NORMAL — As the weather cools down, the holiday lights in uptown Normal heat up, twinkling brightly as a reminder that it’s the time of year for holiday cheer and shopping.

In fact, the uptown holiday season kicked off with a holiday open house on Nov. 11, featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus making their first appearance and bringing holiday “ho-ho-hos” to business owners, shoppers, and other uptown visitors.

There are great opportunities to get an early jump on holiday shopping in uptown Normal.

Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25 is a celebration of shopping local and making your money mean more by keeping it right here in our community. Every year, local retailers invite shoppers to partake in uptown’s special brand of hospitality, offering some of the best deals and most unique gifts around. What a great way to find the perfect present for a friend or loved one while supporting local small businesses!

On Dec. 2, Santa and Mrs. Claus move into Santa Station near Uptown Circle, where they will stay throughout December. Visits to Santa and Mr. Claus are free, but they do appreciate donations from all caring girls and boys to be passed on to various non-profit organizations. Santa will invite special friends to join him on certain days, so a single visit just won’t do! On Dec. 9-10, the NAACP will staff the Santa’s Station celebration.

If spending special time with loved ones is part of your holiday tradition, cozy carriage rides will be offered free of charge on scheduled days in November and December.

The rides are available through a reservation system allowing riders to place their name on a list and continue to shop, eat, and stay warm indoors before returning at a designated time to enjoy the ride. The carriage calendar features several evening dates, so riders can experience a magical view of beautiful uptown holiday lights from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage.

The Children’s Discovery Museum hosts its own unique holiday tradition with Jammies and Jingles on Dec. 1. Participants will enjoy a visit with Santa, make graham cracker houses, design ornaments, and immerse themselves in all sorts of wintry activities.

Wrapping up the holidays with a bang every year, the museum hosts Noon Year’s Eve, a full-scale daylight-bright New Year’s party complete with a confetti drop as the clock strikes twelve (noon).

What is a holiday season without watching a holiday film or two at the historic Normal Theater? This year, there’s a full schedule of holiday favorites old and new, as well as several great live performances.

Uptown Normal is the place to be for merry entertainment, activities of the season, and perfect, unique gifts for special friends and loved ones at locally owned shops. For details on these events and more, visit UptownNormal.com and facebook.com/uptownnormal .

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