving holiday treats. Costumes and holiday cheer are encouraged for this three-hour ride. Find more information here: https://www.37northexpeditions.com/all-trips/cyclingsantas-downtownspringdale-november28
Neighborhood light displays
There are several houses featuring pretty amazing light displays all over Northwest Arkansas, a display in Fayetteville, and the Bentonville Heart Lites (this is the final year for that display). Or check out Branson, MO where they have over 6 million lights between several big displays.
Holiday theater productions
Local road trips
For local getaways check out Stoneflower Cottage on Airbnb, or the Peabody House and Wanderoo Lodge in Eureka Springs, both in Arkansas. A few short hours away in Little Rock, Arkansas, there’s the Capital Hotel downtown, the Nutcracker Ballet at the Arkansas Ballet, Mr Chen’s for Christmas takeout, lots of cool B&Bs that do Christmas high tea, drive-through light shows, and Boulevard Bread Co for bakery treats. There’s also the Wonderland Christmas Tree Farm in Pea Ridge, Arkansas where you can find the perfect Christmas tree for your home.
Other road trips
You can also take a trip to Oklahoma City where there is the brand new First Americans Museum which is said to also have great food. Oklahoma City also has its own native craft brewery, Skydance Brewing Co. Tulsa, Oklahoma has museums and restaurants worth exploring as well as Bartlesville OK, where you can stay in a building designed by famed architect Frank Loyd Wright. Also near Bartlesville is Woolaroc, a museum and nature preserve. Other road trip destinations a little further away are Memphis, New Orleans, Nashville, Dallas, and Austin.