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Taking the Kids: Twelve places to see the holiday lights

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Are you ready? You may barely be recovered from Thanksgiving but the entire country -- the entire world -- is ready for Christmas -- from the wonderful holiday markets in Europe to Orlando where holiday festivities at all of the theme parks and in the city have been going on since early November. No wonder Orlando, according to AAA, was the top Thanksgiving destination for those traveling over the holiday weekend.

Cities, towns and hotels, just like many families, are getting themselves holiday-ready earlier and earlier, kicking of the season with holiday tree lightings starting Thanksgiving weekend. (Check out our annual Taking the Kids Guide to Holiday Lights around the country to find a display near you.)

Perhaps it is a holiday tradition to join in the festivities near home. Perhaps you want to make it a before-Christmas getaway to celebrate and gawk at the ever-larger displays. Here are 10 ideas offering just a small sample of how to see the lights:

At a botanical park

Albuquerque, New Mexico. The ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden will host the “River of Lights,” New Mexico's largest walk-through holiday production featuring giant sculptures created by millions of twinkling lights and more than 500 dazzling displays.

Scottsdale, Arizona. “Las Noches de Las Luminarias” will light up the Desert Botanical Garden with a huge show of 8,000 glowing, hand-lit paper lanterns.

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San Diego's Botanic Garden not only has a 125,000-light Garden of Lights but also plenty of holiday fun -- even sledding.

At the theme park capital of the world

Orlando, Florida. At SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, you will be able to meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and see ice skaters twirl on a frozen lake. Members can get reserved seats for the shows for an additional fee. Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter dressed up for the holidays, and watch Dr. Seuss' lovable Grinchmas steal the show at Universal Studios (Nov. 17 through Jan. 6). Also, be sure to catch a Christmas Bricktacular at LEGOLAND Florida, featuring a huge LEGO Christmas tree (Dec. 16 to 17 and Dec. 23 to 25). Disney World will host Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

At a museum

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