A Christmas Family Bucket List to Remember

by | Dec 7, 2022 | Day Trips From Los Angeles, Destinations, Family Adventures, Traveling with Teens, USA, Weekend Trips

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As flakes begin to fall from snow-covered trees and carols play from storefront speakers, the festive holiday season celebrations and family gatherings begin. While presents and Santa may be all the kids are talking about, Mom and Dad know that it is the seasonal traditions that stay in our memories for years to come. There is so much going on this time of year, that it might be difficult to even think about creating a bucket list of fun holiday activities and events. If you are stuck for great ideas, check out our 2022 holiday guide of festive Christmas bucket list ideas complete with fun places to experience them.  Whether you are continuing with family favorites or looking to start new Christmas traditions this year, you will surely find something fun for the entire family to enjoy. So put on your ugly Christmas sweater and fill your cup with hot cocoa – it’s time to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year!



A Family Christmas Bucket List to Remember


The Polar Express – Perris, California

One tradition that tops many families’ Christmas bucket lists is watching favorite holiday movies. These films never get old and somehow manage to warm our hearts year after year no matter how many times we’ve seen them. One favorite Christmas movie is the 2004 film, The Polar Express, which is based on one of the most well-acclaimed Christmas books of all time. The beloved movie tells the story of a young boy who is beginning to have doubts about the existence of Santa Clause. He embarks on an adventure train trip to the North Pole aboard the magical Polar Express and experiences a wild ride, meeting new friends and learning an important lesson along the way. The Polar Express film has become so popular in recent years that many local theaters show viewings of the film during the Christmas season. If you have little ones that love trains, a fun way to celebrate this bucket list item is by taking a magical winter journey of your own. Each year, Southern California’s Railway Museum hosts its own special Polar Express Train Ride where families are invited to hop aboard the railways and take a trip to meet Father Christmas himself. As if the train itself is not exciting enough, kids will be thoroughly captivated as lively actors bring their favorite Christmas movie to life along the way. Passengers can also enjoy shortbread and hot chocolate while listening to a reading of the classic book.

While in the Perris area, you can also check Christmas light viewing off your bucket list when you visit Santa’s Speedway Christmas Lights Experience at the nearby Irwindale Speedway. Your whole family will be amazed as they walk through this gigantic illuminated display of massive ornaments, colorful LED tunnels, and whimsical animated figures that light up the winter night sky. 


Where To Stay Near Perris, California

The Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Menifee offers families of all sizes a variety of lodging options, including suites with sofa beds. You won’t have to search for dining because the hotel provides a free breakfast buffet and is close to many popular area restaurants. 


Boy in pajamas looking at Polar Express Train - Christmas Family Bucket List

Climb aboard for a magical journey! Photo by Chip Vincent on Unsplash


Gingerbread Houses – Asheville, North Carolina

Food and tradition go hand in hand and are always an important part of every family’s Christmas bucket list. Whether you prepare a huge family feast to enjoy on Christmas day or just bake Christmas cookies for Santa to enjoy on Christmas Eve, these are delicious traditions that we look forward to celebrating all year long. Another fun holiday activity that involves food is making gingerbread houses. If you have ever bought a gingerbread house kit, you know that the house-building process is often harder than it looks. Imagine taking pastry and candy canes to a whole new level to create an award-winning gingerbread creation. This is exactly what happens every year in Asheville, NC as expert bakers from around the country compete to win a cash prize at the National Gingerbread House Competition. Upon completion, the edible entries come together to create a winter display that is available for the public to view and enjoy. There are also plenty of other bucket list activities to experience on your visit to Asheville. Each year, a traditional holiday parade entertains spectators with a variety of seasonal music and performances.  A festive Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley tour is the perfect way to view the city lights and holiday decorations. 


Where to Stay in Asheville, North Carolina

If you are visiting Asheville for the National Gingerbread Competition, a perfect place to stay is The Omni Grove Park Inn, the hotel where the competition takes place. During the festive season, the hotel will be illuminated with dozens of festive trees. The inn additionally offers a special gingerbread holiday package featuring breakfast and gingerbread cookies. There is an indoor family pool where the kids can have a lot of fun splashing around and burning off energy.


Homemade gingerbread house with holiday decorations - Christmas Family Bucket List

So much fun to make. More fun to eat! Photo by Clu Soh on Unspalsh



Holiday Shows – New York City

The holidays are the perfect time to introduce your little ones to the wonder of the theater, and there is no better way to do it than in New York City.  Both the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center and the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall are two iconic family shows to add to your bucket list. For a classic New York holiday experience, you should also visit the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center and take a few spins around the famous rink. End your busy day by stopping at one of the Big Apple’s many chocolate shops for a tasty visit to a hot chocolate bar. There is also some great shopping in the city. If you stop by Macy’s in Herald Square, visit Santa and wish him a Merry Christmas.    


Where to Stay in New York City

A luxury stay at The Plaza offers guests an unforgettable holiday experience. This historic hotel, located on Fifth Avenue will be all decked out for Christmas.  Guests visiting for Christmas break can even purchase a special “Suitest Season of All” package which includes a seven-foot Christmas tree placed in their room. 


Radio City Music Hall at Christmas - Christmas Family Bucket List

There is nothing like seeing a show in the city. Photo by Arthur Osipyan on Unsplash


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Christmas Trees – Branson, Missouri

Decorating the Christmas tree is one of the most popular holiday family traditions. Whether your family uses fancy Christmas ornaments or paper snowflakes and homemade Christmas decorations, an afternoon spent trimming the tree with loved ones is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit. If you just can’t get enough of decorating and want to go big this year, consider taking a trip to Branson, Missouri. On a visit to Branson’s Christmas Tree City Tour, guests embark on a journey to view over 100 uniquely decorated trees, ranging from animatronic evergreens to trees made out of local library books. There are many other fun things to do on a trip to Branson, including ice skating and snow tubing. Kids of all ages will also have a fun time traveling through a sea of illuminated displays while catching glimpses of exotic animals at the Let There Be Lights illuminated drive-through experience at the Branson Promised Land Zoo. 


Whether your family uses fancy Christmas ornaments or paper snowflakes and homemade Christmas decorations, an afternoon spent trimming the tree with loved ones is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.


Where to Stay in Branson, Missouri 

A great way to make the most of your holiday visit to Branson is a stay at the Big Cedar Lodge. Accommodations at the lodge range from standard lodge rooms to private cabins which feature multiple bedrooms, a full kitchen, and a living room where you can sit back and enjoy a wood-burning fireplace. One of the best things about the lodge is the family activities. This year they include breakfast with Santa, Christmas craft making, and an ugly sweater party.


Christmas tree with red decorations - Christmas Family Bucket List

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree! Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash


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Advent – Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

The tradition of advent marks the days leading up to the arrival of the birth of Christ. While the religious aspects of the advent season are celebrated in many places of worship around the world, many families often have their own special ways of counting down the days until Christmas morning.  Little kids will enjoy opening the doors of their own specialty advent calendars to reveal yummy chocolates or surprise gifts. Older children may enjoy downloading printable calendars that offer up holiday activity suggestions like “Bake Christmas cookies” or “Make a donation to your local animal shelter.” For a more elaborate celebration of advent, families should check out one of many live advent celebrations happening around the country.  In Bethlehem, PA, the Live Advent Calendar town event takes place all month long and is free of charge. Each night, a visitor is selected to knock on the door of the historic Gounddie House and is greeted by a local representative who has a special holiday surprise for the crowd of visitors. The surprise changes each night, so guests may want to make repeat visits to the property. There are also many more holiday happenings taking place in Bethlehem, otherwise known as “Christmas City.”  Christkindlmarkt, a German-themed Christmas market is a great place to shop for unique Christmas gifts and to sample some German food. The market also features ice skating and plenty of fun Christmas activities for the whole family to enjoy. Other fun events include horse-drawn carriage rides and an annual Wassail party. 


Where to Stay in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 

A great place to stay when travelling to the Bethlehem area with kids is the Hampton Inn and Suites Bethlehem.  The inn offers connecting rooms and a free breakfast. There is also a pool for the kids to enjoy.


Jar-shaped advent calendar - Christmas family bucket list

The countdown begins! Photo by Any Lane on Pexels


Close to Home

If you can’t make it out to celebrate big this year don’t worry, there are many family Christmas bucket list items that you can do close to home. Why not decorate Christmas cards, make sugar cookies, or host a family game night where you gather to play your favorite board games?   Participating in Christmas caroling or a secret Santa gift exchange are other fun Christmas ideas to put on your list.  No matter how you celebrate, the quality time spent with loved ones is by far the most important family bucket list item to check off this winter season.  


A child with grandmother baking cookies - Christmas family bucket list

Everyone loves to help bake at Christmastime. Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash



A Family Christmas Bucket List to Remember


Kimberly Falchek is a freelance writer and child development specialist based out of Salem, Massachusetts. She has contributed to several parenting and travel publications. When not working, Kimberly enjoys hiking, photography, and traveling with family.