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How to Cure Post-Holiday Entertaining Blues

Posted December 26, 2007

The holiday turkey has been reduced to leftovers, the televised parades are long over, but your visiting relatives are still in town – perhaps with multiple generations and several days' worth of time to fill.

Whether you have visitors for a holiday feast or for a gathering in the weeks before or after, finding activities that the entire group will enjoy together can be a challenge. But there are a lot of options in the Triangle and beyond with activities perfect for a chilly afternoon indoors or for enjoying a beautiful winter day outside. Whether you want to stay home or take a quick trip, we offer a number of ways to enjoy family time throughout the holiday season.

Close to Home

Start with the basics like an afternoon of movies in the comfort of your home and without concession prices. Finding a movie to suit a generation-spanning range of ages might sound impossible, but Ty Burr, author of "The Best Old Movies For Families: A Parent’s Guide to Watching Together," would assure you it’s not. A film critic for The Boston Globe and father of two "tween-age" daughters, Burr knows a bit about cinema and about what’s available for kids and teens today.

When one of his daughters requested a screening of the Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant classic “Bringing up Baby,” for her ninth birthday, Burr and his wife weren’t so sure. Neither were the parents of her guests. The 9-year-old girls proved all the parents wrong, prompting Burr to write in the introduction to his book, “Great film-making trumps all other considerations. This is even more true if you’re 9 and every movie still feels like the first you’ve ever seen.”

For each movie suggestion, Burr writes a bit about the movie, explains why he chose it, notes any special parts about the home DVD versions, offers “pause-button explanations” – bits that you might need to clarify for your kids or that might open up broader discussions – and suggests other classics to follow up with. Good movies, he notes, “usually open the door to larger conversations about behavior and meaning and the world’s possibilities.”

If it’s too chilly to wander, try a board game. And keep in mind, that doesn’t have to translate to bored game. Pull out the classics, not just for fun, but to share stories about how sweet Uncle Bob goes psycho-competitive when it comes to winning at Scrabble. Or the time the family dog ate the Monopoly dog, which is why you’ve resorted to a Lego pirate to replace that particular piece in the game.

If you’re looking for a new game to try, Ruckus is a multi-generational game suitable for ages 7 to adult that requires fewer than four minutes to play a hand. The object is to collect unusual sets of matching cards, such as elephant tea and happy robot, or to steal sets from other players. Selected as one of “Dr. Toy’s 10 Best Games,” more information about Ruckus is available at www.funstreetgames.com.

For less competitive fun, take advantage of those who have gathered to create an heirloom. Start that genealogy while some of the very experts you need are visiting. Or work on a family cookbook while the master pound cake-maker is there to describe how to replicate her recipe or even to demonstrate.

For folks who haven’t mastered jpegs just yet, think ahead and ask them to bring those precious family pictures to share. You can scan the photos while they wait. No worries about losing any in the mail, and you can preserve the treasure on disc for everyone, sharing some wonderful stories in the process.

Another close-to-home option for intergenerational fun is a scavenger hunt – through the house or through the neighborhood. Neighbors are bound to have relatives or friends visiting as well, so plan with the folks down the street and send out mixed-age teams to recover egg beaters, unmatched socks or a comics page from Sunday’s paper. Offer different snacks at the various houses, or finish up with a leftover potluck. It’s a great way for out-of-town family to meet the folks next door who’ve become like family.

Farther Afield

If cabin fever becomes an issue, several local museums and other cultural hot spots are open during the holidays with new or special exhibits. Be sure to call ahead for specific dates and times since schedules do vary, particularly during the holidays. Also, check on special admission fees.

Those looking for some indoor fun can take in the Amazing Castle on loan to Kidzu Children’s Museum in Chapel Hill, complete with costumes and hands-on activities. Call 919-933-1455 or visit www.kidzuchildrensmuseum.org.

For the math-minded, the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science in Durham offers an exhibit to exercise measurement and geometry skill called “Flip it, Fold it, Figure it out!” More information is available at www.ncmls.org or 919-220-5429.

In Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Art offers 40 French and American paintings in “Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism.” The works of artists including Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent are featured. The exhibit includes “conversation starters” to help families discuss aspects of the paintings. Purchasing tickets in advance is strongly encouraged since admission to the special exhibit is date- and time-specific. Call 919-839-6262 or visit www.ncartmuseum.org for details.

The North Carolina Museum of History has special exhibits related to the Lost Colony, 919-807-7900 or www.ncmuseumofhistory.org. And the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences brings dinosaurs to life with its exhibit on new discoveries in paleontology. Call 919-733-7450 or visit www.naturalsciences.org.

For those who haven’t had a chance to check out the newest museum in town, Marbles Kids Museum is up and running. Located at the former Exploris site, it combines some of the more popular exhibits from Exploris, Playspace-style fun for the younger set and traveling exhibits. Try 919-834-4040 or www.marbleskidsmuseum.org for more information.

Depending on the weather forecast, a drive to Asheboro for a taste of the tropics could be in order. The North Carolina Zoo recently opened two exhibits featuring frogs native to Central and South America. These small, colorful critters include three species of poison dart frogs and Panama golden frogs, which are believed to be extinct in the wild.

The exhibits, in the R. J. Reynolds Forest Aviary, are intended to draw attention to the global amphibian crisis. The amphibian population has been in decline on every continent for decades. Frogs are considered an indicator species, sensitive to environmental changes that reflect the overall health of the forest and water systems. Their struggles can be a warning of potential problems for the rest of the planet. For more information, visit www.nczoo.org or call 800-488-0444.

If you’d rather head east and tie in a visit to the beach during the off-season, the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knolls Shores offers a variety of programs that stretch from breakfast with the rays in the morning to dinner with the invertebrates in the evening. Visit www.ncaquariums.com or call 866-294-3477.

Whether your family wants to look for fun in the den, down the street or a drive away, the options for out-of-town guests this holiday season are appropriate for all ages and interests. So finish up those leftovers and enjoy.

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