Discover the magic and memories of Christmas history and traditions at the National Christmas Center!
By: Yvonne Klemets Wright
Need a little Christmas Spirit? Directly on business Rt. 30 just shy of the famed outlets in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country sits the National Christmas Center dedicated to preserving and sharing precious memories of Christmases past and present, near and far. Chances are you’ve driven past this little gem. Within minutes of your visit you’ll be sure to get into the Christmas spirit.
The museum boasts 20,000 square feet of galleries complete with wax figures that bring the holiday to life for visitors big and small. You’ll start your tour with a history of Christmases celebrated around the world. I personally found this to be a terrific model of how I celebrated a traditional Swedish Christmas as a child and was happy to share these memories with my own children.
Following along you’ll be greeted by a lively, eclectic collection of vintage store merchandise at a replica of Woolworth’s 5&10 –- America’s first “five and dime” store which opened more than 125 years ago in Lancaster, PA.
Enter Santa’s North Pole Workshop complete with animated characters who surround this winter wonderland. There you’ll meet Kris Kringle and have an opportunity to share with him your Christmas wish list. This Santa is hands-down the most realistic Santa I’ve encountered in my 36 years and took a great deal of patience and time to speak with my children, adding to the realism and eliminating the hustle and bustle of being rushed off of his lap. Prices for photos start at $12.99.
As you leave Santa’s Workshop you’ll step into the pages of a story book as you walk the cobblestone streets of TudorTowne Animated Village and then into Toyland, a mountain of electric trains circling the trunk of a giant Christmas tree.
You’ll end your tour where Christmas began as you view Mary and Joseph in a breathtaking life-sized scene of The First Christmas.
The National Christmas Center is open to the public daily May through the New Year. While I recommend visiting the Center during the holiday season, there is an annual festival held the second Saturday in July that looks equally as fun.
For admission prices and hours of operation, please visit http://www.nationalchristmascenter.com/default.aspx