Track Santa’s Ride Tonight!

Tonight’s the night that every kid, big or small, has been waiting for since this time last year. It’s the night that Santa takes to the skies and delivers toys to the world, and this being the 21st Century, it is now easier than ever to track the jolly man in the red suit. A host of high tech gadgets will be employed to make sure you know exactly when he’ll be paying a visit to your neighborhood.

The ever vigilant team at NORAD will once again be keeping an eye on the skies this year, tracking Santa and his sled as he makes his way across the globe. They’ll be using a combination of radar, satellites, fighter jets, and special “Santa cams” to keep track of his progress, and capture ole St. Nick in a variety of famous locations around the world. Of course, they’ll be posting updates all day long on the NORAD website, so check back often to see where Santa is at.

That’s not the only way you’ll be able to follow Santa’s epic ride however. You’ll be able to get updates via Facebook and Twitter of course, and photos from the Santa cams will be uploaded to a special Picasa web gallery as well. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll be able to follow the sled’s trajectory on Google Maps and within Google Earth too, making it easier than ever to know when the Big Guy will be paying you a visit.

It seems Santa, and his eight magical reindeer, won’t have an easy time eluding all of the high tech surveillance devices that will be keeping an eye on them through the his journey, but something tells me he still has a trick or two up his sleeve. And no matter how sophisticated our tracking systems get, he can depend on Christmas magic to quickly and quietly slip in and out of our houses, delivering the gifts in the blink of an eye. So keep your eyes peeled. You just might catch a glimpse of the man himself. That is, if you don’t blink at the wrong time.

Go Reindeer sledding in Russia this winter

Forget dog-sledding. For the ultimate winter endurance test, try reindeer sledding in Eastern Russia with Russia Discovery’s 9-night excursion into the “Pole of Cold” in Yakutia.

The tour is not for the faint of heart or those who want to be pampered. In fact, Urban Daddy calls it “the most physically demanding holiday celebration outside the Polar Bear Club”. Listed as a requirement for the tour is physical fitness and “physical and psychological resistance to the cold.” How cold? Pretty darn cold. The average temperature in January is -40C.

if you think you can brave the freezing temps, you’ll start your tour with a day in Yakutsk where you can visit the Institute of Permafrost before setting out on a 19 hour drive to Yuchugey, a settlement of reindeer herders. By day three, you’ll be practicing your hand at reindeer sledding; on day four you’ll spend 5-6 hours crossing the frozen terrain by sled and then sleeping outdoors in a 4X4 tent. Another day of sledding (in total, the sledding covers 35 miles over two days) is followed by a 20 hour drive back to Yakutsk. On day eight you can visit a husky farm and compare dog-sledding to reindeer sledding before returning to Moscow.

The tour isn’t cheap at €3560 per person, but included in the cost are all meals and accommodations, rental of all the furry outer wear required to keep you from dying of hypothermia, and the chance to feel like Santa as you glide over a snowy landscape pulled by a team of real live reindeer.

Five ways to make a dollar go further in New England this holiday season

New England was made for the holiday season. Sure, it’s a bit chilly up there in the winter, but bundle up, and it’s impossible not to be sucked in by the charm of one of the oldest corners of America. If you’re looking for a great way to maximize your spending power this Christmas (who isn’t?!), check out five great ideas from New England Inns and Resorts. There’s plenty of variety … but little room for Scrooges.

Cut your own Christmas tree
This is a tough one if you’re traveling any distance, and trying to cram a fir into the overhead bin will not help you win friends and influence others. But, if you’re within driving distance, check out The Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, Maine. The holiday package gets you two nights in an ocean view room and a fresh-cut Christmas tree from nearby Bragdon Farms. Fortunately, they’ll wrap it and fasten it to your car. Back at the inn, you’ll also get two hot chocolates and use of the sauna and spa – you’ll need this to warm up a bit; Maine gets pretty cold.

Shop ’til you drop
At the White Mountain Hotel & Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire, you’ll be close to the outlet stores (famous to anyone who grew up in an adjacent state). The package includes discount coupons to make the savings even greater, and you’ll also get breakfast every morning (two-night stay required). So, instead of cramming into the local mall, dash off to do your shopping this year, and make it an experience worth remembering.

No stress involved
Up in Lyndonville, Vermont, The Wildflower Inn wants to make your holiday season as easy as possible. Rather than worry about fold-out couches and relatives lurking in your kitchen in the middle of the night, invade the Wildflower and occupy its 570-acre resort. Stay for three nights, get a full breakfast every day and unwind. Every room has a Christmas tree that’s ready to be decorated. And, the inn will serve dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas day itself. Don’t worry: Santa goes to Vermont (hell, he doesn’t live far from it). Every room can be expected to have packed stockings!

Movie marathon by the sea
Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit, Maine is offering a low-key holiday that will make any holiday host drool. Instead of fussing over guests, take advantage of the “Ho-Ho-Ho Package,” and enjoy a holiday movie marathon, caroling and a visit from Santa himself (he doesn’t live far from Maine, either). Bring an unwrapped gift for Meadowmere’s Toys for Tots tree (do it), and relax be the fire.

Think past Christmas
There’s more to the holiday season than Christmas. For the next big event, skip the mayhem of Times Square (or the boredom of watching the ball drop on television), and go to Adair Country Inn & Restaurant in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Spend two or three nights at the inn, and sit for a four-course dinner on New Year’s Eve. Bring your tux; formal attire is encouraged. A party will follow, with dancing, champagne and a fireworks display. When the festivities are over, scarf down a late-night snack. Drag yourself out of bed the next day for high tea.

Coolest plastic Christmas tree in America to be lit Nov 30

More than 30 feet tall and made of a quarter of a million forest green DUPLO® bricks, the LEGOLAND® Christmas tree is by far the most fun in the United States. Regular trees die, and most plastic trees are so … well … plain – they just look like trees. The LEGOLAND tree, on the other hand, is something to be celebrated. At 5:30 PM on November 30, 2009, Tori Spelling McDermott (of 90210 fame, and some other stuff) and Dean McDermott will be the featured guests. They’ll share some holiday cheer, as well, with a donation to the Ronald McDonald House.

A kids band called The Jumpitz® will be performing. I’ve never heard of them, but since I’m staring down the barrel of fatherhood, I imagine that my ignorance is doomed to have a limited life.

Of course, for those of us who grew up on LEGOs, the plastic building blocks are the main event. The tree will sport more than 240 ornaments – all crafted in the medium of LEGO – and will be the centerpiece of LEGOLAND Holly Jolly Holidays. After Christmas is over (from December 26 – 30), there will be nightly fireworks displays. Of course, a full-sized LEGO Santa will be on hand from the moment the tree is lit through the duration of the festivities.

Feeling lucky? Let’s hope so. From December 3 – 24, one kid will be chosen randomly every day to light the tree!

Honolulu Christmas Lights

So the weather outside may not be frightful, and we might not find the fire necessary, but there is plenty of holiday spirit on the Hawaiian islands — particularly if you’re traveling along King Street in Downtown Honolulu or down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki.

Although you’ve already missed the 24th Annual Honolulu Christmas Lights Opening Ceremony and Parade, which was held on December 6, the colorful displays along the King Street block in front of the Honolulu Hale (530 South King Street) make for a great evening of family fun. This year’s city lights theme is “Ku’u Home” (Our Home), and highlights the cultural diversity of the islands as well as its special spirit of Aloha.
The Lights are on for all to see until January 6. The centerpiece of this year’s display is always the enormous Hawaiian themed Santa and Mrs. Claus, kicking back barefooted by the water. There’s something uniquely tropical and delightful about Christmas time in Honolulu even without the cold and snow. Honolulu’s 23rd Annual Holiday Wreath Contest winners, are also displayed in the interior halls of the Hale. Every year has a different theme, and this year’s is “Holiday Heroes,” which you will see is pretty much open to interpretation.

Finally, if you haven’t had your fill of palm trees and Christmas lights, Waikiki always serves up some authentic holiday events — particularly along Kalakaua Avenue. Sheila, over at Go Visit Hawaii, breaks down the plethora of activity going down in the touristic center of Hawaii. Most of the noteworthy offerings in Waikiki involve gorging on Hawaiian cuisine at the various hotel restaurants and cafés, but some interesting activities are available in the coming week, including a Santa appearance and photoshoot at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach on the 23rd. Be sure to practice your Hawaiian and wish your friends and family a warm “Mele Kalikimaka” (Merry Christmas)!