I think there’s an unwritten law that says that parents retain the right to take the kids to sit on Santa’s lap. Grandparents might want to forego that activity unless they want to explain why there appears to be more than one Santa. There are, however, lots more options for holiday outings with grandchildren. Another bonus: while you have the grandkids, their parents have a chance to do some shopping.
1. Holiday Parades
Many communities have special holiday parades. In my opinion, the smaller the community, the better. There’s something heartwarming about small-town parades, with their homemade floats and high school marching bands, that may be lacking in larger celebrations. Besides, it’s easier to get to and view smaller celebrations. In the case of really small towns, you’ll be able to drive directly to and park on the parade route. In most locations, however, it will be cold, so make arrangements to keep everyone well-wrapped and toasty.
2. Outdoor Decorations
One great outing for grandchildren is a drive to see outdoor decorations. A scouting trip beforehand is advisable, as sometimes folks who have put up great decorations one year poop out the next year. Don’t overlook civic groups or merchants who may put up great displays. In my hometown, it's best to go two or three weeks before Christmas. As the actual holiday approaches, people get busier with holiday parties and shopping and also may leave town, leaving their displays dark. Finish up with hot chocolate and cookies at home.
3. Indoor Decorations
Shopping malls sometimes have nice decorations and window displays. If you have friends who go all out with decorations, they would probably be happy to host you and your grandchildren for a short visit. I have a friend who puts up a fabulous Christmas village in her living room and welcomes friends and neighbors in to enjoy it. In such cases, just be vigilant about watching the grandchildren. She would forgive one of her own grandchildren who broke a favorite piece, but I’m not sure she’d forgive one of mine.
4. Ice Skating
If you live in northern climes, perhaps ice skating is no big deal, but for many of us it retains a fascination and an association with Christmas. Whether it’s watching the skaters at Rockefeller Plaza in NYC or visiting a mall with an ice skating rink, this is one outing that is sure to thrill, especially if the grandchildren know how to skate. Be careful, however, about teaching yourself and them at the same time. Proprietors of all types of skating establishments report more injuries to adults than to kids.
5. Breakfast With Santa
Charitable and civic organizations often host breakfasts with Santa or similar celebrations, where children get to be photographed with Santa while having a light breakfast and receiving some type of gifts. These events are usually reasonably priced, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that your money is going for a good cause.
6. Parties for Employees
Some employers who provide a Christmas party for the children of employees will extend the invitation to grandchildren as well, though sometimes for a fee. These can be very affordable outings as the company is picking up part of the costs. Some companies include retirees as well as active employees.
7. Shopping Trips
Since our holidays are focused so much on kids and gifts for them, it is a good idea to take the grandchildren on a shopping tip to buy gifts for someone else. You may want to supply them with a little money to buy gifts for their parents, or for the other grandchildren. It’s probably even better to let them purchase toys for needy children through whatever local charity sponsors toy drives. It's usually best to go first thing in the morning. Some children will have a hard time making decisions about gifts. It may be a good idea to set up some guidelines ahead of time, or spend some time looking at advertisements or catalogs first.
8. Plays and Performances
For many families, a trip to see a production of The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol is an annual holiday event. This is a great tradition, but it is an expensive one. If you can't swing tickets for a first-class performance, check out the little theater in your town, or a high school performance. Go ahead and dress the kids in holiday style and insist on strict theater etiquette. If they get tired, you can leave at intermission without feeling wasteful.
9. Theme Parks
If you are lucky enough to have one nearby, a holiday visit to a theme park is an option. It will be more expensive than a trip to a local town hall display, but it can still be affordable. Most theme parks go all out for the holidays, with light displays, Christmas characters and special rides. Early December isn't a bad time for a visit to Walt Disney World in Florida, although traffic gets crazy later in the month.
10. Something Unexpected
If you and the grandchildren are suffering from holiday fatigue, sometimes the best solution is to do something completely un-Christmasy. If you have an indoor pool near your house, take the grandchildren for a splash. Check out the local YMCA, community college or other fitness center to find a heated facility. Another idea is to bundle the grands up for a bike ride, a hike or a geo-caching excursion. If you get a mild day, play some fun outdoor games. You'll be refreshed and ready for another round of holiday mania.