Get On Board with Santa @ New England RR Museum

Did you know that Santa Claus loves trains? For proof, visit Western Connecticut where the man in red can be found presiding over weekend workshops in his own private rail cars and riding the rails with Mrs. Claus on his time off.
You can find Santa and Mrs. Claus taking a break every weekend from November 29 through December 22 aboard the Santa Express, a restored 1920s vintage train from the New England Railroad Museum in Thomaston. Even when he is off duty, Santa doesn’t forget his young admirers. He brings along a bag of gifts for small passengers.

This is a special outing for train buffs, the only rail ride in North America that crosses the face of a dam and the view from Thomaston Dam is spectacular. The 80-minute ride from the historic 1881 Thomaston Station also hugs the edge of the Naugatuck River, and passes through lovely state forest lands.

In this busy season, Santa often has to work late, and special Northern Lights Limited tours from Thomaston let passengers make a stop at Santa’s Train Workshop, where he makes time to come aboard and greet everyone.

At the end of the ride, a model train layout is in action at the station, and a large selection of railroad theme gifts, books, and memorabilia is available.

The Santa Express begins its runs on November 30, then every Saturday and Sunday through December 22 at 12 noon and 2:15 pm. The Northern Lights Limited departs on November 29 and 30 and December 1 at 5 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. Tickets and information are available from the Railroad Museum of New England, online at www.rmne.org, or by phoning (860) 283-7245.

For This Years Gift – Give An Experience – Wigwam Escape

Why give just a gift when you can give an experience…one that will take participants back centuries in the award-winning escape room – Wigwam Escape at the Institute for American Indian Studies located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut.

In an immersive woodland setting with no locks, keys, cell phones, computers, or clocks. Wigwam Escape’s thematic puzzles challenge game players to hunt and gather, find water and prepare food similar to how Native people did hundreds of years ago.

This highly acclaimed escape room was a feature pick for Yankee Magazine’s Travel Summer Guide and awarded “2019 Best Escape Room” by Connecticut Magazine. This extraordinary escape room was also a recipient of the prestigious Award of Merit, 2019 from the Connecticut League of History Organizations.

Wigwam Escape is the perfect gift for people that enjoy an adventure that challenges and educates at the same time. Best of all it provides a chance to bond with friends and family while using your puzzle-solving skills to beat the clock and escape the room.

Wigwam Escape Room gift certificates are available online at https://wigwamescape.org/book-now. For questions and any additional details call 860-868-0518. This is one gift that friends and family will be talking about for years to come!

About The Institute for American Indian Studies

Located on 15 acres of woodland acres the Institute For American Indian Studies preserves and educates through archeology, research, exhibitions, and programs. They have a 16th c. Algonquian Village, Award-Winning Wigwam Escape, and a museum with temporary and permanent displays of authentic artifacts from prehistory to the present that allows visitors to foster a new understanding of the world and the history and culture of Native Americans. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road, Washington, CT.

Visit a Gingerbread Village in Middlebury

Gingerbread-making is a much-loved holiday ritual in Western Connecticut, where many unusual events celebrate this delicious tradition. This year visitors will have the chance to admire some amazing gingerbread creation like the Gingerbread Village at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Middlebury.

This is the 52nd year for the lavish gingerbread village at St. George’s Church in Middlebury, CT, a perennial family favorite. This room size creation opening on December 7 is created by members of the community and includes more than 60 gingerbread buildings iced in rainbow colors, with tasty details like candy cane pillars and M&M roofs. The village is complete with decorated trees, candy fences, horse and sleigh teams, ponds, boats, and sledders, all dressed in Christmas finery and all made of edible parts.

This year’s theme is Gingerbread Cinema! Everything is for sale, available to take home when the display ends on December 14. The event includes a Bazaar with homemade baked goods and crafts for sale and admission is free. On Sat. Dec. 7 and Sun. Dec. 8 the festival is open from 10 am to 7 pm; Monday, Dec. 9- Friday, Dec. 13 the hours are 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 and on Saturday, Dec. 14 the festival is open from 10 am to 4 pm. There is a breakfast buffet on the 14th from 8:30 am – 11 am and a luncheon from 11 am to 2:30 pm. For details, phone 203-758-9557 or https://www.gingerbreadvillagect.com/

Ho Ho Ho – The Joy of Gifting with the Seaport Association

With just two weeks to go until Christmas Day, the Seaport Association in Norwalk Connecticut has made sure there is no “Claus” for alarm come December 25 by offering a collection of extraordinary gifts. The Seaport Association has just opened an online store making shopping for friends and family super easy. All gift certificates are available by calling 203-838-9444 or online at https://www.seaport.org/store

There is no time like the present to shop the Seaport’s collection of wonderful gift certificates that are sure to please foodies, and those that enjoy on the water cruises with the added bonus of songs, sunset, and a historic lighthouse.

A gift honoring the past with a special Seaport Legacy Brick is always appreciated. The Seaport’s Legacy Brick program allows families and friends to etch their name into the history of Sheffield Island and Sheffield Island Lighthouse. Legacy bricks can be customized and commemorate a treasured individual, a milestone, or immortalize your family name by being part of our walkway entrance to the Lighthouse. Legacy Bricks come in two sizes 4×4 @ $100 and 8×8 @ $199.

For foodies, there are certificates for clambakes that take place in the newly constructed timber pavilion during the months of July and August. This gift certificate includes a cruise to Sheffield Island, and an authentic New England clambake set against the backdrop of the historic Sheffield Island Lighthouse on our private island. Clambakes are $79 per person; a $65 option is also available. Clambakes take place every Thursday night, July –August.

If you have a music lover on your gift list, check out the Acoustic Cruise gift certificate and for those that enjoy the sunset on the water the Friday and Saturday night, sunset cruises are the ideal way to enjoy a summer weekend. There is also a family four-pack being offered that includes a cruise to Sheffield Island and a tour of the Lighthouse and Lightkeepers’ cottage for two adults and two children for $70.

If you are looking for the truly extraordinary, book the entire island and ferry for your next soiree, corporate outing, or wedding. New this year the Seaport Association is offering a four-hour rental of Sheffield Island including transportation for 49 people at $2,500! If you want to do something truly remarkable, this is it! The Seaport’s staff will be happy to assist you with all your catering needs. Why rent a room or banquet hall when you can rent your own private island and boat! https://www.seaport.org/store

BETHLEHEM (CT) OFFERS A FESTIVE START TO THE HOLIDAY SEASON

They call this little town in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut “Christmas Town” with good reason. Bethlehem’s Christmas Town Festival scheduled for December 6 and 7, celebrates its 39th birthday this year as one of New England’s favorite ways to kick off the season. Wherever you turn, special treats are waiting, from the town green to the post office to the Abbey of Regina Laudis and the 1754 Bellamy-Ferriday House. Some of the unique attractions continue when the festival is over. This year the opening ceremony will feature Honorary Emcee WFSB Ch, 3 news personalities, Irene O’Connor.

Vendors and More On the Green

The quaint town green, centered with a giant tree, is home to over 70 vendors with unique gift items, wreaths and delicious foods for sale. Strolling carolers and musicians help keep things lively, Santa will be waiting at the firehouse to pose for pictures with young friends, and everyone is invited to climb aboard for hayrides offered in front of First Church. Collectors can garner this year’s unique limited edition Christmas Town pewter ornament, sold only during the Festival.

On Saturday there is a 5K, Santa Made Me Do It road race, 2-mile walk and ¼ mile kids fun run at the festival. The five mile race and two-mile walk begin at 10 a.m. and registration is at Town Hall beginning at 8:30 a.m. The free kids ¼ kids Fun Run starts at 9:30 a.m.

Bethlehem’s beautiful eighteenth-century Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden will be festively decorated and open for tours and holiday cheer during festival hours. Guides will offer house tours and there will be hot cider and a scavenger hunt for children. The home is located at 9 Main Street North, information can be found at http://www.ctlandmarks.org

Hours for the Christmas Town Festival are Friday, December 6 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday, December 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, see www.christmastownfestival.com or phone 203-266-7510, ext. 300.
Christmas Town Mailings at the Post Office

The Bethlehem post office is busy in December serving the many who come every year to mail holiday cards with their unique postmarks. Visitors can select favorites among the “Christmas Cachet” designs, hand-stamp and mail these unique greetings to friends and family. The idea of the special stamps dates to 1938, when a local Postmaster, the late Earl Johnson, designed a “cachet,” a special rubber stamp featuring a tree and lettering that said “From the Little Town of Bethlehem, Christmas Greetings.” New cachets have been added almost every year since. Over 83 designs are now available and nearly 200,000 cards are mailed each year from this small post office. Located at 34 East Street, the post office will have extended hours during the festival, Friday, December 6 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Precious Crèches at the Abbey

One of Bethlehem’s not-to-be-missed jewels is open all month for visitors. The museum-quality eighteenth-century Neapolitan crèche on view in a vintage barn at the Abbey of Regina Laudis includes hundreds of beautiful hand-carved figures. Made of wood, terra cotta, and porcelain, the figures portray the Holy Family, angels, the Three Kings, merchants and peddlers, children, peasants and farm animals. This fabulous gift from artist and philanthropist Loretta Hines Howard is similar to the one Howard donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it is prominently displayed every Christmas.

A second Crèche, The Lauren Ford Crèche, created by a favorite Connecticut artist, is displayed in a farm shed near the Lower Abbey Chapel. This charming rustic Nativity scene displays figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph dressed in typical New England garb.

The Monastic Art Shop on the property offers crafts, cheeses, jams, herbal teas, flavored vinegar, herbs and honey, and all created on-site by Abbey’s residents.

The Abbey of Regina Laudis, located at 249 Flanders Road, is open to visitors daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.abbeyofreginalaudis.org

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo Makes the Holidays Merry and Bright at Breakfast with Frosty and Friends

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo located on 1875 Noble Avenue, Bridgeport, has a longtime family tradition: Breakfast with Frosty! A full buffet breakfast in the Carousel Building includes a visit with Santa and his elf, photo opportunities with Frosty the Snowman, Stripes the Tiger, and Thirsty the Penguin, carousel rides and lots of family fun. These breakfasts sell out every year, but there’s still time for local families from around the region to enjoy the holidays at the Zoo! Pre-Registration is required: https://www.beardsleyzoo.org/breakfast-with-frosty.html

Breakfast with Frosty requires online reservation & pre-payment is required to attend. All days but December 14th are $20 per person for Zoo Members and $25 per person for non-Members. December 14 (Special Activities Day!) prices are $25 for members and $30 for non-members. Children 2 years old and younger are free.

Frosty will be visiting the Zoo on Saturday and Sunday, December 7 and 8, Saturday and Sunday, December 14 and 15 and Saturday and Sunday, December 21 and 22. In addition to Frosty the Snowman, kids will visit with Santa Claus and his Head Elf, Stripes the Tiger, and Thirsty the Penguin

About Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo

Let your curiosity run wild! Connecticut’s only zoo, celebrating its 97th year, features 300 animals representing primarily North and South American species. Guests won’t want to miss our Amur tigers and leopards, Mexican and Red wolves, and Golden Lion tamarin. Other highlights include our Spider Monkey Habitat, the Natt Family Red Panda Habitat, the prairie dog exhibit with “pop-up” viewing areas, plus the Pampas Plains featuring maned wolves, Chacoan peccaries and Giant anteaters. Guests can grab a bite at the Peacock Café, eat in the Picnic Grove, and enjoy a ride on our colorful, indoor carousel. For more information, visit beardsleyzoo.org.

Images – Jack Bradley