By Beth J. Harpaz
The Associated Press
---- — NEW YORK (AP) — From elaborately decorated trees to drive-through lighting displays to boat parades and train shows, a variety of holiday spectacles are being staged through the end of December and into early January around the country. Here are a few of them.
Rockefeller Center is sparkling with 30,000 lights on an 80-foot Norway spruce that survived Superstorm Sandy. The tree comes from the Mount Olive, N.J., home of Joe Balku, who lost power and other trees during the storm. It remains on view until Jan. 7.
In Washington, the National Christmas Tree is a 28-foot-tall blue spruce that was transplanted just before Superstorm Sandy struck. It replaced a tree that died in the spring. That tree had only been in the ground for a year; its predecessor had stood on the Ellipse since 1978 but was destroyed by high winds in early 2011.
You'll have to look up, way up, if you want to see the top of the Christmas tree at Outlets at Anthem, the Phoenix-area mall in Phoenix. The white fir from northern California is 110 feet tall and is one of the tallest cut trees in the country. It weighs 12 tons and is located in a specially designed well in the Outlets' center court.
In North Carolina, Christmas at the Biltmore estate also features a special tree on its front lawn. The Norway spruce, 55 feet tall, was bought by Joseph Gray for his wife back in 1972 and planted at the end of their driveway on Roan Mountain in Tennessee. Gray, now in his early 80s, lost his wife in 2010. The aging tree was struggling to survive, so The Biltmore trucked it to Asheville, decorated it with 45,000 lights and is displaying it for the holidays.
In many Florida towns, the holiday spirit arrives by boat. Some 75 holiday boat parades are scheduled from Pensacola to Key West. Some parades offer cash prizes for best decorations, others include charity drives for toys or food banks, or have special guests, like Santa Clam in Cedar Key. A directory of events can be found at: http://www.floridabywater.com/component/content/article/1647-boat-parades
In Minneapolis, the annual Target Holidazzle parade takes place Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 23, kicking off at 6:30 p.m. Parade-goers have been braving the cold Twin Cities weather to watch the event every holiday season since 1992.
A number of botanic gardens around the country host holiday train shows. At the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, trains on view in the Enid A. Haupt Conservancy wind past 140 buildings depicting New York City, including landmarks like the original Yankee Stadium, St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Brooklyn Bridge. At the Chicago Botanic Garden, Wonderland Express trains make their way through a village of tiny Chicago landmarks made from natural materials. Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati hosts "Trains, Trestles and Traditions," with poinsettias, cyclamens, evergreens, trains and replicas of buildings and bridges.
In Virginia, Busch Gardens Williamsburg hosts Christmas Town for a fourth season, with nearly every building covered in a total of some 6 million lights. The display includes 1,500 trees, 700 wreaths and 20,000 ornaments, plus shows, Santa's workshop and a 50-foot-tall animated tree dancing to synchronized music.
In West Virginia, the Oglebay Resort & Conference Center hosts the Winter Festival of Lights through Jan. 6. It's one of the largest in the country, with 78 displays along a six-mile (9.6-kilometer) drive throughout the resort, including a massive star, wreath and candles, a Ferris wheel, carousel and Cinderella.
At Universal Orlando in Florida, guests can meet the Grinch, watch the live "Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular," and experience a nightly parade of giant balloons from Macy's New York City holiday parade. The group Mannheim Steamroller is performing holiday music on select nights. Grinchmas celebrations are also taking place at Universal Studios Hollywood in California.
At Walt Disney World near Orlando, Cinderella Castle is lit up for the holidays, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party takes place on select nights, and Epcot hosts a "Holidays Around the World" candlelight processional nightly through Dec. 30. At Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, which started at a private home in Arkansas, drapes entire buildings on Disney's Streets of America in sheets of multi-colored lights.