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One-day outings during the holidays produce special memoriescomment (0)

November 29, 2007

By Linda Holloway

A road trip during the Christmas season will create family memories that last long after toys and gadgets are forgotten.

Tourists in Alabama can enjoy Christmas festivities and American history at the same time. Both the American Village in Montevallo and Constitution Village in Huntsville are decked out in their finery, welcoming visitors to experience sights and sounds of Christmas.

American Village, Montevallo
Families can detour hectic holiday schedules and enjoy a visit to “Christmas past” at the American Village. You will find decorations that are mostly gathered from the land and made by hand, reflecting a simpler time in history.

Located just south of Birmingham in Montevallo, the 113-acre educational campus and interactive historical attraction welcomes more than 65,000 visitors each year.

Here, you will find more than a dozen replicas of Early American historical buildings.

Linda and Don Crawford, members of Lakeside Baptist Church, Birmingham, in Birmingham Baptist Association, enjoy hosting Linda’s family the week before Christmas. “We realized the importance of family outings five years ago after losing our brother and two sisters within one year,” Linda said. “I was sharing my prayer with my husband as I was concerned there were not any exciting places left to take my sisters last Christmas.”

Don suggested the American Village and chauffeured the ladies in the couple’s motor home. The group enjoyed a luncheon with a Christmas theme in the parking lot before touring the American Village.

“We toured the buildings, and we even were allowed to peep into the chapel decorated for a Christmas wedding. Touring the Southern Living Home was so exciting,” Linda said.

A lesson in decorating
Using historical records, the Southern Living Showcase House reflects George Washington’s residence in Philadelphia while he was president.

The exterior looks almost like the original, but the floor plan has been modified to make the home livable for today, complete with modern furnishings. The home will be decorated for Christmas through Dec. 16.

After the Southern Living Showcase House closes, the American Village staff will transform the interior to better reflect the time period and further educate visitors about American history, civics and government.

The American Village is planning a variety of events during the holidays including Christmas by Candlelight, held Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. This old-fashioned holiday celebration will feature the sights and sounds of the season, including Colonial music, people of the past, Old World holiday decorations, a patriotic Christmas tree in the Oval Office and a Christmas Groaning Board Feast (priced separately).

On Dec. 9 at 5 p.m., A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols — patterned after King’s College, Cambridge, U.K., that has been performed since 1918 — will be presented by area Episcopal churches in the Lucille Ryals Thompson Colonial Chapel.

Father Christmas will be visiting the American Village to take toy orders during Christmas by Candlelight. Check dates, times and prices. For more information, call 1-877-811-1776 or visit www.americanvillage.org.

Santa’s Village, Huntsville
Did you know that Santa has temporarily moved from the North Pole to Huntsville? Santa and crew have set up shop in Santa’s Village located in Alabama Constitution Village. Known as one of Alabama’s most historic sites, Alabama Constitution Village is the spot where 44 men gathered inside a furniture maker’s workshop to draft a document of statehood in July 1819.

Here, at the birthplace of Alabama, you will find four main buildings and seven outbuildings filled with early 19th-century Southern furnishings. During the year, costumed guides re-create life as it was in the early 1800s, but when Christmas rolls around, the village is turned into a child’s holiday fantasyland, beginning with the arrival of Santa himself.

The EarlyWorks Museum Complex and the Alabama Constitution Village Foundation is hosting Santa’s Village until Dec. 23, 5 p.m.–9 p.m.

“Named Alabama Event of the Year by the State of Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society in 2006, Santa’s Village has been visited by 125,000 people since the event began in 2002,” said Alabama Constitution Village Foundation Director Dorothy Havens.

You will find reindeer in their stable, and costumed characters like Frosty the Snowman and the Gingerbread Man are always popular.

Thanks to local churches, schools and organizations, guests can expect a variety of nightly entertainment on the Tinsel Tunes Stage. Children will enjoy making a craft in the Toymaker’s Workshop, becoming a snowman in Snowman’s Alley and playing in the falling “snow.”

Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen
Also, decorating cookies in Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen will be a special treat for the aspiring chefs in your family. Added this year are animated lights featuring Santa’s penguin friends from the North Pole.

Alabama Constitution Village is part of three unique facilities in the EarlyWorks Museum Complex. You will also want to visit the EarlyWorks Children’s History Museum, believed to be the South’s largest hands-on history museum, and the Historic Huntsville Depot, a three-story brick building dating to 1860.

The depot is one of America’s oldest remaining railroad depots and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Do not leave town before visiting the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s Galaxy of Lights.

The holiday extravaganza was named a Southeast Tourism Top 20 Event for 2007. Visitors will discover dazzling light displays on a 1.5-mile trail. Walking nights are Nov. 15–18, 5–8 p.m., and drive-through nights will be Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve from 5:30 to 9 p.m. For more information for Santa’s Village, call 256-564-8100 or visit www.earlyworks.com. For Galaxy of Lights information, call 256-830-4447 or visit www.hsvbg.org/gol.htm.

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