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The holidays provide ample opportunities to get out of the house to do things together, whether that's to enjoy a hike, head to the theater for a performance or drive around and enjoy the beautiful holiday lights on homes. There certainly is plenty in Northern Nevada to do, and that's not to mention the countless things that did not make it on this list. However, to start you off, a list of 12 family-friendly suggestions is provided below, any or all of which can get you and the family out and in the mood for the holidays.

  1. There's never a time like the holidays to drive around to catch inspiring light shows. This is true of the Light Show Bro at 5555 Junction Peak Drive in Sparks, which features a 13-minute light show synchronized to a music mix. The show is completely free, with shows starting at 5 p.m. and running through 9:30 p.m. daily, through Dec. 31.
  2. It may be hard to pass up "Elf the Musical" playing at the Pioneer Underground Dec. 16-18. This Broadway musical tells the story of Buddy, a helper at the North Pole who must come to terms with the fact that he really is not an elf, but a human. Based on the 2003 movie "Elf" of the same name, this musical is sure to delight and entertain family members of any age. Showtimes and prices vary, with seats starting at $49.
  3. If exercise is your family's cup of tea, the Great Santa Dash, a 5K run starting at Wingfield Park, is scheduled to take off 11 a.m. Dec. 17. The event, in its fifth year, features runners dressed up in their favorite Santa get-up (optional). And, unlike most 5K runs, the aid stations at this run feature cocoa and cookies. Moreover, the first 100 runners to complete the course receive a Santa Dash ornament. 
  4. A handbell ensemble is always a lovely affair to hear and the Tintabulations can be heard (and seen!) playing at UNR's Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, starting at 7 p.m., Dec. 12,  as well as other locations in the area throughout December. This crew of a dozen-plus handbell players promises a night of beautiful sound that will definitely be one for remembering.
  5. In what might be a true kid-friendly combination, the Nevada State Railroad Museum, in Carson City, offers a visit from Santa on its Santa Train that runs every half hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18. Tickets are $5 per person, but those younger than 3 are free. Kids also receive a candy cane from Santa Claus.
  6. Who doesn't like music over the winter holidays? Even young musicians can get joy from this show. The Reno Jazz Orchestra puts on Jazz for the Holidays: A Gospel Christmas at Nightingale Concert Hall at UNR. Performances are 7:30 p.m., Dec. 17 and 2 p.m. Dec. 18 with special guests that include The Pat Esters Gospel Choir and The Reno Youth Jazz Orchestra. Ticket prices start at $25.
  7. The City of Reno's Ice-Skating Rink is open back up and features sessions every day of the week, including multiple sessions on the weekends. Buy a pass for the day or look into a punch card for 10 visits. Rates will vary, based on need for skate rental, and youth, teen, adult or senior age. The skating season continues through Jan. 28, weather permitting, and the rink is located in front of Greater Nevada Field.
  8. Every year, Santa Claus visits Washoe County libraries, and this year is no different. Be sure to catch the jolly old man from 11 a.m. to noon, Dec. 10 at the Northwest Reno Library or from 10:30 to 11 a.m., Dec. 22  at the Spanish Springs Library. Alternatively, head out to catch the movie "The Santa Clause," playing from 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Dec. 24 at the Sierra View Library. For more library events, click here.
  9. If you're ready for an outdoors adventure – in the dark – try the Winter Solstice Hike, scheduled from 6 to 7 p.m. Dec. 21 at Washoe State Park. Rangers will take participants on a three-mile hike along the South Loop Equestrian trail on this, the longest night of the year. Reservations are required, however, so call 775-687-4319 to sign up.
  10. Another opportunity to meet Santa – and Mrs. Claus – is Breakfast with Santa at the Summit Mall in South Reno this year. Events are scheduled 8 to 10 a.m. Dec. 10 at BJ's Restaurant and 8 to 10 a.m. Dec. 17 at Miguel's, and include breakfast, music, pictures and more. Cost is $14 for adults and $9 for those 12 and younger, and advance purchase is required.
  11. "Miracle on 34th Street" is another way to get into the holiday mood with a trip to the theater, whether with family or friends. Playing at the Eldorado Casino Resort through Jan. 1, this musical brings up that timeless message of believing, which also was at the heart of the 1947 movie about Kris Kringle possibly being the real Santa Claus. Catch a show at the Eldorado Theatre, which has economy seating starting at $29.95, and also receive half-off dining at any of the Eldorado's restaurants.
  12. Volunteer at the Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission to help others in need. Families are an important part of its volunteer team and can help to serve up to 1,200 dinner meals daily to the homeless who visit. Help also is needed to distribute breakfast daily at 8 a.m. to homeless men and at 8:30 a.m. to women and children.
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