Holiday lights at Thanksgiving Point. Photo provided by Thanksgiving Point.

Perhaps it’s because Thanksgiving was late this year, but it seems like Christmas is right around the corner. Here are a few suggestions for getting the most out of the holiday season. 

First, don’t be that person on Christmas Eve rummaging through picked-over, generic gifts for your father. You’ll be stressed, and your dad will end up with some lousy socks (probably the wrong size). Plan ahead. If you're shopping online, remember that shipping can take longer during the holidays.

Next, go out and do fun things with friends, neighbors and family—even if it is only a few degrees outside. The snow is pretty now, but most likely will turn to grey slush next year, so go sledding or build a snowman with the kids or hit the slopes. At least take a walk in it when there’s a gentle, late-night snowfall that brightens the night.

Finally, before you head over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, make sure you check off these holiday celebration bucket list items in Utah Valley:

#1 Experience Christmas stories

Unfortunately, the popular live nativity in Alpine is already over. However, the Young Living Farm in Mona has a reenactment of the first Christmas, which you can enjoy from your car or in a sleigh. Oh, and you should probably take in some version of “A Christmas Carol,” whether you read it, see the play at Hale Center Theater or watch a film version. Take a 90-minute ride on the North Pole Express in Heber and hear stories, drink hot chocolate with elves, tell Santa what you want for Christmas, play games and sing Christmas carols.

#2 Enjoy the holiday lights

Take a walk through the Shops at Riverwoods to see the lights. Ride a carriage or wagon through the lights at Thanksgiving Point. Head down to Salem Pond or the Festival of Lights in Spanish Fork and see the holiday lights there. Take the Provo River Cruise and enjoy the lights and some Christmas music. Get all the details for lights in the valley here. 

#3 Do all things wintery

Watch ice sculptors chip away at 300-pound blocks of ice at Thanksgiving Point’s Water Tower Plaza each Monday and Wednesday. (Santa’s reindeer will be there every night except Sundays.) Grab a buddy and hit up two-for-one Wednesday night skiing at Sundance Resort. Ring in the New Year at Provo's First Night Family Extravaganza.

#4 Eat, drink and be merry

Bake a pie. Share some caramel-dipped apples with a friend at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Attempt to make your mom’s cinnamon rolls. Eat breakfast with Santa at Thanksgiving Point on Saturday.

#5 Volunteer

Because it’s all about the giving, not the getting, right? Go Christmas caroling at a retirement home. Donate to a food bank. Participate in a sub-for-Santa program.

#6 Build relationships

Spend time with your loved ones and maybe your not-so-loved ones. Set up a white elephant gathering at work. Throw an ugly sweater party. Call up your long-lost friend. Check on your great-grandmother. Bake a Christmas loaf and get to know that new neighbor.

Any items missing from our Utah Valley holiday bucket list? Comment below!