Christmas Along the Gulf Coast

Here’s what’s up for the Christmas season 2014 along the Gulf Coast.

TEXAS:

Corpus Christi has a lot to offer this Christmas season so get out your calendar to make sure you have the important events penciled in. From “Storytime with Mrs. Santa Claus” at the Harbor Playhouse, The Town & Country Christmas Classic shopping gala, the 5K Santa Boogie, the Nutcracker Ballet, the Winter Wonderettes, to the Town Club Holiday Shop and more, you’ll have to schedule in your meal time and visits with friends. Enjoy all of the events and when it’s over, have fun as a participant or spectator at the Polar Bear Plunge on New Years Day. Click here for the schedule.

Galveston‘s holiday season starts off with an event the day after Thanksgiving at the Hotel Galvez on Seawall Blvd.  Carolers, the tree lighting, Santa and many great displays will be available to keep you and your family busy and in the spirit. Take in the Home for the Holidays Gift Mart and the Ice Sculptures and Festival of lights at Moody Gardens.  Dickens on the Strand, Handbell Concert, Victorian Holiday Homes Tour, and a Victorian Pipe Organ Extravaganza  are just a few of the other events planned for you.  Click here for the schedule.

Houston has a fun calendar of events. Start your planning with the H-E-B Parade in Downtown Houston on the 27th. Visit the Houston Zoo’s “Zoo Lights” and the largest display of lights along the Gulf Coast on Galveston Bay. The performing arts list includes The Rockettes, Dear Santa, Madeline’s Christmas, Very Merry Pops and more. There’s a candlelight tour of Houston’s oldest historic homes decorated for the holiday season.  If you like concerts, be sure to catch the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Elisabeth von Trapp, the Symphomy, and the ROCO Brass Quintet.  Houston hosts 5K runs, holiday shops and an outdoor skating rink.  Click here for more information.

LOUISIANA:

A New Orleans Christmas features the traditional Reveillon Dinner that all guests to the Crescent City should try.  Here’s a list of restaurants that participate.  Make your reservations early.  While you’re in town, don’t miss caroling in Jackson Square, Celebration in the Oaks, Bonfires on the Levee, holiday shops, home tours and St Louis Cathedral concerts.  Click here for Christmas holiday event information and laissez bon temps rouler through the holiday season.

MISSISSIPPI:

From Ocean Springs to Biloxi/Gulfport there are plenty of events to keep you busy.  Pass Christian celebrates with a tree lighting, street concerts and crafts, Santa and a 5K run on Dec 5 & 6.  Other tree lighting festivals include Pascagoula, Bay St Louis, Long Beach and Ocean Springs. Several towns have lighted boat parades including Biloxi/Gulfport.  Holiday shops, performing arts and Christmas at Beauvoir should be on your calendar.  For more information on Mississippi Gulf Coast Christmas click here.

ALABAMA:

Mobile‘s Hank Aaron Stadium is hosting a drive-thru Christmas light show with synchronized music playing over your car’s radio.  More holiday lights can be found at Bellingrath Gardens. The city cancelled it’s Christmas parade this year but you can swing over to the other side of the Bay for the Gulf Shores Lighted Boat Parade and other events. While you’re there, drive down Fairhope Avenue at night. The street is lined with heavily lighted trees and it’s really beautiful.  View the lights and the gingerbread display at the Point Clear Marriott Grand Hotel. Click here for the schedule. Grand Hotel Gingerbread display

FLORIDA:

Pensacola holds its Winterfest right after Thanksgiving every year.  Check on the schedule and get your tickets early because they tend to sell out fast for certain events.  There is plenty to do: carolers, shopping, parades, reindeer games, carriage rides and more!! Click here.

The Emerald Coast Christmas events include parades, Dicken’s Christmas, Jingle Bell Jog, Symphony, Holiday markets, lighted boat parades, concerts and, of course, Santa.  Here’s the schedule of events.

Tampa‘s Santa Fest has lots of family activities, a parade and ice skating.  During the rest of the holiday season you can catch some holiday music concerts like the USF Choral Christmas Concert, the Nutcracker, Winterville, Twinkle in Tampa Bay (the decorated boat festival of lights) and more.  Calendar of events for Tampa.

In Sarasota you can attend the Christmas parade and tree lighting, watch the lighted boat parade, listen to the Pops Orchestra, watch the Nutcracker, attend some holiday markets. Lakewood Ranch is hosting their Main Street party with parade featuring the jolly old elf, carriage rides and carolers. View holiday decorations and lights at Spanish Point and Ca’ d’Zan and Sarasota Jungle Gardens.  Participate in activities and parades on St Armand’s Circle and downtown Sarasota. Click here for more information.

I hope you got the picture: there’s a lot to do along the Gulf Coast during the Christmas season this year.  Unfortunately I can’t name them all for you but try to make it to the events listed above or find some that are closer to your Gulf Coast home. What ever you do, I wish you a great season of joy and a Merry Christmas.

 

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25 Days of Beach-Themed Christmas Songs

25 Days of Beachy Christmas Music.  What a cool idea. You could just LIKE my Facebook page, Crafty  Beachcomber, to get a daily dose of beach themed Christmas songs but I’ll give you a list to go by in case you want to make your own online music list.

What I’ve come up with are the following.  Some have Youtube videos available to watch, some don’t but they’re all available somewhere, somehow for you to enjoy this Christmas season. I won’t include any links because of licensing.

It’s a no-brainer to first go to the Beach Boys for some songs but there are plenty others that are tops on my list.  These are from artists like Bing Crosby, The Embers, Jimmy Buffet, Squirrel Nut Zippers and more.

The beach changes us.  It gets into our soul. It’s a culture that you either love or hate but if you love it, it reminds you of the fun times you’ve had during the summer and to dream of having a warm, tropical, beach-side Christmas holiday is something I bet most of us have done.  Some of us (me included) have been fortunate to live coastal and experience the warm weather, sea breeze, salt spray and Christmas trees all in one setting. I’ve made, with the help of my family, snow men on the beach made from white Gulf Coast sand and a snow man kit which included a scarf, corncob pipe, buttons and a carrot nose.  101_0078We’ve spent countless hours building castles, digging to China and swimming in the waves during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years and beyond.  We’ve gone to “Main Street” parties where snow falls from machines on the tops of buildings onto the tropical shoppers below.  We’ve walked in flip flops and swim suits past Christmas trees set up near the beach where palm trees and flowering tropicals sway giving you the false sense of what season it really is. android photos 091It’s just fun and strange at the same time. Growing up in Maryland, Christmas was cold, the trees were bare and the land was usually snow covered; except at the beach.

But my life is beach inspired (blame my parents) so I have incorporated this lifestyle into almost everything I do (and thankfully I found a soulmate with the same goals), regardless of where I live (currently inland).  So I will share with you, my readers that I greatly appreciate, a list of wonderful songs that get me pumped for the season of Christmas, where ever I am.  Can you think of others?  Send me a note.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless.

1. Christmas in the Sand, Colbie Caillat

2. The Little Saint Nick, Beach Boys

3. Christmas in the Caribbean, Jimmy Buffet

4. All I Want for Christmas is a Really Good Tan, Kenny Chesney

5. Christmas on the Beach, Irene

6. Christmas Island, Andrew Sisters and Bing Crosby. Jimmy Buffet also does a great version.

7. Surf Rock Christmas, Ventures

8. It’s Gonna Be A Surfer’s Christmas, Morning Glass

9. Aloha Christmas, Dukes of Surf

10. I Love Christmas Music, Embers

11. Mele Kalikimaka, Bing Crosby

12. Christmas Surf-Noir Style, Bikini Beach Band

13. Christmas at the Beach, Uncle Moondog

14. A Kiwi Christmas, The Polka Dots

15. White Christmas, The Ventures

16. Christmas for Surfers, Wheeland Brothers

17. Mary’s Boy Child in a Cha Cha Style

18. Deck the Halls on Steel Drum, Lightning Jack

19. Calypso Noel, Beckett

20. Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, The Band of Oz

21. Captain Creedmore’s Cajun Crawfish Christmas, King Tyrone & The Graveyard Ramblers

22. Christmas on the Coast, John Barker & Mark Black

23. Carolina Christmas, Squirrel Nut Zippers

24. Tropical Christmas, Bellamy Brothers

25. Christmas in Jamaica, The Aracanians

Life Skills for Kids at the Beach

I have raised my two boys, with the help of my sweet husband, at the beach in South Carolina, Florida and Alabama.  The years we lived inland, we made trips to the coast for vacations.  There are several things that struck me as skills my boys learned at an early age and still hold onto.  At just 4 years old, our oldest recruited friends to pick up trash left behind by other people.  I really supervised this activity since I didn’t want them touching something unsavory.  They later used gloves and even later gave some volunteer hours to Coastal Clean-up.  They’ve learned to respect the waves, the warning flags and roped areas that protect wildlife.  My boys helped me one day “bird sitting” near a protected nest to keep the public educated about the area.  The guys control their spending on knick-knacks and keep their sunscreen on and water bottles in hand.198

With this in mind I’ve come up with a list of 5 skills that kids and teens who live or visit the beach on a regular basis should have to be a steward of the environment, their lives and the community:

1. Self Discipline: There are many areas of self discipline that kids and teens should exercise while on vacation at the beach. a) Young kids are prone to throw handfuls of sand at one another and it only takes one grain of sand to scratch a cornea.  b) Older children and teens need to learn to stay away from dangerous currents, know what the flags mean and heed the warnings.  c) Vacation towns are full of great shopping and kids will be interested in buying things they can’t get back home. Self-discipline regarding money and budgeting will allow them to spread out their spending for the duration of the vacation and make the right spending choices.  They’ll enjoy even more what they purchase when they spend wisely. d) Driving teens may feel that since they’re on vacation they can act with abandon and not follow any rules.  This isn’t so.  Responsible driving skill are still necessary while on vacation.

2. Respect: Sharing the beach with others requires respect for others.  Keep your music within your own space or wear ear buds. Play catch or paddle ball away from sunbathers so you don’t kick sand on them.  Watch out for little children near or in the water.  Keep away from roped areas of the beach.  Federally protected shorebirds and sea turtles nest on the beach and their space is important to protect.  Most are endangered or on a watch list.  Tampering with the roped areas, entering or vandalizing will land you in jail and or with a large fine to pay.  Attend a class while on vacation to learn about the species in the area that are protected and what you can do to help.  And when you leave the beach, clean up. Leave it the way you found it so it can be enjoyed again the next day. Throw away trash in cans placed near parking lots.  Bottle caps, cigarette butts, plastic bags, broken sand toys, food wrappers etc shouldn’t stay on the beach overnight.

3. Problem Solving: A person in the ocean or Gulf looks like they are too far from the coast. What do you do?  Kids and teens shouldn’t hesitate to let a grown up know if they think someone looks in distress.  Make sure they don’t go in after the person.  Only trained lifeguards should brave the waves and rip currents to save a life. Find the nearest life guard stand and let them know what you think.  You could save a life just by reporting something you saw.

4. Physical skillsKids who hang near the water line need basic swimming skills.  No one should be afraid of the water although it can be easy to find yourself with a fear of the waves and the vastness of the sea, not to mention the creatures that live inside. But in any event, children need to learn to swim.  A wave could crash while they’re searching to shells, or filling up their bucket with water.  Older children are drawn into the water daring it to mess with them.  One crashing wave or rip tide could cause panic and result in drowning.  Kids and teens should learn how to not panic and how to get out of a rip tide. What if you vacation at the beach and your child hasn’t had lessons?  Make sure that child is wearing a life jacket.  They aren’t quite the fashion statement and will provide some extra tan lines but safety should trump fashion and comfort. Even teens without swim lessons need to be aware of the dangers of being in too-deep water.

5. Healthy decision making: The sun is necessary for life on planet Earth but over exposure can damage your skin.  A sunburn can cause sensitive skin, chills, fever, blistering.  Teens no longer have their parents applying sunscreen so they need to make sure they do it themselves. Deciding to wear sunscreen is an important decision. Be aware that some medications cause sun sensitivity.  Choose whether to limit your exposure by time, higher SPF, cover-up clothing or use of an umbrella.  The sun and heat can also cause dehydration.  Floating in the ocean or Gulf will not add hydration to your body; it has to come from within so be sure to keep a bottle of water to drink while you’re on the beach to avoid hydration. Bring snacks that add hydration like apples. Making healthy decisions on the beach is a great life skill for kids and teens.

10 Ocean Themed Gifts for Kids

Why not give some great ocean or beach themed gifts this year to the kids on your list?  Here are some fantastic ideas:

1. Bucket and Shovel. the old standby for a trip to the beach.  What kid wouldn’t love to play in the sand with a cool bucket and shovel. Of course the castle-building shapes are just as awesome but most buckets come with handles so the little sand creator can also gather some other items from the water line like sea beans, shells, driftwood and more.  Pick plastic or metal and have the bucket decorated with the child’s monogram, characters or other designs. Add a beach towel and some other beach toys to get them excited about their upcoming vacation or regular trip to the beach if you live coastal.

2. Gift card to the local aquarium.  Wow! For the kid that love sharks, this is a cool gift. Be sure to take a walk through the shark tunnel; most aquariums have them for under-the-shark viewing.  Add in a few extra dollars more than the admission price for a trip to the gift shop.

3. Snorkeling lessons and a guided trip.  It’s easy to find a coastal business that will offer some lessons and take you on a guided tour of some great area along the coast.  Either give a gift card for the lessons with information about classes or a note with a pledge to take them on vacation at the beach and enjoy snorkeling.  Add some basic equipment to be ready to go.

4. Boogie Board. If you attend the beach regularly, you may want to invest in a new boogie board or one that will last a long time.  Not sure the child on your list is good at using the boogie board?  Many vacation spots have surf stores that will give a lesson in boarding.  Add a gift card from your favorite store.

5. Membership to Surfrider and a tshirt.  For the coastal activist child or teen, a membership to Surfrider might be a great gift. Membership fees vary depending the level of monetary contribution and the premium item you want. At any level, your child will get a monthly digital copy of the organization’s newletter, a decal and discount in the online store.  Click here for more information.

6. Surfing lessons and a surf board.  Whether the child on your list wants to surf the big waves in Hawaii or just coast along the low ones off the Gulf Coast of Florida, surf lessons for the adventurous will be a hit.  Surf shops in vacation destinations provide lessons so pick a shop where you intend to vacation next year and get a gift card with a description of the classes available.  Throw in a DVD of Endless Summer, and a subscription to a surf magazine.

7. Sticker books and other activity books about the ocean. There is a plethora of sea-themed books, sticker books, and craft kits available in stores and online.  Books about sea creatures from DK and other publishers, sticker books about the ocean, books about shore birds, sharks, sea turtles are popular with kids.  For the dedicated teen reader try more in-depth marine science books, books about ocean travelers or high-seas adventures.  Rather than just give one book, fill a basket or other container together with a set of books and other activities. Wrap it up to make one big gift.

8. Model Sailboat.  For the child that likes to put things together, a model sailboat, model ship or ship-in-a-bottle kit would be a lot of fun.  You can find these in specialty hobby stores and online. Include a story book or DVD movie about this particular boat so your child can become an expert.

9. A tropical fish aquarium.  Available at pet stores, fish tanks provide a learning experience, a calming effect for everyone watching the fish swim around and teaches responsibility.  Pack the aquarium with all the equipment you need, including a book or two on tropical fish and how to take care of them.  Wrap it all together.  Spend the day learning together about the different types of fish and pick which ones you’ll shop for the next day. Some fish don’t get along with others, so use the expertise of a pet store aquarium specialist to help you pick your new pets.

10. A beach-cruiser bike.  Along the coast you don’t need the gears on your bike like you use on hills.  A simple beach cruiser will get you from your house to the beach or local beach gift store or restaurant.  Easy to ride, the wide tires make it easy to manage a bike ride on the sand.  Add some accessories, like a helmet, water bottle, flat-tire kit, bell and front basket for extra fun.