Holiday Adventures Worth The Drive


“Christmas is all around me” sings Billy Mack, the rock star played by Bill Nighy in the 2003 hit film “Love Actually.”

While the song was only a fictional chart-topper, the sentiment rings true: whether you head north, south, east or west, a holiday-themed activity will be waiting for you.

Here are some ideas for festive day trips bursting with core memory potential.

NORTH: Strasburg Railroad Christmas Trains

Let’s start in the direction that leads to Jolly Ole’ Saint Nick. Head north about 90 miles from Severna Park to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to the Strasburg Rail Road, America’s oldest continuously operating railroad. It’s shy of the North Pole by some 3,000 miles, but beginning November 18, Santa is a frequent guest.

Visitors have four holiday train ride options from which to choose: Santa Claus Limited, Santa’s Paradise Express, Night Before Christmas, and Christmas Tree Train.

Each ride takes guests on a journey through scenic Amish country, and comes with its own special features, such as visits from Santa Claus, live carolers, or storytellers.

Children can bring their letters to Santa and might even get a response. Simply bring a self-addressed stamped envelope and place it in the “North Pole Express” mailbox located near the Mrs. Claus area.

The Christmas trains run Wednesdays through Sundays beginning November 18 through Christmas Eve. Prices vary based on the trip and seating desired. Tickets can be purchased at

SOUTH: Ice! at Gaylord National

For frozen fun sans the mess and regardless of the forecast, head to the Gaylord National Resort just south of Washington, D.C.

Grab a signature parka and step into the nine-degree Ice! experience. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stands ready to greet each guest as they explore the brightly colored ice sculptures, traverse through tunnels and glide down ice slides.

The Ice! attraction is built out of 2 million pounds of ice, and it is geared toward children and adults alike.

While at the resort, visitors can also book photos with Santa, go ice skating, or check out the #Lit light show and snow-globe exhibit.

Christmas at Gaylord National runs from November 19 to December 31. Tickets can be purchased at

EAST: A Dickens of a Christmas in Chestertown, Maryland

Travel 50 miles east, and two centuries back in time for Chestertown’s “A Dickens of a Christmas.”

Downtown Chestertown will transform into 1840s London, with a lineup of family fun intended to show guests the best of times.

Revelers can enjoy local food and drink offerings, a farmers market, carriage rides, live music, Dickens performers and a visit from Santa Claus.

This two-day celebration will be held on Friday, December 1, from 5:00pm-9:00pm, and Saturday, December 2, from 7:00am-5:30pm, beginning with a 5k race.

Guests are encouraged to dress for the occasion in Victorian garb.

WEST: Storybook Holiday in Frostburg, Maryland

Immerse yourself in holiday cheer at the 20th annual Storybook Holiday in Frostburg, Maryland, on Saturday, December 2.

Downtown Frostburg transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with intricately decorated parking meters (which are only for show that day; parking is free.)

The festivities begin with Elf Olympics and the annual Christmas parade, which is led by the "Run Your Bells Off for Autism" run down Main Street.

Visitors strolling the streets will find local vendors, shops and restaurants. For younger guests, children’s author and illustrator Will Hillenbrand will read and present his new book “Little Red.” Kids will also have the opportunity to write letters to Santa and enjoy hot cocoa with police officers.

The day culminates in a tree lighting festival at 6:00pm.

Storybook Holiday begins at 9:00am and is free to the public, except for Breakfast with the Elves and a showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Palace Theatre, for which tickets can be purchased.

The scenic drive west through the mountains of Western Maryland is a bonus.

More information on Storybook Holiday can be found at


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