Holiday light shows, live nativity reenactments, Santa visits and holiday performances give families countless options for fun in the week ahead. ZOOLights makes its debut at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Okefenokee’s Swamp Lights train tours are in full swing, and Georgia’s Sea Turtle Center will be offering visits with Santa as well as recovering sea turtles on Jekyll Island. There’s also a Winter Carnival in Fernandina, a kids’ Nutcracker performance in Yulee, and a special Christmas celebration at Conner’s A-Maize-Ing Acres. On Saturday alone, there are a whopping 26 special events on our calendar.
Thankfully, we’re not going to cram every one of those events into this message. We’ve given Mamamelia.com — and this newsletter — a facelift to make it a little easier for all of us to keep track of all the great local events for kids.
We’ve rounded up a handful of our favorite local events for the week ahead in the list below, but you can see the full calendar of special events in our new Special Events Calendar. We now have a separate calendar for the events offered every week, such as library story times, and of course we still have our popular Kids Eat Free calendar. If you prefer to see all of these events in one place, we also have a new Master Calendar.
Check out our new look and feel free to let us know what you think. We’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions!
What Else is New at Mamamelia.com:
* Giveaway! Enter our drawing any time between now and Dec. 20 to win FOUR FREE tickets to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in Jacksonville. The show runs Jan. 17-21, and you’ll be able to choose which day you’ll attend. Click here to enter the drawing.
* Speaking of the circus… you can see photos and read all about the upcoming show here. We’ve also scored a $5 off per-ticket promo code for you!
* Announcement: Reserve your spot now for Santa’s Storytime at Ms. Wendy’s Wonderful World of Books in St. Marys. Read about it here.
* Newsflash: Today only, The Vibe is offering a holiday art lab for kids ages 5-15 with local artist Susan Dahl. $15. Details here.
* Time for Camp: Kids ages 5-12 can go to the zoo for a fun, educational “camp” over the winter holiday. Ages 5 to 12. Visit the program website here. The Jacksonville Suns are also offering baseball camp at the Baseball Grounds in downtown Jacksonville. Read their camp description here.
* Try our unbelievable Peppermint Bark recipe — it’s simple enough to make, and decadent enough to impress your mother-in-law! Get the details here.
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Mamamelia’s Top Event Picks for the Week Ahead:
Friday, Dec. 14
6:30-9:30 p.m. Debut of ZOOLights at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens / Jacksonville
Tonight is the opening night of the first-ever ZOOLights, and it promises to be spectacular. See thousands of brilliant LED lights, moving sculptures, forests of lighted trees, and more as you walk through the zoo to the tune of holiday music. There will be dancers and carolers, the Polar Express 4-D theatre will be operating, and Santa Claus and his elves will be on hand to visit with children. Nightly snowfalls at 8 p.m., too! This will be offered through Dec. 31. $7 for zoo members, $9 for non-members. Read more about it, and find out how to get $1 off admission here. If you’ve never been to the zoo, click here to read our review.
Saturday, Dec. 15
10 a.m. Christmas at the Corn Maize with Santa / Hilliard
Enjoy photos with Santa, bounce houses, face painting, train rides, a mini concession and bake sale at Conner’s A-Maize-Ing Acres in Hilliard, the same fun place where we all wander through the corn maze in the fall. Admission is $13 per person. Call 904-251-4255 with any questions. All proceeds benefit Nick Brown, who is listed for a double lung transplant. If you’ve never been to this fun place, see our review here.
12 to 3 p.m. Santa & the Sea Turtles at Georgia Sea Turtle Center / Jekyll Island
Santa visits good girls and boys every year, so why not sea turtles? Kids can visit with the man in the red suit and make a recycled ornament to adorn their Christmas tree, then visit sea turtle patients and hear their special Christmas story. $7 adults; $6 seniors (65 and older), active duty military, college students and teachers with ID; $5 children 4-12. Call 912- 635-4444 or visit georgiaseaturtlecenter.org.
2 p.m. VFW Children’s Christmas Party / Kingsland
Santa will make a visit, and games, prizes and snacks will be provided at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8385 Ladies Auxiliary’s annual Children’s Christmas Party. No membership required for this event.
3:30 p.m. Children’s Nutcracker Performance / Yulee
A local children’s dance class from The Vibe youth center will be performing an abbreviated version of The Nutcracker at Yulee Middle School. Kids 10 and under get in FREE, entry is $10 for everyone else. See the event flyer here.
5 p.m. Winter Wonderland Carnival / Fernandina Beach
Enjoy a winter-themed carnival with games and rides that children of all ages will enjoy. Santa Claus will be in his workshop ready to take pictures during the carnival. Refreshments and snacks will also be available for purchase. For more information, contact Jay Robertson at 904-277-7350 ext. 2013 or at email@example.com.
6 p.m. KinderStudios Christmas Spectacular / Fernandina Beach
KinderStudios’ annual Christmas Spectacular performance is back this year to get everyone in the Christmas spirit with fabulous holiday performances by its students. This year it’s in the Fernandina Beach Middle School auditorium. Tickets are $10. Doors open at 6 p.m., show begins at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 16
12 to 9 p.m. Dollar Day at Nassau Bowling Center / Yulee
Dollar Day is back at the Nassau Bowling Center. All games, shoes, hot dogs, and medium sodas are only $1 each from 12 to 9 p.m. A fun-filled day for the whole family. For more information, call (904) 225-1077
Tuesday, Dec. 18
6:15 pm, 6:45 pm, 7:15 pm and 7:45 pm. Live Nativity Scene / St. Marys, GA
Each year, people gather in St. Marys to view a live nativity reenactment on the grounds of the beautiful Orange Hall. This FREE event includes live animals and actors and musical performances in a relaxed outdoor setting. It’s appropriate for any age and a traditional family event for many locals. In years past, they had bleachers set up so families could sit while they watched. Choose from four times on Tuesday, Dec. 18, to watch the story come to life. Read our write-up and see photos here.
There’s also a live nativity scene in Callahan this weekend (Dec. 14-16). You can read about in the special events calendar.
Wednesday, Dec. 19
6 p.m. WQIK Winter Wonder Jam / Jacksonville
Enjoy an Easton Corbin concert along with arts and crafts, pictures with Santa, snow and vendors. Free. Call 904-353-1188 or visit jacksonvillelanding.com.
6 to 9 p.m. Okefenokee Swamp Park Lights / Waycross
Climb aboard the Lady Suwannee Train and be dazzled by the thousands of lights and displays along the Okefenokee Railroad and throughout the Swamp Park. This is a rare opportunity to explore this natural wonder at night. Offered every Friday and Saturday night through Christmas, plus December 18-20, 23, 26 and 27. $8 adults, $6 children 3-11, children 2 and under FREE. Trains start at 6 p.m. and depart approximately every 30 minutes. The last train boards at 9:00 PM. Click here to visit Okefenokee’s information page about Swamp Park Lights.
Don’t forget, this is just a small sampling of the tons of events available for families in the days and weeks ahead. Be sure to visit the full events calendar to see more fun events, including lots of chances to see the big cats at Catty Shack Ranch, many Santa sightings, and fun ongoing events like the Letters to Santa drive-through event at a St. Marys fire station.
Thanks for reading! ~ Mamamelia