The coming of the holidays typically means more time with family, which is the best gift to give or receive.
Even so, extra family time can contribute to holiday stress – whether it’s dealing with bored kids on Christmas break or hosting relatives you haven’t seen since the last time you felt this frazzled.
Happily, the holiday season also comes with family friendly entertainments and attractions that provide an alternative to being cooped up with dear ones who might be driving you crazy. I said, might. Whew, that was close.
1. ‘A Christmas Carol’
The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future show Ebenezer Scrooge the error of his miserly ways in Charles Dickens’ cautionary and compassionate holiday classic. This excellent stage adaptation also happens to be Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s signature showcase each Christmas season. “God bless us, everyone,” for sure.
Performances through Dec. 24, Kansas City Repertory Theatre at Spencer Theatre, 4949 Cherry St., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $39-$118.
2. ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’
Let a bunch of rambunctious siblings – the Herdman kids – interpret the Christmas story at a neighborhood church, and you might ruffle a few feathers in the pews. You might also reveal the true meaning of Christmas. Theater for Young America’s tender take on Barbara Robinsons revered 1972 children’s book gives all ages a reason to laugh and maybe get a little misty.
Performances through Dec. 26, Theatre for Young America at H&R Block City Stage, Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $10.
3. A Very Fifties Christmas
When folks liked Ike and left it to Beaver – that would be the 1950s – the American middle class was in its post-war prime and looking forward to bigger and better things. The era’s can-do attitude is summed up in the Johnson County Museum’s All-Electric House, which every yuletide features the ambiance of an aluminum Christmas tree and other once super-modern seasonal decorations. Go back in time and feel the confidence turned to kitsch. No, you can’t live there, except between your ears. Good luck with that.
Guided tours through Jan. 2: Mondays through Fridays, 1 p.m.-4 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; 1950s All-Electric House, 6305 Lackman Road, Shawnee, Kan.; admission: $3-$5.
4. Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Ghosts of Christmas Eve Tour
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra popularly combines symphonic splendor with heady hard rock, and its annual Christmastime tours only ratchet up the over-the-top entertainment mix. Presented as a “rock opera” – a term that long ago lost its oxymoronic overtones – this year’s musical story follows a runaway child who encounters ghostly visions (the Dickens you say!), as traditional Christmas tunes mingle with TSO’s greatest hits.
Dec. 26, 3 and 8 p.m.; Sprint Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $38.50-$74.
5. ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
Is there a sweeter expression of the true holiday spirit than ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas”? Nope. And that’s no doubt why nearly all performances of this stage version of the cherished 1965 Peanuts Christmas TV special are sold out at the Coterie Theatre. Get a move on to grab the last seats for this warm-hearted show that includes a live jazz trio playing the TV special’s original Vince Guaraldi arrangements.
Dec. 31, 2 and 4 p.m.; Jan. 2, 2 p.m.; Jan. 3, 2 and 4 p.m.; Coterie Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $12-$17.
6. Skate with Santa
Ho-Ho-Whoa! Ages 5 and up will take to the ice as best they can with Santa Claus, following a show by the Line Creek Figure Skating Club. Kids wanting new skates for Christmas couldn’t ask for better access to the guy with the white beard, who’s still making his list and checking it twice. So be good, for goodness sake.
Dec. 19, 2-4 p.m.; Line Creek Community Center, 5940 N.W. Waukomis Drive, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: $6 ($2 skate rental); or free (including skate rental) with donation of a canned food item.
7. Kansas City Symphony’s Christmas Festival
Kind of a one-stop shop for Christmas fans, the KC Symphony’s Christmas Festival includes the symphony chorus and special guests touching all of the time-tested bases, not the least of which will be a visit from Santa. If Mom or Dad needs an extra incentive to make it happen, a jewelry prize will be given away at each performance. Nice touch.
Dec. 17, 7 p.m.; Dec. 18, 8 p.m.; Dec. 19, 1 and 8 p.m.; Dec. 20, 2 and 7 p.m.; Dec. 22, 7 p.m.; Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $15-$75.
8. Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Jaw-dropping circus-style acts get in on the holiday celebration with Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a fresh acrobatic spectacle fueled by Christmastime imagery. Who knew? It’s like that present you didn’t know you wanted, until you know it’s out there. For example, where else can you see a Nutcracker daringly negotiate a tightrope? Where else would you want to?
Dec. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 30, 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $30-$91.
9. ‘The Nutcracker’
More youngsters than ever are in the Kansas City Ballet’s all-new holiday production of “The Nutcracker,” with this year’s kiddo total up 35 percent – that’s 212 youngsters playing 106 roles in two separate casts. Imagine the child herding backstage! Fortunately, the feats of happy feet on stage should be more than enough to satisfy.
Performances through Dec. 24; Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $79-$135.
10. Christmas in the Park
For the 28th season, Jackson County offers its drive-through gift to carloads of area families: A dazzling array of 300,000 lights animating 175 fanciful holiday scenes, including a giant dragon wearing a Santa hat. I hope Rudolph isn’t jealous.
Open through Dec. 31: Sundays through Thursdays, 5:30-10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 5:30-11 p.m.; Longview Lake Campground, Longview Lake Park, 10711 S.W. Scherer Road, Kansas City, Mo; admission: free (donations accepted to benefit 35 local charities).
11. Noon Year’s Eve
Kids and their relations can usher in 2016 at Science City’s daytime New Year’s Eve party that promises to be both fun and educational. Attractions include science stage shows, robotics demos and a 3,000-plus balloon drop. Gosh, how much air can 3,000 balloons hold? Better bring your thinking caps!
Dec. 31, noon-7 p.m., Science City at Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: $11.50, $13.50.