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Art&Seek Jr: Holiday Fun that Won’t Break the Bank

Art&Seek Jr. is one mom‘s quest to find activities to end the seemingly endless chorus of the “I’m Bored Blues” while having fun herself.  Impossible you say? Check back on Tuesdays for kid-friendly events that are fun for adults, too.

Until recently, I’d always been one of those people who was puzzled by the whole notion of ”Black Friday.” Why do people feel compelled to leave their warm, comfy beds in the middle of the night to stand in line outside a big box store so they can save $10 on a combination breadmaker/shop vac for Granny? There’s something about the IDEA of getting the perfect gift at a rock bottom price that makes people go a little nuts. Throw in the panic of a store actually running out of the combination breadmaker/shop vac and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Yes, I was one of those smug people who avoided the mall like the plague Thanksgiving weekend as I’d say to myself that Christmas isn’t about stuff. No sirree, Bob. It’s about family and friends and good will towards men … blah, blah, blah. As it turns out, my inner Christmas shopper has just been dormant all these years. She came busting out with wild abandon on Saturday afternoon when Rose and I decided to brave the crowds to see the weekly tree lighting at the Galleria — which, as a side note, I highly recommend. Be sure to get there at least an hour early to stake out your spot.

Get to the Galleria early for a good view of the Tree Lighting.  Credit: Therese Powell

Before heading to the skating rink for the tree lighting, we decided to kill some time at the American Girl store. This seemed like a safe bet, because Rose has never been a doll girl. At least not the way I was a doll girl. She’ll drag the (nearly new) Barbies out of the toy box when her friends come over, but for the most part, she’d rather be doing something else. In hindsight, I wish I could say I was as indifferent – because as if by magic, the second we entered through those sugar-sweet pink doors I was instantly transformed into a 10-year-old with an insatiable appetite for everything American Girl. It was like Twilight, only with dolls. I became one with the squealing girly masses running amuck in the store, shouting things like, “OMG! LOOK AT THIS CUTE LITTLE PET CARRIER FOR KENNA’S DOG!” and “WOW! YOU CAN HAVE YOUR DOLL’S EARS PIERCED HERE!” at my stunned daughter. The need to buy up every doll and accessory in the place was so overwhelming that if my kid had shown even an iota’s interest I would have spent every dollar in my bank account. So much for Christmas not being about stuff. I now comfort myself with the idea that I’m helping the economy.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with the start of the holiday season, this week’s Junior picks will put you in the holiday spirit without having to take out a second mortgage on the house:

Grab Fido and the kids and bebop over to Belmont Village near Turtle Creek on Thursday night for its Paws with Claus Gift Drive. Bring a gift for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and receive a complimentary photo with Santa Claus. Dogs LOVE having their picture taken with Santa. Afterwards, head across the street to Lee Park for some hot chocolate, fireworks and the tree lighting.

Our peeps in Oak Cliff are holding their annual Jingle Bells on Bishop Christmas Festival this Friday and Saturday. They’ll have roaming carolers, in-store specials, decorated streets and pictures with Santa. For some extra holiday fun (and an excellent opportunity to embarass your teens) grab a song book and Santa hats at Emporium Pies and join in the caroling!  Be sure to take LOTS of pictures and then post them on your teen’s Facebook page.

If you ask a clown for a photo at the Children’s Parade the clown will yell, “Picture!” and ALL of the clowns will crowd in for the photo. Fun! Credit: Therese Powell

On Saturday, an estimated 350,000 spectators will be dazzled by marching bands, giant helium balloons, spectacular floats and unique performances. That right – time for the annual Children’s Medical Center Holiday Parade in downtown Dallas. It’s become a tradition in our house that we never miss. Here are a few tips … get there early (an hour and 1/2 before the parade starts), bring blankets to sit on (that pavement is cold for little tushies) and dress warmly.

Finally, head over to Farmers Branch Saturday night as the city lights its Christmas Tree. There will be tons of FREE activities for the whole family. A fireworks show will kick-off the event, children will have the opportunity to visit with Santa Claus (boy, that guy is busy), play in the KidZone, go snow tubing, see the Dallas Puppet Theater and enjoy some complimentary hot chocolate and holiday treats.

Christmas trees, caroling, parades, hot chocolate, dog pictures with Santa! Who needs to shop?

Therese Powell is an Art&Seek calendar coordinator and KERA-TV producer.  She spends most of her free time seeking out adventures for her 7-year-old daughter, Rose.  Tell us about your quirky kid adventures by leaving a comment. Or e-mail Therese at tpowell@kera.org.