Midwest travel: Holiday train making rounds at 360 CHICAGO
Don't forget to take your favorite model train fan to 360 CHICAGO, the observation deck in the John Hancock Center, to see the city's famous holiday train at its new home on the 94th floor. The newly restored holiday train runs along the perimeter of the 360 CHICAGO floor, set against a backdrop of city views. The train's display is a custom scenescape made up of buildings and bridges, trees and rivers, animations and lights with special Chicago tributes and anecdotes. It was designed and assembled by its original makers -- a team of retired Chicago police officers and engineers. 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily through Jan. 3 at 360 CHICAGO, 875 N. Michigan Ave., 94th Floor, Chicago. Admission for kids 3-11 is half price with a paid adult entry ($19). 360chicago.com.
Jingle bells and whistles
Recently named the No. 1 hotel in the U.S. by Condé Nast Traveler readers, the AAA five-diamond Waldorf Astoria Chicago offers holiday treats such as Enhancement Packages that include in-room holiday decor, gift shopping and spa treatments. Watch jaws drop at the sight of an 8-foot Christmas tree and garland in your suite. The inventive hot chocolate menu is available through room service and in the Lobby Lounge, or visit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for a four-course menu capped with Executive Pastry Chef Andrew Johnson's Chocolate Hazelnut Buche de Noel. Through December at Waldorf Astoria Chicago, 11 E. Walton. Room rates and Enhancement Packages vary. Christmas Eve and Day prix fixe menu is $90 for adults, $35 for kids 6-12, free for kids 5 and younger. waldorfastoriachicagohotel.com or (312) 646-1300.
The entire family will revel in winter fun at Crystal Mountain's Holiday Week that actually lasts a lot longer. Daily activities for kids and families include snowshoeing, ice skating and hockey, horse-drawn surrey rides, fat tire snow biking, snowmobiling and an adventure course for kids. They'll love the indoor pool, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, family campfires and daily scavenger hunts. Parents can enjoy spa services or a night at the Thistle Pub and Grille while the kids are taken care of by in-room baby-sitting services. New Year's Eve brings special dining, a Superheros Fun Family Party, Teen DJ Dance Party, and a midnight Torchlight Parade and Fireworks on the mountain. Now through Dec. 31 at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Michigan. crystalmountain.com or (231) 378-2000.
The winter holidays used to be about a lot more than unearthing the best deal on flat screens. Experience those old-time memories during the 68th Festival of Christmas & Midwinter Traditions in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. International dance instructors lead fun dances for all skill levels. An American country/folk singer from Vermont leads singing and harmony workshops or join American social dance workshops, learn blacksmithing, yoga or fiber arts and play theater games. Enjoy a Santa Lucia Celebration, a Christmas Festival Auction and international meals throughout the festival. Dec. 28 through Jan. 1 at Folklore Village, 3210 County Road BB, Dodgeville, Wisconsin. folklorevillage.com or (608) 924-4000.
Plunging into 2016
Cruise the Bay on New Year's Day Wisconsin-style on one of the three Grand Belle of Lake Geneva boat tours. It's warm inside the heated boat, which is decked out in holiday lights. Watch the Polar Plunge when area residents jump in the icy water along the Williams Bay shoreline in swimsuits to celebrate the New Year. Two more one-hour cruises offer the opportunity to see the beauty of winter from the lake. 11:30 a.m. (Polar Plunge cruise), 1:15 and 2:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 1, at Gage Marine and Pier 290, Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for kids 4-17 and free for kids 3 and younger. (800) 558-5909 or cruiselakegeneva.com.